Maiden Holiday Cruise December 23, 2009 - January 3, 2010: Silver Spirit Cruise Review by DebbieH103
Overall Member Rating
Maiden Holiday Cruise December 23, 2009 - January 3, 2010
Destination: Europe - Western Mediterranean
We originally booked Africa/Seychelles for December 9 on Silver Wind. In fact, I booked this in 2007. That cruise was canceled, and we booked this sailing to replace it. At first, I was very disappointed, but then I was very excited about the new ship. We booked for the ship, not the itinerary. Due to the weather and the hassles we had getting to/from the destination, we look forward to sailing Spirit next fall in the Caribbean. We are travel agency owners, but we have paid full price for all of our Silversea sailings. I'm a Certified Lifestyle Specialist - Luxury Travel and a Certified Travel Industry Executive. I approach things from a very analytical view because of what I do. Hence, you will find below a rather lengthy piece. Those that don't want to read all of this should just read this summary and then read the section headings to find the areas that are of interest. I felt since this was a new ship that I needed to try to cover everything I could remember. More
Dining - There are a number of restaurants. Not all are available without paying extra, and all but the main dining room require reservations. The main dining room for dinner does not have as much variety as it should, though they will allow you to order special requests a day in advance. Simple things can be accommodated on the same night, and you can order from the room service menu in the main dining room and from the dining room menu in the cabin. The restaurant managers were all absolutely top notch and just went way out of their way to make every meal a joyous experience. Some meals were memorable, all were delicious. Ingredients were very fresh, and enough complimentary wines were available to please most guests. Public Rooms - The lounges are cozy, and we liked the layout of the ship. Cabins - Our only complaint is with the number of plug-ins. The cabins are very nice and comfortable, and we enjoyed our 11 nights there. The balconies are bigger and easier to open, but be sure they are locked and that your cabin attendant has locked the door, as they do slide open. The shower is tall enough for most any man, and there is a rain shower. Entertainment - We loved the live entertainment in all venues. The organized activities were all excellent, too. There just were not as many as I would have liked.
Spa & Fitness - We did not do any classes or treatments. I am just basing this rating on the layout and the pricing. The offerings are more extensive than you will find on the other ships, and they have a number of treatments to make them quite proud. Family & Children (By Age Group) - There were just a couple of children that were not teens, and they were well supervised and seldom seen. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, and I enjoyed them. Shore Excursions - All of our tours were organized by professionals and escorted by staff. It was a little confusing how the rep was always at the location where we were to end up, rather than at the beginning of our journey (ship departure) directing us where to go. A couple of times, poor judgment was used regarding the weather, and at times, there were no umbrellas for people that did not bring the ones from their cabin. We enjoyed everything we did. The Casablanca cooking tour should have had a real cooking element but was enjoyable. Given our circumstances, I thought the staff worked very hard to give us as many choices for experiences as they could have. Embarkation - They led us to believe that boarding at noon started in 2010 and that we absolutely could not get on at noon. In fact, they did have noon boarding. We arrived at 2:15 and got on, but we had no assistance with bags and no welcome drink. We were properly escorted to our cabin. Service - We had issues with dinner service the first two nights, and our butler service was in need of improvement. Around the ship, we found a number of people that did not seem as empowered as we have seen on all other Silversea cruises, though they did their best to be accommodating. In many cases, our expectations were far exceeded, and there was not a single time where a slight service gap really made a significant difference in our overall cruise experience. Value-for-Money - It was a lovely cruise where we were so comfortable, well fed, and well entertained. I just felt it was overpriced due to a few situations. It was not something I felt strongly about, so I gave this a 4 rating. Rates - Rates were high due to the holiday sailing and the honor of it being the maiden voyage. However, the maiden honor was scarcely celebrated. Things were not quite ready, though everything was at about 97%. People seldom ever love Christmas/New Year's holiday rates on any vacation. I feel that Silversea has created a unique product with Spirit. It has some of the elements of the other Silversea ships, but it is something different. Those that like luxury will find it here. The "basic" suites are outstanding, and the silver suites and above are spectacular. Some of the best managers at sea are running the ship, and I feel they will continue to send it to new heights as it matures.
We flew coach on Continental from Houston IAH to Barcelona via Newark on December 21. This was right after a huge blizzard on the east coast, but we timed it well enough to not get stranded. We were delayed for two hours getting into Newark, though. We lucked out because our flight to Barcelona happened to be on the same plane as the one from IAH even though it was a different flight number and crew. They still boarded in a somewhat timely manner, and we only arrived at Barcelona 42 minutes late at 9:42 a.m. We did not have video on demand, and the movies we could select from on the TV screen were all family/kid type shows plus TV. Still, we managed to find things to watch and killed the time in between the two meals. We had no issues in customs and got a taxi to our hotel on Las Ramblas for about 30 Euros with a non-English driver. We caught 3 glimpses of Silver Spirit on the way to the hotel.
I had booked Hotel Continental on Las Ramblas for the one night due to free stuff and location. We used the internet extensively in our room and the lobby both. We only had one European converter, so we had an interesting time swapping back and forth trying to keep our batteries charged on all our devices. They also have free food and drinks there - tapas, pastries and breads, ice creams, cereals, coffees (including espressos and lattes), sodas, tea, beer, and wine, all 24 hours a day. The rooms are basic and quite pink, but you do get a tub. We would not stay more than one night, but the location was very good, if only the weather had been.
We did a lot of walking here to see some of the buildings and architecture that people go to see in Barcelona, but we did not see everything because it was cold and rainy.
