Embarkation. I was told very clearly that I could embark on the Silver Wind, in Istanbul, at 3PM, but that I could drop off luggage at 11AM. I asked about this very particularly, and that was the answer. When I arrived at the ship at noon to drop off luggage, I was ushered into the ship and told that “of course” I could embark. That was disconcerting but ok, although I might have changed my plans if I had been told that in advance. The Restaurant was closed, so I went up to the buffet, which was pretty much the way it was later on in the cruise, and had a nice lunch.
Dining. Both in the dining room and in the Terrazza buffet the choices were more limited than on the ships I have sailed in the past. The quality of the food was generally ok, although the special ordered steak was tough and occasionally the food was overcooked. I ordered a pasta appetizer, as did the ladies to my left. When it came, all of to stuck together and one of the ladies said to the other that it was obviously microwaved; I agreed silently. In no way would I consider the food up to the quality of a superior restaurant in a major city. One time, though, bears special (egregious) mention.
My wife was served some fish that was so salty it was inedible. She sent it back and they brought another serving of the same fish; again it was far too salty. The waiter returned to the table, and seeing our distress, he explained that all of that fish was too salty, and that they knew it in the kitchen. I can not understand why they would have served it, knowing that it was bad, and why on earth they would have served a second portion, again knowing that the first had been rejected. It makes no sense; was noone paying attention?
I did find the Italian specialty restaurant to be a clear notch or three better than the main dining room. When they saw us coming, they knew to prepare some extra baked garlic for my wife, and the headwaiter knew our name, greeting us at other places and times on the ship. He was the only one, actually, that did know our name, which surprised me, given Silversea’s reputation for personal service.
Wines. The wines served were all in the retail $12 range. If you wanted a white wine but did not want a chardonnay, they opened a sauvignon blanc or a pinot grigio or even a verdejo; no albarino, I’m afraid. The same went for the reds: if you didn’t want/like the cabernet sauvignon offered, they would open a chianti or a rosso d’somewhere or a shiraz for you, but no pinot noir. I cant speak about the hard liquor, because I have no experience with that. There were several dessert wines, including a muscatel and a Semillon, but no late harvest Riesling.
Entertainment. There were a couple of song and dance shows that I found to be pretty poor except for the two dance instructors’ numbers. What struck me, though, was that there was nothing else. No comedian or special music or anything. The Silversea brochure (p.11) says that there will be lectures provided by “Luminaries from the world of food and wine, famous artists and celebrities, world affairs experts”. The port lecturer did a nice job of discussing travel photography tips, but this was not what I expected, and I was severely disappointed.
Dancing. Note that I am a dancer, so I am very critical here. There were two regular dance floors, one in the Bar, and the other in the Panorama lounge. Both floors were circles, about 11 feet or so in diameter. That was a lot smaller than I expected, suitable only for latin dances or swing; you could not possibly do a fox trot in that space, let alone a quick step. Luckily, my wife and I do mostly Argentine Tango, and the space was adequate, especially since usually we were not joined by anyone else. Some of the Silversea advertising states that they have dance hosts for unattached women; I didn’t see any.
For the last night of the trip, they cleared away two or three tables in the middle of the MDR, and the band from the Bar played dance music. That was pretty good, although the floor was sticky, enough so that when the two dance instructors took a turn on the floor, I saw some looks of surprise as they attempted something and the floor wouldn’t permit it.
There was a problem with the dancing in the Bar. The dancing area is right in the middle of the smoking area. Once again, I don’t understand what they are thinking. I did make out a complaint, when we received that middle of the trip request for comments, but I got a very distant and impersonal reply. I didn’t really expect that they would take my suggestion, but I was astonished by the lack of a personal contact to apologize and explain. It would have taken them a good five minutes.
Our cabin. We booked the least expensive cabins, and it was very very nice. There was a lot of space, a walk-in closet, and it was possible to close off the bed area from the sitting area. There was a very comfortable couch and two very comfortable chairs. Storage was more than adequate; we didn’t use many of the drawers we might have done. The stewardess kept the room very well, and she did know our name. I never quite understood how to use the butler’s services. I did leave shoes out once to be polished; they were returned cleaned but not polished.
The bathroom was a little tight, with only one sink, no bidet, and with a shower design that I dislike personally. The amenities were otherwise fine.
Fitness. The gym had two bicycles (one of them recumbent), two elliptical trainers, and 3 or 4 treadmills, each of which had a separate entertainment module. There were a few machines, mostly oriented toward upper body exercises, although there was one for doing quad extension and hamstring curl. When I met with the fitness person and showed her the exercises that my physical therapist had given me (I had a herniated L4-5 disk in November and was just recently back to dancing), she made a couple of suggestions, but admitted that there was a lot I needed that could not be done with the equipment at hand. I got the feeling that she really did not have the training needed to deal with anything that was not routine. I improvised.
Fellow passengers. What a delightful bunch! Despite all of the negative things I’ve said above, I really did have a good time on this trip, and most of that was because I had the good fortune to meet other people who were a pleasure. Post Cruise. We disembarked in Venice on April 16, just after the Iceland Volcano blew. Our flight home on Sunday the 18th was cancelled. We spent many hours emailing and phoning the port agent, our travel agent back home, and our kids. At one point, we were considering taking a train to Genoa, a ferry to Barcelona, and a high-speed train to Lisbon, where air travel still existed. However, since we had booked the flight with Silversea, they transferred us at their expense to the Monaco hotel (one of the premier hotels of the city) on the 20th and 21st, until air travel resumed. They also obtained seats for us on the nonstop from Venice to JFK. They also provided water taxi transport from the hotel to Marco Polo airport! They told us that they would have put us up on the 18th and 19th also, but they couldn’t find us.
Conclusion. I’ve written more than I thought I had to say. I think it’s obvious that in many ways Silversea fell short of my expectations. I wont be sailing with them again. But maybe someone from the organization will read this and start some shape-up activity, and others will benefit. I hope so.