Silversea’s S.A.L.T. program adds flavourful dimensions to every itinerary
Silversea's Silver Moon at Roatan, Honduras (all photos courtesy of Toby Saltzman)

Silversea’s S.A.L.T. program adds flavourful dimensions to every itinerary 

ONBOARD SILVER MOON — The Garifuna dancers flashed their skirts high, kicking up heels and swivelling hips in the seductive fertility dance of their ancestors, raising cheers from me and the small audience who’d come to engage in their culture.

Descendants of the indigenous Afro-Caribbean people who found refuge from slavery in 1797 in Punta Gorda, a coastal village on Roatan, Honduras, the Garifuna have been recognized by UNESCO for their ancestral language, music and dance as a Masterpiece of Intangible Heritage and Humanity.

By now, as we sipped cool drinks from coconut shells while watching the costumed dancers, we were familiar with Garifuna culture as part of  S.A.L.T. – Silversea’s innovative program that gives passengers a deep understanding of the culture and gastronomy of the local country.

Designed in collaboration with Adam Sachs – award-winning food and travel writer, former editor-in-chief of Saveur Magazine – S.A.L.T. mingles a combo of immersive experiences in a trio of cleverly conceived spaces on the ultra-luxury, all-suite, 596-passenger Silver Moon and Silver Dawn, launching in 2022.

Early in our itinerary sailing from Fort Lauderdale through the Panama Canal to Panama City, I had asked Sachs, now Director of S.A.L.T. for his inspiration.

He said, “Wherever I travelled, I followed food to its source, meeting food producers, chefs, winemakers and spirit distillers, always delving into the culture of a place through the lens of food and drink. When Barbara Muckermann, Silversea CCO approached me to develop a concept for Silversea’s brand to travel deeper through food, we aimed to engage guests by creating a hub for culinary exploration that would involve regional and local guest experts to tell the story of the place, to create a deeper connection to the land right outside the ship or the next local destination. This inspired the S.A.L.T. Lab, S.A.L.T. Bar and S.A.L.T. Kitchen.”

As other ships and hotels offer cooking classes, I asked Sachs why S.A.L.T. is a revolutionary concept.

He responded, “Our elements merge as a culinary-cultural eco-system focused on the local region. Passengers who are so inclined can dive deep into creating their own culinary theme by attending talks, rolling up their sleeves every day to learn local recipes, and drinking and eating their way through the region.”

Ultimately, my experiences proved that Silversea’s passengers are wowed by the taste of S.A.L.T. in all its elements. Our culinary-cultural immersion started in the Venetian Lounge with food expert Nicholas Gill, who co-authored with famed Chef Vergilia Martinez the ravishing Latin American Cookbook, a 600-recipe bible of regional recipes and their stories from Rio Grande to Peru to Cape Horn. His anthropologically inspired talk showcased how various people thrived by adapting diets with potatoes, corn and the ancient seeds of quinoa and amaranth. As the cruise progressed, other presentations included Silversea S.A.L.T. Chef de Cuisine Nadine Stangle, who demonstrated how to make tamales, while S.A.L.T. Lab Director Eva Mulligan narrated the ancient evolution of the food. Each talk ended with tastings of local dishes and the sommelier’s choices of local wines.

Expanding on the talks, I joined other passengers for complimentary sessions in S.A.L.T. Lab. In Lab, set with individual stations including induction stoves, utensils, an overhead-screen for close viewing, and prepped with ingredients for hands-on cooking, I learned the intricacies of crafting local dishes. En route to Cozumel: flavourful tortitas croquettes, callaloo pepper stew and Mexican Alegria candy. Before Roatan: Garifuna’s savoury staple, the Hudutu fish stew creamed with plantains and coconut.

Although Silver Moon offers outstanding dining and cocktail venues, some evenings I indulged in S.A.L.T. Bar to taste local wines and cocktails concocted with local spirits. Later I dined in S.A.L.T. Kitchen. In this first, large-scale restaurant at sea dedicated to regional and local cuisine, Chef Alex Bignotti oversees a daily changing menu. My favourites on the regional menu: Peruvian squash fritters filled with tomato salsa and tangy aji sauce, and the Honduran turnovers spiced with chimol salsa.

After watching the dancers, we joined the Garifuna chef for a hearty lunch of Hudutu fish stew and fresh yellowtail snapper. As we rode back to Silver Moon, passing the Garifuna fishing huts perched on stilts in the water that we had toured on a wooden skiff earlier that morning, we all agreed that Silversea’s S.A.L.T. program had cultivated an appreciation for the destination and inspired an authentic sense of place.