Regions:Antarctica, Arctic Circle
Good for: Disabled Travelers. Seniors. Luxury Travelers.
Regions:Africa, Mediterranean, The Orient
Good for: Group. Overall Service. Disabled Travelers.
Regions:Caribbean, Mediterranean, South America, Transatlantic
Good for: Group. First-time Cruisers. Luxury Travelers.
Regions:Alaska, Australia, South America, The Orient
Good for: Seniors. Group. Luxury Travelers.
Regions:Caribbean, Mediterranean, South America, Transatlantic
Good for: Luxury Travelers. Overall Service. Foodies.
Regions:Caribbean, Eastern Seaboard, Mediterranean, Northern Europe, South America, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. First-time Cruisers. Luxury Travelers.
Our Silver Wind cruise from Las Palmas to Rio De Janeiro was our first experience with Silverseas. We were not impressed. We expected more from a "5 star" cruise line that is a Relaix Chateau member and recommended by Andrew Harper. The cruise was full and it seemed like the staff and the air conditioning could not keep up with all the passengers. The housekeeping staff was excellent but that was the only thing that excelled on this ship.
Our room, a vista suite at the front of the ship was spacious but a little worn. The housekeeper kept it spotless and even made me a little elephant made out of towels for my birthday. However, sometimes you could hear the anchor banging against the ship during agitated seas.
The laundry facilities are terrible. There aren't enough for all the passengers that want to do laundry so you end up waiting in the little hot room all day. This might be alleviated if they purchased new dryers. The dryers took up to 2 hours to dry a few socks and pieces of underwear. So, people were lined up waiting for dryers.
The shopis ridiculous. While things like shampoo seemed reasonable, a t-shirt cost $546 USD. Now, I don't care who designed this simple red cotton t-shirt, $546 is just too much. Thank God I didn't need to buy a sweat shirt!
The air conditioning was seriously lacking on this ship. While our cabin stayed fairly cool, everyone else was complaining. All common areas were warm and the work out room was almost unbearable if you actually wanted to work out.
The work out room is very small, hot, and lacking in variety of equipment. If all you need is an elliptical, bike, stepper, or treadmill you are set. Despite that Pilates was advertised, there was no equipment and the mat class was a joke. Clearly geared for oldsters. My beginning Pilates class was harder than their class. Also, the class times are terrible.
In the restaurant at dinner, the wait staff seemed short staffed. When we asked, one staff member told us that storage for certain items was on another floor and that was why it took so long to get a beer or sparkling water. I'm still not sure why it took so long to get tea. My poor beer drinking husband was hoping to have some good beers on this trip. Despite that the ship was filled to the rafters with Germans (wouldn't you stock up according knowing this?), they ran out of imported beers early on. At the end there was only Budweiser and Heinecken to choose from. Very gourmet. As a wine drinker, I didn't think their complimentary selection was very impressive (a lot of the wines were the ones I drink every day at home) but it was plentiful.
The tours were mediocre at best. We took 3 on this cruise. The Fernando de Noronha Archipelego tour was the best of the 3. The Lanzarote camel ride was ok but the Gorree Island tour was terrible. It seems like they could train a staff member to give that tour rather than paying a company. We had to sit through 3 translations of a very short speech that ended up taking up all our time on the island. What a waste. Also, the travel desk had lousy maps and very little information about what to do a the various ports. If you didn't do a little research first, you would have no idea what to do or where to go. The shuttle just dumped you off wherever the tourist trap crafts market was. In some places, this happened to be well located for the sites. However, in Ilheus, it wasn't all that close to the colonial town or the gorgeous beaches. In a beach town don't you think the shuttle should go there? We did.
The entertainment at night was mixed. The jazz pianist Judy Carmichael was excellent but some of the other entainment was amateurish at best. There wasn't much else to do on the boat. The disco music - featuring the very worst American disco was the awful. Amadeo, was just awful. The work out room had better music than the disco. A variety might have been nice - more modern stuff mixed in with the worst of American disco would have been easier to digest.
All in all, I didn't think it was worth the money.
My wife and I boarded the Silver Shadow October 13th in Miami for an eight day cruise to Barbados, just as Ron (see his review) and his shipmates were heading home. At exactly 3 PM (unless you paid an extra $100 per person or have sailed for 250 days on Silversea) the passengers were herded aboard and offered a glass of Prosecco while waiting to have security pictures taken.
This was our 20th cruise together, but our first on Silversea, and I had high expectations. Our Veranda cabin ("suite" in luxury cruise parlance) on Deck 6 met these expectations. I feel odd waxing eloquent about a bathroom and closet, but hey, they were the best we've had at sea. There was a chilled bottle of champagne waiting, and our stewardess arrived to be sure we had what we wanted in our in-room refrigerator—a good start.
Perhaps the Prosecco for champagne substitution on boarding should have been a clue, but it was downhill from there. Dinner in the Restaurant was memorable only for courses that were mediocre (Caesar salad) or forgotten (coffee and dessert). The best food we had on board was theelegant hors d'oeurvres served in the Bar before dinner (some on bent spoons and forks—very clever). When we were seated at La Terrazza for breakfast the next day, a waiter came up and told us "buffet." We learned from watching more experienced passengers that eggs, other than the scrambled variety on the buffet, can be ordered.
For a "nominal" (by Silversea's standards) fee of $300 a couple, it is possible to have dinner in the small Le Champagne restaurant. This was the only menu where I saw escargot during the cruise. We passed. Two evening meals at La Terrazza (Italian regional cuisine changing every two days, by reservation only) were excellent.
After two or three days we began to hear of other passengers getting ill, and five days into the cruise my wife was up all night vomiting—very likely a Norovirus. This was never acknowledged by the staff, and no attempts (other than asking passengers to disinfect their hands on reboarding) were made to control the outbreak. The CDC site lists two prior episodes on the Silver Shadow, and I am curious to see if this one is reported.
