I had cruised with my Mother two year's prior on the Silver Cloud for her 70th birthday. We went to similar ports - Nice to Rome, in October of 2006. My mother and I had such a great time on that cruise, that my husband wanted to give it a try. So, we booked the Silver Whisper, Rome to Monte Carlo, but this time we chose high season in June. Both cruises were great in their own ways.
My husband and I booked the cruise through our Travel Agent, but we arranged our own air travel using Delta points. Prior to our departure, we filled out our preboarding information on the Silver Sea website. Our sailing vouchers were mailed to us by our travel agent a few weeks in advance.
We flew into Rome a couple of days prior to the cruise and stayed at the Rome Airport Hilton. We made the hotel arrangements independently using Hilton points. The Hilton is conveniently located within walking distance of the terminal. It was very easy to get to, and upon check in, we were upgraded to the concierge level, which had complimentary breakfast and food and beverages, including a great espresso machine, during the day. The Hilton also offers a complimentary shuttle service into Rome's City Center, which we used each day. We also took advantage of the train system in Rome to get from point to point, and we walked a lot. Rome is a very easy city to get around to see the sights. At the end of the day, we met back up with the Hilton shuttle bus at the city center at the appointed time, and it took us back to our hotel. On the morning of the cruise, we checked out of the hotel and took the shuttle bus once again into Rome. Then we took a short cab ride to the designated Silver Sea Bernini Hotel, where we met up with the Silver Sea transfer coordinator. We had arranged for the group transfer to the port, which was very convenient. Within 90 minutes we were at the port, and we were able to board right away. The Silver Sea personnel greeted us with smiles and welcome wishes, and one of them escorted us to our room. Our maid was waiting to greet us, as well. She was very friendly and lovely and very helpful. She stocked our fridge with beverages that we prefer, and also brought any alcohol to our room for the trip that we preferred to drink.
Our cabin suite was ready, and we dropped off our carry on luggage. We had met another couple on the transfer bus, and we met up with them to explore the ship. We also immediately went to La Terrazzo, the Italian restaurant to make reservations for dinner that night. Our travel agent arranged to have a fresh fruit, chocolate covered strawberries and a bottle of Dom Perignon Champagne waiting for us in our room upon arrival. A very nice touch!
We had purchased a Vista suite with a large window but no balcony, and this was perfect for us. We tend not to linger in our room, and so a balcony would have been waited on us. Our luggage arrived within the first 30 minutes after boarding, and we started to unpack. There was plenty of storage, and our luggage fit under the bed. The walk in closet was spacious, too. During the trip, beds were turned down nightly while we were at dinner, and Godiva chocolates were left on our bed. We also had daily newspaper and ship's chronicles pointing out sights and daily schedules, left at our door daily.
Mandatory life boat drill was before departure and took about 15min.
Entertainment: We enjoyed the broadway singer, the Italian classical pianist and the quartet that played in the lounge at night.
Our first day was at sea, the weather was perfect. We spent the day at the pool. I think that there were about 300 passengers on the ship, and it never felt crowded.
Food and Service in the main dining room was excellent across the board. We also enjoyed breakfast in La Terrazzo. It was great to eat on the deck outside of the restaurant and watch as we pulled into port. We also enjoyed the one night that we dined there. The pasta was amazing! The lunches by the pool were great, as well. Room service was always on time. Food hot, order correct. We also love that we could order anything at anytime. My husband ordered a vanilla milkshake and chocolate covered strawberries almost daily, and it was always brought to our room quickly. Although, one day they brought vanilla milk and not a milk shake. A minor mistake.
Dress - Everyone dressed well aboard the ship. I normally where jeans at home, and didn't pack any for this trip. Everyone dressed a notch above the norm. On formal night, most men wore tuxedos and women wore gowns and cocktail dresses. On casual nights, everyone was somewhat dressed up, too - no gowns or tuxedos on casual night, though.
