COLUMBIA RIVER — A veritable five-star hotel on water pulled up to the Port of Astoria Monday.
Local notables and cruise hosts greeted the Silver Shadow, a luxury cruise liner on its maiden voyage into the Mouth of the Columbia River.
Bruce Conner, the Port’s cruise ship marketer, said he’d spent four years trying to get the Silversea Cruise’s Silver Shadow, which tours the planet for all but about 10 days of every two years, to come into the Columbia River. So battling a head cold, he started the boarding by recounting the story of a friend he once booked on the luxurious vessel.
“So he took that cruise, had a wonderful time,” said Conner. “When he got off, out of his room, as he was leaving, the person checking into his room was J.K. [Rowling], the author of the Harry Potter series.”
The guests made their way to the eighth deck of the Silver Shadow and the Panorama Lounge, a wood-floored vista looking out the back of the ship from a night-club setting, which during cruises comes complete with complimentary drinks, lounge seating and a rotating cast of musicians.
After an exchange of plaques, gifts and appreciations, the ship’s guests mingled and got to know Capt. Cataldo Destefano, an Italian from Genoa piloting the Silver Shadow for four years and with Silversea for 12.
“They made a little bit of a discount recently,” said Destefano about the price of a cruise on the Silver Shadow, which he valued at nearly $1,000 a day in the 1990s. “Now it’s around $700, $500, depends on the type of suite that they pay for. Let’s say that a one-week cruise may cost between $4,000 and $5,000.”
When it entered the Columbia River, the Silver Shadow carried 350 guests and 290 crew members, down to the security detail checking people in and waiters tactfully posted in public corridors with spritzers and hors d’oeuvres.
“Especially when you walk through the art gallery, you’re allowed to take one thing,” said Conner, joking with the captain before leaving the tour shortly thereafter to coordinate the cruise passengers descending on Astoria.
And through a bona fide art gallery the tour went. Original paintings by Pablo Picaso and Bob Dylan, original texts written by William Shakespeare, statues by Salvador Dali and signed photos of Marilyn Monroe and countless other pieces of art graced the hallways and display cases, gathered by the ship’s art curator and ballooning the cost of some walls above $100,000.
Leading the tour of the Silver Shadow was Monique Manconi, a quintilingual hostess for the international guests.
She led the tour out onto the eighth-deck pool and hot tubs, surrounded by teak lounge furniture, in what at night turns into the al fresco Black Rock Grill where guests cook their own morsels atop a steaming volcanic rock.
Five of the seven ship levels for passengers include some form of entertainment near the stern, including a bar and a casino offering roulette, blackjack and slot machines on Deck 5. A tiered show lounge on Deck 6 features full-scale theater, soloists, feature films, lectures and other events.
One deck up, guests bite into Italian cuisine at La Terrazza, with a wide selection of the world’s finest wines and French cuisine next door at the reservations-only La Champagne. The Connoisseur’s Corner offers a selection of high-end cognacs and cigars for purchase from the walk-in humidor.
Above the Panorama Lounge, a jogging track circles the Silver Shadow’s smokestack. At the top of the ship are a fitness center, spa, beauty salon and the Observation Lounge, with a bird’s eye view in all directions from the ship.
Throughout the Silver Shadow, rooms run the gamut from the 287-square-foot Vista Suites to 1,400-square-foot, two-bedroom Grand Suites, complete with marble bathrooms, wardrobes with a personal safe, espresso machines and a large teak veranda with floor-to-ceiling glass doors.
Manconi’s tour ended in the silver- and crystal-bedecked, candlelit The Restaurant, the main dining room that serves regional specialties based on where the cruise is and signature dishes from the Grands Chefs Relais & Châteaux, a global association of luxury hoteliers, chefs and restaurateurs.
Built and outfitted in 2000 in Italy’s Francesco Visentini and T. Mariotti shipyards, the Bahamian-flagged Silver Shadow tours the world almost continuously, along with its sister ship the Silver Whisper, built at the same time. The Silver Shadow’s distinct trips range from $2,950 for seven days sailing north along the British Columbia and Alaskan coastlines to $9,650 for its next trip: an 18-day, 3,400 nautical mile cruise starting Wednesday in San Francisco and ending Oct. 12 in Tahiti.
“We’re going to Hawaii, French Polynesia, South America, all the way to Buenos Aires,” said Destefano of the Silver Shadow, which blasted its horns and departed Astoria around 5 p.m. and is currently steaming south along the California coast. “And then we’re coming back up to go to Florida, and it’s in the Caribbean then, and we come back here next year.”