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SILVER SHADOW TOUR/REVIEW Last Sunday, October 15, my wife and I, past Silverseas passengers, had the opportunity to tour Silverseas new ship the magnificent SILVER SHADOW while the ship was in the Port of Philadelphia on it's ... Read More
SILVER SHADOW TOUR/REVIEW Last Sunday, October 15, my wife and I, past Silverseas passengers, had the opportunity to tour Silverseas new ship the magnificent SILVER SHADOW while the ship was in the Port of Philadelphia on it's third cruise. This new build, the third ship in the award-winning Silverseas fleet takes the concept of elegant, all-suite, ultra-luxury cruising to the next level. This dramatic new ship incorporates technological innovations, suggestions from past Silverseas passengers and improved design concepts. The Shadow and its sister ship Silver Whisper, scheduled to enter service in July 2001, are designed to carry Silversea's tradition of all-inclusive luxury and style into the new millennium. The Silver Shadow (And Silver Whisper) are larger then their flee mates the Silver Cloud and Silver Wind. Here is a comparison: SILVER CLOUD SILVER SHADOW SILVER WIND SILVER WHISPER PASSENGERS 296 382 GROSS TONNAGE 16,800 28,258 LENGTH 514 Feet 610 Feet WIDTH 60 Feet 81.8 Feet PASSENGER DECKS 6 7 PASSENGER SPACE/RATIO 64 74 The Silver Shadow has the highest space to passenger ratio in the cruise industry at 74, providing more space per passenger than any other cruise ship. The space/ratio is arrived at by dividing a vessel's gross registered tonnage, which is a volume measurement of its interior space, not the ships "weight" by it's lower berth capacity. The Shadow's hull was built at Italy's Franceso Visentini Shipyard near Trieste and the ship was outfitted at the T. Mariotti Shipyard in Genoa. My wife and I were aboard Sliver Cloud last October 9 when the Captain announced over the public address system that Silver Shadow had been floated at the Visentini yard and was enroute to the Mariotti yard. We had the special privilege to toast the "newborn" at Captain Russo's table that evening at dinner. The Shadow is registered in the Bahamas. Designed by Petter Yran and Bjorn Storbraaten Architects of Oslo, the award-winning designers of the Silver Cloud and Silver Wind. The vessel has Italian Officers, European staff and an international crew totaling 295 and providing a passenger-to-crew ratio of 1.31 to 1. Entering the ship you are normally in the Reception Foyer on Deck 5 (Due to the limitations of the dismal Port of Philadelphia the gangplank was on deck 4) a crystal chandelier casts a soft glow on the foyer's warm honey-spiced woods and chestnut, umber and ebony hued marbles. The area features groupings of snug and comfortable wing-backed chairs. This is the hub of the ships activity containing the Reception and Concierge and Shore Excursion desks and also the offices of the Hotel Director and Cruise Consultant. Every Silverseas cruise feature a cruise consultant offering the passengers advice on planning future Silverseas cruises. The line has an extremely high ratio of repeat passengers due in part to the unique way the cruise consultant operates with the passengers personal travel agents to book future cruises at savings of 2-4%. Our tour progressed to the top Deck, deck 10. This deck houses the new and larger spa operated by the exclusive Mandara organization. The spa features an extensive menu of restorative body therapies combining exotic Balinese traditions with classic techniques. The spa feature numerous treatment rooms and a fully trained staff. Also on this deck is the Beauty Salon and Fitness center. The Salon features, by appointment, coiffeurs, manicures and pedicures. The Fitness center is the place for fitness enthusiasts. Equipped with circuit weights, state-of-the-art treadmills, stair climbers and stationery bicycles as well as men's/women's steam rooms and dry saunas. The crowning glory of Deck 10 is a completely redesigned Observation Lounge, perched on the deck above the bridge, this charming room seats 55. With a commanding view of the world, the room looks forward over the bow. Equipped with a radar screen, astronomical maps, binoculars and reference books, old salts and would-be-mariners can monitor the ships course and progress. During the day, a self-service water and juice bar provides refreshments to guests. At night, a full service bar makes this room a popular spot for private functions and cocktail parties. The Observation Lounge on Shadow is a vast improvement from the Cloud/Wind. On the smaller ships the Observation lounge can only be reached by climbing a flight of steps and walking a good portion of the ship's length outside to reach the room. Shadow has an elevator to the deck and the route to the lounge is all inside climate controlled area. Next stop on the tour was Deck 9 featuring 18 Veranda Suites and the ship's jogging track overlooking the pool area. The aft section of deck 9 features a delightful small deck area for relaxation, with lounge chairs and tables. Deck 8 features the new Poolside Grille and Bar. The full service bar was featured on the Cloud and Wind. New to the Shadow is the Grille provides barbecue facilities for poolside lunch under the shade of the deck above. The Poolside Grille is sure to be a hub of activity during days at sea. At least once during each cruise Silverseas plans to offer a poolside dinner barbecue featuring Lobster, Swordfish and Steak. The area also features a teak deck for dancing to the band perched on a "stage" on deck above. This area is forward of the large (for a ship of this size) pool and dual whirlpools and twin showers, the entire pool area is surrounded by teak decking. Aft on this deck passengers will find the Library, a quiet enclave where guests may borrow from a wide variety of videos to watch in their suites, hundreds of books, from classics to bestsellers. A complete collection of National Geographic magazines is also available on CD-ROM. The Computer Center, which seats 5, offers four computer stations and one laptop station with Internet access available to guests anytime day or night. A trained staff member is available to assist in the use of the computer equipment aboard. The rear of the deck contains the Panorama Lounge, a signature feature on the Silverseas ships. Seating from 162-170 guests the room is designed to reflect the curves of an elegant nautilus shell. The Lounge features a sweeping curved wall of glass that looks out to the sea. In this room guests may enjoy a light continental breakfast by dawn's early light. Afternoon tea is served here with tempting pastries and piano accompaniment. By night the Panorama Lounge becomes a nightclub....the perfect venue for that after-dinner drink and dancing to piano renderings. During our cruise on the Cloud last year we spent at least two hours each evening in this pleasant piano bar. Deck 8 also features 2 Grand Suites (953 square feet) and 28 Veranda Suites. Two of the 28 Veranda suites can be combined with the 2 grand suites to create two bedroom accommodations. Moving down to deck 7 we toured the first of several suites. We toured Royal suite 702 and the connecting Veranda Suite 704. The Royal suite Measures 901 square feet and features forward facing windows, a guest powder room, flat screen televisions and Bang and Olfeson Entertainment centers and a Jacuzzi massage bathtub in the newly designed bathroom. The suite can be reserved as either a one or two bedroom configuration. The "master" bedroom, of the suite, features a walk-in closet rivaling some Royal Caribbean cabins in size. Connecting to the Royal Suite we toured suite 704 a traditional Veranda Suite. There are a total of 134 veranda Suites on Silver Shadow. These 345 square feet suites feature a sizable private balcony with two lounge chairs and table, floor to ceiling windows and door leading to the living area which features a couch, cocktail table, three side chairs, a desk area, stocked bar, refrigerator and storage. The living area can be separated from the sleeping area by a curtain. The sleeping area features twin beds, which can be configured as a queen bed and a vanity area with comfortable chair, twin bed stands and reading lights. The sleeping and living areas mirror the same areas on Silver Cloud and Silver Wind which measure 295 square feet. New are an enlarged and much better designed walk-in closet and a vastly enlarged and improved bath now featuring a separate shower and tub and twin basins. The hallmark accommodations on Silversea ships, the veranda suites provide guests with immediate access to the sights and sounds of the sea and ports-of-call. The veranda is perfect for enjoying a good book, an early morning breakfast or watching a magnificent sunset. Deck 7 also features 1 Grand Suite which was not open for inspection, 12 Veranda Suites, 2 of which can be combined with a Royal or Grand suite to create 2 bedroom accommodations. This deck also features 13 Silver Suites, 2 Owner Suites and 2 Medallion Suites (A new category on Silver Shadow). Available for inspection was one of the Silver suites. The Silver Cloud and Silver Wind each featured 3 Silver Suites, the new builds feature 13 Silver Suites each because of the popularity of these accommodations. The Silver Suite measure a generous 701 square feet and offer larger, separate living room for entering guests and a more spacious veranda. The suites also feature a full-size Jacuzzi tub. Owner suites measure 903 square feet and feature a guest powder room, flat screen TV's in both the bedroom and living room, Jacuzzi tub, B & O Stereo and double long veranda. Owner suite can be reserved as one or two bedroom configurations. The new suites on the Shadow--Medallion Suites measure 521 square feet are larger than the veranda suites and feature a larger living room and veranda which contains two lounges and two chairs and a table. The aft section of deck 7 includes the Conference room--new space on the Shadow, seating 36 and available for groups, clubs and private parties by reservation. The room contains audio-visual equipment including a roll-down screen, flip charts and white boards for conference use. Also available are a television, video player and a small refrigerator for convenient refreshments. In front of the Conference Room is the 22 passenger capacity Card Room. Featuring felt covered tables and an entertainment cabinet with television and video player and a small refreshments refrigerator. Connecting to the conference center by a movable wall the Card room may be joined to form a conference room seating 58. New to the Shadow are the Humidor a 20 passenger capacity Cigar club. Passing through decorative doors you enter this club-like space presented by Davidoff. From the walk-in humidor built under the direction of the legendary Davidoff company, guests may select a fine cigar from an extensive collection of Davidoff and other premium brands. Deep and very comfy gallery chairs and soft settees are the perfect place to savor a fine cigar and a cognac from the trolley. The air in the room is constantly circulated via a special ventilation system. Connecting to the Humidor is Le Champagne, presented by Moet & Chandon, Silverseas official champagne. On the port side of the Terrace Cafe Silversea's new wine bar, Le Champagne offering a genteel retreat designed for tastings and social gatherings. Featuring the cuvee of Moet & Chandon, this intimate space--new on the Shadow--also offers a generous selection of wines from the Silverseas extensive wine list. Filling the aft section of deck 7 is the popular Terrace Cafe which seats 162 guests indoor and 64 on teak decks surrounding the room. Allowing a 180-degree view of the horizon, the Terrace Cafe's floor to ceiling windows provide a panoramic view of the sea and ports-of-call. For breakfast and lunch, diners may chose from a generous buffet. In this newly designed room the buffet area is glassed-off from the dining room. On Cloud and Wind the area is separated only by a curtain. This casual restaurant features grilled fare and freshly prepared pasta. Guests can enjoy the view from inside or in the fresh air under a shady canvas awning. In the evening the mood of the room is transformed and the Terrace Cafe becomes a specialty venue featuring Italian, French or Asian cuisine. This alternative dining is by reservation only and the gourmet dining experience is extremely popular among Silversea passengers. On our Silver Cloud cruise last year my wife and I were invited to a very special dinner in the Terrace Cafe for passengers that were staying on board, we combined two cruises. This dinner started with cocktails, caviar and jumbo shrimp, and a multi-course French Menu that was beyond belief. On a par with meals we have been fortunate to have in the best restaurants on land in the world. The tour moved to deck 6 featuring 52 Veranda suites, 1 Royal suite and 1 Grand Suite. Two of the veranda suites can be combined with the Grand and Royal suite to form two bedroom accommodations. Aft on deck six, down an attractive entrance way is the upper deck of the two deck Athenian Show Lounge. Seating 356 guests this multi-tiered show lounge is cleverly designed to afford each guest an unobstructed view of the stage. This enlarged show lounge--due to the increased width of the Shadow features full production shows (Silverseas recently changed production companies), first run movies and concerts. During the daytime this lounge offers informative port lectures and featured speakers to enlighten and entertain in this multi-purpose venue. On this particular Colonial America cruise astronaut Buzz Aldrin was the featured lecturer. Arriving back on deck 5 we were unable to tour the casino due to port regulations, but his enlarged casino draws it's inspiration from the Grand Casino of Monte Carlo. With bold winning tones the casino offers Blackjack, Roulette and new to Silverseas, Craps. Electronic gaming machines are thoughtfully tucked into alcoves to soften the lights and noise. Off the casino is a delightful new bar Lampadina, named for the popular Italian drink. This cozy bar sports ultra comfortable chairs and smart Italian designed sofas, with ebony leather stools circling the handsome handmade cherry wood bar. Day or night. This bar, welcomes shoppers and browsers from the nearby Shopping Arcade, or Piazza. The shopping arcade features a well-stocked ship's Boutique and the Silversea signature elegant Bvlgari shop. Bvlgari toiletries are featured in each Silverseas suite. This luxury Italian jeweler formed an alliance with Silversea and a well-stocked Bvlgari shop is featured on each of the Silversea ships. Gentlemen beware this shop features beautiful and elegant goods and can be very hazardous to your wallet. I was lucky to escape my last Silverseas cruise by buying my bride a much reduced, due to the duty free nature of on board shopping, Bvlgari scarf. This special gift still set me back nearly $300 dollars--a considerable savings over the $495 list on land. This shop features items from a few hundred dollars to over a quarter of a million dollars. As the clerk told me last year "you can save nearly $60,000 by buying the necklace on board, it's only $197,500!" Passing through the reception area you will enter a hallway leading to The Bar. Seating 109 guests, The Bar is another Silverseas signature area. This handsome gathering place fosters a spirit of conviviality. It is the gathering place prior to dinner and features a quartet playing music for dancing. It's also a perfect place for an after show cordial. Access to the lower deck of the Anthenian Show Lounge is through The Bar. Deck 5 also features 24 Veranda Suite and 8 Vista Suites and 2 Handicap Suites. The 2 handicap suites (535 and 537) measure 415 square feet and are Handicap friendly. The Vista suites on Deck 5 (521,523,525,527,529,531,533,535 and 537) share a common unfurnished veranda. These suites will probably be the first to book as they offer a veranda for the lower price of a window. These suites would be perfect for families and small travel groups. Moving down to Deck 4 we find 26 Vista Suites measuring 287 square feet. These suites are identical in layout to the Veranda Suites but without the veranda. These suites feature a five-foot panoramic window framing the view of the sea. Living, Sleeping, Bath and Closet areas are identical in layout to the Veranda Suites. The public area on Deck 4 is The Restaurant, you have to love Silverseas simplistic approach to naming their public rooms, The Bar, The Restaurant etc. This attractive room seats 424 guests in a variety of table configurations from 2 tops to 8 tops. The added width of the Shadow allows for an additional row of tables on each side of the dining room. You enter The Restaurant through a formal hall you have a wonderful view over the dance floor to the dramatic glasswork on the far wall. In a much different design than the Cloud and Wind, three grand crystal chandeliers crown the center of the room. The size of the dining room allows Silverseas to offer single seating dining, dining when you want and with who you want during an extended dinner period. This elegant room features high-backed cherry wood chairs. So there's the tour--they treated us to cocktails and finger foods in the Bar after the tour. The new ship is magnificent, a new level of elegance in the ultra-luxury cruise market. Silverseas continues to include the most inclusive pricing in the industry. The cruise pricing includes, your suite, all food and drink, including premium wines and spirits (top vintage wines and champagnes are available at an extra cost), all tips (Silversea employees are not allowed to accept tips), a pre-cruise night at a luxury hotel, your connecting flights (frequently offering low cost Business or First class upgrades), transfers, portage, and port charges. In addition Silverseas offers 15% discounts for prepayment 6 months prior to the cruise and 10% for 90 day prepay. It's hard to get 30% interest on your money these days! The fares on Silverseas are above average but for my money they represent real value for the dollar. Last year on our Silver Cloud cruise service was outstanding, the entertainment above expectations, the food on a par with the very best land based restaurants and the atmosphere as close to perfect as possible. Taking a tour makes it impossible to judge service, entertainment and food. But as luck we have it during the tour we met a passenger who was on board with my wife and I on our Silver Cloud cruise last year. He and his wife were passengers on this cruise so we had the opportunity to talk about the food, the service and the entertainment. Their assessment: the food was as good or better; the service, which was excellent last year maintained the same flawless quality and the entertainment, which was also topnotch last year was even better. So there you have it Silverseas has a new winner in it's fleet! My wife and I are saving our money so that we can experience a cruise on the Shadow or the Whisper in 2002. Bill in Harrisburg HAPPY CRUISING 10/23/00 Read Less
Now everyone (including a lot of my friends at home) looking at this itinerary is going to say "you have to be crazy to do this". Crazy like a fox!!! First of all the cruise was heavily discounted for obvious reasons. We used an ... Read More
Now everyone (including a lot of my friends at home) looking at this itinerary is going to say "you have to be crazy to do this". Crazy like a fox!!! First of all the cruise was heavily discounted for obvious reasons. We used an online cruise discounter, in addition, so that made the cost of this experience irresistible. To top it all, the Silversea threw in an unbelievable land package, which included two nights at the Cairo Four Seasons, touring the Pyramids and Cairo Museum, meals, famous Egyptologist lecture, charter plane from Cairo to Luxor, one night at the Luxor Sonesta, a beautiful dinner with belly dancer under the stars on the Nile and touring the temples and tombs with an Egyptologist and police-escorted caravan everywhere. Little touches, like ice cold water and towels being provided, while touring were lovely---it was toasty there. Forgot to add that I took an optional balloon ride over Luxor (husband didn't want to get up that early). Unbelievable experience!! Now on to the ship---when our caravan of coaches arrived in Safaga, Egypt, we were greeted with Moet Chandon champagne, cold towels and someone to grab our hand luggage as we walked on the ship's red carpet with a great combo playing. We were escorted to our Veranda Suite (345 sq ft), where we were found beautiful linens, marble bathroom with separate shower and tub--double sinks with Bulgari toiletries and fluffy robes. The cruise is all inclusive (including liquor, tips, etc.). You want to drink all day, you can. I never saw anyone drunk, however. They will stock your refrigerator with just about anything and bring bottles of your favorite hard liquor, within reason (no bottles of Louis XIII, without paying the freight, for instance). One of the best parts of the cruise was that, the Silver Shadow was designed to hold 388 passengers and we only had 144 aboard. Our group had 50 Americans, 40 British and the rest assorted nationalities. The previous cruise, that left from Mombassa, Kenya had only 40 passengers!!!!!!! It was like having your own personal yacht with a few of your own friends on board. The food was terrific in the main dining room with an open seating arrangement. You could dine between certain hours with whom and how many you wanted in the main dining room. They also, had another reservations-only dining room for 30 lucky people (with no extra cost) in upstairs, Terraces dining room. Did I mention room service was 24/7? Dinner by room service was course by course. Also, I kept trying to think of things to order for room service breakfast, that weren't on the menu. They came through every time----how about lobster/herb omelet with a small loin lamb chop on the side? The ports were Port Said, Rhodes, Santorini and Athens--all great experiences!!!! Athens is going to be hard-pressed to make the Olympics in time-- even with construction round the clock now. To top it off, we had pretty much perfect weather. Did I mention the service on board was impeccable everywhere? It was definitely the trip of a lifetime--feel free to email, if you have questions. shesurfs@comcast.net July 2003 Read Less
We just returned from a dream cruise onboard the Silver Whisper. From start-to-finish, this cruise was nearly flawless. Let me start with the finish, for I feel that the way in which debarkation is handled speaks volumes for a cruise ... Read More
We just returned from a dream cruise onboard the Silver Whisper. From start-to-finish, this cruise was nearly flawless. Let me start with the finish, for I feel that the way in which debarkation is handled speaks volumes for a cruise line. Debarkation Day. My husband and I (hi ~~ we're Jim and Cindie) usually call this day "Mad Cow Day." ~~All of those formerly friendly employees suddenly can't seem to see you. Ask for something simple like an extra cup of coffee and they usually react to you as if you were Patrick Swayze in "Ghost." The passengers...many who are tired, bloated, and anxious to get home are herded like cattle into narrow hallways while waiting for their color to be called. Mad cows have behaved better! There were no mad cows on this cruise and the entire staff remained friendly and helpful to the very end. I was pleased that we could order room service on the final morning. (If only we hadn't accepted one more offer for a "final nightcap" we might have remembered to hang out our breakfast order.) We did enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the Terrace. We waited for our color to be called while sipping coffee around the pool. Absolutely civilized. Silversea arranged a wonderful tour of Greece on the way to airport. Once at the Athens airport, representatives were waiting with carts for our convenience. Ahhhhhhhhhhh. It's all in the little touches. Embarkation We thought we had done something wrong...missed a step. Where are the long lines? We just walked straight onto the ship only to be greeted by a waitress offering champagne. Really now. Love at first sight. We are not by any means new to cruising. We stopped counting at our 30th cruise. This was our first smaller ship cruise (definitely not our last.) We were very pleased with our stateroom, a standard verandah on deck nine. We are Crystal fanatics, so we were hoping that our stateroom would at least be as good. Surprise. Even better. The size of the verandah was impressive and the fact that Jim and I could both be in the walk-in closet without any (unintentional) bumping and squeezing was amazing. The bathroom was a comfortable size. I was impressed enough that I closed the door, balanced myself on the tub and began shooting some photos of the twin sinks and all that beautiful marble. It's too bad that I wasn't aware that our room service order was being delivered at that same time. (It would have been kind if Jim had alerted me.) I'm sure the waiter wondered about what I was doing in the bathroom, all alone, snapping photos. (Our camera is on the loud side.) Oh well. I'm sure they have a lot of stories to share with their fellow crew at the end of each day. The linens were divine, ~ in fact all appointments in the room were of high quality. Our Stewardess, Zuzana from Slovenia, was a dream and was also a psychic. We rarely needed to ask for anything...she always seemed to know in advance what we wanted. How we miss her!!! The service in general was outstanding. Everywhere. We only encountered one surly waiter. We arrived for breakfast at 8:45 a.m., and the dining room was nearly empty. Breakfast was listed as being served until 9:30, so we felt like we were there in plenty of time. I guess the considerate thing to do would be to go up to the Terrace, but it was getting toward the end of our cruise, and we hadn't yet tried the dining room breakfast. This waiter let us know that he did not appreciate our curiosity, nor our presence. Dining was a pleasure. We thoroughly enjoyed the "La Cucina Italiana" nights in the Terrace Cafe. I highly recommend signing up for these. They are open for reservations at 8 a.m. for that particular day. You begin in the "Le Champagne" Lounge with drinks and appetizers. The Chef and Wine Steward discuss the menu and the accompanying wines. It is a very lively and intimate setting. As we were traveling just the two of us, the atmosphere provided for a pleasant and easy way meet people. We were also pleased with the Restaurant. Initially, I found the meals a bit bland, but I confess to be a sassy, saucy girl (the last word is a s-t-r-e-t-c-h!) from California. I'm used to dining on our local ethnic cuisines, Italian, Mexican, and Chinese food. My palate is tuned to spice. Once I adjusted, I enjoyed most meals thoroughly. A highlight was the Barbeque Night. The pool and upper deck were transformed into a party/feast. We sat with some delightful people from Michigan and sipped and dined to the sound of the Silversea Quintet and watched the sunset. Spectacular. We found the clientele onboard to be very friendly and from a wide variety of backgrounds. Very international. We met some incredibly nice and interesting people. Of course, there are the exceptions. At the pre-cruise hotel in Rome we were nearly assaulted by a mean-faced woman (we call her "Jaba") who worked her way to the front of the Cashier's Desk line by pushing and swinging her orange umbrella. Dangerous lady. She tried to boot her big butt ahead of a woman with long blonde hair...turned out to be Anna Kournekova (sp?) who was playing in the Italian Open. Anna is not only tough on the court, she did a great job keeping this woman at bay, unlike most of us on the ship. Anwyay...this woman was obnoxious and annoying the entire 12 days. Out of 300-something passengers, though, only one...not bad! The crew and staff were wonderful. Captain Corsaro is the perfect Captain. Professional, yet friendly and naturally outgoing. The entertainment was good. Our favorites were John-Paul Alman (what a voice! And quite possibly one of the nicest people we've ever met), the dancers Wendie and Zoe (talented and sweet), and finally...Colin Salter. Colin made his debut as a lounge act on this cruise and we loved it. We laughed so hard...we will never be able to hear the song, "Copacobana" again without picturing him singing with his Barbie doll props...(do not miss this show!) If you meet him onboard, for fun, call him "Mr. Slater." He loves that. Okay...I'm getting a bit carried away here... To sum up this review: We will (God willing, of course!) be sailing Silversea again. We're very interested in trying the Silver Cloud or Silver Wind the next time. Despite the long flight from Athens to California, we've returned home feeling refreshed. Silversea offers an easy, relaxed pace. I honestly cannot remember standing in a line...the shuttle buses and tenders were always on time and blissfully uncrowded. I could go on and on, but then...as you can see, I already have. I am very excited for those of you with upcoming cruises. You are in for a delightful treat. June 2002 Read Less
Sail Date: May 2003
After trying several cruise lines, from Royal Caribbean to Seabourn, we wanted to try the acclaimed 6 star service of Silversea. This turned out to be the most terrible cruise experience ever and had nothing of a 6 star service at all. ... Read More
After trying several cruise lines, from Royal Caribbean to Seabourn, we wanted to try the acclaimed 6 star service of Silversea. This turned out to be the most terrible cruise experience ever and had nothing of a 6 star service at all. Upon embarkation we were told our suite access cards weren't there. We had to report to Reception. We entered the vessel and were offered a drop of welcome champagne. This was literally a drop, since the glass wasn't even half full. Reception didn't seem to know anything about our access cards. After a 15 minute investigation, we were told that we had to move to another suite. No reasons at all were given. We ended up in our "new" suite, but naturally our luggage ended up in the booked suite (since you put your suite number on the luggage tags before embarkation). It took 45 minutes and a lot of frustration before we actually could start to unpack. Our suite was nicely appointed. The bathrooms are lovely with just anything one could ask for. The suite set-up was poor. Upon reserving the cruise we clearly informed Silversea we would be two men and asked for a 2-man set up (a set of 2 larger bathrobes, slippers, etc). This request was not granted. The set up was for a man and a women. Besides that, the bathrobes both contained stains. So did the balcony chairs, of which one was broken as well. The in-suite table also was broken and could not be lifted up, making it impossible to have any proper dinner or meal over there. Upon booking, we requested our on-board credits, which we were entitled to (Singapore Airlines frequent flyer and Relais and Chateaux). This was confirmed by Silversea's reservations department. Once onboard only the Singapore Airlines credit was granted. It took us four major discussions and finally a hefty talk with the hotel manager to achieve our goal. All in all, a terrible start for a cruise line that claims to be 6 star and would go above and beyond. The ship itself is beautiful. The public rooms are appointed nicely and luxurious. The main dining room is large enough to seat everyone at the same time and service is efficient. Quality of the food is not so good and absolutely not up to 6 star. We even got raw food items twice. The wine advice by the sommeliers is poor and they seem to just pour what is selected by upper management. The Maitre 'd was informed of our experiences and asked us if he could do a special meal for us one evening. We agreed and he did ask about our likes and dislikes. Since one of us is allergic to seafood we clearly mentioned that. On the evening of the so-called "special and personal dinner" none of the waiters seemed to know about this. We had to ask for the Maitre 'd in person and then we were told the menu. We were shocked. As an appetizer they had shrimp! The food in the Verandah Cafe was mostly lukewarm or even cold. Refill of items was poor and sometimes even not at all. With the ship only half full, service still was so-so and staff sometimes seemed to have no time at all. The exception was the main dining room. The men's toilet on the sun deck was broken and stayed like that for the entire cruise, even after reporting it to the hotel manager. Once home, we put our experiences on paper and sent them to Silversea. It took finally 2 months and a threat with legal action to get at least a reply at all. This was not satisfactory, since all details were washed and wiped away. All-in-all this was a very negative cruise experience. We absolutely do understand that sometimes things can go wrong and 100% perfection doesn't exist, but a 6 star product should be able to also satisfy, at the end, the customers for which everything seems to go wrong. We do not recommend this cruise line to anyone. Staff is very, very, very arrogant and the head office even more. They think and feel they're the best and don't hesitate to show you this at any moment of the day. And although they advertise with going above and beyond, please be aware that this is just marketing !!!! If you think you're going to experience 6 star service with Silversea, you will be extremely disappointed. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2003
The following is more a personal journal than an organized review. It originally took the form of several posts, sent back whenever access was available. I've now combined all the posts, juggling where necessary, and added some ... Read More
The following is more a personal journal than an organized review. It originally took the form of several posts, sent back whenever access was available. I've now combined all the posts, juggling where necessary, and added some additional verbiage--some substantive, some stuck in just to provide photographic captions. A more traditional review (of the cruise right before mine, as it happens), dealing with some topics I omit, may be found here. Also included are direct links to a lot of photographs. Looking at them all will obviously be much easier with broadband access. You can click on each link (or whichever links you wish) as you go, but should then close the display of that photo, since the next link will open in a new window. Or you can bring up each gallery and click along sequentially within them. Usual Introductory Blather For a long time I have preferred to take a vacation during the end-of-year holiday period, thereby being able to take a longer one by appending the Christmas and/or New Year workplace holidays to whatever meager vacation-time the job provided. (If more Americans knew how much vacation-time is routinely granted to European wage-slaves, there would be a revolution. Fortunately, having been laid off last February, I am no longer restricted in this regard.) Doing so also provided an escape from the Chrismas madness of endless carols on the radio, repeats on the television, traffic, and general commercialization. For about ten years I regularly went to Thailand. The Thais love any excuse for merrymaking, so have no compunction about adopting other cultures' holidays; but I could still escape Thai men dressed as Santa Claus by going upcountry with local friends to visit their relatives in the northeastern Lao region of the country. Nevertheless, as with all my other obsessions (contract bridge, peak-bagging, collecting classical CDs, etc.) I eventually burned out on Thailand, which is when I started taking cruises three years ago. I don't much like visiting cities anymore, preferring areas of scenic grandeur, particularly when combined with remoteness and emptiness. (It's too bad that one cannot take cruises through deserts, although, back in less rotund days, I did go on a two-week trek through the Algerian Sahara in the company of "ships of the desert," i.e., camels.) A 16-night jaunt on [i]Silver Wind[/i] from Valparaíso around Cape Horn to Buenos Aires seemed to fit my criteria nicely. I was not going to fly out for it until the day after Christmas, but the need to prepare my mind for travel and to figure out what and how to pack occupied me for several days before that, which made it possible to resolutely ignore the climax of the pre-Christmas frenzy. Packing this time was a bit more complicated than usual. In addition to the traditional Silversea tuxedo, I also had to fit in things like rain pants, mittens, fleece hat, windbreaker, and storm jacket. It remained to be seen whether this was sartorial overkill for this itinerary, but I wanted to test out the gear in preparation for the five-week Lindblad cruise I would be taking in March and April to such island garden-spots as the Falklands, South Georgia, and Tristan da Cunha. (By the way, does anyone know where North Georgia is?) Apparently I packed pretty well, because my two (hardsided) suitcases weighed only 42 and 47 lbs. It's fortunate that there's no weight limit for the carryon bag, because that seemed to weigh nearly as much. 12/26/03 It had been stormy for several days in the Bay Area, which always snarls flights at SFO, but today dawned bright and sunny. My itinerary provided for a connect-time of only one hour at DFW. Such a short interval started to make me very nervous. It would be sufficient if everything went right; but the last time everything went right on a flight itinerary was during the lifetime of the shorter-living Wright brother. So I went to the airport early enough to try to get on a flight that left two hours sooner. This would mean a three-hour layover at DFW, but, with three trips featuring long layovers scheduled this year, I had paid $450 for an annual Admiral's Club membership in order to have a comfortable place of refuge away from the unwashed masses and (in Max Nomad's immortal phrase) horny-handed workers. I was fortunate enough to get on the earlier flight, a particular relief when I saw on the departures-monitor that my original flight was scheduled to depart thirty minutes late. After picking up my "bistro lunch" at the entrance to the jetway ("bistro" apparently is the French word for "paper sack"), I was delighted to find myself, despite the flight having been announced as nearly full, assigned to an otherwise unoccupied three-seat section, so had nobody with whom to elbow wrestle. Before takeoff I amused myself by watching other people trying to cram stuff that clearly wouldn't fit into the overhead bins and putting additional carryon items into bins in other peoples' rows. The airlines have precise rules about number and dimension of carryon items, but I've never seen them enforced. Why are they even maintained? My guess is in order that enforcement can be imposed suddenly without prior notice whenever it suits managerial convenience, as happened with the weight limits for checked baggage. I naturally had only "legal" carryon items, because following rules precisely gives one many opportunities to feel morally superior to everyone else. The presence of the usual enticingly juicy panoply of small children made the provided meal seem even more insufficient for someone of bearish appetite. Eventually we landed about thirty minutes early, so my original flight would probably have landed with sufficient connect-time as well; but by then I'd have been a quivering mass of protoplasm that would have had to be poured off the plane into a "bistro". Presumably because DFW is American Airlines' primary hub, the Admiral's Club there is quite impressive. Rather than one or two large rooms, it has around ten seating areas and enclosed rooms located off a single corridor. There's even a dedicated children's room as well as a "family bathroom," in which such illicit rituals as diaper changing may be performed. There was also a decent number of Internet terminals, particularly decent in view of the single terminal provided at SFO. My layover thus passed quite agreeably. There was nothing particularly memorable about the flight to Santiago, which is the highest praise one can give to contemporary flights. The middle seat of my section was empty, and we were served real plastic meals with real plastic utensils. Elapsed time from limo pickup at home to arrival in Santiago was ca. nineteen hours. 