Embarkation and Cabin
We were well aware that Silversea would begin allowing boarding at noon in 2010, and I had called two or three times to ask about early boarding before our sailing. I was told it would be impossible because there would still be inspections. Silversea added a 2 day non-revenue sailing before ours (which to some of us cheapened the "being the first to sail" factor of our trip). Because of that, they allowed boarding at noon, but then they did not tell very many people. We suspected this might be the case, but we still had not made it to the cathedral, so we walked there from our hotel and then got a taxi to the ship and boarded at about 2:15 and were then told that, of course people were boarded at noon. Very few were on board, but as we were on only a few minutes, more started to come. Those with enough nights could board at 10:30, and most did.
Since we were there before 3, there was no champagne greeting (I did see this after 3), snacks or anything, and we did carry our own carry-on bags with no offer of assistance. We were shown to our suite right away, however.
We were in balcony cabin 606, a forward cabin on the port side. We were immediately impressed with the cabin. We looked around everywhere, noticing all the detail.
The bathroom was very nice with a separate shower and tub. The shower is taller than the other ships, and there is a rain head. The tub was nice, but on the first use, we had no hot water at all, so we had to call. The floor was wood with a marble trim around it. There was a large white basin sink. The faucet took some getting used to in order to prevent splashing up the mirror. There was a shaver plug and shelves to put things on. The one thing I thought was a little odd was the toilet paper layout and also the hand towels just sit on the counter, as there is no rack for them. The Bvulgari setup was there.
The bed from what we measured with the covers was 6 ft. 5 inches long and 5 ft. 9 inches wide. My husband is 6 ft. 3 inches, and his feet were over the bottom much of the time, and I am 5 ft. 6, and even mine were over sometimes when I scrunched into the pillows and covers. We never complained to ourselves, as the bed was very comfortable. We never were offered a pillow menu, but we did have one soft and one firm pillow each. That is what I put in the comments online before the cruise.
The couch is longer than on all the other Silversea ships, and this is the biggest thing I wanted changed since Todd is tall. The table in the sitting area is a little longer, too. There are two cabinets that have sitting stools on them - one in the sleeping area and one in the sitting area. Each house a TV. The one in the sitting area has the mirror with a TV that stays a black square when off. The one in the bedroom goes invisible. We loved having two TVs, but they worked with one remote. When we would turn on one and then the other, the one in the bedroom would stick on whatever channel or function we had been in. We would have to call for a reset/reboot. This happened to many passengers, but they were going from cabin to cabin interviewing those with the issue to try to sort it out and track a pattern. We loved being able to check our statement on the TV, read about the shows and lecturers, etc. However, there were 56 movies, no newer releases like before. We had probably seen almost 50 of them. Also, what they show of where the ship is going was interesting but not as informative as the old system. We always watched recorded enrichment lectures in the past, and these were never shown.
There are lamps in the walls on either side of the bed and other lamps on either side of the couch. There is also recessed lighting in the ceiling, and we liked how you could turn this and that on to change the amount of lighting even though there were no dimmers. Some of ours did not work, but another call, and they were there after some time to change bulbs. In fact, they were going door to door for that, too.
A very nice change in the room is the draperies between the sitting and sleeping area. Instead of tying back, they slide along a track and can be completely opened or closed. You can really block out the light if you want to sleep, and you can get them totally out of the way when you want the cabin to seem spacious and serviceable. I was so pleased with it because it really changed how much I was able to sleep. We also really appreciate how thoughtful they were in setting up the balcony door and making it completely easy to handle. It is a must to keep it locked. In high winds, they will open. Also, a number of guests, we were the first that we knew of, had one or two incidents where the cabin attendant would leave the door totally open. If you took hours to discover (we discovered it at 4 a.m.), you may have high winds and freezing cold coming in by the time you wake up and figure it out.
The balcony is larger than the other ships in verandah, and the chairs are very nice and adjustable, the table is larger, and there are two footstools. Since we were in such rough waters some of the time, there was often a lot of salt on our glass, and often we could not see out, and other times it was so cold we never opened the drapes.
There are two plug-ins in the sitting area - one American and one European. Silversea has added a lovely clock that is so useful, but it takes up the only American plug in that area. Bring a strip. We were constantly unplugging the clock. It does have a battery backup, and it holds the time for a long time. There is another plug of each type in the sleeping area at the dressing table. We found ourselves constantly having cords draped over the bed or across the sitting area since the plugs were on the opposite side of everywhere we wanted to sit or lay down.
The suites have doorbells, and the attendants and butlers need to learn to use them! We were burst in on as early as 7 a.m., and some guests (including our neighbor across the hall with 406 nights) were even bursted in on in their undergarments with the privacy sign on. At some point, they just stopped doing our room altogether, which was annoying when we would have the service ticket up for 6 or 7 hours. I am sure a couple of conversations to the cabin attendant could fix this, but it should not be necessary.
Silversea opened La Terazza until 4 p.m. for lunch, a nice touch vs. having to run to the pool grill. We had a full meal and were soon relaxed and well-fed.
We used this 3 times. We tried breakfast, lunch (Todd only), and dinner. The menu is extensive and similar to the other ships. You can get about anything you want from them (dial 800). The breakfast menu still has the guest one and guest two side, a lovely touch that avoids a lot of confusion. Todd's mango was quite green, but his omelet was well prepared. I had boiled eggs, cereal and a mixed fruit plate. Everything was perfect. When Todd ordered during the day, he ordered French onion soup and another course. Everything arrived hot. On the breakfast, it did arrive within our selected time (we asked for 6 to 6:30, and it came at 6:30. At the airport, we talked to a couple that put 7:30 to 8 on their ticket every day, and they would come before 7 a.m. even when they wrote on there to not come before 7. When we ordered dinner, we ordered a mix of the dining room items and the room service items. Our butler asked how long he should wait to come get the trays. I said 40 minutes, and after an hour and a half, I was calling and chasing him down to get all those dishes out. The dinner was quite nice, and they do a lovely setup. If you like, they will do it course by course, but we just wanted it all delivered. We had whatever we wanted - soups, appetizers, salads, entrees served at the right temperature and maybe in 30 or 35 minutes from ordering.
