This is a review of the Silver Shadow cruise from Anchorage to Vancouver. It will also be a bit of a comparison of this cruise with Regent Seven Seas, simply because that is the line we have cruised most often and comparisons just happen naturally. I'll post this as a review as well, but it seemed like a good idea to post it here for those planning. A bit about us, we are in our early 40s and this is our 7th cruise but our first with Silverseas. As I look back over this now it is quite long, and I apologize for my verbosity! We started it just making notes while on the cruise, and it has really taken on a life of its own!
Pre-cruise: We spent a couple of days in Denali park doing it on our own. We were there during the short shoulder season when the park road is only open to mile 29. You can either take the Teklanika tour on a bus or you can drive to the same point in your own car. We did it on our own. The road is very well maintained and nice and wide so you can stop as you please and there is always room for others to go around you.
Embarkation: The embarkation process started a bit rough as we were continually referred to as crew and were kept waiting in our cab with the meter running while they moved the gangway. Moving of the gangway would be a frequent activity every time we went to board.
Fellow passengers; many of the people aboard had done the previous cruise from Asia. Several of them commented that it was nice to have some young people aboard as the previous cruise was all old people. We thought it was hilarious that they kept saying that. We found the age range to be a bit younger than it has been on most of our Regent cruises. Everyone, regardless of age, was a lot of fun!
The ship. The finishings on the ship were all very nice and the ship did not appear old or worn to us. We really liked the double vanities in the bathroom of our suite. The large closet was nice as well, but I would have liked more drawers in the stateroom. My husband noted that the cabin layout and color scheme on all ships is very similar and it would be exciting to have someone deviate from that plan. I know others have commented that the ship looks warn and tired, but we were quite impressed with her appearance.
We liked the smaller size of this ship, but felt some of the areas should be better used. The observation lounge in particular is really wasted space. If there was a bartender there and if the seating was changed to a comfortable layout, this would have been our favorite space. There needs to be a forward lounge with cocktail service. The library and computer room take up far too much space considering how little they are used. This space should be combined with the card room and add a coffee cafe with snacks. This is one area that RSSC really nailed. The coffee connection, I think it is called, is basically a library, game room, computer area with a full fledged barrista and snacks always available.
There are meal "blind spots" that we often ran into. If we worked out before eating in the morning or just woke up late, we had a hard time finding breakfast. The same was true for late afternoon snack. We haven't had this on any other cruise. The coffee cafe with snacks would have alleviated this problem.
The Internet connection was horrible. Silverseas either needs to invest in a proper set up for Internet, or stop offering it all together.
Service. The service was very good. Every single member of the crew and staff were always smiling and happy and really did make you feel like it was their pleasure to assist you. Our butler wasn't a superstar, but we never really use our butlers anyway. But the staff in the lounges and dining rooms was excellent! We felt that the service on the Shadow far exceeded the service on Regent.
Food. This is where Silverseas fell short. The food was quite bad. The menus were more often than not unappealing. When we went to the alternate dining options it was because there was nothing interesting on the main restaurant menu. Many times all of the choices were odd. I like Indian food, quite a bit actually. By there seemed to be an Indian dish on every menu. Seriously! Considering there might only be 4 entree choices, having one ALWAYS be Indian seemed bizarre. On most of our cruises there has been a focus on regional cuisine. We assumed we would be eating fabulous seafood every day in Alaska. Not so much. The first couple of days the chefs special was "fresh Alaskan rockfish", every day after that it was "rockfish". Did someone over order or is the chef just that lazy? More than one night we ate in the room because the room service menu was more appealing than the dinner menu.
It would be nice if there was a green salad offered every day on the dinner menu. The salad special offered at lunch was normally pretty good and my go to option. The desserts weren't great as a general rule. There was a chocolate croissant bread pudding that was quite good one day. That is a great use of stale bread! The bread was always stale and though bread was always brought to the table, you had to ask for butter. The food was universally under seasoned. The buffet in la terraza was unimpressive as well. The food on Regent is MUCH better. We are both foodies and consider fine dining a favorite part of our travels. We would really hesitate to book another Silverseas cruise based on food alone. We loved just about every other aspect of the cruise, but food is huge for us. And Silverseas just does not deliver an adequate product on this point.
The personal shopping experience. The 'personal shopper' onboard, was very nice. But the shopping maps put into your chronicle everyday listing the same partner stores and nothing else was very off putting. It seems cheap and pushy Iike a used car salesman. And the lectures on how to buy a diamond are, quite simply, insulting to guests. It is as if Silverseas is assuming their customers don't know how to shop. "You booked a cruise with us, so you must be stupid with money".