Wine and liquor flow freely, although the bartender trying to serve guests at the sail away looked like the proverbial one-armed paperhanger. There weren't enough deck chairs for everyone on the days at sea, and the bartender wasn't the only server who seemed overwhelmed by the crowd. The team trivia contests were clever (Do you know whose grave is visited most often in the United States?), the library is well stocked, and individual crew members were attentive and pleasant, but Silversea is far from "the Ritz at sea."
My wife and I went on a 7 day cruise to celebrate our 20th anniversary. Started in San Francisco and went to Monterrey, Catalina Island, Long Beach, San Diego and Ensenada Mexico then back to San Fran. If you want luxery and pampering, this is a great cruise line. If you're after action and alot to do, I'de look elsewhere. It was perfect for what we wanted. We usually travel with our teenagers but this was about us. We're 46 and felt young as there were no kids and ave. age was probably 50-60. The ship was beautiful and very nicely done.
We stayed in a Silver Suite. We've stayed in several suites on many different cruise lines, but this was the best. The service was great. Anytime we asked for anything-we got it in a timely fashion. The food was great and was so nice not to have any time constraints. After all was said and done with all the drinks, wine, no tipping, etc include I felt it was a good value for what you get. You pay more up front, but it wasn't all that much morethan lesser cruise lines when the final bill came in. The ship, service, etc made it worth it.
My husband and I have sailed on both Silver Wind and Silver Cloud. Prior to this, we have sailed on Crystal and Princess. But we've grown to love this cruise line most of all, and try to take a cruise once per year.
They are small, carrying 290 passengers, which means you meet so many fellow shipmates. Both ships are nearly identical and just stunning in decor. They are warm ships, with mosaics and lovely paintings. The staff is very efficient, but there is always a smile.
What I love the most are the ships' suites, cabins large enough that I am always comfortable and feel right at home. There's a lovely walk-in closet and large bathroom; bathtub has jacuzzi. Crystal's penthouse suites have larger bathrooms and a separate shower as well.
The pool area is large enough for passengers, plus there's a small casino (three tables, a few slots) and two bar/lounges. I understand that the cruise line now uses a South African firm to run it's spas, a big improvement over the previous spa company I imagine.
We have yet to sail on one of Silversea's National Geographic cruises, when a writer orphotographer from the magazine is aboard, but that must be very special. On my last cruise (the Baltic) I was disappointed to find there were no on-board lecturers to make the ports more meaningful. Just a man who talked about pearls.
We've cruised in the Baltic and Mediterranean with Silverseas and both cruises were perfect. We visit some of the traditional ports and a few that are smaller, but charming and unspoiled.
The food is very, very good and the service is warm and very friendly. We found one seating at dinner and met new friends throughout the cruise. For lunch and breakfast, many chose to dine in the more casual Veranda restaurant, which has buffet. The made-to-order pasta was outstanding. Several nights after particularly long and tiring days ashore we chose to dine in our stateroom. It was served splendidly -- the small coffee table in our cabin folded out into a good size dining table and the steward served us course-by-course. Afterward, we had brandy on the balcony as the waves lapped against the ship. I don't think I've ever been so happy or serene.
My wife and I sailed on the Silver Shadow December 3-12 from Fort Lauderdale to Bridgetown, Barbados. We are both in our early 50s and are experienced world travelers. We have cruised on many different lines, all in the luxury class.
This was our first cruise with Silversea. Our overall impression was that the Silver Shadow is the ultimate in sophistication -- a cruise ship for every other luxury vessel to try to equal.
Negative aspects and experiences: There were none.
We arrived in Miami a day before departure, because of personal experience with consistent luggage problems at the Miami airport. Warning: If you are going through Miami and you need your luggage to be with you, always arrive a day early.
Boarding Embarkation went perfectly. We arrived half way through the embarkation hours and walked straight onto the ship after they took our passports and took a quick photo of us. Total embarkation time was less than two minutes -- there was no waiting, delays or lines. We came by early and dropped off our luggage, then went to a fabulous Italian restaurant and had a leisurely lunch before arriving for boarding.When we stepped onto the ship, the staff gave us each a glass of Perrier Jouet Grand Brut Champagne, and for nine days it never stopped flowing.
Disembarkation was also fast and efficient. We had a leisurely breakfast in the Terrace Cafe as we did every day. We had settled our accounts and picked up our passports the day before disembarkation, and were off the ship in less than one minute.
Positive aspects The Silver Shadow provided an expert to give a detailed talk about every port we visited, early in the morning as we were arriving. Our expert had been an Associated Press reporter all over the world for 30 years and then a CIA analyst for another 20 years. He was very knowledgeable about each port and knew the complete history of each island.
The Silver Shadow also provided a walking map of the dock area and a map of the town at every stop, as well as a local tourist guide at each port who was at the information desk every morning. Every port was in the middle of the largest town on each island, so we did not need ground transportation to see the local sights.
Food The food was a gourmand’s feast. We have not had better food on any other ship. My wife and I are professional food and wine people; we both trained at a professional chef’s college, as did others in our group. Normally we are not too impressed with food anywhere, but that changed with the Silver Shadow. It was incredible. The sauces were rich and the flavors were intense. Some dishes were a little low sodium but the seasonings were powerful. (Many people get salt confused with flavor and seasoning.)
All food service was first-class and unobtrusive. Water, bread, wine, butter and utensils all appeared and disappeared like magic. There were never any interruptions from when our orders were taken until the dessert menu was presented.
At breakfast in the Terrace Cafe, the wait staff always offered to prepare any special breakfast we wanted, like eggs Benedict, French toast or any kind of omelet. Many mornings we were offered any of these special meals two, three or even four times. Most mornings we just enjoyed cruising through the cafe's bountiful breakfast buffet. It was fabulous!
