Las Palmas to Barbados: 2nd October to 17th October 2007.
I have wanted to cruise for a few years, but was discouraged as I was unsure about being on a ship for a week or even more. I spoke to friends who all advised different things, some said standard cabin, and some said balcony etc. In the end, I had to make up my own mind. My partner Lynne and I decide one afternoon that rather than go to Arizona as planned we should book a cruise for my 50th. I had read about cruises from the Berlitz guide and knew that there are about 4 quality lines, Silversea, Seabourn, Crystal and Regent. Frankly I would have been happy with any. Our travel agent offered us a repositioning cruise at a very good price on Silver Shadow. It included a stop on Tenerife, which we liked as Lynne's brother lives there. It also gave us a taste of sea days; about 8 in all and 6 stops at places we fancied seeing. I had been reading many reviews of Silversea and in about 90% of the reviews, the customers seem very happy. My concern was the 10% who moaned. I will give you our conclusions at the end.
As we arrived at the ship we were warmly welcomed on board and taken to register, which took two minutes and I mentioned about the balcony. The receptionist was charming and asked us to look at the cabin to see if we would be comfortable. We did and we both thought it was lovely. Without spending time boring most of you with details of our daily activities, I will tell you our opinion.
The brochure describes the cabins as suites, which in reality is a comfortable well-appointed room with a lounge area. We chose the standard cabin without a balcony, which was roomy at about 275 square feet. We did not pay extra for a balcony as we have one at home and we have never ever used it. I was concerned about this as I wondered frequently if I would regret it but the travel agent and Silversea customer service assured us that if I were not comfortable they would honor the upgrade charge on a daily basis. The cabin was beautifully appointed with robes, walk in wardrobe, fresh flowers, Champagne on ice waiting, a stocked mini bar, fresh fruit and all the usual 5 star hotel amenities. One good idea was a Silversea fabric bedcover that was over the Frette comforter so you could unpack your suitcases without marking or damaging the comforter. In the stylish and spacious marble bathroom, we had a separate shower, twin sinks, ample quality Frette towels and a full size bath. There was a choice of Bulgari, Aqua de Parma and other toiletries. Baggage delivery was quick and efficient. .
Food. We ate in the main Restaurant about 10 nights. We found no problem obtaining a table for 2 and we thought the variety of food and choice on the menu was excellent. The Maitre D' and his team of Head Waiters and waiters looked after us in a very personal way. I had requested no shellfish and they remembered without either of us ever having to remind them. They constantly offered to make us anything special. Considering that this is mass catering we felt the food was very good. No, it is not Gordon Ramsey 3 star Michelin but does anyone seriously expect that on a daily basis. There is the option of a Gourmet small restaurant, which charges about £100 extra, but this includes a full Digestion menu and wines of the highest caliber. I looked at it and thought the price was very fair considering it included Dom Perignon champagne and wines of similar standard. We did not try this restaurant, as the menu was predominantly seafood. However next time we will as I am sure there will be no problem having the chef prepare a full menu without shellfish.
On the other 5 nights we ate in the Italian La Terraza restaurant where we found the food and atmosphere tranquil and very relaxing. Every evening the chef introduced himself and always offered to make us any favorite dishes. We accepted his offer on 2 occasions and we were delighted. I have noticed on some Silversea reviews customers seem to feel that the restaurant service is slow, but we felt it was just right and it is possibly because service in America tends to be quicker than here in Europe. Remember this is a European line with European service standards. One evening we decided on room service. Whatever we wanted was available but we really fancied a couple of hot dogs, both stylishly delivered. The waiter insisted on setting a dinner table up for us, another example of the excellent customer service and attention to detail. I also noticed that cling film was placed round the spout of the Hot Chocolate to stop it from spilling as the waiter delivered the tray and to help keep it hot. The poolside restaurant that the sun worshippers seemed to like, served barbecue style food and a full drinks menu. We did not try it but the feedback was very good. We also experienced the famous Galley Brunch, which was everything we expected. One evening there was a magnificent poolside barbecue with interesting dishes as well as traditional barbecue food.
Overall, we were very happy with all our meals and felt every waiter really tried to ensure we were very happy by remembering our personal wants and desires.
Bars and Drinks.
