Crossing the Atlantic on an Upscale Floating Day Camp on Silver Seas Dawn
By Captain Tab Hauser
Senior Writer and Photographer
It was on a repositioning voyage between Barbados and Portugal that I celebrated my tenth anniversary away from the business world with my first transatlantic cruise. The ship I was aboard, the Silver Dawn, was also celebrating her first birthday in service taking 12 leisurely days for the crossing.
Cruising transatlantic is different than going port to port each day. The Dawn did not see land for seven calm days.
For sea days, many guests just disconnect and “veg out”. During our crossing, I saw people who parked themselves on lounge chairs by the pool and watched the big open ocean go by.
Their objective was to read and snooze. Stuart Hill, a Miami real estate expert said “It is about total relaxation at sea… yes, I will check email, but I do a lot of deleting. At sea my cell phone is off and I read trashy novels to unwind”.
Adult Day Camp with Cocktails
While many guests like to relax, others like to keep busy. During sea days there were so many activities aboard, that the Dawn felt like a fun floating adult day camp. (That is, a day camp with cocktails included and no curfew).
Activities started at 7:30 AM and ended at 5:30 PM. Except for the cooking classes, sign-up was not needed. Guests were able to drop in and out of an activity as they pleased.
Lectures on the Silver Dawn
Of the activities, lectures aboard were given twice a day. Topics included photography and their cell phone app use, crime solving, music, and other cultural topics.
There were also a few entertaining cooking lectures that discussed and prepared the food of the regions visited with a matched cocktail.
My favorite activity was a Silversea exclusive called the S.A.L.T. Cooking Laboratory. S.A.L.T. stands for Sea and Land Taste.
It is here that a dozen guests, get hands-on experience in a professional kitchen. Recipes used were from the regions that the ship calls on.
The class is for people looking to try a new recipe. Also, if you are “kitchen challenged”, this is the place to get out of your comfort zone and try something new with no pressure.
Trainer-Led Sunrise Walk
For the body, guests can start their day at 7:30 AM with the trainer-led sunrise walk followed by yoga, Pilates, and seminars on different health topics. For working out, the Dawn has a large, fully equipped gym.
Guests can continue their wellness at the Roman-inspired Otivm Spa. Taking up a roomy 8500 square feet in the aft section, you will find single and couples treatment rooms, a steam and sauna room, a salon, and an indoor and outdoor relaxation area.
On board, there were old fashion shipboard activities. These included friendly competitions in the daily trivial pursuit, bingo, ping pong, putting, and shuffleboard for prize points. The casino also held tournaments. Movies were shown daily.
The card game bridge was also offered. Each day at 10 AM beginners were encouraged to learn. At 11 AM it was the intermediate lessons, with advance play in the afternoon. I found this game challenging to the brain and fun.
For the artist in you, there was a watercolor class at 11 AM every morning. Each day another theme was presented to paint.
Guests ranged from artistic to “artistically challenged”, but all had fun. Everyone’s artwork was exhibited at the end of the cruise in the main bar.
Lunch and Learn
A one-time informative and tasty activity was the executive chef’s gourmet wine “lunch and learn” for 24 guests at $69.
While sipping a 2012 Dom Perignon Champaign the chef prepared an appetizer of green asparagus salad with Mascarpone perfumed with white truffles.
For the entrée, it was a honey-spiced duck. The dessert was a crispy Chocolate Tart with Hazelnut ice cream. Each dish was paired with fine premium wine presented by the head sommelier.
My time at sea was a mix of activities, catching up on my travel writings, photo editing, and relaxing.
Late afternoons found me in the pool or one of the ship’s two hot tubs, with a cocktail in hand watching the ocean go by.
Captain’s Noon Time Chat
At noon each day the ship’s horn would get our attention and Captain Samuele Failla would give us a daily briefing. This included the Dawn’s location, speed, miles traveled, sea conditions, wind, and weather.
This was followed by an interesting five-minute nautical talk of the day. Topics included the use of flags, sailor superstitions, and the history of the christening of ships. (FYI: Sophia Loren holds the record with 33)
The Perfect-sized Ship
The Silver Dawn was the 10th ship in the Silversea fleet launched in March of 2022. While it is 698 feet long, it is considered a small ship as she carries 596 guests and a crew of 411.
This means there is a lot more space per person than similar-sized ships that carry more passengers. You see this space in the suites, bar/lounge areas, gym, spa, pool, and the roomy dining rooms.
I found the Dawn the perfect size because it is large enough to have eight restaurants and nightly entertainment.
It was also nice to be just a few minutes from my suite or anything else aboard. Aboard I never felt crowded or rushed.
The Butler Did It
Silversea is an all-inclusive up-scale experience. Suites come with a shared butler who takes care of anything you require.
This can include unpacking your luggage to bringing Champagne and Caviar to your suite.