12/27/03 After paying the $100 reciprocation fee, we were off for our pre-cruise night at the Santiago Ritz-Carlton. This is a very upscale chain, and the decoration scheme certainly tried to reflect this--lots of dark wood walls in the public rooms, hunting and landscape prints hanging thereon, quasi-Chinese vases on side-tables, and so on. In my room the television remote was housed in its own cute little leather case, the bed looked like a pillow farm, and the loose end of each fresh roll of toilet tissue was secured by a golden sticker. One could request the drawing of a specialty bath, the "Gentleman's Bath," for example, including sandalwood oil, a glass of brandy, and a Cuban cigar (the latter two items presumably provided on the side). No price was listed for these baths. One nice custom followed by the staff, when you asked where something was, was to conduct you there rather than just pointing the way or giving verbal directions. Unfortunately, it seemed that more attention was being paid to presentation than to implementation. None of the numbers of television stations on the channel guide were accurate. My floor lamp did not work. The water pressure in the shower could not be regulated, and was not all that strong; the water temperature could never be made really hot; and it was very difficult to get any shower gel out of the provided bottle. The horror, the horror! Prices of items in the minibar were typically outrageous. A small bottle of water (33 cl) was 1800 pesos (~$3), whereas a 1.6 liter bottle purchased at the minimart across the street was 580 pesos. The restaurant menu offered an item that I have never seen anywhere else and have always dreamed of trying--shrimp ravioli with pineapple sauce--but it turned out to be unavailable. The breakfast buffet was quite comprehensive, even including the proper garnishes, such as capers for the smoked salmon, but you had to ask for butter. Despite many waitpersons wandering around, used plates were not cleared from one's table in a timely manner. The financial method at checkout was very nice, though. Charges were reduced by 19%, since foreigners were exempt from the VAT, and the final amount was charged to one's credit card in dollars, at a very nice rate of exchange (615 pesos = $1). Many of the above criticisms of the hotel may strike some people as excessively picayune, but we're talking about a very hoity-toity establishment here. The hotel was located on a lovely avenue with very wide sidewalks, lined with lots of trees, benches, and decorative trash receptacles. In fact, as I discovered on the ride out of town toward the coast, many of Santiago's streets, both main and side, even in poorer areas, were lined with trees. This greatly softens the urban ambience, and is a feature distinctly lacking in many US cities. 12/28/03 Although most past reviews of cruises leaving from Valparaíso indicated that one first checked in at a sport club or race track in neighboring Viña del Mar, we checked in at a terminal right on the pier. Maybe it's new, or maybe it can't handle the passenger-load of larger vessels. Anyway, all the foreplay was finally over, and it was cruisin' time at last. The [i]Wind[/i] had undergone extensive renovation during its long drydock in 2002 (see here for details). There was one definite design improvement in the suites (as all cabins are known on Silversea ships): The drawers in the closet had been relocated from the side wall at the entrance opposite the hangers (which thereby required standing virtually amidst one's hanging articles in order to get things from the drawers) to the back wall, corresponding to the design on the newer [i]Shadow[/i] and [i]Whisper[/i]. Other major differences between the older and newer pairs of ships: The desk area remains significantly smaller; there is no separate shower stall, which I don't mind because I find the stall a bit cramped (probably more my fault than the stall's); and there is only a single sink, which is not too much of a hardship for solo-traveling bears other than those who prefer a separate sink for each forepaw. I had requested some atypical soft drinks such as Fresca and Diet Mountain Dew to be provided in my suite, and was delighted to find supplies of them awaiting me. I had a couple of problems to report and other special requests to make, all of which were dealt with both agreeably and quickly, so the level of service provided by at least some of the ship's personnel appears to have remained satisfactorily high. The Observation Lounge on the two smaller ships had never been very popular, probably because it could not be reached by elevator and even required walking outside to get to it. It has therefore now been turned into The Gym. I consider this change unfortunate, because there is now no forward-looking enclosed public space and the ursine religion prohibits bears from ever getting in close proximity to sweat. The small side-arm of The Restaurant has now been closed off and turned into a second reservation-only venue for dinner called Saletta, ostensibly offering a hyper-gourmet set menu equivalent to that at a Michelin two-star restaurant. Instances of cost-cutting, alas and alack, are becoming increasingly apparent. Mixed nuts without peanuts are no longer available in the bars. A two-tier stewardess hierarchy has been instituted, with predominantly Asian Assistant Stewardesses under predominantly European Stewardesses (with the former no doubt being paid less than the latter). A printed list of complimentary wines (in addition to each night's default white and red) is no longer available. According to the Head Sommelier, this was because attempts were now being made to offer different default wines on each itinerary, corresponding to the region being visited. On this cruise, for example, there are various Chilean and Argentinean wines being poured. Complimentary wines from other regions are available as well, but the selection is supposedly constantly changing, making maintenance of a printed list impossible. But you can tell the sommelier what sort of wine you would like and he will strive to find something matching your desire. (I started out with an Australian Pinot Noir, for example.) But none of this information is announced. First-time Silversea customers, who never knew of the complimentary list's previous existence, would not know to ask about it. Repeat cruisers who don't give the sommelier a third-degree interrogation as I did will not know about the continuing secret availability of additional complimentary selections. Persistent inquisitiveness is necessary to ferret out the true situation. The absence of the complimentary wine list, which will presumably drive many people toward wines on the extra-cost "Connoisseur's List" instead, is also an example of what appear to be new techniques to obtain additional revenue beyond the all-inclusive price. Other examples: One is not permitted to have complimentary spirits in Saletta; it's extra-cost liquor or non-alcoholic beverages only. There is now a little screened-off area near the swimming pool for massages. There is a note in the bathroom mentioning availability of gift boxes of Bvlgari toiletries for sale to take home. Most heinously of all, a photographer is back on board! He only does pictures upon request, but still . . . If these sorts of measures are necessary to permit the line to remain solvent, I guess they have to be tolerated. If, on the other hand, they have been instituted simply to increase profitability, that would be very saddening. Silversea remains one of the top cruise lines in the business, but some of its distinctiveness is vanishing, and the distance between it and premium mass-market lines is narrowing. The sea was unexpectedly choppy as soon as we left Valparaíso, and remained so for several hours. There was also a very strong southerly head wind of up to 30 knots. This enabled me to verify that my new windbreaker worked quite well and minimized the chances of my accidentally bumping into anyone else out on deck. My dinner in the Terrace Cafe comprised an [i]amuse bouche[/i] of Crispy Pan Fried Fillet of Pike Perch on a Bed of Green Lentils with Chili, followed by Lobster Ravioli with Stir-fried Chinese Vegetables and Lemon Grass-Mint Juice, White Tomato Soup with Curry Tempura Prawns and Basil Cream, Carrot-Black Pepper and Lemon Sorbet, Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Braised Ox-Tail, Creamy Bok-Choy and Truffle Mashed Potato, and Roasted Strawberry with Chamomile Infusion and Ricotta Cheese Ice Cream as well as Homemade Petits Fours. This meal was only a mixed success. There was but a single large raviolo with a tiny piece of lobster in the very center. The tenderloin may have been loiny, but it was neither tender nor tasty. It was nice having truffles, though. In fact I requested an additional serving of the potatoes in order to have even more fungi upon which to chomp. The truffles were frozen rather than fresh, but certain hardships must be borne given the current world situation. Other than unpacking and organizing my suite, I did nothing else useful this day. 12/29/03 I felt very cozy under my down duvet and slept until around 11:00 a.m., hence missing breakfast. The captain's noontime announcement contained some surprising information. Due to the strong headwind and heavy southerly swell, we will reach Puerto Montt tomorrow around 7:00 p.m. rather than at 8:30 a.m., resulting in cancellation of the Lake District shore tours. So I won't get to see Lake Llanquihue, the Osorno volcano, or PetrohuE Falls, nor take a cruise on Lake Todos Los Santos. Oh well. For lunch I had Marinated Salmon with Apple Chive Crème Fraiche, Chilled Cream of Strawberry Soup, a very nice Bouillabaisse with Garlic Bread and Sauce Rouille in Saffron-Vegetable Broth, and a selection of cheeses with walnuts, grapes, and dried apricots from the trolley. The hours after lunch were spent composing the first part of this report, followed by the only shipboard activity other than meals guaranteed to entice me from my cave--Team Trivia at 5:00 p.m. I was quite fortunate to end up on a team that included some other very bright people, including a British couple who had already been aboard for the two previous cruises and had therefore heard many of the questions (and answers) already. This version of the game had an interesting twist I had not previously encountered--the questions were of differing grades of difficulty, with more points being given for correct answers to the harder ones. Our team came in first today. Tonight was the "Captain's Welcome Dinner," although I don't remember seeing the captain there. I dined on Sevruga Caviar with Buckwheat Blinis and Traditional Garnish, Curry Clam Soup with Apples (an interesting melding of tastes), Passion Fruit and Champagne Sorbet, a double serving of sweet and juicy Boiled Fresh Maine Lobster "American" with Light Creamy Lobster-Tarragon Sauce and Saffron Rice (the latter having somehow turned into risotto instead), and a Strawberry SablE. Someone else at the table had Roast Prime Rib of Kansas Beef with Natural Jus, Stuffed Baked Potato, and Shredded Horseradish. One of the lecturers, an emeritus professor of Latin American cultural geography, and his wife (who was on my trivia team) were among my tablemates, so dinnertime conversation was a bit more elevated than the shipboard norm. I must have done something between the end of dinner and going nighty-night, but cannot remember what. 12/30/03 Another late arising and missed breakfast, a bit of Web surfing, and a lunch of Gorgonzola Cheese Tart with Fresh Pears Marinated in Balsamic Vinegar, Carrot-Pumpkin Soup with Orange Cream (another interesting taste combination), Szechuan Beef with Roasted Cashew Nuts, Green Paprika, Red Chili, Ginger and Chinese Rice, another raid on the cheese trolley, a glass of port, and my usual double espresso. While we were winning again at Team Trivia, the ship docked at Puerto Montt. I disembarked and walked a couple of blocks to an artisanal crafts market, which consisted of stall after stall offering basically the same selection of stuff--a lot of articles of clothing woven from the hair of such local fauna as llamas, penguins, and alpacas, plus all the other knick-knacks that, upon returning home, one cannot imagine why one had ever purchased. I've been eating lunch alone, but at dinner have been asking to be seated with whatever table would like additional company. So far (last night and tonight) I've been fortunate in the company I joined. Tonight's table included a professor of mathematics from New Jersey and his economist wife (who turned out to be the couple with whom I socialized the most throughout the cruise) and a German shopping center magnate and his wife (both of whom had, like most Europeans, an excellent command of English). The discussion was wide-ranging, including the ability to disagree without being disagreeable. In between topics I munched on Roasted Squab with Arugula and Warm Potato Salad, Maui Red Onion and Ginger Soup, a Refreshing Sour Cream-Strawberry Sorbet, Crisp Duck with Candied Turnips and Spiced Plums, and a slablet of New York Cheesecake. After dinner a local folkloric troupe performed Chilean songs and dances for about twenty minutes, including handkerchief-waving, heel-stomping, and inviting passengers to join in. Fortunately, despite Silversea's demographic, everyone survived the unexpected exertion. 12/31/03 After awakening at the crack of dawn (7:30 a.m.), I finally managed to patronize the breakfast buffet in the Terrace Cafe. After making only a moderate pig of myself (to the extent that a bear can acquire porcine attributes), I picked up a free bottle of water at the exit (another nice Silversea amenity) and caught the 9:00 a.m. free shuttle (yet another amenity) to the Plaza de Armas in the center of Puerto Montt. It's fortunate that yesterday was clear and sunny, enabling me to see and photograph the mountains overlooking the city, because today was overcast, making the mountains but a fugitive memory. I wandered around town a bit, photographing various colorful buildings, including the cathedral. It seems to be a feature of urban areas in gray and dreary areas of the world that many of their buildings are painted in a wide variety of bright or vivid colors. I noticed the same thing in 2002 in Hammerfest at the northern tip of Norway. It does help to brighten up the surroundings. An interesting linguistic phenomenon I've noticed is that spoken Chilean Spanish drops the final 's' in most or all words. So you hear words like "bueno dia" and "gracia". I remember this being done in Andalusia (southern Spain around Seville) as well. There was an Internet Cafe in a bright blue shopping center, from which I emailed the first part of this report to various interested parties. The PCs there had a high-speed link, with a cost of only 720 pesos for thirty minutes. I can't upload the text-files from the Internet terminals on the ship because there are no diskette drives attached to them, so must search for appropriately equipped PCs on land, rather like the Flying Dutchman searching for a wife. Being back on land apparently caused a severe shock to my system, because when I got back on board I forswore lunch and napped all afternoon instead, fortunately awakening at 4:40 p.m., in time for Team Trivia and our third consecutive victory. I'm considering auctioning off my services to the other teams. During my slumbers, the various public rooms, including The Bar, were decorated in preparation for New Year's Eve. After trivia I had to struggle into the modern equivalent of a hair shirt, i.e., my tuxedo, with all its silly little studs and cufflinks cunningly designed to frustrate a bear with neuropathy and crappy tunnel syndrome (I wonder whether putting on Scottish formal wear is easier), in preparation for the Captain's Welcome Cocktail Party and New Year's Eve Gala Dinner. The Cocktail Party was little more than the usual excuse to introduce all the senior officers. I'm not even sure why I still go to them. Then came the Gala Dinner. Rather than being served in the usual 7:30-9:30 p.m. range, this was at a set time (8:00 p.m.) with a set menu (other than a choice between meat and fish as a main course, just like on an airplane). The Restaurant had been gaily decorated in a predominantly black-and-white color scheme, with balloons ready to drop from the ceiling, while on all the tables were items like noisemakers, hats, tiaras, and streamers. The ship's musicians were stationed inside as well, to provide opportunities for dancing between courses. Unfortunately I was at a table with a few older people who should have been wearing hearing aids but weren't. So, in unsuccessful competition with the music, there was a lot of leaning toward each other, repeating sentences, and nodding knowingly without really having understood what was being said. The plan was for everyone to stay in The Restaurant until midnight, so the courses were served at a very leisurely pace, not even starting until around 9:00 p.m. There were two [i]amuses bouches[/i]--Warn Crushed Baby New Potatoes Topped with Sevruga Caviar and SautEed Fresh Foie Gras with Apple and Grapes Compote; a soup in the form of Essence of Guinea Fowl with Vegetable Julienne and Poached Quail Egg (for which the guinea fowl relinquished its essence in vain); Crispy Maine Lobster and Porcini Mushroom Parcels (actually only one parcel but with marvelously concentrated flavors); Refreshing Russian Vodka Lime Sorbet Topped with Champagne; Spiced Roast Filet of Beef Tenderloin with Sweet Red Onions and Garlic Sauce, Creamy Mascarpone Polenta, and SautEed Rosemary Vegetables (this time tender and flavorful as well as loiny); a "Pre Dessert" of Coconut Marinated Fresh Red Berries in Crispy Horn; and finally New Year's Orange and "Caraïbe" Chocolate Volcano with Poppy Seeds Tuile. The menu also listed a Cheese Trolley and Petits Fours, but neither actually appeared, resulting in my leaving the table hungry. I even splurged and bought a bottle of non-complimentary wine, a 1999 Gevrey-Chambertin, which is one of my favorite red Burgundies. It didn't have as much of a bright cherry bouquet as I remember from earlier vintages, but I was still amused by its presumption. There were seven raffle drawings, for everything from a bottle of Dom Perignon to a free 7-day cruise for two, none of which I won. (Could I have changed the grand prize into two 7-day cruises for one?) Finally midnight came, the balloons dropped from the ceiling, everybody air-kissed everybody else, and another arbitrary point along the temporal continuum was commemorated. 1/1/04 Today was to be devoted to the "Silversea Experience," a free shore tour offered on some of the line's itineraries. On this route the Experience was a cruise around Laguna San Rafael, a 27-mile long lagoon ringed by mountains, featuring the San Valentín Glacier and icebergs. So it was up at the crack of dawn (9:00 a.m.) again. I had ordered a room service breakfast of a double order of smoked salmon with bagels, cream cheese, and all the other trimmings, to be delivered between 9:45 and 10:00. The knock on the door came at 9:25 instead, so I growled at the waiter and told him to come back at the time I had requested. This is not the first service-lapse that I have noticed on this cruise. They've all been minor, and quite quickly and agreeably resolved, but a line like Silversea is not even supposed to have many of these lapses in the first place. This is a disheartening trend. Or else I'm becoming even more curmudgeonly than usual. I also have the Food & Beverage Manager researching the mixed nuts situation. The Laguna tour had to be done in three shifts because our ship couldn't navigate through the complicated channel and narrow opening into the lagoon. So groups of us transferred to a local catamaran that could hold around 100 people for our three-hour excursion. This part of the Chilean coast is apparently very much like Alaska's Inside Passage, with islands, islets, islandettes, tiny protuberances of ground above the water, shoals, and shallows. Some bits of land even looked incongruously tropical. I could infer a little about the route's complexity by the way the color of the water kept changing between green (shallow) and blue (deep), and was having fun trying to guess what route the boat was going to take, which opening between land-bits it was going to use, how wide a loop it would have to make, and so on. Usually my guess was wrong, but it helped pass the time during the hour-long approach to the Laguna proper. The entrance to the lagoon itself was quite narrow, reminding me of quasi-secret entrances to canyons in a desert, and suddenly we were in an imposing bay, full of chunks of ice in a wide range of sizes, variously colored in blues and greens, and shaped in an assortment of configurations. Although there was a lot of seating inside on the two decks of the catamaran, there wasn't a great deal of outside space. So when the sights became interesting there was a goodly amount of jostling among people with cameras trying to get to the rail or to shoot pictures over other people. I had wisely staked out a spot early in the voyage and am a pretty immovable object, so was largely immune to these skirmishes as we gradually approached the glacier. The catamaran eventually got up fairly close to its snout and remained there for around thirty minutes, but no calving occurred, at least on the trip I was on. Taking photos was rather a challenge due to the many different scenic elements involved--green hills, snowy mountains, big white glacier, multicolored sky, etc. I have an insanely complicated digital camera that I still haven't fully mastered, so was messing around with various settings for such arcana as white balance and shooting-mode. Fortunately I could just delete the shots that resembled nothing on this planet, but it remains to be seen whether any of the surviving ones look all that accurate, let alone good. As it turned out, a few shots did look interestingly dramatic. The temperature was fairly cool, but a quilted flannel shirt and a vest lined with something fuzzy took care of that issue. Also I tested out my new fleece hat. This is a light but warm close-fitting affair, with ear-flaps that end in a chinstrap. It does not cover the front of the face as a balaclava does, but my head remained snug and cozy, just as a bear likes it. I had forgotten, though, how strong even a hazy sun can be, and much of my face turned red, except for the areas covered by the cap, including forehead and strips down both cheeks in front of my ears, making for a rather comical effect over the next few days. Finally tiring of being outside, I went inside for some snacks (pastries, hot dogs, finger sandwiches). Finding a seat could have been somewhat of a challenge, because place-hogging had occurred, with coats and camera cases and other detritus occupying seats while their true occupants were wandering around outside for unpredictable periods of time. Fortunately such discourteous attempts at intimidation have no effect on a bear, so I simply plopped myself down somewhere close to the food. All in all, a most pleasant excursion, definitely worth more than its price. We got back to the ship around 3:00 p.m., too late for lunch, thus forcing me to order my second consecutive room service meal--French onion soup (including a nice amount of gooey cheese), a grilled ham and cheese sandwich (with what looked like Pringle's potato chips but of course couldn't possibly have been such a thing on a Silversea ship), and a vanilla crème brûlEe (with a top that was crunchy rather than solid). Shortly after this late lunch an unexpected tragedy occurred: after three consecutive victories, our team came in second at Team Trivia. Two of our members were on the late catamaran excursion, and some of the questions were fairly bizarre. For example, on what day of the year does "Burns Night" (some sort of celebration in honor of the Scottish poet) occur? I had never even heard of the blasted thing, and I have heard of many highly obscure things in my wanderings. After the game I asked a Scottish passenger, and he didn't know either. He knew it was an occasion for him to get drunk every year, but could not recall the exact date. There may be a causal connection between these two facts. Anyway, for the hopelessly curious, the date is January 25th. Another similar question was for the date of Anzac Day, which turned out to be April 25th, commemorating the beginning of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign in World War I. On the other hand, I was the only person who knew how many letters the Greek alphabet comprises, so the session wasn't a total downer. How did I spend the rest of my time, between Trivia and dinner, and after dinner? I'm not the kind of cruise passenger who frantically dashes from activity to activity, and I need a certain amount of pure alone-time. I took pictures of the nautical chart (displayed under reflective glass, unfortunately) showing the incredibly complex coastline, got one more pretty shot of the terrain through which we were passing (as well as a shot of three of the lovelier staff members), watched part of [i]Chicago[/i] on my television, made another pass through my 211-page camera reference manual, trying to figure out how to make the beast behave, downloaded the Laguna pictures to my laptop, deleting the 80% or so that were unworthy of preservation, and wrote the above. Oh yeah, and I continued my unending project of trying to catch up on my reading of all the books and magazines that keep arriving at my house. I've nearly finished the 10/24/02 (not a misprint) issue of [i]The New York Review of Books[/i], but a 972-page Library of America volume of early Henry James short stories is clamoring for attention as well. It's a challenging regimen, but I'm a pretty tough bear. After such a late lunch I had a fairly light dinner of SautEed Potatoes and Duck "Confit" with Melted Reblochon Cheese and Assorted Baby Greens, a Refreshing Peach Daiquiri Sorbet, something again involving lobster (which I can't categorize precisely because it was a late substitution not listed on the menu left in our suites, from which I've been quoting verbatim), and a Vanilla Bavarian Cream with Freshly Baked Madeleines. I hope I can survive until morning after such a meager repast. 1/2/04 After the past several days of intense and frenetic activity, it was nice to have a totally low-key day at sea, traveling along inside channels rather than out in the open Pacific. I reverted to my preferred cruising routine of getting up around 11:00 a.m. and had lunch in the buffet because they were featuring some of my favorite Spanish delicacies--gazpacho and paella--in which I indulged along with some marvelously fat mussels and a dessert of several chocolate items plus a small square of green Jello (which, as is well known, totally neutralizes the deleterious effects of any amount of chocolate). The buffet area is now totally enclosed, which I don't remember being the case on the [i]Cloud[/i] three years ago. So either that's another drydock design improvement or else the relevant neurons in my brain have died off. Then it was up to the open deck to continue trying to compel my camera to take decent pictures of the landscape--variously sized hilly or mountainous islands covered with green vegetation or, at higher elevations, with snow and ice, with a number of small waterfalls running down to the sea, very reminiscent of what I saw two years ago in the Faroe Islands. The sky was totally overcast, but somehow it didn't feel depressing or threatening, but rather had created a soft and mild ambience instead, a not unpleasant experience. After a while, however, it started to rain lightly, driving me back inside just in time for my usual late afternoon amusement, although I wasn't in time for the first session of a two-day workshop on Scarf Tying. Harmony was restored to the Team Trivia universe and we won again. In fact we would have finished with a perfect score except that the Trivial Pursuit card, which is arbitrarily assumed to be infallible (in order to prevent arguments and disagreements), incorrectly claimed that Botox was an abbreviation for "botulism toxin" rather than, as an urban Californian like me knows, "botulinum toxin." This is not as egregious an error as the claim in an early edition of the game that Aldous Huxley coined the phrase "brave new world," but it was a bit frustrating nonetheless. I had dinner with a couple of lawyers and their wives. Today's delicacies were a Wild Mushroom Quiche with Tarragon Sauce, Steamed Tiger Prawns and Chicken Dumpling "Chinese Style" with Sweet Chili and Soya Dipping Sauces, a Refreshing Pear Sour Cream Sorbet, Australian KobE Beef "Pot au Feu" Style with Ginger and Herb Relish as well as Leek and Potato Bouillon, and Floating Island with Vanilla Sauce. The ostensible KobE Beef was an absolute horror: apparently "Pot au Feu" is French for "dry, stringy, and tasteless." Or perhaps in Australia "KobE Beef" is what they call koala meat. In retrospect I have absolutely no idea why I didn't send it back and get something else, like my tablemate's Crisp Long Island Duckling with Orange Sauce, Marinated Red Cabbage, Broccoli, and Almond Croquettes. I think I must have been suffering from shock-induced paralysis. There was a bright side to chewing my koala meat, though: It gave me plenty of time to think of, for the first occasion in quite a while, an old hiking friend who lived in a small town near Death Valley and every year would invite all his Sierra Club cohorts to come up and join him in consuming the results of a Burro Bake. At least the petits fours were good. My tablemates were going to the post-dinner show and, feeling atypically sociable, I tagged along. Tonight's presentation was "The Magic and Comedy of Des & Cherry King." He told bawdily corny or cornily bawdy British jokes, she did a few dance routines (looking like a cross between a kewpie doll and CoppElia), and together they did several traditional illusions, including surviving sharp sticks through the box, disconnected head, and escape from the trunk. It must have been a pretty entertaining hour, because I never even came close to falling asleep during it. 1/3/04 Another day at sea, continuing to meander through inner channels. I took photos of the coastline as shown in a [i]National Geographic[/i] atlas. There was a bit more variety than yesterday with regard to terrain and weather conditions. Some peaks were pointy, others were more rounded. Some islets were tall, others were low-lying. There were whitecaps on the water. The weather was constantly cycling through conditions of partly cloudy, fully overcast, light rain, heavy rain, mist, fog, and hazy sun. Different settings on my camera made identical terrain look very different. A few small seabirds were even noticeable for the first time, dipping and soaring and swooping around the boat. I could only tolerate all this sensory overload for a few minutes at a time, but it's amazing how much attention you can give to your surroundings when you lose television reception. We came in third at Trivia today. There must be a disturbance in The Force. Tonight's dinner was all-French, and probably the best meal overall so far. I started with Terrine of Squab and Prunes on Chilled Celery-Pistachio Sauce, followed by Gratinated Burgundy Escargots in Garlic Herb Butter (so tasty that I ordered a second portion), a Refreshing Red Wine Sorbet, and a perfectly done Roasted Herb Crust Rack of Lamb with Natural Gravy, Ratatouille Niçoise and Fried Semolina Gnocchi. For dessert, while one of my tablemates ordered something very decorative, I just could not decide between a Chocolate SoufflE with Grand-Marnier Sauce and a Tarte Tatin, so ordered one of each. The bear was content. Meanwhile the terrain had been subtly changing. There were more barren outcroppings and islets of pure rock, while the channel was widening. One craggily majestic grouping particularly attracted me, reminding me strongly of Brunnhilde's Rock, complete with glow from the protective Magic Fire. 1/4/04 Had to awaken in the middle of the night (6:30 a.m.) for the "Exploring the End of the World" tour from Ushuaia, the southernmost major town in the world, in a very lovely location. It was another overcast day that again fortunately never turned to rain. This tour started out with a two-hour catamaran ride to a nearby rocky islet, on which were perched around forty bears cunningly disguised as sea lions. They were divided into harems of one male, several females, and multiple pups, preening, snuggling, and emitting a variety of low-pitched guttural vocalizations, sounding very much like a Russian Orthodox choir. Most of them seemed to prefer hanging out on the island to venturing into the frigid waters. Sharing the island were a few Imperial Cormorants, whose coloring makes them look very much like flying penguins. The cormorants had another nearby islet exclusively to themselves. Given the amount of diverse gunk in the adjacent water, it is probably fortunate that none of them flew directly over our boat. We eventually landed at Lapataia Bay, just adjacent to the border with Chile (the large island of Tierra del Fuego being divided between them), and transferred to a (toiletless) bus for a brief ride through a sub-Antarctic forest along a well-maintained dirt road that would have been the southern end of the Pan-American Highway if that project had ever been completed. Given the cold climate, what few species of trees there are here grow very slowly. A number of them have fallen as well, due both to a local fungus and to beavers (a non-native species, originating from twenty-five pairs of the beasts released into the wild after their fur proved commercially unsatisfactory). Rabbits are another non-native species, but they are kept in check via the introduction of the mixomatosis virus. There are about 200 species of birds in the area, including the Patagonian Gray Goose, but few native land animals other than guanacos, foxes, and the seldom-seen Patagonian Bear. The bus took us to, somewhat surprisingly, a train terminus. I immediately ran off into the woods, which, among other benefits, provided an opportunity to examine tiny white orchids closely. Some of you may be asking what a train station is doing here. The answer is fairly interesting. During the first half of the last century there was a prison here. An island surrounded by hypothermia-inducing ocean is a good place for a maximum-security prison, Alcatraz having been similarly situated. The prisoners were kept busy by felling trees, which provided heating for both the prison and for the inhabitants of the town of Ushuaia. The train-route was used to transport them to the lumbering areas. Now the narrow-gauge track is used by a cute little steam-engine pulling somewhat clautrophobic carriages to take tourists on a brief excursion through the terrain, with horses grazing amongst the stumps of felled trees, the usual higher mountains in the background, and a river running through it. This experience felt very much like a Disney ride. The train-ride ended at The Station at the End of the World (not to be confused with The Restaurant at the End of the Universe), with its touch of corporate branding, whence we reboarded our buses for the ride back to Ushuaia. Something I never knew was that rugby is very popular in Argentina, there being, for example, three rugby clubs in this town that has a population of only 45,000. By the time I got back to the ship, after poking around town a bit, luncheon was no longer being served in The Restaurant, so I had to make do with a meager room-service repast of Chilled Jumbo Prawns with Cocktail Sauce, Grilled Black Angus Beef Tenderloin with Herb Butter and Steamed Fresh Vegetables, and Cheese Cake with Caramel Sauce. I finished lunch just in time for Team Trivia, which we only barely won, the day's collection of questions including several really inane ones (i.e., ones that I could not answer). I forgot to take my camera to dinner, so will not frustrate you by providing the names of unphotographed items. The phrase "End of the World" is very popular down here. But sometime during the day I had a sort of contradictory insight. To me the surroundings were more reminiscent of the beginning of a world--various small chunks of land before they coalesced into larger components, predominantly homogeneous terrain before it burst into the wildly variegated heterogeneity which we now take for granted. Simplicity precedes complexity. No doubt entropy will eventually return complexity to simplicity, but we aren't there yet. Metaphorical musings such as these are not generally productive, but they are a pleasant bit of mind-stretching, and tend to arise in few contexts other than a cruise, where the mind does not have to spend much time worrying about quotidian concerns and can meander along seldom-trodden paths instead. We are scheduled to reach Cape Horn tomorrow morning around 6:00 a.m., so I sank into the arms of Morpheus at an earlier hour than usual. 1/5/04 When my wakeup call came at 5:30 a.m. I thought to myself, "Soon we will be at Cape Horn. How interesting." And went back to sleep. So you'll have to find photographs of it somewhere else. Anyway, all Cape Horn is is the southernmost point of the southernmost island that is near the South American mainland. It's not part of the mainland itself. Norway's North Cape is also on an island, for that matter. I'm not even sure why ships kept sailing around Cape Horn after the much less treacherous Beagle Channel and Magellan Strait had been discovered farther north. Today's post-breakfast amusement was doing laundry. There are only three washer-dryer pairs available to passengers, and one of them is presently out of commission. So there's a certain amount of competition for access, with people removing other people's washing after completion of the cycle and dumping it on the floor, pulling other people's loads out of dryers before the clothes are fully dry, and so on. People who don't come back to check on their loads in a timely manner are part of the problem as well. It would help if cycle-times were listed. I had to growl at several interlopers to protect my interests. For lunch today I had Chicken Ballotine with Fresh Herb Stuffing and a Spinach and Roasted Garlic Sauce, Chilled Cream of Pineapple Soup with Toasted Coconut, Enchiladas Meson Santa Rosa (Spiced Chicken Strips in Stuffed Corn Tortillas with Guacamole, Refried Beans, and Bell Peppers (I was curious to see a six-star presentation of a basically peasant dish)), and Churos[[i]sic[/i]] with Kahlua Sauce. Then up on deck for more terrain photos, including one configuration that reminded me of an ice cream parfait. We came in last in Team Trivia, the proportion of inane questions apparently increasing. Dinner: Grilled Marinated Oyster Mushrooms with Fried Spiedini, Veal Sweetbread and Wild Mushrooms Spring Roll with Parsnips Mousseline and Balsamic Jus (the first appetizer I've had served in what I consider an adequately sized portion), Refreshing Melon Portwine Sherbet, Chilean Fish Filet Topped with Hazelnut and Rosemary Crust with Crushed Potatoes and Zucchini, and Brittany "SablE" Tart with Apricots and Strawberry on a Light Pastry Cream. The modernistic Christmas trees were being disassembled tonight, so I snapped one in its final moments. I am becoming less and less happy with the level of service in The Restaurant. The only water I ever drink at Silversea meals is San Pellegrino, but there seems to be absolutely no member of the waitstaff capable of remembering this fact. I always have to stop them from pouring still water, or Chilean sparkling water, or Perrier. I know that with open seating you don't get the same staff every night, but there must be someone who has served me more than once. I arrived for dinner this evening a few minutes later than my three tablemates, so they had already been offered and served bread and rolls. After waiting for a while, I had to ask for the basket to be brought around again for my sake. And you'd better take as many pieces as you want the first time they're offered, because you're never going to see the bread basket again. Tonight I wasn't even offered any Pellegrino refills during the entire duration of the meal. The Bear is starting to get distinctly grumpy. Tomorrow is going to be another early day, with an 8:15 a.m. departure for a 13-hour one-day trip from Punta Arenas, Chile to Torres del Paine National Park. These "torres" (towers) are a group of absolutely magnificent sheer rock pinnacles, equalled for grandeur nowhere else in the world other than by the Trango Towers in Pakistan, which I was fortunate enough to see back in 1977 while toiling up the Baltoro Glacier on the way to the base of K-2. They look best against a background of sunny blue sky, but the forecast is again for overcast skies and intermittent light rain. If the weather turns out to be really rotten, it is even possible that the tour will be completely cancelled because the planes we've chartered to avoid an overnight trip will be unable to fly. We shall see. 1/6/04 Another early arising in preparation for an 8:15 a.m. departure (which turned into a 9:00 a.m. departure). We started out by driving twenty minutes through Punta Arenas to the local airport. Punta Arenas is a city of about 120,000 people, whose glory days as a resupply port started in the mid-19th century when shipping around the Horn increased (mainly due to the California Gold Rush) and ended with the completion of the Panama Canal. There was a lot of wealth in the place, and a lot of the older buildings and homes reflect this. Sorry I didn't get a chance to take any pictures around town. At the airport the group squeezed into four small chartered airplanes of various sizes. I was in a Twin Otter DHC-6, a twenty-passenger two-propeller plane chartered from DAP Airways, which had seats but little else. Fortunately the flight lasted for only forty-five minutes, landing us in the town of Puerto Natales, about 150 miles northwest of Punta Arenas. We then boarded another couple of buses for a two-hour drive along well-maintained dirt roads to Torres del Paine National Park. Much of the initial terrain was pretty featureless steppe/plain/prairie, reminding me of eastern Montana, through which Miarsus the Miata and I once drove on the way to finding out whether North Dakota really existed. (It does.) Patagonia has pretty mild winters, with an average temperature around 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Its main problem is that its summers are not that much warmer, with an average temperature around 48 degrees Fahrenheit. Cereal crops like wheat and corn, unfortunately, need an average temperature of at least around 52 degrees Fahrenheit in order to grow, which tends to limit the agricultural potential of the area, as well as the diversity of flora and fauna in general. Pretty much the only trees around are Southern beech trees, which, due to the cold, take an entire century to grow to maturity. The wind in Patagonia is virtually constant. This is because it is the only warm(ish) region for a long way around, and warm air attracts cold air in the form of wind from places like Antarctica and the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. On the subject of fauna, we did see a few rhea, which are the flightless birds of South America. Something the guide mentioned that had never occurred to me before was that flightless birds are found only in the Southern Hemisphere--rhea, ostrich, kiwi, emu, and penguin. Can anyone think of any northern counterexamples? We also saw a number of guanacos, which are one of the four species of American cameloids. The domestic ones are the llama and alpaca, while the wild ones are the guanaco and vicuña, the latter being found only at altitudes of at least 12,000 feet. Guanacos are found only (or maybe it's mainly) in Argentina and Chile. They are protected in Chile, but fair game in Argentina. I flashed on an image of the more intelligent Argentinian guanacos streaming west into Chile like Jean Gabin and Marcel Dalio escaping Erich von Stroheim's prison camp and crossing the border into Switzerland in Jean Renoir's [i]Grande Illusion[/i]. Returning to our bus after photographing the cutest group of guanacos we could find (they look much more dainty than llamas, almost seductive in fact), we discovered that a number of flies had joined us. They are not completely regarded as pests down here, though, because, in the absence of bees, flies join birds as pollinators of flowers. As the terrain became more hilly and various groups of mountains peeked out in the distance from the prevailing overcast, we finally entered Torres del Paine National Park. I was a bit surprised to learn that the towers were not named after anyone named Paine, Thomas or otherwise. "Paine" (pronounced like pie-nay) actually means "blue" in the Araucanian language of the original Tehuelche inhabitants of the area. The air in the region of the park is completely free of pollution. All possible nearby urban pollution sources (i.e., Latin American cities) are downwind from Patagonia. In fact the only upwind potential pollution source is somewhere in New Zealand, which is too far away for any of the gunk to reach here. At one of our photo stops, I posed for an ad to demonstrate the beneficial effects of the Silversea Diet. Finally the towers that had attracted me for so many years came into view. Sort of. The day remained primarily overcast, with the towers and surrounding mountaintops only sporadically peeking out to an only partial extent from the clouds, fog, and mist. Having a camera with only a 3x zoom didn't help matters either. Fortunately a search of the Web turned up photos of them taken in better weather or closer proximity, such as here, here, here, here, and here. According to our guide, we should have been grateful for being able to see anything at all, since on many days the area is totally socked in and/or rainy. So apparently it could have been a lot worse. I heard no one demainding refunds, onboard credits, or free cruises in compensation for not getting an absolutely clear view of everything. We also saw, rather more distinctly, another formation known as [i]Los Cuernos del Paine[/i]. These are multicolored horn-shaped towers, with bases of granite but darker sedimentary rock on top. Climbing them did not look as if it would be particularly pleasant. They gave off a very hostile and unwelcoming ambience, an excellent reminder that Nature is not always benevolently inclined toward us. We had lunch at a pretty little inn located on an island in turquoise-colored Lake Pehoe. This would be a good place to stay for a while in order truly to get away from it all. The main feature of the lunch was roast lamb, which was absolutely luscious--tender, juicy, and flavorful. For people who have been raised in the US eating dry, overcooked leg of lamb, the preparations of the meat down here are truly revelatory. I even defied the tradition of organized-tour meals by asking for (and, even better, receiving) a second serving of the delicious young flesh. Most of us napped during much of the bus-ride back to Puerto Natales, and we eventually got back to the ship around 7:00 p.m. (too late for Team Trivia), thus completing a moderately strenuous ten hours of gallivanting around. A welcome-back note signed by the executive chef and maître d' awaited us in our suites, along with a plate of canapes. These kept up my strength until dinner, which tonight comprised a double order of Crisp Maine Lobster and Porcini Mushroom Parcels, Refreshing Vodka Lime Sorbet, Roasted Wild Boar Rack with Fig Chutney, Saffron Apples, and Prune and Apricot Skewer (actually only two chewy chops), and Crêpes Suzette and Vanilla Ice Cream. 