From the moment you walk up the gangway, you know you're in for an intimate luxury cruise experience.
You're unlikely to encounter more personal, warm, or consistently above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty service than on Silversea's ships.
Dinners are the event of the day, and open seating permits you to dine when and with whom you please each evening; complimentary wine flows like water. The Maitre D' of The Restaurant takes the initiative to seat guests arriving at dinner at "joined tables" unless another arrangement is requested. This enables guests to meet and get to know other passengers. The majority of guests seem glad to accept joining tables, which makes dinner a particularly social event.
Make no mistake -- this is a very formal cruise experience, but only in terms of dress.
Beyond the designated Formal Nights, where most passengers dress to the nines, and Informal nights, where a jacket for the men (no tie required) is expected, resort casual nights are the rarest dress recommendation. But even on Formal Nights, the mood of passengers is far from formal. People are there to enjoy all the social aspects of the cruise as well as the luxury surroundings.
Small enough to be intimate, big enough to offer an elegant two-story show lounge and three dining venues, these ships are in the forefront of the ultraluxe class. The Athenian Show Lounge has a feel like that of a smaller, more intimate club. Theater-style seating is abandoned in favor of more clubby sofas and comfortable side chairs, with cocktail tables at each grouping.
Silver Shadow and her sister Silver Whisper are larger than Silversea's original two vessels, Silver Cloud and Silver Wind, and offer an extremely high space-per-passenger ratio of 74.
Silversea has brought back the production shows it temporarily abandoned, which are presented in the showroom with performers from the famed Jean Ryan Production Company. The production shows are a cut above those you'll see on comparable luxury vessels. You can also attend various enrichment lectures as well as performances of opera, pianists, individual vocalists, or comedians.
With a maximum of 384 passengers and just under 300 crew, your Silver Shadow experience is all about un-crowded, comfortable surroundings, combined with outstanding service.
Your fare includes tips and all beverages throughout the ship, unless you want to upgrade from the various house-brand selection of wines.
Deep Wedgwood blue and golden peach fabrics and carpeting, with warm caramel wood tones, predominate. There's lots of blood-red velveteen, and lots of golden brocades as well.
With its brown leather sofas and chairs, the wood-paneled Davidoff Humidor cigar lounge is a wonderfully comfortable spot for after-dinner cigars (bring your own, or purchase some of the finest available) and cognac (complimentary of course). The breathtaking Observation Lounge, with 180 degrees of sea views, has a marble bar and is equally inviting for pre- and post-dinner drinks or morning coffee.
The Panorama Lounge on Deck 8, with floor-to-ceiling windows, is a wonderful quiet spot for an early morning coffee stop, or pre-dinner drinks. There's also a delightful veranda area aft of the lounge, with padded teak chairs and sun-loungers for relaxing and enjoying the view of the wake.
Some lectures are also staged here, and high tea is served daily as well. Two adjacent rooms house the ship's Internet center (whose computers are nearly always in use), and a lending library for books and free DVDs and music CDs for the suites, which are equipped with sound and video players.
A combo performs nightly in The Bar on Deck 5, just aft of the Athenian Show Lounge. The Bar is larger than you'd expect on ships this size, and is generally the busy action spot for pre-dinner and après-dinner drinks and socializing. This area and the Panorama Lounge are used for daytime activities such as trivia, craft classes, etc.
Enjoy production-style floor shows, comedians and guest lecturers in the elegant space of the Athenian Show Lounge, then move to The Bar to enjoy the evening, and often you can converse with the performers you just watched. Many evenings you'll find officers and cruise staff socializing with guests.
The wide variety of offerings and creative menus and presentation make it obvious you are on a ship that is a cut above most luxury cruise lines. Often menus are designed on the go, reflecting the fresh ingredients available and the cuisine of the region the ship is visiting. There's also a very extensive "always available" section on the menu for occasions where the regional dishes may not appeal to your palate.
Each night, arriving back in your suite, you'll find a preview menu listing lunch and dinner choices. This allows you to contemplate your next fabulous meal at your leisure, and sort through your choices.
