The long wait was over, we are in a car heading for the port of San Pedro to join Silversea's, "Silver Shadow" for a 26 day cruise to French Polynesia and Hawaii. The anticipation and long thread on CC attested to the many questions we and other floaters had about this "all inclusive" luxury voyage. The embarkation time on our documents showed 3PM but it was Super Bowl Sunday! Would they let us board early so I could enjoy the game? We arrived at 1:30PM, our luggage was taken as soon as the trunk was opened and as the walk to the security and check-in area was rather long, a wheel chair was offered and gratefully accepted, as the male member of this pair does have a mobility problem. Slam, bam thank you mam and we were deposited on the gangway to be greeted by a smiling CD, Susan Wood who, in a beautiful North of England accent welcomed us aboard. I immediately recognized the accent as being from Newcastle on Tyne, the home town that I had departed 60 years previously. What a great way to commence this journey. We were escorted to our suite; a mid-ship veranda on deck 8, by a charming young lady who, with a wide smile, took our carry-on's and led the way. Her smile was to be seen on the faces of all the crew for the entire Silversea experience. We were directed to the Terrace restaurant where we were greeted by the head waiter who led us to our table and the sumptuous buffet, which again, the quality of which was to be equaled every day of the voyage. The quality and range of the offerings was the equal of what we have experienced on other luxury cruise lines. There was always a waiter to carry your plate from the buffet back to your table. (An excellent service as, carrying your plate as the vessel bounced over large swells during the cruise was a great challenge even to the most agile.) By the time lunch was completed we returned to our suite where our luggage had been deposited. Our butler, Kumar, a native of Madras, India, introduced himself and assisted us in unpacking , hanging our clothes,supplying the pants hangers that were not in the closet and stowing our suitcases under the bed. Our suite was just as advertised and described in many CC reviews. The Super Bowl was broadcast on the ample flat panel TV, interrupted by us setting up our living space. We found the bed and its furnishings very comfortable. The refrigerator was stocked as ordered, the live white orchid lasted throughout the cruise! An internet connection was quickly established and the quality and speed were very satisfactory - we Used Skype throughout the voyage with great results.
Our first impression of the ship was that it was in good condition but the furnishings, carpets etc., were in need of replacement. The passengers were in the majority, mature and, as we later found out, from many parts of the world. They were just as described in SS brochures, "well traveled and sophisticated."
Our first dinner aboard was with a couple who we met by accident some time before the cruise. The meal was excellent but we observed that the menu was not as extensive as we had been accustomed to on the other lines upon which we had sailed. It was not until a few days later that we learned that, providing it was ordered from the HW or MD, with 24 hours notice, the kitchen could deliver almost any item desired, eg, Dover Sole, Escargot, rib steak etc. We ate on most nights in the MDR with fellow passengers we had met and invited to dine with us. Our dining companions on many nights were the guest lecturers who provided us with many hours of enjoyment and great conversation,we also ate with some CC members we had met on the thread. Service was very good on the majority of nights with the dining room staff very cognoscente of each diner's preferences. Unfortunately our dinner companions of the first night received tragic family news the first night out and in their case, they were most impressed with the services delivered to them by a compassionate SS crew. They had to fly back to Los Angeles from a very remote island in the Marquesas, all the arrangements were made for them by the shore excursions team. In our estimations this was a giant plus for the SS team. Coincidentally, some friends of long standing were aboard and we enjoyed several dinners with them. It's a small cruising world!!!
Other dining venues are the Terazza, with an Italian menu and ambiance, the Champagne restaurant with an eclectic menu with wine degustation and the delicious bar-b-que on deck. We ate at the Terazza 3 or 4 times and really enjoyed the finely prepared dishes and the pampered service. We had several reservations at the pool deck bar-b-que but, due to inclement weather were able to keep but one. Dining under the stars of Honolulu on some of the finest and well prepared food on the 7 Seas was a special treat. Overall we enjoyed the taste, preparation and presentation of the food aboard SS. Very comparable to previous experiences on similar lines. The quality of service was exceptional with smiling and seemingly very happy and satisfied crew members. We were told that the turnover of staff on SS was only 5% that is remarkable. Kudos to SS for providing for their Jewish passengers each Sabbath, a venue and tradition Challah and wine for their celebration.
