SILVERSEA CRUISES - Revisited
Several years ago I sailed on Silversea Cruises' SILVER CLOUD in the Mediterranean. I greatly enjoyed the experience but haven't found the time to return as quickly as I had hoped, until now.
My partner and I choose the SILVER SHADOW for a 9-night cruise beginning in Barbados on October 17, 2007 and ending in Ft. Lauderdale. We also spent two nights at Sandy Lane in Barbados prior to the cruise. For those that prefer to "cut to the chase" so to speak, I'll tell you upfront that Silversea lived up to all our expectations and even exceeded them. The reports I have read on various message boards about declining standards were not evident on my sailing. In fact I think some aspects of the cruise were upgraded upon reflection of my previous Silversea experience.
Pre-cruise Special mention must be made of Silversea's pre-cruise documentation. They say first impressions are lasting impressions in this is certainly the case with Silversea. I don't think any Cruise Line or Tour Company has a better presentation. Your documents arrive in a silver box, and inside is a lovely black document holder embossed with the Silversea logo. The documents have the personal touch and the ticket is actually printed on Silversea letterhead rather than typical ticket stock. Also included is a leave at home itinerary, pre printed baggage tags, two Silversea permanent luggage tags, shore excursion booklet, question and answer book, a suite preference form, and a gift order form. It's this early indication of attention to detail that continued throughout the cruise and sets Silversea apart from other lines. [ http://public.fotki.com/eroller/silver-shadow---oct/silver-shadow---cor/img2624.html ]
Sandy Lane - "simply to die for" We flew from Atlanta to Barbados on American and the flight was average. Nothing to write home about but we (and our luggage) arrived safely and in tact. That alone is a good flight in my book. Once we cleared customs our private car (BMW 7-series) and driver were there to greet us. Round trip transfers are provided by Sandy Lane if you book through the American Express Fine Hotel and Resorts Program (Platinum and Centurion Card holders). It's a fairly long drive from the airport to Sandy Lane. I would say it took about 40 minutes and although we were tired, we quickly forgot about our fatigue once we pulled through the gates of Sandy Lane. "Stunning" is really the best word to describe the property. Flowers, fountains, a fresh fragrance, birds chirping, and the ocean lapping truly put us into sensory overload. A very warm welcome from the accommodating staff (kudos to Sandra, Sophia, and Walwen) immediately put us at ease. Ice-cold menthol towels were presented along with a delicious concoxion of fresh island juices. We were escorted to our suite in the Orchard Wing where the check-in formalities were conducted and an orientation of the suite was given. You might wonder why we would need an orientation, so please have a look at the pictures (see pictures link at the end of the review) and you will see why. The suite had soothing dEcor, traditional in style but high-tech at the same time. There were three flat-panel TV's where you could program music, watch TV, play DVD's, access hotel services, or surf the net (free of charge). In addition there were several control panels throughout the suite that controlled curtains, music, lights, air conditioning, fans, door locks, etc. Even the "do not disturb" sign was an electronic light controlled from the panel. In addition we enjoyed the high-tech espresso maker.
Our suite included a bedroom, walk in closet, marble bath, second half bath, dining area, parlor, and entry hall. In addition the patio was massive and also included it's own dining area and seating area. Please see the pictures, as words really can't describe this gorgeous room. [ http://public.fotki.com/eroller/silver-shadow---oct/sandy-lane---barbados/ ] We were only steps from the beach, which was an added plus.
That night we enjoyed the Manager's Cocktail reception in the main patio area and then a delicious tasting menu dinner at L'Acadou, the fine dining establishment. It was delicious and very expensive! While we dined we enjoyed entertainment from native Barbados dancers along with island music. The other backdrop was a beautiful starlit beach and a calm surf adding to the ambiance.
Sandy Lane offers an amazing spa, massive pool with waterfalls and swim up bar, country club with three golf courses, childcare center, and a beautiful beach. The entire nature of the resort is one of relaxation, indulgence, sport, and quiet reflection.
Notes and highlights include: amazing beach service and wonderful padded chairs; incredible spa; three championship golf courses with beautiful clubhouse; GPS navigation system in every golf cart; majority of British guests; wild monkeys roaming the property; stunning beach and pools; warm, friendly service from the heart.
I'm pretty much a ship fanatic and usually can't wait to get to the ship. Staying at Sandy Lane was the exception. I really didn't want to leave. It was simply that fantastic. We were given hugs from the staff as we left and another private car took us to the SILVER SHADOW, about a 20-minute drive away along the coast.
