On January 29, 2004 we embarked on a 9-days cruise on Silver Whisper, which took us from Colon (Panama) to Callao (Peru). We had cruised on the smaller Silversea ships quite frequently in the past and were curious if the newer, larger ships would also become our favorites. This was the major consideration to take this particular cruise. We had booked a midship veranda suite and the total cost was $7,942, which included an extra 5% savings, because we had already reached 100 days of cruising with Silversea. Most of the following comments are comparative to our experiences on the Silver Cloud and Silver Wind cruises we had in the past.
We took advantage of the early embarkation possibility, which cost $100 per person but was well-spent money! We boarded at around 11 am, rather than in the afternoon, as usually done. We enjoyed the even more personalized welcome, the leisurely unpacking (on other occasions we had to really rush to make it to the lifeboat drill). We had our lunch and in the afternoon, after a good rest, we could watch the guests boarding the ship, while sipping champagne on our veranda. What a nice way to spend the initial day of the cruise...
The increased roominess of the staterooms is really a big improvement, specially the bathroom, with the added shower stall and double basin. The walk-in closet will accommodate a reasonably large amount of clothing; there is also ample drawer space and a well-sized safe. The only size problem we encountered on the veranda: the furniture is much too large for one to move around more or less comfortably. All the amenities in the bathroom were excellent, and we especially enjoyed the above average fluffy towels. We also liked the expanded variety of classical music we could listen to in the suite. Quite an improvement indeed with very few repetitions. It was a nice touch to have put good quality binoculars in each stateroom - just like an umbrella, shoehorn, hair dryer, slippers and bathrobe, one item less to take with us next time!
The Observation Lounge on the top deck can now be reached without crossing the open deck, as on Silver Wind and Silver Cloud. It is a quiet room, where continental breakfast can be had while watching the sunrise, or, later, reading a good book from the well assorted ship library. By the way, freshly squeezed orange juice has replaced the cartoned variety for good.
The computer area was never crowded, not too expensive to use (for checking e-mails three times while on board, the total charge was about $15). The laundry service was even faster than on the other ships we know. Often was it returned by 3 pm the same day. Quality was, as usual, excellent. The jogging track may be somewhat shorter, however its width has been expanded, so there are no bottlenecks almost anywhere.
Food was consistently good, more so when nicely served in the Restaurant, rather than in the more informal Terrace Cafe or the newly installed poolside barbecue. We did not use room service but for asking some mixed nuts to go with the afternoon glass of champagne. Maite D' Walter was of great help accommodating our particular wishes in his area of responsibility. To commemorate a special occasion we requested a special dinner - caviar, tournedos Rossini and zabaglione. It was superb. The special restaurant "Le Champagne" was an exceptional treat. The food was superlative, as was the service. It is a most worthwhile culinary experience, even if you have to buy a bottle of wine (otherwise all beverages are free of charge throughout the cruise). Menus are changed every two days. Early reservations (days in advance) are in order to secure a place in the small room. Food was prepared by chefs following an agreement between Silversea and Relais & Chateaux.
The alternative dinner in the Terrace Cafe was good, but not outstanding. It was an Italian menu when we attended. Regretfully we ran out of evenings to repeat the experience and see if it became better. On the smaller Silversea ships these alternative dinners had always been memorable experiences.
The Mandara spa offerings are superb, if quite pricey - a simple massage goes for about $2 a minute. We also found the shows offered and the variety of the available videos quite superior.
The best musical entertainment was delivered by Duo D'Amour, we spent several evenings listening and dancing to their soft and classy music. Cruise director Ray Sollaire excelled with his top puppet show.
Now to some of the details that were not so good. The quality of the wines has, in our opinion, deteriorated. The house champagne was also changed from the excellent Moet & Chandon to the little known Philiponat brand. Also, the quality of the hors d'oeuvres served during cocktail time has been reduced; almost never do you find some caviar or salmon. During the official cocktail parties (captain's evenings and repeaters' cocktails), there was just one glass of champagne but no replenishment was ever offered.
The shore excursions we took were a mixed bag. By far the best was a tour to the Pachacamac ruins South of Lima and the visit to a horse farm thereafter. Here we were treated with good Pisco sours, lively music and dances, a show of paso fino horses (they are trained to move with a very smooth gait) and a quality lunch buffet of a variety of Peruvian food. Everybody had an excellent time, service was attentive and guests could even ride on those magnificently trained horses! The visit of the mud city of Chan Chan, close to the city of Trujillo and its port Salaverry, was very impressive. Even if much of the remains of this pre-Incan city are slowly disintegrating, the dimensions of palaces, streets and open spaces are awesome. The tour out of Guayaquil to visit a so-called "coastal hacienda" was very disappointing. Apart from looking at immense plantations of bananas, cocoa and other tropical plants, we were supposed to watch a working farm. But it was, regretfully, their day of rest... The farm had shrimp production going, we did not see one single of them, only one pond from afar. The lunch offered was extremely basic and they even ran out of drinking water. Cost of the 5-hours tour $110 per person. A truly deceptive experience. The "Silversea Experiences" are free excursions offered on selected cruises. All those we had in the past have all been satisfactory to excellent. Just to name a few: the visit of Chopin's museum on Mallorca, the dinner party on "Dune 7" in Walvis Bay, with great local music and the private Carnival parade in Salvador, Brazil. But on this cruise we were transferred to the Gatun Yacht Club, a facility formerly used by the Panama Canal corps of engineers. For the third time were we shown some local dancers, which had already danced for us on the pier during the embarkation and, subsequently, on the ship before dinner. There was some cold beer and soft drinks. We returned to the ship with one of the first tenders. Reading a good book on board was indeed a much better alternative.
The lecturer Dr Atkins gave excellent renditions on the historical and socio-economic background of South America; he was indeed well documented on the subject. His talk on the Nazis in the area, though, was felt by many passengers as totally out of context. Given our proximity to Ecuador, Peru and Chile, a talk on the wars among these countries would have been much more appropriate. The pianist, Ms Nana Mukhadze delivered very good classical music. Those present would have had her play all evening. Once again, we noticed the mediocre quality of the baby grand piano. Silversea should really consider putting a better instrument on their otherwise excellent ships.
We liked Silver Whisper very much to the point of booking our next cruise on board, taking advantage of the 5% savings that comes with this kind of advance reservations. Cruise consultant Selvaggia was indeed very patient with our various requests, which were promptly prepared for us.
Silversea continues maintaining a very high level of service on their ships. We feel at home from the moment we step on board. And once again did we have cruising experience of extremely good overall quality.
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