By Caroline Tapp-McDougall
There’s a gentle breeze over the azure sea and not a cloud in the sky. I’ve no schedule, no “must-visit” shore excursions, no work to catch up on—and there’s no one occupying my favourite sunbed on upper deck 11. The butler arrives with towels and chilled champagne. As luck would have it, he’s sworn to secrecy as to my whereabouts for a few delicious hours.
Truth is, I’m in the middle of the Tasman Sea en route to Sydney. This seafarers’ voyage, as it’s called, starts in Auckland, New Zealand, goes north up the rugged coastline to the Bay of Islands and then across to Australia. Our vessel of choice: The lovely Silver Muse. Costing around half a billion dollars, she’s Silversea’s newest flagship, christened in 2017 and captained since then by veteran Italian seaman Alessandro Zanello. And what a divine beauty the Muse is: Bigger, bolder and more stunning than ever.
She’s 698 feet with a guest capacity of 623 passengers and a normal crew count of 417. In the words of Silversea’s chairman, Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio: “I don’t believe bigger is better, but rather that the right size is better.”
The Muse is indeeåd right-sized. She’s still boutique enough to visit the charming ports that larger ships simply cannot access and, to the delight of the line’s devoted regulars, she retains Silversea’s trademark intimate, home-away-from-home feel.
The Muse weighs in at 14,153 tons, has a maximum speed of 21 knots and has two gyro-scoping fin stabilizers to steady her and significantly increase guest comfort on rolling seas. On board, the capacity for fresh water production has also been increased to a self-sustaining level (370 tons per day) using reverse osmosis and evaporator units.
A natural evolution of the luxury cruise line’s sophisticated Italian design and well-appointed style, she embodies the finest money can buy. The Muse hosts a handpicked modern art collection, a team of classically trained entertainers, a charming eighth-deck Viennese-style café, and a variety of spacious lounges and decks for afternoon tea, pre-dinner cocktails and dancing after dark.
Indeed The Muse has a collection of well-designed and floating gourmet restaurants and bars, including Atlantide (the main resto), Indochine (Asian), Kaiseki (Japanese) and La Dame (for special fine dining). Plus there’s Silver Note, hot rocks at The Grill after-hours on the deck, the Pool Bar and very efficient 24-hour room service. Breakfast and lunch at La Terrazza are clear favourites. Al fresco dining on deck seven in the sunshine, combined with amazingly fresh and healthy buffet options and recommended wines aplenty, seems to be just the ticket.
Rest and relaxation come easy down under, but we’ve got a little help on board. By far the most significant Silversea spa offering yet, the Zagara Beauty Spa boasts a well-curated team of qualified therapists along with a medi-spa physician. They work in a suite of nine “best kept secret” treatment rooms and share an impressive menu of grooming, foot-care and cosmetic rituals, as well as specialized acupuncture and personal training sessions.
The Muse is a noteworthy upgrade from her younger sister ships, who are still considered “best in class”—especially when it comes to service. And, as expected and worth mentioning, Silver Muse is also a state-of-the-art vessel, especially when it comes to electronics, communication and environmental management systems. A tour of the bridge and grand galley highlights not only this ship’s superior navigation and multi-layered safety tools, but also a range of onboard practices that meet or exceed international standards. This is after all 2019, and luxury cruising should not only be fabulous, fun and adventurous, but also forever mindful of protecting the very seas that are its muse.
Coastal discovery scenic helicopter flight
Explore the stunning coastline of the iconic Bay of Islands region by flying over it. See the “Hole in the Rock” at Cape Brett and some of the best coastal scenery that New Zealand has to offer.
Our helicopter heads across to Russell before tracking along the stunning peninsula coastline to Cape Brett and its lighthouse, where we experience an exciting turn to fly around the Hole in the Rock and its remote coasting. There’s also a birds-eye view of white sandy beaches, the Karikari Peninsula and the Waitangi Treaty grounds.
Kayaking to Haruru Falls
Experience the pristine natural beauty of New Zealand during this calm-water, two-person kayaking excursion on the Waitangi Estuary. Your guide will point out the lifeblood of the eco-system: The abundant mangrove trees that protrude from under the water—a favourite breeding ground for small fish. Surrounded by the Waitangi Forest and not especially high, the falls are
a particularly spectacular sight after a recent rainfall.