Boarding SILVER SHADOW Boarding the SILVER SHADOW was impressive as ever. A group of about ten staff were pierside in white gloves to welcome you onboard. Once up the gangplank, Fernando the Cruise Director from Portugal was present to personally greet you. Champagne was offered and check-in formalities were conducted in the showlounge. Mission quickly accomplished, we were escorted to our suite, cabin 618, slightly forward on Deck 6 and what Silversea labels a Veranda Suite.
Suite 618 Renee, our cabin Stewardess from New Zealand quickly arrived and introduced herself. She pointed out all the features of the suite and made sure we knew how to contact her for anything we desired. She also asked what type of pillows we prefer, and how we would like the bar stocked. Amenities in the suite included binoculars; umbrella; sewing and shoe shine kit; extra blanket; slippers; robes; safe; clock; cosmetic mirror; stocked refrigerator; ice; glasses; and wonderful Bvlgari bath products. Of course a bottle of champagne awaited us along with the daily program (the Silversea Chronicles) and personalized stationary / welcome letters.
Service provided by Renee was exemplary and the cabin was kept spotless. Everything was like new and in perfect working order. This cabin was very quiet and we rarely heard noise from outside the cabin.
Special mention must be made of room service. It is truly exquisite. There is an extensive room service menu, but if there is something else you desire just ask and the staff will do their best to accommodate you. The breakfast menu is quite extensive and I enjoyed delicious blueberry pancakes most mornings. Lunch and dinner are also superb, and you are free to order off the dining room menu (included in the daily Silversea Chronicles) during normal lunch and dinner times. Room service is not just dropped off, but prepared on a special table that fits over the coffee table in your suite. Frette linens and fine china / silverware accompany the delicious cuisine. At dinner, you have the option of having your courses served course by course if you desire. The room service alone is reason enough to sail on Silversea!
The Ship SILVER SHADOW is typical of the Silversea fleet. Modern, clean, impeccably maintained, understated, comfortable, and well designed. I slightly prefer the SILVER SHADOW over the SILVER CLOUD for a few reasons. The gym and spa are larger, as is the pool deck. Also, the outdoor decks are more expansive and the cabin bathrooms are larger. SHADOW also had a newer feeling to her, which makes sense as she is a newer vessel. The differences are small enough that I would not hesitate to sail on the smaller Silversea vessels again if the opportunity arises.
Food and Service I felt both were impeccable. I never had a bad meal and the service received everywhere onboard was outstanding. The staff learned your name very quickly and called you by name whenever they had the opportunity.
The Restaurant was available for all three main meals, as was La Terrazza, which is the more casual venue. Breakfast and lunch in La Terrazza were buffet style although there was also a small menu at each table with daily selections. Plenty of staff are on hand to carry your plate and provide beverages. A lovely outdoor area with teak furniture is available at La Terrazza as well. For dinner, La Terrazza becomes a specialty restaurant, which I greatly enjoyed. I didn't feel the food and service were any better than The Restaurant, but it was a nice change of atmosphere. Reservations are required. The Restaurant had a four-piece band and dancing on certain evenings along with candlelit tables all adding to the ambiance. Many people danced between courses.
Le Champagne is an extra tariff restaurant and one of the few things you pay additional for on Silversea. I never tried it so I can't comment. It never seemed too busy but then again nothing seems to busy on Silversea. There is simply no waiting and no lines anywhere.
Finally there is the Poolside Grill. Beautiful teak tables and chairs are located in shaded areas poolside, and there is a special menu. Here they have burgers, hot dogs, fresh fish, chicken, salads, and wonderful deserts. Unlike poolside grills on most ships, this one is all waiter service. Everything is brought to you and made to order. If you want something off the menu, just ask. I really enjoyed the Poolside Grill, as I tend to spend a lot of time by the pool.
Something Silversea is well known for is an evening barbeque poolside. This is not a typical barbeque but truly a first class affair with dancing, entertainment, waiter service, real china, and linen covered tables. I greatly enjoyed this on SILVER CLOUD and was looking forward to it on the SHADOW as well. Unfortunately after the crew spent hours preparing, it had to be canceled due to showers. A disappointment for the passengers, but I felt more sorry for the crew who worked so hard to provide a truly memorable experience.