Butler and Cabin Attendants
Our suitcases were in our closet after we got back from eating our first lunch. This is different from the usual where they have always been on the bed. In fact, there were two clunky luggage racks in the room that remained there during our entire stay. When we met Nikhil , our butler. We asked him for the unpacking. He got a female cabin attendant to do it for us. She looked discouraged when she saw all of our stuff, but she did a fabulous job of putting things pretty much where we would have. We told her to put Todd's things up higher because he is tall. She asked if she could put the suitcases under the bed. Everything was set up beautifully.
We also asked Nikhil for some other toiletries of one of the other brands. Those never came, and after two or three requests, we gave up. The attendants did replace the Bvulgari when it was getting empty. We also arrived to pretty much an empty refrigerator. We did note what we liked and mentioned the preferences I had done online before departure. In fact, those took 3 or 4 days to arrive, and the butler admitted that came from my online request and not his efforts. We did eventually get him to understand exactly what we liked by about the 9th day of the 11 day cruise, and we were serviced enough throughout by either tracking him down or by calling room service (who then paged the butler). It was not a big deal, but it really was all we needed besides the packing and unpacking.
Todd became ill about 7 days into the cruise. When Nikhil saw how sick Todd was, he offered many times to call the doctor, and he did begin to check on us for requests after my mid-cruise comment card came out.
At the end of the cruise, Nikhil did all of the packing, and he did a very, very nice job. He did not come when he was supposed to (he asked for a specific time), but the job was great, and we were so happy to have the service. Nikhil indicated that all of the butlers went through the guild training and that he had a masters degree in hospitality. He was charming and nice, and I am sure after he gets used to Silversea and the way of the company and the guests, he will surely get his service level up. He indicated he had 15 cabins.
The butler on the other side of the hall seemed to be out and about a lot, and the lady across the hall seemed to always be concerned about her laundry arrival time and the impacts it had on her schedule. She tried to do something about it every day, and eventually, she got it worked out.
Our cabin attendant seemed to not come to do the cabin until about 4:30 if at all and then it was almost time to turn down the bed. We only got chocolates about half the nights, and the Chronicle daily newsletter often did not come until 10 p.m. or even sometime in the night. I am sure we made it difficult by being in the room a lot, but we did have out our service ticket a lot and even called once for service.
Pool Deck Service
The pool did not open until around the 3rd day of the cruise, and we learned that there was a crack in it that had to be repaired. It was also the 2nd day when the hot tub worked, but after that, it was great. Temps were about 97. They did have to drain them the day that we were supposed to go to Tangier when the weather was bad and the waves were quite high. I went there in spite of the cold weather, and once the guys saw me, they would come around every few minutes to see if I needed anything. Rex at the pool bar area always would start getting ready for me or most any guest when they walked up, already expecting what they were going to order but asking to make sure. With the addition of the pool grill restaurant on deck 10 some days into the cruise, they were happily staying open downstairs until 9 or so.
A welcome feature in the temperatures we had were lovely blankets, and the guys set up plush towels and comfy blankets all over. Many days, they had no customers except 4 or 5 at the bar, either die hard outsiders or smokers. Then on a couple of sunny days, maybe they had 20 people.
We had lunch out there one day. It took a little while to get pizza, etc., but everything was made completely to order. We loved how fresh everything was, and the pizza was perfect. The last thing Todd said was that he wished we had eaten up there more often.
It is possible to have all meals here a la carte. While I usually like a la carte best, our itinerary was so port intensive, and we had a lot of tours. It worked out better for us to do the buffet, and we enjoyed the view in La Terazza.
The first night at dinner, nobody in our section got a menu for about 40 minutes nor was water served, and tables were not properly set. Some of the sections seemed to be operating, but ours was at a standstill even though there was wait staff around. After that night, things got better every day, and by the end of the cruise things were going very well with the service level we are used to on Silversea.
There were a variety of wines being served. Some of them were from Spain, the region where we spent a good part of the cruise. We stuck to chardonnays after tasting some of them because that is just our preference. We found they had about 5 or 6 different complimentary chardonnays on the ship. There was an Italian, a couple from California, and I don't recall the others. All were tasty, so we just always said any chardonnay.
Most of the menus had 3 appetizers. The intermezzo section typically had 1 soup, one salad, and one pasta. We often ordered the soup and the salad, and when they did not suit, sometimes we'd just order green salad for me and Caesar for Todd. We ordered the room service soups once. There was always a sorbet, and we had them every night. For the entrEe, there were 4 choices - a fish dish, a couple of meat dishes, and a vegetarian dish. There were 2 or 3 desserts. We seldom had dessert, and they only brought petit fours on two nights. Maybe we did not wait long enough. I imagine that was it.
For the dinners, perhaps 9 of the 11 nights, they had sea bass for the fish. A couple of times, they put down sea bream, but then they would have sea bass anyway. One night, they had a seafood stew, and on Christmas they did not have a seafood dish. On Christmas, they had a holiday menu with set courses except for the entrEe. I had the goose that night. There was a holiday dinner on New Year's Eve, too. On both holidays, we had fun party favors at the table. They also gave a few prizes for the holiday of significant value. We did not win. All the food was very good, but I found more variety at lunch than dinner. It was always possible to customize, and there were never any mistakes in anything we ordered.