1/7/04 Ho hum, another day, another shore tour. This one left at a fairly rational hour, 9:30 a.m., so I was not forced out from under my warm down duvet and Frette linens too early. Today's jaunt involved a ninety-minute drive WNW from Punta Arenas on another well-maintained dirt road to a 9000-acre [i]estancia[/i] (ranch) in the Rio Verde district. The day was overcast, as usual, but warmer and less windy than some of the other days we've had. By Patagonian standards it could even be called pleasant. This ranch is mainly devoted to the raising of sheep, as well as some cattle and Chilean pedigree horses. Sheep ranches in Patagonia need to be quite extensive because each sheep needs almost 2.5 acres (one hectare) of grazing land in order to derive sufficient nourishment from the edible parts of the sparse vegetation. There was a low group of hills on one part of the ranch that turned out to be a great deal more interesting than your run-of-the-mill group of hills. It was a condor rookery, home to 60-80 of the huge scavengers. Coming from California, whose condors nearly became extinct before scientists intervened, I was quite glad to see proof that at least the South American variety was still thriving. Most birds need to eat six times their own weight in food every day in order to generate enough energy to keep flapping their wings in order to remain aloft. To maintain this standard a typical 26-pound condor would have to eat a heck of a lot of decaying flesh on a daily basis. Fortunately, for a variety of reasons, they don't have to eat that much. Because they eat meat rather than plant matter, they derive significantly more energy from smaller amounts of nourishment than most birds. And they expend much less energy while flying by gliding and soaring on wind currents rather than by constantly wing-flapping. After a quick coffee in the semi-enclosed dining area, where we also saw our lunch's main course being cooked, it was off for demonstrations of various farm functions. First came sheepherding, mainly performed by an Australian Kelpie dog. He compressed the sheep into a tight circle and then drove them very close to us. The sheep clearly did not like being so near a bunch of strangers, but the dog left them no choice. Dogs who do this sort of work seem a great deal brighter and more interested in learning than many people I know. Aside from giving signals, the accompanying cowperson, known in Chile as a [i]huaso[/i], had to do very little. Kelpies don't have a great deal of long-range endurance, though, so hitch a ride when being taken to distant flocks. We then proceeded to the shearing shed to watch, naturally enough, sheepshearing. This was performed upon an older, experienced ewe, who seemed perfectly relaxed and blase about the entire process. Almost all the wool came off in one piece, which, when laid on a table, seemed a great deal larger than when the sheep was wearing it. Eventually all the loose wool gets baled and sent off to be processed. The final demonstration took place in a corral, where we saw the Chilean horses put through some of their paces. Like all the various types of horses in South America, this breed is descended from the horses originally brought to the continent by the early Spanish conquistadores. The Chilean ones, in accordance with the Patagonian climate, are somewhat small, but very strong and quick. We watched a single cow being cut out from a "herd" of four cows and then saw a rodeo exercise. The Chilean rodeo seems to involve competition in a single rigidly choreographed routine that involves a pair of men and horses driving a cow around the ring in a certain manner. One horse keeps behind the cow while the other is made to walk sideways (apparently very difficult for a horse to do because it leaves it with only a signle eye to know where it's going), pressing the cow against the outside edge of the ring. Points are awarded and deducted based on how well the horse's chest keeps in contact with which part of the cow. This type of rodeo is apparently a big thing in Chile, with various regional competitions culminating in an annual national championship. Finally it was time for lunch. We began with an appetizer of [i]empañadas[/i] (meat pies, a Chilean national dish), washed down with a Pisco sour. (I finally found out what Pisco liquor really is. It is made from grapes grown in a particular region that receives nearly year-round sunshine, causing the grapes to develop an extremely high sugar content (hence subsequent alcohol content) that makes them unsuitable for use in wine.) The barbecued whole lambs were then hacked into various chops and other hunks of meat, served along with potatoes and vegetables grown on the ranch as well as rolls baked thereon. Lamb here is apparently usually eaten with a salsa sauce rather than with mint jelly, and it sharpened the meat's natural flavorfulness. A Chilean cabernet was the obvious accompaniment. The ride back to town was, as usual, pleasantly restful. I somehow survived until dinner, at which I had Marinated Fish Carpaccio with Lemon and Olive Oil, Cream of Forest Mushroom Soup with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Refreshing Banana Coconut Sherbet, Black Pepper Sirloin Steak with Creamy Polenta, Onion Rings, and Pepper-Cognac Sauce, and a couple of portions of Crème brûlee. 1/8/04 A day devoted even more absolutely to total sloth than most days, as we started the two-day cruise out of the bottom of the continent and up the Atlantic coast on the way to Puerto Madryn, Argentina. I wandered up to the pool deck around noon in order to take some pictures, and noticed the poolside light-lunch buffet. Since I had never eaten thereat on any previous Silversea cruises, I decided to try it, so had some hamburgers spiced with Dijon mustard, sides of pasta salad and marinated mushrooms, and a couple of tall glasses of Guinness Stout. Dessert comprised freshly made vanilla ice cream topped with almond liqueur and other appropriate condiments. For those who have never tried various combinations of ice cream flavors and liqueur varieties, Bear highly recommends the experience. The temptation of concluding the meal with a single-malt whiskey was somehow avoided. The remainder of the afternoon was spent in reading and napping. I'm finally on the last issue (12/19/02) of The New York Review of Books that I had brought with me, so can soon start reading something else instead. Reading predictive articles after the fact about events like the war in Iraq is amusing. Tonight was a formal evening, but I just did not feel like getting all dressed up in my Halloween costume, so remained in my cave and ordered dinner from room service. The service-slip for the day took the form of identical glassware being provided for red wine, white wine, and water. The menu was largely devoted to Italian food, so I had Thin Slices of Raw Beef Tenderloin with Crisp Parmesan, Braised Tomato-Onion Salad and Barley Dressing; Seared Sage and Seafood Kebab with Grapefruit, and Mango Relish; Refreshing Lemon Liquor Sorbet; Roasted Veal in Crispy Sour Cream Dough with Foie Gras Macaroni, Cumin Glazed Carrots, and Sauteed Chanterelles; and Walnut Praline Mousseline with Croquant Coffee Tuiles and Roasted Pine Nuts Sauce. 1/9/04 A very pretty day today, the sky almost entirely cloudless and blue for the first time on the entire cruise. This occurrence is no doubt attributable to the fact that this is an at-sea day, with absolutely nothing to see other than sea and sky. The day at Torres del Paine should have been like this. Grump, grump, grump. For the first time this cruise I went to the Panorama Lounge at 4:00 p.m. for tea. Had a few mini-sandwiches but, exercising massive self-control, ate absolutely no sweets, even though they were available in abundance and even labeled for one's convenience. This is just about as disciplined as I get. The institution of teatime is very civilized. You get to engage in a bit of desultory conversation with new or old acquaintances, while a pianist softly plays old standards in the background. Or you don't have to talk with anyone, but rather can gaze out to sea while contemplatively sipping. Quiet moments in modern life are getting fewer and far betweener, so should be treasured. I returned to the Terrace Cafe tonight for another themed set menu, this one French. The amuse bouche was Panache of Fresh Foie Gras with Mixed Berry Scotch. What, you may ask, is "mixed berry scotch"? I have no idea. Sometimes Silversea's menu descriptions are as impenetrable as the syntax of early Japanese motorcycle manuals, and it is best to let sleeping Scotch berries lie. Then came Mussel and Clams with White Wine Cream Sauce (which was really mussels and clam). The mussels had been freshly acquired in Punta Arenas and were the hugest representatives of their species that I have ever seen. I even had to cut one of them in half, a never-before experience in my life. The fish course was Seabass Filet on a Bed of Lobster-Carrot Mousseline with Crispy Potatoes and "Maitre d'Hotel" Sauce. Very nice--a few bites of delicate fishy flesh offset by the sweetly rich mousseline (belying its unappealing appearance). After the Refreshing Calvados Sherbet came the main course of Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Truffle Sauce and "Sarlat" Potatoes, "My Grandmother Recipe." The menu writer's grandmother apparently only had access to beef that, albeit tender, was dry and flavorless. And the truffle sauce was honored more in the breach than the observance. Matters improved again with the dessert of Warm Chocolate Eiffel Tower with Raspberries and Strawberries, a decadent confection I remembered from a cruise or two ago, as well as a few other sweet munchies. I also snagged what the Head Sommelier claimed was the last bottle of '99 Wente Reserve Cab on board. Silversea's lawyers, by the way, have been earning their keep. All menus now carry the following warning: "In fulfillment of our responsibilities, we must remind you that the consumption of raw or undercooked food such as meat, eggs, poultry, seafood, or dairy products increases the risk of illness to those persons who may be especially vulnerable." Yum, yum, yum. Break another raw egg over the Caesar salad and dish up that steak tartare! 1/10/04 Penguin Day has arrived at last! It's another largely sunny and warmish day, with the ship docked at Puerto Madryn, Argentina. The Punta Tombo Reserve, about 115 miles south of here, including 75 miles of unpaved road, is the summer home of about 800,000 Magellanic Penguins, the largest species of warm-weather penguins, where they somehow dig burrows with just their feet and beaks, in which to hatch and raise their chicks before migrating north to warmer Brazilian beaches for the winter. So a drive of 2-1/2 hours each way, on a toiletless bus, is required in order to spend one hour frolicking amongst the penguins. Southern Patagonia had at least some sort of grassy material covering virtually all of the ground, but the predominant picture here, about six hundred miles farther north, is quite different. It reminds me a lot of the high desert in California, especially the stretch of US 395 along the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada. Basically chaparral, with creosote-like bushes growing from bare ground. Endlessly flat miles and miles and miles of it.  I noticed that one of the passengers on the bus was reading an eight-page New York Times news summary. Having never seen such a thing before on Silversea, the only news summary ever slipped under my door having been a more generic four-page wire-service one, I asked him how he got it, and learned that one can request it instead at Reception. After we got back to the ship I verified this fact. What Reception could not explain, however, was how one would know to request it, given that its availability is never publicized. A paradox worthy of Zeno. Being an inveterate news-junkie, I was not at all happy to learn about this alternative source only when the cruise was nearly over. The terrain may look inhospitable to humans, but it is apparently appealing to a penguin. As we approached the entrance to the Reserve, the sight of the first few penguins waddling around in what looked like the middle of a desert struck me as incongruous in the extreme. When I had first heard about the huge number of penguins that summered here, I had an image of them concentrated in a vast single mass, like in Antarctica, but that's apparently not how it works. They are spread out across many miles of coastline, most of it off-limits to humans. We get to walk along only a small number of paths, fenced off on either side, within a subset of the penguinistic horde. The penguins, though, are not similarly restricted. Some of their burrows are even under bushes within "our" area, and they all waddle freely under the fence-wire between the two zones. Most members of this species are quite shy, and will hide in their burrows or flee when humans approach. But the ones here have become habituated to us. Both species share the paths quite hospitably, sometimes even side by side. Unless you get closer than about eighteen inches, they pretty much ignore you. It's like the intersection of two parallel universes. There were viewing points overlooking a couple of beaches and coves, whence various parents periodically launched themselves into the ocean in order to bring back tasty goodies with which to nourish their offspring, who kept up a perpetual bleating sound, while others were just lying on the beach, seemingly napping. I saw one regurgitating parent surrounded and virtually engulfed by four bleating chicks. Since each couple normally produces only one or two chicks, either this mother had undergone fertility treatments or else some interlopers were in the assemblage. All the chicks looked alike and were frequently exchanging positions in the jumble, so I was unable to tell whether or not the adult recognized its own children and was only feeding them. The ambience at the site was just very pleasant. People were calmly wandering around; penguins were calmly wandering around. There was no sense of frustration or intrusion on either side. Somehow the penguins looked less awkward on land than they have always appeared to me in nature documentaries. All in all, they were just mellow, tranquil, and dignified little beasties, sometimes even looking positively jaunty. The chicks, in their more generalized gray fluff, simply looked cute and adorable. I am seriously considering elevating them to honorary bearhood. My dinner this evening was again in the Terrace Cafe, along with two couples with whom I've spent a goodly amount of pleasant time. Virtually every course was really tasty (probably because none of them included beef). We began with a Truffled Praline of Foie Gras, with White Port Wine Jelly and Brioche. Then came Smoked Salmon Tatar with Sour Cream and Caviar. (I have to wonder whether Tartare was really meant, since the Tatars are well-known only for having been expelled from their homeland by Stalin and shipped off to Central Asia.) The soup was Wild Mushroom Cappuccino with Sun Dried Tomato. Everyone at the table raved about this: the mushroom flavor was very deep and satisfying; being served in a coffee cup with a bit of foam on top was an amusing bit of whimsy. Tonight's palate-cleanser was Champagne Sorbet, not accompanied by its customary Homeric epithet of "Refreshing" and called Sorbet rather than Sherbet for a change. Whoever writes these menus needs both a proofreader and an editor. Thankfully, instead of beef, the main course was Lamb Rack Dijonaise[[i]sic[/i]] with a Ratatouille and Potato Gratin and Sweet Garlic Jus, including four chops rather than the canonical two. Dessert was a Minestrone of Fresh Fruit with Vanilla Ice Cream. I'm going to have to look up the precise meaning of "minestrone," because this sure didn't look or taste like Italian vegetable soup. My determination to finish off the Wente Cab from last night left me feeling benevolent and merciful toward all humankind. 1/11/04 Today being the last sea-day, it was time for the traditional "galley brunch," a massive buffet set up in the galley. It didn't seem quite as opulent or extensive as the ones I've had on the larger Silversea ships, but I guess that is understandable given the disparity in size. There was also a traffic problem with lines going in both directions in a single narrow aisle. I sampled various items, but did not photograph any of them. I had not originally intended to eat at Saletta, as a protest against this additional degradation of the all-inclusive concept, but gustatory boredom finally necessitated a visit, and I'm rather glad that it did. The service and pacing was a clear cut above that provided in The Restaurant. One trivial example: After I briefly left between courses to go across the corridor to keep my bladder happy, a freshly folded napkin was at my place by the time I returned. This is how things are done in top restaurants. Supposedly the meal started at 7:30 p.m., so I naturally appeared on time, being the only person in the room for a while. Eventually other people filtered in, some as late as 9:30 p.m. (Spaniards, not surprisingly). In fact I think I was the only North American there on this night. No doubt you all are now saying, "Enough introductory boilerplate. What dishes were served?" So I shall not keep you in suspense any longer. There were three amuses bouches, one mouthful each of beef tartare, salmon with cream cheese, and a roll stuffed with bleu cheese. The primary appetizer was Chilled Cucumber Cappuccino with Smoked Salmon Stripes. Is there suddenly a non-coffee cappuccino craze? This was the second night in a row that I was served one. Frothy cucumbers aren't as interesting as frothy wild mushrooms, though. Then came a slice of Pumpkin Terrine with Lobster. This was interesting as a reminder of how pumpkin really tastes, which bears little relation to the overly sweetened version we get in pies. The fish course was Sake Flavored Sea Bass with Citrus Soya Sauce--contrasting flavors and textures interestingly playing off of each other. The main course was Whole Roasted Veal Tenderloin with Foie Gras Sauce and Mediterranean Couscous. This was very good, particularly after I requested and received an additional portion of the sauce. (I am eagerly awaiting a medical study that proves that all human nutritional requirements can be satisfied by foie gras.) A "pre-dessert" took the form of a few mouthfuls each of chocolate mousse and lemon sorbet, along with some very pretty petits fours. The real dessert was a Nectarine Tart with Kahlua Ice Cream. One seldom sees nectarines these days, but the backyard of the house in which I spent my early cubhood had a nectarine tree, so this treat provided me with a nice little Proustian frisson. Since I was eating alone, I wanted a single bottle of wine that would fit the entire menu, but my choice of the veal complicated this requirement somewhat. The sommelier and I consulted for several minutes, and finally decided that a mature Chablis would be dry enough to stand up to the calf as well as being suitable for the prior courses, so I drank nearly an entire bottle of 1997 Chablis Grand Cru "Vaudesir" Pierre Andre. It was a good match. This was one of the more reasonably priced wines on the list at "only" $55. Meanwhile the table of Spaniards near me ordered two bottles of '97 Lafite at $205 per bottle. The portions were a bit small for my taste, perhaps more suitable to an eleven-course tasting menu. And the serving-pace, at 2'15", was perhaps a bit brisk for a two-star restaurant. But I still found the experience eminently tolerable. Saletta's headwaiter, Steve Weber, provided service in a manner reminiscent of Silversea pre-9/11. My request for a souvenir menu to keep was fulfilled by one autographed by him and the chef. And he always addressed me by name when we encountered each other thereafter. Tonight's entertainment was a "farewell" variety show, featuring several of the entertainers doing bits of their acts. Des and Cherry did a few more illusions, interspersed with Des' appealingly corny patter. Shirley Dettmar, the assistant CD, sang several songs, including two operatic chestnuts in which she was accompanied by Colin Brown, the CD, who is a classically trained pianist. She is definitely able to produce a great deal of volume. The flute/piano duo called Key Breeze also tootled away briefly, ending with a medley of American patriotic songs that may have left the European members of the audience rather puzzled and bemused. This was a good way for me to get little tastes of some of the available entertainment rather than having to submit to full doses of any of them. 1/12/04 This is the last full day of the cruise, spent in Punta del Este, Uruguay, a very upscale seaside resort, with a large number of visiting boats and yachts, creating quite a jumble at the piers. The weather was absolutely gorgeous--sunny without being uncomfortably warm. I chose a cruise to Sea Wolf Island as my final excursion. And what are "sea wolves"? They're really sea lions, but in Spanish they're lupine rather than leonine. This is a permanent colony of what looked like several hundred members, so there must be an ample supply of anchovy and squid throughout the entire year. Since the island is now a nature reserve and since it is very rocky near the shore, our boat could not approach really close to the island, so most of the colonists looked more like sea dots, particularly without a decent zoom lens on my camera. But fortunately many of them were swimming out in the ocean, some individually, some in small groups, others in fairly large groups mixed with sea birds. The most surprising sight was a group of about five of them imitating dolphins by leaping out of the water simultaneously. These are definitely very appealing animals, although I'm not wild about the way their Antarctic cousins dine almost exclusively on penguins. On the other hand their Arctic cousins get eaten by my Arctic relations, so everything evens out in the end. The rest of the day was naturally pretty depressing, mainly devoted to packing, a process interrupted only by a dinner of Grilled Chilean Merluza on a Bed of Buckwheat "Crêpes", Salade Arlesienne (Fried Eggplant, Potato, Red Onion Rings and Tomato with French dressing), and Gambas Risotto with Basil. I was feeling too morose to order dessert. 1/13/04 Disembarkation at Buenos Aires in mid-morning, with a day room on the Executive Floors of the Sheraton. The room is typically ample, although the bathroom is surprisingly small. Leaving for airport at 7:30 p.m., so have several hours to kill. What to do? How about a nice lunch? After the dreadful beef I ate on the ship, I was glad to have landed in a place renowned for its cow-muscle. Right near the hotel was what looked like an older restaurant called Las Nazarenas, which featured meats of various kinds in various sizes. I ordered a 1.1 kilogram T-bone steak with a half-bottle of Malbec. This thing was absolutely monstrous, at least 1-1/4 inches thick. Sorry I didn't have my camera along, but their pictorial menu gives an idea of the dimensions involved. Some of the weight was taken up by the bone and a little by fat, but there was still a massive amount of meat there. I acquitted myself admirably, even managing to resist the temptation to pick up the bone in my paws and gnaw on it as a proper bear should. The steak cost 44 pesos, and the total bill was 86 pesos (everything being a la carte). A few years ago the dollar and peso were at parity, so this would have been a very pricey meal. But then the Argentinian economy collapsed, with there now being 2.9 pesos to the dollar, resulting in this feast costing a mere $29.65. Great for tourists, but the Argentinian middle class has been largely pauperized. I hope never to fly out of Buenos Aires again. American Airlines has around five evening flights to the US, all leaving within about a two-hour window, so the check-in lines are utterly horrendous. Aggravating the situation are security personnel asking the traditional series of pointless questions about whether you packed your bag yourself, whether it was ever out of your possession, whether you're carrying anything for anyone else, etc. Even the current US government, despite its preference for symbolism over substance in the realm of transportation security, has discontinued subjecting people to this loony litany. So the trip ended on a bit of a down-note, although I doubt whether there is any way of ending a cruise on an up-note, with the possible exception of immediately embarking on another one. In Conclusion Throughout this report I have made a number of critical remarks about Silversea's current level of service, but it needs to be emphasized and remembered that these are criticisms only in comparison to my previous Silversea experiences. I still had a marvelous time and Silversea is still a fabulous line. Nevertheless this will have probably been my last Silversea cruise for at least a while. Prolonged unemployment obviously has an adverse effect on the extent of one's discretionary income, and my current inclination is to start splurging on expedition-oriented cruises to more remote locales instead. All four of my Silversea cruises will nevertheless always remain treasurable memories. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2004
On January 29, 2004 we embarked on a 9-days cruise on Silver Whisper, which took us from Colon (Panama) to Callao (Peru). We had cruised on the smaller Silversea ships quite frequently in the past and were curious if the newer, larger ... Read More
On January 29, 2004 we embarked on a 9-days cruise on Silver Whisper, which took us from Colon (Panama) to Callao (Peru). We had cruised on the smaller Silversea ships quite frequently in the past and were curious if the newer, larger ships would also become our favorites. This was the major consideration to take this particular cruise. We had booked a midship veranda suite and the total cost was $7,942, which included an extra 5% savings, because we had already reached 100 days of cruising with Silversea. Most of the following comments are comparative to our experiences on the Silver Cloud and Silver Wind cruises we had in the past. We took advantage of the early embarkation possibility, which cost $100 per person but was well-spent money! We boarded at around 11 am, rather than in the afternoon, as usually done. We enjoyed the even more personalized welcome, the leisurely unpacking (on other occasions we had to really rush to make it to the lifeboat drill). We had our lunch and in the afternoon, after a good rest, we could watch the guests boarding the ship, while sipping champagne on our veranda. What a nice way to spend the initial day of the cruise... The increased roominess of the staterooms is really a big improvement, specially the bathroom, with the added shower stall and double basin. The walk-in closet will accommodate a reasonably large amount of clothing; there is also ample drawer space and a well-sized safe. The only size problem we encountered on the veranda: the furniture is much too large for one to move around more or less comfortably. All the amenities in the bathroom were excellent, and we especially enjoyed the above average fluffy towels. We also liked the expanded variety of classical music we could listen to in the suite. Quite an improvement indeed with very few repetitions. It was a nice touch to have put good quality binoculars in each stateroom - just like an umbrella, shoehorn, hair dryer, slippers and bathrobe, one item less to take with us next time! The Observation Lounge on the top deck can now be reached without crossing the open deck, as on Silver Wind and Silver Cloud. It is a quiet room, where continental breakfast can be had while watching the sunrise, or, later, reading a good book from the well assorted ship library. By the way, freshly squeezed orange juice has replaced the cartoned variety for good. The computer area was never crowded, not too expensive to use (for checking e-mails three times while on board, the total charge was about $15). The laundry service was even faster than on the other ships we know. Often was it returned by 3 pm the same day. Quality was, as usual, excellent. The jogging track may be somewhat shorter, however its width has been expanded, so there are no bottlenecks almost anywhere. Food was consistently good, more so when nicely served in the Restaurant, rather than in the more informal Terrace Cafe or the newly installed poolside barbecue. We did not use room service but for asking some mixed nuts to go with the afternoon glass of champagne. Maite D' Walter was of great help accommodating our particular wishes in his area of responsibility. To commemorate a special occasion we requested a special dinner - caviar, tournedos Rossini and zabaglione. It was superb. The special restaurant "Le Champagne" was an exceptional treat. The food was superlative, as was the service. It is a most worthwhile culinary experience, even if you have to buy a bottle of wine (otherwise all beverages are free of charge throughout the cruise). Menus are changed every two days. Early reservations (days in advance) are in order to secure a place in the small room. Food was prepared by chefs following an agreement between Silversea and Relais & Chateaux. The alternative dinner in the Terrace Cafe was good, but not outstanding. It was an Italian menu when we attended. Regretfully we ran out of evenings to repeat the experience and see if it became better. On the smaller Silversea ships these alternative dinners had always been memorable experiences. The Mandara spa offerings are superb, if quite pricey - a simple massage goes for about $2 a minute. We also found the shows offered and the variety of the available videos quite superior. The best musical entertainment was delivered by Duo D'Amour, we spent several evenings listening and dancing to their soft and classy music. Cruise director Ray Sollaire excelled with his top puppet show. Now to some of the details that were not so good. The quality of the wines has, in our opinion, deteriorated. The house champagne was also changed from the excellent Moet & Chandon to the little known Philiponat brand. Also, the quality of the hors d'oeuvres served during cocktail time has been reduced; almost never do you find some caviar or salmon. During the official cocktail parties (captain's evenings and repeaters' cocktails), there was just one glass of champagne but no replenishment was ever offered. The shore excursions we took were a mixed bag. By far the best was a tour to the Pachacamac ruins South of Lima and the visit to a horse farm thereafter. Here we were treated with good Pisco sours, lively music and dances, a show of paso fino horses (they are trained to move with a very smooth gait) and a quality lunch buffet of a variety of Peruvian food. Everybody had an excellent time, service was attentive and guests could even ride on those magnificently trained horses! The visit of the mud city of Chan Chan, close to the city of Trujillo and its port Salaverry, was very impressive. Even if much of the remains of this pre-Incan city are slowly disintegrating, the dimensions of palaces, streets and open spaces are awesome. The tour out of Guayaquil to visit a so-called "coastal hacienda" was very disappointing. Apart from looking at immense plantations of bananas, cocoa and other tropical plants, we were supposed to watch a working farm. But it was, regretfully, their day of rest... The farm had shrimp production going, we did not see one single of them, only one pond from afar. The lunch offered was extremely basic and they even ran out of drinking water. Cost of the 5-hours tour $110 per person. A truly deceptive experience. The "Silversea Experiences" are free excursions offered on selected cruises. All those we had in the past have all been satisfactory to excellent. Just to name a few: the visit of Chopin's museum on Mallorca, the dinner party on "Dune 7" in Walvis Bay, with great local music and the private Carnival parade in Salvador, Brazil. But on this cruise we were transferred to the Gatun Yacht Club, a facility formerly used by the Panama Canal corps of engineers. For the third time were we shown some local dancers, which had already danced for us on the pier during the embarkation and, subsequently, on the ship before dinner. There was some cold beer and soft drinks. We returned to the ship with one of the first tenders. Reading a good book on board was indeed a much better alternative. The lecturer Dr Atkins gave excellent renditions on the historical and socio-economic background of South America; he was indeed well documented on the subject. His talk on the Nazis in the area, though, was felt by many passengers as totally out of context. Given our proximity to Ecuador, Peru and Chile, a talk on the wars among these countries would have been much more appropriate. The pianist, Ms Nana Mukhadze delivered very good classical music. Those present would have had her play all evening. Once again, we noticed the mediocre quality of the baby grand piano. Silversea should really consider putting a better instrument on their otherwise excellent ships. We liked Silver Whisper very much to the point of booking our next cruise on board, taking advantage of the 5% savings that comes with this kind of advance reservations. Cruise consultant Selvaggia was indeed very patient with our various requests, which were promptly prepared for us. Silversea continues maintaining a very high level of service on their ships. We feel at home from the moment we step on board. And once again did we have cruising experience of extremely good overall quality. For further information: fleute@internet.ve Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2004
Imagine, if you can, the Ritz Hotel with propellers, blessed with all the facilities of a really good small town, and then stripped of all the traffic, litter and crime. What you are left with is the Silver Shadow. With a crew ratio of ... Read More
Imagine, if you can, the Ritz Hotel with propellers, blessed with all the facilities of a really good small town, and then stripped of all the traffic, litter and crime. What you are left with is the Silver Shadow. With a crew ratio of almost 1:1, service is the best afloat, provided by a European-trained staff. The whole experience was like being awake in a particularly vivid dream. Imagine drinking comp. champagne in the hot tub as Saigon emerges from the mid day haze, or having steak, onion soup and grapes for breakfast on your balcony, washed down with steaming hot coffee as the sun rises from the sea. On Shadow, you don't have to imagine. You get to do it as often as you like. The ship is cool, soothing and restful in terms of decor, and so spacious that, at times, she feels like the Marie Celeste. The food, both in range, quality, diversity and excellence of presentation, set this line apart, a fact reflected in the price tag. Still, with a repeat occupancy of 85%-more than twice the industry average-they must be doing something right. Accommodations are simply awesome. 90% have balconies with real teak decking and good quality furniture. Bathrooms and interiors are so luxurious that dragging oneself out of them becomes a real trial of strength. Nightlife is low key, revolving mainly around exquisite dining and convivial nightcaps with a passenger list that is, in general, well heeled and suitably travelled. You cannot be over-dressed on this ship. Many people take advantage of sumptuous on board accommodations to entertain privately, and why not? An air of incredible exclusivity hovers around this ship like lingering stardust. You might as well be completely detached from reality-the latter is just an interesting optional extra. Like everything else, you can take it or leave it. It's true to say that this ship is so compelling, so easy to linger in, that some passengers can't be enticed ashore, even by some of the most alluring ports in the world. Still, when you can linger in your bathrobe over a 24/7 room service menu that-alone-would put many mass market restaurant menus to shame, why would you? One word of warning: this kind of cruising-exalted, exclusive, almost fully inclusive-will absolutely spoil you for anything else. After all, once you've had a Rolls-Royce, you don't downgrade to a Skoda. And yes, that really is the difference. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2004
