We had long talked about seeing the Dalmatian coast of the Adriatic, especially Croatia, and decided to do it this year on a cruise, since we did not really want to drive through the mountains. Many cruises were already fully booked by the time we decided, but we were able to get on the Silversea Cruises “Silver Spirit,” which turned out to be an excellent choice. It was a one-week cruise, starting and ending in Venice, stopping at Ravenna, Split, Dubrovnik and Zadar, plus one day in Slovenia.
This is Silversea’s largest ship, about 500 passengers, and while large for us, turned out to be a good fit. Our suite was spacious, larger than our room in a rather expensive Venice hotel the night before; 90% of the cabins have the same floor plan, 375 sq. ft. including veranda. They are very well laid-out, with a walk-in closet, bath tub plus a commodious shower. The veranda is large enough for two chairs and a table, so you can have snacks or full meals on your veranda, if you wish. (The minibar and room service are included).
The ship’s facilities were excellent: lounges, pool and three Jacuzzis, library, fairly large casino, shops, WiFi (not cheap but reliable), etc. The food was excellent, with a choice of restaurants (including several small “specialty” restaurants for which one pays extra—the French and Asian ones were superb). Alcoholic beverages were included, and high quality.
The service on our ship was extraordinary; there were friendly people everywhere saying hello and asking if they could help you in any way. It was a bit imposing, with “butlers” assigned to each bloc of rooms, scurrying around in tie and tails at all hours, and going beyond the necessary. We came back to our cabin one afternoon, to find that our butler and his assistant had built a “structure” around a chair sitting on a table, all covered with linens, with a birthday cake plus electric candle and wine in my honor. I was touched. Gratuities, like alcohol, are included in the price of the voyage, but one can feel obliged to add something to those who have really served.
The ports on the cruise were excellent, and the tour options extensive; we skipped the day-long tours, taking, instead, walking tours of the cities. We had been in Ravenna years ago, but greatly enjoyed walking around and once again seeing the magnificent mosaics for which the city is famous. Medieval Dubrovnik and Roman Split more than lived up to their reputations--we think of them as must-sees--and we also enjoyed Zedar. We did sign up for a bus tour of Slovenia, since we only had one day in that country, Lake Bled was beautiful, but our visit to Ljubljana, our main interest, was washed out by heavy rain.
The cruise included one final day in Venice, and then we were off to Paris for five nights in our favorite city in the world. We try to stop in Paris every year, and, having been there often, enjoy the freedom of not feeling pushed to see too many things on any one visit. We stayed at the Sofitel Scribe, right around the corner from the Opéra Garnier, one of our favorite areas. One very pleasant day was devoted to visits from two different Belgian friends, one with a new baby, who came down by train to see us. As usual, we wandered on both sides of the Seine, just drinking in the beauty of our surroundings, and stopping to eat, to look (we ran into the Bastille Day parade, which was a delight), to walk into shops, etc.
And, for me, there were the sales. Unlike the U.S., where the “sale of the year” takes place twice a week, in France the sale dates are regulated by law, and take place in July and January—that’s it, and they are real sales. I do love shopping, so the combination of being in Paris and also finding great buys at the beautiful Galeries Lafayette (50%-70% off) is as close to heaven as I may ever get.
We had some rain in Paris this year, which subtracted almost a whole day from our activities; but there are worse things in the world than sitting in a café with a Café Liegeois, watching the world go by.