This was our fifth cruise, and our first on Silversea or any small ship. Our main reason for choosing Silversea was looking for a smaller ship. I was less focused on the "luxury" or all-inclusive nature, although these were nice to have.
Overall, we enjoyed the small ship experience. Embarkation was quick and easy, and we were meeting with our butler (Kumar) right away. Our luggage arrived quickly. We never felt like we were part of a "herd", with the possible exception of the muster drill - the only time we really ever saw a lot of people gathered at once. Disembarkation was also smooth - we got the time slot we selected, we waited comfortably in the bar area, and walked right off when they called our group.
It was very nice being able to get in close to the ports. In particular, we were right in the center of St Petersburg, on the Neva River, whereas the big ships were far away in the port.
As far as the level of luxury, while Silversea was very nice, I do not think it was all that different from concierge class on Celebrity (whereas there was a large price difference). The food was mostly good but nothing blew me away - except the chocolate desserts! The included wine was a nice opportunity to try different styles and not put a lot of thought into it. None of the free wine was great, but most of it was good. We enjoyed La Terraza, in particular the sommelier (Monteza I think was her name). We did not try Hot Rocks or Le Champagne. Breakfast in the restaurant was not good at all, but the buffet had a nice selection. I particularly liked how, when we ordered coffee at the buffet, they waited until we returned from the buffet to swoop in and pour it, so that it would not get cold. Tea was fun, although the samplings seemed to be the same every day. The one exception was the Russian-themed tea on our last day in St Petersburg - a very nice touch with lots of delicious selections.
The room was larger than a veranda room on other ships we have cruised on, and we liked the size of the bathroom and walk-in closet. Bulgari toiletries were a nice touch. Our butler Kumar and his assistant Denniver were very attentive and responsive. Strangely, we ordered a bottle of wine one day, and they sent it up in plastic cups instead (there was a problem getting the wine). Luckily the room was stocked with glassware, so we easily poured the wine into the nicer glassware. (They also served wine at the pool grill in plastic cups, which was annoying. It is not like we carried them over to the pool, and I saw that for Hot Rocks at night they used real glasses.)
The hotel gym was small but had a lot of nice choices, and I almost never had to wait. Unfortunately, it did not open until 6:30, which is not nearly enough time to get in a morning workout on port intensive days when we had tours starting at 8.
We did not use the casino. We attended one show, a Broadway revue, and it was entertaining. My husband attended a martini lesson and had a lot of fun. We also did the suite tour to see some of the larger suites. (They were nice and spacious, but I can't see paying 5x what we paid for our verandah suite!) They actually had a children's program (not advertised until we were on board), but my son did not join in. It was very convenient having self-serve laundrettes (with soap!) available - took some of the pressure off of packing.
The common areas were nice enough. Not over the top; understated, although I would not describe it as particularly elegant. I wasn't crazy about the decor in the main dining room - it was overwhelmingly orange, including the art - maybe they were trying to play off of the blue skies and water? I really liked the Panorama Lounge, with the red and white color scheme and comfy chairs, and the pool deck.
I think the one notable differentiator for Silversea that everyone notes is the "personal" service. This is not something that is important to us, so it was sort of wasted on us. Yes, I am sure our butler would have drawn me a bath every day or unpacked for us if we had asked him to, but we were not interested in these services. Yes, all of the wait staff addressed us by name within a few days, but honestly, that felt a little weird. I would rather have them learn our habits than our names. For example, we never eat a whole basket of bread, so it is wasteful to leave it on the table at dinner. On a mega ship, it is probably easier/more efficient to throw away a bunch of bread rather than pay attention to what customers want. And maybe a lot of customers want things "available" to them whether they want them or not. But given the Silversea approach to personalized service, I would expect them to take the time to get to know us. I just felt like they were still more focused on throwing free things at us, than on learning what we wanted. Also, for some reason, we had a hard time getting service on the pool deck. Great service at the pool bar, but could not get a waiter to come over when we were sitting in the (wonderful) deck chairs.
My biggest irritation came on our day at sea, when I tried to run on the very clearly labeled JOGGING TRACK. The pool deck staff (who were never available to get me a drink!) helped other passengers drag their chairs right into the running path. There was plenty of room for them to lie around and have their breakfast elsewhere on the pool deck or on the edges of the jogging track (which I was willing to concede given the small size of the ship), and only one place for me to jog, so I found this very annoying and, again, catering to the masses.