Like many cruise ships around the world, the six-star cruise ship Silver Cloud is staffed mostly by Filipino sailors: from navigator Alexander Rayos (the person who maneuvers the ship), to restaurant manager Frederick Mariano , infection control officer Evelyn Valdes, head nurse Sheryl Baile, several chefs, servers and other crew members.
“They are hard workers, they are friendly and they have a good attitude,” said Silver Cloud captain Andriy Domanin of Ukraine.
“They are always happy to help,” added Kimberly Algar, the ship’s future cruise manager, who is from England.
Indeed, of the 219 crew members aboard the Silver Cloud, which took us on a six-day Arctic cruise in a glorious combination of midnight sun and sub-zero temperatures, 107 are Filipinos. There were only 180 pampered passengers on board, and on our cruise there were six Filipinos – broadcast journalist Karen Davila, her husband DJ Sta. Ana, their sons David and Lucas; Shan Dioquino David of Corporate International Travel and Tours, General Sales Agent for Silversea; and your servant.
The Silver Cloud, part of the Silversea fleet, is an expedition cruise ship. I have happily done ocean cruises, river cruises, but never an expedition cruise. Shan refused to describe it to me before the cruise.
“Our voyage will define what an expedition cruise is!” she promised.
And betcha by golly wow, what an expedition it was!
Our Silver Cloud Arctic Expedition was a combination of sailing, sightseeing and safari – except it was a safari on icy water instead of dry land.
On the second night of our cruise, I asked Captain Domanin what makes being the master of an expedition cruise unique.
“Events. Every day you’re looking for something new and you never know what’s going to happen today. You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow. So it’s not like the usual cruise. You always have an adventure; you are always excited to see something new. You see something, you explore the world.
Of course, the captain knew what he was talking about. In six days, I learned to pilot a Zodiac, a sturdy rubber dinghy that can cut its way through ice and also do dry landings; had champagne in a floating bar in the middle of a serene fjord (the “fjord of love”, so I missed my husband); saw stunning glaciers, one of them 4.4 kilometers wide; saw a “group” of walruses and seals; was fascinated by deer; sailed on an ocean of ice to the ice edge, the ice glistening like diamond rocks swaying up and down on the ocean.
The only thing I haven’t tried is the “Polar Plunge”, where you dive into the Arctic Ocean under the supervision of the crew and dive for a few seconds. Diving would have been so exhilarating for 14-year-old Lucas Sta. Ana, the youngest to take the plunge, did it twice!
And after all that, we all had a comfortable floating home to come back to, with a personal butler to help us out in every way. We started our day with an expedition, and we ended our day in style. Or you can just relax in your suite all day, hang out on your lanai, and just drink in all the beauty of the snow-capped mountains under the midnight sun 24 hours a day – or at night.
The sunset comes every time you draw your blackout curtains and your room is shrouded in night.
The oldest passenger on the ship was 97 – she loved dancing until 2 a.m. in the party lounge.
The cruise felt like an exciting yet calming trek to the peak of appreciation for nature and people, like our Pinoy sailors, who allow us to see this magnificent view of a world we only once imagined. *