The service personnel were excellent. The maitre d's in The Restaurant were outstanding. There were eight of us, and every night we invited another couple as our guests -- so every night we were a party of 10. We never had any problems with seating or service. Our wine steward was especially good. She memorized what every person liked and brought us appropriate selections at every meal.
We really liked not being nickeled-and-dimed to death for every drink. My wife and I figured that our bar bill for the nine days would have run to several thousand dollars on any other ship.
The ship had a special dining room called Le Champagne, where one could pay an extra $150 for world class wines specially selected by the ship’s master sommelier with each course. You could drink as much of these very expensive wines as you wanted. Our four friends who dined in Le Champagne claimed that they drank more than $4,000 worth of wine at each dinner. That would be more than $1,000 worth of wine for each person, for a surcharge of only $150 -- not a bad deal. Next time, we will be in Le Champagne for several meals ourselves.
Staterooms Our stateroom was the best we have seen on any vessel; we had the smallest cabin on the ship, but it was huge. The bathroom was easily large enough for two people. It had two sinks and plenty of shelving space for our toiletries. There was a nice-sized shower and a bathtub. The large walk-in closet had a safe along with drawers, hanging racks and a tie rack sufficient for our four suitcases of clothes. The bed was excellent. Set up for a meal or wine-tasting was excellent. There was plenty of room for everything.
The Silver Shadow, much larger than many other luxury ships, was very stable and barely rocked. The stabilizers worked great and there was never any lateral rocking. The ship did move up and down like every ship does.
Some other reviewers have mentioned that there was a smell of raw sewage at varying times and places. We experienced none of this.
Overall The Silver Shadow is truly a “best of class” ship. The ship was huge for the number of passengers. We never saw a crowd anywhere at any time. The entire staff is among the best, from all over the world. I cannot speak of how the Silver Shadow has been in the past, but as of December 2006, our impression is that it is the ultimate in sophistication.
We had signed up for our first cruise ever, Ft Lauderdale to Barbados, on the Silver Shadow months ago and had no idea what to expect. In an effort to learn as much as possible we did a lot of reading and surfing the net that is where we read John and Ron's recent reviews of the Silver Shadow. "Down hill from there" and "no Ritz on the sea" gave us some mild apprehension prior to departure and certainly had our antenna up for the negatives they reported.
While we were first timers on the sea (not counting a Greek Isles cruise back in college) we are not unfamiliar with luxury or first class service which I am happy to report the Silver Shadow met or exceeded. We met numerous other passengers who have sailed every luxury line out there and some who had as many as 500 days of voyages under their belts. They were all unanimous in their praise of the food, staff and quality of the Silversea's ships. Maybe, to their credit, Silversea Lines reads the reviews but none of John or Ron's problems reared their head onour 9-day cruise through The Caribbean. Both embarking and disembarking were very easy. We took the advice of embarking one hour after the prescribed time and walked right into our first of many glasses of champagne and caviar. It was up hill from there!
While we had two excellent meals in La Terrazza (the Italian flare) restaurant we found the most enjoyable meal experiences in the main dinning room for lunch and dinner. I would highly recommend breakfast in La Terrazza. As the ship usually moors stern end towards town you are sitting on the 9th deck looking into some exotic port. I ordered Eggs Benedict every morning and loved them. I would agree whole heatedly that more information on the islands (pots of call) for non-tour participants would help. The tour desk was putting out 8X10 copies of the island map on one side and the main town on the other. But it would have been nice to know that renting scooters on St. Kitts was not for the faint of heart and conversely everyone should rent and enjoy a scooter on Isle de Saint.
I came to realize that much of this adventure was a live and learn experience. That would explain why some of the seasoned vets would take up a position by the pool while many of us ran around islands and counted the minutes until we could return to our oasis, The Silver Shadow. We never had trouble finding deck loungers and always received drinks before the DT's set in. The one price covers all should become the norm as it makes for a wonderful cruise experience. Put your wallet in the in-room safe and forget it. No tipping and getting nickel and dimmed every time you turn around. A business associate recently cruised on another line. He was presented with a welcome drink and several minutes later a bill to sign. I could go on for pages but suffice it to say all 8 in our group had a fabulous experience and can't wait to go again and that trip will be with Silversea. I would very respectfully suggest that if Ron and John had a less than satisfactory experience they should team up and lease their own private yacht because I don't see how cruising could get any better.Ward
My wife and I sailed on the Silverseas Shadow on September 26 to October 13, 2006 from Los Angeles California through the Panama Canal to Miami, Florida. We are 68 years young and experienced world travelers. We have also cruised on a number of different cruise lines tending heavily toward the luxury class.
This was our first cruise with Silverseas. Our overall impression of the Shadow is that it is a smallish pleasant cruise ship. It is definitely not a luxury class ship when compared to Crystal, Seabourn, and Regent Seven Seas.
Poor or minor negative aspects: Embarkation starts exactly when stated in the information packet. At the LA pier this resulted in the majority of passengers whose flights arrived early to sit in a large room and wait. Most cruise lines at a minimum set up an orderly process to embark based on a first come first to embark. Silverseas passed out group boarding colored cards that results in a "European ski lift line" approach to boarding when your color is called. Silversea did not serve any refreshments. To avoid this poor initial impression it is better to arrive at leastone hour after the start of boarding.
My wife was bothered by the smoking in the bars and other public areas. Since the public areas are small it only takes a couple smokers to permeate the area.
The Shadow, being small, constantly rocks and this could be a problem for passengers subject to motion sickness. However, we considered this a positive aspect as it rocked us to sleep (for naps) and at night.
The Shadow, also mentioned by other reviewers, still suffers from the smell of raw sewage at varying times and places. Our suite bathroom had a very pronounced raw sewage smell. I found the smell could be eliminated by closing all bathroom drains. The same smell occurred once near the main elevators.