Silver Shadow review: Alaska Dates: 24JUN-3JUL Itinerary: Vancouver, Ketchikan, Haines, Wrangell, Sitka, Metlakatla, Vancouver If you're one for nature and scenery then Alaska is for you. The sights of the Sawyer Glacier up close, ... Read More
Silver Shadow review: Alaska Dates: 24JUN-3JUL Itinerary: Vancouver, Ketchikan, Haines, Wrangell, Sitka, Metlakatla, Vancouver If you're one for nature and scenery then Alaska is for you. The sights of the Sawyer Glacier up close, the snowcapped mountains, the whales, the bears, the bald eagles are truly spectacular. SilverSea even goes to the length of providing binoculars in each suite. I cruised through the tranquillity of the Misty Fjords. I must say that as spectacularly beautiful as Alaska is...for me, nine days of this was a bit repetitive. Cabin: Vista (439) This stateroom is a mid-ship, no balcony cabin. It was our thinking that I wouldn't get much use of a balcony on an Alaskan cruise. For our particular trip I think I was right. Having said that, the cruise that went the week before encountered temperatures in the mid- to high 80s (F) with blazing sun. On our cruise the temp 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. Bulgari amenities were nice and were replaced twice during the cruise. There is a walk-in closet with a safe. The safe worked intermittently. The refrigerator was well stocked and I was asked what two spirits I'd like brought to us. Oddly enough, when the spirits were brought to the stateroom it was obvious that one had been opened already. It was returned and replaced after a lengthy conversation with room service. They didn't understand why I might not want an already opened bottle. Food: There really wasn't a bad meal to be had aboard the Silver Shadow. The food actually ranged from very good to outstanding. The food 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', (i.e. not on the menu...where the meal is specially prepared for us) however the food was so good on the ship that I didn't choose this option. The ship offers two alternate dining venues: La Champagne, The Terrace Cafe. Both La Champagne and The Terrace Cafe require reservations but there is no supplemental charge to dine in either restaurant. There are, however no complimentary wines offered in La Champagne. Wines in La Champagne 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 does change every 2 or three days in La Champagne. The ambiance was that of an intimate restaurant. The food was very, very good. The Terrace Cafe is located 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. Service: There seems to be a dichotomy in service aboard the Silver Shadow. Certainly the service throughout the ship was impeccable and efficient yet, strangely it was impersonal. Service wasn't too friendly. I think that only one staff member ever inquired as to what our names were or what I liked/disliked. That one staff member was the Cruise Consultant and needed the info to book our next SilverSea cruise. This is a marked difference from Seabourn, Radisson or even Queens Grill on Cunard. Embarkation: This was very poor. We were given our key cards on the pier and then were told to board the ship. Once we were in the lobby there was neither guidance nor assistance. There was a crowd of people at both the reception desk and the shore excursion desk but I didn't know why. I couldn't believe that we were to just make our own way to the stateroom, (primarily because on other high-end lines you're escorted), so I asked a staff member. It was then that we were told that I needed to go to the reception desk or shore excursion desk to have our photograph taken for security. Embarkation really seemed disorganized. Disembarkation: 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 that the colors were paged was wrong which had many people concerned. The later flight people disembarked before the passengers with earlier flights. The Ship: The dEcor of the ship is very attractive, very light, and not at all glitzy. She's an easy, very comfortable vessel to get around with the design of all staterooms forward and most public rooms aft. The Observation Lounge overlooks the bow and was packed while I cruised the Misty Fjords and the Sawyer Glacier. This lounge is really for relaxing. It offers coffee, tea but isn't really a bar setting. The more social locations on the ship were the "Panorama Lounge" and "The Bar". It is in these lounges that people would congregate for their 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 of a floating Ritz-Carlton and less a seafaring vessel. Shore Excursions: I didn't opt for any of the ship's offerings so can't comment on that. I 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. Ship's entertainment: 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: Well, I had business in Portland on the 22JUN and saw a good deal on this cruise that was leaving just 2 days later from nearby Vancouver so I booked and sailed. Overall impressions: I 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. . Read Less
Sail Date: August 2004
Travelling with Ms Dry we decided to take the advice of a previous poster and book a Vista Suit on deck 4. Travelling to Alaska a veranda seemed to be unwarranted. Our decision was spot on. The big window was just what the doctor ordered ... Read More
Travelling with Ms Dry we decided to take the advice of a previous poster and book a Vista Suit on deck 4. Travelling to Alaska a veranda seemed to be unwarranted. Our decision was spot on. The big window was just what the doctor ordered and I believe our view was a lot more constant than those with a veranda. Embarkation in Seattle was a breeze. We arrived an hour early and the terminal staff was excellent. They took our bags and gave us directions and advice on how to kill an hour which was most appreciated. When checking in the process flowed extremely well, even the need for a security photo was no trouble. The Silver Shadow is a well thought out ship, basically divided into two sections. Accommodation Mid Ships to forward, public areas mid ships to aft. All internal public areas are plush. The reception area is roomy and spacious, The Bar is comfortable and cosy, The Athenian Lounge is spacious and practical. Seating in the Athenian is show lounge style and not set up as a cinema like most cruise ship show lounges. We did not partake in organized tours from the ship. We found value for money on the doc and had great guides and tours. Food !! WOW !! What an experience. Executive Chef Laurent prepared a feast at every sitting. Ms Dry took the seafood direction and I went for the mans meal, Beef. The quality of the beef was exceptional and I had long debate with Ms Dry as to what was the better, Beef or Seafood, our conclusion, a dead Heat. All aspects of the food experience were first class. Beverages are complimentary on Silver Seas except for premium wines. The wines served for dinner were excellent and of an international selection. Waiters would explain the wines prior to pouring. Beers and Spirits were always available. Entertainment was first class and varied. From Broadway to Comedy to Classical it was there for all tastes. Captain Emanuaele assisted by Cruise Director Michael made us feel very special, a wonderful experience. The all inclusive nature of Silver Seas Cruising has won us over and we will be repeat cruisers. Highly recommended. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2005
About us: My mother (61) and I (31) are frequent cruisers with Silversea Cruises. We started 1996 and got so spoiled by the company that we never went with another one. January 19th we joined the Silver Shadow in Acapulco. This time also ... Read More
About us: My mother (61) and I (31) are frequent cruisers with Silversea Cruises. We started 1996 and got so spoiled by the company that we never went with another one. January 19th we joined the Silver Shadow in Acapulco. This time also my aunt joined us for the cruise. It was her first time on a ship. Embarkation: We had the chance to embark the ship before all the others. Silversea offers early-embarkation from 10:30 am. This is for all passengers at a charge of 100 $ per person. Due to the fact that we have more then 250 days with the company it was free for us. We could go straight to our suites and also our luggage arrived shortly after us. Everything was prepared perfectly. A bottle of champagne and flowers have been "waiting" for us in the suites. Itinerary: The first leg of the cruise was 12 days. Acapulco Day at Sea Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala - interesting, very poor but very friendly people Day at Sea Puntaarenas, Costa Rica - we did a wonderful tour to the rain forest. Beautiful nature Day at Sea Fuerte Amador, Panama - so many things to see. We took a taxi and discovered Panama City and the Panama Canal Day at Sea Manta, Ecuador - it is easy to discover the area on your town, just take a taxi. Especially the city of Montecristi is worth seeing Day at Sea Salaverry, Peru - Again not enough time to see everything. Temples of sun and moon, the beautiful city of Trujillo Lima(Callao), Peru - the old and the new part of Lima - many things to discover The second leg of the cruise was 11 days: Another day in Lima - we still didn't manage to see all we wanted to Pisco, Peru - The tours offered by Silversea have been great - at least that's what everybody told us. We had a medical emergency and couldn't discover that area Day at sea Arica, Chile - Cute little city Iquique, Chile - the city is very interesting to see. It is also possible to discover two ghost cities (Lumber mines) which are close by Day at Sea Coquimbo, Chile - The best place to go here is the city of La Serena Day at Sea Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile - what a place. Only about 500 people live on that island but the nature is fascinating and it is really great to see Valparaiso, Chile - here our cruise was supposed to end but we loved it so much so we decided to stay on for another 21 days all the way to Sao paulo. We saw glaciers in the Chilean Fjords, hundreds of penguins on the Falkland Islands and a beautiful landscape Food: We had a wonderful Executive Chef on the Shadow. Laurent Austrui spoiled us. He and the other chefs did everything to make everybody happy Crew: Maitre d' Walter, the headwaiters, bartenders and stewardesses went out of their way to make us feel home. Officers: Especially Hotel Director Mark Rumbarger, F&B Manager Orazio Caci and Cruise Director Colin Brown have to be mentioned. The are always around. No matter what question or wish we had the never said no. Entertainment: The shows have been so so. But there have been to excellent guest entertainers. Steve Teague and J.C. Fisher. Great voices and good shows. Our Suites: The suites have been always clean and in good conditions. Of course you can always find a little scratch or mark somewhere. But this just shows how some people behave in the suites and all around the ship. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2005
We enjoyed every moment on board this lovely, welcoming and user-friendly ship. This was our first cruise. The weather was not good and the water very turbulent, as the shores of this coast are known to be. However, the fantastic crew, ... Read More
We enjoyed every moment on board this lovely, welcoming and user-friendly ship. This was our first cruise. The weather was not good and the water very turbulent, as the shores of this coast are known to be. However, the fantastic crew, from the chamber maid to the captain were incredibly helpful, friendly, communicative and competent. They actually made this trip memorable. The food was excellent, the duvet, pillows and the bed - the best we ever had outside of our home, and the cabin very spacious and comfortable. We particularly loved the walk in cupboard and the veranda. The library is small but very pleasant, and the restaurants very cosy and elegant. The gym is fine, although not huge and the champagne lounge (cigar lounge, really) very lovely. We would only make two less positive remarks: the DVD selection is not great (although not bad at all - we did manage to find 3 movies to watch!) and the entertainment was very mediocre. If you're after this side in particular, this small ship may not be for you. We felt so sad to part with it after 4 days, that we booked for next December. We were in absolute awe of the levels of personal care and wonderful attitude of all crew members. It is a great achievement for Silversea to have gathered such a great team from more than 20 different nationalities. The formal evenings we were warned about (some critics say Silversea is a little formal) of which we only had one, were very laid back and not at all stiff or pompous. The dress code was actually quite relaxed (most men wore shorts and short sleeves during the day, and long trousers and shirts in the evenings, and ladies in summer dresses, or shorts and vests during the day and pants and nice tops for the evenings. The exception was the one formal night.) The people on our cruise tended to be American, British and South African, but also from other countries. There were no children at all and very few young people. However, we, in our forties, felt very much at home, and were not alone. We loved the all inclusive approach of Silversea, and felt very pampered with excellent wines, champagne and spirits. It is expensive - but we felt that if one can afford it, and if you factor in beverages and service extra costs, this is well worth it! Many of our fellow passengers (we're told 60%) - were repeat customers. This does mean a lot. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2006
SILVERSEAS luxurious SILVER WHISPER: A long review of a short Caribbean cruise, with reflections on small ship cruising and suggestions for independent enjoyment of ports of call (St. Barts, Antigua, and Tortola) Lets be honest. One ... Read More
SILVERSEAS luxurious SILVER WHISPER: A long review of a short Caribbean cruise, with reflections on small ship cruising and suggestions for independent enjoyment of ports of call (St. Barts, Antigua, and Tortola) Lets 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 detre 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. Perhaps because the smaller luxury ships carry fewer passengers on less common itineraries, or perhaps because wealthy passengers are not as interested in cruise review web sites as the rest of us, there are relatively few recent reviews of ships like the Silver Whisper. BACKGROUND: What follows is a review of our experience on a four night March, 2006, Caribbean cruise on Silverseas all-suite ship Silver Whisper. I am semi-retired, in my late 50s, and not in the travel business. My wife and I have taken 17 cruises on a variety of cruise lines. When on vacation I prefer not dealing with lines or crowds, and tend to travel independently rather than with tour groups. I shall begin this review with a discussion of LUXURY CRUISING IN GENERAL; follow with a discussion of our SILVER WHISPER cruise in particular; then give suggestions for INDEPENDENT SIGHTSEEING at our ports of call (St. Barts, Antigua, and Tortola) with a gentle warning about an Antiguan incident; and conclude with a discussion of WHETHER LUXURY CRUISING IS WORTH THE PRICE. I shall HIGHLIGHT some topics in all capital letters, so that the reader can scroll down to any topic of particular interest. Before I begin, please understand the facts that: First, I have a value-oriented approach to travel. Those of you who have read my previous reviews (e.g. Star Princess in the Baltic, Constellation in the Southern Caribbean, Galaxy in the Eastern Mediterranean, Zuiderdam in the Eastern Caribbean, Tahitian Princess in Polynesia) are used to my personal viewpoint. Second, I am not an experienced luxury cruiser. Most of my previous 17 cruises have been on the cruise lines listed above. This may make me a less biased observer, or it may make me blind to some of the perks of luxury cruising. Third, 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 ten days in duration and $5,000 per person for the least expensive cabins. Finally, cruise ships change with time, and what I say here may not apply when you read this. Also, I apologize for any errors and omissions I have made, and suggest you supplement this review with other information from other reviewers. That being said, lets begin the review with the bottom line. THE BOTTOM LINE: This was an enjoyable cruise on a highly regarded small cruise ship calling at three of the less crowded Caribbean ports. PROS: The 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, no photographers, no bingo games); the talented musicians and entertainers (who were presented at reasonable decibel levels); the well traveled, well educated, and articulate passengers; and the inclusive pricing (drinks and gratuities). CONS: 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. SILVERSEA BACKGROUND: Silversea is a privately owned Italian cruise line with four luxury ships. The officers are predominantly Italian, and the staff is international. The Silver CLOUD and Silver WIND were built in 1994/5 for 295 passengers each. The Silver SHADOW and Silver WHISPER were built in 2000/1 for 382 passengers each. All cabins are outsides, and most have balconies. Silversea prefers to call them suites rather than cabins, although most are a single room with a dividing curtain between the sitting and sleeping areas. Silver SHADOWS and Silver WHISPERS cabin size (345/287 square feet 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. SILVERSEA CRUISE PRICES: How much does a luxury cruise cost? As an exercise to determine how much Silver Whisper cruises cost, I searched the internet for the lowest net per diem for various itineraries in 2006, after any available discounts but before taxes and port fees. With a few exceptions the prices ranged from about $400 to $700 per person per day (pppd) for the least expensive (outside but no balcony) cabins. The lower amount was for itineraries such as Asia, and the higher amount was for itineraries such as northern Europe. A balcony adds significantly to these prices, the price depending on whether the balcony cabin is located forward or mid-ship. The largest (named) suites are much more expensive than this. Repositioning cruises are less expensive, beginning around $300 pppd. SILVERSEA ITINERARIES: Like most luxury cruise lines, Silversea offers itineraries that span the globe, sometimes calling at ports not readily accessible to larger cruise ships. Most itineraries range from 7 to 14 days, but Silversea adds the option of designing your own cruise itinerary, allowing you to embark and disembark at any of the ships ports of call around the world, as long as space is available on the segments you want. The longer itineraries mean that the high per diems will have an even greater impact on your cruise cost. This is offset to some extent by the fact that all drinks and gratuities are included in the price, although one may wish to select surcharged premium wines and liquors or additionally tip staff as a matter of personal preference. SOME SILVERSEA OPTIONS: Adding to the price of the cruise are optional pre- and post-cruise hotel programs, some of which include sightseeing. Many of these are three days long and average about $300 pppd for hotel and transfers. Some, such as their English manor stays, may range up to $1,500 pppd. In addition, combined hotel and air programs, which include economy airfare and one night deluxe hotel stay prior to the cruise, are available through Silversea. Business class upgrades, home airport transfers, luggage pre-shipment, and cancellation insurance are among additional options. SPECIAL VALUES: Bargain prices are sometimes available in cases when a cruise is poorly subscribed, as one passenger reported on a war-time Middle Eastern itinerary and another on a last minute Alaskan itinerary, although neither listed the price or per diem in his review. 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 (actually per nocem on a short cruise such as this) 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 pp cruise fare, and the least expensive (independent) airfare from our regional airport added another $700. JUSTIFYING THE COST OF A LUXURY CRUISE: This leads to rationalization #1. If a luxury cruise is priced per diem at double what one would pay on a mainstream cruise, it is a good value, since the per passenger space and staffing ratios are nearly double those of mainstream cruise ships. Unfortunately, the usual per diem for luxury cruises is closer to three or four times what most of us are used to paying for a mainstream cruise. Then there is rationalization #2, which is the result of new pricing policies that some mainstream cruise lines have adopted in the last few years. Some mainstream cruise lines have curtailed discounting on cruise fares (you probably already know which cruise lines, one of which used to be our favorite). This leads to the frustrating message call our 800 number for the cruise price when one tries to plan a cruise vacation on the internet. Because of this opaque pricing and anti-discount policy, we find ourselves cruising less often, and as a result have that much more money to spend on a non-mainstream cruise experience. Finally there is rationalization #3. If you need to justify a luxury cruise, then you probably cant afford it. If luxury cruise prices are a significant concern to your conscience, if not your wallet, you probably arent going to enjoy spending that much money on self-indulgence. HIDDEN BENEFITS OF A LUXURY CRUISE: In talking with our fellow WHISPER passengers about why they selected a luxury cruise, each one mentioned the lack of crowds on the ship and in port. When a small ship is docked, one can generally walk off and back on without waiting in line. Unfortunately, this benefit is nullified when tenders are used, since these can add significantly to disembarkation times at popular cruise ports. The decision to tender passengers may be based on security or dock availability issues, but may also be based on financial issues as docking fees get more expensive. Personally, I think all cruise lines should include information whether the ship plans to be docked or tendered at each port of call in their itineraries, just as they disclose their port fees and taxes. This would help one choose among otherwise similar itineraries, and also would help the disabled make informed cruise choices. A significant theoretical benefit of small cruise ships involves HEALTH and SAFETY ISSUES. In an age of pandemics, why would one choose a ship with thousands of passengers when much smaller ships are available? Pandemics begin with an index case and spread rapidly in areas of high population density. It seems logical that an index case is more likely to appear, and the spread to be more rapid, on a mega-ship with thousands of passengers. Very few cruise ships, large or small, put enough emphasis on passenger hygiene, including passenger hand-wash options and gel dispensers near all dining and beverage areas, especially self-service buffets. You might want to take along your own disinfectant towelettes for use on the ship and on shore. In addition, if there is a fire or other disaster requiring passenger evacuation or re-routing, it seems logical that this is much more easily done on a small ship. Do not get me wrong, the mega-ships are just as concerned about passenger safety as the small ships are, but beyond a certain point the huge number of passengers and crew on some ships makes the logistics of responding to disasters exponentially more difficult. MEGA-MEGA-SHIPS: This brings me to the latest development in the cruise industry. Why in the world are we seeing plans for ships carrying 5,000 plus passengers and 3,000 plus crew members when such ships will swamp many cruise port facilities and will carry all of the increased risks mentioned above? Such enormous ships are not nimble enough to alter itineraries easily, and if one of them is out of commission due to fire, health hazard, or other cause, the financial loss to the cruise line and the ill-will generated among the passengers will be staggering. My impression is that these mega-mega-ships are being built to satisfy a perceived public desire for increased choices in shipboard activities and dining options, which is now being taken to bizarre extremes. Cruise ships are being bloated into floating theme parks. Why do I mention these issues in a luxury cruise ship review? It is with the hope that mainstream cruise lines will learn from the automobile and other industries that smaller and better quality products will ultimately prevail over behemoths. I hope that mainstream cruise lines will re-think their options and will start building small cruise ships with reasonable cruise prices, so that the public has additional choices in the small ship arena. Time to get off the soapbox and get on with the REVIEW of our SILVER WHISPER cruise. Silversea PRE-CRUISE documents are similar to those of other cruise 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 ones cruise preferences in Silverseas web site, but the site was not working properly when I tried it. Their webmaster told me that they were upgrading the site, and presumably it is functional now. We simply faxed our pre-cruise information forms. Those interested in the alternate dining at La Terrazza or Le Champagne restaurants (see dining options below) should inquire about the possibility of pre-cruise reservations (all of the La Terrezza nights were full and waitlisted 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 cruise 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 (a stylized S that looks a bit like a seahorse). We used neither, but they make nice souvenirs. The most useful tags we ever received from a cruise line had our names, membership numbers, and an 800- number to call if the baggage was found. That luggage locator tag has remained on our bags ever since. Other cruise lines should consider a similar service. EMBARKATION: We generally find it less expensive and more flexible to make our own air and transfer arrangements. Our flight touched down at San Juans airport (SJU) at 4:30pm on embarkation day. Since we travel without checked bags, just a regulation carry-on each (see my previous reviews for the secret to traveling light), we were at the cruise dock ready to board the ship at 5:00pm. No 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. GREETERS: 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 ships location. The 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 5pm. 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. LINES: The WHISPER was docked alongside a much larger mainstream cruise ship that was making a port call at San Juan. Unfortunately there was a long line of returning passengers from that ship stretched along the sidewalk, waiting to clear security. There was no Silversea representative curbside to allow us direct entry to our own ship, so we waited in line along with the other ships passengers. The curbside delay was only 15 minutes. As we waited in line I realized that some of the advantages of small ship cruising disappear as mega-ships proliferate and make cruise ports more crowded. In any case, we met some enjoyable fellow travelers as we waited. We felt a little smug, not because we were boarding the WHISPER instead of the neighboring mega-ship, but because our entire cruise luggage was smaller than some of the shopping bags waiting in line with us. (More about compulsive shopping when we land in St. Barts.) WELCOME ABOARD: As I look back on our welcome aboard the WHISPER, what I remember most is that 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, and that was it. One must imprint ones credit card (or arrange other payment for ones shipboard account), but for some reason the reception desk did not do this at embarkation. We received a notice later in the cruise to do this, but think it would have been more efficient to handle it at the outset as other cruise lines do. We had imagined that a ships officer or hotel manager would greet us and a waiter would offer us a glass of champagne at embarkation, but there were none. There was a tray of partially filled champagne flutes on the registration desk, but since the levels in the glasses varied, we assumed that these had been sipped and were waiting to be cleared. 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. The champagne was a great anodyne after our three long flights that day. FIRST IMPRESSIONS are important, and Silversea certainly missed an opportunity to impress from the outset. Embarkation on our other cruises has ranged from elegant to disorganized. This seems to vary more by individual ship than by cruise line (each line has had its hits and misses). To be fair to the WHISPER, we were 15 minutes later than the recommended boarding time due to the curbside line, and the boat drill began 15 minutes after our embarkation, so their staff was busy. ROOM SERVICE: Since our flights had no food service, we were hungry for a snack with the champagne. One of the negatives about a small cruise ship is that there are gaps in food service. 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 a persons name and a please leave a message answer machine. We never needed room service after that and do not know how efficient it is. We had packed Girl Scout cookies for just such an occasion, and had a great time celebrating the start of our cruise by drinking the champagne and raising toasts to the little scout who had sold us the cookies the day before. The secret to a happy vacation is to be happy. THE DECK PLAN of the WHISPER is quite logical, with cabins located forward and public areas located 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, without that lost-in-a-maze feeling one sometimes has during the first few days on larger ships. The one downside of the deck plan is that 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. We really appreciated how hard the crew works, and we told them so when we rode with them on the elevator. THE CREW: That brings up the issue of how some passengers treat crew members. Every cruise we have been on has had a few toxic passengers who make things difficult for the crew. Being demanding is especially tempting on a luxury cruise ship that advertises its premiere service. We have found that crew members on all cruise ships tend to be interesting, intelligent, and often highly educated people who by chance were born in a third world or war-torn country, and therefore do not have the job opportunities that we as Americans were born to. We do not impose a false camaraderie on them as is done on some cruise lines, but we do try to let them know that we appreciate that they are individuals and not just service employees. I think that most cruise passengers do the same, and the thought is appreciated. CABIN LOCATION: 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% of the cabins (all cabins are outsides, and 80% 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 ships center of gravity), especially since the ship tended to roll in good weather with mild to moderate seas. This certainly is not a problem on the usual Caribbean cruise, but may be a concern when crossing the North Atlantic or other rough 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. CABIN AMENITIES: The WHISPERS cabins are almost double the size of the average cabins on mainstream cruise ships. The cabin 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 cabins 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 minibar 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 minibar, 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. ALCOHOL: This brings us to the issue of free (included and essentially unlimited) alcoholic beverages. I have mixed feelings about this. Although we did not see any noisy drunken behavior, we did see a few quiet drunks, just as on any other cruise. Human nature leads people to over-indulge when drinks are all-inclusive. Those who drink reasonably end up subsidizing those who drink excessively -- restraint always pays for excess, whether it is health insurance, car insurance, or any other form of subsidy. Some cruise lines and all-inclusive resorts limit included (its never free) alcohol to wine or beer with meals, and this seems a reasonable compromise. I am told, however, that this is unpopular and that other semi-inclusive cruise ships are going fully inclusive soon. At some point this will become a safety issue, as one reads more and more about cruise passengers acting foolishly and even disappearing overboard. When careless or drunken behavior becomes a threat to passenger safety, the cruise lines will be forced to reconsider their alcohol policies. We will see how this develops with time and media exposure. STEWARDS: Our cabin was maintained by two chambermaids, one from Iceland and one from India. Although from opposite ends of the earth, one a fair beauty and the other a dark beauty, 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. THE PUBLIC AREAS ARE SUBTLY DECORATED in neutral colors, mainly off-white with pale blue, gray, or beige accents. There is no glitzy atrium or hey-look-at-me type 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. A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS: Rather than my describing each of the public areas around the ship, I suggest you log on to 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. SPACE RATIO: 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. 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 of their numbers. My wife and I thought that the dance floor would be too crowded to use 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 RYAN COMPANY of six dancers and two vocalists provided entertainment in the show lounge every evening after dinner. Their 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. I usually have to leave the cruise ship theater after a few minutes of ear-blasting pain, but on this cruise I was able to enjoy each production from start to finish. Kudos to the man in the sound booth (and to the absence of loud music around the swimming pool)! FELLOW PASSENGERS on this cruise were not what we expected. The average age was around 60, but ranged from the 30s to 80s. The average BMI was around thirty, but ranged a good deal higher (thin and rich do not always go together). 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. Mirabile dictu, 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, Celebrity, or Princess cruises. Perhaps it was just this particular short cruise. Sartorial habits aside, everyone we were seated with when dining 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 ones 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 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 TERRAZZA 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 pp 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. That in itself makes the experience pleasurable. 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. THE MAIN RESTAURANT: The food is good to excellent, similar in quality to the good food found in the main dining rooms of Celebrity, Holland, or Princess ships to the excellent food found in the surcharged restaurants on those same ships. We experienced a few minor lapses in service on the WHISPER. One appetizer and two drink orders were forgotten; often my water glass was not refilled when empty (the wine service was more reliable but the water was more important after a long day in the sun); 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 which 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. Such minor lapses made me appreciate the service at traditional dining venues found on mainstream cruise ships. When the waiter and his assistant see you every evening, they get to know your preferences and their service improves accordingly. Similar service is probably available to Venetian Society members on longer cruises. 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 CUISINE: The WHISPERS main restaurant provides a cuisine that matches, and sometimes exceeds, the fine dining we have experienced on other ships. Cruise lines know that dinner is the highlight of the day for most passengers, and they allocate their resources accordingly. Even mainstream cruise lines are now extremely successful at providing memorable dining, and the margin between cuisine on the 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 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. We did encounter a few minor lapses in food preparation and a few menu choices that seemed a bit odd. The fish courses were generally cooked to perfection, although my lobster and salmon were each somewhat overcooked on one occasion. This is a matter of chance. The lobster I was served was rubbery and adherent to the shell. I simply left it uneaten and instead treated myself to an extra dessert at the end of the meal. 