Entertainment Entertainment is very low key on Silversea. There are no art auctions, photographers, bingo, pool games (besides water volleyball) Vegas shows, or revenue producing announcements. Instead there are enrichment lectures and demonstrations during the day, with a small show (usually a vocalist or musician) at night along with dancing and music. Don't be fooled though, evenings can be lively on Silversea with dancing and conversation going into the wee hours. One set of lectures I enjoyed on this sailing were provided by the Cruise Director Fernando. It's turns out he is a bit of a ship nut like I am. Just like I did as a child, he collected brochures, deck plans, and visited any ship possible while growing up in Lisbon. He is quite knowledgeable about ships and put on an entertaining lecture all with his own slides.
Fellow Passengers In keeping tradition with my last Silversea Cruise, our fellow passengers were a diverse group. There were only three children onboard, with a nice mix of ages for the adults. I think something like 27 nationalities were represented among the passengers, which speaks volumes considering the ship had just under 300 passengers onboard. I think the majority of passengers were from the UK, with the US close behind. What I love about Silversea passengers is how well traveled they are. Most love to talk about travel and they have lots of interesting stories and antidotes to share. Many seem to know each other from past Silversea Cruises. It really felt like a big family and everyone seemed to get along famously. With only 300 passengers onboard, you always ran into a familiar face, which is a pleasant change from the mega-ships.
Weather The weather was simply marvelous from start to finish. We had short rain showers in St. Barts (between the sun and stars) and the rest of the time it was glorious sunshine. Our final morning pulling into Ft. Lauderdale we were met with overcast skies and rain, but at that point who cares?
Seas were calm and usually it was difficult to tell the ship was moving. There was a slight rocking on a few nights, just enough to lull you to sleep.
Ports Barbados; St Lucia; Guadeloupe; Antigua; St Bart's; St Kitts; Virgin Gorda; Prickly Pear.
I'm not going to write too much about the ports. We had been to most before and we really went on this cruise for the ship experience more than the ports. Barbados and St Barts were my favorites, and I would certainly return to either. I wasn't too thrilled with St Lucia or Guadeloupe. In fact Guadeloupe should have been skipped all together as far as I was concerned.
In St. Bart's we went to the lovely Guanahani Hotel and enjoyed an afternoon of sun on the beach. We were able to use all the facilities of the hotel and enjoyed a wonderful lunch poolside. The Guanahani is a first class resort, but personally I much preferred Sandy Lane on Barbados. The SILVER SHADOW actually arrived in St. Bart's at 11pm the night prior to our schedule arrival. We simply anchored off the island and spent the night in the shadow of the island. It was kind of magical with the ship being so quiet (no engines) and the shoreline being so close.
Silversea provided a lovely private beach barbeque on Prickly Pear Island. This island is next to the exclusive Necker Island owned by Richard Branson. Literally everything was brought ashore from the ship via tender and the crew did an amazing job. The only thing local was the music, which was great. Cocktails, champagne, beer, etc. were all included just as they are onboard ship. A special treat were the waiters who waded out into the ocean to serve guests champagne and beer (or anything else you wanted) from special floating trays. It was truly a sight to behold and I quite enjoyed the experience, decadent as it was! I think the waiters enjoyed it as much as the passengers. I know Seabourn Cruise Line had done this for years, and now it appears Silversea is getting into the act as well.
Disembarkation All good things must come to an end, and unfortunately this Silversea cruise was no exception. Debarkation was smooth and civilized. There are no announcements before 8am and I was even able to enjoy my blueberry pancakes via room service the last morning. We said our goodbyes and we were off the ship by 9am. The staff was lined up to say goodbye as you exit the ship and available to carry your hand luggage if you so desire. We took a cab to Miami where we caught an uneventful American flight back to Atlanta.
Final Thoughts I hope from this review you are able to determine how much I enjoyed this vacation. I truly feel Silversea is better than ever, as they continue to provide a first class cruising experience. The combination of newer small ships, larger cabins, balconies, spotless vessels, delicious cuisine, attention to detail, interesting itineraries, and excellent personal service truly places Silversea at the forefront of the luxury cruise industry. I did not witness any penny pinching or a decline in service as some have indicated on various message boards. In fact I felt many things were even better and more luxurious than my past Silversea cruise about six years ago. Some people just can't be pleased and seem to look for anything to nit pick at. I have sailed on over 60 cruises on many different cruise lines and I can tell you it would be difficult to surpass my experience on the SILVER SHADOW. Just below is a link to pictures and my email address if you have any questions. I hope you enjoyed the review and pictures.
Pictures Link: http://public.fotki.com/eroller/silver-shadow---oct/ Note - the pictures are divided into several different folders (ports, cabin, ship, etc.).
Any questions? Please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org