Embarkation/Disembarkation: Embarkation in Piraeus, the port for Athens, on 10 May was extremely smooth and easy. In a change from our typical “do-it-yourself” approach we actually stayed at a Silversea hotel and took their transfer from the hotel to the port. Yes, it was a large bus but only 24 or so passengers so it was a quick and easy 45 or so minute trip. Our luggage was whisked away by waiting porters and we went into the terminal to go through security and check-in. Other than the Greek officials checking passports the rest of our processing was done by ship's staff in the terminal. The check-in entailed surrendering our passports, verifying the credit card we'd be using for ship board purchases, and getting our room key cards. No waiting for group numbers or colors to be called, we were immediately escorted to the ship where staff took our carry-on luggage from us and assisted us in boarding the ship. We were greeted by Colin Brown, the ship’s cruise director, and he recognized us from our previous cruise on the Wind. The staff with our carry-on bags waited patiently while we exchanged pleasantries and then escorted us to our cabins. Amazingly, though probably not surprising considering the size of the ship, our luggage was very quickly delivered to our cabins.
Disembarkation on 28 May in Civitavecchia, the distant port for Rome, was amazingly rapid and easy. One thing we didn't like about disembarkation, and it's more of an observation than a complaint, is that Silversea asked us to leave our cabins not later than 8:30 AM so they could prepare for the on-coming passengers though our butler and cabin attendant were very patient and really didn’t pressure us. We’d had eighteen days with them and had gotten to know both of them very well. An outstanding team. As it turned out we went to one of the restaurants for a full breakfast and we were off the ship by 8:45 AM. Passing through Italian Customs and Immigration was quick and really very easy. The ship's staff, many of whom we'd gotten to know during the cruise, quickly greeted us in the terminal, helped us locate our luggage, and make connection with our transportation. Once again we used a Silversea hotel for our post-cruise stay in Rome so we were again on a partially full bus. Sadly, but efficiently, we were driven away from the terminal within 15 or 20 minutes and arrived at our hotel some hour and 45 minutes later.
Itinerary: The highlight, and main reason for booking this cruise, was the itinerary. Actually it was a combined itinerary of two 9-day cruises and our first back-to-back cruise. Fourteen ports in eighteen days, and actually three of those were overnights, was intense and exciting. We started in Athens then on to Kusadasi, Santorini, Nafplion, Katakolon, Corfu, Kotor, Dubrovnik, Hvar, Venice, Koper, Split, Sorrento, and finally Civitavecchia. At least for us this was a second cruise of a lifetime following our previous Mediterranean cruise that had focused more on the eastern Med. We'd be hard pressed to say we like one better than another as each had its own attraction, flavor, and interest.
Excurions: Quite frankly we were on the move on this cruise. The first sixteen days were port after port, city after city, and site after site. In fact, out of eighteen days we only had one sea day and that was during the second cruise on the next to last full day. We took a mix of self-guided, ship's, and private tours. I think we did just about as well as we could have done and in retrospect I can't think of any tour we would have done any differently. It's almost impossible to list where we went and what we saw on this cruise. Overall highlights have to include a second and unrushed visit to the Acropolis in Athens, Ephesus and the terrace houses , Olympia, Venice, many sites in Rome that we didn’t get to two years ago including a private tour of the Vatican, and that's just to name a few off the top of my head. Let's just say the list of "oh my gosh's" is long and extensive and I'd ventured to say my wife's list is probably different than mine. She's building our website report, day by day, right now and eventually the whole cruise will be captured at www.klugsplace.com .
Service: The service on the Wind was almost impeccable without being intrusive or overbearing, certainly the best we've had in all of our cruises. Regular or loyal Silversea cruisers are probably thinking "And you expected what?" about this time and admittedly stepping up to a luxury cruise was everything we thought it might be and maybe a bit more. Maybe it's all about expectations and I like to think we're not demanding people so it's not like we set out to come up with requests or challenges to see how well the staff performed. It is just little things like thinking we might want to eat outside the night we transitioned through the Straights of Messina. We’d failed to make reservation and were pretty much resigned to eating in the main restaurant. At lunch that day one of the head waiters came by and asked how we were doing and where were we going to eat that night. We told him the main restaurant as we’d failed to make other arrangements. He immediately said “Let me check on that”. Within an hour we had a wonderful table on the aft deck outside of the La Terrazza restaurant.