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. One feels bad about ordering and then not eating food, but everyone was discreet about it. The fish courses are served with the traditional fish knives and forks. Ironically, 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 straight off the grocery shelf  unfortunately they 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, and only serve to reinforce the old saying de gustibus non disputandem est  there is no arguing matters of taste. You will have a very enjoyable time in the WHISPERS main restaurant, and if you plan far enough ahead, you may be able to sample their alternative dining. Before we leave the ship for a discussion of the ports of call, let me warn you about the 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 per minute fee from the first keystroke, whether working off-line or on the net. When I tried to use their system, I generated a charge of US $4.50 before even logging onto the net to access my e-mail. The on screen meter which tracks these 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 just as politely removed the charge from my account. I never did use the net on the entire cruise. Some passengers brought their laptops and used the ships wireless capability for e-mails and internet phone calls. I am uncertain whether there is a charge attached to this service. Some passengers complained that the net connection is slow, so the charges can be daunting. PORTS OF CALL ON YOUR OWN: That brings us to the other reason (after the food) that we enjoy cruising  the ports of call. Our cruise left from San Juan and was scheduled to call at Virgin Gorda, then Antigua, then Tortola, then return to San Juan. ST. BARTS: Because of the ocean surge at Virgin Gorda, the tenders were considered unsafe and our first port of call was cancelled. After some communication with the Silversea head office, our master decided to spend the first day motoring to St. Barts instead, where the anchorage is more protected. Essentially we had an unscheduled day at sea, anchoring at St. Barts in the late afternoon, with shore tenders available from 4-11pm. Having never previously called at St. Barts, which is reputed to be one of the most wealthy and stylish islands in the Caribbean, we were interested in seeing as much as we could in the two hours of daylight we had left. Fortunately we reported to the tender gangway early, because our late arrival in port meant that everyone was eager to disembark and the wait was a bit longer than usual. Meeting the tenders onshore in Gustavia were taxi (mini-van) drivers willing to provide a one hour island tour for US$12 per person (for a minimum of six people or $72). There were about 60 passengers on our tender, and not a single one was interested in seeing the island. They all headed directly to the main shopping street, which is lined with enough designer boutiques to satisfy any affluent Parisian. It was like watching a zombie movie, but the zombies were lusting after designer fashions instead of human flesh. It seemed an apt commentary on our consumer society, where even those who have everything seem to spend their vacations searching for more. In any case, since daylight was limited we did not wait for the next tender to provide more possible tour participants. Instead we walked along the waterfront clockwise past the small Anglican church and then over a small rise to nearby Shell Beach (Plage de Grands Galets). The route is marked or one can ask a local person. It is a pleasant ten minute walk from the tender port. What added to the pleasure of the walk was a line of the largest and most elegant sailboats we have ever encountered. Apparently a regatta was scheduled to start in a few days, and luxury sailboats ranging from about 40 to 60 meters in length were lined up at the dock. One could smell the affluence, even though the crew members we spoke with (perhaps an occasional owner hidden among them) were quite personable. Each boat had a minimum crew of ten, and what we saw of the rigging and the interiors was breathtaking. Shell Beach is quite pleasant, with rough rather than fine sand (as the name implies). The near end has a beach bar and restaurant that is convenient for those spending several hours at the beach, but we preferred to wade around the rocks to the far end of the beach for more privacy. We had a wonderful sunset swim and saw no one else from the SILVER WHISPER on the beach. There were a few yacht owners swimming laps parallel to the shore, with their crew following them back and forth in zodiacs for safety. As we were passing the Anglican church on our way back to the tender port we heard singing and stepped inside. The church choir was practicing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handels Messiah for their upcoming Easter service. We sat for a while and enjoyed their amateur but joyous rendition. It was dark by the time we made it back to the tender port, feeling refreshed and happy that we had a chance to enjoy our brief stay on St. Barts. ANTIGUA: The SILVER WHISPER docked at the cruise pier in St. Johns and was dwarfed by an adjacent RCL cruise ship. Exiting the cruise pier leads one through a gauntlet of tourist shops, tour operators, and taxi drivers. The natural tendency of cruise passengers is to walk briskly through this gauntlet, ignoring the various people offering goods and services. Instead of ignoring them, at least acknowledge our shared humanity by looking at them directly and thanking them politely when declining their offers. Remember that these people own the island and we are their guests. In our 17 cruises we have never opted for a tour organized by the ship. We prefer to explore on our own, using xeroxed sections of guidebooks we purchased or obtained from our local library. On Antigua we enjoy the inexpensive public transportation. Official minibuses leave frequently from the west side and east side bus stations, covering almost any destination (or beach) on the west or east side of the island respectively. From the cruise pier, the west side bus station is three blocks inland to Market St., then several blocks south to the market (which is located behind the large white statue and is worth a quick visit in itself). The east side bus station should be (we have not used it for a few years) one block north to High St., then several blocks inland to the park. Any local can direct you. From the west side bus station we usually take the bus south to Jolly Beach (US $1.50 pp). It is the end of the line (about 15-20 minutes by bus) and has frequent service because many locals work in the shops and resorts there. A dispatcher at the bus station will guide you to the correct bus. When using the local minibus, it is customary to greet other passengers as one boards, and to move as needed for passengers to enter or leave. We have found our fellow passengers to be very helpful in answering questions or pointing out destinations. At the end of the Jolly Beach bus line, follow the signs to the gravel road public access west and south around the gate-guarded resorts to the south end of the beach. Walk north along the beach past the various resorts (they get a little more upscale as one walks north) until you find the perfect patch of sunshine (or shade) for your beach towel. Jolly Beach is travel poster perfect, and typical water activity rentals are available. On this visit, for the first time during any of our many visits to the Caribbean, we came across a little attitude. We had put our beach towels on the sand in a patch of shade under a thatch roof on the beach (all of which is public land). An hour later a hotel security guard chased us off  apparently a guest felt that the shady spot was his because he had placed a beach chair there several hours earlier. Cruise ship pool pigs leave a book or T-shirt on the chaises longues early to reserve them for use later in the day, a practice we dislike and think should be eliminated. This little beach incident was similar but took us by surprise. Generally the public access to, and public use of, beaches is respected. If you prefer, minibuses to Dickenson Beach head north from the west side bus station, but we have not gone there. From the east side bus station buses head southeast across the island to English Harbour (Nelsons Dockyard historic district). Shirley Heights is not far away from there, and one might consider exploring that too. If I recall correctly, there is a nice, very private beach over a small hill just a short walk away from Nelsons Dockyard. Any local can direct you (ask at the nearby store). Last time we were there, an enormous yacht was anchored nearby, and a Duchess of Windsor type surrounded by several of her stalwart sailing crew motored ashore and shared the beach with us. Riding local minibuses can be as exciting as watching an Imax movie. On this trip our driver made change for passengers, smoked a cigarette, spoke on his cell phone, shifted gears, and turned the steering wheel, all while driving on the left and dodging pedestrians (which is the reason we do not rent cars in the Caribbean). As in an Imax film, if you get frightened during the drive, just close your eyes. In the afternoon, as the day cools, consider a walk though the town of St. Johns. It is a somewhat gritty town, but the people are polite and very friendly. There is a large old Anglican church on the hill several blocks east and north of the cruise pier. When we were there this time, the funeral of a prominent citizen was taking place. The parishioners were beautifully dressed, and the sound of their 500 voices singing traditional hymns in harmony echoed off the beamed ceiling and penetrated to the heart. It was a most moving experience. TORTOLA: The SILVER WHISPER was scheduled to tender into Road Town, but since we were the only ship in port, we docked instead. Tortola is very much like St. Thomas but more affluent and less crowded. One of the nicest local beaches is Cane Garden Bay, which resembles Magens Bay on St. Thomas but has no fee and is less private. Just east of Cane Garden Bay is Brewers Bay, which is said to provide good snorkeling. Taxis wait at the pier and will take you north over the spine of the island to the beaches, with fantastic views in all directions along the way, for about US $6 pp each way. Alternately, an open taxi (jitney style with sun protection) waits at the pier and offers a 3 hour round island tour, again with fantastic views of neighboring islands and photo stops along the way, plus an hour swim at Cane Garden Bay, all for US $20 pp. The drivers name on this visit was Larry, and I think he meets each cruise ship. If not, the local tourist board representative or taxi dispatcher who are at the pier should be able to arrange it for you. As Caribbean islands become more crowded, especially when more than one ship is in port, my wife and I prefer to escape to some of the nearby islands for a beach day in solitude. In this case, one can take the private ferry to nearby Peter Island (still owned by the Amway Corp. I believe) for US $15 round trip. This is a very quiet, very upscale island resort that allows day visitors but requests that they use the far east end of Deadmans Beach. The near end is reserved for resort guests. The far east end of the beach is shared with the yachters whose boats are anchored offshore. A restaurant is available in the middle of the beach, and we were told it takes credit cards. A taxi will take you from the cruise pier to the Peter Island ferry pier (caution, there are several ferry piers) for US $4 pp each way. Notify the ferry captain on your return that you need a taxi, and he should be able to radio ahead. As I write this, outbound ferries leave Road Town at 0830, 1000, 1200, 1400, 1530. Return ferries leave Peter Island at 0900, 1130, 1330, 1430, 1630, 1800 and 1930. Verify the schedules with the tourist office representative (or on the net) to make certain you do not miss your boat! Other ferry services run to neighboring islands, but these are farther away and less practical for a day escape. END OF CRUISE DISEMBARKATION: 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 0700 and 0800 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 0900 and is complete by 1000. As Silversea recommends, do not book 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 WHISPER crew member graciously took my wifes roll-aboard down the gangway to the dock for her. As we left the ship we felt truly pampered. It is time to bring our cruise and this review to a conclusion. In the end, WHAT DOES ONE GET FOR THE EXTRA COST OF A LUXURY CRUISE? Judging from our experience described above, one can expect more space, fewer crowds, and better itineraries. Dont expect better food or better service than on some mainstream cruise lines  over the last few years their food and service have improved to match what we experienced on the Silver Whisper. IS A LUXURY CRUISE WORTH THE EXTRA 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. TO END ON A PERSONAL NOTE, 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. Happy cruising! efschlenk at hotmail dot com. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2006
Getting there  We spent one night in Miami and 4 in St. Lucia. We had to depart our resort in St. Lucia at 6:30 a.m. to make our 8:45 flight. We paid $21 each departure tax at the George Charles airport. We boarded our American Eagle ... Read More
Getting there  We spent one night in Miami and 4 in St. Lucia. We had to depart our resort in St. Lucia at 6:30 a.m. to make our 8:45 flight. We paid $21 each departure tax at the George Charles airport. We boarded our American Eagle prop job at 8:00 and departed at 8:50. We arrived in Puerto Rico at 10:25, 35 min ahead of our scheduled 11 am arrival time. At George Charles in St. Lucia, all 4 of our bags were searched, as well as carry-ons, book pages were turned, all devices turned on. Then a second time, all items were again removed from my purse, even the Altoid mints were smelled. Customs was a breeze in San Juan. We were at the taxi stand at 11. We were given a ticket and quoted $19 for the fare and $2.50 for our bags (50 cents for first 3 and a dollar for the next one). The driver had us at pier 1 at 11:25. We went to see if we could leave our bags with Silversea in the terminal and were immediately offered the $100 pp early embarkation that had been refused at time of booking due to the cruise before ours being a charter. We jumped all over it. A white gloved, formally dressed gentleman waited with us while all of our bags were loaded on a dolly. He escorted us up the gang plank and to reception on the ship where we were happily greeted. Our ID cards were ready. We surrendered our passports and were told it would be 10 minutes for our suite and that we would have to come back later for our security photos. We were given Vueve Cliquot champagne. Everyone seemed so happy we had boarded the ship and would be sailing with them. We were already feeling the same way. Our white gloved gentleman took us to the Panorama lounge where a very nice lady offered us anything we desired to drink from a seat with a lovely view of our choice. They had mixed nuts also at the bar. We took a few pics outside until it began to drizzle. Leisurely, we browsed the computer center, library and other public areas and then went to our suite, as we were told lunch was served on deck 4 from 12-1:30. Our bags were ensuite, laid out on the bed, and the stewardess was in the room stocking all the refrigerator and drink selections we had made. Only thing not there yet was the orchids, which arrived soon after and also the foam pillows I had requested online. Suite Upon walkup, we saw 915, our suite number, a mail slot, and a doorbell and card slot for entry. Inside, the bathroom had a glass-enclosed shower stall, toilet, double marble sink, a tub with a removable shower head and there were 2 shelves below the sink. There is a clothes line that you can put across the tub area for drying swimsuits. The stewardess did this for us each day. Also all the Aqua de Parma amenities were theretwo types of soap , body gel, shampoo, conditioner, and lotion. Shelves above contained water glasses, cotton & Q-tips, and tissues. Next was a walk-in closet. There were a number of hangers along two racks and then half the closet with only one rack for longer items, a suitcase shelf, a shoe rack, a tie rack, a chest of drawers, a digital safe, and those trusty life jackets. There was a light, and the closet also had a blanket in it. One drawer had a number of items for shoeshine, a sewing kit and a hair dryer. The bed had a nightstand on either side with lamps, and the left side had a clock. Four pillows were under the covers and then there were 3 throws. Opposite the bed was a dressing table with stool and various style plugs, including American. There was a magnifying mirror there. Next were the drapes than can be drawn and then the sitting area. There was a nice love seat with lamps and end tables on both sides. There was a chair that was more comfortable than it looked and a small table. There was a bigger table in the closet they can add on top of this to facilitate dining in the suite. Along the wall was the fridge in the lower left cabinet of the desk, which contained juices (4 kinds, one each) and then a few soft drink items and ice. Personalized stationery, postcards, in-room dining menus, and a book about the services offered were on the writing desk Above on the left was a cabinet where they put glasses, binoculars, and any drink items you requested. On the right side, there was the very small TV/VCR that swivels (when you figure the device out) and on the shelf below there was a DVD player that will also play your DIVX and mp3s from home. Below that was fruit-grapes, banana, pear, apple and sometimes a plum. The desk also had a variety of plug-ins. Each light throughout the cabin had a conveniently located switch to control it, so there was no wondering around trying to figure the lights. Recessed lighting is used a number of places, as well, so you can have it as light or not, as you choose. The verandah was nice with 2 comfortable, adjustable lounges and a small table. No footstools like those shown in the brochure. There were walls on either side for privacy. We were the last cabin on deck 9, so we knew we were not being looked at. I cant comment on if this would ever be an issue or not, but I doubt it would be worth any concern. In our closet were two thick, lovely robes and two sets of slippers, mans and womans. We got Aqua de Parma and Bvlgari both. Not everyone did. Lunch on April 5 -- After our survey of the room, we went down to deck 4 to The Restaurant and had a lovely 5 course lunch. We had penne pasta with meat and tomato sauce as an appetizer, cream of chicken soup, salad with balsamic vinegar. Todd had a sirloin steak, while I had broiled flounder. For dessert, Todd had apple pie with cream, and I had crème brulee and a side order of mixed berries. They offered wine of the day and then coffee or espresso. Service was outstanding, as it had been since arrival. Guests were rather well dressed, but we found out some were there just for the day, etc. People were talking across tables, and it was louder than we are used to. We were to discover this would be a common thing. Not a real issue. April 5 activities We checked out the rest of the public areas. The lounges were beautiful. The card room was larger than I was expecting. They had a nice conference room, though not large. The spa looked inviting. The gym had a number of machines, bottled water, lots of towels, and iPods, as well as headphones to listen to the TVs that were playing. The fitness schedule for the entire cruise was available for taking back to the room. We picked up the daily crosswords and sudoku puzzles in the library and went to get our pictures taken and then on to the suite. Todd stayed in the room and laid around reading the literature and resting, while I checked out regular embarkation. They had a receiving line with champagne or fruit punch, refreshing towels (which we didnt get) and then a line in the bar for taking pics, checking in and then caviar and smoked salmon canapEs made to order and finger sandwiches. There were many people there to take guests to their suites. I disembarked the ship after having my card scanned. I walked a mile or two around Old San Juan, getting a feel of the town. The architecture was interesting. There were many interesting-looking Indo-Latino restaurants and a lot of unique shops. I sat around in a couple of places to feel the vibe of the area. I came back about 5:15, and we readied ourselves for the 5:30 lifeboat drill. We went to level 5 to the B area and were greeted and told about when we should come there and then we were escorted to the Viennese lounge where they gave a demo of the life jackets and took the opportunity to plug the spa and shore excursions. In our suite were already the tickets for our shore excursion, my spa appointment card, etc. We had left a message for the golf pro for details of Todds golf excursion in Antigua and we picked up info on that and the program in general. Back in the suite, Frasier, the pro, called to discuss the outing with Todd and then ask about what type of club shafts he wanted. Lots of guests had been hanging out on the pool deck, as they served late lunch/early dinner there for a couple of hours, along with soft drinks and a full bar service. Mixed nuts and chex mix were available here. It was loud and bustling there, but festive. BTW, the guests were all ages, mostly 40s to 80s, and we saw a hand full of teens. Guests were not so formal as at lunch but not tacky or anything like that. Most had a long, hard travel day and were happy to be greeted by an inviting staff. Another tidbit, the gentleman that took us to our room had told me about the April 1 Pfizer charter. Because they had an early departure (most of them) they let us on. That was nice, but others missed out that didnt gamble to see. We went to the library and selected a couple of videos and then came to the room and watched Prime on the in-room movies. They had about 4 channels running various movies, and they had a booklet explaining it and showing the DVDs available. The TV had Fox News, BBC, and CNN. It had a navigational station we enjoyed that was tracking the ship (this played in the hallway on Deck 5, also) and some other info channels on the ship and its activities. There are also many VHS movies in the library, but they are not as new, but you will find old faves. Also in the library were many novels and also a puzzle there to be worked, chess, checkers, etc. Other public areas had board games and books about birds and fish and things of that nature. Sometime the stewardess came to offer additional types of toiletries, but Todd was alone and didnt pay attention to what was offered and told her to come back. After the movie, I steamed my pantsuit, and we dressed for dinner. At 5, we had tried to get a reservation for La Terraza for any night. They were already booked for the entire cruise. I should have done this at 11. Dinner in The Restaurant on April 5 -- We asked for a table for two, and we were given one. This was the quieter side, though the room was noisier than a cafeteria, something we were not expecting, but again, not a big deal. Some people asked to join others, and both types of wishes were granted easily. We had seen the menu in our suite and had an idea of what we wanted to have. They offered the daily pour and also were available to explain anything. Service was good. For appetizer, Todd had the king prawns with Indian spices, I had the Greek salad (feta cheese, cucumbers, and pine nuts inside a tomato with 4 green leaves). We enjoyed them. For soup, Todd had the beef essence, and I had the red onion with ginger. We loved them. Rolls were many hard varieties, we were not too interested in them. For salad, I had the greens with balsamic again, and Todd had Caesar salad (which had bacon and anchovies). You must order the sorbet, or it will not come. It was pina colada. Good taste! For the entrEe, Todd had the striploin with fries. I had halibut with garden veggies. The waiter brought the veggies and hand selected each vegetable at my urgence and whim! The fish was healthy but a bit plain. There were other choices, but I was trying not to gain weight. For dessert, Todd asked for mixed ice cream, and I had more sorbet. We nibbled on the petite fours. One tasted like chocolate cookie dough. Yumm. Others had fruit and cheese from a trolley. We did not. The trolley was something else you had to request. During dinner, our waiter hustled, and glasses were filled regularly. After Dinner April 5 We finished dining at around 9:30. The casino was not open in San Juan due to laws. We went up to The Bar to hear Daryl. He sang '60s tunes and played electric assisted piano. He read the words from a computer. I enjoyed him, but Todd didnt as much because the songs were his own rendition, vs. him trying to sound just like the artist. He stated that when he started the set. A few couples danced. At 10, we went to the show lounge for the Taste of Things to Come show. Ron, the cruise director, alternated introducing 3-5 staff members with a production number about 4 or 5 times. It was great to hear about the staff (not a single American except the cruise director who splits his time in South Africa). The golf pro indicated that he was sold out for the Antigua excursion. This whole program was a little too infomercialish, but we did see a few good production numbers. Randomly, guests got wait service. We did not, but it wasnt a concern. Ron ended the show at 10:45 so that guests could get ready for the sailing at 11. Some celebrated above us on 10 and others by the pool on 8. We hung out on our veranda from 11 to midnight until the lights of San Juan was out of sight. It was spectacular. April 5 pet peeves: Stewardess took club soda I had just prepared and was coming back to because we were not in the suite. Welcome champagne we were not done with was taken. Dining is louder than we expected. We went to sleep to one of the videos from the library, Generals Daughter. April 6, 2006 Virgin Gorda The wake-up Woke up at 6:25 to someones set alarm from a previous stay! No problem, we were waking up on our own anyway due to our surroundings. It was a beautiful sunrise that morning, postcard perfect. We passed by little islands after that and also saw lots of yachts. It was like a moving postcard. We enjoyed the view on the veranda and scoped it out with the binoculars. Todd worked both the crossword and the sudoku already by early am. We skipped breakfast, as we were still full from dinner. Todd went to the golf swing clinic. No swinging, just talk about technique. He got to chat with the pro. I ate a plum from our fruit in the room and went to the body conditioning class with Margit, the fitness instructor. Several ladies had been there for step, but I was alone for the toning class. She and I did it togetheraerobics with hand weights and then floor exercises. She kept asking me if I could feel it. What dummy would say not? Then I rode the exercise bike a while, looking out at the view. Todd and I went outside the observation lounge and watched the ship come into port and took some pics. Todd watched a movie from one of the in-room movie channels for an hour, and I laid out on deck 9 in my swimsuit. On 8 (pool deck) and 9, they brought cold towels and mist and offered drink servicebottled or sparkling water, soft drinks or other drinks, anything. There was sun or shade available and cushioned loungers with towels set up. We got ready for our excursion to The Baths. We went to lunch at La Terazza at noon when they opened. A number of people were already there. We prefer sit down to buffet, but the sit down started at 12:30, and our tour was leaving at 12:45. The selections included lovely salads. I had mixed greens with balsamic. Todd skipped salad, opting for a slice of cold roast beef. For entrees, we asked for bite sized of most to try several. They had carved chicken, Schezwan (sp) beef, lasagna, pizza, fried cod, pizza, and pasta cooked fresh to order. They had pumpkin soup (yum) and chilled raspberry cream soup. For dessert, they offered low carb and sugar free. I had berries, and Todd skipped dessert. They had several ice creams and all sorts of toppings, including pistachios, chocolate chips, etc. There were some hot desserts, also. Everything was carried to the table. Our glasses were filled with water almost before we sat down, and we were offered the pour of the day, something Greek. Dishes were cleared at just the right time. We arrived in the Vienesse Lounge as per our tickets at 12:45, but they seemed to have sent letters (we didnt get ours, we didnt think but found it the next day) on it being moved to the gangway. After going to Vienesse and then heading to gangway, we missed the tender and waited for the next. We were given towels and water. We missed our tour, but the tour director arranged for a staff member to take us in his personal jeep to join our tour at The Baths. The Baths The Baths is close to where the ship anchored. We were given drink tickets and told how to get down to The Baths. Thankfully, we saw some SS people and felt better about having missed our ride. Everyone was able to lay their towel in sun or shade as desired. T-shirts, etc. were available (we didnt buy anything). They also sell soda and beer, not sure what else. We didnt walk up there. This excursion with SS is $45 pp. For this price, they should have had a cooler or two down there or something, as we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves. I think the entry fee for adults was only $3, so the transportation and entry were a bit much compared to what SS must have paid, though we thought it was reasonable when booked. I didnt see cabs after we tendered but I think there was a place for them. We spread out our stuff and went swimming amongst the rocks and took pics along the beach. We walked part of the way thru the caves toward Devils Bay Beach (I think that is the name) and got some great pics. Todd got the HP camera a bit wet it wouldnt come back on (later discovered the pics were at least saved on the SD card). We still had the Kodak. The climb back up seemed fierce after my personal session with the fitness lady. We got some punch with our tickets and sat on the patio overlooking The Baths and the bay. It was soo beautiful  the huge rocks, flowers and cacti on top of the ocean made an interesting backdrop. Back on Ship We were back on the ship at 4:30. We rinsed off our sand. I sat in the hot tub and chatted for a very long time to various people, including a lovely couple in their late 30s who had sailed SS a few times. Todd went to the putting contest. He got 4 points there. Sounds like I should have gone since not too many ladies were there. From one of the hot tubs, the couple and I witnessed a very drunk man. That guy had started rubbing my back out of nowhere at the bar while I was nibbling chex mix and waiting for a club soda (the reason I headed off to the hot tub). His friend had done the same earlier (nickname Roach). We called the other guy blue shirt. He passed out, and his friends could hardly get him up and out. Neither were Americans! Evening of April 6 This was formal night. I steamed Todds shirt, and we got dressed-tux for him and long dress for me. We joined the end of the captains cocktail party. Looks like we missed about everything. They had shrimp cocktail it seems (heard it was literally one shrimp pp). We did hear some more about some of what was going to occur the rest of the cruise. It was all very festive but hard to describe. We headed down to The Restaurant for the formal dinner and asked for a table for 2. Someone took our order before ever offering wine or water, but they tended to all of that. Since we got seated near a table for 12, our waitstaff were more focused on them. Our service was then average but not bad. I had the goose liver appetizer with candied plum. This was divine. Todd had the mixed berries in blue Curacao. For soup, I had the celeriac and apple soup (wonderful), and Todd had the chicken consomme with matzo balls. There were always 3 soups offered at every meal. I had the greens with balsamic, and Todd requested and got a Caesar. He had prime rib and requested a baked potato with bacon and cheese. It came plain. I had the lobster thermidorchix sized, just a few bites in each side of the tail, but it was enough for me. We skipped dessert, even the petit 4. We headed to the casino for a bit of roulette. We lost $80 but it took a while, and we had a lot of fun. Stakes were $2 min per number and $10 min on any outside spot (vs $10 total on the outside). This gave them a lot of advantage. We went to listen to Daryl for a bit. He played 60s tunes. We played roulette and lost $80 but had a good time. The table had an advantage on the outside due to limit being 10 dollars a position vs. the total of the outside. Then Todd went to the room, and I went to the Toast to Broadway show. It was a costumed show with a number of Broadway tunes. I was very tired. We went to bed and woke up a few times. Todd was snoring, and I curled on the couch a bit and slept. April 7, 2006 Antigua We did barely wake up for coming into port because the doorbell rang at 7:45 with our breakfast. I had bacon, eggs, toast, and hash browns. Todd had same except my eggs were fried, and he had an omelet. We shared the grapefruit and cantaloupe. Todd got ready for golf with his Cedar Valley Silver Links 365 group. I got ready to go off ship, too but took my time. I went to the computer center and got connected over there. I bought 100 minutes for $55. I didnt really need to do this because I had my Blackberry, and my GPRS service worked in every port and sometimes out at sea. They had around 6 pcs in the center, and you couldn print from any of them. You can also use wifi on your laptop against the same allotment of minutes. The wifi worked in the library/computer center, card room and lounges. I didnt try it anywhere but the computer center. In Antigua, the ship is at a pier, so there is no need to tender. You just walk off the ship, making sure you have your ship ID card and a photo ID. Shortly after departing the ship, I found a taxi stand. The gentleman there told me it would cost $12 to go to Sandals resort and asked if they were expecting me. I indicated I had a day pass over there. We walked a couple of blocks to his van, and we were to Sandals in about 6 minutes in traffic. I tipped the driver, and he was off. We had some hassle at Sandals because I had evidently said I needed the pass for Friday, April 8. Well, instead of asking me if I meant Friday or April 8, they assumed April 8, so they were expecting me the next day. It took 3 people to get to that, but I did get in and was all set with the pass. I walked around looking at the property. I really liked the garden areas with the pools. The gardens were quite lush. These areas were nicer than the main swim-up area. The beach was wide and long. One thing to note is that the beach goes beyond Sandals on both ends, and it is public. Therefore, there were kids walking by, etc. This area was just beautiful. I think a day pass here is a wonderful option for anyone on a non-inclusive cruise, as it is minutes from the pier, and then you get drinks and a beautiful beach, one of the nicest. I checked out the lunch buffet. They were cooking pasta to order and carving a whole pig. I just wanted to have some mango and a little salad. I was seated Oceanside at a table for two. It rained briefly and lightly. That brought a lot of people in, but it was over quite quickly. I headed down to check out the upcoming Mediterranean Village. It looks like it will be large and quite beautiful. The pool is going to be huge. Rooms will be suites and will all be identical. They are set back a ways from the ocean. It is to be complete in November. I should be able to check it out next February. I didnt want to miss too much time on the ship, and I still wanted to walk around town. The resort called a cab over for me, and it was the same price to go back. The cab let me off at a good location in town. I went around to various shops and bought some souvenirs before heading back to the ship on foot. Id missed all the regular meal hours, but I decided to check out the room service menu, not knowing when Todd would be back from golf or if hed have eaten. I was guessing he would have. Room Service Lunch The menu looked quite good, and I wish Id have ordered a soup. I ordered mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette, two shrimp cocktails, and pizza margherita. The menu warned that the pizza takes 20 minutes. I spent this time on the veranda perusing my email on my blackberry and contemplating my surroundings. I didnt time the food, but it must have been 20 or 30 minutes. The person that brought it was willing to set up my table the fancy way they do, but I just took the tray. It was just me, anyway. The salad was the same crisp greens with balsamic I had been enjoying. Silversea makes such a wonderful balsamic that Id been having it often. The shrimp came as 8 shrimp on a plate with delicious cocktail sauce. The pizza was a thin, crisp crust. I did not eat even half of it, but it was the best pizza I have had at a non-pizza place-ever! It was so yummy. Afternoon I went out to lay around on deck 9. After a short while, I was misted and had a drink order taken. There was plenty of shade or sun and lots of cushy loungers with towels. They have lots of refreshing soft drinks and will make anything else you want, too. I went to Cruise Consultant Carls get together talking about the upcoming 2006 and 2007 cruises. This was held in The Bar. I checked back at the cabin around 5 p.m. to see if Todd was available and wanted to do anything. He had only got back in the room at 4:30. He was a bit burnt because his golf outing was so long. He had put on sunscreen but didnt bring any with him. We watched an in-room movie while Todd unwound from his 8 hour outing. Todds Golf Outing He met his group at 8:45 at the gangway. He brought his own shoes, balls, and glove and signed up to rent their Nike clubs. We arranged his outing at www.silverseagolf.com, and I recommend golfers do this in advance of their cruise if possible because this excursion sold out. The group went to Cedar Valley. Todd thought the course was interesting and had some good views. He shot an 84 here. There were 3 groups of 4 playing, and the other 11 all knew each other. The pro played 4 holes with Todds group, 5 with another and 9 holes with another. Frasier, the pro tried to change peoples whole swing, rather than work with what they had. They were fed chicken wings and some other food. Transportation was included, and they also spent time on the range. This whole jaunt was in the $200 range when it was all over. Evening April 7, 2006 This evening they had a sailing party on deck. We just checked it out briefly. They had 3 types of appetizers. I tried 2 of the little nachos. We chatted with Buckie and Jane, the couple wed met that were celebrating their 40th anniversary. Jane was excitedly telling me about her needlepoint class. Todd did not try any appetizers. I got in the hot tub with the nice couple from Georgia Id met before. I just didnt want to get out and stayed a long time. The night was magical. This was an informal evening. Todd wore a jacket and tie, and I wore a dress. We headed to The Restaurant around 7:30. For appetizer, I had planned to have the king scallop ravioli with shellfish sauce and basil oil, but this was substituted for something with goat cheese. Instead, we had the mango, papaya and pineapple medley. For soup, we had the cauliflower and parmesan veloute with pesto crostini. This was quite good. I had assorted greens with balsamic, and Todd asked for and received Caesar. We forgot to order the sorbet but did this later and got it. They had key lime daiquiri sorbet. For the entry, I had the poached izumi dai fish with lemon butter sauce. It was a bit buttery for me but I took it out of the sauce. Todd had a beef dish and fries. I had the peach zero zero ice cream for dessert, and Todd had some other ice cream. We found the service only adequate on this evening. They did offer the pour of the evening, and they do offer to switch to red wine if you are so inclined when the entree comes. I did try it, Todd did not. We had already ordered our food before this or water was offered. This is the evening JJ, the head sommelier was in the restaurant. We were seated near some large tables, though we had asked for a quiet table. The large groups were not noisy like some in the distance, but they did receive the bulk of the service. Like I said, service that evening was adequate, just not over the top. Still better than many resorts. For the evening, we went to hear Daryl for a few minutes and then went down to the show lounge to watch Cirque Nouveau. This show was a tribute to Cirque de Soleil. There were a number of costume changes, and there was some dance up ropes, etc. It was a nice show for what they can do on a small ship. After the show we went back to the casino. I played quarter slots for a few minutes and got bored after spending about $10. We moved on to blackjack and played the $10 per hand each. We did only OK with the first dealer and then did well with the second. We cashed out and moved on to roulette. We played there for some time, and we cashed out up for the night $359 after the previous nights $80 loss. We were thinking we might play the last night, but they were staying in port until 11, and the casino cannot open in port. We sat on our balcony a little while, added the chocolates on the bed to our stash, looked briefly at the next days menu and activities, put out our breakfast menu and checked the television for news and movies before dropping off to sleep. April 8, 2006 Tortola I purposely left the drapes open between the sleeping and sitting area so that Id wake up for yet another sunrise. Tortola did not disappoint, and I happily watched more of my personal moving postcards delivered right to my door. I did close one side of the drapes for Todd to rest and played some with my email on my blackberry in between snapping photos. We had the same breakfast as the day before  bacon, egg, hash brown and fruit for me and omelet, hash brown and fruit for Todd. I forgot to order toast to go with my fried eggs. The day before, they had delivered one fruit plate even though I wrote down two. I cant believe I didnt order toast. SS seems to deliver exactly what is ordered, so things you take for granted will not come. Breakfast was had in our living room on the table as we watched the ship sail into port, one of our favorite experiences each day (sailing out was also a favorite). The morning was rushed as we hurried to make our 8:45 BVI snorkel trip. Buckie and Jane were trying to join because their 1 pm one was cancelled They did make it on because the 3 teens decided not to join their parents and younger brother. As always when disembarking, towels and water were readily available. We were taken away in a jeep safari type vehicle down to a large catamaran. Two guys ran the program. They had the fins and snorkel gear on board, and they asked sizes and passed everything around. We went out to Norman island, passing Peter Island on our way. We were taken to an area with great visibility. We saw fish of many sizes, and there were caves to explore, but there were thousands of jellyfish, and they were especially fond of the caves. The jellyfish didnt sting anyone, but they were a deterrent. I preferred, by far, our snorkeling at Anse Cochen a few days earlier during our resort stay in St. Lucia. We were given rum punch after snorkeling and taken to a small beach island called Pirates Island. The facilities there were closed. They kept us there an hour, which we didnt think was necessary. Jane was very excited about fish nibbling her toes, and I hung out watching them in the clear water while Todd and Buckie sat in the shade in two different spots. The sail back was also beautiful, as we were surrounded by little mound islands and yachts. I was chatting with two ladies when $100 bill floated by and into the water. One lady pointed it out to the loser of the money that it had flown by. The lady barely batted an eye. We got back and rinsed our sand off. I sat in hot tub briefly. We went up to La Terraza for the lunch buffet, feeling we could not go so close to closing (it was 1:40) to the course by course place. This day, the selection was not as appealing to me as the other day, and I so much had wanted a sit down meal. I had salad and gazpacho (nice and spicy) and some berries and pistachios. Todd had some hot dishes  a grilled fish and some garden veggies. I did try just a bite of the curry chicken. It was listed as mild and was. I was not feeling well and did not take a portion of it, just one bite to taste. A waiter informed us they were closing the hot items at 2 and that the salads and desserts would remain. However, at 1:55, they pulled the pistachios from the ice cream station. Someone did begrudgingly bring them back for me. We were offered tea or soda that day for the first time. We were a little bit turned off by them pulling some of the food before 2 pm when they close. We have seen this at resorts, and we never like it, either. Even if they dont take new guests past 2, they should leave the items out for those that are still finishing after 2. There were at least 30 people there that had all been on that snorkeling trip and were doing the best we could. In Tortola, I did go out to the tents past the pier and bought some souvenirsmagnets and some marble and glass items. Nobody there would bargain one dime, but some were cheaper than the others. They did make change in USD if desired. They had some nice shirts, but I didnt bring enough money out and didnt want to go back. Todd retired to the room a bit for an afternoon in-room movie and to finish a video he got at the library. He was not wanting any more sun and thought he might nap. I laid on deck a bit and then went to the internet café to work on using up my minutes. At 4 pm, I met Jane at afternoon tea for needlepoint. She had