When we boarded at Los Angeles it was with a little trepidation following our November 2012 cruise with Seabourn where we had encountered such poor food and service aboard Seabourn Sojourn. We need not have worried. Silver Whisper was as close to perfection as I think it is possible to get and, believe me, after 36 years of cruising on a whole variety of cruise lines, I think I can comment fairly, objectively and without bias.
The 29 days crossing the Pacific to Sydney where we disembarked were the first two sectors of the 2013 World Cruise. Silversea only do one annual World Cruise and the job normally goes to Silver Whisper, one of the mid-sized ships. There were 340 guests aboard a 28,000 tonne ship which makes for a remarkable space/passenger ratio. Nowhere ever felt crowded. This is an extremely comfortable ship which rides the ocean very well - and we did encounter some quite 'big' seas!
The other passengers were, like us, virtually all in the upper age bracket. 140 (approximately 40%) were doing the full 4 month World Cruise. You need to be retired to commit to such a long time away from home, but it does enable you to experience leisurely cruising as it used to be, before these 7-day (or less!) 'every day a different port' cruises were invented. 85% of the passengers had sailed with Silversea before. Our fellow passengers were well travelled, well educated, charming and companionable. We joined a 'trivia team' where all the other members had sailed before on the Silver Whisper World Cruise and we were made most welcome, even though we had not sailed on the ship before.
The crew were incredible. They were very experienced, very attentive and nothing ever seemed too much trouble. By Day 4 every crew member referred to me by name as either 'Mr Philip' or 'Mr Bxxxxxn'. Service was consistently excellent throughout the ship.
This was potentially a difficult routing as regards provisioning the ship. Our first port of call was remote Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas, after six days at sea, and it took eleven days for us to reach Tahiti where very little is available by way of fresh produce. Despite this, the excellent Food & Beverage Manager (Sujith Mohan) and the first-class Executive Chef (Anne-Marie Cornelius) managed to produce delicious meals, including fresh salads and fresh berries all along the way.
The food was consistently excellent. We do not like eating in our cabin and generally went for breakfast in La Terrazza. Here, cereals and fruit are self-service, but juice, coffee and hot main dishes are waiter service. The egg dishes were properly cooked. The soft boiled eggs and hot crisp toast were absolute perfection! Whenever the weather permitted we tended to lunch (fairly lightly) outdoors on the pool deck. Here, simple grilled fish and chicken caesar salads are excellent. On sea days lavish buffets were often put on.
At 4 o'clock most afternoons we headed for the Panorama Lounge for a pot of (excellent, proper leaf) tea, more than occasionally being also tempted by the delicious sandwiches and pastries. Then it was off to 'trivia', run by the Cruise Director, Fernando de Oliviera. He is a Silversea 'institution' and hugely entertaining. A great asset to the Line.
I generally walked a few circuits of the deck before going down to change for dinner. We then tended to go to The Bar for cocktails before dinner. The good news is that this is now completely non-smoking (Seabourn please note!). My favourite place to dine was the Restaurant, with a preference to join others at a table for 4, 6 or 8. This way we met many delightful fellow guests. Food and service were consistently excellent and accurate. There is a very good selection of side-orders of vegetables and sauces to accompany main dishes. Fish dishes were particularly good and soups excellent. House wines (unlike Seabourn!) were all perfectly palatable and some of them were very good. We strayed onto the wine list a number of times and here there is very good value to be found.
One evening we dined in Le Champagne, but the food was no better than the Restaurant and - because it is so small - the atmosphere was somewhat muted. I think we went four times to La Terrazza which, for dinner, has an Italian menu. But the good thing is that this changes every four days. Again, like the Restaurant, good food (especially if you want pasta, but stay with the Restaurant if your preference is fish) and service.
I cannot comment comprehensively on the after-dinner entertainment in the Show Lounge. We saw little of it and on a score of 1 to 10 it is, for me, the least important part of any cruise. What we did see did not excite! And somehow my late-night partying days seem mysteriously to have deserted me!!! As a result a nightcap in The Bar after dinner was generally sufficient.
There were good guest lecturers on board and a full programme of daytime activities. I tend to take my own books on board, but noted that I am very out-of-date. Almost everyone else had a 'Kindle'!
The cruise itinerary was good (I cannot rate the ship's excursions - other than to note that they tend to be 'pricey' - since we tend to make our own arrangements when in port). After Nuku Hiva we called at Rangiroa and then the Society Islands (Moorea, Tahiti and Bora Bora). It was the rainy season so we had rather mixed fortunes weatherwise (no fault of Silversea!). Then we sailed on to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. When we tried to anchor off it was clear that the swell was too great to tender safely so the excellent Captain Corsaro (he is Silversea's Senior Captain) wisely decided to abort the call. The good news was that this allowed us to arrive early in the Bay of Islands in New Zealand - on a glorious sunny day. We then enjoyed seven days of perfect weather as we sailed down the east coast of the North and South Islands of New Zealand, with ports of call at Auckland, Wellington, Akaroa and Port Chalmers before sailing into Dusky and Milford Sounds on the west coast on a lovely blue-sky day. This was remarkable. I had been there before (twice) on cloudy wet days, which is the norm.
After leaving Milford Sound we began our crossing of the Tasman Sea. It was lively but we did not encounter the mountainous seas which I remember on the QE2 ten years ago, and Capt. Corsaro told me afterwards that it was the best crossing he had ever experienced. The previous time he was battling with 45 foot waves! So it was 'on-time' into Hobart for a half-day visit (we could have done with longer) and then on to Sydney.
We had to farewell many new-found friends who were staying on (some to Hong Kong, some for the full World Cruise) and I would have been bitterly disappointed had I been flying straight home. As it was, we left the ship with the prospect (for me) of staying almost another month with friends in Sydney. Lovely.
The Russian taxi driver (Australian taxi drivers are virtually non-existent in Sydney) who took me to my friends' apartment was amazed that it had taken us 29 days to reach Sydney from Los Angeles. 'But you could 'ave flown here in 13 hours' he exclaimed! I think he was rather missing the point.
Full marks, Silversea, for putting on such a first-class show, and thanks to all those hard-working members of staff on board. I look forward to my next Silversea cruise, the transatlantic crossing aboard Silver Cloud (Barcelona to Barbados) in October.