Johnny Morris, The Daily Telegraph, July 18, 2013
“Mr Morris, if you don’t put on weight during my cruise I’ll be sacked,” joked Sujith Mohan, the food and beverage manager on Silversea’s newest all-suite ship, Silver Spirit. It was the first full day of my voyage and, as we chatted over bouillon in the ship’s Panorama Lounge, I explained my dietary challenge. I wanted to see if it was possible to indulge in the delights of a luxury 11-day cruise without bringing home a souvenir spare tyre. Before embarking I had been forewarned by the alarming statistic that more than half the passengers on a two-week cruise gain an average of a stone in weight — the belt-busting equivalent of three bags of sugar.
Mohan humoured me, steering his table talk away from the fine-dining experiences and vintage wines on offer in the seven restaurants on board, and moving on to the reassuring topic of Silversea’s Wellness Programme. He believed the low-calorie healthy options such as steamed fish and NSA (no sugar added) desserts, conveniently flagged up on the ship’s menus, would help.
Silversea, said Mohan, is keen on catering for special diets, offering vegetarian options, gluten-free baking and Kosher foods if required, and he pointed out that the luxury cruise line attracts a savvy clientele very different from the Homer Simpson types who unbalance the cruise weight-gain statistics. Wishing me luck, he headed back to his job of managing US$2 million-worth of the ship’s stock.
I was going to need more than good fortune after learning that a staggering 235 out of the 376 crew on board are employed merely to keep everyone fed and watered. “Just five more stretches,” said my South African instructor, Rikus De Villiers, encouragingly, as I neared the end of a taxing half-hour fitness class. Waves rolled beneath us as the ship sailed alongside the heel of Italy and I slid off my exercise ball panting for breath.
The good workout meant I could enjoy a guilt-free formal dinner (as long as I avoided the cheese plate). De Villiers’ straightforward equation – “yoga, Pilates or stretch class equals weight loss” was more to my taste than his nutritional talks. Earlier in the week, during a dietary consultation he had revealed the secrets of “the Synergy of Success”. Concentrating on the relationship between toxins and fat gain, the session culminated in a sales pitch for a 12-month programme of Elemis products costing £750. The system may work but, combined with the £100 for a consultation, it seemed an efficient way of losing the wrong sort of pounds.
Much more useful was De Villiers’ introduction to the ship’s exercise machines. Silver Spirit’s gym was friendlier and better attended than those I have avoided at hotels in the past. In the smallish space with its ocean vistas, I could set my own daily targets on the cycle machine and work off a pudding’s worth of calories in 15 minutes.
On the fourth day of my new regime I found myself pedalling away beside an elderly man who was working up to sprint finish. Concerned for his heart rate, I glanced at his monitor and was surprised to see that he had completed an hour of intense cycling, burnt more than 500 calories and had yet to break into a sweat. I needed to raise my game. I whizzed through twice my normal distance at twice the speed, and then staggered off to spend the next three hours recovering in my cabin. Later in the cruise I discovered that my pace-setter was Tony Whiteside, an ex-professional cyclist and Australian veteran champion. Top tip: to maintain a steady regime in the gym, don’t sit next to a Bradley Wiggins.
“Papa Americano!” the ship’s sound system boomed out over the Adriatic as Fernando, the exuberant senior cruise director, led a conga around the pool deck. After visiting Majorca, Sardinia, Sicily and Malta, the ship was on the home stretch to Venice via Croatia – quite an itinerary and quite a farewell party, confirming my belief that the best place for exercise is on the dance floor. My wife and I had danced like dervishes all night and I felt terrific.
As Fernando led revellers into the Observatory Lounge, De Villiers’ voice popped into my head, reminding me that “one wine with dinner is fine but mixing your drinks is a big no-no for a healthy body”. Sadly, the champagne, three margaritas and grappa chasers were not on the wellness menu that night and the health regime took a battering. Recovering with my first full English breakfast of the cruise the next morning probably wasn’t a good idea either.
By the time I came to weigh myself on the final morning, I was sure I had strayed from my target. Perhaps it was the sea kayaking at Hvar on the last day in Croatia, or maybe the miles of walking we did around Venice, but the scales showed I was a tub-thumping two pounds lighter. I just hope Mohan won’t get the sack when word gets out.
Silversea offers a seven-day round trip from Barcelona on Silver Wind, departing September 10, 2013. From £2,550pp excluding flights.
A chef prepares the kind of treats passengers will have to try to avoid during their fitness regime. Image: Silversea Cruises