Cruise ships are like Hollywood actors; they often get facelifts when they grow old. Personally, I like stars to mature naturally, and ships to undergo the knife.
Paint scratches, worn wood and dated furnishings depress me on vacation. I can see that at home. So curious me just had to inspect the multi-million-dollar maritime plastic surgery of the 15-year-old Silver Wind. The renovation was completed in late 2008; one solid month of dry dock in Italy. My first chance to see the megabuck redo was on a May 2010 Med sailing from Nice, France to Athens.
I remember cruising on the 296-passenger Silver Wind when it was a newbie in the 1990's. (It's the second-oldest of the six vessels of the luxury Silversea Cruises line.) Everything, from the marble to the linens, looked and felt expensive. Crystal and polished teak were everywhere. Cabins were suites, alcohol was complimentary and gratuities were included. Servers did back flips to pamper guests. Like most cruisers, I was impressed.
Today's Silver Wind offers the same amenities. All-suite accommodations, complimentary drinks and staff tips are included. Service is over-the-top good. But when I boarded the Silver Wind in May, ready to be wowed, I didn't notice much change at first. Only the ship's new profile caught my eye.
The funnel design change was obvious. The Silver Wind is the first of the fleet to use the Silversea name in place of the brand insignia on the funnel. And then, I saw the profile. Where there was once open space on Deck 9, there is now the Beauty Salon, Spa and Fitness Center. However, the lines are subtle and the ship's profile is still sleek.
Interestingly, other modifications revealed themselves over time. It was like looking at someone who had a great face lift; you don't notice the work. You see that someone looks good, but you can't pinpoint why.
Smart move. Most guests are Silversea habitués and like revisiting the traits that identify the brand. Silversea ships resemble oversized yachts that have been in one family for a long time. A good family, at that. Not nouveau riche. The luxury of a Silversea ship is in the details, never in the flash.
TO SEE THE SEA
Silversea added an Observation Lounge to the bow of Deck 9, where the gym was located prior. The cozy room, decorated in neutral hues, seats 60 in comfy couches and chairs. Curl up in a corner and read a book, drink a spot of tea or peer through one of the waiting telescopes. Playing with one of the board games that line the shelves is fun, too.
THE PRICE OF BEAUTY
The Spa, Beauty Salon and Fitness Center are now in the forward section of Deck 9, behind the Observation Lounge. (This area was once a sunning deck.) New floor-to-ceiling windows provide mesmerizing sea views that these facilities lacked before. A glass elevator was installed by the pool, connecting Deck 8 and 9. This elevator is convenient and, well, kinda cool. (It's also vital for the physically challenged; before there were only stairs between these two decks. All Silver Wind decks are now accessible by elevator.)
The Fitness Center, Beauty Salon and Spa now share a reception area. The expanded Spa has four massage rooms, one body treatment room, one dry sauna and one steam sauna. The aerobics room is (finally) separate from the body-building room, but don't expect anything huge. The gym is bigger than before but still small. However, those big windows lend an air of spaciousness.
The Silver Wind has new suites. Four Medallion Suites (490-square-feet, including verandas) were added to Deck 8. Deck 7 also gained one Owner's Suite with a connecting second bedroom, one Medallion Suite (see special subhead below) and one Vista Suite.
Grand Suite on Silver Wind
The suites underwent sweeping changes. Out went old-school TVS; in came sleek flat-screens (housed in custom cabinets in Vista and Veranda suites). They're positioned better, too. Before, you had to look down from the bed or the living room sofa to see the screen. Now the TV is eye-level and easily viewed from most suite areas. Wi-Fi is available throughout the suites, with plenty of plug-ins for tech-savvy guests.
So long stodgy sofas, armchairs, desks, vanities, nightstands and even headboards. Pastel colors, particularly that soft blue, are history. Think rich shades of gold, burgundy and rust. They blend classic elegance with excitement.
Hello, replacements (love the double drapes that block all light), including carpeting and bedding. The furnishings are now similar to the Art Deco glam Silver Spirit, the cruise line's newest ship.
THIS MEDALLION IS GOLDEN
The Deck 7 Medallion Suite (Suite 741) is a whistle-worthy 667-square-feet; larger than the one-bedroom Owner's and Silver Suites. The living room is enormous; if you make 12 friends you can seat them all. Besides a powder bath, there's a gigantic bathroom (bigger than any other suite) with a spa shower that easily would fit those same 12 new friends. (Should they be inclined.)
This Medallion Suite has three sweeping floor-to-ceiling picture windows, but buyer, beware; it lacks a balcony. However, in cooler (or steamy) weather voyages, a private veranda is used infrequently. And the pool deck is just one floor up. So bargain-hunters, take note. This huge suite is priced lower than some of the other oversized suites.