There are about 4 bars aboard the ship and I must say that drink just flows. You can have virtually everything you like included in the price. House champagne flowed constantly and was Pommery, Mumm or NicolasFeuillatte. If you required Krug or any other expensive premium brand it was available at an extra charge. All alcoholic beverages were was also available in your room. One evening we enjoyed a certain bottle of wine and the waiter insisted on sending another to our cabin. We both enjoy Vermouth while getting ready and asked for Noilly Pratt and a bottle arrived immediately. The standard of the included wines were quite good and they changed daily. You could always ask for a previous wine and if they had it you were given the bottle. We liked the Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc and the Benzinger Cabernet Sauvignon. Some in our opinion were of a slightly lesser standard but this really is personal preference. I did find the bar team very personable and friendly. Many of the staff have been with Silverseas for many years and staff retention in my opinion always leads to excellent customer service and high staff morale. We did overhear a complaint by an elderly couple that there was a run on Pimms! After 5 days the ship had run out of Pimms and the couple complained. The bar manager introduced himself to the couple to apologize profusely. He offered to arrange a tasting of similar drinks for them to try. The couple also felt that the cashew nuts at the bar were not fresh to which Sujith assured the couple that fresh cashews would be fried each night and available at the bar for them. Personally, I felt that this was unnecessary but I also feel that it is the company's intention to ensure that you are very satisfied with your vacation.
Silver Shadow is in pristine condition both inside and out. Painting is a continuous task and new carpet was discretely being laid throughout the ship. The ashtrays are cleaned and the Silversea logo embossed on the sand constantly. The public toilets were spotless and again the logo embossed on the toilet roll. The maintenance staff also impressed me. Many of these employees are from the Philippines, India and Goa. All speak perfect English but more importantly always smile, say good morning to everyone and help all guests if they need assistance with the lift and opening doors.
Lectures, Trips and Entertainment.
There were two daily lectures while the ship was at sea. I found the talks interesting, diverse and well planned. The morning Lecture was normally medical with a Doctor from the Mayo clinic and in the afternoon it was a couple who were hoteliers and spoke about a variety of topics including Claridges hotel and a series on English country houses. Evening entertainment was varied, with each act appearing twice and with different show. These included a magician, two separate singers, a classical concert pianist from Japan, a high wire style act and an outstanding classical violinist with a tremendous personality called Beverly Davidson who added a little extra to the violin. Local entertainment was featured when the ship was in port. During the day there were numerous organized events ranging from Easy Spanish to picture shows of old cruise liners. These were organized by the cruise director Fernando who worked tirelessly throughout the trip. The resident pianist and separate quartet were of good quality and appeared nightly in the bars and lounges. We decided to take most of the organized tours with the Silversea team. The reason was that I felt the prices were fair, about £40/ $80 for a 4 hour tour on average and we were more comfortable being confident if anything went wrong the ship would wait for us as it was their organized tour. The organization of the trips was excellent, we liked the fresh juices and drinks that were available and we were always accompanied by Silversea crew. They set up Silversea stations in corporate livery for us to have snacks at and I felt all the trips were worth the price.
Tipping. This is a contentious topic. All tips are included in the fare but I was not sure of the protocol so I asked other passengers. Some did not tip extra, some donated to the crew fund and some gave to individual members of staff. Our opinion was that it did not make any difference to the way you were treated whether you tipped extra or not. We received excellent service from everyone. We decided ourselves which of the options we wanted to do and our opinion is for each individual to do whatever they feel they most appropriate.
Conclusion. We think it is simple. If you are the sort of people who look forward to going on holiday with the intention of having a great time I am sure you will thoroughly enjoy every minute of a Silversea cruise. We have a dear friend who seems to start out thinking that this and that won't be right. Subsequently he always seems to think that his holidays are poor and that the resorts are nowhere near as good as people say. He stayed at the Four Seasons in Hong Kong, which has just won Asian hotel of the year by a leading travel magazine and he felt it was barely 4 stars. We think it is simply down to approach and attitude. Sadly we do not think our friend will ever enjoy a holiday, probably just like the 10% on the board here who feel Silversea is poor. We however cannot imagine what these people find to moan at and need to take a reality check. However if you go with a positive attitude you will definitely have a fabulous time. I hope I have not offended anyone with any of my comments and I hope it may help anyone thinking of taking a Silversea cruise.