Major negatives that occurred on our cruise: Disembarkation was a nightmare. The Shadow tries to disembark the same way of all other cruises. They distribute colored tags based on your need to disembark early or later. For our cruise the written instructions were not only poor they were wrong. Whoever, wrote the instructions did not seem to realize there would be US and non-US citizens on board. The first step required guests to retrieve their passports from "The Bar". The next step was to watch the crew members run around telling non-US citizens to go one place and the US citizens to wait for disembarkation announcements. Disembarkation was to start at 8:30 AM but I overheard one of the immigration officers call his office and say the Shadow had not prepared any agricultural papers, "They don't even know what they are." Disembarkation started at 9:45 AM. I suspect that many passengers missed their Miami flights as we saw heavy rush hour traffic going to the Miami airport while we raced to the Ft. Lauderdale airport to just make our 12:05 PM flight.
The Shadow provides no port talks or useful information for guests who are not taking one of the shore excursions. All other cruises that we have been on provided detailed port talks, a walking map of the dock area and town, and a free or minor cost to ride a shuttle bus to and from the town if it is located any distance from the dock. The Shadow did provide a shuttle from Puerto Caldera to Puntarenas but for all other ports they just said, "There are taxis at the end of the pier."
At all dining venues it was possible to order items not on the menu. It appeared almost like a game to have new cruisers guess what to order. One simple example was the breakfast menu in "The Restaurant" was very limited. After several days of ordering from the limited menu I finally asked the wait staff "Is it possible to get Eggs Benedict?" She answered, "But of course." To this day I wonder what else they could make for breakfast and other meals. We also observed other diners for lunch and dinner having selections not on either menu. The evening meals in "The Restaurant" are hit or miss. "Fresh Whole Main Lobster with Drawn Butter" consisted of lobster meat removed from the shell and arranged on the plate. It consisted of two pieces of claw meat each the size of a small thumb nail and a meat piece smaller than an average size prawn. The beef selections were for the most part very good to excellent. Fish on average were the poorest selections. Since the majority of guests were somewhat older than us I believe the chef avoided richer sauces and/or seasoning.
At each meal there is an initial place setting for each seat location. After you order the wait staff removes and replaces silver and glasses for each course of the meal. The wait staff also selects a bread piece based on your request, tells you about the wine, asks each diner if they want water, or more water, or more wine, or more ketchup, or more syrup, or more etc. This works OK during breakfast and lunch in "The Restaurant" where there are few guests. For dinner this is pandemonium for the waiters and guests. We found it mostly impossible to have a conversation at our table as the wait staff must keep interrupting to maintain their schedule.
Many positive aspects However, there are many positive aspects of a Shadow cruise. Our standard suite was the best we have seen of all luxury cruise lines. The bath room is easily large enough for two people to use as it has double sinks and sufficient shelving space for all toiletries. The nice sized shower has a tempered glass door so there is no shower curtain trying to perform questionable acts on you as you shower. The walk-in closet has a regular mirrored door that opens into the closet not out into the room or sliding doors. The closet drawers, hanging racks, tie rack, and safe were sufficient for all of our three suit cases of clothes. The suite does not contain all those little drawers to stuff some clothes into as they are not needed. Best bed we have ever slept in compared to other cruise lines and many hotels. There is excellent service and set up to have a meal in your suite.
The service personnel are excellent. The maitre d' in "The Restaurant" is outstanding. He easily fulfilled our dining seating requests as well as our last minute request to get us into "The Terrace Cafe". One evening they ran out of "The Perfect Martini" glasses in the Panorama lounge and the waitress apologized as she brought the drink in regular martini glass. A few minutes later the bartender came over and explained why they were out of the glasses and also apologized.
We really appreciate cruise lines, like Silverseas, that includes everything in the initial price. It is nice not having to pull your card out and sign for drinks or take part in the very distasteful task of putting money in envelopes and passing them out at the end of the cruise.
Another great highlight was meeting and talking with so many interesting people. We did notice that the guests were very well mannered, friendly, and dressed appropriately for each meal. There were only a few women who took their shoes off and put their feet on the seat in front at the evening shows.
Let's be honest. One of the pleasures of cruising is the "fantasy factor". You know what I mean -- for a few days each year one is made to feel rich and famous, from spacious suites with attentive service to haute cuisine with fine wine.
Mainstream cruise lines offer a degree of luxury with their upper echelon suites and surcharged restaurants, but the kind of pervasive luxury and personal attention that I am talking about here is the raison d'etre of such cruise lines as Silversea, Regent (formerly Radisson) Seven Seas, Seabourn, and Crystal. These ships range from about 200 passengers on the older Seabourn "yachts" to about 1,000 passengers on the newest Crystal ship.
What follows is a review of our experience on a four-night, March 2006 Caribbean cruise on Silversea's all-suite Silver Whisper. I am semi-retired, in my late 50's, and not in the travel business. My wife and I have taken 17 cruises on a variety of lines. When on vacation I prefer not dealing with lines or crowds, and tend to travel independently rather than with tour groups.
This was a relatively short, heavily discounted itinerary from a U.S.port (San Juan), and as such may not be representative of the usual Silversea cruises, which average about 10 days and $5,000 per person for the least expensive cabins.
The bottom line: This was an enjoyable cruise on a highly regarded small ship, calling at three of the less crowded Caribbean ports.
The Good: Spacious cabins with double bathrooms (all cabins are outsides, most with balconies); the understated elegance of the extensive public areas; the absence of noise and crowds; the absence of sales pitches (no art auctions, photographers or bingo games); the talented musicians and entertainers (presented at reasonable decibel levels); the well traveled, well educated and articulate passengers; and the inclusive pricing (drinks and gratuities).
The Not-So-Good: Minor lapses in service; minor lapses in food preparation; inadequate exercise facilities; excessive off-line and Internet computer fees; and a tendency of the ship to roll in good weather during mild to moderate seas.
