My wife and I recently completed our first-ever Silversea cruise. We were aboard the Silver Whisper for its December 20 -- January 5 transit of the Panama Canal.
First, and foremost, we had a great time on the cruise. The ship was beautiful, clean and in tip-top condition. The Silversea "all suite" accommodations were spacious and well-appointed. We have been on over a dozen cruises, and this was our first cabin with a walk-in closet and bathtub. Our butler, Chan, was terrific . . . always eager to help us and to anticipate our every need.
Dining on the Silver Whisper was exceptional. The food, the service and the atmosphere were all superb. We never tried Le Champagne. All the other venues were so good, there was no need to go elsewhere. We really liked the Hot Rocks Grill as a delightful change of pace, especially after we learned that we could pre-order lamb chops. (I wish they had been on the regular Hot Rocks menu.) Sometimes we would dine alone at a table for two, but we also liked how the staff would facilitate putting us with other folks at a larger table if we so desired. We met many new friends that way. Our one less-than-satisfactory breakfast dining experience was on the pool deck. I ordered an omelet from the menu, not realizing it would have to be cooked somewhere else and brought up. It seemed to take forever, and I had to leave before it arrived. We ate breakfast at La Terrazza from then on and it was always wonderful: great variety, selection, quality and service.
We really enjoyed and appreciated both the entertainment and the entertainers on Silversea, and I think it's important to distinguish between the two. We never missed a performance and had a great time at each and every one. The "Artists of Silversea" are all very talented. Whether performing together or solo, they were terrific, and the shows high energy and fun. Hyperion is an amazing pianist and his commentary put many things into historical context. But what really stands out in our minds is how down-to-earth, warm and friendly the entertainers were. Kathy and I had many opportunities to sit and talk with each member of the "Artists" group. One night, we damned near closed down the bar while talking with Dustin and Courtney. A few days into the cruise, we were on a first name basis with all of them. And because we liked them so much as people, we appreciated their music and performances even more.
The rest of the staff on Silversea was also excellent and they spoiled us terribly. Cherry Mae, Thilu, Shevket, Gilbert, Joseph (the new daddy), and so many others too numerous to name helped make our cruise really special. We and Priscilla hit it off from day one, (maybe it was my Santa Claus hat), and we had a lot of fun together. A few days into the cruise, I asked Don, (the Cruise Director), if there was going to be Karaoke on board. The next night it was on the schedule and I and many others had an opportunity to make fools of ourselves. By the conclusion of the cruise, we had made many new friends, not only with other passengers, but with many of the staff as well. Silversea has done an incredible job finding, hiring, training and retaining its exceptional staff.
As much as we liked our overall Silversea experience, there were several things about the cruise that were less than satisfactory. I'll mention three of them. Topping the list are tours and excursions. I expected better quality -- and better quality assurance - on the tours Silversea was offering and promoting. Of the five tours we took, two were okay, one was disappointing, and two left me angry and feeling cheated. Regarding those last two . . .
SNA-B, the Eco Walk in Tayrona NP. Our guide, (Andres, I think), spoke poor English and his microphone on the bus didn't work. When we got to Tayrona, he made little effort to control his group, and we got spread out all over the place, not knowing where Andres was or where he wanted us to be. At one point I went exploring some far trail and stumbled upon Andres and three other members of our group talking about stuff that might have been of interest to EVERYONE in our group. Not knowing what to do, half our group wandered back to the bus and sat waiting there for twenty minutes for Andres and everybody else to return. In addition, our bus driver was UNSAFE! On the drive back, he made several incredibly dangerous passes and barely missed clipping another bus. This tour was a waste of time and money and a bit scary as well.
HTO-A, Copalita River Kayaking. This was described as a 3 Â½ hour tour, but we were back in our cabins in 1 hour 45 minutes. When you figure a thirty minute drive each way to and from the river, plus another half hour getting organized and outfitted, one would expect 1 Â½ to 2 hours of actual kayaking. Instead, about 25 minutes after we put into the river, we were getting out . . . our kayaking adventure completed. Now, to be fair, those 25 minutes in the water were quite nice. The river is very pretty and the surroundings are lush. But since I paid for -- and expected to get -- three or four times as much actual kayaking as we got, I felt cheated
At the conclusion of each of these tours, I told the tour desk on the Whisper about our experiences. They listened, took notes and expressed regret, but no adjustment of any sort was ever offered or made.
Disappointment number two was internet service. Silversea advertises itself as a luxury, all-inclusive experience. I paid $85 for 250 minutes of internet access. That's not a lot of money in comparison to the cost of the cruise, but it's more than "nominal". One reason I take all inclusive cruises is because I don't like to be "nickeled and dimed". In my opinion, Silversea ought to include complimentary internet service in the price of the cruise.
Our third, less-than-satisfactory experience from this cruise is not a criticism of Silversea, but rather a matter of personal style and preference. My wife and I simply prefer less formality than is the standard on Silversea. Judging from our one Silversea cruise, most of thier clientele enjoy dressing in tuxedos and gowns. When we travel, however, we prefer to leave the formal clothing at home. This was the first time in over twenty years that I've taken a jacket and tie on a cruise. Now that airlines are penalizing passengers with excess baggage, I'm even less inclined to pack extra suits, tuxedos and shoes.