When choosing the morning buffet at La Terrazza, you'll find a broad cross-section of hot and cold items, with abundant selections of fish and meat. If you want to order eggs or an omelet, you won't hold up the buffet line -- when seated, you order from one of the servers, and they are delivered as soon as they're ready.
During the mornings, the Poolside Grill is open for continental breakfast, but at lunch is where it shines. This is not a self-service grill. Servers come by your table, which is set with tablemats and cutlery, and take your orders. Everything is cooked fresh, and while it may seem strange to rave about something as simple as hamburgers, they are among the best I've tasted. The serving staff comes by with a tray of condiments shortly after delivering your order.
There are two traditional Silversea "culinary events" that passengers eagerly wait for. One is the "Barbeque Dinner on Deck" held in the evening. It's an elaborate barbeque with a huge variety to choose from. But it's renowned almost more for the fun than the food: The entire pool deck and space above is turned into an outdoor bistro; tables and chairs are covered, cutlery is set out, and so are wine glasses. On our voyage, the event was held the night we were in Acapulco, and a Mariachi band was brought on to liven the festivities.
The second is the Galley Lunch -- a buffet lunch that runs throughout The Restaurant's Galley. It's an impressive spread with terrific food and an outstanding dessert table. But it's fun because guests get to tour the galley while filling their plates.
From stem to stern, officers and staff beam with delight at the prospect of assisting you.
On our 17-day voyage there was the very rare blip in service in the dining room, but the norm was very impressive attention to minute detail.
Your fare includes gratuities. If you truly wish to reward some of the staff for over-the-top service, they will accept a tip, but they do not expect it!
Silversea's newly upgraded entertainment features floorshows devised by Jean Ann Ryan, including multiple costume changes, and a talented cast. There are also featured performances, which may include opera, headline vocalists, and instrumentalists, or variety performers.
You'll also find a multitude of enrichment lectures, with topics changing to fit the itinerary.
Along with Trivia contests, crafts classes, and the popular cooking classes with the Chef, onboard activities include bridge instruction and bridge games, and even discussion seminars with the lecturers. Silver Shadow also offers ballroom dance instructors, and male dance hosts are on hand to dance with the ladies whose husbands (like me) may never voluntarily give them a twirl on the dance floor.
Enter your suite and you'll find a bottle of Champagne cooling, a fresh fruit basket, flowers, and a bar set-up that will be replenished as required, at no cost.
The staterooms are uniformly large, comfortable and very well-equipped; they have a flat screen TV with DVD player, a mini-fridge, walk-in closet and marble bathrooms all standard, as are new down duvets and linens, and wonderfully absorbent bath sheets in the cabin washrooms. Roughly 80 percent have private verandas, with glass instead of metal partitions. Bathrooms, as elegant as any at sea, have separate shower and tub, plus his-and-hers sinks. The minimum-category Vista cabins (no balcony) measure 287 sq. ft., while the standard balcony staterooms, Veranda, are 345 sq. ft. Both are more than adequate even for a two-week cruise. There are also the Terrace Suites, which offer a doorway to a shared outdoor deck running the length of the suites on Deck 4.
Your best bet, though, may well be the 701-sq. ft. Silver Suite, which offers a large living room with dining area, a generously proportioned bedroom, and large balcony. If you're even more intent on splurging, consider the 1,286-sq. ft. Grand Suites (cabins 801/802 have the best configurations in this category). You enter a huge living room (that would be right at home in a penthouse in Trump Tower) via a marble foyer (with guest bathroom). There's a bar, of course; a gigantic flat-screen TV; a dining area; and a huge balcony. The walk-in closet is bigger than many lines' mid-sized cabins.
The occupants of the largest Silversea suites -- the Grand, Royal, and Owner's Suites -- enjoy the ministrations of butlers. Your butler will do everything from unpacking your suitcase to arranging a private car at the next port; from drawing a bath to planning an in-suite cocktail party. Our butler was so eager to please, he almost made us feel bad when we under-utilized his services.
Handicapped suites (345 sq ft.) are available, featuring wide entry doorways that accommodate wheelchairs, and plenty of room between furniture to make maneuvering throughout the suite quite easy.
Suites' private balconies have lovely teak flooring, but the balcony furnishings are in need of upgrading to fit better with the fine furnishings inside the suites.
