Silver Wind: Silver Wind Cruise Review by Larry Hudack
Overall Member Rating
Embarkation: Santiago (Valparaiso)
Great Expectations: We had cruised on the Regent Mariner twice and Crystal Symphony and enjoyed their programs very much. We were told to expect more from Silversea. Rave reports detailing the intimate luxury that we should expect were very convincing and we looked forward to cruising with you with great anticipation. We had been told to expect superior service, spectacular entertainment, and unparalleled attention to detail. We anticipated the drink cart that would stock our suite and the personal attention we would receive at meals. Naturally, your excursion program was much complimented. Balance:
A Poor Start: We arrived at the terminal building a little early and were told we would board at 2 pm. It soon became apparent that something was wrong. Two PM came and went. Passengers lined up in anticipation of embarking. At 2:30 the line reached the entire length of the terminal building (I More took pictures because it seemed so unusual). By 3 PM there was a story advanced by one of the waiters who was in the terminal to "assist" the passengers, that the boat had docked some 2 ½ hours late. Unfortunately, we knew that was not true since we had seen the Silver Wind at dockside from our hotel window early in the morning. Slowly the embarkation line began to advance at about 3 PM. The line moved forward very slowly as only two small busses were being used to shuttle passengers to the ship. Like cattle in a chute ready for an auction we advanced. Tempers were running short. The common question was "Is this the way one experiences 'ultimate luxury' cruising?" What we experienced was disorganized and demeaning. Then, as we entered the ship one of the officers advanced the idea that Chilean Customs was "the problem" and they had kept the ship waiting. We shall never know the true rationale but it was clear that communications coming from Silver Wind had a tendency to be disingenuous and self-serving. Eventually we got to our cabin at about 4:30 and breathed a sigh of relief. "Let's put that bad experience behind us" we said to ourselves.
Excursions In our suite we completed a list of the excursions we wanted to take and delivered the list to the Concierge at 8 AM on Tuesday morning. At 6 PM we received a call in our suite from Sabrina Hawel who informed us that we would be unable to take the first excursion on Wednesday because our "application was received late". Sabrina informed us that the deadline was Noon on Tuesday. It seemed to make no difference to her that we had delivered our application to the Concierge 4 hours before the deadline because the Excursion desk was unoccupied. Yes, with Sabrina the rules are the rules and the concept of intimate luxury cruising seem to be totally lost. I brought this matter to the attention of Paolo Benassi and expressed my displeasure with Sabina's conduct. When we returned from dinner two excursion tickets for Wednesday were in our suite. On Wednesday the excursion went off on schedule and I note for your information that the bus was less than 40% occupied. Clearly there was no shortage of availability and Sabrina was exercising poor judgment. It simply seemed lost on Sabrina that her job was to serve and assist the passengers. Throughout the two cruises Sabrina was disorganized and flighty. She seemed to engage in a lot of motion for no purpose whatsoever in order to look busy. Indeed, in Buenos Aires those of us on excursions had no idea where to gather and the scene was one of utter chaos as we searched around to find our buses. In general the excursions, once we were in the hands of the vendors, were very well done and the equipment was modern and in good condition. The single exception being in Santos where the tour guide told us repeatedly that she was a school teacher and had studied law for 5 years. She literally yelled into an amplified microphone and spent more time apologizing for her conduct than she did in conducting the tour. Facilities We occupied suite 539 for 24 days. Upon our arrival we noted that shower had black mold around the tub and in the ceiling area. The carpet was faded and looked anything but inviting. The chairs in the room were stained and the mattresses were sagging in the middle on both sides of the bed and not particularly comfortable - they had seen better days. The air-conditioning would not cool the room or reduce the humidity once we came into the warmer climate from Buenos Aires to Rio De Janerio. We were told not to open our veranda doors which made them a bit useless. During the colder portion of the trip the restaurants were frequently so cold that we hurried our meal just to get our feet warm. From time to time water from the lavatory and shower would run brown - about the color of a weak tea. Occasionally, brown debris would float up from the tub drain. Taking a tub bath was, therefore, out of the question. This seemed to happen most often in the evening when passengers were preparing for the evening. The room TV on the Silver Wind is set so low that one cannot see it while lying in bed and it was held in place by being set on two wood screws. Of course, it did not really matter since the TV programming was tragic. During our 5 days at sea after leaving Punta Arenas we were treated to 5 days of the movie "Lassie". The resolution on the GPS display was so poor that it was impossible to even read the names of the countries.