Background Silversea is a privately-owned Italian line with four luxury ships. The officers are predominantly Italian, and the staff is international. The Silver Clouod and Silver Wind were built in 1994-95 for 295 passengers each. The Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper were built in 2000-01 for 382 passengers each. All cabins are outsides, and most have balconies. Silversea prefers to call them suites, although most are a single room with a dividing curtain between the sitting and sleeping areas. Silver Shadow's and Silver Whisper's cabin size (345/287 sq. ft. with/without balcony), space ratio (74 tons per passenger), and staff-to-passenger ratio (1.3 to 1) are almost twice those of mainstream cruise ships, and are significantly better than most other cruise ships in the luxury category.
Pricing How much does a luxury cruise cost? I searched the Internet for the lowest Silver Whisper net per diem rates for various 2006 itineraries, after discounts but before taxes and port fees. With a few exceptions, prices ranged from about $400 to $700 per person per day (pppd) for the least expensive cabins (outside, but no balcony). The lower amount was for itineraries such as Asia; the higher for itineraries such as northern Europe. A balcony adds significantly to the price, depending on whether the balcony cabin is located forward or mid-ship. The largest (named) suites are much more expensive. Repositioning cruises are less expensive, beginning around $300 pppd.
Because of a heavily discounted price and a desire to sample the Silversea experience before committing several thousand dollars to a longer cruise, we selected one of four short (four-night, three-day) back-to-back cruises round trip out of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Although the discounted per diem started out higher, I found a price of $250 pppd on these itineraries, and our cruise agent (Pavlus Travel) kindly included taxes and port fees in that price. We jumped at this opportunity, even though the cruise included only three ports for our $1,000 per person cruise fare, and the least expensive (independent) airfare from our regional airport added another $700.
Pre-departure Silversea pre-cruise documents are similar to those of other lines, with options including pillow preference, bed configuration, and special dietary needs. Although alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are included in the cruise fare, there was no option for us to indicate personal preferences for our mini-bar.
One can enter preferences in Silversea's web site, but the site was not working properly when I tried it. Their webmaster told me that they were upgrading, and presumably it is functional now. We simply faxed our pre-cruise information forms.
Those interested in alternate dining at La Terraza or Le Champagne restaurants (see dining options below) should inquire about the possibility of pre-cruise reservations (all La Terraza's nights were full and wait-listed by the time we boarded). Information about shore excursions and spa treatments is on the web site, and one might want to pre-reserve those also, although I heard no problems about booking them onboard.
Silversea documents arrive in a silver-colored box, and include two black leatherette document cases and two black leather luggage tags with a metal Silversea logo.
Embarkation We generally prefer to make our own air and transfer arrangements. Our flight touched down at San Juan's airport at 4:30 p.m. on embarkation day. Since we travel without checked bags, just a regulation carry-on each, we were at the cruise dock ready to board the ship at 5 p.m.
No pre-booked cruise transfers are necessary in San Juan since it has an excellent and safe taxi system for tourists. The airport and the cruise docks have taxi dispatchers who will write down your destination and the appropriate taxi fare, giving a copy to you and to your driver. That way there is no problem with overcharges or unwanted "city tours". Look for the dispatchers' booths curbside at both locations. The cab fare for two between the airport and Old San Juan, where most cruise ships dock, is $19 (plus $1 for our two bags). Many of the cabs are mini-vans, which can hold several people and extensive luggage.
One of the negatives of cruising on a small ship is that there may be no greeter at the airport to answer questions and confirm the ship's location. The Silver Whisper was docked at a different pier than stated in our pre-cruise documents, and Silversea did not send us an e-mail or (apparently) notify our agent of the change. Fortunately the two piers were nearby, and our taxi driver found the correct one. It would be nice if all cruise lines used an e-mail alert system similar to that of airlines.
Silversea recommends embarking between 3 and 5 p.m. Early boarding (including lunch onboard) is available for a $100 per person surcharge if pre-reserved, but it is gratis to Venetian Society members (repeat Silversea cruisers) who have completed more than 250 Silversea cruise days. Similar late disembarkation is available in some ports, but not U.S. ports, which require disembarkation of all passengers once a ship clears immigration.
On the ship, there was no special welcome aboard. We cleared security and were directed to the reception desk, where we turned in our cruise tickets, were photographed, received our key cards. One must imprint one's credit card, but for some reason the reception desk did not do this at embarkation. We received a notice later in the cruise to do this. There were several chambermaids in line near the registration desk, and one of them assisted us with our hand carries and led us to our cabin, where a bottle of Pommery brut champagne on ice was waiting for us.
Since our flights had no food service, we were hungry for a snack with the champagne. After our boat drill there was no food venue open until dinnertime and the mini-bar had no snacks, so we called room service. Unfortunately the room service button on our phone responded that "this service is not currently available". Another room service number we found in our cabin directory responded with "please leave a message." We never needed room service after that and do not know how efficient it is.
The Ship The deck plan of the Silver Whisper is quite logical, with cabins forward and public areas aft on all decks except Deck 10, where the observation lounge and spa are forward. This deck plan makes it easy to find almost any venue quickly.
The one downside: There is only one small elevator forward in the cabin areas, but there are four elevators aft in the public areas. Since there is no service elevator for room service or other crew members, the one forward elevator is often used by the crew. It makes for some snug but friendly trips among enormous breakfast and dinner trays.
The Cabin Our cabin was one of the "Vista" Suites, which have a window rather than balcony. These are the least expensive accommodations and account for approximately 20 percent of the cabins (all cabins are outsides, and 80 percent have balconies).
Vista Suites are clustered on Deck 4 forward, and abut the dining room bulkhead. That means that Vista passengers must go up one or more decks to reach any of the public areas, including an up-and-then-down trip to the main restaurant entrance on Deck 4 aft.
Being on Deck 4 can be an advantage in rough weather (it is nearest the ship's center of gravity), especially since the ship tended to roll in good weather with mild to moderate seas. Several passengers we met were wearing accu-pressure wristbands for motion sickness, and these passengers were all repeat (Venetian Society) cruisers.