Malta: I had been to Malta before, so I knew not to book an excursion here. Instead, we hired a car and driver for 4 hours to tour the island. It was very easy to do, as there are plenty of cars waiting by the port. We shared the car with another couple - the new friends that we had met on the transfer bus - and it only ended up costing about $50 pp. By doing this, we also saw all of the island, instead of just one or two sights. The most fun thing to do was to go to the Blue Grotto by small boat. We also enjoyed Mdina, the Dinlgi Cliffs, Marsaxlokk - where we shopped for linens, and the ruins of the temple of Hagar Qim. Downtown Valetta is nothing much to see, except for St. John's Cathedral - well worth seeing.
Sicily: We took the excursion here to Taormina. What a beautiful, charming city! There are tons of quaint shops and the tour of the ancient theater and views of Mt. Etna - which was active - was not to be missed. Lunch was fabulous, too. This was a good excursion.
Sorrento & the Amalfi Coast: What can I say? This was a fantastic port! We decided to rent motor scooters and drive the Amalfi Coast to Positano on our own. We went with our friends and had a blast. We wanted to also go to Ravello, but didn't have enough time to do both on scooters, as we took too much time shopping and eating in Positano. It was a beautiful town. I will say, though, that riding motor scooters down the coast is not advisable, as the locals are crazy drivers! We saw 3 accidents that day.
Corsica - We did the excursion here to Bonafacio. Our tour guide was great and very knowledgeable about the history of Corsica. She was funny and we thoroughly enjoyed her talks. We also loved Corsica and Bonafacio. Note - this was my second time to Corsica. It is a huge island and very mountainous. It is impossible to see the whole island in one day or even two, because of the terrain. The last time I was there it took an entire day to get from Ajaccio to Calvi and back, although on the map they look very close to each other. It is advisable to do an excursion here with a guide who knows their way around.
Florence - This was my second time to Florence. It has to be one of my all time favorite cities. The museums, the food, the shopping...al wonderful! I could spend several days here. We did the group transfer from the ship to Florence and back, and spent the day on our own. It was great!
Monte Carlo - We didn't spend time here, as we had to go back home and had an early flight. So, we decided to book a helicopter transfer to fly over Monaco and the South of France Coast to Nice. We booked the transfer through Heli Air Monaco, and they picked us up at the ship right on time at 8:45am. By 9:00am we were airborne and on our way to the Nice Airport. It was a great flight. It only took 10 minutes and we were at our terminal. The Heli Air Monaco ground crew met us at the Helicopter and drove us right to the terminal doors. In a matter on minutes, we were at the check in counter. I highly recommend this transfer from Monaco to Nice, instead of a cab or bus. It's fun, fast, relatively inexpensive and efficient!
Flight home was on Delta through JFK. It was comfortable, but we had a 3 hour delay getting out of JFK due to weather. Typical of JFK on a Sunday night.
In conclusion: I would highly recommend Silver Sea and would sail with them again.
Difference between the Silver Cloud and the Silver Whisper cruises - There were a few differences between the ships. I found the lay out of the Silver Cloud to be more "cruiser friendly" - in that you could walk straight down the hall on deck 4 to from the rooms to the dining room, and on the Whisper you had to go up a flight down the hall and down a flight again. Also, I found that the crew on the Cloud tried to memorize names, and the crew on the Whisper did not. It wasn't a big deal for me though, as everyone had smiles and was courteous and friendly.
Both Silver Sea cruises were fabulous. The weather on our June trip was perfect and sunny every day! My October trip two years ago had one half day of rain, but the rest was sunny and pleasant. I have only cruised with Silver Sea, so I have nothing to compare it to. I do know that I enjoy not being "nickled and dimed" for tips, food and drinks, and do like the all inclusive aspect and smaller size ships of Silver Sea. I would definitely sail with them again in the future. However, my husband and I have two children - boys ages 6 and 9, and they want to cruise with us. Because Silver Sea caters to adults, we are looking into other lines that cater to kids, too. I don't care much for large crowds or screaming children running wild all over a ship, as some others have written about, so I will be scouring the message boards on CC to see what other lines might be appropriate for our next cruise with the kids.