SIX STAR LUXURY
Filtering through all the brightly-colored and smartly-marketed brochures, and investigating the where to go and what to do on a cruise vacation is quite a lot of fun. I always envision destinations afar, and most times we choose the destination first, and hope for the best on the ship facility part to fill that destination agenda.
The ordinary was not the case this year when reaching out for excellence - There would be no compromises, no excuses, just the finest service and amenities. Every itinerary Silversea Cruises offered seemed embraced by a lavish layer of distinction. In our case, the final Silversea choice was to an area we had longed to visit. This fulfilled our vacation wish-list, blending both our dream itinerary with extraordinary service and elegance. My wife Carol and I received a shipment some weeks later with our packet of reservation documents and we knew that our cruise on the Silversea ship Silver Cloud would be an exceptional experience. From the moment we opened the elegant leather voucher-case, which was packed with personal and distinctive luggage tags, and a new vacation expectation level ensued. From that moment on we sensed the welcome mat of elegance offered by Silver Cloud - we could hardly wait!
ITINERARY: I envisioned writing and recounting of our captivating itinerary aboard the distinctive Silver Cloud in the Baltic Sea. I could go on at length about the enticing ports in Northern Europe. However, it was the allure of this top quality vessel that must first be emphasized as I briefly describe this voyage.
We embarked in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Flying in early is a comfort with today's busy pace with airlines, and Silversea's staff can help your travel agent arrange lodging and transfers.
By arriving early, we enjoyed an engaging but leisurely day in Amsterdam, a city to be savored for its world famous museums and the special charms of her canals. This also allowed time to decompress from traveling before boarding Silver Cloud - We did not want to board bleary-eyed and jet-lagged.
Our first cruise stop was Tallinn, Estonia. Its old town of medieval architecture is as wonderful as those in Germany or the South of France. Estonia is a country quite proud to be out of the Soviet domain. Then we were on to St. Petersburg, Russia for two glorious days of exploring the Hermitage Museum, the opulent gilded Peterhof Palace, Catherine's Palace and others. From Russia we sailed onward to historic Helsinki, Finland.
A special city came next, Stockholm, Sweden where beautiful tiny islands link together to form one of the loveliest cities on earth. Last and not least was Hans Christian Anderson's enchanting and immaculate Copenhagen, Denmark. But, I won't go on and on, for on this cruise we found that our ship was to be a destination in and of itself. Does it seem possible that a ship, its crew, and services could account for such feelings of vacation completeness?
But, though this was a most remarkable itinerary, the ships of Silversea generally do not stay fixed on one itinerary. They move on to new and wondrous places around the globe visiting peoples and places on nearly every continent. I want to convey that what came to be our most loved destination of choice each day was the Silver Cloud herself. The ship was a haven that we were eager to return to and share stories of the day with our many new friends. SILVER CLOUD: The sleek white ship is 16,800 tons at 514 feet in length, and can carry 296 passengers. This is a comfortable number even when dinner time arrives. You get to know fellow passengers in a relaxed, open-seating atmosphere in one of the two available dining locations. Open seating affords the freedom to dine with the people you meet for the first time or prior friends - how delightful!
CABINS: The striking differences between a Silversea cruise vacation experience and the larger more typical ships are many, but they start with the amount of personal cabin space that is standard on this all-suite, all-outside cabin luxury ship. Differences begin with the suite arrangement at a generous 250 sq. feet, and goes up to the impressive multi-roomed Silver Suite at 541 sq. ft., an Owner's Suite. with two bedrooms at 827 sq. ft, the Royal Suite at 1031 sq. ft. with two bedrooms, and finally, the palatial Grand Suite, a 1300 sq. ft., two bedroom, lavish accommodation with all the amenities that a ship's captain or a captain of industry might require.
Our cabin was the introductory size suite. We did have a balcony, and most of the suites aboard Silver Cloud do. If you are in a climate and itinerary that would avail the use of a balcony, why not enjoy this pleasure for a modest additional charge? The suite was essentially two rooms, one a sitting and dining area, the other a bedroom. Draperies may be utilized to separate the two areas if you desire. Appointments in fine wood and attractive art gave the suite a sense of refinement.
We enjoyed breakfast in the suite four of our nine days aboard the Silver Cloud, and we dined elegantly with fine linens in our suite three special romantic evenings. No effort was spared by the room service staff to extend that feeling of gracious attention to detail. Both the main dining room and the standard and quite comprehensive room service menu were available in our suite.
