I am a great fan of crossings, and this year Silver Cloud offered a very good itinerary from Barcelona to Barbados, via ports on Southern Spain, Casablanca, and then 7 delightful sea days in warm southerly waters prior to arrival in Barbados.
I had booked this cruise almost as soon as the 2013 sailing schedule was announced and was able to book British Airways flights to Barcelona (Club Class) and home from Barbados (First Class) using my Avios points. A definite bonus as the Silversea flights are not competitively priced.
Boarding at Barcelona on Friday 25 October was a 'breeze'. We arrived at the ship at 12 noon, embarked immediately, and then enjoyed a glass of wine poolside before going to La Terrazza for lunch. By the time we got to our cabins just after 2.30, the luggage had begun to arrive which enabled us to unpack.
I was travelling with a friend and, because of the reasonable single supplement (25%), we opted for an adjacent standard verandah cabin each. This gives you as much space as a Silver Suite for considerably less cost and gives you the added bonus of a double bed and a bathroom each! Married couples where one party snores might like to try this arrangement!
This was my first time on the smallest of the standard Silversea ships, having previously travelled on both the Spirit and the Whisper. I like the layout of the ships - it works - and the 2012 refit of the Cloud has been a great success. Soft furnishings and the general appearance of the ship are immaculate and it is hard to believe that this ship is almost 20 years old.
The maximum complement aboard is 280 passengers. We sailed with 220 passengers and 230 crew, a very luxurioius 1:1 ratio! We were blessed with good weather throughout the cruise, thanks to sailing on a southerly route. This also helps to make people feel happy and this was a very happy cruise. The food and service were excellent - 5 star - and almost (but not quite) as outstanding as the food and service on the Whisper in January where we sailed from Los Angeles to Sydney on the first two sectors of the World Cruise.
Food in La Terrazza and in the Dining Room was consistently very good with correct, attentive service. House wines were generally good, but passengers need to understand (many don't) that the wine offered at lunch and dinner is merely the 'suggestion of the day'. If you prefer something else then all of the red and white wines on the complimentary list (I think I counted about 8 of each) are available. Unlike Seabourn, Silversea do not try and pass off 'gut-rot' wines fit only for swilling down the stainless steel sinks! The House Champagne is Heidsieck (Blue Top) but a better bet, and available on request for no charge, is Pommery.
Housekeeping is immaculate in both cabins and public areas. With Silversea you do get a (very efficient) Butler but I never know quite what to do with him. It is so long ago that we, in England, had butlers, that I have quite forgotten! However, Mark did bring my early morning tea at 8.00 each morning and this was a perfect wake-up call! Also, on formal nights (three of them), he took away and polished my black shoes, bringing them back nicely wrapped in tissue paper.
The ports in southern Spain (Cartagena, Malaga and Cadiz) were all very good. The relatively newly discovered Roman remains at Cartagena are a very easy walk from the ship. I would give Casablanca a miss. It is an ugly, dusty port, and those who went to Marrakech were, by and large, disappointed. It is a long way, there were delays, and consequently the tour group did not see a great deal. So much so that SS gave the passengers a 50% refund, which I thought a very decent gesture. Madeira was delightful. The weather was perfect, and we went and had lunch at our favourite Reid's Hotel, sitting by the pool. Then it was seven days 'across the pond' with glorious weather every day. Silver Cloud was never tested by big seas but was able to glide effortlessly and gracefully across the ocean. My cabin was so quiet and still at night that we might almost have been alongside!
There were plenty of lectures for those who were keen (my own preference was to sit on deck and read) and the usual round of dance classes, bridge and cookery demonstations. I'm sorry to say that I missed almost all of this. Also, I didn't partake in the boat-building contest but much enjoyed the afternoon where the finished results were launched in the pool! I did use the gym a few times. It is rather small and claustrophobic and offers very little in the way of headroom when using the exercise equipent. Anyone 6 feet or over would have a serious problem!
We looked in a couple of times at the evening entertainment in the Show Lounge after dinner, but the standard of what was on offer looked pretty poor. For me that doesn't matter. Organised entertainment would, on a scale of importance of 1-10, rank 1 (very low) for me! It's just a matter of preference, but if glitzy high-budget after dinner shows are important then perhaps Silversea is not the Line for you.
For me, this cruise 'ticked all the boxes' and was a great success. Unfortunately, and much as I would like to, I shall not be able to repeat the experience in 2014 or 2015. Silversea are misguidedly routing their Westbound Transatlanics (I never go Eastbound because of the adverse clock changes) in November 2014 and 2015 from the Mediterranean to Fort Lauderdale, instead of Barbados. This routing goes too far north and takes the ships into potentially stormy waters. The recent bumpy Silver Spirit crossing (reported on these boards) is a good illustration of this.
One week after arriving home I headed off and did another crossing - this time on Swan Hellenic's Minerva. I will be writing a review of that when I have a moment!