Embarkation/Disembarkation: Embarkation at Barcelona, Spain on 13 March was extremely smooth and easy. We've never cruised with Silversea before so we really didn't know what to expect nor have we cruised out of any port other than a US port (Ft Lauderdale, Tampa, Port Canaveral, and Galveston). Should say we've also not been on a ship as small as the Wind with only a 296 passenger capacity. It was only 249 actual passengers for our cruise, so it's not like you're fighting a huge crowd at the cruise terminal. Because the ship was staying overnight in Barcelona we felt no pressure to board early so after some morning touring in Barcelona we arrived at the cruise terminal around 2:30 PM. We were greeted curbside by staff from the ship who quickly checked our names against a roster. Our luggage was whisked away by waiting porters and we went into the terminal to go through security and check-in. Silversea uses, at least for this cruise, ship's staff to man the terminal check-in which entailed surrendering our passports, verifying the credit card we'd be using for ship board purchases, and getting our room key cards. No waiting for group numbers or colors to be called, we were immediately escorted to the ship where staff took our carry-on luggage from us and assisted us in boarding the ship. We were greeted by more ship's staff and offered a glass of champagne. The staff with our carry-on bags waited patiently while we exchanged pleasantries and then escorted us to our cabins. Amazingly, though probably not surprising considering the size of the ship, our luggage was very quickly delivered to our cabins.
Disembarkation on 27 March was amazingly rapid and easy. We actually had arrived in Istanbul the day before and overnighted on the Wind, basically using the ship as a floating hotel that last night. One thing we didn't like about disembarkation, and it's more of an observation than a complaint, is that Silversea asked us to leave our cabins not later than 8 AM so they could prepare for the on-coming passengers. As it turned out we went to one of the lounges where they were serving a light breakfast with coffee and Danish and we were off the ship by 8:45 AM. Passing through Turkish Customs and Immigration was quick as Silversea had arranged for our Turkish visas. We were traveling with another couple and had arranged through the ship's concierge desk for a limo service to take us and our substantial amount of luggage to our Istanbul hotel. The ship's staff, many of whom we'd gotten to know during the cruise, quickly greeted us in the terminal, helped us locate our luggage, and make connection with the limo service. Sadly, but efficiently, we were driven away from the terminal within 15 or 20 minutes and arrived at our hotel some 30 minutes later.
Itinerary: The highlight, and main reason for booking this cruise, was the itinerary. Ten ports in fourteen days, and actually three of those were overnights, was intense and exciting. We started in Barcelona (first overnight) then on to Marseille, Monte Carlo, Livorno (second overnight which meant we could visit Florence one day and Pisa the next), Civitavecchia which is the port for Rome, Naples, Palermo, Malta, Piraeus which is the port for Athens, and finally Istanbul (third overnight). At least for us this was a cruise of a lifetime. We've never cruised in the Mediterranean before and with the exception of Florence, which I had visited years and years ago when I was working in Germany, our stops were all new and wonderful. We'd be hard pressed to say we like one better than another as each had its own attraction, flavor, and interest.
Excurions: Quite frankly we were on the move on this cruise. The first nine days were port after port, city after city, and site after site. We took a mix of self-guided, ship's, and private tours. I think we did just about as good as we could have done and in retrospect I can't think of any tour we would have done any differently. It's almost impossible to list where we went and what we saw on this cruise. Certainly the privately arranged tours of Pompeii and then Athens were fantastic with the undivided attention of our drivers and guides just for the four of us. Overall highlights have to include the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the statue of David and the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, the Leaning Tower in Pisa, Pompeii in Naples, the Coliseum and Vatican in Rome, the Acropolis in Athens, the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, and that's just to name a few off the top of my head. Let's just say the list of "oh my gosh's" is long and extensive and I'd ventured to say my wife's list is probably different than mine. She's building our website report, day by day, right now and eventually the whole cruise will be captured at www.klugsplace.com .