Food: I feel like I'm sounding like a broken record, or sound loop for those of you who don't remember records, but the food on the Wind was excellent. Even on this small ship there are basically four dining venues. There is the main restaurant aptly named The Restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There is the La Terrazza that is semi-buffet for breakfast and lunch but transforms into a full service Italian restaurant at night. There is the Pool Grill that serves a continental "wellness" breakfast, has menu lunch, and transforms into the Black Rock Grill at night. Should say here that the Black Rock Grill is actually a fun, interactive dining option where you get to cook your own dinner on this extremely hot eight or so inch square flat lava rock. Hard to explain but it's actually easy and the staff is right there to help you through the process. The final option is the Le Champagne which is the Wind's only additional charge specialty restaurant that serves only dinner in a very small and intimate setting. We ate in all the venues on the cruise with the exception of the Le Champagne this cruise. The Restaurant and Hot Rocks were fantastic but I will have to say the La Terrazza was a big disappointment this cruise. It was one of the best venues on the same ship two years ago but throughout our cruise the food was sometimes marginal and the service painfully slow.
Entertainment: In a break or a change from our previous cruise on the Wind we didn’t go to many of the shows on this cruise. We did go to see Colin Brown who is not only the Cruise Director but also a very accomplished concert pianist and he performed a couple of nights during the cruise. In addition the ship had a small 4-piece band who performed nightly in the Panorama Bar and a piano player/singer who performed in The Bar, yes another aptly named venue, every night. There is a casino, and I use the term a bit loosely here as it is small with only one blackjack table, one variation of poker table, one roulette table, and maybe a dozen slot machines. Unfortunately the casino was closed totally or until late many nights as we had the overnights and many late departures. We spent much less time there and dancing versus our previous cruise and really just enjoyed the company of fellow passengers and ourselves most evenings.
Passengers: I'd say the average age on this cruise was in the mid-50's to early 60's, a bit younger than what we've become used to on Holland America but not significantly different. It certainly was an international group with the majority being English speakers, probably 90% of the passengers, from United States, England, Canada, Asia, India, and Australia. I did also hear German, French, Italian, and I think Russian from a few couples. There were a few children, maybe five or six, mostly babies and none over two or three years old but the families seemed to stay pretty much to themselves and you really didn't notice them around much. Of course with such a port intensive cruise folks were off the ship almost daily so there wasn’t a lot of time confined to the ship. One observation was the interesting difference in the two 9-day cruises. Only 18 or so of us stayed on the ship for the second leg so we had a significant turnover of passengers. The nature of the overall group on the first 9-day leg was a little more party-like. Interestingly it was driven in large part by one couple who were celebrating a birthday and them, in a good hearted way most of the time, wanted everybody to enjoy themselves and help them celebrate. It wasn’t distracting but it was certainly obvious. The second group was more reserved and had more returning Silversea Venetian Society members than the first. We met great people on both legs and made what we think will be two or three lasting friendships to the point we’re presently planning to cruise next year with one of the couples.
Overall Impression: This was our second cruise on Silversea after several cruises on Holland America and one Celebrity cruise. In all fairness it probably isn't fair to compare those cruise lines to Silversea. Yes, it's a cruise and a ship but the scale of operations and the resulting level of service plus the all-inclusive aspect don't lend themselves to exact comparison. It's hard to say, mainly because it's so subjective, that one is better than the other or one is worth or not worth the money. This cruise set an extraordinarily high mark from the itinerary to the service to the food. Without a doubt it was a great cruise because of the unusual and exciting itinerary so many cruises would pale in comparison. We will cruise Silversea again without hesitation and are already planning a cruise for next year with new found friends from this cruise.