been so excited about it. I was so glad I went because I met Yolanda, the international hostess. Jane was working on a little clutch case, and Yolanda gave me a choice of several scissors covers and showed me how to do it. We had nice tea and conversation. Jane had a fruit tart. The selection was nicescones, pastries, tarts, custard cups. Jane remarked that it had been 15 minutes since we ate and that we should eat again! She is so tiny. After this, I went to see Carl, the cruise consultant about booking future cruises. He spent a great deal of time with me comparing various ones, prices, etc. and discussing his opinion on specific cabins. I was very impressed that sometimes he was even down-selling trying to show good value. I had enjoyed him at his talk a couple of days prior. I got everything arranged, and he drew up our papers and sent them later to our cabin, and I paid him before 7:30 that night, as he requested. At 5 pm, Todd joined Jane and Buckie at the golf putting contest. I joined at 5:20. I missed the short putt contest but played in the long putt contest. After that, we cashed in our points and got 2 money clips and a memo holder. You do get points for just participating and more for winning. Todd won something here. Yolanda is the one that cashes in the points. Next, I went to the hot tub. The Spanish family had their lap baby in the pool. The staff eventually blocked the hot tubs to get ready for the BBQ but did not throw anyone out. I was appreciative of that, as I was tired and enjoyed myself immensely. The temps were always so nice in the hot tubs, and I loved my 6 pm ritual every night. Jessica and Rich, the couple from Atlanta called out to me from above. She said she lost a lot at the casino the night before and had rewarded herself w/ a 15 course breakfast. They were going to Le Champagne that night to avoid the bbq. I had wanted to go to the sit-down at The Restaurant, but Jessica said they were having lobster at the bbq, so I got suckered in. In my mind I was thinking, go sit down at dinner and then stop by buffet to see if there is lobster and then see the show. Evening of April 8 Todd was not in any hurry to leave the suite. It was so comfortable, and we were just lying around. I told him people were already filling up the tables even though it wasnt 7:30 and that wed have nowhere to sit and probably get bad service (by now, we had agreed to go to the buffet since I still was not feeling well ).. This night was casual. People still looked nice and festive. We sat at a table with a Latino couple. They never spoke to us. We had to flag someone down for water, etc. I just dont like buffets no matter what is served, for the most part. They had no soup, my favorite part of a lot of meals. They had grilled steaks (most tender of the trip), ribs, chicken breasts, hot dogs, build your own tacos and then lobster claw paella. They had salads and desserts, including bananas foster and a number of ice creams and toppings. I tried the lobster claw dish, but it was salty to me (I dont salt my food). I ate salad and custard and some fruit. Todd had a rib and steak and some ice cream. We had trouble getting plates cleared. While many were getting great service, we were not, as we seemed to have been skipped since we were on time rather than early. The main reason we came, other than me not feeling well was to see the Latin dance show. We enjoyed the costumed dancers. They repeated the salsa number from the welcome party and did some other numbers. They changed costumes several times very quickly. After that, they started the dance party with the guests. Todd went back to the cabin, and I danced some with Yolanda and the other ladies either there alone or with partners that wouldnt dance. The music was so good that I rushed to the cabin to get Todd, and he danced with me a little before we retired back to the cabin around 10:45. We were to have our bags out by 11:30. Some people had them out by 6 pm; I assume they didnt want to interrupt their evening. We, of course, barely made 11:30, but we did. We put our grey tags on the bags, keeping our carry-ons. We checked just after 11:30, and all bags were gone. We managed to time it well at 10:45 to watch the sailing because they left a little earlier than 11 pm. Our stewardess had not done our turndown. Instead, she just stuck out our luggage sheet to protect the bed and put one suitcase on the bed and threw our literature and chocolates on it. We considered going to the shops or casino after 11:30, but that is late for us, so we snuggled into the comfort of our cabin, relaxed till the lights on-shore were gone and then laid around as long as we could stay awake and drifted off after calling for a wake up call for 6:15. April 9 Back to San Juan Unfortunately, our wake up call did come. By about 6:30 our final statement was on the door. We didnt have to do anything about it, as I had followed the announcements and advice and gave an imprint earlier the previous day. Everything was in order, so we just saved the bill for our records. We got ready for our long journey home, enjoyed the scenery going by and packed our carry-on for the most part. We headed to the breakfast buffet at 7 when they opened. The sit-down was a choice, but we wanted a last sit in our cabin before we took off. For breakfast, we didnt bother with eggs to order. We had scrambled eggs. Todd had ham, and I had bacon. I had fruits and toast. Todd had a lot of orange juice, I went for tea. This didnt take too long, and we were able to return to our cabin and relax a bit. We were the last group called and were called right at 8:30, the time all were to vacate their cabin. We had brought some bottled water and soda for our long journey home. We went to level 5 for immigration. Yolanda and a couple of other nice ladies were there. We received our passports and went to The Panorama lounge to await the call to customs. We had nice juice and tea and relaxed, though we did get smoked on (found out later we were in the smoking section, though we didnt know there was a difference). The lounge here had pastries, juices and tea and coffee. Only a small number of guests retreated here, while many sat uncomfortably herded with crowds when there was no need. All the public areas were open. We were not called until 9:50, and we went through the inspection easily. We had been offered a tour of Old San Juan and transportation to airport from SS at a reasonable cost, but I had done my own tour, and Todd wasnt interested. We just went to the taxi stand and paid the same $21.50 from before. We were at the airport at 10:30 and tried to stand by on the 12:16 flight. We could not get on, so we were stuck until 3:20 because I had foolishly booked this flight thinking we could pay for late debarkation. The San Juan customs didnt allow it. We were bored and tired after 5 hours at the airport, and both of our flights were oversold and crowded. I went to Burger King in Miami and went through a very thorough purse search since I didnt have luggage. We reached Houston on time but one bag was not there. It had come on the earlier flight and was at the claims office. After that drama, we arrived home at about 11:15. We were tired, but we are still reflecting on our time and looking forward to our next cruise, this time on Silver Wind, in February, 2007. 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Sail Date: May 2006
Silver Shadow Taste of China and Japan May 2006 Itinerary: Hong Kong, Shanghai, Shannon (Beijing), Pusan, Hiroshima, Kobe. (Kyoto), Tokyo Notes: The itinerary is an excellent way to see this part of the world without packing and ... Read More
Silver Shadow Taste of China and Japan May 2006 Itinerary: Hong Kong, Shanghai, Shannon (Beijing), Pusan, Hiroshima, Kobe. (Kyoto), Tokyo Notes: The itinerary is an excellent way to see this part of the world without packing and unpacking. Shanghai: The voyage allowed for an overnight in Shanghai and two nights/2.5 days in Beijing. Since Shanghai is a port city there is no need to worry about landside accommodation in order to get the best of the city. Shanghai is a bustling metropolis with all the trendy shops that you may find in any city. Tianjin (Beijing): Tianjin is the port nearest to Beijing. Its about two hours by highway from Tianjin to Beijing. The ship spent two nights at Tianjin but that only equated to two and ½ days. It was necessary to spend one night in Beijing to see as much as you can, but to spend a second night is a waste, as youll need to get up early on the last day for the drive back to the ship. Beijing and its environs offered some great historical sites including the Great Wall. What had to be the most incongruous event in the trip was the visit to the Great Wall. To get to the top we didnt climb steps&we took a roller coaster! It was great fun!! (though very odd!) Departing Tianjin was a challenge. Chinese immigration required all passengers disembark and go to the cruise terminal to exit the country. This entire process delayed the ships departure by 3 hours and was unexpected by the ships company. On the flip side, arriving into China in Shanghai was a breeze. Pusan: This is South Koreas second largest city. nuf said. The Beomosa Buddhist Temple complex however was beautiful. Hiroshima: This is a city reborn. Beautiful in its simplicity; moving in its ways of honoring its past. The ships shuttle bus dropped us downtown and its an easy city to get around. Kobe (Kyoto): The ship spent about 18 hours at the port of Kobe allowing passengers the ability to make their own way or take a ships tour to Kyoto. The shuttle dropped us off at the JR (Japan Rail) station and the limited express train takes less than an hour. You can take the Bullet Train from the Shin-Kobe station if you want the thrill of the ride. If you do Kyoto on your own, make sure you hit the tour of the Imperial Palace. They offered once or twice a day in English and you need to have permission from the Imperial Household Agency, which is granted upon showing your passport, or other government issued ID. Tokyo: We disembarked at Tokyo and stayed one night at the Imperial Hotel. Tokyo was very nice and Im certain one day does not do it justice. Try Pachinko! Even if you dont understand whats going on, its great fun and you can win money! Embarkation: The boarding time for the ship was between 3:00PM and 5:00PM. In order to maximize our time in Hong Kong and at the Peninsula Hotel, we elected to board as close to 5PM as possible. Imagine our surprise when we boarded and the lifeboat drill was already underway! Embarkation was smooth other than the companionways filled with lifejacket bedecked passengers. The lifeboat drill was conducted indoors after we were first shown the muster stations. Disembarkation: As smooth as silk. The cabins had to be vacated by 8:30AM so we went to the Terrace Cafe to enjoy breakfast and relax until we were called to join the bus to the Imperial Hotel. Stewardess service: Invisible! And thats a good thing. Other than the pleasant embarkation day introductions we didnt see the stewardess (es) who made up the cabin each morning and evening. We didnt need anything that wasnt provided as a matter of course so we didnt need to call the stewardess team. The Restaurant Service: Excellent! All levels of service in the Restaurant from the assistant wait staff to the Maitre d met or exceeded our expectations and our past experiences on Silversea. My partner and I traveled with a case (12 bottles) of wine to be consumed during our voyage and we found that the head sommelier and his assistant were both extremely knowledgeable and yet had a thirst for knowledge for these wines that they had not experienced. We never felt rushed during the dinner service nor were we made to wait an extended period of time for the next course to come. One evening one of the folks we were dining with wasnt enjoying his main course. Even though the kitchen was virtually closed, the headwaiter went into the kitchen and returned with a rare piece of prime rib that was prepared to this guests liking&and he liked it! Food: Consistently very good to excellent. A real treat was two nights of Kobe beef. Since Japan currently has an embargo on all USA provided beef, the usual meat was sealed in a freezer and Kobe beef brought aboard. Kobe appeared on the menu the evening we were in that port. We then special ordered a different cut of Kobe the next evening. Both were delicious! Another true highlight in The Restaurant is the pasta. It is superbly prepared and worthy of being special ordered as either an appetizer or main course. A personal favorite was the Pasta Carbonara. Wine Dinner: On every cruise we bring a selection of wines from our cellar to be consumed aboard ship in concert with the food on board ship. A special treat for us is when we get the sommelier and the chef to create a menu that pairs well with some of the wines weve brought along. Heres a link to a report on the wine dinner and how well the chef and sommelier captured the spirit of the wines and found the perfect dishes to enhance them: http://dat.erobertparker.com/bboard/showthread.php?t=93698&highlight=Silversea. One minor disappointment was that they didnt print up the menu. On past cruises this was done without us requesting it. La Terrazza This was a true disappointment. We ate there once toward the beginning of the cruise and never darkened their doorway again! The service was lacking and the food completely uninspired. One main course that was offered was Branzino. When it arrived, the folks at the table who ordered it were surprised to see that it was not branzino at all but Chilean Sea Bass. Its poor form to put something on the menu and then do a bait and switch at tableside. The sommelier assigned to La Terrazza was very polite but lacked any skill and knowledge in his assigned tasks. La Champagne We did not eat in La Champagne and the general uptake on that restaurant was low during the cruise. Some nights they had no patrons at all. I think the concept of La Champagne is a good one but the execution may be lacking. The wines that were shown on the menus that would be included in the USD150.00 supplement were not of such extremely high quality as to warrant the cost vs. purchasing wines from the premium wine list or just enjoying the complimentary wines. Bar service Excellent! No matter where I went on the ship, be it The Bar, Panorama Lounge, or The Humidor, the service was outstanding. The team on the Silver Shadow quickly picked up on peoples preferences and anticipated requests in advance. Strong kudos go to the bar staff that uphold the lines dress code. One evening we lingered in The Bar after trivia. Our daywear (shorts) did not meet the dress code for the evening. We lingered so long in the Bar that it reopened at 6PM for the evening and when I went to get a drink the bartender politely reminded me of the dress code after 6PM. Some folks might take offense at this but I applauded it. There was no disdain in the bartenders voice, as a matter of fact just the opposite. He handled this beautifully. I hadnt realized that so much time had passed. I went to the stateroom, changed and came back and passed muster. The Humidor is a wonderful place to relax after dinner. The atmosphere there seems to foster more interesting conversations than you may find in other venues aboard ship. I dont smoke but always looked forward to a port wine or caipirinha in the Humidor. Pool Grille I dont know why, but I just love sitting poolside for lunch and this cruise was no exception. The weather was not always exactly pool weather but that didnt stop me. The pizzas they serve are outstanding. Ships tours: The only ship offered tour we took was in Pusan. We saw the Beomosa Temple and city highlights. We left the tour early and headed back to the ship on our own. There wasnt too much that I found of interest in Pusan other than the temple. We did privately arranged tours in Shanghai and Beijing, and made our own way around Hiroshima, Kyoto and Tokyo. Generally speaking Ive found that privately arranged tours to be better and less costly than the ships tours. The one caveat is that, with a privately arranged tour, if you dont get back to the ship on time shell sail without you. Trivia: The ship offered a team trivia game on sea days. As much as I love trivia it seems to become a blood sport (the cruise directors term!) on ship. Im amazed that a group of players whose combined net worth probably rivals that of many nations can devolve into a screaming match all over a bookmark! It was interesting to watch but, for me not fun to partake in. This isnt peculiar to Silversea though. Reception Desk: The ladies that staffed the reception desk, while professional, did not seem to be as pleasant as the remainder of the crew on the ship. They were appropriate but dour. We asked them to arrange to send invitations to our Wine Dinner to the invitees but managed to send some of the invites to the wrong people. We breathed a sigh of relief when the erroneous invitees called the morning of the dinner to RSVP that they couldnt make it. I brought this error to the attention of the Reception Desk and there wasnt much in the way of an apology. Physical plant: The ship appeared to be very well maintained. I took the galley tour, which brought us below decks to the stores of the ship, and everything seemed very orderly. Stateroom: We had a verandah stateroom that was perfectly comfortable. The ship now has DVD players in the staterooms. Internet connection: We brought our own laptop as well as used the Internet portals in the computer center. The cost for 250 minutes was USD100.00 (0.40/minute). The library, computer center and Panorama are all wireless, which was convenient. Apparently some passengers had troubles in the computer center so much of the computer charges were refunded. Overall impression: This was our fourth Silversea cruise and, as always, we enjoyed it tremendously. The level of service was up to Silverseas usual high standards and the itinerary was fascinating. We look forward to sailing with Silversea again in December and in May of next year. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2006
With high expectations my wife and I booked a cruise on the much acclaimed Silver Shadow. Pre cruise -- We stayed at the Pan Pacific hotel in Vancouver which was very pleasant. On June 30th I awoke to see the Silver Shadow dock at ... Read More
With high expectations my wife and I booked a cruise on the much acclaimed Silver Shadow. Pre cruise -- We stayed at the Pan Pacific hotel in Vancouver which was very pleasant. On June 30th I awoke to see the Silver Shadow dock at Canada place. Embarkation -- Was very smooth and our bags were in our suite on arrival. The stewardess greeted us and asked what drinks we would like for our bar. These drinks did not arrive for over 24 hours after a call to reception. After examination the suite was filthy, there was more than a few days dust, previous cruiser's pill packets and grey hair everywhere. Another call to reception rectified this. We had pre booked our tours online and were told that the tickets would be in our suite, not so. At the tour desk they had no record of this and advised me that I had not booked any tours. I then had to prove that I had by going onto the internet and printing the conformation. Only after doing this we were given our requested tours. Is this six star service? The ship in general was shabby, over due for a major refirb, ash trays remained dirty for hours if not overnight. There were finger marks on lifts and doors. We have travelled on much cleaner mainline cruise ships. Although Silversea boasts a high crew passenger ratio this was not evident on our trip. We never got any service at the pool area and waited 15 mins in the bar for service. When the officers made a rare appearance, again not what we had expected. Food was great, beyond expectations. We managed to get into La Terazza restaurant only once and were waited listed for the rest of the cruise. After speaking to fellow passengers I was told that they had crossed the Maitre d's hand with a couple of hundred dollars when they then managed to eat there for the rest of the cruise!!!!!. The inclusive wine selection was good. On one occasion my wife asked for a glass of Chablis and was told that an American Chardonnay was the same, I don't think so. Vibes from fellow passengers were that the standards have fallen since their previous Silversea cruises. On the last evening I was horrified to see the crew kicking passengers' luggage down the stairwells. After awful disembarkation our bags were both damaged, wonder why?. This cruise was meant to be a dream holiday for my wife and I it was way below what we have experienced on main line cruise ships. We would like to try another 6 star cruise but Silversea will have to improve somewhat. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2006
My husband and I joined the Silver Shadow this past June. It was our first time on the Shadow, but certainly not our first cruise with Silversa and in Alaska. At first we were a bit concerned with the weather, but what can one do about ... Read More
My husband and I joined the Silver Shadow this past June. It was our first time on the Shadow, but certainly not our first cruise with Silversa and in Alaska. At first we were a bit concerned with the weather, but what can one do about that. The food was as always fantastic. Although there were several crew members going above and beyond, we could not help but notice a slight decline in over all service in the dinning rooms. We also did not care for the Cruise director, Ron Goodman. He did not come across as either friendly, helpful, or sincere. The Concierge was very nice as was the International Hostess and Maitre d' along with several others as I mentioned above. We were also disappointed in the entertainment. We had heard through the "sea grapevine" that one of the production cast members broke their leg and, therefore, was unable to do their shows to their best. The other entertainment, with the exception of the tenor, John D. Smitherson, was about average. John, however, had a wonderful two shows and was a pleasure to talk with off the stage. Luckily the weather changed for the better as our cruise progressed and as a whole we enjoyed our cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2006
Silver Shadow December 12-21, 2006 Barbados - Ft. Lauderdale This was our first trip with Silversea. We decided on this cruise due to favorable press and internet reviews of Silversea, a fantastic price considering the all-inclusiveness ... Read More
Silver Shadow December 12-21, 2006 Barbados - Ft. Lauderdale This was our first trip with Silversea. We decided on this cruise due to favorable press and internet reviews of Silversea, a fantastic price considering the all-inclusiveness of Silversea, the time of the cruise - just at the beginning of our long, Chicago winters and the itinerary included a number of islands that we have not been to. What also made the cruise especially wonderful was that some wonderful British friends we had met on the Radisson (now Regent) Navigator in 2004 were able to join us. We have been active on the various internet boards for some time, but for those who don't know us, we are both salaried professionals in our early 50's with a love of travel and cruising in particular. Most of our cruises have been on Celebrity, although, as mentioned above, we have cruised with Regent once and decided to try Silversea for our early winter cruise this year. Overall Impression While we enjoyed many aspects of the cruise, we were not blown away. On a 10 point scale we rate the cruise as an 8. Had it not been for the price/value and all inclusiveness of the cruise the score would be lower. If we had paid even close to what Silversea charges for many of their cruises we would not have been as satisfied. The Ship The Silver Shadow was built in 2000 and first sailed in 2001. It is an elegant, beautifully simple ship that is tastefully decorated with mostly muted colors and very nice art. We stayed in cabin 810, listed as a Veranda Cabin in the brochure, and the cabin was also tasteful, roomy and elegant. The granite, double-sink, separate bath and shower bathroom is an especially keen design accomplishment. Speaking of the bath, the BVLGARI toiletries are very nice. Our cabin stewardess also offered Acqua di Parma and Neutrogena products if you wanted something different. If you enjoy Rembrandt, you may want to select this cabin as there is a very nice self-portrait etching just over the bed. Much of the art is related to the classics, whether they are ancient Greece and Rome, or Shakespeare and Rembrandt. The more modern art seems to be primarily based on classical themes as well. The room bar set-up was exactly as requested on-line. Unfortunately we were not able to fully use the Ketel One Vodka and Grand Marnier as it was so easy and convivial to get a cocktail elsewhere on the ship that we rarely had a drink in our room. When we did ask for a new bottle of wine (twice) there was nary a problem with the request. About the only thing our stewardess did not do was removing all the items from our mini-fridge that we did not want or use (causing a minor issue when we wanted to refrigerate some champagne later in the cruise). The ship is advertised as having the biggest square foot to passenger ration in the industry and I don't doubt it. Even though the ship is relatively small, and normally houses a bit under 400 passengers, it seems much larger due to the spaciousness of the public areas. The ship sailed well for a small ship. We had a couple of nights with pretty rough seas and the ship did some bobbing and weaving but always seemed quite stable. It was also relatively quiet, although you can't escape a few creaks here and there. In comparing the Silver Shadow to the Navigator, the Silver Shadow wins by virtue of less noise and vibration. Otherwise the elegance and layout are very similar. Maintenance Our bed was very firm and my guess after the first of many restful nights was that the mattress had been recently replaced. Sure enough, when we arrived in Fort Lauderdale they were replacing the other 50% of the mattresses, so if you sail on the Silver Shadow in the near future you are assured of a very new and comfortable bed. The crew was busy re-varnishing many of the teak railings during the cruise and there was evidence of continual cleaning throughout. Our only criticism, and it is relatively minor, is that the carpeting was stained more than usual and is in general need of replacement in the hallways and entry areas to the public spaces. Otherwise, for a six year old ship it was in great shape. Restaurants, Bars and Other Public Spaces There is no wow factor for any of the public spaces of the ship. In fact, the overall design of the main restaurant, secondary restaurant (The Terrace or La Terrazza) and two main bars is rather nondescript. The location and use of the restaurants and bars is also somewhat questionable. The main restaurant is on Deck 4. Except for a few cabins forward of the restaurant, there isn't anything else on Deck 4. The Bar is on Deck 5. This was the most active bar on the ship for pre-dining cocktails. The entertainment consisted of a one man band and his electronics and there was very little dancing. Also on Deck 5 is the main reception area, the (very) few (expensive) shops and the (very) small casino. The lower portion of the main theater is in front of the bar, but the primary theater entrance is on Deck 6. The theater is only public area on Deck 6 and it is large - especially considering the overall size of the ship. I'm not sure, but I think it could hold everyone on the ship if necessary. The sightlines and acoustics are excellent. (More on the entertainment later). Deck 7 houses the casual Terrace Restaurant, the small (pricey) alternative restaurant Le Champagne and the Humidor cigar smoking room. Except for a few tables in the back of the restaurant there is very little outdoor seating available at this restaurant. That means if you want to get food from the restaurant and sit outside by the pool, you have to take your food and go upstairs to the pool area. This really makes no sense. This restaurant should be on the same deck as the pool (and they could move the Promenade Bar which is on Deck 8 and woefully underused to Deck 7). The nice-sized pool and two Jacuzzis are surrounded by plenty of lounge chairs and other outdoor seating on Deck 8. There is the always busy Pool Bar and the small but busy Pool Grill. Aft of the pool area is the previously mentioned Promenade Bar. This is a huge space that (at least on our cruise) was rarely used. Early risers could get a coffee and snack here, and the three-piece Silver Shadow orchestra played here late each night (usually around 11-12) even if they weren't performing with the main show. We thought they would be playing before dinner each night, but that wasn't the case - and with no entertainment at the Promenade Bar and the huge, empty spaces it was a disconcerting place to have a cocktail. We liked the idea of it, but it got lonely, so we moved down to Deck 5 to be with other cruisers. I'm not exactly sure what the purpose of the Promenade Bar is. It has the appearance of a large nightclub but with no nightclub activities it is dead space. Deck 9 is open above the pool area and provides additional seating and service by the pool bar and grill staff. The walking/jogging track is also on this deck. The 10th deck houses the spa, workout room and observation area. The Food We were not wowed. Dinners in the restaurant were hit and miss. In general the best main courses were the beef. The fish could either be very good or illness inspiring. Other meats, such as pork and lamb were equally inconsistent. The food preparations also lacked creativity. On Celebrity they typically have very interesting appetizers and even soups, but except for the rare exception the soups and appetizers were mostly forgettable on the Silver Shadow. We kept the same waiter we had on the first night, Leonard, and his service was always friendly and professional. We had dinner twice in La Terrazza and found the food to be generally better, but except for the lobster presentations on formal night, were not much better than the average Italian Trattoria back home. We generally enjoyed the selections of wines from the every day selections. If we wanted a different white or red, the servers were always accommodating. We were especially fond of a nice French Chablis, a New Zealand Pinot Noir and a Chilean Cabernet. It was also a pleasure to be able to get a nice glass of desert wine or cognac after the meal (and not having to pay extra for it). We did not order from the optional wine lists but the pricing for a couple of wines that I recognized was about three times retail. Our best food and beverage experiences occurred at the pool! The burgers, turkey burgers, hot dogs, pizzas, salads, French fries were all very good. The pool bar was very accommodating with the usual tropical treats as well as special requests. We breakfasted en-suite as well as at The Terrace and The Restaurant. The room service meals were hit and miss. A couple of times they arrived fresh and hot, and other times cold and stale. Service at The Restaurant was abysmally slow so we only ate there once. The Terrace, which acted as both a buffet and table service, was also inconsistent. The biggest problem with the Terrace is their disorganization. Instead of waiters and assistant waiters having specific stations, it is pretty much catch as catch can. The waiting time for two fried eggs is way too long at 15 minutes. Our omelet orders were always messed up. The Eggs Benedict was served on a plate that was so hot that the bottom English Muffin stuck to the plate. One day a server's hands got too hot and the plate slipped and one Benedict flew off the plate. The baked goods, especially the croissants, were not good. They were dry and tasteless. The only good bread on the cruise was a German Style bread served at breakfast. Perhaps the bakery cook was German? (This is not to slight the Germans, who can be great cooks, but I've never had good baked goods or good coffee in Germany). Speaking of coffee, the everyday coffee was pretty awful. They even kept it on little burners just like mom and pop coffee shops. On the other hand, if you like good, strong espresso or cappuccinos, then this is the cruise for you. We enjoyed these morning, noon and night. In fact, my drink of choice when getting back on the ship in the afternoon was a wonderful iced cappuccino that our pool bar waiter Jordan had waiting for me as soon as he saw me! Considering the relatively small number of passengers and the reviews we had read prior to the cruise, we were disappointed with the food. In general, the food on the Navigator was much better and even the food on most of our Celebrity cruises was better. Silversea takes a bow for its drinks and wine. Susan and I aren't big champagne drinkers, but many Silversea cruisers are, and they really got their money's worth! We also enjoyed not having to sign all those little chits!! That made up for a lot. The Spa The Mandara Spa is actually run by Steiner, the ubiquitous spa company for most cruise lines. Still, it's supposed to be a cut above, and based on Susan's experiences they are. Susan had a facial, manicure and full massage. She was especially impressed with the lady who did the full massage. The masseuse was a registered physical therapist and Susan had one of her best massages in some time. Considering the prices were all inclusive (no tips) Susan also thought the spa prices were quite reasonable. If using the spa onboard is an activity you enjoy, then Silversea and the Silver Shadow are a great choice. The Crew In general the captain and the crew were not very visible around the ship, and when encountered were pleasant but not very friendly. This could be because they are all being replaced in a few weeks. There was a large brochure in our stateroom about the upcoming world cruise and the list of primary crew-members was different than those on this cruise. For those of you who keep track of these things, the captain was Marco Sangiacomo, the hotel director was Rene Peter and the Food and Beverage Manager was Herbert Wagner and Chef de Cuisine was Richard Weichbold (gee I guess I was correct about that German connection!). Frank Freeman was the cruise director. He said it was his first cruise as cruise director (after a major faux-pas when he thanked the employees and crew of the Silver Wind at the farewell cocktail party). He is an affable enough fellow with a pleasant singing voice (he gave a one-man show during the cruise). Unfortunately, he had a tendency to hang out with the same folks, forget your name and did a major disappearing act during disembarkation when there were some serious issues (more about that later). Everyone else on the ship was quite friendly and professional. I believe the best gig on the ship was the Golf Pro. Bruce Mendelson enjoyed his first cruise as the golf pro by putting on daily putting tournaments and arranging for one (yes, one) golf excursion on Puerto Rico that ended up being rained out. The ship has no facilities for golf lessons, so why bother? I would think the demographics of this cruise line would cater to golfers and certainly the destinations offered many wonderful golf courses (on Barbados, Grenada, Martinique as well as Puerto Rico), but this is certainly an area that Silversea needs to work on. The Entertainment The same organization that provides entertainment to Regent also provides singers and dancers to Silversea. The shows on this cruise were definitely a step above the usual cruise shows. We especially enjoyed the last show, called Cirque Neuveau which was clearly a knock-off of Cirque-type shows but was still quite creative and required a lot of acrobatic as well as dancing skills by the dancers. Unfortunately, the entertainment staff was hugely underutilized. On Regent, the entertainment group was very visible around the pool area and during other activities, such as trivia, bingo etc. Not so on Silversea. A shame, since their attractiveness and personalities might have improved attendance at these activities.  The Bar on deck 5 had an adequate one man band before dinner (well, at least he was in tune with himself) but his selections did not get many people up on the (tiny) dance floor. He was usually joined by a female singer after dinner, and while she had a very nice voice, she was totally unfamiliar with the music (required sheet music throughout the cruise) and I don't think she had performed with the one man band before, and we witnessed them having a couple of spats. She also NEVER SMILED. There was a little more dancing, though, when she sang, as the selections were better. The so-called Silver Shadow Orchestra consisted of a great jazz pianist, good bass player and excellent drummer. They accompanied performers on a few shows, but were best when playing on their own (which was far too seldom). The Bar was the evening disco (a poor choice as the promenade bar had a larger dance floor and more seating area). It was going pretty good most nights, with a lot of use by the Spanish passengers. On the last formal night, a large group danced til 2 a.m. to a great selection of oldies and we had a blast. Our Shipmates We were pleasantly surprised at the overall youthfulness of the cruise passengers. I would say that Susan and I were probably about the median in age, with about half the passengers younger than 50 and half older. There was also a nice international contingent. Americans made up about 60% of the passengers, with a large contingent - perhaps as large as 25% - from Britain and Ireland. There was also a nice group from Spain and Portugal that brought some wonderful energy to the ship. If Silversea's marketing is geared to getting more youthful cruisers then, at least based on this cruise, they are being successful. The Islands The cruise began in Barbados. We flew in a couple days before and had two wonderful days at the Hilton. The Hilton resort is just south of Bridgetown and its beach does have waves (which we thought was just fine - what a wonderful sound at night!). Still, it was a nice swimming beach, and the pool area(s) are beautifully landscaped. The service is top notch, and the use of the executive lounge with a nice continental breakfast and fully inclusive cocktail hour is an added plus. I could see spending a week here easily. We took an island tour to see parts of the island we had not seen before and it is quite beautiful on the North and East coasts and inland. We enjoyed a very gourmet meal at The Restaurant at Southseas including three star service. I'd say that we'll be back for more. Bequia, part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, was our next stop. This is the Caribbean the way it used to be. A small, clean fishing village and beautiful, unspoiled beaches. We took a water taxi to Lower Bay and it was the epitome of beautiful white sand, warm calm waters and natural shade. St. Georges, Grenada was our third stop. It has recovered a lot since Hurricane Ivan although you can still see lots of construction going on. We picked up a few odds and ends and spices in town and then took a water taxi to the beach to the south of Grand Anse Beach. It was also quite beautiful, with a few more people than Bequia. Although we didn't snorkel, a couple we met on the way over did do some snorkeling by the rocks and they said it was pretty good. The beach had services, local cold beers for $3 and battling water-taxi drivers. Well, not quite fully battling, but nice shouting matches, anyway. We enjoyed Grenada a lot. I can see coming back and spending more time here. On Martinique we had reserved a rental car with Europe-Car, but they were closed, so we stood in line and picked up a car at Budget next door for E56 (about $70). We took a leisurely drive up the coast to Saint Pierre where we shopped, toured the museum and looked at the ruins from the 1902 volcanic eruption and had a marvelous lunch with some morning caught fish or perfectly French Boeuf au Poivre and nice cold Cote de Provence Rose. After a nice stroll back to the car, we continued inland to the cloud-covered volcano and drove back into town on the Route de la Trace. This was one of the most beautiful drives I have ever taken (and that includes driving in Italy and France). Every twist and turn gave new vistas, new weather, and new foliage. We had read about this drive in the guidebooks (which was why we rented the car) and it was all we had read about and more. (Unfortunately, my passengers, having enjoyed their lunches and wine all too well, napped through a good portion of this drive!). Driving in the capital city was the typical urban adventure, but we managed to return the rental car in one piece with time to get back to the ship for the 5 p.m. sail-a-way. St. Barths continues to be St. Tropez in the Caribbean. Even with the high Euro some good deals can still be had. A couple of years ago we discovered a Mephisto store here with prices much less than back home. This year, after the first rainstorm of our cruise came to an end, we sought out the same store. The proprietor, Sophie, remembered us and we spent a pleasant hour or so shopping and trying on shoes. We had priced out sandals and shoes locally before we went and the prices, even with the Euro at $1.32, still couldn't be beat. We window-shopped and shop-shopped at many of the other stores and boutiques (many of which are still way out of our price range, but are evidently not a problem for many of the island's visitors) and stopped for a cafe or cocktail before heading back to the ship. There are some marvelous beaches here, but the weather was iffy and we had lots of beach time on our first three stops so spent a pleasant afternoon back on the ship. San Juan Puerto Rico on a rainy Sunday is not a great cruise stop. We took the time to use an internet cafe in the city (at 1% of the cost on the ship) and visited with some dear friends we had met on a cruise a few years ago. We had brunch at a private club that was a throwback to Miami or Havana circa 1955 and caught up with our good friends. The rain in San Juan ended around noon but evidently it followed the golfers who went to one of the Robert T. Jones Sr. courses an hour or so west and after a few holes they were washed out (but they got full refunds). Speaking of the internet. Our friend Rodney did purchase internet services on the ship and his report is that it is quite expensive and very slow. Samana Dominican Republic might have some interest if the weather is decent but when the rains are falling and the winds are howling, it is not a good place for a cruise ship. The local town is dirty, falling apart and full of hustlers on noisy, smelly motorcycles. Some cruise mates said they hired a taxi to get out of town and were so depressed by the poverty, they turned around and came right back. Others took the excursion to the waterfalls, which they said were pretty but nothing like the scenery on Dominica or St. Lucia. Most of the passengers were in agreement that this stop was awful. It appears Silversea already knows this since they apparently don't have any more plans to stop here. Carnival has built a wonderful new pier and port facilities at Grand Turk and it has many of the attractions of most of the cruise lines private islands, such as Princess Cays. They have built a beautiful pool area with a swim up bar provided by a pleasant Margaritaville knock-off. The beach is nice, although you need swim shoes since it is rocky and there is some coral. There are some nice duty free stores and it was a very pleasant and enjoyable stop. The snorkeling excursions that left early in the morning had great weather and very clear water. A fantastic storm blew in around 1 p.m. and about 2 inches of rain fell in the next 3 hours. Many folks still at the resort/beach got really soaked! We had gotten back on-board around 12:30 p.m. to have a leisurely lunch and it turned out our timing was perfect! The one sea day on the last day of the cruise was picture-perfect. As I mentioned earlier the pool area and service on Silver Shadow are excellent so we had a great day soaking up the sun and enjoying the libations. Disembarkation in Fort Lauderdale was not pleasant. The ship docked on time around 8 and everyone retrieved their passports and we were ready to disembark. Many passengers had early flights (before 11 a.m.) that Silversea said shouldn't be a problem. Well, 8:30 came and went - 8:45 here is our cruise director - any news? No news. Pursed lips. Never saw him or heard from him again. 9 a.m. Nada. Crowd getting larger and more nervous. No announcements. 9:15 a.m. a passenger is chased back up the stairs after accidentally coming down the stairwell where we are supposed to exit. 9:30 - rumors fill the full hall - problems with the luggage, problems with US Customs, we'll never know. Finally about 9:40 they let us off. After racing through immigration, we get a porter, find our bags and are ready for customs, taxi and airport. We might still make our flight. But no Customs. I'm serious. We were the only ship in port (rare for Port Everglades) and no Customs agents to be found. Calls are made, customers get unruly and surly Customs agents finally appear (evidently upset the ship released us prematurely!). We get a taxi and race to the airport and find out our plane was delayed!! Well, that could have been good news, but we ended up at the airport an extra 2 ½ hours (could have been worse if we had been going to Denver which was shut down). We're still not sure what happened on the Shadow, and having done many cruises understand there can be some delays getting off the ship. But we have been off much larger ships with many more ships in port much sooner than this. What was also galling was the lack of communication from the cruise director. For many of us, it was a sour ending to what had been an otherwise wonderful cruise. Summary Our cruising friends Rodney and Dorothy were also comparing Silversea with Regent and decided by day 5 that they preferred Regent (even in the pre-all-inclusive days). At this stage, with a few days between us and this cruise, we have to agree. Regent has better food, more affable crew, more activities, similar entertainment and more variety. Depending on the cruise, it's either more expensive or less expensive, but now that Regent is going all inclusive, comparisons should be much easier to make. We also must say that Celebrity looks better and better compared to both Regent and Silversea. Yes, we still have to deal with the chits and the tipping, but the atmosphere and overall cruise quality are very comparable especially if staying in a Sky Suite like we usually do. If you would like more information about this cruise or any of our island stops, feel free to e-mail us at greygypsy1@yahoo.com. Respectfully submitted, Susan and Jeff Taxier December 24, 2006 Read Less