Food and beverage Service According to your self promoting literature "Silversea has set the standard for ultra-luxury cruising ...". I should be interested in how you define "ultra-luxury". I believe a water glass half full or a wine glass half empty should be an invitation for waiter attention. Not on the Silver Wind. Obtaining a water or wine refill required one to raise one's hand in order to attract attention sufficient to obtain service. I suppose there was a beverage shortage on the Silver Wind because a glass of wine was always poured ¼ full and it took vigorous effort to obtain additional service. The Sommeliers were, in some cases, unskilled and lacked completely the ability to distinguish between wines or describe a particular wine. I seriously question many of the wine choices. For example, a Chardonnay blended with another variety could only be a signal that that principal wine was deficient. Of course, if selection was based on price that would explain the wines. The waiters in "The Restaurant", for the most part, did their jobs in silence and without a smile. They performed like trained robots attempting to give no cause for criticism instead of engaging with the passengers with whom they were to share the restaurant for over 3 weeks. The Problem Begins at the Top - Ignazio Tatulli I acknowledge that neither Silversea nor Captain Tatulli is responsible for the weather. However, Both Silversea and Captain Tatulli are individually and collectively responsible for the decisions that are made with regard to the weather and for the consequences thereof. On voyage 2701, we missed three of the eight listed ports. My wife and I were looking forward to seeing the Falkland Islands - this was to be one of our highlights. However, we were on a luxury cruise and had not signed on to be intrepid seafarers. We left the Magellan Straights at about 4 AM. Seas were 10-12 feet and the wind was from the Southwest at 15-20 knots. As we emerged from the protection of the straights it was obvious to even an amateur sailor that as we moved into open seas in the South Atlantic that wind and sea conditions would worsen. At that time (4AM) all that was necessary was for Captain Tatulli to place a satellite phone call to the harbor master at the Falklands and learn that seas there were extremely high and that winds were already gale force. In fact, this information was available from internet sources. As we moved into the Argentinean Basin winds strengthened and the seas grew. By Noon the seas were 15-18 feet and the winds were over 25 knots. It was challenging and somewhat unsafe to even walk on deck nine or attempt to get to the gym. By 4 PM the seas were 25-30 feet and winds were over 30 knots. The ship was rolling substantially as the southwesterly swell moved beneath the boat. By 6 PM the seas were 30-40 feet and winds were over 35 knots as we sailed under Captain Tatulli's direction south of the Falkland Islands. We were constantly exposed to southwest swell and winds that had grown steadily all day. On deck five the bar was completely destroyed when the deck rolled 15 to 20 degrees as the Silver Wind slid up and down the swells coming directly abeam. Passengers were tossed from their chairs; drinks were smashed on the floor. On deck seven the entire restaurant service landed on the floor and everything breakable was, in fact, broken. The piano slid, passengers lying on the floor were hit by tables or chairs. Some passengers were badly injured And for what purpose? We could not anchor or put our tenders ashore at Port Stanley. It was unsafe when we arrived and had been unsafe ever since we left the Straights of Magellan. We took the most dangerous route - south of the islands and did not obtain relief on the lea of the land until the abort decision was made. The decision to divert to our next port (Puerto Madryn) could have been reasonably made early Wednesday morning. The decision to continue on to Port Stanley was, in the most flattering terms, ill advised and in a more practical sense, in view of our "luxury" cruising objectives, it was incompetent. I refuse to believe that with modern communications tools the weather conditions in Port Stanley could not have been reasonably anticipated in sufficient time to make a the situation avoidable. It was clear earlier that some decision making and planning aspects of this cruise were poorly done. We could not dock in Chacabuco because an NCL cruise ship was tied up at the dock and the harbor was too small to anchor. It defies reason that Silversea could not know, days in advance, that NCL had reserved that dock! So, we sailed around the Falklands and past Puerto Madryn so that Captain Tatulli could steam a northerly course which he claimed would offer us some protection by being north of the Falklands. I suppose he expected us to believe that story even though the southerly land mass would offer protection for only a limited time because of the Southwest seas. Throughout the cruises Captain Tatulli was the invisible man and that decision seems to have been his choice. At the first Captain's reception Captain Tatulli announced that he was leaving the ship in Buenos Aires and he challenged us all to try to beat him to the airport once we docked. To attend to his pregnant wife, it was rumored, he would do anything to get off the ship early. He did manage to get the Silver Wind to Buenos Aires a day early. His heart was not in the cruise. Captain Tatulli missed the second reception - he said he was busy. At the third reception he embarrassed himself and his crew when he actually did not know our next port. Trickle Down Infection The attitude of Captain Tatulli apparently infected the entire crew. The Crew was not happy, service was wistful and uncertain. Paolo Benassi seemed incapable or unwilling to take any meaningful action. When new passengers boarded in Buenos Aires (39 of us stayed on board) we were constantly asked about the "cruise from hell" we had experienced. The descriptive name was supplied by the boarding passengers as they had all heard about our misadventure. Some decisions that directly impacted the passengers seem very strange. Why would Silversea choose to change entertainers at the southerly most city on the planet where air service is not exactly renowned? Two entertainers got off in Punta Arenas and two others got on - minus their luggage. A ventriloquist without his dummy is not an act. Entertainment for several days was limited to movies and we saw the March of the Penguins twice. So much for great entertainment! For the most part, the entertainment was mediocre and lightly attended. The lectures failed miserably to help the passengers gain an understanding of the cities we were to visit. Mr. Mattson's lectures were particularly uninspired and were the dull and lifeless product of the US State Department Staff. You could take a lesson from Crystal in this regard. The "Fitness Director" was notable for her absence. She was neither available nor helpful with the equipment and was uniquely dispirited. I know not what purpose Andrea Paravey served except to strut and sway with the most disingenuous smile I have ever seen. Better to have replaced her with a couple of waiters.
Insult Upon Injury One night we were invited to dine with the ship's physician. Regrettably, we accepted. Upon entering The Restaurant we were told that the ship's physician was "unavailable" and that the Staff Engineer would be our host. We were puzzled when our first replacement host was still absent 15 minutes after the invitation time. Eventually, our table was hosted by the Housekeeper who offered no explanation for the diminished representation of the crew. She seemed to have been rushed into service as a last minute replacement. How would you feel? . Less