A memorable dish I had was osso bucco, something I look forward to when I see it. The mashed potatoes were also some of the best I've ever had. In general, all the vegetables were prepared just exactly right. I did not find too much salt in the food, either. Todd's favorite was the Black Angus beef he had on one of the first nights. He thought it was just beautifully prepared.
The restaurant is very nice, and we never saw any issue with crowding. Requests for sharing and private tables seemed to all be honored, and dinner was always a highlight of the day. Antonio was great with everyone, were the entertainers and waiters that seated guests.
We had breakfast here a number of days. A couple of days, we had room service breakfast, and a couple of days, we skipped breakfast. Each day would start with charming greetings by Jonathan and/or Darlene. Todd ordered an omelet a few days, and it always came out fairly quickly. I ordered hard boiled eggs one day. They said 15 minutes. It was 30, and I asked to take them to the cabin. They were done perfectly, but the next time, I ordered them from room service. We did not see anyone order pancakes or waffles, and they were not offered. I imagine you could.
I always got a nice portion of delicious fruits. Someone was always carving lovely fruits such as grapefruit, kiwi, pineapple, watermelon and other melons, and mango and papaya. They also had beautiful berries out on the buffet, along with dried fruits and nuts and some premium canned fruits. There were other fruits such as lychee. Sometimes there were whole fruits, also. They had hot and cold cereals, various breakfast meats, beans, eggs, Asian style items such as fish, and European style meats and cheeses. There were also a number of pastries. I am sure I am leaving many things out.
La Terraza serves most of the items from the a la carte restaurant but in buffet style. We had lunch here a number of times. We enjoyed the soups. They had several seafood soups. Each time, the seafood was added fresh to order. This was the same with several soups, ingredients were added fresh after someone ordered. There was an Indian soup one day. There was always at least one grilled fish, a carved meat, two types of pizza (one day, there was calzone), a variety of vegetables, and other entrees. Some items were veal parmesan, quiche, beef wellington, seafood stir fry. There were many others.
Every day, there was a large platter of sushi and sashimi and some Asian salads. The Seishin sushi chef prepared all the sushi and sashimi. It looked just as fresh as downstairs in the restaurant. Something I enjoyed were the various green salads. There were so many nice toppings and a delicious Italian dressing. I would get another great serving of fresh fruits daily. One day, they had a seafood platter that Todd really enjoyed with great onion rings. Another day (I think New Year's Day), there was a seafood buffet with crab legs, clams, mussels, and shrimp. In fact, I was able to get clams on several occasions. Those were a real highlight for me. They also had other dishes for the non seafood eaters. We are not big dessert eaters, but they had a variety, including sugar free. One day, Todd had the homemade ice cream. There were always 4 varieties (not always the same). I heard one guest say they only had the zero/zero at The Restaurant, but someone went and got it for him without him even asking. He was quite happy. They also had a variety of lunch meats (I missed the coppa even though there were other great meats) and fresh breads and beautiful looking cheeses.
Service up there was really great at lunch. The food was good, and the staff was great. In general, lunch was my favorite meal on the ship due to all the fresh things I was able to get and because of the nice variety.
We had dinner here one night, and we always intended to go back. Service here was wonderful. It is amazing how wonderful people like Marcello just go from one meal to the next and never look tired or unhappy and seem so concerned about all the guests.
We started with a very nice antipasti platter that we shared. It had 9 items (pretty much the whole appetizer menu) in sampler sizes in a beautiful dish. I had a salad in a crunchy bowl, and Todd had scampi. Then I had sea bass, and Todd had the beef dish. For dessert, he had tiramisu, and I had an amazing chocolate sorbet with fruits.
Instead of the regional theme menus, La Terraza has gone to one menu with more selections. We enjoyed the menu immensely. Our only real disappointment here is that they do not offer a soup. I would also like to see a different veal dish from Milanese since I am not one to eat a lot of fried foods. Food is always subjective, but our experience was extremely good.
This was held in The Restaurant on Christmas Eve. Since it was held after the champagne tasting, there were already a lot of people in the room. We were sitting with Cruise Critic online messageboard member NJBelle and her husband and daughter, and we saw a long line, so we waited quite a while. There was still a line, but we went up anyway. It moved along. The area was a bit tight because Darlene was putting people through in lines on both sides. People then had to criss-cross. This did cause us to get full plates to avoid the line again, and then some things got cold. My favorite is always the ethnic foods. This was no exception. I love the pancit since I grew up eating it when we lived in the Pacific. The Naan was disappointing. They had a beautiful carved beef entrEe. There were piles of seafood. They had veal, fish, chicken, even burgers. There were huge salads. The desserts were served on a table out in the restaurant. I just got a few of the garnish berries, and Todd did not have dessert at all. I enjoyed the meal. Todd did not as much, but he had his plate full before he got to what he really likes because he just did not look ahead due to the people.
The Pool Grille Restaurant
One night, well into the cruise, they decided to try the grille with the captain and some staff and a few guests. We missed that. The next day, we were having lunch at the pool grill, and we did see the restaurant manager accepting reservations. We signed up for 8 p.m. While the restaurant is al fresco, and the weather was not great on this cruise, he did indicate that the heaters warm it up 10 degrees F. We were advised to dress casual. We dressed as if we were inside since it was an informal night and we came from the show. That was a particularly cold night, and only one other person was brave enough to dine there. He loved the food and was happy he did, but his family went inside and ate at the restaurant. They situated us right under a heater, but we did wrap ourselves in pool deck blankets. We did alright.
