Tuesday 19 December 2017

Silver Explorer, Day 2 - Pilots, petrels and pillows

With thanks to Silversea for this hosted cruise

It was a bit rough last night, and I lay awake for some hours hoping that my Scopoderm patch would do its thing. As a result, I awoke with a start at 9am and had to rush to get to the Zodiac familiarisation lecture at 9.30, thereby missing my breakfast. Harsh. Cruise Director Tim (from South Africa) gave us all the mandatory instruction and a lot more besides about the next two days' activities: lots of emphasis on boots, taking care of the environment, and the wildlife we will see.

There was a surprisingly long queue of people wanting to exchange the complimentary Puffas and parkas they'd ordered online, which had turned out to be the wrong size, and we had a bit of bother that way ourselves - but it was all sorted in the end and I must say they're really good quality and I reckon I'll be getting good use out of them. Then there was a very informative lecture about whales by a marine biologist, after which a small pod of pilot whales and some dolphins obligingly turned up beside the ship. Impressive organisation.
It was a lovely day today - sunny, the sea quite calm and really not that cold, considering. We spent it quietly cruising across an empty sea, the ship gently creaking and the whole experience deeply relaxing - especially for those unable to resist the offers of wine with lunch. Remarkably, the friendly Maitre d' claimed to recognise us from earlier cruises, which is also deeply impressive, if so - though he did undermine the claim somewhat by demonstrating his clever computer, which spies on everyone in the restaurant, so he knows who they are, what they look like, what suite they're in, what they ordered, what they're currently eating and drinking, and probably what their phone PINs are.

After a peaceful afternoon - don't ever think that a Day at Sea is boring, it's actually a real pleasure to be able to kick back and enjoy the ship for itself rather than as a base - we attended a photography lecture and then got a bit tarted up for the Captain's Welcome. This was in the Explorer Lounge, where most group stuff seems to happen, and comprised champagne, canapés and a short but amusingly deprecating speech by the highly-qualified captain, who looks suitably nautical, beard and all. And also hails from Gloucestershire. He did declare that this is the best cruise route ever - and though of course he would say that, wouldn't he? - he did seem sincere, as did the Hotel Director we sat with at dinner. He promised that Antarctica, whatever the weather, would be extraordinary. He also stated that Drake Passage has nothing on crossing the Tasman - something about waking up on the floor in the night with a television on his stomach - so let's hope he's right.
And so we ate fancy food in the elegant restaurant, and drank liberally-offered wine, and chatted, and watched the sun slowly set behind us in a tastefully-muted orange wash as various sorts of petrel swooped behind the ship and a competitor's cruise ship arranged itself artistically on the horizon. It was hard to keep remembering that this is an expedition ship. Especially back in the cabin suite, where, after a chat with our butler this afternoon about the pillow menu, we came back to, now, FOUR pillows on the bed.

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