The first voyage sailed from London's iconic Tower Bridge to the Svalbard Archipelago, and earlier this month I was one of a handful of guests invited on board Silver Cloud to mark the tenth anniversary with a two night celebratory journey from London to Dublin, offering a chance to see the latest addition to the Silversea Expeditions fleet. I was intrigued to see exactly what changes had been made during the refurbishment and ice strengthening in October last year to transform her from a classic cruise ship into an expedition vessel, especially having had the pleasure of sailing on board this popular little ship before.
As we joined at Tower Bridge the first superficial changes were clear, the blue hull and the black gantries on the sun deck for the Zodiacs giving a hint of the transformation that has taken place. On board the changes range from bold new spaces to subtle updates, which all combine to give a more modern feel.
The biggest changes have been converting some of the public spaces to better suit expedition travel. The gym, which boasted superb views high and at the front of the ship, is now Tor's Observation Lounge, offering 180 degree views of the approaching landscape. It has also been extended to accommodate more of the ship's 254 guests (restricted to 200 in polar regions), although they have had to lose the forward facing deck space to achieve this.
The casino is now a photo studio with rows of high spec computers available for guests to edit images of their trip, and there is also a photographer on hand to help with this and give tips and advice on how to achieve the best shots. For those with a particular passion it's possible to arrange a private Zodiac tour accompanied by the ship's photographer, who'll be able to give tuition as well as editing advice and even print the photos in the studio on board.
The suites have been updated to give them a modern and less cluttered feel. The warm wood cupboards and smaller shelving units in the main living space have been removed, and a light wood writing desk now houses the included mini bar and smart TV, with programmes on demand as well as the live link to the lectures, ship's position and daily programme.
Even the balcony doors have been replaced, to ensure comfort when travelling in the polar regions. In the rooms, and throughout the ship, images of exploration have been supplied by the Royal Geographical Society, which help to create a sense of discovery.
Zodiac and kayak operations run from deck 3, previously off limits to guests, where the changing room and boot storage is located, and it is also now possible for guests to access the foredeck (weather permitting), where I joined members of ORCA, one of the UK's leading marine conservation charities who partner with Silversea, to help monitor the health of our oceans by collecting data on whales and dolphins.
The show lounge has become the Explorer Lounge, with smart grey furnishing and new carpet, and subtle changes in the main restaurant all add to the modern feel. The alternative dining options, La Terrazza and La Dame (formally Le Champagne) are untouched and still offer superb cuisine in comfortable surrounds, helping Silversea deliver a hugely popular cross of expedition and luxury. We hear this has proven so successful that we will eventually see Silver Wind undergo a similar conversion.