The menu consisted of a variety of meats - several cuts of steaks and a veal chop. They also had shrimp. Todd ordered a ribeye, and I ordered a strip steak. We ordered shrimp to share. First we had salads. The steaks arrived sizzling on the plate, rare. The shrimp arrived raw, and it easily cooked in just minutes. I cooked a few shrimp at a time. The meats are served with baked potato, but you can get fries. I ordered fries. Todd ordered a baked potato, but it was too cold to eat when he was ready. It was not on the sizzling plate. We each had a few fries. We had fruits for dessert.
The restaurant is serviced from the same area where they prepare the pool lunches, and the guys cart everything upstairs. The wine, water, everything comes from the pool bar, so they keep it open until around 9 (maybe later now that the restaurant is popular). The food was delicious, but if I ordered a steak again, I would get a filet. These other steaks were way too big, and they cooked beyond medium since it keeps cooking while you are eating. We had plenty, and the food quality was high. I believe even full, the service will remain fabulous because it is not a big place. I'd like to see scallops added. The concept of the entrEe is that you are brought the item on a sizzling plate, and you have control over the doneness. It is not like cooking over a campfire, a hibachi or anything else. You simply let your meat sizzle as you eat. The most intense amount of cooking is turning it over to keep it even.
One of our favorite lunches was from the pool grill. We wish we had eaten on the pool deck more often, in spite of the outside temperature. Some days were certainly nice enough. I had pizza and salad. I ordered a shrimp cocktail that did not arrive. Todd had a burger. Everything is cooked to order, so allow time for that.
Stars Lounge is located off to the side of La Terraza. It has seating for 24 guests. There is also a full service bar there. In the evenings with a little bit of additional seating. I really liked it here and was here about 8 or 9 evenings for at least a while. Todd was here several, as well. It works as a place for a full meal, a gourmet snack, or just a lovely cabaret lounge. The entertainers, Alfreda and Vladimir put on a live show every night. It was always different since it was live. They seldom took breaks, and Alfreda always chatted from table to table before her show and during the breaks. Vladimir accompanied her and was always right on.
When we first went, the menu had tasting portions for each letter in STARS. There were people doing the entire tasting of 15 items. Later, they added a pasta tasting set, also. The way it works is that you get 3 items per letter ordered that are served together and are a couple of bites each. For instance, there is one that I got a few times that has fois gras, a frog leg, and a scallop. Everything was top quality, and the presentation was beautiful. If you don't want any of those items, there are nibbles on the table. There are some incredible flour tortilla chips. They also have olives, incredible breadsticks that are like munching on cooked pie dough (yes!). There are some dipping sauces. One has a lot of fresh garlic. It did take a bit of time to get the ordered items, but we never arrived there hungry, anyway. Darlene, the manager was doing a wonderful job hosting and running the restaurant, in spite of always coming off a full day and evening at La Terraza. She is to be commended.
The Other Lounges
The Bar on Silver Spirit is just off the lobby on Deck 5. This is a new concept for Silversea, as The Bar has always been aft. We found that guests either loved it or did not like it at all. We loved it. We were there every day because of trivia, and I would stay afterward for the appetizers.
There was food of some sort most of the time. In the mornings, there were pastries, orange and grapefruit juice and coffee. At first, they were running out of pastries, but a quick talk with Helmut, and that was corrected for the rest of the cruise. I would have loved to have seen a tray of fruit.
After that, they served bullion . There were sandwiches and a full menu with even paninis during the day. Later on, there was a full tea service. At the cocktail hour, there were gourmet canapEs such as pate, shrimp cocktail, fois gras, tempura, etc. The issue was, none of them were ever served warm. Helmut said they were not allowed to serve them hot. I never did know the reason, and I think this should be changed. Throughout the day, they had a tub of hot mixed nuts, and they also had the usual baskets of nuts, chips, pretzels, and chex mix type items.
Service at the counter was fine after the first day, but at the lounge seats, sometimes the servers stood at the back and did not seem to realize they should be circulating. Other times, the service was impeccable. Amadeo played piano tunes here at night before dinner and after dinner.
The Panorama lounge was a location to hear Mark play the piano, and at 11 p.m., DJ Luc played a variety of tunes, including requests. As this caught on, there was a lot of dancing. I had good fun dancing up there a couple of nights. During the day, there were also refreshments served here at a variety of times, sometimes similar to the restaurant, and on one side, they do allow smoking.
We only made it to the observation lounge to look around. It is a modern room. As you walk in, there is a screen that shows the live route the ship is going (same as the TV). There is also a great telescope up there. The view is spectacular, and I am sure this will be a popular spot for coming into port, sunsets, etc.
The ship has the Connoisseur's Club lounge across from the casino. This is a clubby sitting area where cognacs and such are available and smokers can come. They were leaving the doors to the casino and the hallway open.
The show lounge is not designed to hold all guests, but it was never full. It has a main stage and two side stages. I loved the way they used all three stages. Sometimes my eyes were just mesmerized traveling around the room to not miss anything. The room is all one level, but the seating is tiered so that everyone can see. The rows are too close together, so if someone crosses their foot right next to you, it will overlap. The benches for two are cozy for some, but we did fine. Sometimes we each sat on one side since there was usually plenty of space. They do have a place to set drinks, but it is barely wide enough. No drinks are served, so you have to bring your own. I asked a number of times anyone who would listen if they would just bring a small variety (like they usually do at the captain's party) and have the greeters hold them. They seem worried they will not please everyone, so they have taken on the solution of not doing it at all. I imagine the design will remain controversial to a lot of guests, but the seats are comfortable, you can see from everywhere, all guests were accommodated on our sailing. It is tight in the back, and you have to walk around the lighting, and there would not be much space for wheelchairs, walkers, and the like. There is no ramp side for handicapped that I saw, and the steps are very tiny (like 2 inches each), and they are constantly telling everyone to watch their step.
