Pinoy crew is silver lining in luxury cruise ship

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star
Pinoy crew is silver lining in luxury cruise ship
Filipinos, who comprise majority of the ship’s crew, are praised for their hard work and happy disposition.

Like many cruise ships around the world, the six-star cruise ship Silver Cloud is manned by a crew majority of whom are Filipino seafarers:  from the navigator Alexander Rayos (the person who maneuvers the ship), to the restaurant manager Frederick Mariano, the infection control officer Evelyn Valdes, the senior nurse Sheryl Baile, several chefs, waiters and other crew members.

“They are hard workers, they are friendly and they have a good attitude,” said the Silver Cloud’s captain, Ukrainian Andriy Domanin.

“They are always happy to help,” added Kimberly Algar, the ship’s future cruise manager, who hails from England.

Indeed, of the 219 members of the crew on board the Silver Cloud, which took us on a six-day cruise of the Arctic under a glorious combination of the Midnight Sun and sub-zero temperatures, 107 are Filipino. There were only 180 pampered passengers onboard, and on our cruise, there were six Filipinos — broadcast journalist Karen Davila, her husband DJ Sta. Ana, their sons David and Lucas; Shan Dioquino David of Corporate International Travel and Tours, general sales agent of Silversea; and yours truly.

The Silver Cloud, which is part of the Silversea fleet, is an expedition cruise ship. I’ve fortunately been on ocean cruises, river boat cruises, but never an expedition cruise. Shan refused to describe it to me before the cruise.

“Our trip will define what an expedition cruise is all about!” she promised.

And betcha by golly wow, what an expedition it was!


Our Silver Cloud expedition to the Arctic was a combination of sailing, sightseeing and going on a safari — except it was a safari on ice water instead of dry land.

On the second night of our cruise, I asked Capt. Domanin what makes being the master of an expedition cruise unique.

“Events. Every day you’re looking for something new and you never know what is going to happen today. You never know what’s happening tomorrow. So it’s not like the usual cruise. You always have an adventure; you’re always excited to see something new. You see something — you’re exploring the world.”

On Cloud Nine while sailing on the Silver Cloud to the Svalbard Archipelago, 60 percent of which is covered by glaciers.

Of course, the captain knew whereof he spoke. In six days, I learned to ride a Zodiac, a sturdy rubber boat that can forge through the ice and make dry landings as well; had champagne from a floating bar  in the middle of a serene fjord (the “Fjord of Love,” so I missed my husband); beheld stunning glaciers, one of them 4.4-kilometer wide; saw a “huddle” of walruses and seals; was entranced by deer; sailed on an ocean of ice to the Ice Edge, the ice glistening like diamond boulders bobbing up and down the ocean.

The only thing I didn’t try was the “Polar Plunge,” where you dive into the Arctic Ocean under the supervision of the crew, and dip for a few seconds. The dive was reportedly so exhilarating 14-year-old Lucas Sta. Ana, the youngest to take the plunge, did it twice!

We saw this rare Polar bear from several meters away. Polar bear sightings are rare, but when you see one nearby, you are urged to alert your guide immediately.

And after all this, we all had a comfortable floating home to come back to, with a personal butler to assist us in every way. We began our day with an expedition, and we ended our day with elegance. Or you can just relax in your suite the whole day, stay in your veranda and just drink in all the beauty of snow-dusted mountains under the Midnight Sun 24 hours a day — or night.

Sunset comes whenever you draw your blackout curtains and your room is enveloped in night.

The oldest passenger on the ship was 97 years old — she loved to dance till 2 a.m. at the party lounge.

The cruise was like a thrilling, yet calming hike to the pinnacle of one’s appreciation for nature, and for the people, like our Pinoy seafarers, who enable us to see this magnificent view of a world we once only imagined. *


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