First, the pluses.
Embarkation and disembarkation are incredibly easy, due to the small size of the ship.
The cabins are spacious and the bathrooms are comfortable.
The are very few people in any of the public areas; in fact, the atmosphere on board was remarkably quiet and "still", almost to a fault.
There is lots of alcohol being poured on this ship. it's all-inclusive and the crew is very liberal with it. When the cabin attendant asked us what kinds of spirits we would like, we were shocked when she brought a fifth of each. We were expecting the little mini bottles!
The purser's desk staff were very nice, as was the crew as a whole. In fact, we learned that they are required to memorize every guest's name and are actually tested on this. Considering there were 300 or so passengers, that is no small task.
The brochures are very beautiful and no doubt expensive to produce.
Now, the minuses.
The food on board, which SS refers to as "cuisine" in all their literature, was just not anything special. The breads were not very good and there was not much of a selection of pastries at breakfast. They would only bring pastries around once, unlike on other cruise lines. Also, they weren't very good about coming around with coffee refills and the coffee and soups were often just lukewarm. Broccoli was the most common vegetable, but it was old broccoli that had turned yellow and was starting to go to seed. In general, the food was blandly spiced and there were not many different types of vegetables or salads. I think they are catering to the pre-baby boomer generations, but I think they really need to modernize their menu offerings.
The ship was very small and did not handle the rough seas of the Pacific well. Our cabin was very noisy at night due the constant creaking in the walls and ceiling caused by the rough seas. Sleeping was made difficult. SS to its credit did do some things to the cabin to help with the noise situation.
The ship experience is quite formal and proper, too much so for my taste. Some of the women passengers would stare other women up and down if they felt they were not dressed up to SS standards. The cabin butlers actually wear coats with tails and the women working in the office positions are required to wear skirts, heels and panty hose. The men have to wear jackets or more most nights. I felt I was in some 1950's time warp.
The was almost nothing to do on board except read or gather in the bar and drink with the rest of the passengers. The two stores on board were extremely expensive and honestly about the size of large walk-in closets. I never saw anyone ever buy anything. The ship transfers to local hotels were also grossly overpriced. We paid a taxi $25 to get to our hotel in Papeete. I think SS wanted something close to $200 for a private car to take you to the same hotel.
The maitre'd was very attentive to return passengers but not so nice to the first-timers.
The shore excursions were not well-organized and I thought did not live up to the marketing descriptions,and were over-priced. For example, we did the "luxury catamaran" excursion in Moorea, but there was nothing luxurious about this catamaran. It was just a plain, ordinary catamaran.
The entertainment on board was virtually non-existent. The lecturers on board were mildly interesting but nothing special. One guy actually gave an entire lecture on the history of grog in the Navy. Considering how much drinking was going on, I thought the topic was appropriate. Generally, though, the seas days were very long days for us, due to the lack of virtually anything to do other than read,and you can only read so much in one day. Yes, they have a fitness center. I used it once but it was so small I felt like I was exercising in a closet. On most sea days the weather was to bad to sit around the pool.
There was not much diversity in the passenger demographic. They were overwhelmingly white, wealthy,conservative and in their 70s and 80s. I actually had one man in the dining room pester me over dinner about whether I was a "liberal", even though I told him I have a rule about not talking politics or religion with strangers. I met a few other passengers who struck me as rather full of themselves, and an equal number who were nice. It is just that everything is magnified in such a small ship with virtually nowhere to go. I think Silversea appeals to many people who want an "exclusive" experience. Many passengers referred to other cruise lines disparagingly as "mass market". I think they are willing to pay a steep premium to be sheltered form the "masses". But I didn't find some of them to be that easy to talk to or fun to be with. It was kind of a clubby feeling on board.
In general, I think Silversea puts its money in things like brochures that are easy to write but don't really cost that much, as opposed to more costly things like refurbishing the ship, which is badly needed. Even the balcony furniture was disappointing considering how much we paid for this cruise. I was suspicious when reading the brochures, lots of flowery copy which the reality just does not live up to. Same thing with the menu descriptions. Putting everything in French doesn't make what is essentially average food taste any better. I'm convinced that much of the food, particularly the fish, was not fresh but previously frozen and reheated.
Would I go on Silversea again? No, which is sad to say considering how much we paid. The atmosphere is too stiff and formal for a relaxing vacation, and they don't deliver what I consider good value for the money. I posted similar comments in one of the boards and received a very negative reaction from the Silversea fan club (which could be made up of Silversea employees for all we know, since on the Internet anyone can pretend to be anybody). If you criticize this company, they will criticize you personally or question your motives, so be careful what you say.