Jared Savage

Jared Savage is the New Zealand Herald's investigations editor.

Cruising: Five-star floating city

Jared Savage enjoy a new view from his room each morning as he cruises the Mediterranean.

The Celebrity Silhouette hosts a casino (and professional poker lessons), a library, live bands, art auctions, exercise classes and a wealth of fine-dining options. Photo / Jared Savage
The Celebrity Silhouette hosts a casino (and professional poker lessons), a library, live bands, art auctions, exercise classes and a wealth of fine-dining options. Photo / Jared Savage

Europe can be exhausting. Weeks of waking up at the crack of dawn, lugging suitcases, hailing taxis, catching trains, airport queues, trying to find the hotel, then looking for a restaurant to cater for everyone's tastes ... before you do it all over again for the next destination.

And the next.

With so much to see and do on the Continent, that's the price you pay.

So it comes as somewhat of a relief to open the door to our room on the Celebrity Silhouette.

Instead of living out of a suitcase, we can unpack our bags in the knowledge that we won't be uprooted for the next 10 nights.

And yet every single morning we'll open the curtains and walk on to our veranda to enjoy a new view.

One morning it's the limestone walls of the Maltese capital Valletta, and on another it's the congested waterways of Venice. In the meantime? Just relax.

The cruise industry is enjoying boom times as passengers look past the stereotype of cruising the high seas as the domain of pensioners. And it's easy to see why.

The Celebrity Silhouette dwarfs the other ships docked at Civitavecchia Port, about an hour's drive from Rome, where the 2885 passengers start to board.

It's a relatively painless process to set up a SeaPass card, which acts as personal identification, room key and credit card while on-board.

Then it's time to start exploring. Under the sweltering Mediterranean sun, there's only one way to begin - straight to the pool.

Row upon row of deck chairs are filled with bronzed (and often not buff) bodies, but there's always one spare to stretch out on before slipping into the water to cool off.

Pool butlers are on hand to take drink orders, with a kitchen grill to collect hamburgers, hot dogs and fries.

If the live band starts to get on your nerves, it's easy to slip away to other decks and bars for some peace and quiet.

There's nothing like a quiet drink watching the wake of the boat as the sun goes down.

Just two-years-old and 319-metres-long, the Silhouette is one of Celebrity's newest and largest ships - effectively a floating city with five-star facilities.

Those who do not worship the sun also have plenty to see and do. First of all, there's a gym at the bow of the ship where you can burn off all the extra calories you've consumed during your holiday. With panoramic views from the front of the ship, you can easily forget you're stuck on a treadmill or in a Pilates class.

A workout can be followed by a massage or spa, or movies, Broadway-style theatre and magic and comedy shows.

Or you can check out the casino, library, trivia quizzes, live bands, DJ and dancing nights, art auctions, shopping or enjoy one of the many musical groups dotted around the ship.

There are also behind-the-scenes tours of the galley and bridge, as well as tutorials where the professionals show you how to play poker, learn to dance or even fold a napkin for your dinner party. The choices are endless.

In fact, I suspect there is a surprisingly large proportion of passengers who spend more time on-board the ship than the shore.

Then there's the food and drink. Rumour has it that most passengers gain almost a kilogram for each day of a cruise. That's easy to believe given the choices available.

Four-course meals at fine-dining restaurants, all-you-can-eat buffet meals upstairs, 24-hour room service, plus healthy options at the AquaSpa, the poolside grill as well as the cafes dotted around the ship. The food is fantastic and you'll never receive better service.

All this and you haven't even set foot on land at one of the seven stops on the 2225 nautical-mile journey.

FIVE ONSHORE HIGHLIGHTS

Rome, Italy: All aboard.

Naples, Italy: The city itself is nothing to write home about, so head straight to Pompei. Simply walk 20 minutes to the Ferrovia Circumvesuviana train line on Garibaldi St and catch the train to Sorrento. Get off at the Pompei Scavi station, grab a water bottle and look for an official guide touting for business; you'll skip past the hundreds in the queue.

Valletta, Malta: The capital of Malta is surrounded by limestone fortifications and has a fascinating history of conflict and occupation. But there's much more to Malta than a succession of conquerors. Although Valletta itself is beautiful, it's worth catching a bus or taxi to Mdina. Once the historic "Old Town" of Malta, Mdina is perched on a rocky outcrop with panoramic views of the rest of the island.

Athens, Greece: The birthplace of modern civilisation, Athens should be on your bucket list. But not because of anything modern. Go straight to the Temple of Zeus, the crowds will head first to the more visually impressive Acropolis nearby. But the lines are shorter at the Temple - and the same ticket also gets you into the Acropolis. Once you're done, simply walk down the road past the Arch of Hadrian, along a shaded promenade of cafes and restaurants, and skip the growing line at the bottom of the Acropolis.

Mykonos, Greece: You could hire a scooter but it's hard to beat the buses to Paradise Beach (or Super Paradise Beach) for just 2 euro ($3.35) to see a bit more of Mykonos: white-washed homes with olive orchards surrounded by stone walls. Don't be surprised by deckchairs covering all the sand.

Jared Savage travelled as a guest of the Celebrity Silhouette.

- NZ Herald

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