We ordinarily cruise with Crystal but as we liked this Middle-East itinerary we decided to try a smaller ship. As my husband is confined to a wheelchair; accessibility of all areas of the ship and the layout of the suite was important.
We found the embarkation process very good and speedy. As with Crystal, the wheelchair cannot be simply wheeled onto the ship and entry through the kitchen is not the greatest first impression. But such is life in a wheelchair.
The location of the mid-ship suite was good for us. (Never again on Crystal
in a stateroom at the front of the ship when the weather turns bad. It is also difficult to book the disabled mid-ship staterooms on Crystal as Crystal allows these rooms to go to persons who are not disabled.)
Our bathroom was not wheelchair friendly. A person confined to a wheelchair
cannot access the basin comfortably and has to park next to it and then
twist his/her body to use it. Not acceptable. A suitable shower commode chair
was not provided (my husband could not get onto it because the side arm was not
removable). As a result, we had to use the fold down chair but because of
no pull down grab rail on the one side we had to park our wheelchair in the shower so that my husband could balance. Fortunately, the waters were calm the whole time but I hate to think what would happen if the ship was rocking. Crystal comes out tops with these issues.
The suite was kept very clean throughout our stay and toiletries were well stocked.
We found the butler service very good and really convenient for us as it freed me up having to accompany my husband when he wanted to go somewhere where accessibility was a problem. The butler was very accommodating. (The butler service is only provided by Crystal in the penthouse staterooms.)
Desserts and confectionery on board were very good - far superior to our last Crystal cruise. It mostly tasted homemade and not processed like Crystal. We preferred the buffet lunches in the La Terrazzo restaurant to Crystal's
buffet lunch. However, the dining options were limited. La Terrazzo never seemed to change its menu and the cover charge at La Champagne is unnecessary as it is not that great. The food never quite hit the mark e.g. burnt curries, tough chicken always, hard pasta that had been waiting around too long, vegetables boring, eggs Benedict a disaster. We missed an actual coffee shop. It was very hit and miss in getting a decent cappuccino. However, the red meat was great. Lobster very scarce and the tuna/sushi not up to standard. Fruit and salads below par as tasteless and limp. Don't want to go on about it because I did come back with a couple of extra kilos thanks to the blueberry pancakes! That said, Crystal wins hands down with the food except for confectionery.
The wines offered at meals were not great. This is probably as a result of "all-in" cruising.
The ship itself is old and it should go post haste to where all good ships go to die. The noise that we had to endure in the suite from the flushing toilets of adjacent suites made a good night's sleep elusive. In addition, we felt that the inside of the suite whilst comfortable, was fitted out very higgledy piggledy with its different permanent fixtures and it reminded one of the inside of a Nile Cruise boat cabin. The ceiling panels were grubby. I am not sure that next year's planned refurbishment will do the job.
Wheelchairs cannot access the 8th deck (pool area) unassisted. They can on
I missed the running/walking deck right around the ship and the little track that Silver Wind had was taken up by sun loungers mostly blocking the way.
There were language problems with Filipino staff especially around the pool deck. We found that despite their eagerness to help they didn't take the time to listen and their command of English was in some cases quite poor. We did
have an issue with sullen staff/poor service/poor breakfast buffet on the pool deck but that got sorted out.
The cruise director and the staff in general were very helpful and friendly. This is Silver Wind's saving grace.
The entertainment was very very poor and amateurish. Crystal's shows are tremendous when compared with some cringe worthy shows e.g. singers forgetting their lines, singers with little singing talent.
We found that there was never a quiet place to go to. Lounges were always
noisy. Crystal was able to absorb the passengers and one never felt crowded.
Whilst it was a bridge cruise, only 3 passengers came to play and so that
was disappointing but obviously not the ship's fault.
We were very lucky to be given free laundry service. Big bonus because the
laundry facilities on board were very poor. In fact, halfway through the
cruise, the irons were stolen and that was that. Crystal's laundries are luxurious in comparison.
The itinerary itself was good. We enjoyed the Suez and the ports. The preparation for sailing through the pirate waters was outstanding. There was one peculiar incident when the ship passengers were not advised of an alleged overnight time change which resulted in a lot of frantic running around to get ready for the all-day Petra excursion. How the captain can blame the local authorities for not advising the ship when the time change had happened 1 month before is beyond me.
In conclusion, we would be hard pressed to recommend Silversea and certainly
we would not be returning to Silver Wind. This trip confirmed that we are Crystal loyal and the premium is worth it simply for the independent coffee shop, shipboard photographer, larger suite, better bathroom, movie house and food. Having said that, Silversea is not a cheap line. I am not sure that it holds itself out to be 6 stars but its loyal returning customers seem to think it is 6 stars - all we can say is that they need to try Crystal to experience 6 stars. It seems that the free laundry (after 100 days' sailing) is a big drawcard.