The itinerary was, as previously mentioned, to French Polynesia and Hawaii. We had visited most of the ports previously, with the exception of the Marquesas islands, the most remote islands on the globe, We had looked forward to a tour on Nuku Hiva but canceled when we saw slides at the shore excursion presentation of people sitting on the flat beds of pickup trucks. Actually the tours were in double cab trucks that we could have handled. At the second stop in the Marquesas we really enjoyed a visit to the Gaugin Center. This visit was made possible using the shuttle transportation laid on by SS; a service not usually provided by the majority of lines. For visits to the other islands in French Polynesia, Raritonga, Moorea, Tahiti and Bora Bora we had arranged via the internet for tours by private cars and SUV's. All these operators showed up in a timely manner and we thoroughly enjoyed our day's out at a much lesser cost than if the same tours had been booked through the cruise line. The actual cruise we made was a btb of two voyages from LA to Papeete and return from there to LA. On the homebound course we stopped at Christmas Island in Kiribati. In our opinion a "nothing island" which could have easily been bypassed en route to the Hawaiian Islands and another stop there would have enhanced the itinerary. Our visit to Lahaina, Maui, HI was a great introduction to our 50th state to the many European passengers who looked forward to its balmy breezes and spectacular sightseeing opportunities. They were unanimous in their great desire to visit Honolulu and especially to see Pearl Harbor. Unfortunately, as we approached the city the tsunami warning issued for the Pacific Ocean region that day was called and we had to put off from the island together with many ships that were tied up in the port and had to leave in anticipation of the approaching wave. Fortunately the alert was a non-event and at 3:30PM the Shadow, at full speed, headed for the harbor. Alas, the security force at Honolulu had, because of the alert, not been working that day. The result, despite a verbal confrontation with officials at dockside by the captain and other SS officers, there was to be no one allowed ashore that day. Of course there was a very disappointed group of SS floaters on the Shadow that day despite the fact that, "they had survived the Tsunami !!"
During the course of the cruise we suffered very inclement weather on the ocean between ports of call. Heavy seas and strong winds, as strong as75KMPH, rocked and rolled the vessel which in our opinion, did not handle the seas as well as similarly sized ships on which we have crossed the world's oceans. We only docked twice during our long, 8,800NM voyage, tendering in the other ports. A word of praise is called for for the crewmen who assisted in boarding the tenders, often in high seas, Bravo!!
All passengers seemed to enjoy the "all inclusive" tariff for all bar drinks, wines, sodas, bottled waters and tips as opposed to the "nickel and dime" policy of most lines. Bar waiters were continually offering refreshments at all locations which leads us to believe that the SS policy was to give its passengers real value for money. The entertainment offered was well mixed and talented. The several changes of entertainers made during the cruise was well appreciated. Together with the permanent group of dancers and singers each evening was a different entertainment experience. We were enraptured by the Silver Shadow quartet who, under the direction of their drummer Marion, entertained each evening with great dance tempo in the beautiful Panorama lounge. A few intrepid couples did actually manage to keep their balance and dance even as the ship bucked its way through the swells. The enhancement speakers, notably Robert Macomber, an accomplished author of nautical novels on the outward leg and Rick Senat, a British movie executive with a great knowledge of the history of Warner Brothers kept their audiences enraptured with their offerings. Bravo to SS for providing us such interesting speakers. Kudos to SS for bringing on board local folk shows of exceptional quality and fantastic deck parties to please our palates and entertain us. There was a singer in the Bar but unfortunately we were unable to enjoy her apparently much appreciated performances. Why? Well, our major propblem on board was the smoke fumes which filled the Bar and the corridors on a couple of the decks. We had to close our veranda door a couple of times because of fumes from forward cabins. In our opinion, if smoke fumes mar your enjoyment of cruising then SS is not for you. Having sailed on ships with a "non-smoking in cabins or public spaces" policy and with limited smoking areas, we wonder why SS cannot get with 21st century health guidelines. For this reason alone we have to give only 4* to this line earned for outstanding cuisine, entertainment and service. Limited smoking score would be 5+.