We traveled back-to-back cruises, Antarctica and the Chilean fjords, on the Silver Explorer in February/March 2012. The brilliant expedition team; marine biologist, geologists, ornithologist, botanist, historian were available to answer questions almost 24/7. They doubled as our zodiac drivers, accompanying us on all landings and excursions. Lectures every sea day from these professionals added enormously to our understanding and enjoyment.
Silver Explorer has an open bridge, officers and crew happy to explain what's happening.
Zodiac expeditions were well organised, generally two a day while in Antarctica. Because only 100 pasengers are allowed to land at one time, 60 would land while others did a zodiac cruise. We had plenty of time onshore, the area you can explore is limited, usually by inaccessible cliffs of ice and some environmentally sensitive area declared out of bounds.
Landings catered for all fitness levels with long, quite challenging, hikes for the very fit, short, not so steep walks for the almost fit and short gentle strolls on flat ground for the less active. Several passengers and crew took the option of the "polar plunge," a dash into the calm but near freezing waters of Deception Island.
All landings and excursions are included in the fare as are all drinks. Your cabin bar will be stocked with the drinks you ask for.
All cabins are outside, very comfortable with decent sized bathrooms. Some cabins have balconies. Stewards and butlers attend to your every wish. We were very happy with our cabin mid-ships on deck 3, especially when the seas were rough.
There is a guest laundry, washing machine and dryer, on board. Washing dries very quickly in bathrooms.
Silversea provide very warm parkas and backpacks and have rubber boots left behind by former passengers available for loan.
We found plenty of delicious choices from the breakfast and lunch buffets, hot dishes were always hot. I particularly enjoyed the lunchtime casseroles. The dinner menu offered three choices for each course; if the choices don't suit you can order "off menu". Dinner service wasn't swift but we enjoyed chatting to our new friends.
The officers and crew were very friendly and attentive. Ratio of crew to passengers is about 1:1.
There is a small gym, well patronized on sea days. There is no "big cruise ship" style entertainment. A pianist, a well-stocked library both of which we appreciated and movies to watch on cabin TV, which we were too well occupied to use. There are no formal nights, two or three dinners where we tried to dress more smartly, especially when invited to the table of the captain or other officers.
Certainly our style of cruising.