This is a reservation only restaurant. While it was advertised they would have bento box lunches and a la carte, in addition to the degustation menu, during our sailing, this had not yet occurred. However, the restaurant manager was hoping this would happen, and she also was open to doing lunches when interest was high. We toured here more than once, though we did not dine here. We watched some preparation, and I sampled a couple of sakes. Dining here is 9 course, with a lot of raw. There is a chef that does the raw part in the middle of the room, and there is another chef that does the teppanyaki and other hot dishes in the back. The current price is $40 for the degustation with the sake pairing, and then there is a wine pairing option with the Le Champagne pricing. The entrEe for the degustation is waygu beef. The room accommodates 24. They had 22 to 24 a night in there, and 3 nights were sold out the first hour of the cruise.
The room built for Le Champagne was well thought out and beautiful. Regional menus were offered. The one that looked the most interesting to me was the Tour of Italy. It featured a lemon veal scallopini. They had a caviar focus and an asparagus night. There were a number of others. The price here is $200 per person currently for the degustation menu and wine pairing if booking while on the ship. There is an option for $30 where no complimentary wines are served. To have wine, one must order from the manager's list. A number of guests were noting that some of the wines on the list were not available.
In general, there were less activities on this cruise than any Silversea cruise we have experienced. The itinerary was very port-intensive. The day that we did not get to go to Tangier, they put on a movie, but almost nobody knew about it. I only knew because they made it a "Name that Tune" question in the game at night.
They did not have shuffleboard because they had not yet painted the lines. They did not have the golf putting because they did not have the equipment in yet. It was set to arrive the day we got off the ship. They did have some bridge games. Every day except the last night and the first night, they had team trivia. We played all nine nights that it was held. Only once did our team not place in the top 3. There were a few spa lectures on acupuncture, stress, body analysis and such, but the timing never worked for me. They did not have organized needlepoint at tea, but you could ask for a complimentary kit, I found out. One or two ladies just did theirs at tea time anyway. There were at least a couple of meets to guess distance traveled.
There were no food demonstrations, and I always look forward to those. They did have a champagne tasting in The Restaurant on Christmas Eve right before the galley brunch.
There were also port lectures and history/war lectures. Unfortunately, they did not put these on the TV. I hope they will do this in the future like we have always had on the other ships. The spa had conditioning classes, along with yoga and pilates. One afternoon, one of the Japanese guests did a lovely dance show in full costume.
On this sailing, they were having a lot of the shows at both 6:45 and 10:15. We always went at 6:45 and attended every day. When the show is later, Todd often does not go, so I really enjoyed this pre-dinner option.
There were 3 production shows. One was called Aquarius Dawning. It had music mainly from the late 60s. We enjoyed that one a lot. Another was a tribute to Elton John's music. Yes, Darren did an Elton John impersonation, but mostly, it was a tribute to a variety of his music. Even the ladies sang. Even the Lion King was featured, along with some costumes. The third was Euro 2010, a tribute to the show itself. We enjoyed that, also.
At 10 pm one night, there was a Moroccan show with a local group. This was in Casablanca. I really enjoyed this. One of our trivia players did not like it at all because of his hearing aids. Guests were engaged in audience participation. I wish I had been sitting near the aisle.
Another night, there was a local Flamenco show. This was very good, too. It was not as good as the show we saw on our tour in Cadiz.
There was a group onboard at the beginning of the cruise that was in the Taste of Things to Come show and also did their own two shows on one night. This was Il Divo Forever. They were from Uraguay and Cuba but met in Iceland.
Another night, there was a cabaret singer. Iris Williams. She sang a variety of songs from artists such as Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. The boat was rocking that night, and she handled it quite well and gave a lovely performance.
One night, they just had a Star Trek movie. We were in port that night, so no casino.
One night, they had a Name that Tune game in The Bar with Amadeo playing the tunes on the piano. This was a team game. My team came in 2nd or 3rd. There was a mix of songs, including movie themes and songs from all sorts of decades. There was a section where the rhythm and to be named, and another where the composer had to be named.
The captain's party was held in both The Bar and the Panorama, as was the Venetian Society party.
There was entertainment in the lounges, and on some nights (7 out of 11), the casino was open if we weren't on an overnight.
Other Public Areas
On deck 8, there is the shops. There is a variety of logo items, jewelry, and designer ware. There are a very few pharmacy items. Also on deck 8 is the casino. This is larger than on all the other Silversea ships. Most notedly, there are quite a few more slots. They generally opened a half hour after coming into port and closed while in port. We played roulette once and eventually lost, so we mostly stuck to black jack and won almost every session. Tables also close during dinner. The day we arrived in Lisbon (which was supposed to be a sea day), they opened only for a couple of hours and only slots.
The pool deck is very nice with 3 hot tubs and nice loungers with padded headrests. There is a row of double loungers that have thick cushions. All along the deck on the sides, there are loungers. Back behind the panorama lounge, there are other seats and even covered cabanas. Deck 10 has more seating and a track. These all have smoking areas.