Sail Date: January 2007
Re: Mr. and Mrs. Larry J. Hudack Voyages 2701 & 2702 on the Silver Wind Great Expectations: We had cruised on the Regent Mariner twice and Crystal Symphony and enjoyed their programs very much. We were told to expect more from ... Read More
Re: Mr. and Mrs. Larry J. Hudack Voyages 2701 & 2702 on the Silver Wind Great Expectations: We had cruised on the Regent Mariner twice and Crystal Symphony and enjoyed their programs very much. We were told to expect more from Silversea. Rave reports detailing the intimate luxury that we should expect were very convincing and we looked forward to cruising with you with great anticipation. We had been told to expect superior service, spectacular entertainment, and unparalleled attention to detail. We anticipated the drink cart that would stock our suite and the personal attention we would receive at meals. Naturally, your excursion program was much complimented. Balance: A Poor Start: We arrived at the terminal building a little early and were told we would board at 2 pm. It soon became apparent that something was wrong. Two PM came and went. Passengers lined up in anticipation of embarking. At 2:30 the line reached the entire length of the terminal building (I took pictures because it seemed so unusual). By 3 PM there was a story advanced by one of the waiters who was in the terminal to "assist" the passengers, that the boat had docked some 2 ½ hours late. Unfortunately, we knew that was not true since we had seen the Silver Wind at dockside from our hotel window early in the morning. Slowly the embarkation line began to advance at about 3 PM. The line moved forward very slowly as only two small busses were being used to shuttle passengers to the ship. Like cattle in a chute ready for an auction we advanced. Tempers were running short. The common question was "Is this the way one experiences 'ultimate luxury' cruising?" What we experienced was disorganized and demeaning. Then, as we entered the ship one of the officers advanced the idea that Chilean Customs was "the problem" and they had kept the ship waiting. We shall never know the true rationale but it was clear that communications coming from Silver Wind had a tendency to be disingenuous and self-serving. Eventually we got to our cabin at about 4:30 and breathed a sigh of relief. "Let's put that bad experience behind us" we said to ourselves. Excursions In our suite we completed a list of the excursions we wanted to take and delivered the list to the Concierge at 8 AM on Tuesday morning. At 6 PM we received a call in our suite from Sabrina Hawel who informed us that we would be unable to take the first excursion on Wednesday because our "application was received late". Sabrina informed us that the deadline was Noon on Tuesday. It seemed to make no difference to her that we had delivered our application to the Concierge 4 hours before the deadline because the Excursion desk was unoccupied. Yes, with Sabrina the rules are the rules and the concept of intimate luxury cruising seem to be totally lost. I brought this matter to the attention of Paolo Benassi and expressed my displeasure with Sabina's conduct. When we returned from dinner two excursion tickets for Wednesday were in our suite. On Wednesday the excursion went off on schedule and I note for your information that the bus was less than 40% occupied. Clearly there was no shortage of availability and Sabrina was exercising poor judgment. It simply seemed lost on Sabrina that her job was to serve and assist the passengers. Throughout the two cruises Sabrina was disorganized and flighty. She seemed to engage in a lot of motion for no purpose whatsoever in order to look busy. Indeed, in Buenos Aires those of us on excursions had no idea where to gather and the scene was one of utter chaos as we searched around to find our buses. In general the excursions, once we were in the hands of the vendors, were very well done and the equipment was modern and in good condition. The single exception being in Santos where the tour guide told us repeatedly that she was a school teacher and had studied law for 5 years. She literally yelled into an amplified microphone and spent more time apologizing for her conduct than she did in conducting the tour. Facilities We occupied suite 539 for 24 days. Upon our arrival we noted that shower had black mold around the tub and in the ceiling area. The carpet was faded and looked anything but inviting. The chairs in the room were stained and the mattresses were sagging in the middle on both sides of the bed and not particularly comfortable - they had seen better days. The air-conditioning would not cool the room or reduce the humidity once we came into the warmer climate from Buenos Aires to Rio De Janerio. We were told not to open our veranda doors which made them a bit useless. During the colder portion of the trip the restaurants were frequently so cold that we hurried our meal just to get our feet warm. From time to time water from the lavatory and shower would run brown - about the color of a weak tea. Occasionally, brown debris would float up from the tub drain. Taking a tub bath was, therefore, out of the question. This seemed to happen most often in the evening when passengers were preparing for the evening. The room TV on the Silver Wind is set so low that one cannot see it while lying in bed and it was held in place by being set on two wood screws. Of course, it did not really matter since the TV programming was tragic. During our 5 days at sea after leaving Punta Arenas we were treated to 5 days of the movie "Lassie". The resolution on the GPS display was so poor that it was impossible to even read the names of the countries. Food and beverage Service According to your self promoting literature "Silversea has set the standard for ultra-luxury cruising ...". I should be interested in how you define "ultra-luxury". I believe a water glass half full or a wine glass half empty should be an invitation for waiter attention. Not on the Silver Wind. Obtaining a water or wine refill required one to raise one's hand in order to attract attention sufficient to obtain service. I suppose there was a beverage shortage on the Silver Wind because a glass of wine was always poured ¼ full and it took vigorous effort to obtain additional service. The Sommeliers were, in some cases, unskilled and lacked completely the ability to distinguish between wines or describe a particular wine. I seriously question many of the wine choices. For example, a Chardonnay blended with another variety could only be a signal that that principal wine was deficient. Of course, if selection was based on price that would explain the wines. The waiters in "The Restaurant", for the most part, did their jobs in silence and without a smile. They performed like trained robots attempting to give no cause for criticism instead of engaging with the passengers with whom they were to share the restaurant for over 3 weeks. The Problem Begins at the Top - Ignazio Tatulli I acknowledge that neither Silversea nor Captain Tatulli is responsible for the weather. However, Both Silversea and Captain Tatulli are individually and collectively responsible for the decisions that are made with regard to the weather and for the consequences thereof. On voyage 2701, we missed three of the eight listed ports. My wife and I were looking forward to seeing the Falkland Islands - this was to be one of our highlights. However, we were on a luxury cruise and had not signed on to be intrepid seafarers. We left the Magellan Straights at about 4 AM. Seas were 10-12 feet and the wind was from the Southwest at 15-20 knots. As we emerged from the protection of the straights it was obvious to even an amateur sailor that as we moved into open seas in the South Atlantic that wind and sea conditions would worsen. At that time (4AM) all that was necessary was for Captain Tatulli to place a satellite phone call to the harbor master at the Falklands and learn that seas there were extremely high and that winds were already gale force. In fact, this information was available from internet sources. As we moved into the Argentinean Basin winds strengthened and the seas grew. By Noon the seas were 15-18 feet and the winds were over 25 knots. It was challenging and somewhat unsafe to even walk on deck nine or attempt to get to the gym. By 4 PM the seas were 25-30 feet and winds were over 30 knots. The ship was rolling substantially as the southwesterly swell moved beneath the boat. By 6 PM the seas were 30-40 feet and winds were over 35 knots as we sailed under Captain Tatulli's direction south of the Falkland Islands. We were constantly exposed to southwest swell and winds that had grown steadily all day. On deck five the bar was completely destroyed when the deck rolled 15 to 20 degrees as the Silver Wind slid up and down the swells coming directly abeam. Passengers were tossed from their chairs; drinks were smashed on the floor. On deck seven the entire restaurant service landed on the floor and everything breakable was, in fact, broken. The piano slid, passengers lying on the floor were hit by tables or chairs. Some passengers were badly injured And for what purpose? We could not anchor or put our tenders ashore at Port Stanley. It was unsafe when we arrived and had been unsafe ever since we left the Straights of Magellan. We took the most dangerous route - south of the islands and did not obtain relief on the lea of the land until the abort decision was made. The decision to divert to our next port (Puerto Madryn) could have been reasonably made early Wednesday morning. The decision to continue on to Port Stanley was, in the most flattering terms, ill advised and in a more practical sense, in view of our "luxury" cruising objectives, it was incompetent. I refuse to believe that with modern communications tools the weather conditions in Port Stanley could not have been reasonably anticipated in sufficient time to make a the situation avoidable. It was clear earlier that some decision making and planning aspects of this cruise were poorly done. We could not dock in Chacabuco because an NCL cruise ship was tied up at the dock and the harbor was too small to anchor. It defies reason that Silversea could not know, days in advance, that NCL had reserved that dock! So, we sailed around the Falklands and past Puerto Madryn so that Captain Tatulli could steam a northerly course which he claimed would offer us some protection by being north of the Falklands. I suppose he expected us to believe that story even though the southerly land mass would offer protection for only a limited time because of the Southwest seas. Throughout the cruises Captain Tatulli was the invisible man and that decision seems to have been his choice. At the first Captain's reception Captain Tatulli announced that he was leaving the ship in Buenos Aires and he challenged us all to try to beat him to the airport once we docked. To attend to his pregnant wife, it was rumored, he would do anything to get off the ship early. He did manage to get the Silver Wind to Buenos Aires a day early. His heart was not in the cruise. Captain Tatulli missed the second reception - he said he was busy. At the third reception he embarrassed himself and his crew when he actually did not know our next port. Trickle Down Infection The attitude of Captain Tatulli apparently infected the entire crew. The Crew was not happy, service was wistful and uncertain. Paolo Benassi seemed incapable or unwilling to take any meaningful action. When new passengers boarded in Buenos Aires (39 of us stayed on board) we were constantly asked about the "cruise from hell" we had experienced. The descriptive name was supplied by the boarding passengers as they had all heard about our misadventure. Some decisions that directly impacted the passengers seem very strange. Why would Silversea choose to change entertainers at the southerly most city on the planet where air service is not exactly renowned? Two entertainers got off in Punta Arenas and two others got on - minus their luggage. A ventriloquist without his dummy is not an act. Entertainment for several days was limited to movies and we saw the March of the Penguins twice. So much for great entertainment! For the most part, the entertainment was mediocre and lightly attended. The lectures failed miserably to help the passengers gain an understanding of the cities we were to visit. Mr. Mattson's lectures were particularly uninspired and were the dull and lifeless product of the US State Department Staff. You could take a lesson from Crystal in this regard. The "Fitness Director" was notable for her absence. She was neither available nor helpful with the equipment and was uniquely dispirited. I know not what purpose Andrea Paravey served except to strut and sway with the most disingenuous smile I have ever seen. Better to have replaced her with a couple of waiters. Insult Upon Injury One night we were invited to dine with the ship's physician. Regrettably, we accepted. Upon entering The Restaurant we were told that the ship's physician was "unavailable" and that the Staff Engineer would be our host. We were puzzled when our first replacement host was still absent 15 minutes after the invitation time. Eventually, our table was hosted by the Housekeeper who offered no explanation for the diminished representation of the crew. She seemed to have been rushed into service as a last minute replacement. How would you feel? . Read Less
Sail Date: February 2007
Our cruise was some months ago, but we're just discussing where to go for the next cruise and .. I realized I meant to review it at the time. We were on Silver Whisper late February 2007 from Bangkok to Singapore. It was our 10th ... Read More
Our cruise was some months ago, but we're just discussing where to go for the next cruise and .. I realized I meant to review it at the time. We were on Silver Whisper late February 2007 from Bangkok to Singapore. It was our 10th wedding anniversary, when we married we went from Bangkok to Singapore on the Orient Express, this was the same journey, just a bit slower. We stayed a couple of nights in Bangkok before the cruise, it's a better place to visit than it was a few years back, less touting, better service and great food. The trip down to the docks was somewhat fraught, roads were dug up and the driver got very lost in the port, so by the time we arrived we were pretty fried. We sat around the departure area for about 10 minutes before giving up and agreeing to pay the extra for early boarding, we just wanted to get on the ship. We were never actually charged for this .. which made us happy in the end. For reference our previous cruises had been with Celebrity and Royal Caribbean, on and one with Star Cruises just better forgotten. The ship was lovely. Maintained, well appointed, just great. It's quiet, it seems empty even when it's not, we absolutely loved it. On the other cruise lines we'd chosen some of the larger suite cabins expecting we'd need to retreat to them and spend most of our vacation there (and we did). On silversea we were near the bottom of the categories and were concerned about that, but the room (vista balcony) was fine for the 11 days on board and the public areas of the ship were good enough, and quiet enough, that we could spend more time out of it. The room layout is wonderful, great use of space, clever closet, lovely bathroom. The housekeeping staff kept it in fine condition the whole week. We loved the service. This set the cruise apart from other cruises we'd been on. The staff got to know you, they figured out your likes and dislikes early on and that's good service. Like most people we had a favorite waiter in the restaurant. We felt the staff were all trained to the same standard, clearly Silversea didn't just put people on a ship and expect them to figure it out. The restaurant staff learned what we liked to eat, the deck staff quickly learned what I liked to drink, that's service. We found the food to be of a consistently high standard. It surpasses that on the other cruises we'd taken and we felt that it would be hard to deliver better on board a cruise ship. We didn't mess about asking for odd things, we took it as it came and were happy. As it was an asian cruise we'd have appreciated more asian food choices, just for fun, the impression was that the food was independent of the cruise, a little flexibility would be nice. Included alcohol was welcome and we thought the wine choices were good. We tried La Terazza one night and somehow it disappointed, the service was a mess, food was nice though. I used the internet daily and was pretty impressed that a ship managed to keep up a sold connection almost all the time. I probably spent 2 hours a day working and had very few problems. It wasn't cheap, but it's a necessary evil and I wouldn't cruise on a ship which didn't have it. I note that in-room wireless access is one of the post-drydock features .. I'd have liked that, although working in the forward lounge was fun, if I sail on the whisper again, I hope I don't use the in-room internet too much. I also put on the comment card that the whole ship needed LDC TVs because the old CRT ones were useless in a metal ship, I gather that too is being done in drydock, that's a plus. We didn't like the cruise director much, but a lot of people seemed to. See the comment below about 'young cruisers'. We didn't expect to like the entertainment a whole lot and ... we really didn't. This was expected when we booked, we watched DVDs in our room and that was more our taste. Definitely understand that a cruise line can't cater for every taste and we're perhaps not the target market. We found the staff in the gym/spa to be great. The fitness director on this cruise was so passionate about the subject I was finally, after 20 years of laziness, spurred into fitness action and I'm still going. If we had a complaint at all it was that the crew didn't seem to quite know how to deal with younger cruisers. I'm early 40s, my wife mid 30s and asian. We didn't get quite the personal treatment some other travellers received from the senior staff, table by the kitchen unless you asked not, nothing very special on our anniversary (noted that everyone on board had something special that week, so you can't all dine with the captain), cruise director didn't really stop by to say hi. At the same time we found the younger cruise staff very open and friendly so perhaps what we lost with the senior staff, we gained at the other end. The younger staff work very hard indeed, and with a smile and for us their attitude made the whole cruise. Silversea blew us away, really, there are always things can be done better, but we relaxed and we got off the ship wanting to go back, relaxed and happy. yes we're comparing with mass-market lines as that's what we'd done before, but the step up in quality and staff attitude was key to us really relaxing. We're planning our next cruise and looking at other lines too but it's hard to not go back, it's certainly hard to choose any line back down market. We read that the whisper is going for drydock and being tweaked and that really makes us feel that we need to return. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2007
Silver Shadow "Sea of Quiet Reflection" (08MAY-22MAY) Itinerary: Lisbon, Gibraltar, Casablanca, Funchal (Madeira), Ponta Delgada (Azores), and Bermuda, New York. Stateroom: 621 (Verandah) This transatlantic voyage was the last ... Read More
Silver Shadow "Sea of Quiet Reflection" (08MAY-22MAY) Itinerary: Lisbon, Gibraltar, Casablanca, Funchal (Madeira), Ponta Delgada (Azores), and Bermuda, New York. Stateroom: 621 (Verandah) This transatlantic voyage was the last sector of the Silver Shadow's World Cruise and it was a wonderful way to spend 14 days. Of those 14 days, seven were sea days with the longest stretch being the four days between Ponta Delgada and Bermuda. Embarkation: A breeze. Embarkation on Silversea is generally very easy however this was easier than normal because about 140 passengers had already boarded...about 100 days earlier. Disembarkation: The ship docked at the pier in Manhattan at 7:00 AM. Passengers who were continuing back to Southampton, England and ship's crew were cleared first. We were in the first group of disembarking passengers to get off the ship. We were called to disembark at around 9:15AM and finished with all governmental requirements by 9:30AM. Entertainment: Now, I'm not a big one for ship's entertainment but this cruise was chock-a-block with interesting presenters. Noted maritime historian Bill Miller gave about three lectures on board. John Derbyshire of the conservative magazine "National Review", (who replaced the grieving William F. Buckley) had, I think two lectures...one on politics and one on numbers. (???) Ted Allen, formerly of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and now of "Top Chef" had two or three cooking demonstrations. Broadway producer Arthur Whitelaw entertained the crowd. Last but far from least was pianist and raconteur Michael Feinstein. Michael boarded the ship in Bermuda and performed in the Athenian Lounge for nearly 90 minutes. It was a great performance! Ship's Tours: We did ship sponsored tours in Morocco, and the Azores. The tour in Morocco was a ½ tour to that nation's capital, Rabat. Rabat was very interesting and the tour guide very knowledgeable. The ship also offered a full day tour to Marrakech however it's a four-hour road journey in each direction. That was just too long to spend in a bus!! In the Azores we did a four-wheel drive tour of the island of Sao Miguel. This was an excellent way to see the island. Each Land Rover or Jeep had a tour guide and four occupants. Our tour guide spoke impeccable English...being a Canadian of Azorean descent who decided to move to the land of his grandparents. It was an excellent way to see a beautiful island. Madeira: Silversea offered a complimentary excursion at Madeira. I chose not to go. My partner did as it was a wine excursion but when he returned he said that it smacked of a promotion by local vintners. Other tours: When the ship docked in Gibraltar there were many taxis/minivans offering tours of the "Rock". Our minivan held 6 and the driver/guide gave us an excellent overview of the rock. We went to the top; visited the caverns; saw the monkeys; walked through the man-made caves and were dropped off in town. We didn't do any tours in Bermuda because I've been there nearly 20 times. Bermuda really doesn't require any tours. Just rent a cycle and go go go!!! (which is what I did) Ports: Lisbon: We spent 3 days in Lisbon prior to boarding the Silver Shadow. I had fully expected it to be a sleepy, somewhat boring city. W-R-O-N-G!!! Lisbon may not be a massive bustling metropolis but it is a city with great people, great architecture, great infrastructure and great public transport. Well worth a visit!! Gibraltar: Winston Churchill's belief was that, as long as the barbary apes inhabited Gibraltar the territory would remain British. Well, we saw quite a few of the apes and the territory does have a very British feel to it...if Britain had sun!! ? Visiting the "Rock" was great fun and extremely interesting. Although it is British, the Spanish language is often heard and most places of business will accept the Gibraltar pound and the Euro. Casablanca: Where's the romance? Where's the charm? Where's "Rick's Cafe Americaine"? (okay..Rick's is apparently a tacky bar under renovation in the lobby of the Hyatt). Casablanca itself is not particularly interesting or beautiful. We did take a ship's tour to Rabat, which had many fascinating sights. Rabat is about 90 minutes from Casablanca. Madeira: I've been here before on the maiden voyage of the Queen Mary 2 so I only disembarked the ship in order to take pictures of the vessel. The crew of the Silver Shadow commemorated their visit to the island by proudly painting the Silversea logo on the wall adjacent to the pier. It's a nice little island…but the ship is nicer!! Azores: The ship called at Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel. I knew very little of the Azores so I didn't know what to expect. Well…Sao Miguel is a spectacularly beautiful island!! It's lush and green. It has beautiful beaches and wonderful lakes that fill the indentations of dormant volcanic craters. If you're ever in the neighborhood…visit the Azores. You'll be surprised and enthralled. Bermuda: The only place it rained during the 14 days was in Bermuda…and it rained hard but the torrents didn't stop me!! I walked up Front Street to Oleander Cycles and rented a scooter. I rode to St. David's Island, and St. George's and toodled around. I visited Gibbs Hill Lighthouse and then met my partner for lunch at the "Swizzle Inn" outpost in Warwick parish. Some of the crewmembers also emblazoned the Silversea logo with the worlds "World Cruise 2007" on the port's breakwater. New York: The port of New York welcomed the Silver Shadow on its maiden visit with a water spray from a historic fireboat. Although New York is my home and an amazing city it was depressing to disembark, get in a taxi and go straight to work. Crew: The crew was virtually flawless. For example, I had mentioned to the ship's bar manager, Sujith that Marilyn in the Panorama Lounge had made sugar syrup for my caiparinhas. His reply was basically, "You shall have simple (sugar) syrup at every bar by tomorrow "…and we did. Sujith is the epitome of professionalism. There was a bit of intra-crew ugliness when an engineering officer who was in overalls "ordered" Sujith to prepare an alcoholic drink during the crew's "deck Olympics". Sujith respectfully advised the officer that he may have the soft drinks provided for the crew on the deck. The "officer" then began to berate Sujith with, "how long have you been here? Do you know who I am?" but Sujith politely held his ground even though this officer persisted. Passengers who witnessed this made a number of complaints against this officer. The officer wasn't seen in public again. Throughout the ship the crew were friendly, professional and welcoming. They called us by name routinely and remembered our likes and dislikes from day one. The cruise director was the polyglot Fernando. He is extremely welcoming and engaging and has an amazing history. Passengers: My partner and I met many wonderful people and never felt like interlopers among the World Cruisers. The range of nationalities was far and wide. We met, made friends with and dined with World Cruisers and late joiners alike and had a great time. One of the many, many highlights was a conversation in the Davidoff Humidor with an executive producer of a popular American news program. He, my partner and I spoke about a wide range of topics until 2AM! Memorable, simply memorable. Overall it seemed that all the passengers were enjoying themselves, the ship and the voyage. Trivia: I'm a big fan of trivia and admittedly have a mind full of useless information. However on a couple of past cruises with Seabourn and Silversea, the trivia sessions proved to be an exercise in embarrassing childishness. On this voyage the trivia games were completely social and fun. Was this a function of how Fernando ran the games or the players themselves? I'd say it was a 50/50 split. Food: I made a conscious not to go to breakfast. I generally don't eat breakfast at home and didn't want to disembark the ship at a weight of 800lbs/360kgs so I figured that I would skip breakfast. Lunch was almost exclusively taken poolside. The poolside grill (always my favorite!) was in fine form with a nice selection of hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled fish and salads. My partner and I did have lunch one afternoon in the restaurant when we invited Fernando to join us. It was the day of the galley brunch and it was quite good. Although the ship offers four venues for dinner we only ate in "The Restaurant". The South African-born chef in "The Restaurant", Richard is quite accomplished at serving nearly 400 covers to a demanding clientele. The dinners were normally very good to excellent. There was only one meal where the Restaurant's offerings were prepared to a "good" level. Three truly memorable meals were served on board the ship. The first was "Poulet de Bresse", a renowned chicken from Bresse, France that is notable for its blue feet and a tag on its wing. We special ordered it and the chef prepared it to perfection and the captain of the section, Jose, carved it tableside. On the advice of one of the world cruisers, we asked for an Indian banquet. We had planned for a total of six diners however the two wives of the other couples were unwell and didn’t join us remaining four. This dinner, from beginning to end was a journey through India. The chef prepared chicken Tikka, shrimp Masala, Tandoori chicken, various chutneys, chickpeas, papadom and naan breads, rice. This meal was otherworldly. We learned from the maitre d’, Antonio that the chef who prepared this feast was in fact Indian and was given carte blanche in India (when the ship called there) to buy fresh spices and curry powders for the kitchen. We also learned that this chef had also recently been promoted. This meal was so good that we asked for a second Indian banquet, which we shared with another couple. It was just as good as the first!!! Room Service: This was a bit spotty. I found that you had to be very, very specific with what you wanted and even so, things would be missing from the order. For anyone who is a fan of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” think of the scene where the “King of the Swamp Castle” tried to give instructions to the guards watching “Prince Herbert”. On one afternoon we were at the pool deck and my partner wanted something from the restaurant’s lunch menu to be delivered to the pool deck. He placed the order and about 30 minutes later was told that it wouldn’t be coming because he had ordered it after the lunch service had ended. He challenged this (because the order had been placed prior to the end of service) and then was told that it could be delivered to the suite but not to the pool deck. After about four different excuses the dish was finally delivered to the pool deck. No one offered a reasonable explanation for this service interruption. On a positive note my partner asked for a daily order of caviar to be delivered to the room every evening at 6:00PM. He only had to make this request once and the caviar appeared every evening. Even if we were out of the stateroom at the time of delivery the room service attendant would leave the caviar in the stateroom. Stateroom: We had a verandah suite (621). Our travel agent told us that this cabin was next to the linen station for the deck and it might have added noise. Well, we didn’t hear a peep. The cabin is a standard Silver Shadow suite. It was well appointed. I do hope that the TV’s are replaced with flat screens. The ship’s wireless internet extended to the staterooms and was very convenient and pretty quick. Overall impressions: Excellent voyage…probably one of the best if not the best I’ve been on. The combination of interesting ports, number of sea days, great fellow passengers and virtually flawless service made the two weeks fly by. While we were on board we booked another cruise (that offered an onboard savings) for April 2008 so now we have two more Silversea cruises to look forward to. My partner and I have been “immortalized” in the Restaurant. We brought along a fascinating bottle of wine that was without a label. Jerome, the sommelier created a label with our names and the wine’s information, affixed it to the bottle and placed it in the display case as you enter the restaurant. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2007
Just Returned From Silver Whisper-FABULOUS!! My husband and I were on Silver Wind ten years ago and had the trip of our lifetime. I never thought it could be repeated again. But it was! Another trip of a lifetime on Silversea! We were ... Read More
Just Returned From Silver Whisper-FABULOUS!! My husband and I were on Silver Wind ten years ago and had the trip of our lifetime. I never thought it could be repeated again. But it was! Another trip of a lifetime on Silversea! We were on a 9 day cruise - June 6-15 to Greek Islands, Sicily and Italy. Of course the ports were wonderful, but I am not going to review the ports since everyone chooses an itinerary based on their own preferences. My objective is to discuss our experience on Silversea. From the moment we boarded the ship- The service was incredible!! Every staff person always greeted us and had a big smile on their faces. Woke up very early every morning (we couldn't wait to start our day on Silver Whisper) - and ordered cappuccino delivered to our rooms. Ten minutes later it would arrive and placed on our balcony with fine linens and china. 24 hour room service- you can order anything to eat or drink. Ordered drinks at 2:00 a.m. and same efficient and quick service. Then we would go to La Terrazza for buffet breakfast when it opened. Huge wonderful assortment of breakfast items, juices, fresh omelet station, fresh fruit station with staff cutting the fruit. etc. - Glasses for juices were chilled. The attention to this kind of detail was evident in everything they did on the ship. Then you could have pancakes, waffles etc., prepared for you. I am not a breakfast eater- so ordered Lamb Chops, with wild mushrooms and ice tea every morning. (Asked for fresh pineapple slice in my ice tea). By the second day, the waiters knew me and would say - "Are you ready for your Lamb Chops and your Ice tea with fresh pineapple". 10-15 minutes later the Lamb Chops arrived. The point I am trying to get across is whatever special request you may want- the answer is always "YES"! The waiters would carry your plates to your table from the buffet. All the waiters had wonderful attitudes and were there to please you in every way. You are made to feel very special! We had a veranda suite which included a balcony. We loved having the balcony and used it all the time. The room is lovely, with plenty of closet space and more drawers than you can fill up- and we had 4 pieces of luggage. Personalized stationary with your name on it. Fresh flowers in your cabin. The bathrooms were fantastic! - double sinks, shower and tub with Bulgari amenities- soap, shampoo, conditioner etc. Very comfortable bed with fine linens and duvet cover. The stewardess was fantastic. Always smiling and calling us by our names. Good morning Mr. and Mrs....... The stewardess's- work in teams with 2 people taking care of your suite. The cabins are cleaned twice a day and the cleaning was immaculate. They even lined up my makeup in a straight row! We kept saying to ourselves, this service is UNBELIEVABLE!!! We had to keep asking ourselves how anything can be so perfect like this. We ate dinner every night in the main dining room and also ate once in the Italian Restaurant. The food was excellent. Many choices and if you don't see what you like on the menu- they will bring you what you request. One day I saw an appetizer from lunch that looked interesting and requested it for dinner. Nothing was ever a problem! The dining room wait staff was so professional, great attitudes and impeccable service. We were greeted by the waiter and wine steward the minute you sat down. Every night it was like eating in a fine restaurant. Presentation of the food on the plates was always beautifully done. The beef dishes were extraordinary- beef melted in our mouths! You will be pampered beyond belief!! Most nights we would stay in the dining room for 3 hours talking to our fellow guests we were dining with at our table. We enjoyed the formal nights as it made for a Glamorous Evening! Chef David was accessible to all the guests. Coming out to the dining room, greeting everyone and making sure you were happy. One day my husband told the chef- he may prefer something different instead of a filet of fish. The chef said call me and let me know- he said "do you want a whole fish- I can make it anyway you want". Almost on every port before we were ready to sail- there would be a lovely small buffet set up by the pool area before dinner. Chef David was always walking around - getting to know all the guests. One night we had a "Barbeque Dinner" on the pool deck. It was FANTASTIC! Forty desserts to choose from- I counted! The pool deck was set up with fabric covered chairs, linen tablecloths. Great entertainment and dancing to the wee hours. We were talking to a few couples and the Captain came by our table and talk to us for one hour! That is what made our cruise so special- all the staff treated you like family! Every cruise they do an open Kitchen Galley Buffet Lunch. What a magnificent presentation! So interesting to see how the kitchen functions. See pictures of Kitchen Galley Lunch, Barbeque Dinner Buffet on Pool Deck and Breakfast Buffet: http://pictures.aol.com/galleries/dafne478965 At the bars they use linen napkins- another attention to fine detail! All the bartenders made great drinks! I like Pina Coladas and had it prepared in Hawaii with vanilla ice cream. I told the bartender and with in a few minutes they went down to the kitchen galley and got the ice cream. No request is denied! When we disembarked at the ports they had cold bottled water to take ashore and on the way back waiting for the tenders to return to the ship -at the ports they had cold punch, water and chilled towels! What makes Silversea cruises so special are the fellow passengers you meet. We met wonderful, fascinating people from all over the world. Everyone was so friendly and wanted to socialize. We have made some lasting friendships that we will keep in touch with. If you want wonderful service, great food, and a smaller ship than there is only one Cruise Line- SILVERSEA! The advantage of the smaller ship is that it is easier to make friends since you run into the same people all the time and the staff members get to know you personally. Ron our cruise director was so friendly, and eloquent making announcements and always had a big smile when he greeted us. The entertainment was classy, A Broadway singer, a famous pianist etc. On the third day the Cruise Hotel Director delivered to all cabins a sheet asking if there is anything that he can do to make your cruise more pleasant please let him know. I wrote back on the sheet: "HOW CAN YOU IMPROVE PERFECTION" And I meant it. There is nothing that I would add or change. Spoke to many fellow passengers the last day of the cruise and everyone had the same opinion saying it was FABULOUS! If you like Four Seasons hotels than you will love Silversea! In fact I think Silversea is a cut above Four Seasons Hotels if you compare everything. Silversea is a CLASS ACT! You will not be disappointed. In fact it will probably be one of the highlights of your life!! You will be blown away with the Perfection in everything they do to make your cruise a memorable experience. Silversea is expensive, but worth every dollar you pay. We loved an all inclusive cruise- never have to sign for anything. Everything is included. We kept asking ourselves, how can a cruise line deliver such a perfect product down to every last detail. We travel all over the world for our business and have stayed in the finest hotels- and the Cruise we just went on with Silversea in all around service, food, attention to detail, and staff is top on our list. To be honest it was hard to go back to reality when the cruise ended as this cruise was a Fantasy come true! Our experience on Silversea was beyond our wildest dreams! How would we describe our cruise? MAGNIFICENT! AMAZING! PERFECT! FANTASTIC! INCREDIBLE! AND FABULOUS!! If you want the best service, great food, a wonderful cruise experience than Silversea is for you! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
