I’m floating at sea but dancing on air. Lounging in the private enclave of my sunny balcony, the only sound is the rhythm of waves curling out to the horizon. Is it my imagination, I wonder, that the watery splashes are echoing the pulse of the Bossa Nova or, maybe, the Samba?
By now – the last sea day of a 19-day cruise on Silversea’s new Silver Muse – my senses spontaneously swing to the Latin beats that percolated throughout South America from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Rio de Janeiro Brazil and beyond. After being immersed in the sights, sounds and local cultures, no wonder my toes are swaying to the flow of waves.
As a luxury cruise to a part of the world where pockets of life vary widely from splendid sophistication to gritty third-world poverty, the stunning Silver Muse – with its impeccable service, style and superb cuisine – proved that the ship is the destination as much as the country. As a conduit to authentic experiences that give genuine perceptions of South American highlights to its inquisitive, discerning passengers who value their time as a precious commodity not to be wasted, Silver Muse proved that a cruise is an enlightening way to gain a true sense of the land.
The ship – with its seamless itinerary to a stream of places that are tricky or tedious to reach independently – made me feel confidently secure as a solo passenger. Though I relied on the ship’s guided excursions to off-the-beaten track locations, my adventurous spirit occasionally spurred me to venture out alone, or with new shipboard friends, always with my wits alert.
Interestingly – as passengers on this itinerary ranged from early 40s to 97 (yes!) – I met people who explored every port on their own, some with private drivers, some walking and hopping on local transport. A 70’s man sought out every extreme feat, like hang-gliding off a cliff in Argentina. One couple – both young teachers from Sweden – had brought collapsible mountain bikes. In every port – even when we tendered ashore – they disembarked with their bikes, backpacks brimming with provisions, and shot off like lightning for inland treks. Meeting other passengers was a breeze on the small Silver Muse, with a capacity of 596 guests.
After boarding in Buenos Aires and being welcomed by my butler who proffered an array of luxe amenities, I headed to La Terrazza for an al fresco lunch. While standing at the maître d’s desk, I met a group of British passengers. Turned out they were among dozens of international passengers on a 66-day cruise looping from Fort Lauderdale that circumnavigated South America. These gregarious Brits were heading on to their winter homes in Barbados, an island en route. So far, they “loved” Silver Muse. They filled me in on the ship’s loveliest place to relax with a drink – the Arts Café deck – and suggested I attend the port lectures, all given by acclaimed experts.
Later, at cocktails before dinner, I met a couple of ladies, also veteran solo cruisers. Planning ahead, one – a retired diplomat – invited me to join her on a Rio de Janeiro tour. A loyal Silversea fan, she was on to complete her “bucket list of all the Wonders of the World” with a visit to Christ the Redeemer. The other – a fashion marketer – invited me for the ship’s guided day trip, up a mountain rainforest to one of Brazil’s highest peaks to the Imperial City of Petropolis, founded in 1843, to see the Imperial Palace, historic home of Brazil’s last Emperor, Dom Pedro II and his wife (who, incidentally was the first in the Americas to free slaves), and to imbibe the local flavours of a famed Churrasco barbecue restaurant.
The first two days at sea set a lively tone for the cruise, with plenty of chances to meet like-minded passengers for sharing and comparing experiences along the way. A presentation on Latin American music showcased the nuances between Argentina’s tango and Brazil’s samba, rhumba, Bossa Nova and traced the influences of African heritage on the percussive beats. That inspired me to join the dance classes – something I’d never done before. By disembarkation, I could step into everything from salsa to cha cha to meringue to swing, albeit not perfectly, or gracefully.
Turns out, much of Brazil’s culture in music, the arts and food are traced to the diverse cultures stemming from the slave trade that, according to one guide, ultimately created 132 different skin colours in the country. Articulate speakers gave insight to South America’s history and current political scenarios. Some passengers took Spanish or French lessons, or set into spa-fitness-wellness routines. Two game “rituals” were already running, started by passengers who’d embarked earlier: serious ping pong and golf putting contests. Golf with a gang of funny Aussies, New Zealanders, Irish and Americans became my daily ritual laugh bash, too. The easy camaraderie aboard Silver Muse began feeling like an embracing country club.
Mingling with other passengers, I learned that Silver Muse’s itinerary along South America’s “Costa Verde” eastern coast opened everyone’s eyes to the beauty of the landscapes, but more to the diversity of intrinsic cultures and music that surged a unique spirit to every port, every local street scene.