Deck 4 is also nearest the sewage treatment area, and we noticed a faint odor of sewage several times as we approached our hallway. This odor was never a problem. It was not apparent in the public areas, just in the Deck 4 stairwell and hallway, and it did not seep into our cabin at any time.
Silver Whisper's cabins are almost double the size of the average cabins on mainstream cruise ships. The configuration is standard, with the bathroom and closet along the entry hall, then the sleeping area, and then the sitting/dining area adjacent to the window or balcony. One does not notice the extra floor space so much in the sleeping and sitting areas, but it is very apparent in the bathroom, which allows two to bathe and dress for dinner at the same time. The tub and shower are separate, and there are two sinks (and double bath amenities) at the granite counter.
We did appreciate the quality of the cabin's accoutrements. The duvet was sparkling white and light as air, the towels were textured and double thick, and the robes were heavyweight terry. A table converter (for room service dinners) was stowed in the closet but we never needed it. The TV had a DVD player, but I cannot imagine why anyone would use it when there are interesting ports of call, although it may help pass time when there are back-to-back days at sea.
Our mini-bar was stocked with beer, mixers, and fruit juice. In addition to the champagne bottle waiting on our arrival, we were given a bottle of red wine during the cruise. We never opened it and left it for the next passengers. We did not request extra alcohol for the mini-bar, but I am certain many passengers do. We would have preferred having some colas and champagne splits, but we never asked for them (or were asked our preferences). We simply went to the nearest bar each evening for our pre-dinner drink. No problem.
Our cabin was maintained by two chambermaids, one from Iceland and one from India. They made a great team and did a fine job keeping our cabin ship-shape. We rarely saw them, but when we wanted something (like additional personalized stationery) we simply left a note and they responded efficiently.
Public Areas The ship's public areas are decorated subtly in neutral colors, mainly off-white with pale blue, gray, or beige accents. There is no glitzy atrium or hey-look-at-me decor. Everything is elegant in an understated way. The art collection is not extensive, but features pleasant antiquarian prints and occasional ethnic art works from various ports around the world. The one must-see art collection is the Florentine style mosaics in the bar on Deck 5. These interpret in stone various famous prints by Gustav Klimt - the images are familiar and the craftsmanship is impressive.
Rather than my describing the public areas around the ship, log onto one of the many web sites featuring Silversea photos taken by previous cruisers. Just Google "Silversea Silver Whisper reviews" and follow the trail. The photos are beautiful, far better than any of my own. The ship is very handsome inside and out.
The excellent space ratio is apparent throughout the ship. No public area ever seemed crowded, although the alternative dining rooms and the show lounge were sometimes full. The exception was the tiny gym, which seemed cramped even when no one else was there. The ship was so quiet compared to our previous cruises that we sometimes wondered where everybody was. There were no more than a handful of cruisers in the library, the lounges, or the shops when we were there. The privacy and sense of calm were very impressive.
Entertainment The entertainment was surprisingly enjoyable, especially for such a small ship. Although there were no enrichment lectures or formal concerts on this itinerary, the musicians, vocalists, and dancers were all very talented.
A vocalist played piano and sang every evening in the Deck 5 bar. He has a fine voice and great sense of style. Ingeniously, he used his laptop screen instead of sheet music.
A piano trio provided dance music every evening in the Deck 8 Panorama lounge. They knew all the standards, took requests, and even did vocals on some numbers. My wife and I thought the dance floor would be crowded on a cruise like this, but we found only a handful of passengers in the lounge with us, and they listened at the bar but did not dance.
The Jean Ann Ryan Company of six dancers and two vocalists provided entertainment in the show lounge every evening after dinner. Productions ranged from an evening of Broadway show tunes to a Cirque du Soleil style performance that combined avant-garde music with acrobatic dancing. The production values matched any that we have seen while cruising, and the bonus is that this is the first and only cruise production company we have encountered that does not over-amplify its music and vocals.
The Passengers Fellow passengers on this cruise were not what we expected. The average age was around 60, but ranged from 30s to 80s. We expected the dress to range from Armani to Zegna, and were worried that our three outfits (formal, informal, and casual) would not be sufficient, even on a short cruise. But to our surprise, the average dress during the day was shorts and T-shirts. Dress during the evening was surprisingly informal. In fact, although everyone was presentable, people made less effort to dress well on this cruise than we were used to seeing on previous Holland America, Celebrity, or Princess cruises.
Everyone we dined with on this cruise proved to be well traveled, highly articulate, and very entertaining. On some cruises my wife and I prefer to dine at a table for two, but on this cruise we always opted to join a group because of the enjoyable company. Perhaps the maitre d' has ESP -- he always seemed to look into one's eyes, think for a moment, and then say "Hmmm, yes, I think I have the perfect table for you." He was right every time.
Dining Dining can be a touchy subject because it is so subjective. As I mentioned earlier, we were never able to sample the regional Italian cuisine in La Terraza restaurant because this was fully booked before we ever boarded the ship.
We also opted not to try the multi-course dinners and wine tastings in Le Champagne dining room. These had a "nominal" fee of $150 per person to cover the cost of the premium wines. Although I enjoy a good wine, I cannot detect the subtleties of a great wine, so it would have been a wasted evening for me.
That leaves the Deck 7 buffet and the Deck 4 main restaurant. The buffet is very enjoyable at breakfast. Since we did not have a balcony, we preferred to eat breakfast on the veranda outside the buffet rather than have room service. The buffet selections are varied, well prepared, and nicely presented. The breakfast buffet is very comparable to those found on mainstream cruise ships, but without the lines and crowds. The lunch buffet parallels the menu in the main restaurant. As a matter of portion control and made-to-order freshness, we preferred the main restaurant for lunch.
In the main restaurant, the food is good to excellent, similar in quality to the good food found in the dining rooms of Celebrity, Holland America or Princess ships to the excellent food found in the surcharged restaurants on those same ships.
