The gal said goodbye to San Diego, looking back at the illuminated skyline with happy memories – from shopping at Nordstrom to exploring two new-to-me luxury hotels, and finding a city OH so much more agreeable than a few years ago. What a lovely feeling…
So we board Silver Cloud, the first of the Silversea Cruises fleet, built 1994 in Genoa. She might be getting old, as ships go, but she has oodles of personality and lots to offer.
One secret of luxury cruising is to choose your cabin (sorry, stateroom or suite) with care. I like being handy, in no particular order, for the upper deck running track and gym, and the pool and the breakfast room. Being next to a stairwell cuts the chances of neighbourly noise by 50 percent, an important factor since some cruise ships seem to have walls made of paper.
There are 148 cabins and all are full (probably only 20, at most, ‘singles’, and we carry two dance hosts, who share a cabin). Unusually only one passenger is from New York, but probably the US is biggest complement, with noticeable Brits, sadly in some cases also noticeably ample – plus Australians, Belgians, French, Germans, Italians, and two Russians and three Japanese.
There are 222 crew, of whom 90 percent of officers are Italian and 80 percent of the others are Filipino – there is one Colombian, one Turk and two Poles, of whom one is the fitness instructoress. We sailed at 11 pm and in the morning I was up running the ninth deck Astroturf-covered circuit before sunrise. Later, it was still quite chilly so it was a case of furcoat, gal, for breakfast outside.
That first day we sailed to Ensenada, Mexico. It is difficult to know why it should be recommended but it seems to have quite a lot of not-extraordinary hotels. These come into their own, it seems, during annual off-road biking, yacht and other races.
By sheer luck we stumbled on the only noteworthy joint in town, Hotel Mision Santa Isabel. Mission-style, it is indeed built around a courtyard. Mission-style, it also has some lovely tile artworks on its walls.
These, it turns out, were done by Señora Gaston Eugenio Rene Flourie Sablayrolles, a student of Diego Rivera (memories of the book The Lacuna) – although of course in Mexico she kept her own name. Her grandson, Rodolfo Corral Flourie, owns and runs the hotel today.
He told us how his grandfather had come from Paris in 1924 and had been searching the area for the ‘missing’ mission in the chain that runs up the west coast of Mexico through to California. Ensenada’s had been lost to oblivion over the centuries, but grandpa decided to build a hotel here anyway.
Rodolfo has seven siblings but he says ruefully he is the only one who can cook so he would be preparing Christmas dinner for the family in a few hours’ time. By now it was time for us to return to Silver Cloud, quick gal or you will be left behind.
Back at the ship, with the sun shining and a protective barrier around the eighth-deck pool, sun worshippers were out in force. Into all this strode another forceful guy, one Father Christmas, looking slightly incongruous among pink-flesh-bodies punctuated by bikini strips.