A Personal Butler, Champagne and Caviar on Demand—This Is Extreme Luxury at Sea

Passengers on Silversea’s newly launched ‘Silver Ray’ cruise ship will receive over-the-top pampering.

A bartender adding a slice of a citrus fruit to a cocktail at an outdoor bar at sunset on the Silver Nova cruise ship

Ask and ye shall receive on the new Silver Ray.

Courtesy of Silversea

Sailing on the all-inclusive, luxury, 728-passenger Silver Ray from Silversea Cruises, on a four-night preview cruise from Lisbon to Cadiz, Spain and back, I experienced what opulence at sea really means, thanks in part to my dedicated butler, Rose. After learning some of my personal preferences, she pampered me with a caviar spread and poured iced champagne every evening at 5 p.m. One night, she even added a surprise lemongrass balm, turning the large glass shower in my suite into an aromatherapy retreat.

On the fourth day of the cruise, a 100-minute massage featuring four separate techniques in the ship’s Roman-themed Otium Spa (for an added cost of $400) had me feeling like I could conquer the world (I was relaxed and invigorated at the same time). Later that night, I ended up dancing around the spacious pool deck and partying like it was 1999, just like the Prince song that was played by a live band skilled in Eighties hits. It was the ultimate combination of intense relaxation followed by a healthy dose of letting loose.

Silver Ray, which officially launched on June 15, is an identical twin sister ship to Silver Nova, which made Afar’s list of world’s best cruise ships for features that include ample outdoor space and a gorgeous pool, positioned off to one side so that views of the sea and the ports you visit are uninterrupted. It conjures the spectacular pool overlooking the sea at the Four Seasons Hotel San Domenico Palace in Sicily, where the second season of the hit TV series the White Lotus was filmed. And sun worshipers will further delight in the Marquee, an open-air, pergola-covered dining area that is another “wow” feature of the new Silver Ray.

Even when inside, the focus is on bringing the outside in. The ship’s name reflects the light-filled design principle for this ultraluxe vessel, a reference to a ray of light, of which there are plenty thanks to the more than 13,123 square feet of glass, including glass elevators, incorporated into the ship design.

All onboard stay in roomy suites each with their own balcony, marbled bathroom, and butler service. The most over-the-top are the 1,324-square-foot Otium Suites complete with a wraparound balcony featuring a private whirlpool.

Image of a suite on the Silver Nova with a bed, sitting area, balcony and a bottle of champagne and two glasses on a coffee table

Go ahead, ask your butler for champagne and caviar room service delivery. Why not?

Courtesy of Silversea

Star level drinking and dining

Beyond the beautiful design, high-touch service, and luxurious accommodations, the star of the show on the Silver Ray is S.A.L.T. (sea and land taste), a locally-focused food, drink, and culinary storytelling program that was created for Silversea four years ago and keeps getting better.

On a S.A.L.T. excursion from Lisbon, I found myself sipping award-winning wine and slurping oysters with Baron Nicholas von Bruemmer, whose Latvian grandfather founded Casal Sta. Maria in Sintra, the westernmost vineyard in Europe. Later, I learned to make Portuguese cream tarts in the S.A.L.T. Lab, a space set up with cooking stations.

I sipped Spanish gin at the S.A.L.T. Bar before dinner in the S.A.L.T. Kitchen, one of two main restaurants, where a special menu was focused on the culinary traditions of Cadiz, which was right outside the window. A S.A.L.T lecture in the main lounge impressively featured young Lisbon chef João Sá of the one Michelin-starred Sála. His enthusiasm for local product was endearing, and he shared a tasting of alheira explaining that the bready poultry sausage dates to 15th-century Portuguese Jews fleeing the Inquisition.

Sá also presented a tasty sardine dish with peppers during an exquisite 11-course pan-Mediterranean S.A.L.T. Chef’s Table dinner, prepared by the S.A.L.T. Lab culinary team for just 18 guests (priced at $180 per person).

The S.A.L.T. Lab on the Silver Nova cruise ship, featuring multiple cooking stations and floor to ceiling windows with views of the sea

Among the many engaging aspects of Silversea’s innovate S.A.L.T. culinary program is the opportunity to take cooking classes onboard in the S.A.L.T. Lab (pictured).

Courtesy of Silversea Cruises

Elsewhere, the ship’s Italian restaurant, La Terrazza, is inaugurating a daily menu that focuses on contemporary Italian cuisine, while French specialty restaurant La Dame has the new option of a $160 tasting menu by French chef Jean-Luc Rabanel, famously known for his plant-focused, organic restaurant and cuisine at Le Greenstronome in Arles and for his former two-Michelin star restaurant L’Atelier in Arles.

There were also the lattes served at the centrally located Arts Café, which came with people watching in the ship’s version of town square, and champagne at The Shelter, a “hidden” champagne bar (it’s down on Deck 3) showcasing Silverseas’ new partnership with family operated Duval-Leroy, producer of fine champagne for six generations.

Food and pampering, hallmarks of the Silversea luxury experience, were delivered with aplomb on the fleet’s newest ship.

Luxury with a lesser footprint

Like its sister ship, Silver Ray is built for the future, with a hull designed to reduce friction with water to save fuel and a large-scale hybrid power source, involving a combination of liquified natural gas (LNG), marine oil, and batteries. Hydrogen fuel cells will eventually supplement the setup.

The godmother of Silver Ray, Dr. María Josefina Olascoaga, is a professor of ocean science at the University of Miami and co-runs a program with Silversea’s parent company, Royal Caribbean Group, that equips ships with oceanographic instruments to check the ocean’s vital signs. “I hope this ship will inspire its guests to connect meaningfully with the ocean,” Olascoaga said at the ship’s christening ceremony in Lisbon.

To book: Silver Ray is now cruising the Mediterranean and Greek Isles before heading to South America for the winter season (an 8-night sailing from Athens in October starts at $6,800 per person).

Fran Golden is an award-winning travel writer who has sailed on some 170 ships to destinations around the world.
From Our Partners
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
More From AFAR