He made sure our mini bar was always stocked with Champagne, snacks, beer, water, and soft drinks that were included.
Every four days he delivered a box of fine chocolates that were in addition to the chocolates left at turn down.
He helped with laundry, confirmed excursions, made dinner reservations, arranged room service, and worked well with the cabin attendant. When in the hallway, he was always quick to open our door.
Top Shelf Beverages on Board
Drinks aboard are included and are top shelf. You can try a different high-end gin, vodka, aged rum, bourbon, or whiskey each day for a week. (Guests drinking G & T’s can get them with Fever Tree tonic)
There is a menu of craft cocktails and they have distilled non-alcoholic spirits. At the pool, you can hear the whirl of blenders in the background serving up frozen drinks.
For lunch and dinner, there was a wide variety of wines to choose from. If you did not care for what was served, guests could ask for a different varietal.
During our 12-day, 3308 nautical mile crossing, Dawn’s 460 guests consumed 1100 bottles of Champagne and 4141 bottles of wine.
Because of Dawn’s size-to-guest ratio, she can afford to be an all-suite ship rather than have cabins.
All suites have ocean views and bathrooms with a separate shower and bathtub. 95% of the suites have balconies and start at a spacious 387 square feet.
This is 40% larger than balcony suites on many of the larger ships.
My veranda suite had a partition that could separate the sleeping area from a comfortable seating area. There was also a walk in closet.
The Dawn has eight restaurants. This includes an Italian, Continental, French, a dinner jazz club, Asian / Sushi, SALT for regional cuisine, and an outdoor grill.
Each restaurant was excellent. Both the Italian and Continental restaurants reminded me of the fine dining places I enjoy on Long Island’s North Shore or any other place known for good food I have been to.
Worthy for an extra mention were the Italian meals at La Terrezza that always started with a charcuterie and Prosecco. Their veal Milanese was as good as I enjoyed in Milan.
The pasta is made in-house and is excellent. Alantide, the continental place, specialized in different fish and aged steaks. Guests could have lobster almost any night upon request.
The French restaurant, La Dame was the only upcharge at $60. The food and service here are worthy of a Michelin star.
S.A.L.T.’s regional menu changed every two days. The intense flavors made it a favorite place.
All of the restaurant managers were polished and knew your name by the second visit. They were also easy to work around if you had any food allergies.
Also aboard was an excellent cafe serving any kind of coffee with snacks all day. For a little privacy, 24-hour room service was available. Food and bar service throughout the cruise was flawless and personal.
A Night of Chocolate
Late one evening, the Executive Chef and his pastry chefs showed off with a chocolate feast. Every table that evening was decorated with large chocolate statues and figures.
To bake and prepare for this very calorie-worthy event, the chef in his presentation stated they used 180 pounds of chocolate, 65 pounds of sugar, 75 quarts of cream, 720 eggs, 100 pounds of flour, and 30 pounds of butter.
The chef was clear to say that guests thinking they were gaining weight aboard were mistaken for the “salty air that tends to shrink clothes”.
For each day ashore in Santa Cruz de la Palma and Funchal, Madeira, guests were entitled to choose one excursion from a long list.
On the night before the first excursion, our butler came around with a complimentary Silversea backpack, a premium beach-type bag, and bottles of water.
At first, I was a little apprehensive about being on a ship for so many days. I wondered if I could relax or if I would be bored. I can say with no hesitation I did relax and I was never bored.
The ship’s layout, the ultra-professional crew, and having less than 500 guests made my time aboard very worth repeating.
For information go to https://www.silversea.com/
Pre-Cruise Hotel in Barbados
For the pre-cruise hotel, we stayed two nights at the Crane Beach Hotel located just seven minutes from the airport. Built-in 1887, it is said to be the Caribbean’s oldest continuous hotel.
This five-star luxury resort is spread over 40 acres. The center of this gated-like community has a “village” look to it.
Here there are five restaurants, a café, gym, coffee shop, boutique, and a convenience store. The 1887 Bar is a rustic-looking pub that has evening music.
The resort is beautifully landscaped with ponds, bridges, and shrubbery. There is a 1.5-acre swimming area with two attached pools and a large spa. A separate adult only pool overlooks the ocean below its cliff.
Crane Beach is 500 to 600 feet of soft sand with a pink hue. Guests access it via a glass elevator or 98 steps. The beach has complimentary loungers and a beach bar.
Depending on the wind direction, sargassum seaweed can be a problem.
The hotel offers transportation to other beaches a few days a week when needed. (I recommend spending the day at Pebbles Beach for its calm clear water, beach bars, and food truck)
While standard suites are roomy. We upgraded to a large one-bedroom apartment complete with a balcony, marble bathroom, and whirlpool tub and laundry machine. https://www.thecrane.com/