Bathrooms underwent sweeping transformations. The size is the same, but with lustrous wood floors bordered with marble, and more luminous lighting, bathrooms seem like spa rooms. Better storage makes the room feel larger, and a vessel sink provides more counter space. And oh, the aromatherapy.
New Silver Wind Bathrooms
Suite aromatherapy is by Laura Tonatto, a noted Italian perfumier. Tonatto works in rarified circles; the King and Queen of Sweden are among her clients. She is known for reconstructing ancient perfume recipes, going back to the 1st century B.C.
For Silversea, Tonatto provides a trio of scents dispensed by reed diffusers. (Silversea claims it was the first cruise line to offer a choice of scents in-suite.)
The fragrances include Fiori d'Arancio (orange blossom), Albi (calming lavender notes) and Oltre (natural scent of the sea). Guests may choose a favorite aromatherapy fragrance through their butler. (All suites now have butler service.)
A NEW SCENT-SATION
Besides Silversea's signature Bvlgari green tea-scented shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, bath and shower gel and soaps, the Silver Wind also features bath amenities by superstar Italian designer Salvatore Ferragamo. Now guests can lather up with Tuscan Soul, a unisex citrusy-woodsy-floral-scented soap. And no skimping from Silversea. Passengers get the whole Ferragamo bath collection, including shampoo, conditioner and lotion. If only Silversea would throw in some Ferragamo shoes.
Like the other ships fleet-wide, Silver Wind now offers nine different pillows to guests. Memory foam pillows mold to your sleeping shape for maximum comfort. Buckwheat supposedly relieves body aches, sleeplessness and (hopefully) snoring. A body pillow (good for solo travelers?) provides a full body "hug" from head to toe. And then there's the pillow for those who can't put down "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" trilogy; the über-firm "pronounced pillow" offers back support for reading in bed.
SWEETS FOR THE SUITES
Turndown chocolates are new come September. The Silver Wind is introducing the Pierre Marcolini line, already beloved by guests aboard the Silver Spirit. (I tried them; they're ultra-premium delish.) The creator has a flagship chocolate boutique in Brussels and his confections are made in his suburban workshops.
Marcolini personally globe-trots for his ingredient sources; think orange blossoms from Algeria jazzing up bittersweet chocolate, and Piedmont hazelnuts adding crunch to milk. Thin chocolate squares are placed on pillows at turndown. Guests staying in Silver, Royal, Grand and Owner's Suites receive a Saveurs du Monde (Flavors of the World) collection. Guests dining at Le Champagne are treated to Pierre Marcolini macarons (French meringue cookies with fillings) in four flavors -- vanilla, chocolate, caramel and champagne - after dinner.
GLAMMING IT UP IN PUBLIC
Upholstery, cushions, wall treatments, carpets and flooring in public areas such as lounges, lobbies, stairs and corridors are also new. Again, lots of russet, burgundy, gold and moss-green, and interesting design pieces that make the ship resemble a boutique hotel - but one owned by an aristocratic family in Italy, of course.
The new Reception Area
EAT, DRINK, EAT AGAIN
The Pool Grill now has a permanent kitchen versus the prior roll-out one. Visually, it looks sleeker, although its cooking capabilities are the same.
Word is that The Grill will debut aboard the Silver Wind next year. The Grill is a popular outdoor eatery introduced on the Silver Spirit. (It's also on the Silver Whisper now, too.) The menu is Americana steakhouse and guests cook their own entrée over sizzling black lava rocks. (I've tried it and it is fun.)
La Terrazza, The Restaurant (main dining room) and Le Champagne (Relais & Chateaux consults on their über-gourmet multi-course menus) are all redone. The colors are similar to the rest of the Wind.
Le Champagne Restaurant
I love the gold and burgundy modern floral carpet in La Terrazza. And the warm wood and fabric-striped chairs with Deco-like wood cut-outs. The new furnishings make this once-staid restaurant, and the others, more modern.
La Terraza Restaurant
It's amazing how guests - even on luxury cruise lines - fight for seats with shade. Well, no need to pack the boxing gloves for your next Silver Wind cruise. The new awning at La Terazza (lunch buffets, Italian dinners) on Deck 7 now provides complete coverage to all passengers dining al fresco. On the Pool Deck, new awnings also totally shade tables by the Pool Bar and the Pool Grill.
MORE NIPS AND TUCKS
The swimming pool tile is all new. So is the custom deck furniture. The Silver Wind reportedly gets another dry dock in 2012, and a smaller refurbishment will occur next year.
It seems like for actors and cruise ships, one face lift is never enough. Clearly, it's the ongoing nips and tucks that make you look good and forever young.