Silver Wind 20.09. - 18.10.2007 Itinerary: 1 Part. London, Vigo, Lisbon, Funchal (Madeira), Las Palmas (Canary Island), Porto Grande (Capo Verde), Barbados, 2. Part Bequia (St. Vincent and the Grenadines), Georgetown (Grenada), Castries ... Read More
Silver Wind 20.09. - 18.10.2007 Itinerary: 1 Part. London, Vigo, Lisbon, Funchal (Madeira), Las Palmas (Canary Island), Porto Grande (Capo Verde), Barbados, 2. Part Bequia (St. Vincent and the Grenadines), Georgetown (Grenada), Castries (St. Lucia), Gustavia (St. Barths), St. John's (Antigua), Virgin Gorda (British Virgin Islands), St. Thomas (US Virgin Islands), Grand Turk (Turks & Caicos Islands), Key West, Ft. Lauderdale Embarkation: My mother and a friend joined the ship in London/Tower Bridge on September 20. I "Replaced" the friend on September 27 in Las Palmas. Embarkation in London went very easy for the two of them. They had arranged for early embarkation, arrived at the Pier at around noon (Taxi Driver needed 2 hours to find the ship, it would have been a 10 minute walk from the hotel) and took the tender to the ship. While docked in London there is always a tender service since the ship is docked to a museum ship. Their suite was ready and right after having lunch in the restaurant they could start unpacking. The Ports: Since I haven't been on board I can't say much about Vigo. But to the other two places I've missed this time I've been before. Lisbon is a wonderful city and for sure there are a lot more things to see then you can do in one day. Same for Funchal on Madeira. Well I can't say the same thing about Porto Grande/Mindelo on Capo Verde. I was very disappointed. There was nothing to see. After the 4 day crossing we reached Barbados. Very British for me, very different to some of the other Caribbean Islands. Bequia - beautiful, small, great for divers and sailors. Georgetown - busy city. Spice market is worth seeing and buying. We brought lots of spices home. Castries - the city itself is not much. But the island is just beautiful. Don't go to the volcano. That is too touristy and just a rip-off. Gustavia - a mixture out of French and Swedish. You can still find Swedish street names. Very exclusive shopping. Some of the shops have still been closed due to pre-season time. Otherwise a very beautiful place. St. John's - city is in a big need of renovation. We did a tour of the island with a private taxi driver. He showed us lots of places you normally don't get to see. Virgin Gorda - Silversea offers a Silversea Experience there. At a beach called Prickly Pear the organized a Beach Barbecue. We loved it. They work very had to carry all the stuff ashore. They offer grilled food, salads, desserts and all the drinks you can also get on board. Artur, one of the waiters even served the drinks in the water. A local band played Caribbean music, people were dancing, playing beach volleyball or just relaxing at the beach. I am sure everybody (including the crew) had a wonderful time. St. Thomas - how disappointing. I was sure if I'd see one more jewelry store I would probably scream. One shopping street. And every single shop is at least partly a jewelry store. You are looking for a pharmacy? Go through the jewelry store and you'll find it in the back..... Grand Turk - The island belongs to Carnival Cruise Lines. They've build a little shopping village at the pier, including a restaurant, a pool and a beautiful beach area. That is about it. There is not much more to see on the island but it is nice to go swimming. Key West - With two other ships in port this place is just to touristy for me. Ship's Tours: Since we always did our own thing (by taking taxis) I can't say much about the tours. On the second part several tours had to be cancelled since they did not reach the mini-mum of participants. We've had 260 passengers on the crossing to Barbados and only a little less then 200 on the second part. Entertainment: I usually don't go to the shows to often but I have to say they had one or two really good Guest Entertainers on board this time. Especially to mention Rudi Macaggi (Variety) and David Howarth (Piano). I was never really into Piano concerts. But I have to say David Howarth is an exceptional talent. But I know anyway they will bring back the Production Shows as they used to have before. The Crew: The Crew was amazing. Working hard, always friendly and smiling and we've never heard "no". Our room was always taken care off by two girls from the Philippines. And they were almost flawless. In the restaurant Maitre D' Jorge and his Headwaiters and Waiters did an excellent job trying to make everyone happy (hey you can't please everyone, there is always someone trying to find something to complain about). When we entered the Main Bar in the evening Darwin the Bartender made sure that within an instant we received our usual drink. Colin (first part) and Judie (second part) have been excellent Cruise Directors. They did a great job and also their Staff Chris, Kinga and Deniz. The only exception on the sip was un-fortunately the International Hostess. Mona was rarely seen. If she behaved in an arrogant way. Sometimes more like a passenger then like someone working on board. Captain Arma did a great job in maneuvering. When we left Capo Verde to cross the ocean we had a tropical depression ahead of us. So he altered to course to provide a smooth and easy crossing. I've only heard some people complain that you never see any officers around. After dinner only the Hoteldirector, the Chef and once in a while the Captain. That's what the other people said. I know it is different then it used to be. But I am sure they are busy with other things, to run the ship smoothly. Food: Well all I can say - this was for sure the best we've had in a long time on Silversea. Executive Chef David and his crew are fantastic. Even in the busy time before coming to the United States (this is extremely busy because in the US Ports usually once the United States Personal Health comes on board and if they would check their own restaurants as they check the ships, you could close 70% of American restaurants) they prepared wonderful dishes. We loved most of the fish dishes but also the pasta and meat dishes have been wonderful. Passengers: We experienced two totally different cruises as far as the passengers concerned. On the first part let's say all passengers seemed to be well travelled and fit totally into the ambience we know from our previous more then 400 days. The clientele on the second part was totally different. Younger but also some of them not really adapted to what we think Silversea stands for. Especially concerning the dress code. We had for example somebody showing up in the bar in the evening at 7 in shorts and a shirt. Even after being told several times to take the drink to his room he refused to leave. It took two people telling him off at the end. But we still met very nice people and had a wonderful time. Disembarkation: Since we did US Immigration the day before in Key West the disembarkation went extremely well. It still took a while till the ship had been cleared due to the strict rules the US Customs have. All passengers had to get off the ship by 10 am, we collected our luggage and our private pick-up was waiting in front of the terminal. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2007
This was our second voyage on Silversea, the first was last September on Shadow doing the inside passage in Alaska. While we immensely enjoyed that trip we thought the ship was a bit tired and the weather (clearly not under Silversea ... Read More
This was our second voyage on Silversea, the first was last September on Shadow doing the inside passage in Alaska. While we immensely enjoyed that trip we thought the ship was a bit tired and the weather (clearly not under Silversea control) was not very accommodating. This trip was to celebrate my retirement and our wedding anniversary. We embarked at Monte Carlo after spending two nights at the Fairmont Hotel there, a completely satisfactory hotel. We opted for early embarkation and took a taxi to the ship around 12 Noon. We were met at the gangway by a young man who escorted us to the reception area on the fifth level of Whisper. In moments we had our pictures taken and our silver key cards issued. Our cabin was ready and our escort took us there directly. We found everything in perfect order -- from the welcoming chilled champagne to the specific liquors we had ordered on our pre-boarding information form. We had a Silver Suite on Shadow and, while the Veranda Suite was just fine, we missed the extra space provided by a Silver Suite. We went to lunch in the dining room, where there were a few other early boarders, and had a delightful lunch. This was the first of many excellent dining experiences. My wife went back into Monte Carlo for some last minute shopping and I explored the ship. I recalled that some areas on the sister ship, Silver Shadow, were a bit worn. Not so on Whisper. There was not a torn or faded carpet or piece of upholstery to be found. By the time my wife returned the luggage had arrived and we unpacked. I also set out to make reservations for dinner at La Terraza one evening and at Le Champagne for the evening of our anniversary. These could both be booked at La Terraza after 3 PM. I also asked to be put on the waitlist for a second evening at La Terraza. It turned out that did not develop but we were not disappointed to eat the other five evenings in The Restaurant. I do find the reservation process for the two alternate restaurants a bit odd, but I knew it worked this way from Shadow and went along with their system. The meals in each of the dining rooms were excellent. Le Champagne was way over the top and a real special treat for our anniversary. The wait staff through out were most friendly and charming and, much to our delight, Leanne who had been our favorite waitress on Shadow was on this cruise and we sat in her area each evening in The Restaurant. For lunch we alternated between the buffet in The Terrace (odd how the name changes for the breakfast and lunch buffets) and eating by the pool. Great hamburgers, there. Each evening we began with drinks in the bar or, our preference when it was open, The Panorama Lounge on deck 8. Shore excursions were a mixed experience. We did a lovely tour of Rapallo and Santa Margherita. The weather turned nasty for our drive on the Amalfi Coast. Pisa was interesting and well worth the drive. And we loved the guides who took us to the ruins at Pompeii. The weather the last two nights at sea was very rough with high seas and much tossing and turning (both the ship and yours truly). And then we were at the port near Rome, where we left Silver Whisper for a few nights in the city of Rome -- which we arranged on our own. Disembarkation was smooth as silk. All in all, a wonderful cruise on a most lovely vessel. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2007
SILVERSEA CRUISES - Revisited Several years ago I sailed on Silversea Cruises' SILVER CLOUD in the Mediterranean. I greatly enjoyed the experience but haven't found the time to return as quickly as I had hoped, until now. My ... Read More
SILVERSEA CRUISES - Revisited Several years ago I sailed on Silversea Cruises' SILVER CLOUD in the Mediterranean. I greatly enjoyed the experience but haven't found the time to return as quickly as I had hoped, until now. My partner and I choose the SILVER SHADOW for a 9-night cruise beginning in Barbados on October 17, 2007 and ending in Ft. Lauderdale. We also spent two nights at Sandy Lane in Barbados prior to the cruise. For those that prefer to "cut to the chase" so to speak, I'll tell you upfront that Silversea lived up to all our expectations and even exceeded them. The reports I have read on various message boards about declining standards were not evident on my sailing. In fact I think some aspects of the cruise were upgraded upon reflection of my previous Silversea experience. Pre-cruise Special mention must be made of Silversea's pre-cruise documentation. They say first impressions are lasting impressions in this is certainly the case with Silversea. I don't think any Cruise Line or Tour Company has a better presentation. Your documents arrive in a silver box, and inside is a lovely black document holder embossed with the Silversea logo. The documents have the personal touch and the ticket is actually printed on Silversea letterhead rather than typical ticket stock. Also included is a leave at home itinerary, pre printed baggage tags, two Silversea permanent luggage tags, shore excursion booklet, question and answer book, a suite preference form, and a gift order form. It's this early indication of attention to detail that continued throughout the cruise and sets Silversea apart from other lines. [ http://public.fotki.com/eroller/silver-shadow---oct/silver-shadow---cor/img2624.html ] Sandy Lane - "simply to die for" We flew from Atlanta to Barbados on American and the flight was average. Nothing to write home about but we (and our luggage) arrived safely and in tact. That alone is a good flight in my book. Once we cleared customs our private car (BMW 7-series) and driver were there to greet us. Round trip transfers are provided by Sandy Lane if you book through the American Express Fine Hotel and Resorts Program (Platinum and Centurion Card holders). It's a fairly long drive from the airport to Sandy Lane. I would say it took about 40 minutes and although we were tired, we quickly forgot about our fatigue once we pulled through the gates of Sandy Lane. "Stunning" is really the best word to describe the property. Flowers, fountains, a fresh fragrance, birds chirping, and the ocean lapping truly put us into sensory overload. A very warm welcome from the accommodating staff (kudos to Sandra, Sophia, and Walwen) immediately put us at ease. Ice-cold menthol towels were presented along with a delicious concoxion of fresh island juices. We were escorted to our suite in the Orchard Wing where the check-in formalities were conducted and an orientation of the suite was given. You might wonder why we would need an orientation, so please have a look at the pictures (see pictures link at the end of the review) and you will see why. The suite had soothing dEcor, traditional in style but high-tech at the same time. There were three flat-panel TV's where you could program music, watch TV, play DVD's, access hotel services, or surf the net (free of charge). In addition there were several control panels throughout the suite that controlled curtains, music, lights, air conditioning, fans, door locks, etc. Even the "do not disturb" sign was an electronic light controlled from the panel. In addition we enjoyed the high-tech espresso maker. Our suite included a bedroom, walk in closet, marble bath, second half bath, dining area, parlor, and entry hall. In addition the patio was massive and also included it's own dining area and seating area. Please see the pictures, as words really can't describe this gorgeous room. [ http://public.fotki.com/eroller/silver-shadow---oct/sandy-lane---barbados/ ] We were only steps from the beach, which was an added plus. That night we enjoyed the Manager's Cocktail reception in the main patio area and then a delicious tasting menu dinner at L'Acadou, the fine dining establishment. It was delicious and very expensive! While we dined we enjoyed entertainment from native Barbados dancers along with island music. The other backdrop was a beautiful starlit beach and a calm surf adding to the ambiance. Sandy Lane offers an amazing spa, massive pool with waterfalls and swim up bar, country club with three golf courses, childcare center, and a beautiful beach. The entire nature of the resort is one of relaxation, indulgence, sport, and quiet reflection. Notes and highlights include: amazing beach service and wonderful padded chairs; incredible spa; three championship golf courses with beautiful clubhouse; GPS navigation system in every golf cart; majority of British guests; wild monkeys roaming the property; stunning beach and pools; warm, friendly service from the heart. I'm pretty much a ship fanatic and usually can't wait to get to the ship. Staying at Sandy Lane was the exception. I really didn't want to leave. It was simply that fantastic. We were given hugs from the staff as we left and another private car took us to the SILVER SHADOW, about a 20-minute drive away along the coast. Boarding SILVER SHADOW Boarding the SILVER SHADOW was impressive as ever. A group of about ten staff were pierside in white gloves to welcome you onboard. Once up the gangplank, Fernando the Cruise Director from Portugal was present to personally greet you. Champagne was offered and check-in formalities were conducted in the showlounge. Mission quickly accomplished, we were escorted to our suite, cabin 618, slightly forward on Deck 6 and what Silversea labels a Veranda Suite. Suite 618 Renee, our cabin Stewardess from New Zealand quickly arrived and introduced herself. She pointed out all the features of the suite and made sure we knew how to contact her for anything we desired. She also asked what type of pillows we prefer, and how we would like the bar stocked. Amenities in the suite included binoculars; umbrella; sewing and shoe shine kit; extra blanket; slippers; robes; safe; clock; cosmetic mirror; stocked refrigerator; ice; glasses; and wonderful Bvlgari bath products. Of course a bottle of champagne awaited us along with the daily program (the Silversea Chronicles) and personalized stationary / welcome letters. Service provided by Renee was exemplary and the cabin was kept spotless. Everything was like new and in perfect working order. This cabin was very quiet and we rarely heard noise from outside the cabin. Special mention must be made of room service. It is truly exquisite. There is an extensive room service menu, but if there is something else you desire just ask and the staff will do their best to accommodate you. The breakfast menu is quite extensive and I enjoyed delicious blueberry pancakes most mornings. Lunch and dinner are also superb, and you are free to order off the dining room menu (included in the daily Silversea Chronicles) during normal lunch and dinner times. Room service is not just dropped off, but prepared on a special table that fits over the coffee table in your suite. Frette linens and fine china / silverware accompany the delicious cuisine. At dinner, you have the option of having your courses served course by course if you desire. The room service alone is reason enough to sail on Silversea! The Ship SILVER SHADOW is typical of the Silversea fleet. Modern, clean, impeccably maintained, understated, comfortable, and well designed. I slightly prefer the SILVER SHADOW over the SILVER CLOUD for a few reasons. The gym and spa are larger, as is the pool deck. Also, the outdoor decks are more expansive and the cabin bathrooms are larger. SHADOW also had a newer feeling to her, which makes sense as she is a newer vessel. The differences are small enough that I would not hesitate to sail on the smaller Silversea vessels again if the opportunity arises. Food and Service I felt both were impeccable. I never had a bad meal and the service received everywhere onboard was outstanding. The staff learned your name very quickly and called you by name whenever they had the opportunity. The Restaurant was available for all three main meals, as was La Terrazza, which is the more casual venue. Breakfast and lunch in La Terrazza were buffet style although there was also a small menu at each table with daily selections. Plenty of staff are on hand to carry your plate and provide beverages. A lovely outdoor area with teak furniture is available at La Terrazza as well. For dinner, La Terrazza becomes a specialty restaurant, which I greatly enjoyed. I didn't feel the food and service were any better than The Restaurant, but it was a nice change of atmosphere. Reservations are required. The Restaurant had a four-piece band and dancing on certain evenings along with candlelit tables all adding to the ambiance. Many people danced between courses. Le Champagne is an extra tariff restaurant and one of the few things you pay additional for on Silversea. I never tried it so I can't comment. It never seemed too busy but then again nothing seems to busy on Silversea. There is simply no waiting and no lines anywhere. Finally there is the Poolside Grill. Beautiful teak tables and chairs are located in shaded areas poolside, and there is a special menu. Here they have burgers, hot dogs, fresh fish, chicken, salads, and wonderful deserts. Unlike poolside grills on most ships, this one is all waiter service. Everything is brought to you and made to order. If you want something off the menu, just ask. I really enjoyed the Poolside Grill, as I tend to spend a lot of time by the pool. Something Silversea is well known for is an evening barbeque poolside. This is not a typical barbeque but truly a first class affair with dancing, entertainment, waiter service, real china, and linen covered tables. I greatly enjoyed this on SILVER CLOUD and was looking forward to it on the SHADOW as well. Unfortunately after the crew spent hours preparing, it had to be canceled due to showers. A disappointment for the passengers, but I felt more sorry for the crew who worked so hard to provide a truly memorable experience. Entertainment Entertainment is very low key on Silversea. There are no art auctions, photographers, bingo, pool games (besides water volleyball) Vegas shows, or revenue producing announcements. Instead there are enrichment lectures and demonstrations during the day, with a small show (usually a vocalist or musician) at night along with dancing and music. Don't be fooled though, evenings can be lively on Silversea with dancing and conversation going into the wee hours. One set of lectures I enjoyed on this sailing were provided by the Cruise Director Fernando. It's turns out he is a bit of a ship nut like I am. Just like I did as a child, he collected brochures, deck plans, and visited any ship possible while growing up in Lisbon. He is quite knowledgeable about ships and put on an entertaining lecture all with his own slides. Fellow Passengers In keeping tradition with my last Silversea Cruise, our fellow passengers were a diverse group. There were only three children onboard, with a nice mix of ages for the adults. I think something like 27 nationalities were represented among the passengers, which speaks volumes considering the ship had just under 300 passengers onboard. I think the majority of passengers were from the UK, with the US close behind. What I love about Silversea passengers is how well traveled they are. Most love to talk about travel and they have lots of interesting stories and antidotes to share. Many seem to know each other from past Silversea Cruises. It really felt like a big family and everyone seemed to get along famously. With only 300 passengers onboard, you always ran into a familiar face, which is a pleasant change from the mega-ships. Weather The weather was simply marvelous from start to finish. We had short rain showers in St. Barts (between the sun and stars) and the rest of the time it was glorious sunshine. Our final morning pulling into Ft. Lauderdale we were met with overcast skies and rain, but at that point who cares? Seas were calm and usually it was difficult to tell the ship was moving. There was a slight rocking on a few nights, just enough to lull you to sleep. Ports Barbados; St Lucia; Guadeloupe; Antigua; St Bart's; St Kitts; Virgin Gorda; Prickly Pear. I'm not going to write too much about the ports. We had been to most before and we really went on this cruise for the ship experience more than the ports. Barbados and St Barts were my favorites, and I would certainly return to either. I wasn't too thrilled with St Lucia or Guadeloupe. In fact Guadeloupe should have been skipped all together as far as I was concerned. In St. Bart's we went to the lovely Guanahani Hotel and enjoyed an afternoon of sun on the beach. We were able to use all the facilities of the hotel and enjoyed a wonderful lunch poolside. The Guanahani is a first class resort, but personally I much preferred Sandy Lane on Barbados. The SILVER SHADOW actually arrived in St. Bart's at 11pm the night prior to our schedule arrival. We simply anchored off the island and spent the night in the shadow of the island. It was kind of magical with the ship being so quiet (no engines) and the shoreline being so close. Silversea provided a lovely private beach barbeque on Prickly Pear Island. This island is next to the exclusive Necker Island owned by Richard Branson. Literally everything was brought ashore from the ship via tender and the crew did an amazing job. The only thing local was the music, which was great. Cocktails, champagne, beer, etc. were all included just as they are onboard ship. A special treat were the waiters who waded out into the ocean to serve guests champagne and beer (or anything else you wanted) from special floating trays. It was truly a sight to behold and I quite enjoyed the experience, decadent as it was! I think the waiters enjoyed it as much as the passengers. I know Seabourn Cruise Line had done this for years, and now it appears Silversea is getting into the act as well. Disembarkation All good things must come to an end, and unfortunately this Silversea cruise was no exception. Debarkation was smooth and civilized. There are no announcements before 8am and I was even able to enjoy my blueberry pancakes via room service the last morning. We said our goodbyes and we were off the ship by 9am. The staff was lined up to say goodbye as you exit the ship and available to carry your hand luggage if you so desire. We took a cab to Miami where we caught an uneventful American flight back to Atlanta. Final Thoughts I hope from this review you are able to determine how much I enjoyed this vacation. I truly feel Silversea is better than ever, as they continue to provide a first class cruising experience. The combination of newer small ships, larger cabins, balconies, spotless vessels, delicious cuisine, attention to detail, interesting itineraries, and excellent personal service truly places Silversea at the forefront of the luxury cruise industry. I did not witness any penny pinching or a decline in service as some have indicated on various message boards. In fact I felt many things were even better and more luxurious than my past Silversea cruise about six years ago. Some people just can't be pleased and seem to look for anything to nit pick at. I have sailed on over 60 cruises on many different cruise lines and I can tell you it would be difficult to surpass my experience on the SILVER SHADOW. Just below is a link to pictures and my email address if you have any questions. I hope you enjoyed the review and pictures. Ernie Roller Pictures Link: http://public.fotki.com/eroller/silver-shadow---oct/ Note - the pictures are divided into several different folders (ports, cabin, ship, etc.). Any questions? Please contact me at: eroller@bellsouth.net Read Less
Sail Date: October 2007
Las Palmas to Barbados: 2nd October to 17th October 2007. I have wanted to cruise for a few years, but was discouraged as I was unsure about being on a ship for a week or even more. I spoke to friends who all advised different things, ... Read More
Las Palmas to Barbados: 2nd October to 17th October 2007. I have wanted to cruise for a few years, but was discouraged as I was unsure about being on a ship for a week or even more. I spoke to friends who all advised different things, some said standard cabin, and some said balcony etc. In the end, I had to make up my own mind. My partner Lynne and I decide one afternoon that rather than go to Arizona as planned we should book a cruise for my 50th. I had read about cruises from the Berlitz guide and knew that there are about 4 quality lines, Silversea, Seabourn, Crystal and Regent. Frankly I would have been happy with any. Our travel agent offered us a repositioning cruise at a very good price on Silver Shadow. It included a stop on Tenerife, which we liked as Lynne's brother lives there. It also gave us a taste of sea days; about 8 in all and 6 stops at places we fancied seeing. I had been reading many reviews of Silversea and in about 90% of the reviews, the customers seem very happy. My concern was the 10% who moaned. I will give you our conclusions at the end. As we arrived at the ship we were warmly welcomed on board and taken to register, which took two minutes and I mentioned about the balcony. The receptionist was charming and asked us to look at the cabin to see if we would be comfortable. We did and we both thought it was lovely. Without spending time boring most of you with details of our daily activities, I will tell you our opinion. Cabin The brochure describes the cabins as suites, which in reality is a comfortable well-appointed room with a lounge area. We chose the standard cabin without a balcony, which was roomy at about 275 square feet. We did not pay extra for a balcony as we have one at home and we have never ever used it. I was concerned about this as I wondered frequently if I would regret it but the travel agent and Silversea customer service assured us that if I were not comfortable they would honor the upgrade charge on a daily basis. The cabin was beautifully appointed with robes, walk in wardrobe, fresh flowers, Champagne on ice waiting, a stocked mini bar, fresh fruit and all the usual 5 star hotel amenities. One good idea was a Silversea fabric bedcover that was over the Frette comforter so you could unpack your suitcases without marking or damaging the comforter. In the stylish and spacious marble bathroom, we had a separate shower, twin sinks, ample quality Frette towels and a full size bath. There was a choice of Bulgari, Aqua de Parma and other toiletries. Baggage delivery was quick and efficient. . Food. We ate in the main Restaurant about 10 nights. We found no problem obtaining a table for 2 and we thought the variety of food and choice on the menu was excellent. The Maitre D' and his team of Head Waiters and waiters looked after us in a very personal way. I had requested no shellfish and they remembered without either of us ever having to remind them. They constantly offered to make us anything special. Considering that this is mass catering we felt the food was very good. No, it is not Gordon Ramsey 3 star Michelin but does anyone seriously expect that on a daily basis. There is the option of a Gourmet small restaurant, which charges about £100 extra, but this includes a full Digestion menu and wines of the highest caliber. I looked at it and thought the price was very fair considering it included Dom Perignon champagne and wines of similar standard. We did not try this restaurant, as the menu was predominantly seafood. However next time we will as I am sure there will be no problem having the chef prepare a full menu without shellfish. On the other 5 nights we ate in the Italian La Terraza restaurant where we found the food and atmosphere tranquil and very relaxing. Every evening the chef introduced himself and always offered to make us any favorite dishes. We accepted his offer on 2 occasions and we were delighted. I have noticed on some Silversea reviews customers seem to feel that the restaurant service is slow, but we felt it was just right and it is possibly because service in America tends to be quicker than here in Europe. Remember this is a European line with European service standards. One evening we decided on room service. Whatever we wanted was available but we really fancied a couple of hot dogs, both stylishly delivered. The waiter insisted on setting a dinner table up for us, another example of the excellent customer service and attention to detail. I also noticed that cling film was placed round the spout of the Hot Chocolate to stop it from spilling as the waiter delivered the tray and to help keep it hot. The poolside restaurant that the sun worshippers seemed to like, served barbecue style food and a full drinks menu. We did not try it but the feedback was very good. We also experienced the famous Galley Brunch, which was everything we expected. One evening there was a magnificent poolside barbecue with interesting dishes as well as traditional barbecue food. Overall, we were very happy with all our meals and felt every waiter really tried to ensure we were very happy by remembering our personal wants and desires. Bars and Drinks. There are about 4 bars aboard the ship and I must say that drink just flows. You can have virtually everything you like included in the price. House champagne flowed constantly and was Pommery, Mumm or NicolasFeuillatte. If you required Krug or any other expensive premium brand it was available at an extra charge. All alcoholic beverages were was also available in your room. One evening we enjoyed a certain bottle of wine and the waiter insisted on sending another to our cabin. We both enjoy Vermouth while getting ready and asked for Noilly Pratt and a bottle arrived immediately. The standard of the included wines were quite good and they changed daily. You could always ask for a previous wine and if they had it you were given the bottle. We liked the Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc and the Benzinger Cabernet Sauvignon. Some in our opinion were of a slightly lesser standard but this really is personal preference. I did find the bar team very personable and friendly. Many of the staff have been with Silverseas for many years and staff retention in my opinion always leads to excellent customer service and high staff morale. We did overhear a complaint by an elderly couple that there was a run on Pimms! After 5 days the ship had run out of Pimms and the couple complained. The bar manager introduced himself to the couple to apologize profusely. He offered to arrange a tasting of similar drinks for them to try. The couple also felt that the cashew nuts at the bar were not fresh to which Sujith assured the couple that fresh cashews would be fried each night and available at the bar for them. Personally, I felt that this was unnecessary but I also feel that it is the company's intention to ensure that you are very satisfied with your vacation. Maintenance. Silver Shadow is in pristine condition both inside and out. Painting is a continuous task and new carpet was discretely being laid throughout the ship. The ashtrays are cleaned and the Silversea logo embossed on the sand constantly. The public toilets were spotless and again the logo embossed on the toilet roll. The maintenance staff also impressed me. Many of these employees are from the Philippines, India and Goa. All speak perfect English but more importantly always smile, say good morning to everyone and help all guests if they need assistance with the lift and opening doors. Lectures, Trips and Entertainment. There were two daily lectures while the ship was at sea. I found the talks interesting, diverse and well planned. The morning Lecture was normally medical with a Doctor from the Mayo clinic and in the afternoon it was a couple who were hoteliers and spoke about a variety of topics including Claridges hotel and a series on English country houses. Evening entertainment was varied, with each act appearing twice and with different show. These included a magician, two separate singers, a classical concert pianist from Japan, a high wire style act and an outstanding classical violinist with a tremendous personality called Beverly Davidson who added a little extra to the violin. Local entertainment was featured when the ship was in port. During the day there were numerous organized events ranging from Easy Spanish to picture shows of old cruise liners. These were organized by the cruise director Fernando who worked tirelessly throughout the trip. The resident pianist and separate quartet were of good quality and appeared nightly in the bars and lounges. We decided to take most of the organized tours with the Silversea team. The reason was that I felt the prices were fair, about £40/ $80 for a 4 hour tour on average and we were more comfortable being confident if anything went wrong the ship would wait for us as it was their organized tour. The organization of the trips was excellent, we liked the fresh juices and drinks that were available and we were always accompanied by Silversea crew. They set up Silversea stations in corporate livery for us to have snacks at and I felt all the trips were worth the price. Tipping. This is a contentious topic. All tips are included in the fare but I was not sure of the protocol so I asked other passengers. Some did not tip extra, some donated to the crew fund and some gave to individual members of staff. Our opinion was that it did not make any difference to the way you were treated whether you tipped extra or not. We received excellent service from everyone. We decided ourselves which of the options we wanted to do and our opinion is for each individual to do whatever they feel they most appropriate. Conclusion. We think it is simple. If you are the sort of people who look forward to going on holiday with the intention of having a great time I am sure you will thoroughly enjoy every minute of a Silversea cruise. We have a dear friend who seems to start out thinking that this and that won't be right. Subsequently he always seems to think that his holidays are poor and that the resorts are nowhere near as good as people say. He stayed at the Four Seasons in Hong Kong, which has just won Asian hotel of the year by a leading travel magazine and he felt it was barely 4 stars. We think it is simply down to approach and attitude. Sadly we do not think our friend will ever enjoy a holiday, probably just like the 10% on the board here who feel Silversea is poor. We however cannot imagine what these people find to moan at and need to take a reality check. However if you go with a positive attitude you will definitely have a fabulous time. I hope I have not offended anyone with any of my comments and I hope it may help anyone thinking of taking a Silversea cruise. Read Less
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