We experienced a few minor lapses in service. One appetizer and two drink orders were forgotten; often my water glass was not refilled when empty; and sometimes there were unusually long intervals between courses.
A few dining quirks are native to Silversea. On our first night we ordered leg of lamb. The meat came without vegetables or potatoes, which were listed on the menu but have to be separately ordered to appear with the main course. A sorbet is always listed between the salad and the main courses, but this too must be ordered since it is not served automatically.
The drinking water is served in beautiful grand cru stemware that magnifies the chemical odor of water just as it does the aroma of good wine. Requesting bottled water with the meal should be a simple task, but it almost always elicited a sour expression from the waiter, and the request was never carried out through the entire meal.
The dining room was never crowded on our cruise. In fact the quietness of the main dining room was a pleasure, and contrasted sharply with the noisy, multi-tiered dining rooms on larger ships.
The main restaurant provides a cuisine that matches, and sometimes exceeds, the fine dining we experienced on other ships. Even mainstream cruise lines are now extremely successful at providing memorable dining, and the margin between cuisine on the Silver Whisper and that on other ships is very narrow.
The menu has somewhat greater choice than on some other ships, perhaps because most of its cruises are longer than one week, and most of its passengers are repeat cruisers. The Silver Whisper adds the extra option of ordering specialty items not listed on the menu (if ingredients are available). On a short cruise such as ours this was not necessary, but for a long round-the-world cruise this would be a lifesaver. Some passengers on our cruise apparently tried to order exotic dishes but were unsuccessful, which in my opinion was just as well, since there was adequate choice to be happy for four evenings.
The fish courses were generally cooked to perfection, although my lobster and salmon were each somewhat overcooked on one occasion. The lobster was rubbery and adherent to the shell. Another person at our table that evening found his lobster so excellent that he ordered a second portion, which turned out as tough as mine, so he left his second portion uneaten.
The fish courses sometimes were matched with al dente vegetables that were so crisp that one could not cut them with the fish knife or spear them with the fish fork -- a great excuse if you prefer not to eat your vegetables. Our lamb chops were ordered rare and came seared on the outside but translucent red on the inside. The unique taste of lamb was undetectable. Medium rare should get you the pink to red doneness that you want.
One appetizer was made with taco shells that were stale and tough. The filling was excellent though. Salads were sometimes overdressed and low fat dressings were not featured - the easy solution is to request the dressing on the side. One dessert was a creamy chocolate mousse that had clear gelatin cubes inside - a strange combination. Another dessert was a banana concoction constructed on a translucent gelatinous base - flavorful but strange in appearance and texture.
These issues are minor. You will have a very enjoyable time in the main restaurant, and if you plan far enough ahead, you may be able to sample their alternative dining.
Computer Fees We did encounter excessive computer and Internet fees. Formerly there was a charge only for uploading or downloading data from the Internet, and the resulting fee was reasonable. Now there is a US 75 cents per minute fee from the first keystroke, whether working off-line or on the net.
I generated a charge of $4.50 before even logging onto the net to access my e-mail. The on screen "meter" that tracks charges is not that clear, nor is the log-off window. Fortunately a shipboard IT assistant alerted me to the charge and I logged off with her help. When I politely expressed my dismay to the reception desk, they removed the charge from my account. I never did use the net on the entire cruise.
Some passengers brought laptops and used the ship's wireless capability for e-mails and Internet phone calls. Some passengers complained that the net connection is slow, so the charges can be daunting.
Disembarking This follows the usual drill and is handled efficiently. Color coded baggage tags are distributed the day before disembarkation. The color code determines the disembarkation priority, and is based on a questionnaire distributed during the cruise. Baggage is left in the hallways the last night of the cruise, and is reclaimed and cleared through customs dockside by the passengers as they disembark the next morning.
Passports are held by the cruise ship for the duration of the cruise and are returned to the passengers (in order by luggage tag color code) between 7 and 8 a.m. on the day of disembarkation. U.S. immigration inspection generally goes quickly, but every passenger must be cleared by immigration before any passenger is allowed off the ship.
Disembarkation begins around 9 a.m. and takes about an hour. Silversea recommends not booking a return flight much before noon, since one must taxi to the airport, check in, and go through security inspections there too.
As we disembarked, the gangway was relatively steep. Without being asked, a Silver Whisper crew member graciously took my wife's roll-aboard down the gangway to the dock for her. As we left the ship we felt truly pampered.Is a Luxury Cruise Worth the Cost?
Yes and no. The choice in cruise ships is very much like the choice in new automobiles - there is one for every taste and budget. Some people insist that a Lexus or a Cadillac is the only way to travel. Others insist that a Ford or Toyota is the logical choice. The bottom line is that there is no single automobile (or cruise line) that will make everyone happy, but there is at least one automobile (or cruise line) that will make each one of us happy.
Last year for the first time I bought identical Honda Accords for myself and my wife, together less than the cost of one Mercedes. The Hondas are safe, reliable, economical cars that are a delight to drive. They have given us as much pleasure as our Mercedes ever did. I guess that says it all.
This is the first time we have ever felt the "need", to write a review of any cruise we have taken.. We typically take one of the RCCL or Celebrity ships, and usually, with the help of our very astute agent.. we get a nice cabin with a nice price.Overall, we are very satisfied with the service and food, and the entertainment tends to be very erratic? As many of you regular cruisers know.... the industry in general has become mediocre at best. The ships are gorgeous , but due to the need to fill these behemoths at bargain basement prices.. the service, food, entertainment, and especially... ATTITUDE has become somewhat numb! Although still a good value..cruising has become a "challenged', industry!
Here is the good news!! SilverSea has brought cruising back to an era when SERVICE was paramount! The ships are like private yachts! The cabins are all suites, and you can actually move about in them.. They have thought of every detail, and the word "NO", doesn't exist in their vocabulary! From the moment you enter their world.. you are a welcome guest! Nothing is too much to ask,and most times it's done before you can even think of it! It's as though they actually read "ALL", the customer comment cards from the other cruise lines and made the appropriate changes!