The cruise director, Mike, was very good. Excellent. We knew that the CD on our last Regent cruise was awful and that was part of why the cruise was so boring. But seeing how the evening entertainment in the lounges would change around based on how people responded showed that Mike was really doing his job. And now I understand what a great CD is and how it can really enhance a cruise experience. The entertainers were very talented, but the shows were a bit one dimensional. We felt the singers on SS were better singers than those on RSSC. But the inclusion of the Cirque shows and professional ballroom dancers on our last RSSC cruises made the entertainment experience of the shows alone on RSSC superior. The overall entertainment experience (being entertained in the lounges etc.) on Silverseas was better.
It was annoying that tea time and bingo occurred at the same time and in separate places. We like to attend both. Many days there was nothing else we were interested in all day, and then everything happened at the same time. If bingo and trivia are going to occur in a lounge other than the one where tea is being held, then that lounge should be open and bar service should be provided. Bingo and trivia happened in the bar, but when it was closed for business.
The captain, Alessandro Zanello, was fabulous. I never understood why people on CC ask who is the captain on board. But after having this captain plow through TONS of ice to get us up close and personal with glaciers, I get it.
Attire. All of our cruise documents listed us as having two formal nights. But once we boarded (with formal attire for two nights) we discovered there would only be one formal night. It is inexcusable that this was changed on board since we had all already schlepped our formal wear to Alaska.
My husband was one of the few people wearing a tux on formal night. I saw no long gowns, very few cocktail dresses and mostly rather casual pantsuits on women. I am not one of the people whose enjoyment of an evening is based in what others around me wear. But I wanted to include our experience of the attire so that others who might use this review to pack can get an idea of what you will actually see onboard. The dress codes were not really adhered to and I never saw anyone turned away from any lounge or restaurant. RSSC may have a more relaxed dress code, but I have seen people asked to leave a lounge at precisely 6 PM because of being in shorts on RSSC. I saw people wearing sweats at the captains farewell party on Silverseas. Everyone seemed to be having a great time, so who cares. But for those that prefer a more formal cruise, RSSC may be for you.
Random observations: The wine served onboard was inexpensive, but good. The bars were well equipped but many of the bartenders were not educated in making classic cocktails. The gym needs more elliptical trainers. The one they had was always in use and there were always unused treadmills. A range of smaller hand weights would be nice as well. There were a lot of one particular weight, and then a jump to something quite a bit heavier. I saw many people looking for something in between. They need bottled water in the gym, the small cups for the dispenser don't fit in the machine cup holders. The announcements that we were in port each morning were annoying and unnecessary. If you have a tour booked, be a big boy and wake up and go on your tour. I'm on vacation, be quiet and let me sleep in if I wish.
A brief note on the itinerary. It was snowing like mad when we arrived in Alaska and we questioned if the highways would be open in time for us to drive to Denali (there were travel advisories all along the route). But we had nothing but sunny skies for most of the trip. Phenomenal weather!
We started in Anchorage which was a nice place to fly into.
College fjord: fabulous! We assumed because it was white out conditions when we arrived in Anchorage a few days earlier that everything would be frozen and we wouldn't get very far into the fjord. But the captain got us right up close to Harvard Glacier.
Valdez: this is a throw away stop. Not worth getting off the ship.
Hubbard glacier: Another great day and again the captain got us right up there. This was a bit exciting as a large ship had gotten in ahead of us and gotten "stuck" a bit. How they got in there is amazing.
Juneau: we did a independent whale watching trip! We have done whale watching all over the world and this was one of our best trips. Tons of whales and so close!
Skagway: We rented a car and drove to Emerald lake. It was a gorgeous drive and sort of exciting driving into Canada. It is a very pretty drive but there aren't really many spots worth stopping at to shop or eat on the way. Pack a picnic and enjoy the scenery.
Sitka: Gorgeous! Beautiful flowers, adorable town, gorgeous homes on these lovely little islands. Of course, we were there on a sunny day, so that didn't hurt. We went to the Fortress of the Bear and were surprised how much we enjoyed it.
Tracy Arm and Sawyer Glacier. WOW! This was really amazing. Such a tight little channel the captain just threaded like a needle. And of course there was some more amazing glacier viewing at the end.
Ketchikan: Cute and interesting little town. We tried to walk to the rain forest for a hike. We couldn't get there, but certainly got our hike in trying to get there!
Vancouver: We spent a couple of days here. Lovely town, great seafood, extremely nice people.