A password will be e-mailed to you.

Boarding Silversea Cruises’ flagship, Silver Spirit, in Sydney on her inaugural 119-day world voyage was a bit like a school reunion. I couldn’t help but observe all the happy faces and the good-natured banter between passengers, newcomers and crew as they greeted one another. This is the Silversea culture. With so many repeat guests, there are lots of meetings and greetings, conducted in that highly contagious, effortlessly Italian way.

Silversea cruise ships are definitely addictive, and I’ve sailed on a few, including Silver Whisper on a Mediterranean cruise and Silver Shadow in Alaska. (The Silversea fleet comprises Silver Spirit, Silver Wind, Silver Cloud, Silver Shadow, Silver Whisper and the expedition ship Silver Explorer.)

Could Silver Spirit possibly live up to my high expectations? I was about to find out.

Throughout the ship, the focus is on traditional elegance rather than minimalism. An Art Deco theme prevails, silvery-blues alternating with dark-blue stripe and geometric-print fabrics and fittings. Scalloped-glass panels are subtly placed as conversation dividers in the Main Bar, which is the social hub of the ship. It’s a bit like a piazza – perfect for people-watching, small-scale presentations, language lessons and, of course, delicious espresso.

Silver Spirit has 270 ocean-view suites, 95 per cent with private balconies. Each has comfortable seating areas, queen or twin single beds, and stylish bathrooms featuring separate bath and shower, and Ferragamo, Bulgari or Neutrogena toiletries. As well, there are flat-screen TVs plus wi-fi access and mobile phone service at sea.

In-suite refrigerators are stocked with your nominated preferences, including Champagne, beer, soft drinks and bottled water, and dinner wines and cocktails are complimentary. Nor do you have to worry about appropriate gratuities.

There are six onboard restaurants. The main dining room is The Restaurant, which serves contemporary classic cuisine. La Terrazza offers authentic Italian food and a popular al fresco area, while the intimate (24-seat) Le Champagne wine restaurant by Relais & Châteaux is your choice for the full-on food and superior wine-pairing experience. Found only on Silver Spirit is the Stars Supper Club, inspired by New York’s Rainbow Room. Silver Spirit is also the first Silversea ship to feature Seishin, a Japanese/Asian restaurant where the food preparation is as fascinating as the flavours. (I picked up a few tricks at a lesson.) Another fun eating option is do-it-yourself black-rock grilling poolside at The Grill. You have no-one to blame if your steak is overdone.

I loved the outdoor lounge furniture on the Panorama Deck and found a special niche in the Observation Lounge. As for indulgences, how do you go past having your own 24-hour white-gloved butler service?

Then there is afternoon tea with ‘the works’, outstanding spa treatments and, how could I forget, a pillow menu that offers nine choices. I dutifully tried almost all of them, but may just have to go back for more.

HIGHS

– The relaxed but flawless service.

LOWS

– Some guests found the interior a bit sombre, with the dark wood and what they felt were low ceilings.

FACT FILE

Cruise Line: Silversea Cruises

Vessel: Silver Spirit

Star rating: 5

Max. passenger capacity: 608

Total crew: 370

Passenger decks: 8

GRT: 36,009 tons

Entered service: December 2009

Facilities: 270 suites (258 with private balcony, 4 wheelchair-accessible); 4 restaurants plus Stars Supper Club and pool grill; 320-seat show lounge; library; casino; the Spa at Silversea, including relaxation and detox sanctuary; 1 swimming pool; 4 whirlpools; launderette.