The library and internet center had a lot of books, mostly hardback. Gone are the DVDs, you just watch the movies on TV. They still had the suduko, daily quizzes (they ran out before 9 am almost every day), and crossword. The internet did not work a couple of days near the beginning of the cruise, and the guy running the center was seldom every in the center. He was available by page. Since he was with people all the time he was up there, I was surprised he was hardly ever around.
On 5, they have the tour concierge desk now and also reception. Reception is the "go to" area for start for any issues, to pay bills, etc. There was a lot more "I am not allowed" than I have ever heard, but generally, they handled everything I ever needed.
The infirmary is on deck 3, and the prices for nurse and doctor are posted there. They will also come to the cabin, but they charge more for that. The butler can arrange this.
The spa had a number of treatment areas and new things like bamboo massage and herbal massage. They also have a Chinese medicine doctor and offer acupuncture. One of the guests we spoke to had this done and was quite pleased. Also available is Botox, and a number of people had it done. I don't need that yet. I didn't see a lot of specials except for multi-treatment packages. The aerobics room looks like it could not handle more than a handful of guests. It had hand weights and other equipment (no step) and a big screen. You could pick a routine from it, also. There was new equipment in the cardio room, and they had loaner headsets. A number of the machines are hooked to satellite, but it was not yet working. They were doing body composition analysis in this room for $40. There is a thermal room that was available for $25 per day or $150 for the cruise or $250 per couple. You could do your own aromatherapy and also sit on the hot stone seats (short) and also use the outdoor hot tub and lounge area. There was also a relaxation room. All areas had bottled waters and bottle juices available. The thermal area had its own sauna and steamroom. There was also a free sauna and steamroom, but both sets were unisex. It was an odd trot from the locker area to the sauna and steam, and over there, there was no hanger for robes and little room to move around. Generally, the steam room could handl 3 guests. The sauna had two benches for sitting or laying down, and it was oceanview. If someone laid on the bottom shelf, you could not lay on the top without making them move.
The forward elevators did not work for several days in the rough weather. We just kept walking to the next set.
Tours and Ports
I booked tours with Silversea online in advance, and given the weather, I wish I had not done this.
Our first scheduled tour was in Barcelona. This was the vineyard tour. It was canceled due to weather, but we did not do another tour since we had walked around a lot on our own the previous day. I had caught a mini cold from walking in the rain, so we just enjoyed the ship, all new. While walking around, we saw many restaurants, and there was everything for sale outside, even mice.
In Malaga, we did a tour that went to a cathedral and a couple of castles. We had a spectacular view of the bullring and the ship and all of the water. We did the whole tour with umbrellas, and everyone wanted to come back early. The cathedral was just beautiful inside. All the architecture was amazing all around us, and we could not believe how much space was used in the town and how stacked the buildings were. There was also a shuttle, and some people went shopping.
In Cadiz, we did the walking tour and Flamenco and Tapas. We really thought this was a highlight. I had walked all around the day before, but I did not know what I was seeing, and I did not go to quite as many places. It was windy up by the Atlantic. The Flamenco show was exceptional. Everyone was served local meat, cheese, and bread. We all got two drinks - either cava, red or white wine, lager or soft drinks. It is amazing how much work those dancers do, especially the men. Everyone had a great seat. Before the show, we were taken to a flower market and given time to go around on our own. We found a flea market and a fish and farmers market. We could not believe the variety of items available there. If you come here, be aware of the lengthy siesta time in the afternoon. Five guests did the cooking school here and actually got to cook. The cooking tour is the only tour I heard of that was not escorted by Silversea, but the guests just loved the tour.
In Gibraltar, we went on one of the Rock of the Apes tours. This was another huge highlight. We were taken out by a lighthouse where we could see both Africa and Spain while we were standing in the U.K. The rock was an interesting sight, and after we drove up, we were placed in the environment with the apes as they ran free. We had many photo ops . We went inside for the cave tour, and it was very interesting. After the tour, I stayed in town to look around while Todd went back to the ship. There were a variety of British restaurants and pubs and many shops. Some were not open when I arrived due to it being Sunday, and then they opened later. In general, it was a good idea to have US dollars here (I did not), as they were giving the same exchange rate for Euros and USD. Since I was paying in Euros and already had lost on that deal from USD, I took a double hit. I only bought some cough syrup (12 EU) and a couple of magnets. I took a cab back to the ship for 2 Euros, but he would have taken 1 pound or 2 US dollars, also.
In Casablanca, we each did a different tour. Todd did the sightseeing tour. They went inside the mosque on Todd's tour. On ours, we just saw the outside. Both went to the farmer's and fish market. Here I bought some of the Argan oil body lotion. Our guide stayed with us at all times. We went to a cooking school. First we were given some delicious juice that tasted like tangerines. Next, we were seated at a long metal table. The students demonstrated making various cookies and biscuits and beef and chicken dishes. The cookies were served with mint tea during the demo. Later, all the prepared dishes were served buffet style after we completed a hand-washing ritual that was a photo op. at the end, we had more cookies and tea on the rooftop. We had several sightseeing stops and a trip inside of a local store to buy African items. We also had a stop to a local herb place where they sold many herbs, lotions, potions, mixes, etc. for medicinal purposes and spices for cooking. Many were demonstrated. Then they were offered for sale at a one time price. I bought some other local hand crèmes. I'm really enjoying them. Both of our tours went by Rick's Cafe, a tribute to the movie that was actually filmed in Hollywood.
Tangier was canceled due to the ship entering hurricane category 2 waters. We saw land in the distance, but we never entered the harbor and sailed on to Lisbon a day early after several hours of just laying down seasick and a rocky evening.
