Cruise International join an island-studded cruise from the Seychelles to India aboard Silversea’s luxurious Silver Wind – it really is the perfect getaway.

Landing in humid heat of the Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, is a pleasing shock to the system. Greeted by the vista of forested, cloud-raked mountains at Mahé’s airport, it’s hard to grasp that less than a day has passed since leaving England.

A 10-minute taxi ride away at the port, Silver Wind awaits her new arrivals. The welcome is as warm as the sunshine, embarkation is swift and an array of tempting buffet treats brightens dull eyes. A quick shower later and we’re relaxing on deck, drinks in hand and all tiredness forgotten.

As dawn breaks the next day, the ship sails the 40km stretch of ocean that separates Mahé from Praslin, the second largest island in the archipelago. Dark clouds hang ominously over the islands as if to show that not every day is perfect in paradise, but the sky lightens and tenders carry us ashore. Negotiating steep, zig-zagging roads through jungly vegetation, our tour bus takes us via beaches and waterfalls to Praslin’s heart and highlight, the Vallée de Mai. A Natural World Heritage Site, this ancient forest of towering palms is home to the legendary Coco-de-Mer tree with its extraordinary double nuts. De-husked, the shape of the seed inside, which weighs in at over 20kg, resembles the female pelvis. In the 19th century, General Gordon of Khartoum pronounced Praslin to be the biblical Garden of Eden. Walking in the silence of the forest, we listen for scrabblings in the leaf litter, watch for rare and endangered black parrots high in the canopy, and hear the piercing scream of the orange-beaked Seychelles Bulbul.

I stay ashore for a walk on a beach, before returning to the ship by shuttle bus in time for afternoon tea, one of the many discreet charms of life aboard. With its high number of sea days, this itinerary is ideal for people who enjoy shipboard life as much as jaunts ashore. Unwinding, reading a novel, chatting amiably and eating and drinking copiously (Silversea is all-inclusive) fill the days with ease. The majority of guests have sailed with Silversea before and most, not content with a single cruise, book two or more back-to-back. Aboard Silver Wind, I soon learn the appeal.

Carrying a maximum of 296 guests and almost as many crew, Silver Wind is elegant and stylish without being in the least bit stuffy. The food is superb, the service friendly, the smiles warm and genuine, and within hours of embarkation, waiters know your name and bar staff your favourite drink. All the suites have ocean views and even the smallest is spacious enough for a queen-sized bed and a sofa seating area. From the Bulgari toiletries to a choice of pillows, the good night Godiva chocolates, personalised stationery and a fridge stocked and replenished with your favourite drinks, quality and attention to detail come as standard.

Entertainment

Entertainment is low-key here with such genteel pursuits as needlepoint, enrichment lectures and bridge classes by day, and cabaret, concerts and small-scale production shows in the evenings. Unusually for a ship of this size, there’s a two-tier theatre with comfortable plush seats and tables.

After three days luxuriating at sea, it’s good to take a walk ashore. Silver Wind anchors off Malé in the Maldives, the island capital of a nation of islands. Dodging the whirl of motorbikes and scooters, a stroll along the waterfront takes me past the fishing harbour and boats with curved prows to the busy fish and local-produce markets. The dusty National Museum reveals a history of Sultans, the tiny Friday Mosque dates back to the 17th century and the pretty blue-and-white Mulee Aage Palace with its fretwork friezes is a charming remnant of the Victorian era.

If crowded Malé isn’t exactly the image one has of a Maldives island, our arrival at Olhahali is picture perfect. Privately owned, this atoll of sandy beach with a shady green heart, ringed by a turquoise reef and emerald sea, is the setting for a sumptuous beach barbecue. In a magnificent feat of organisation, the ship’s tenders zip to and fro delivering everything needed to give us a splendid treat. Chef Laurent and his team are in holiday mood as they serve grilled prawns, barbecued meats and an amazing selection of salads, breads and desserts. Local musicians play, dancers fascinate, wine flows and the powder soft sand and warm, iridescent turquoise water beckon.

The unstable political situation in Sri Lanka knocks Colombo off the port schedule and we sail on to the southern tip of India. This change of plan sends us scurrying to the extensive library of travel books in thequiet observation lounge to find out something about our new destination, Tuticorin, which turns out to be an important if uninspiring container port. The shore excursion team comes up with a trip to the Meenakshi Temple, a three-hour drive away at Madurai, but it’s a very long and expensive day, so there aren’t many takers. In the event, Indian bureaucracy ensures the ship isn’t cleared until well after the tour’s scheduled departure time, so an alternative Hindu temple, a shorter distance away at Tirunelveli, is substituted and the trip proves to be brilliant.

Steeped in history, legend and tradition, the Nellaiappar Temple complex is endlessly fascinating with countless life-sized stone images, intricate shrines and exquisitely carved and pillared halls. The worshippers are cheery and friendly, intrigued by the arrival of western visitors, and, for a small donation, the temple elephant will gently tap you on the head with his trunk in blessing.

There’s much to enthuse about over dinner in the ship’s elegant restaurant, which is flexible on timing and boasts a number of tables for two. Maître d’hôtel Jorge Caiero does a great job of matching up guests who like to share the larger tables, and sommeliers and waiters are grand at presenting the wines and describing the dishes on the five-course menus.

More Indian bureaucracy delays the start of our city tour when we arrive in Chennai (Madras), but at last we’re off to get a taste of chaotic city traffic and visit the main sights including Fort St George, a colourful Siva temple and some magnificent bronzes in the National Museum.

Initially the itinerary, with its promise of sunshine, romantic islands and an assortment of cultures, seemed to me to be the main attraction, but by the end of the cruise it was the ship that had the star billing. The unpretentious luxury, fabulous food and stellar service from surely the friendliest staff at sea, will linger long in the memory.

Fact file

Who travels?

British, American and European couples, 50+. Ideal for older singles

Climate

Around 30°C all the way.

Currency

Seychelles rupee, Maldivian rufiyaa, and Indian rupee. The US$ is the on-board currency.

Accommodation

My midship Veranda suite had a queen-sized bed, sitting area, walk-in wardrobe and marbled bathroom. The slightly smaller Vista suites have large picture windows and the higher grade suites come with extras such as butler service.

Shopping

Bright sarongs in the Seychelles, silks and woodcarvings in India.

Getting around

Shuttle buses were laid on for trips to the town or beach. In Malé, negotiate with a boat owner for swimming and snorkelling from a deserted island

Eating out

The food on board is so good there’s little temptation to eat ashore.

Guide price

All-inclusive, cruise-only fares from £1,397/USD $2,672 per person.

We sailed with:

Cruise Liner: Silversea
Vessel: Silver Wind

Rating: Six Star

Duration: 11 nights

Included: Cruise, food, entertainment, drinks (including Champagne, spirits and selected wines at meals), gratuities

To Book: visit www.silversea.com

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