Beverages of choice were always available, and the maid gladly stocked our personal preferences in our suite's mini-fridge. An excellent list of wines and beers was included in your cruise costs for those with a potent-potable palate.
It is not customary for us to rave about a ship bathroom, but when you have fine marble, a full tub with shower, and Bvlgari toiletries -a mention is obligatory! A huge walk in closet had thick plush bathrobes and slippers waiting for our in-suite comfort.
CUISINE: While Silver Cloud roams about the latitudes and longitudes of the world, guest's gastronomic pleasures are enhanced, as her menu evolves to reflect the culinary delights and specialties of the current region.
When Carol and I stepped into The Restaurant we knew we had arrived for a very special dining experience. The Restaurant is elegant, but not stuffy, the staff is attentive and personable, but not hovering, and they are quietly - ever-watchful of your favorite foods, drinks, and habits, with a goal of meeting these personal requirements. Catering to individual taste and preference is what distinguishes the ordinary from the exceptional cruise experience.
Then came the main event, which were inspired dishes created by Silversea's Master Chefs. The dishes were complemented by those of La Collection du Monde, and created by the world-class chefs of culinary partner Relais & Châteaux. The menu was marked by innovation and creativity. I feel certain that most patrons will delight in these epicurean creations, and a dining experience that rivals the best restaurants the world over.
ABOUT SHIP: You might dress for a workout in the well-equipped gym, or visit the Mandara Spa for that special attentive massage, or the full array of services designed to enhance your vacation relaxation. Mandara is a Sanskrit legend translated to signify, a search for a magical elixir to promote extended life and beauty. The staff caters to Silver Cloud guests in the quest for these ultimate experiences while aboard.
Once you have been sufficiently pampered in the Mandara Spa, and you have done your daily gym workout, then perhaps a cool drink of your choice while lazing around the pool is the perfect way to enjoy the passing scenery. Again, all drinks except special or more exotic beverages are included in your cruise rate. Also included are all tips - Guests on the Silver Cloud need not worry of daily issues other than simply enjoying this experience.
Silversea Cruises celebrates its 10th anniversary of providing unexcelled service worldwide. We noted on our cruise that many guests were repeat clients - because they appreciated the high level of service and quality. It was their ultimate vacation and they had come to love and enjoy Silversea's superior quality of relaxation and service.
ACTIVITIES: There were varied ship activities tailored to suit the clientele, ranging from exercise classes, lectures on various topics, and shore briefings. Trivia, scrabble tournaments, and the ping pong invitational brought out those looking for activity. A good book or movie would get the attention of still others. It is a vacation and the choices are many and varied. The richly decorated and well stocked library always had followers, as did the various lounges, and a favorite spot was, of course, the Internet Cafe.
TO ADJUST: To come up with valid criticisms on the world's premier recognized six star cruise line only makes one think of more positive things...like the gourmet coffee, outstanding room stewardesses, and dining and room service personnel - so this is challenging.
If I proposed change from our entire nine days onboard the Silver Cloud it would be that they raise the television position twenty to twenty-four inches in the standard suites, and this could be easily accomplished. It is difficult to view the programming or news from bed - I know, a really picky criticism and minor inconvenience, but I do feel this to be a positive suggestion and improvement to a nearly-perfect ship, suite, and vacation experience.
My only other proposal would be to begin the single-seating dining at 7PM rather than at 7:30PM. This would allow entertainment to be scheduled at 9:45PM, a seemingly more inviting time than the usual 10:30PM. I feel that more guests would be inclined to stay up after their busy day of such exhausting luxury and personal attention and would be less likely to miss the fine shows and entertainers. It is impossible to savor all that is available, but a bit of schedule tweaking might be helpful.
OVERVIEW: For many Silversea patrons perfection has become a standard for their vacation. Those who are new to the Silversea ambiance are seeking that incomparable way to celebrate an anniversary, wedding, or merely life itself. A Silversea vacation cruise aboard the Silver Cloud may alter your personal expectations and overall concept of vacationing and cruising.
We think you will savor the experience and create exceptional memories that will last a lifetime. My guess is that once will not be enough. You will dream of once again standing forward on a dazzling star-lit evening as the prow of a Silversea ship plies distant seas for new adventures and faraway horizons.