Silver Shadow review: Alaska
Itinerary: Vancouver, Ketchikan, Haines, Wrangell, Sitka, Metlakatla, Vancouver If you're one for nature and scenery then Alaska is for you. The sights of the Sawyer Glacier up close, the snowcapped mountains, the whales, the bears, the bald eagles are truly spectacular. SilverSea even goes to the length of providing binoculars in each suite. I cruised through the tranquillity of the Misty Fjords. I must say that as spectacularly beautiful as Alaska is...for me, nine days of this was a bit repetitive.
Cabin: Vista (439) This stateroom is a mid-ship, no balcony cabin. It was our thinking that I wouldn't get much use of a balcony on an Alaskan cruise. For our particular trip I think I was right. Having said that, the cruise that went the week before encountered temperatures in the mid- to high 80s (F) with blazing sun. On our cruise the temp maxed out at about 72 and that was rare. The cabin was spacious and comfortable. The bathroom had dual sinks, a separate bath and shower. Bulgari amenities were nice and were replaced twice during the cruise. There is a walk-in closet with a safe. The safe worked intermittently. The refrigerator was well stocked and I was asked what two spirits I'd like brought to us. Oddly enough, when the spirits were brought to the stateroom it was obvious that one had been opened already. It was returned and replaced after a lengthy conversation with room service. They didn't understand why I might not want an already opened bottle.
Food: There really wasn't a bad meal to be had aboard the Silver Shadow. The food actually ranged from very good to outstanding. The food in the ship's main dining room "The Restaurant" was superbly prepared. On most of our previous cruises I would elect to order something 'off the menu', (i.e. not on the menu...where the meal is specially prepared for us) however the food was so good on the ship that I didn't choose this option. The ship offers two alternate dining venues: La Champagne, The Terrace Cafe. Both La Champagne and The Terrace Cafe require reservations but there is no supplemental charge to dine in either restaurant. There are, however no complimentary wines offered in La Champagne. Wines in La Champagne must be purchased from the premium wine list. La Champagne offers a menu with few choices. Not quite a set menu but given that it's a very small room the options are limited. The menu does change every 2 or three days in La Champagne. The ambiance was that of an intimate restaurant. The food was very, very good. The Terrace Cafe is located adjacent to La Champagne but is a much larger room. This venue offers different themes each night. I went for the Mediterranean evening. Here you can choose between the complimentary wines and the premium wine list. Again, the food was deliciously prepared.
Service: There seems to be a dichotomy in service aboard the Silver Shadow. Certainly the service throughout the ship was impeccable and efficient yet, strangely it was impersonal. Service wasn't too friendly. I think that only one staff member ever inquired as to what our names were or what I liked/disliked. That one staff member was the Cruise Consultant and needed the info to book our next SilverSea cruise. This is a marked difference from Seabourn, Radisson or even Queens Grill on Cunard.
Embarkation: This was very poor. We were given our key cards on the pier and then were told to board the ship. Once we were in the lobby there was neither guidance nor assistance. There was a crowd of people at both the reception desk and the shore excursion desk but I didn't know why. I couldn't believe that we were to just make our own way to the stateroom, (primarily because on other high-end lines you're escorted), so I asked a staff member. It was then that we were told that I needed to go to the reception desk or shore excursion desk to have our photograph taken for security. Embarkation really seemed disorganized.
Disembarkation: This was similarly disorganized. People were given color-coded tags that indicated when and in what order they would disembark the ship. For example, passengers with earlier flights would disembark prior to people with later flights. When it came time to disembark, the order that the colors were paged was wrong which had many people concerned. The later flight people disembarked before the passengers with earlier flights.
The Ship: The dEcor of the ship is very attractive, very light, and not at all glitzy. She's an easy, very comfortable vessel to get around with the design of all staterooms forward and most public rooms aft. The Observation Lounge overlooks the bow and was packed while I cruised the Misty Fjords and the Sawyer Glacier. This lounge is really for relaxing. It offers coffee, tea but isn't really a bar setting. The more social locations on the ship were the "Panorama Lounge" and "The Bar". It is in these lounges that people would congregate for their cocktails and conversation. One caveat for you ship lovers. If you're looking for a nautical experience you won't find it on this ship. The Silver Shadow is more of a floating Ritz-Carlton and less a seafaring vessel.
Shore Excursions: I didn't opt for any of the ship's offerings so can't comment on that. I arranged our own excursions and enjoyed them quite a bit. These included two floatplane adventures (Ketchikan and Sitka) and a two-hour ground tour of Sitka.
Ship's entertainment: The ship had three entertainers on board...a singer, a magician/comedian, and a banjo player. I only saw a snippet of the comedian/magician. He was fine. Other passengers commented on how good the singer was.
Why I took this cruise: Well, I had business in Portland on the 22JUN and saw a good deal on this cruise that was leaving just 2 days later from nearby Vancouver so I booked and sailed.
Overall impressions: I will be back on SilverSea in November for a South America cruise. I enjoyed this cruise and the SilverSea experience. I personally would give Seabourn the edge on service but SilverSea's ships are more modern. .