An Idyllic Voyage Around Italy and Croatia

By Megan McDonald July 11, 2011

Me and my friend Jeff on the dramatic patio of the Il San Pietro hotel near Positano.

The lunch we were served at the Il San Pietro di Positano hotel  was scrumptious, from the pasta appetizer  to the dessert. But I honestly can’t remember exactly what was on the menu.  I was focused on the incredible view from the hotel’s cliffside terrace.

Spectacular Positano tumbles toward the Mediterranean Sea.

The San Pietro is built on a rocky promentory  just south of Positano, the most beautiful and  romantic of all the towns on Italy’s fabled Amalfi coast.  Below me, the pink, yellow and white buildings in this steep, vertical  village tumbled toward the Mediterranean Sea, which was cerulean blue on this bright day. A forest of multi-colored umbrellas sprouted from the  beach at the foot of the town.

View of smoking Mount Etna from the Greek theater in Taormina, Sicily.

The Positano visit was one of several outstanding shore excursions I took during my 10-day voyage on the cruise ship Silver Wind.  The day before,  we visited another hilltop town, Sicily’s Taormina, where we explored a Greek theater that is still used for outdoor concerts and dance performances. From between the Ionic columns, you could see steam rising from the top of Mount Etna in the distance. Later in the afternoon, we would climb up and down the craters created by earlier volcanic eruptions.

Silver Wind anchors outside the beautiful walled Croatian city of Dubrovnik.

Stops in the walled Croatian city of Dubrovnik, beach days in Sardinia and stunningly beautiful Elba,  and an 18-hour day in bustling Rome were also on the itinerary. But the high point of the trip was just enjoying the lifestyle on this elegant, comfortable ship.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, the Silver Wind, with just 296 passengers, is one of the smallest and oldest ships in the Silversea Cruise fleet.  By the mega-ship standards of today, it’s tiny. But the Silver Wind, which was handsomely refurbished a few years ago,  is the perfect base for an idyllic vacation.


You get to enjoy the intimacy and coziness the small size affords. Meeting fellow passengers was so easy that by the end of the cruise, I had exchanged addresses with nearly 30 new friends from the United States, Australia, England and even Singapore. Most of the cheerful, hard-working staff members greeted me by name after a few days.

They’ll go out of their way to make your cruise more enjoyable. Sasha on the shore excursions desk patiently explained my options when I hemmed and hawed about  which trip to take. She even printed out a Rome train schedule so I could get from the port to the city center on my own.  Bertrand, the hotel manager, a Monte Carlo native, was a witty and charming presence throughout the cruise, as was Jimmy, the easygoing cruise director.

Even the captain, Michele  Macarone Palmieri, was highly visible. One morning,  when about six of us were having continental breakfast in the ship’s lovely Observation Lounge, he joined us for coffee and extolled the virtues of his home town, Sorrento, where we would soon anchor.

But my favorite crew member was our butler, Myrna,  a crisply efficient but warm Filipina who kept the room immaculate despite our best efforts to create chaos. She also delivered room service dinners course by course when we were too lazy to leave the cabin.

That happened only a couple of times, because the Silver Wind’s dining options are so varied and appealing.  For dinner, you can choose from the Restaurant, the alternative Italian restaurant La Terraza, or eat under the stars on the pool deck. Many passengers also enjoyed gourmet fine dining and exceptional wine pairings for an extra charge in Le Champagne, a tiny, elegant room near the main restaurant.  We never made it there despite out best intentions, but heard rave reviews from others.

While the Silver Wind doesn’t offer the larger-scale entertainment program that some big ships provide, the energetic song-and-dance ensemble on board was great fun, particularly during the outdoor barbecue at the pool deck one night. A classical pianist was also on board, and the disco and karaoke bar were popular on this cruise, since we had quite a few young couples and multi-generation families on board.

This cruise was so port-intensive that I didn’t have the time I would have liked to enjoy all of the ship’s amenities. But I did have a soothing hot-stone massage in the surprisingly large spa. And I worked out regularly in the fitness center, which again had more treadmills, exercise bikes and weight machines than you’d expect for a small ship like this. There was even a separate room for stretching, fitball workouts and classes led by the fitness director, Dora. And I even cut short a beach trip one day to make it back for our spiritedly competitive but good-natured afternoon trivia contests.

Not everything on the cruise was perfect. I felt the on-board destination lecturer was too superficial, and a boat ride to a beach on Hvar was cancelled because the boats the ship had arranged were too small for the choppy seas.  I subsequently discovered that other companies on shore were offering trips in larger boats, but by then it was too late.

Minor issues aside, I’m a veteran cruiser who rates this voyage near the top of my ocean-going adventures.  If you want  to be pampered in luxurious surroundings, without any of the stuffiness that sometimes accompanies such experiences, then the ships of Silversea should be on your radar screen.

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