The reason I chose Silversea over Seabourn for this particular cruise was for three reasons: Silversea had a generous single supplement (only 125%); the itinerary was the southern Caribbean (only Seabourn's new ship, the Odyssey, is sailing that particular region right now....and their single supplement is 175%), and Silversea still has formal nights in the Caribbean (Seabourn's smaller ships do not). I was in a Vista cabin, on the fourth deck.
Embarkation was very easy. I had come into Bridgetown, Barbados several days early and stayed at the beautiful Hilton. I am a scuba diver and, since I dive only about once a year, I chose the Hilton for its gorgeous views of the Caribbean, and the fact they have an on-site dive shop. I loved the hotel and the diving was great. Interestingly enough, I met a couple, on CruiseCritic, who was also on my sailing and we met up at the Hilton for dinner, and boarded the Silver Shadow together. One of the great benefits of the CruiseCritic message boards is meeting people before your cruise. Especially if you are traveling solo, it's nice to have some "friends" right off the bat!
I chose early embarkation and got on the ship about 11am. Very easy to get things squared away and fortunately, the suites were ready. 430 is a Vista cabin on the fourth deck, and I was very impressed with the cabins. Similar to Seabourn's standard suites, the Silver Shadow has one nice touch; a shower separate from the bathtub. As I bring my scuba gear with me, the tub was a great place to rinse it off and leave it! The cabins are gorgeous; nice big window, beautiful decor. Flat screen TV, desk with personalized stationery, and...surprise...a very comfy bed! The bathroom was very beautiful with marble everywhere (the towels, as other reviewers have reported, are a bit scratchy), two sinks, and Bulgari products (hair conditioner and shampoo, body lotion, etc.) Very nice.
The luggage did not arrive for awhile, but that gave me the opportunity to scour the ship, as this was my first Silversea cruise. The Shadow has the capacity for 384 guests (Seabourn's three smaller ships hold 208). Our ship was full, but other than around the pool (or if we were gathered in the show lounge), there was never a feeling of crowds, ever. The ship itself was gorgeous, I loved it. Lots of places to hang out, the expansive Observation Lounge (with massage chairs, an impressive selection of books, and a breathtaking view of the ocean), a very well stocked library, and both the stern of the ship and deck 10 (where there is a wide walking/jogging track) gave you great views. It took me awhile to figure out to get to the restaurant, I had to go up one level, through reception, and down to deck 4 again (the deck plan showed the restaurant on level four....you can't get to it from four though!). No problems, it was fun being on a larger ship that had so many places to be.
One vast improvement of the Silversea ships over the smaller Seabourn ships is the pool area. Large, perfectly positioned pool in the midst of deck 8, surrounded by chairs, so it's a very social gathering place. On our two sea days back to Ft. Lauderdale, we had stellar weather and this was the place to be. I absolutely loved this part of the ship. One of my favorite places to hang out on Seabourn's small ships is the forward jacuzzi on deck 5. I was planning to miss this feature, but Silver Shadow's happenin' pool area more than made up for it. They also had table tennis and shuffleboard "tournaments", which were lots of fun. I enjoyed the stability of the larger ship as well, and seldom felt any movement of the sea at all. Of course, we enjoyed very good weather (only Bequia and St. Bart's had intermittent rain).
Our ports were Bequia, Martinique, Dominica (wins in my opinion for the friendliest people in the Caribbean), St. Kitts, St. Bart's, Tortola. I dove in every port except St. Kitts, where I took a horseback ride. Pretty island, had lots of fun. From the reports of the other passengers, they seemed to enjoy all the shore excursions that Silversea provided in the ports.
The one disappointment was the food on the Silver Shadow. I'd say upwards of 50% of the time I did not like what I was eating. Most of the time I'd have just fruit in the morning (either in the Terrace buffet, or by room service), and then a quick lunch (same). I ate in the restaurant six evenings, the Terraza once and Le Champagne once. In my opinion, Seabourn's food was far superior to Silver Shadow. The service on the Shadow was friendly, but did not blow your socks off like Seabourn does. That being said, I enjoyed my cruise so much I booked Silversea's new ship, the Spirit, for another Caribbean cruise in 2010. The pool deck really won me over.
On all my cruises, I've never run into a friendlier group of people than were on this sailing. The passengers were just delightful and very warm to a woman traveling alone. I was invited to dinner often, and felt included in conversations wherever they were taking place. Unlike Seabourn, Silver Shadow does not have "hosted" tables every night at dinner in the restaurant. I do like that feature of Seabourn, but all I had to do was show up in the restaurant and request a table with others who wanted company; I always had a great group of people to talk to. I did receive one invitation to dinner at a hosted table, the first formal evening.
Being exhausted from diving all day, I never took in ANY of the entertainment, so I'm sorry I can't comment on that. I heard from other passengers that it was very nice. The one thing I did was Liar's Club (where they come up with a word you've never heard of, and four people give you silly definitions, one of which is true, you have to guess which one!), and that was great.
I spent alot of time in the gym; they have treadmills, stairsteppers, and other exercise equipment. They also have another room with mats, exercise balls, and weights. I did not do anything in the spa as their services were over the top expensive. The people who ran both places, though, seemed very nice and helpful.
The cruise director, the reception area staff, the suite stewardesses, the international hostesses, the waiters, were all wonderful. Silversea has a wonderful crew and I liked them.
We did have an incident on the sailing with a man overboard, this was on the last sea day. It is a miracle, and I thank God, that the man was recovered alive and well. Kudos to the crew of the Silver Shadow for their hard work in finding him. Even after a sleepless and traumatic last morning, they were appreciative and gracious as they said goodbye to us and scrambled to invite on a new group of people.
All in all, I thought Silversea a very nice line. Obviously I liked it, since I booked it again. I would give Seabourn higher marks in food and service, but that in no way takes away from how hard Silver Shadow tries to please its guests. I would be very comfortable recommending this beautiful ship to anyone.