My parents did this trip along with me and my partner. We booked the 5-day Wonders of China pre-cruise tour via Silversea, so we flew to Beijing and spent 3 days there then a day in Xian and then on to Hong Kong, where we sailed round-trip. The pre-tour was amazing. Silversea put us up in good hotels and the guides hired cared for us well.
Embarkation: We transferred from the Intercontinental Hotel in Hong Kong to the ship, where we boarded, registered, and were eating lunch on the pool deck, all in about 12 minutes. In this regard, very much like what we have encountered on Regent.
Suite: We opted for the Vista Suite, and it was lovely. It felt very similar to the balcony suites on Regent (esp. Navigator) minus the balcony. We often are up on deck, so we didn't miss the balcony at all. Beds were extraordinarily comfortable, and the linens were great. Suite attendant and butler were wonderful and provided excellent service.
Public Rooms: We liked the Shadow quite a bit, and at times it seemed we were on Regent's Navigator because they are very similar in size. We did miss the Coffee Connection area that Regent's Mariner has. But there were the usual lounges, bars, computer room, library, etc. The carpets are worn, but the ship is going into dry dock in the Spring of 2011 and these will be swapped out. Overall, the ship remains elegant.
Service: This is where Silversea actually trumped Regent. Service on Regent is never awful, but in 2 cruises we have done it hasn't been great either. On the Shadow, people all over the ship called us by name by the first evening. They remembered the drinks we liked, where we like to sit, etc. I never once saw a scowl on unhappy face on the crew members. The service was simply extraordinary. I don't think I have ever had service like this on any cruise I have taken.
Food: Of course, very subjective, but meals were quite good. We wish they had more dining venues/options, but the size of the ship limits that. The main dining room was great. We did Dinner Under the Stars one night and it was good. We also tried out La Terrazza, the Italian restaurant one night and it was good. Service, again, was remarkable.
Smoking: I know a lot of people who sail Regent who refuse to try Silversea because of the smoking. Well, I smoke, and I never smoke in my cabin. And I have to say Regent actually had more places to smoke on their ships. Ironic. The smokers congregated in the set places, but this didn't seem to be a bother to the nonsmokers. In fact, I have gotten more awful looks from nonsmokers on Regent. So, I would say if the smoking this scares you away from Silversea, you are missing out.
Excursions: We did the Acrobat Show and Dinner in Shanghai. The other ports we did on our own. The acrobat show was quite good. The dinner, not so good. Alas. But we certainly weren't hungry.
General: We loved this cruise because we got to see Beijing, Xian, Hong Kong (all prior to sailing) and Okinawa, Shanghai, and Keelung and Kaioshung in Taiwan. We found the passengers to be a bit more standoffish on Silversea in comparison to Regent, but it didn't bother us. I had quite a number of passengers who, even after 4 days on board, believe me to be a member of the crew (thanks to my age and my dark skin). One woman actually demanded I get her a new napkin! I politely told her to ask someone who worked on the ship!! Another passenger asked me how at my age I could afford such a trip. I was somewhat stunned. I have sailed Regent twice and never had such things happen to me. That said, the fellow passengers did not ruin my trip.
I will definitely sail Silversea again. I do think my favorite ship is Regent's Seven Seas Mariner. It is just enough bigger to offer more public spaces. And it has real Bingo for money and not just for stupid points!