By Paul Motter,Nov. 14, 2006
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Our First Tour - The Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx
The next morning, after room service coffee, we went downstairs to join other Silversea passengers for the day's tour. By 9 a.m. we were on a private bus with our guide telling us about Cairo, explaining the different neighborhoods, and what we were seeing in terms of modern life. We also started getting history lessons about the Pharaohs in the early dynasties who lived in Lower Egypt (which is in the North, as the Nile is the world's only major river that flows south to north). We learned about the ancient religion, the phonetic aspects of hieroglyphics, and how scholars deciphered and translate them.
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Soon we were at the Pyramids of Giza, where we were allowed to go inside the second largest one. The highlight is the Sphinx, which lies about a mile below the pyramids looking towards the Nile. She is quite an impressive beauty, and our first taste of the massive Egyptian statuary that would continue to amaze throughout our journey.
Our first glimpse of the Pyramids
At the base of the Great Pyramids
The Sphinx with the Great Pyramid behind her
The entire area of Giza
Nearby the Giza area were groups of Bedouins who had wandered in on camelback. They sell trinkets to tourists and offer rides on camels. We were cautioned not to take a ride, as the camels are trained to take off, which provokes a dramatic "rescue mission" by the bedouins, leaving the tourist feeling highly obligated to leave them with a big "reward."
The Bedouins gather to sell tourist trinkets
And offer camel rides (careful, it costs extra to get OFF!)
A Little Egyptian History
With the Sphinx, our excitement for the wonder of Egypt came alive. This was one of the first civilizations on earth, with artifacts dating back to 5500 BC; the first unified period of Egyptian society began around 3200 BC and lasted almost continuously into the Christian Era.
The sights at the Cairo Museum, which we visited after a leisurely lunch at the Four Seasons, were just the right touch to fire us up for the rest of the trip. Here we saw the mummified bodies of Egypt's greatest and most infamous pharaohs; Rameses II and Tutankhamen. We saw treasures discovered in Tutankhamen's tomb, including his gold mask, chariot, throne, toiletries, and the icons and jewelry buried with him for use in the afterlife.
Our Journey Continues
Then we spent another quiet night at the Four Seasons and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. At noon we assembled in the lobby to board buses to the ship. The Cairo suburbs went on for miles, the highways lined with ministries and schools interspersed with mosques, urban apartment buildings, military installations and ghettoes.
Honeycomb for breakfast at Four Seasons
View across the Nile from our Hotel Room
If you are an American and plan to travel in the Middle East, understand that Egypt and Jordan have treaties with Israel, and are considered to be much safer for western tourists than other Arab countries. There are sites of significance to Judaism within Jordan, so Israeli tourists are welcome there, as are Americans. Along the Egyptian highway we spotted many military sites, but also plenty of locals seemingly happy to see Western faces in their country.
Ministry of Defense, Road to Port Said
Mosques with beautiful minarets are everywhere
We spy a carload of Muslim women
as we approach they smile and wave to us.
Finally we entered Port Said, a seaside resort town. As we turned the corner, we saw our ship, the Silver Whisper, for the first time. We were greeted by Silversea staff and escorted aboard.
Port Said -A typical Middle Eastern seaport town
Our first view of our new home Silver Whisper.
On board, we were immediately handed glasses of champagne, and after Egyptian authorities checked our passports, we were handed the keys to our staterooms. As we walked into the corridor, a line of young stewardesses stood waiting; the first one greeted us and asked if she could carry our bags. Inside our suite, a chilled bottle of Perrier Jouet champagne and a plate of caviar awaited us. At that moment we knew that we had arrived on Silversea.
The accommodations on Silver Whisper, from the lesser suites to the presidential ones, are well appointed with the finest amenities. Some 80 percent of the staterooms on these all-suite ships have verandas and all have ocean views. Bathrooms are equipped with dual granite sinks and a Jacuzzi bathtub. The linens are Egyptian cotton. TV sets come with DVD or VCR players for the large selection of movies available in the library. The walk-in closets contain full-length mirrors, two bathrobes and two pairs of slippers.
Silver Suite seating area
Dining area and bedroom behind glass doors in our suite
Chilled Champagne and caviar greet us in our Suite
The suite is very spacious and comfortable.
Exhausted and happy to have a home for the next week, we unpacked and got ready for dinner. The next day was like a day at sea, a transit of the Suez Canal. We explored the ship, connected to the Internet, and finally dressed for dinner. Silversea has open seating, so you can arrive anytime and ask for any size table. It is a wonderful ship for meeting people, and especially easy to make arrangements to dine with new friends.
Silver Whisper Cuisine
We ate in the open dining room with our best friends. After we sampled a few wines, settling for the French one to avoid preservatives, we enjoyed our five-course feast. Each meal in the dining room, or the alternative restaurant La Terazza, has attentive sommeliers ready to pour. A complimentary wine is recommended for each meal, but if the evening's selection is not to your liking, the sommelier can help you select a different complimentary wine.
La Terazza Reataurant
News and Daily Schedule greet you for breakfast
One tip about your dining staff: If there is something you want that you don't see on the menu, simply ask for it. Silversea will always deliver with a smile. Our vegetarian friends were very well accommodated, a few times with special meals made just for them in lieu if the evening's vegetarian selection.
Personally, I had high hopes of meals like I had never dreamed of before, like a dinner I had once on Silversea Silver Wind in New York Harbor - lobster steamed in rose water. Now that is a meal I will never forget. Most of the entrees on this voyage were simply baked or broiled, put on a plate, surrounded by sauce & vegetables. Now, I will say that I was rather solitary in my blasé opinion, while nearly everyone I talked to thought the food was sublime.
Caviar Appetizer but just two blini
Vegetarian Tofu Delight
Lobster drowning in Mushroom Gravy
If you are wine connoisseur then you are definitely in your element aboard Silversea. The sommelier was so proud of his wine selection that I felt I had disappointed him with my mostly blank reactions. I am no oenophile, but at least I was not alone as many passengers seemed not to be drinking much.
I was still well cared for as all beverages are included in the cruise fare, including sparkling or mineral water -- which now costs as much as $4.00 for a small bottle on mainstream cruise lines. Silversea also has a nice selection of beer and other spirits. Perrier Jouet champagne will be stocked in your cabin refrigerator and automatically replaced when a bottle is emptied.