Silver Cloud Cruise Review by Mayriver: Not Relais&Chateaux quality
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Not Relais&Chateaux quality
Soon after our cruise, 5 passengers ( with wives) asked me to communicate our concerns to Mr. Andre Norseth, Vp of Operations at Silversea . A fellow passenger used their booking agent to also contact Director of National Accounts. We have not heard from either party, and regretfully we must now resort to a very public forum to express our concerns.
Reviews are by nature subjective and suspect because you can't calibrate your experiences and tastes with those of the reviewer. In our case we came from 4 countries ( US, Germany, Australia and New Zealand) and in my case, I was once a part owner of a Relais&Chateaux property in Switzerland. My experience does not make me an expert, but I am acutely aware of what it takes to achieve and maintain quality in service and food in a Relais&Chateaux property.My letter to Mr. Norseth explained in detail how Silversea had not met basic standards, and the comments to follow are redacted from my letter to him. In essence, More Silversea has undertaken a subtle but relentless quest to reduce costs, and in the process, has produced a homogenized product, devoid of any character. Fortunately, this initiative has not affected service. It continues to be outstanding and should be a model for hotels around the world. The homogenized product starts with the new La Terrazza menu and food. Beginning in London, the restaurant had changed from a trattoria with daily ( fresh) specials, to a " continental food" dining room. The menu did include a swath of Italian antipasti, and the ridiculous invention of "pasta corta" and "pasta lunga", but there were only 3 entrees to choose from, none of which were remotely related to basic Italian cuisine. Furthermore, this menu was fixed for eternity, which for the uninitiated in the food business, is not only boring but the best way to reduce food costs. What I tried to impress Mr. Norseth is that the moment you abandon your roots as an Italian cruise line and try to get away with run- of- the mill Italian-sounding dishes, you risk your reputation with passengers who know better. The Main Restaurant was much better most of the time, but from time to time there were some horrific meals. One of the features of the menus were dishes originating from the Manoir de Lan-Kerellec, a Relais& Chateax in Brittany. Everytime I chose that option I was very disappointed. It may have been copied faithfully, but it was invariably bland and without the "caresse" which good French food imparts. Fussy perhaps, but if Silversea wants to carry the Relais&Chateaux emblem, they had better learn what it takes to make an exceptional dish.
My fellow passengers had other observations. For example, never once did we have fresh fish ( always defrosted) despite having called on 6 ports where a great variety of fish was available. In fact, no meal highlighted the specialties of the regions we visited ( salmon from Scotland, Angus beef from the Orkney's etc.) and as a result, the food was acceptable but never good enough to meet Relais&Chateaux standards. From my experience, the food was the product of standardization of menus. The longer you get stuck in the cycle the worse the food gets. Image plays an important role in the value that passengers perceive they are getting, and this is particularly true with wines and spirits. The spirits ( liquor) were top shelf, but the wine ( the more expensive part of the equation) was definitely bottom shelf. On previous Silversea cruises, Italian wines were proudly highlighted, and they were invariably good to very good. On this cruise, they decided to go global with their tastes, and the result was a disaster. Everything from syrahs from South Africa to cheap maltecs from Argentina ( I lived there in the 80's) added up to a wine selection which was selected by an accountant rather than a person who enjoys to share good wine with his patrons. And the final proof is their decision to replace Pommery with Drappier Champagne. Drappier is Euro 10 cheaper per bottle in France, and you can taste it! My fellow passengers also asked me to point out deficiencies in the excursions, even though my wife and I were not impacted. The highlight of our itinerary was Greenland. Beginning in London, there was a wait list for visiting glaciers in small boats. Despite knowing the demand for the excursion well in advance, no effort was made to find more excursion boats. The result was that there were more than 100 passengers who were relegated to seeing Greenland from a tiny cafe next to an airport. The lesson being that if Silversea cannot accomodate the great majority of its passengers in a given port, why go there? My intent with this review is to tell Silversea that if they are serious about quality in food, wine and basic logistics, they have work to do. You can squeeze costs up to a point, but if the choice is between sacrificing margins versus quality, the answer is obvious. Silversea is a wonderful cruise line, and the reason of many good memories of its passengers, and I sincerely hope that they return to their knitting of uncompromising quality. Less
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