We first sailed Silver Cloud in 1994, six months after she was commissioned. This was our first time back, and, regrettably, will likely be the last.
Silversea continues to have an excellent product in many ways- the ship sizes and layouts are terrific, the service is generally very good. However, over time the quality has declined, and the amenities pale compared to the competition.
Comparing apples to apples- in 1994, 'all inclusive' meant air, an included night's 5 star hotel, insurance, a "Silversea Experience", shoreside transport in every port. There was also real Sevruga (not lumpfish) caviar on request anytime, and on the menu on formal nights. None of those perks exist today, yet the per diem is around $800 ppdo, as opposed to $450 then. Yes- prices go up, but the luxury inclusions should not drop out.
The ship has aged well, though the 2009 renovations promised in the brochure have not materialized. In fact, what used to be the observation More
lounge became the fitness center, commanding what is unarguably the nicest viewing space aboard. Clearly, the Silver Wind upgrades have not been mirrored aboard the Cloud. Despite that, the soft furnishings were in good shape, and the stateroom we were in had been partially remodeled. Mattress, linens, sofa and chairs all new. TV and cabinetry old. The bathroom not as grand as it appeared 15 years ago, and does not compare with the Silver Shadow at all.
The cuisine was uneven and generally uninspired, but creditable. The new theme to the Trattoria simply is a dumbing down of what used to be memorable international items. The Restaurant lacked culinary excitement, though we did not have any 'bad' evenings, as other posters have experienced. However, I did have a steak which was thin, overdone, and had been thawed in the microwave.
The wines were ok, not memorable- and we were told to take advantage of the Pommery, as it was being phased out. I was particularly disappointed by the dearth of fresh fish, though we were in Scotland. (this was not new-in Bar Harbor in 1994, we were anchored literally in the middle of lobster pots, but were served frozen lobster from South Africa that night...)
The onboard entertainment was actually pathetic. Gone are the harpists and string quartets, and even the quirky puppeteer, instead, bad, genuinely bad dancers and an underutilized male lead belting out 'Mama Mia' tunes and the like. The Beatles theme was fun-sort of, but only because they gave away paraphernalia and did interviews. The Faux Beatles show was painful, but got some people singing along and dancing. Not us...
The Robert the Bruce descendant was a huge breath of fresh air- with lectures about Scottish history and port orientations. A whisky event really was a promotional piece for Johnny Walker, replete with commercial videos, but the tasting was good, and he left a bottle of JW Blue that we polished off quite happily. (BTW- one could purchase same onboard for $180 USD, much less than any duty free store ashore)
My biggest complaint was about the itinerary. We stopped in Leith (Edinburgh) during the Festival, but arrived at midnight and left the following late evening, then spent 30 hours traveling 190 nautical miles (10 hours steaming) to our next port of Invergordon. We could easily have stayed until a tide change the following day, (I checked with the port authority) allowing more time to enjoy the myriad events in Edinburgh. The captain essentially said that head office was calling the shots. Similarly, we went back and forth near the Isle of White and over toward France for an extra day at sea, rather than hit another port. I had made arrangements for a rental car in Cork, and was completely misled by Silversea as to where we would dock- the result was an expensive taxi ride through rush hour to get to where we were to pick up the car. No acknowledgement, and certainly no apology for the misrepresentation.
The clientele is more demanding, less quietly sophisticated- read, more yuppies. That, balanced by quite a few Brits., understandable given the itinerary. The latter felt oddly out of place, possibly because the crew just did not understand tea service, British style. The servers became so confused, they automatically added milk to all teas, including herb teas, plus lemon, which of course curdled everything.
There were notables aboard, and I found our dinner companions to be generally well travelled and read, genuinely interested in the area, and fairly happy overall with the new Silversea. I think that is because most had not experienced what Silversea used to be.
I hope that with the new Spirit, and competition from the new Seabourn ships, Silversea will smarten up. But I am not holding my breath. I will go back to Crystal and Sea Dream, and maybe try Hapag Lloyd, before I venture aboard Silver Cloud again. Less