Our cruise was some months ago, but we're just discussing where to go for the next cruise and .. I realized I meant to review it at the time.
We were on Silver Whisper late February 2007 from Bangkok to Singapore. It was our 10th wedding anniversary, when we married we went from Bangkok to Singapore on the Orient Express, this was the same journey, just a bit slower.
We stayed a couple of nights in Bangkok before the cruise, it's a better place to visit than it was a few years back, less touting, better service and great food. The trip down to the docks was somewhat fraught, roads were dug up and the driver got very lost in the port, so by the time we arrived we were pretty fried. We sat around the departure area for about 10 minutes before giving up and agreeing to pay the extra for early boarding, we just wanted to get on the ship. We were never actually charged for this .. which made us happy in the end.
For reference our previous cruises had been with Celebrity and Royal Caribbean, on and one with Star Cruises just better forgotten.
The ship was lovely. Maintained, well appointed, just great. It's quiet, it seems empty even when it's not, we absolutely loved it. On the other cruise lines we'd chosen some of the larger suite cabins expecting we'd need to retreat to them and spend most of our vacation there (and we did). On silversea we were near the bottom of the categories and were concerned about that, but the room (vista balcony) was fine for the 11 days on board and the public areas of the ship were good enough, and quiet enough, that we could spend more time out of it. The room layout is wonderful, great use of space, clever closet, lovely bathroom. The housekeeping staff kept it in fine condition the whole week.
We loved the service. This set the cruise apart from other cruises we'd been on. The staff got to know you, they figured out your likes and dislikes early on and that's good service. Like most people we had a favorite waiter in the restaurant. We felt the staff were all trained to the same standard, clearly Silversea didn't just put people on a ship and expect them to figure it out. The restaurant staff learned what we liked to eat, the deck staff quickly learned what I liked to drink, that's service.
We found the food to be of a consistently high standard. It surpasses that on the other cruises we'd taken and we felt that it would be hard to deliver better on board a cruise ship. We didn't mess about asking for odd things, we took it as it came and were happy. As it was an asian cruise we'd have appreciated more asian food choices, just for fun, the impression was that the food was independent of the cruise, a little flexibility would be nice. Included alcohol was welcome and we thought the wine choices were good. We tried La Terazza one night and somehow it disappointed, the service was a mess, food was nice though.
I used the internet daily and was pretty impressed that a ship managed to keep up a sold connection almost all the time. I probably spent 2 hours a day working and had very few problems. It wasn't cheap, but it's a necessary evil and I wouldn't cruise on a ship which didn't have it. I note that in-room wireless access is one of the post-drydock features .. I'd have liked that, although working in the forward lounge was fun, if I sail on the whisper again, I hope I don't use the in-room internet too much. I also put on the comment card that the whole ship needed LDC TVs because the old CRT ones were useless in a metal ship, I gather that too is being done in drydock, that's a plus.
We didn't like the cruise director much, but a lot of people seemed to. See the comment below about 'young cruisers'. We didn't expect to like the entertainment a whole lot and ... we really didn't. This was expected when we booked, we watched DVDs in our room and that was more our taste. Definitely understand that a cruise line can't cater for every taste and we're perhaps not the target market.
We found the staff in the gym/spa to be great. The fitness director on this cruise was so passionate about the subject I was finally, after 20 years of laziness, spurred into fitness action and I'm still going.
If we had a complaint at all it was that the crew didn't seem to quite know how to deal with younger cruisers. I'm early 40s, my wife mid 30s and asian. We didn't get quite the personal treatment some other travellers received from the senior staff, table by the kitchen unless you asked not, nothing very special on our anniversary (noted that everyone on board had something special that week, so you can't all dine with the captain), cruise director didn't really stop by to say hi. At the same time we found the younger cruise staff very open and friendly so perhaps what we lost with the senior staff, we gained at the other end. The younger staff work very hard indeed, and with a smile and for us their attitude made the whole cruise.
Silversea blew us away, really, there are always things can be done better, but we relaxed and we got off the ship wanting to go back, relaxed and happy. yes we're comparing with mass-market lines as that's what we'd done before, but the step up in quality and staff attitude was key to us really relaxing.
We're planning our next cruise and looking at other lines too but it's hard to not go back, it's certainly hard to choose any line back down market. We read that the whisper is going for drydock and being tweaked and that really makes us feel that we need to return.