Prior to our Silversea cruise, I studied the brochure carefully and compared the comments in all of the usual cruise ship authoritative guides and read all of the comments on Cruise Critic. I could not understand why there were so few positive reviews of Silversea, considering its lofty status as a 6 star luxury experience. Having spent 15 days travelling from Lisbon to Barbados, I now know why.
Boarding in Lisbon was a pleasant and efficient experience. However, I admit that I was surprised that elderly passengers were required to navigate a very steep and slightly swaying gangway from the dock up three decks to the embarkation lobby. Most ships have a dock-level embarkation lobby where there is no jet way. While in Rio in February we docked in front of Silver Spirit, and I was surprised to notice the same thing on the newest ship.
Silver Cloud was, I thought, in very nice condition for a 17 year old ship. Our suite number 445, was exactly as pictured and we really loved having a butler. He always kept our refrigerator stocked with chardonnay and champagne. Kudos to Silversea for the Food Channel and Lyn Farmer on the wine channel. I also liked the bridge cam showing the pool deck from time to time.
Unfortunately, unknown to us, suite 445 is directly opposite the crew's emergency exit from the galley. While night cleaning, excessively loud music emanated from the galley into our cabin and on two occasions I had to knock loudly on the galley door to ask them to keep the noise down, which they immediately did. Also, suite 445 is directly above some machinery that came on and off, to grind or discharge material. Very annoying while trying to sleep! The Guest Relations Manager did say they were aware of the problem and offered to relocate us a few cabins away, but as we were already four days into the cruise, my wife declined his kind offer.
We were fortunate to have three lecturers, two of whom were exceptionally good, Professor Buczacki and Captain William Wells. Silversea used the crossing to try out its new entertainment format. Gone are the sets, dancers and so on, replaced by a group of very fine singers. The Night Opera was the most enthusiastically received of the shows, and the other three shows were also very enjoyable. We preferred this new entertainment format.
The restaurant was beautiful and the long tapered candles used on formal nights made it especially romantic. The restaurant manager, Jorge Caeiro, is a gem, and was a highlight of the crossing. He runs it as if it is his personal restaurant, escorting all of the ladies to the tables each evening. He always found time to stop and chat with us every time we met, anywhere on the ship. Unfortunately, the Christofle silver referred to in all of the books is now gone, replaced by stainless steel cutlery. The knives that sit on their sides are a poor choice, continually turning over on the plates. Not having to polish silver is obviously a cost-cutting measure, but one that tarnishes the ambiance of the dining experience.
Breakfast was always a pleasant affair, having been set up in the suite by our butler. I especially liked the his and hers breakfast menus.
On a less positive note, in my opinion, the ship is not very Italian. The only Italian crew members we met were the Captain and the Cruise Consultant. This is not to say that other staff and crew were not helpful. Our sommelier was excellent, the Hotel Director, Guest Relations Manager, International Hostess and Judie Abbott, the fabulously memorable Cruise Director, were all incredible. However, there was not a single Italian wait staff in La Terrazza. We went once in fifteen days and were served passable Italian food by a non-Italian waiter. The food was not good enough to warrant a return visit and the ambiance, being anything but Italian, certainly did nothing to compensate.
The complimentary wines were usually excellent. There were approximately seventy. It was always possible to ask for another if we did not prefer either of the wines offered at lunch, or the alternatives offered at dinner
Turning to the cuisine, this was a major disappointment for us. It was good but in my opinion, no better than Oceania or even Celebrity. Caviar appeared only once, perhaps a quarter of an ounce. After that it was $350.00 for a one and a half ounce serving!
Surprisingly, all of the ice cream is purchased ashore, and was of poor quality. We had expected birds, such as deboned quail, pheasant, partridge, emu, and so on, but they never appeared. Just chicken, turkey and duck. Lobster appeared once. The pool grill served only the usual burgers, hotdogs and fries. The luncheon buffet at La Terrazza was the same every day. The same smoked fish, the same sushi, and the same salad greens in exactly the same location. The sole variation in fifteen days was that a different roast would be served at the carvery.