Along with the daily "Chronicle" listing the next day's activities and information, waiting on your bed each evening will be Godiva Chocolates. The suites also come with comfy bathrobes and slippers bearing the Silversea logo. There are also umbrellas and binoculars in the suites, as well as pillow menus. The cabin stewards will present a selection of bath products (shampoos, soaps and conditioners), giving guests their choice of two varieties from Bvlgari, Acqua di Parma, or Neutrogena brands.
The ships have a small but well-equipped fitness center where fitness classes are offered during days at sea. Several health seminars are also offered. A fast-walking/jogging track has glorious views and is covered in a form of Astro-turf, unlike the teak used on the other passenger decks and private balconies.
The Spa and beauty salon are operated by Steiners, the same worldwide operation present on most other cruise lines. While the services might be fine, the hard-sell approach of this contractor's staff (here as on other ships) just doesn't fit well with the service standard one finds elsewhere on the Silver Shadow. While the other departments make you feel they are there to please you, the Steiner's people make you feel they are there to sell to you.
Best For People Who Want
Top level luxury, with attentive personal service; free flowing champagne, wines and drinks included in the fare; cabins with private balconies; a choice of dining venues; and imaginative itineraries, often traversing the globe, with the ability to customize your own voyages.
Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
A family atmosphere, with children's facilities; casual dress codes; traditional set dining; user-pay facilities and activities.
Décor is sublimely tasteful, with rich blues, soft golds, and coppery-brown wood tones predominant in the suites. Gentle earth-toned and pastel walls have inlaid wood and marble accents. Floor-to-ceiling windows drench most public rooms with light.
On a ship this size, I thought it unusual to find aesthetically pleasing spiral staircases on both port and starboard sides, running from the Lobby upwards for several decks. With passenger and public decks running only from Decks 4 through 9, I found the stairways my preferred choice of moving from deck to deck, though elevators are available from the Lobby area and further aft, and so is another stairwell aft.
You can dine formally in the main restaurant, slightly less formally in La Terrazza or Le Champagne, or order room service.
With its large picture windows and tables for two, four, six and 10, The Restaurant features open seating for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are plenty of tables for two if that's your preference.
For ease of conversation, request tables closest to the port or starboard sides. The din in the center section of the dining room can make it more difficult to hear conversations at tables that seat more than six.
La Terrazza, popular for casual breakfast and luncheon buffets, transforms at night into an Italian restaurant at which reservations are mandatory. The transition is quite surprising, and with thick rich floor-to-ceiling curtains covering all the windows and candlelit tables set with fine flatware and tableware, La Terrazza becomes an intimate romantic Trattoria. Each night features a menu from various regions of Italy. On formal nights, La Terrazza also serves as the alternate for those who choose to dress informally.
The usual matching of wine to cuisine is reversed at the intimate (24 seats), sophisticated Le Champagne, where the food is designed with the wine in mind. Le Champagne is open for dinner only; reservations are fervently recommended. Somewhat surprisingly, Le Champagne requires guests pay a $30 per person surcharge, or $200 per person if you wish to enjoy the chosen wine pairings menu. I am not a wine connoisseur, and therefore did not try this restaurant, so I cannot offer any opinion of the value.
You can also dine in your suite, ordering course-by-course from the luncheon and dinner menu -- splendid news for those who would rather not dress for dinner after a busy day in port. Suites without a separate dining room have a portable table for this purpose.
The Terrace serves breakfast and lunch buffets, while The Restaurant offers a five-course luncheon menu. Weather permitting, the Pool Grille operates from 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Aside from the choice of in-suite dining from the restaurant menus, there's also an extensive room service menu that should satisfy most any appetite.
Bring your tux. Bring your jewels, and feel like royalty. Though you'll see numerous gowns, a good number of ladies were dressing in less splendorous styles. Ladies won't feel out of place wearing the SBD (simple black dress or dress slacks) with dressy or sparkling tops.
Those who don't want to dress up may dine informally in the Terrazza and then retire to a lounge for cocktails and after-dinner drinks, but will likely be turned away at the door of the entertainment lounges. On a 17-night cruise there were three formal, eight informal and only four casual nights. Daytime attire is casual.