Background Information: I flew to Singapore and spent 2 nights there before embarking on the Silver Whisper (voyage 4838) to travel back to Sydney (my home).
Hotel Information: My first night in Singapore was at the Swissotel and the second night, which was part of my package deal, was at the Fairmont. Both hotels are part of the one complex with a giant shopping centre underneath. I have been to Singapore many times so I spent these 2 days shopping and relaxing. I also went on the Singapore Flyer which is a short walk from the hotel. Both of these hotels are very nice and I can definitely recommend them for their location. The MRT train station is located underneath the shopping centre and it is extremely easy and cheap to travel around on this train.
Embarkation: I was driven to the cruise terminal during a heavy monsoonal rain shower - this storm lasted several hours. When we got to the cruise terminal my driver was able to drive right up to the waiting Silversea staff, easily identifiable with their umbrellas. I was escorted straight to the baggage drop off point and then directed to the boarding area. Boarding was to commence at 3pm and I was an hour early. Around 240pm boarding commenced and after a short walk to the ship I was met by some of the crew standing in line (all wearing white gloves), smiling and welcoming everyone on board. I was ushered into the Viennese Lounge where a photo was taken and I was given my access card in a vinyl wallet. Then it was around to the Bar, where a glass of champagne or a fruit cocktail and some huge king prawns and canapEs were offered. It was here that I met a very nice couple from Glasgow, Scotland.
Cabin: A member of the staff then accompanied me to my Vista suite, 411, on Deck 4. I was pleased to see my luggage was already in the walk-in wardrobe. My room was an absolute delight, queen size bed and down pillows that were a dream to sleep on, sitting area, marble bathroom with double vanity and a bath. A bowl of fresh fruit and my pre-ordered alcohol was sitting on the desk and I packed it into my fridge. I might add here that I never saw my cabin stewardess until the 2nd week of the cruise. I thought that this was a bit odd since others were talking about how friendly and helpful their steward/stewardess was. Therefore I wasn't offered a choice of toiletries, I just accepted the Bulgari that were sitting on the bathroom vanity. I love Bulgari so I was very happy with it. I'm a very low maintenance solo cruiser so meeting my stewardess late into the cruise was not a problem for me. For anyone interested, suite 411 is at the front of the ship and is quite noisy due to the anchor and all the other mechanical devices that are at work when arriving/departing ports. Also when the swells are high, the waves and wind pound into the window. I got used to these noises pretty quickly as I'm used to noise, living on a busy street however if you need quiet, I would suggest a suite midship.
Silversea really look after their solo women cruisers. I found an invitation to a solo cocktail reception after sailing and I met a lot of solo ladies who cruise only with Silversea. A few of them have over 350 days. I was very impressed with the way I received dinner invitations on the formal nights to sit at an officer's table. During one of these evenings, I met a couple who invited me for champagne and canapEs, served by their butler, in the Royal Suite. It was so spacious and beautifully decorated however it was on Deck 7 and had too much movement for my liking. I also had the opportunity to view the Owner's suite - it was divine.
Activities: There was something for everyone, for example, aqua aerobics, pilates, yoga, aerobics, stretch and relax classes, table tennis, golf putting, dancing classes with the gentlemen hosts (who were charming), bridge classes, needlepoint, water volleyball, shuffleboard, fitness seminars (more about those later), team trivia, daily crossword and Sudoku puzzles, the daily Silver Quiz (which was really difficult however I managed to win one!), culinary demonstration from the Viking Cooking School. This was very interesting as we had a chocolate tasting and learnt how to make chocolate truffles as well as porcini mushroom, goat cheese and walnut truffles. There was a galley tour and a navigational tour, enrichment lectures by various people and language lessons in Italian and Spanish.
The fitness area is small but I never found it over crowded. I was always able to get a piece of equipment and it's very pleasant walking on a treadmill and looking out to sea.
Port & Shore Excursions: There was a change in our itinerary and we anchored and overnighted in Padang Bay (Bali). I booked the elephant safari and after a long drive in a mini van (nearly 2 hours) and with a police escort, we arrived. This was great and such a lovely environment for the elephants. They put on a show for us and then they painted pictures using their trunks. These "paintings" are available for sale and as I understand it, the proceeds go towards the upkeep of the park. We then had a ride on an elephant for about 30 minutes, ending up in a big pool for them to wander around in. When we approached the pool, there were handlers nearby to take your camera and take lots of photos of you in the pool. We then had a buffet lunch then drove back to the ship with the police escort, stopping at a Balinese handicraft shop with very expensive carvings etc for sale. This elephant safari was a great experience - a definite must-do.
About two hours after leaving Padang Bay, we had a medical emergency and the captain advised us during dinner that we would have to turn around and go back to Bali to evacuate the passenger. I did not find out any more information about this incident.
Next port was Darwin, where I did the Lichfield National Park tour. This was another long drive on an extremely hot and humid day. We stopped to see the giant termite mounds, a beautiful waterfall and swimming hole, then an Aussie barbeque lunch (barramundi or beef). This lunch ended up being rushed because the restaurant wasn't ready for our group when we arrived and then we had to hurry to get on the bus to get back to the ship in time. I didn't think that this trip was worth the US$199 (a lot more when converted to A$).
Thursday Island was the next port of call. We tendered into town. It was extremely hot and like a ghost town, nothing was open. I managed to buy a fridge magnet and was so bored that I went back to the ship. One passenger did the helicopter tour and said it was great so if you get the chance to go to this little island at the top of Australia, put the helicopter tour on your must-do list.