We actually had nothing to even think of complaining about.. The suites are gorgeous, the staff is absolutely wonderful, the food is truly 5 star, there is never a crowd to do anything, no loud music, no loudspeaker announcements of the "bargains", in the gift shop, never an attempt to "pick your pocket", in any way! In fact everything is included. Friends of ours invited us to a party in their suite with champagne, caviar, crab claws, lobster,.... It was all provided "free of charge"...and the cabin was cleaned by the time dinner was finished!
Silver Sea is definitely a amall intimate and very upscale adventure.. You really do "get what you pay for", with this cruise line!
We would highly recommend SilverSea to all age groups, except those parents traveling with children! There are no special areas or activities for kids.
Needless to say... we will be regulars with SilverSea in the future!!
Itinerary: Vancouver, Ketchikan, Haines, Wrangell, Sitka, Metlakatla, Vancouver
If you're one for nature and scenery, then Alaska is for you. The sight of the Sawyer Glacier up close, the snow-capped mountains, the whales, the bears, the bald eagles are truly spectacular. SilverSea even provides binoculars in each suite. I cruised through the tranquility of the Misty Fjords. But I must say that as spectacularly beautiful as Alaska is, for me nine days of this was a bit repetitive.
Our cabin was Vista (439), a mid-ship, no-balcony cabin. We thought we wouldn't get much use of a balcony on an Alaskan cruise. For our particular trip I think I was right. However, the cruise that sailed the week before ours encountered temperatures in the mid- to high 80s with blazing sun. On our cruise, the temperature maxed out at about 72, and that was rare. The cabin was spacious and comfortable. The bathroom had dual sinks, a separate bath and shower. The Bulgari amenities were nice and were replaced twice during the cruise. There was a walk-in closet with a safe, which worked intermittently. The refrigerator was well stocked, and I was asked what twospirits I'd like brought to us. Oddly enough, when the spirits were brought to the stateroom, one had been opened already. It was returned and replaced after a lengthy conversation with room service. They apparently didn't understand why I might not want an already opened bottle.
There really wasn't a bad meal to be had aboard the Silver Shadow: The food ranged from very good to outstanding. The cuisine in the ship's main dining room, The Restaurant, was superbly prepared. On most of our previous cruises, I would elect to order something off the menu, but the food was so good on the Silver Shadow that I didn't choose this option.
The ship offers two alternate dining venues: La Champagne and The Terrace Café. Both require reservations, but there is no supplemental charge to dine in either restaurant. However, no wines in La Champagne are complimentary; they must be purchased from the premium wine list. La Champagne offers a menu with few choices -- not quite a set menu, but given that it's a very small room the options are limited. The menu changes every two or three days in La Champagne. The ambiance was that of an intimate restaurant. The food was very, very good. The Terrace Café is adjacent to La Champagne but is a much larger room. This venue offers different themes each night. I went for the Mediterranean evening. Here you can choose between the complimentary wines and the premium wine list. Again, the food was deliciously prepared.
There seemed to be a dichotomy in service aboard the Silver Shadow. Certainly the service throughout the ship was impeccable and efficient; yet it was strangely impersonal. Service wasn't overly friendly. I think only one staff member ever asked our names, or what we liked/disliked. That one staff member was the Cruise Consultant, and he needed the info to book our next SilverSea cruise. This was a marked difference from Seabourn, Radisson or even Queens Grill on Cunard.
This was very poor. We were given key cards on the pier, then were told to board the ship. Once we were in the lobby there was no guidance or assistance. There were crowds of people at both the reception desk and the shore excursion desk but I didn't know why. We couldn't believe that we had to make our own way to the stateroom -- on other high-end lines you're escorted -- so I asked a staff member. Only then did we learn that we needed to go to the reception desk or shore excursion desk to have our photograph taken for security. Embarkation really seemed disorganized.
This was similarly disorganized. People were given color-coded tags that indicated when and in what order they would disembark the ship. For example, passengers with earlier flights would disembark prior to people with later flights. When it came time to disembark, the order in which the colors were paged was wrong, which had many people concerned. The later-flight people disembarked before the passengers with earlier flights.
The décor of the Silver Shadow is very attractive, very light, and not at all glitzy. She's an easy, comfortable vessel to get around, with all staterooms forward and most public rooms aft. The Observation Lounge, which overlooks the bow, was packed while we cruised the Misty Fjords and the Sawyer Glacier. This lounge is really for relaxing. It offers coffee and tea, but isn't really a bar setting. The more social locations on the ship were the Panorama Lounge and The Bar. It was in these lounges that people congregate for cocktails and conversation. One caveat for you ship lovers: If you're looking for a nautical experience, you won't find it on this ship. The Silver Shadow is more like a floating Ritz-Carlton than a seafaring vessel.
We didn't opt for any of the ship's offerings, so I can't comment on that. We arranged our own excursions and enjoyed them quite a bit. These included two floatplane adventures (Ketchikan and Sitka) and a two-hour ground tour of Sitka.
The ship had three entertainers on board -- a singer, a magician/comedian, and a banjo player. I only saw a snippet of the comedian/magician. He was fine. Other passengers commented on how good the singer was.
Why I took this cruise: I had business in Portland and saw a good deal on this cruise that was leaving just two days later from nearby Vancouver, so we booked and sailed.
We will be back on SilverSea in November for a South America cruise. I enjoyed this cruise and the SilverSea experience. I personally would give Seabourn the edge on service but SilverSea's ships are more modern.
Previous cruises: QE2 - transatlantic '95 QE2 - transatlantic '01 QM2 - maiden voyage Seabourn Sun - Capetown - Las Palmas Seabourn Spirit - Southeast Asia Radisson Mariner - Baltics Radisson Voyager - Bermuda..no, wait..we ended up in Canada!