Touring Sete & Carcassonne with Silversea
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
I realized this morning – as I ate breakfast in my suite aboard Silversea’s Silver Spirit that had been delivered on-time, as requested, by my butler at 7:00 a.m. sharp – that if Silversea has a single flaw, it is that its ships are so easygoing and relaxing that the thought of dealing with the outside world is just, well, unappealing.
Yet the fact remains that Silversea has crafted some truly great itineraries in the Mediterranean. This itinerary is a great example of that: it has port calls in big-name places like Monte Carlo and Livorno (both staples of the Mediterranean cruise). But Silversea is also sending Silver Spirit to smaller, more off-the-beaten path ports.
While I finished off my grilled peaches with honey and sipped my black coffee, we sailed quietly into our first port of call of Sete, France. A gorgeous sunrise greeted us, illuminating Silver Spirit’s decks in an attractive amber hue.
You’ve probably never heard of Sete before. I hadn’t. And that’s entirely the point with Silversea’s Mediterranean itineraries, all of which are very diverse and unique. In fact, this is Silver Spirit’s first Mediterranean cruise of the 2016 season after completing her eastbound transatlantic crossing on Tuesday.
Silver Spirit’s Mediterranean season this year encompasses 20 different voyages departing between now and November 5. They range in length from this short six-day sampler (which, by the way, is a great introduction to luxury cruising) to the massive 16-day Westbound Transatlantic Crossing between Barcelona, Spain and Bridgetown, Barbados. Most cruises range in length between nine and 12 days; a great amount of time to be in Europe, and the perfect length to create a 14-day stay that features pre-and-post cruise options.
But those voyages are in the future. Today, Silversea is offering guests a choice of four excursion options here, in addition to complimentary shuttle service that runs between the somewhat-industrial pier and the town of Sete:
- MPL-A: Medieval Carcassonne. 8 Hours, $99*
- MPL-B: Sete & Chateau de l’Engarran. 4.5 Hours, $129.
- MPL-EA: S.S. Expedition: Kayaking the Canals of Sete. 4 Hours, $149 per person.
- MPL-F: Pezenas & Abbey of Valmagne. 45. Hours, $79*
The first and last excursions, marked with an *, are complimentary for guests who paid Silversea’s new all-inclusive cruise fares. Guests paying this fare could reserve these Silver Shore Select Excursions at no additional cost, which is pretty nice to not have to worry about. It’s just one more reason that luxury cruises are actually a great value: you’re paying up-front for everything so that when you’re on your cruise, there’s no nasty sticker-shock when it comes time to pay that onboard expense account that gets rung up so quickly on a mainstream cruise.
I chose to do the full-day tour of the medieval city of Carcassonne. Departing pierside at 8:15 a.m. sharp, it’s about a 90-minute drive from Sete to the medieval walled city.
As usual, going on tour with Silversea is easier than going on tour with most cruise lines. Your tickets are delivered to your suite. There’s no need to wait in a public lounge; typically, you just disembark and join your tour pierside. Complimentary bottled water is available at the gangway, along with a shaded seating area with some excellent reading material on-hand should you get bored.
Arriving at Carcassonne just after 10:30 a.m., we were first taken on an informative guided tour of the city located within France’s Languedoc-Roussillon-Midi-Pyrenees region. The town has existed (in some form) since Neolithic times, and it was restored to its former glory in 1853 under the watchful eye of a theorist and architect named Eugene Viollet-le-Duc.