Cairns was next. I've been to Cairns several times so I just got off the ship and walked around the city and the shops. Other passengers loved the Kuranda Skyrail and train tour (it is fantastic) and of course, the visit to the reef and snorkel - Silversea charter a boat and provide a wonderful lunch on board whilst you swim and snorkel. Another must-do if you are in this part of the world.
We anchored at Hamilton Island next. A catamaran had been organized to ferry us all into the marina. There were several tours available however having been to this area before and having not seen the reef from the sky, I did the scenic seaplane tour. This was a 1 hour flight and was an awesome experience. We flew over the islands, out to Hardy Reef and the Heart Reef, landed in the sea at Whitehaven Beach and then took off and flew back to Hamilton Island. This was fantastic and a must-do. I would definitely do it again. The view of the Great Barrier Reef from the air is amazing and at the end of the trip we were all given a DVD as a souvenir. The little seaplane held 14 passengers but there was only 8 of us on board so most of us had a window seat.
Brisbane was our last port of call. I visited friends so didn't do any tours there.
Arrival in Sydney, my home town. It was very disappointing because our last night was extremely rough (we'd had perfect weather the whole way up to then) and Sydney was overcast, windy and quite awful for the middle of December. I had hoped for a lovely sunny morning but alas, crap weather. We managed to rock and roll excessively through the Sydney heads and into the harbor where we cruised down towards the harbor Bridge and Opera House. I guess I'm biased but Sydney has got to be the most beautiful harbor in the world!
Entertainment: I went to a few shows, but generally I dined late and I preferred to sit and chat with my fellow diners who happened to be great people all from Scotland. Sometimes we got to the shows and sometimes we didn't. I did see Jane Rutter, the Australian flautist who was very entertaining. There was a virtuoso pianist, Tian Jiang, who was supposed to be very good. Unfortunately I missed his performance. Our cruise director, Helga, was also a singer/performer and she put on a show for us. Donald Cant, the Australian baritone, who had also performed in Phantom of the Opera, had a couple of shows. I heard a number of people claiming that he was terrible but I thought he was ok. There was "Dancing through the Waves" which was all the Silversea dancers. It was ok. I did enjoy an afternoon classical concert by Australian pianist, Robert Keane. He was quite amusing and very talented, playing various pieces by Chopin and Schubert. I'm not a big classical lover but I thought he was great. I also went to the Variety Show Extravaganza on our last night which was all the Silversea dancers and all the onboard entertainers. This was quite a good show.
Dining: Many people have complained about the Whisper's food in previous reviews, however everything that I ate was delicious and perfectly prepared for my pallet. For me, dining was a highlight of the trip and every meal that I had was superb. I had room service breakfast most mornings. The waiter would set up a special table in the middle of your suite and set it with silver service. I think I managed to try everything on the breakfast menu. I also ate in the La Terrazza cafe, which was a buffet at breakfast and lunch and intimate Italian restaurant by night. I ate there at night several times - I neglected to say that this cruise was not full, only 290 passengers and 292 crew! So it was easy to get a reservation at La Terrazza. The dining room was also excellent and I had some nice casual quick meals at the pool. I also had dinner a couple of nights in my suite. I must say I really enjoyed room service, it was such a novelty to me. Everything was beautifully prepared, hot and delivered so quickly with a huge smile.
With respect to dining, the must-dos are the Barbeque dinner on the pool deck, the International Restaurant lunch and the Galley lunch. These were all amazing buffets with a huge range of food to choose from.
Servings in the dining room were not large so if you had 4 courses, you didn't waddle out totally stuffed. On a couple of occasions, I even had double dessert. "Death by Chocolate" was amazing! Despite all that I ate and drank, I got on the ship as a passenger and didn't get off as cargo!
Service: I've left my comments about service to the end. It was totally brilliant and as my title suggests, how many superlatives can I use. I cannot praise the crew enough and I won't mention any names because everyone was superb. From the bartenders who knew I wanted an apple martini every night, to the wonderful waiters in the dining room where nothing was too much trouble, to the pool waiters who offered sorbet and fruit kebabs at the pool, everyone calling you by name. The crew were wonderful and a credit to Silversea. They made every guest feel special. I thought it was really nice to be escorted to my dinner table every night and at the buffet, staff would take your plate back to your table. One night, my dinner companions had left their glasses in their cabin and couldn't read the menu. Our waiter went away and brought back a box of various types of glasses - we all cracked up laughing, but we were all pretty impressed.
Disembarkation: This was a dream. It took me 5 minutes to get off the ship, 2 minutes to collect my luggage and 30 seconds to go through immigration. I've never had a disembarkation like it.
Now for the only irritation on my cruise: I attended a fitness seminar on the second day of the cruise and it was simply a hard sell to do a session called a body composition analysis. I figured it would be a good idea so signed up for it with another friend. The next day I had the test, the Fitness Director asked me what I weighed (she should have weighed me) and then I had the test and we discussed the results. She then proceeded to hard sell me with a cellulite treatment and various expensive Elemis lotions. My friend also got the same treatment and was not overly impressed either. We both went to another seminar about detox and it was just a hard sell for the Fitness Director's personal nutrition planning.
Summary: This cruise was absolutely fantastic. I loved every minute of it and understand why people keep coming back to Silversea. I like small ship cruising, there is rarely a queue and you rarely have to wait for anything - even at the pool which was the most popular spot on the ship. I also met many interesting people of all ages and backgrounds. I hope that some day I will have the opportunity to travel on Silversea again.
If anyone has any questions, I would be happy to answer them. Email is: firstname.lastname@example.org