As for noise in the restaurant, never had we heard so many plates, cutlery and serving dishes dropped in a ship's restaurant. And never so much cutlery thrown into bins at serving stations. On one occasion we even had to request to be moved away from the serving station.
We enjoy dining outside in the evening. On Seabourn, Oceania and Azamara, etc., this is not a problem. Not so on Silversea. We were advised that the verandah of La Terrazza is not available in the evening. How unfortunate not to see the moon on the wake crossing the Atlantic.
However, the worst was yet to come. Dining in Le Champagne was a disaster. Imagine $400.00 for two persons for a five course dinner with wine, that was only marginally better than the restaurant food! It is an antechamber to the restaurant and totally lacking any sense of occasion. When I made the reservation, I advised that my wife did not drink red wine. It was the Burgundy Dinner. There was a Champagne, a Chablis then two reds. I was assured that my request for any white wine for my wife would be no problem and my wife would be offered two delicious whites in lieu of the two reds.
The first problem came when the reds were definitely off taste, having begun to maderize. The Head Waiter, Fred, had the temerity to argue with us to the point where my wife became embarrassed. We have lived in Paris for over a year and know our wines. He refused to offer any alternatives. When I reminded him that my wife was to have two additional white wines in place of the reds, he poured her more of the Chablis. When I requested a second glass, he told me the Chablis was all gone. When I then asked him to open another bottle, he refused and would not open any alternative whites for her. So for $200.00, my wife received one glass of champagne, a glass of chablis and a dinner that she had already paid for in the restaurant.
With coffee, the Head Waiter offered a Marc de Bourgogne which was on the menu. I explained that neither of us liked it. There was a serving cart in the room with over forty different complimentary after dinner drinks. I then requested a Martell cognac and he explained that he would see if there was any. I replied that it is sitting on the serving cart across the room and he should know what is available in his restaurant. We were disappointed in our experience and to be truthful, felt ripped off by Silversea as a result of this episode. This whole experience needs to be seriously reworked by Silversea. Anyone attending from Relais et Chateau should have been very embarrassed.
I requested a meeting with the Hotel Director, Mr. Huber, the following morning at 10 a.m. to discuss our experience in le Champagne. He patiently listened, and then offered a complimentary dinner at Le Champagne, which, of course, we politely declined. A complimentary bottle of Dom Perignon was then offered for dinner that evening.
Our next serious disappointment occurred half-way across the Atlantic. The air conditioning in our suite was practically extinct. An engineer came and said they would make some adjustments. Three days before arriving in Antigua, it failed completely and our suite was 88 degrees. I asked for a fan and Guest Relations told me there weren't any, but somehow one materialized the following day. Then the air conditioning ceased operating in the galley and half of the restaurant. The Galley Buffet lunch was cancelled. Then the restaurant became so uncomfortable that the waiters stopped wearing jackets and ties and the last formal night had to be cancelled. Using a thermometer, the temperature in our cabin ranged between 88 and 96 degrees for the remainder of the cruise. After two showers it was unbearably humid and made sleeping almost impossible.
Supposedly one of the great advantages of travelling on a small ship is to have fewer on excursions. However 3 of our 5 shore tours were abruptly cancelled the evening before due to lack of participation. Apparently Silversea requires 15 passengers or cancels. With the prices being charged, one would think they should operate even if fewer sign up.
We would never consider travelling the Silver Cloud again until it receives the type of makeover given to the Silver Wind a few years ago. It obviously has serious problems. In addition to the air conditioning issues described, a pipe in the ceiling in the internet centre burst and water poured down onto us while we worked online. It took fifteen minutes, after giving notification to Guest Relations, for anyone to bother to come and look at the problem.
These comments were sent to our travel agent, and to the Director of Guest Relations for Silversea in Fort Lauderdale. Eight months have now passed without a reply, or even an acknowledgment of receipt . This may help to explain the less than stellar reviews for Silversea.