Our tour in Lisbon included about 1 and a half hours on a river boat around the Tagus river. We were given local ham and cheese sandwiches and pastries, along with orange juice that tasted like Tang. This was a very pleasant way to see the river and get excellent pics of all the monuments and of Silver Spirit. Next, we took a motor coach all around town and got out for a couple of photos and saw a lot of the architecture. This was very relaxing.
The dress code on the ship during the day was resort casual. Since it was generally around 53 degrees F or 12 C much of the time, people had on long sleeved shirts, sometimes sweatshirts or sweaters, and long pants. I saw more people around in their robes than on any other cruise. Some wore them up to the hot tub. I have seen this before, but there was more of that on this cruise since it was cold. Also, people wore robes to the spa since the dressing room setup was not as desirable as on the other ships. Swimsuits are needed in the sauna and steam due to the unisex setup. During the day, I saw more jeans than ever, and with the weather, I wore them a couple of times myself and was happy to be in them!
At night, we had 3 formal nights. It was a holiday cruise, and I think people enjoyed the dressup. We had 3 or 4 casual nights, and the rest were informal. Todd wore long-sleeved shirts on the casual, sometimes with a jacket, sometimes not. On the informal nights, he wore various dress shirts and a jacket and usually a tie. Some wore ties, and others did not. On New Year's Eve, there were a few gowns, but mostly, people dressed like on other Silversea cruises where there are a mix of tuxes and suits for men and a mix of dresses and nice pant outfits for women. Everyone looked nice all the time.
Staff and Other Guests
Around 60% of the staff came from other Silversea ships. We saw many familiar faces. Our cruise director was Fernando, and he brought Alessandra with him. It was great to see them. Crystal was the other international hostess. Fernando was ill for half the cruise, and Alessandra stepped in much of the time and did a wonderful job, as always. We saw wait staff and managers, all sorts of people that remembered us, and that we remembered.
One exception is the production team. They were hired with contracts until August and had rehearsed for about a month and a half in Fort Lauderdale. There were 3 men and 5 women. Included is a ballet couple from the Ukraine.
We did notice a difference in the service level of the new people from the seasoned Silversea staff. It was not from lack of interest or trying. By the end of the cruise, they had taken it up several notches. Even the experienced Silversea staff had some glitches with the new ship, but they were swift to act.
There were 462 guests. There were 159 from the U.S. (including Puerto Rico) and 86 guests from Japan. There were some from Hong Kong and a number of Europeans and people from Canada. There were very few children, and none of them bothered anyone that I know of.
We also were told that around 85% were returning Silversea guests.
At first, I thought they weren't really doing much for the Christmas holiday. They did, actually do some nice things, but there was not a lot of advanced notice.
They had a mass on Christmas Eve. I went to this, though I am not Catholic. The next day in the early evening, there was a non-denominational service, but it was not mentioned the day before. There were a good number of attendees at the mass, including a number of the staff.
There was a holiday show with mainly carols. This involved singing and piano and was held in the show lounge.
On Christmas Eve, they had the galley lunch. On Christmas Day, there was an Italian family dinner in La Terazza and a set menu in The Restaurant, with the choice of entrEe. Seishin and Le Champagne were both open.
On New Year's Day, they opened Seishin at lunch and had a Japanese New Year's party up there. Also on New Year's Day, they had a seafood buffet at lunch at La Terraza.
On both Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, at dinner, there were party favors at all the tables. On New Year's Eve, the lounges all had parties starting at 11 p.m. We booked in for STARS for 9:30. Dinner went until 9:40. Many that reserved did not show up at their correct time, and their tables were held. There were pluses and minuses to that. CEO Ken Watson attended the party at STARS. Alfreda added Motown and even disco to her offerings for the night. The entertainment staff all brought around champagne, and there were party favors - noise makers, hats, streamers, and balloons all over. There was dancing, and even Todd danced a little in spite of having a stomach ache and cough that was going around the ship a bit. After 12:15 when he went to the cabin, I went up to the Panorama lounge to look around. There were just a few people left.
On this sailing, there was not a single sail away party, not even the first sail away. We were given a tote bag and two baseball caps, and we also got a paper certificate each noting our sailing on the maiden voyage. Little mention was made and not a lot of fanfare. Even the in-room sail away champagne was never even put on ice. When we opened it ourselves, they took it away before we even drank it.
Debarkation and Trip Home
We had a nice breakfast in our room and left the ship at 7:30 a.m. since we supposedly had an early flight in Lisbon. We were able to get a cab at the ship. We went in a Mercedes with an English-speaking guide who took us all the way inside the airport with our bags and made sure we were OK. He only wanted 37 Euros.
On the Continental flight, we had video on demand. I watched 3 movies. The flight was full. We were served two meals again. We arrived to Newark two hours late. This caused us supposedly to miss our flight. We had already been confirmed for another flight in Lisbon as they expected us to miss it. We had to recheck our bags, and then we killed a bunch of time in Newark before we finally boarded for the 6:45 flight (we had originally been going to be all the way home by 7:20 Central). The flight was full, and we were set to go. They never shut the door, and all of a sudden, they said there was a security issue and to stand by. Eventually, we were deplaned, as were all planes in the terminal, including our original flight that had been delayed due to mechanical issues. We ended up being rallied down to the baggage claim. We were in Newark 8 hours, but eventually we got out that night and got home at 3:18 a.m. Less
Cabin review: VS606
Cabin 606 is very forward, and light sleepers will hear ship noise as it comes into port. Lovely balcony, but make sure the door is locked or they may slide open in rough waters. Lovely cabin, very comfortable. Limited plug-ins for U.S. and European, bring a power strip. Close to forward elevators.
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