Service: The service on the Wind was almost impeccable without being intrusive or overbearing, certainly the best we've had in all of our cruises. Regular or loyal Silversea cruisers are probably thinking "And you expected what?" about this time and admittedly stepping up to a luxury cruise was everything we thought it might be and maybe a bit more. Maybe it's all about expectations and I like to think we're not demanding people so it's not like we set out to come up with requests or challenges to see how well the staff performed. I can think of only one situation that came up during the cruise. One evening in the main restaurant the waiter made a mistake on my wife's dinner. The entre was not what she ordered and he politely took the dish away to re-order. Almost immediately the maitre'd stopped by our table to see how dinner was going. He quickly noticed that three of us had been served but my wife had no dinner. He asked if she was eating that evening. She said there'd been an error and the waiter was getting it straightened out. The maitre'd was distressed and very apologetic for the error, again without being overly dramatic about it, and said he'd look into it immediately. It really wasn't an issue for us but it was for the staff and they obviously put a great deal of emphasis on prompt and accurate service. The meal was replaced in quick order and the maitre'd checked a couple of more times that evening to make sure all was in order. Interestingly the next evening the maitre'd sat us at the same table but, without any mention by us, quickly told us we'd be waited on by a different waiter and that the one from the previous night was still in training and was working with another more experienced waiter for a few nights. Some might think this was a bit over the top so to speak but it really wasn't and wasn't as harsh or overbearing as it might come across here.
Food: I feel like I'm sounding like a broken record, or sound loop for those of you who don't remember records, but the food on the Wind was excellent. Even on this small ship there are basically four dining venues. There is the main restaurant aptly named The Restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There is the La Terrazza that is semi-buffet for breakfast and lunch but transforms into a full service Italian restaurant at night. There is the Pool Grill that serves a continental "wellness" breakfast, has menu lunch, and transforms into the Black Rock Grill at night. Should say here that the Black Rock Grill is actually a fun, interactive dining option where you get to cook your own dinner on this extremely hot eight or so inch square flat lava rock. Hard to explain but it's actually easy and the staff is right there to help you through the process. The final option is the Le Champagne which is the Wind's only additional charge specialty restaurant that serves only dinner in a very small and intimate setting. We ate in all four venues on the cruise and they were all equally good.
Entertainment: In a real break in tradition for us we actually went to three or four shows on this cruise. Part of it might have been we'd gotten to know a number of the show staff as they're much more involved with the passengers than on any other cruise we've done. For instance, we took a number of ship's excursions and at least one of the entertainment staff accompanied every tour interacting with the passengers, assisting the tour guide, and taking notes about the tour. Additionally there were at least a couple of guest performers who joined and left the cruise over the fourteen nights....some good, some maybe not so good. Also should mention that Colin Brown, who was the Cruise Director for our cruise, is also a very accomplished concert pianist and he performed a couple of nights during the cruise. In addition the ship had a small 4-piece band who performed nightly in the Panorama Bar and a piano player/singer who performed in The Bar, yes another aptly named venue, every night. We haven't danced as much as we did on this cruise in many, many cruises and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves almost nightly in The Bar. There is a casino, and I use the term a bit loosely here as it is small with only two blackjack tables, one roulette table, and maybe a dozen slot machines. It was actually fun as a bunch of regulars played blackjack or roulette almost every night at sea but certainly not the high energy one gets on some of the larger ships or at a regular Vegas casino.
Passengers: I'd say the average age on this cruise was in the mid-50's to early 60's, a bit younger than what we've become used to on Holland America but not significantly different. It certainly was an international group with the majority being English speakers, probably 90% of the passengers, from United States, England, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. I did also hear German, French, Italian, and I think Russian from a few couples. There were a few children, maybe five or six, from six years old to early teens but the families seemed to stay pretty much to themselves and you really didn't notice them around much. Of course with such a port intensive cruise folks were off the ship almost daily. I can't speak to other Silversea ships but I don't think there was an organized children's program on the ship and no special facilities for them that I was aware of.
Overall Impression: This was our first cruise on Silversea after several cruises on Holland America and one Celebrity cruise. In all fairness it probably isn't fair to compare those cruise lines to Silversea. Yes, it's a cruise and a ship but the scale of operations and the resulting level of service plus the all-inclusive aspect don't lend themselves to exact comparison. It's hard to say, mainly because it's so subjective, that one is better than the other or one is worth or not worth the money. This cruise set an extraordinarily high mark from the itinerary to the service to the food. Without a doubt it was the very best cruise we've ever been on so almost any cruise would pale in comparison. We would and will cruise Silversea again without hesitation.