Silver Wind is a small ship whose Tardis like properties make it feel far from small. The cabins are spacious if not cavernous, and it misses few of the traditional cruise ship facilities despite its meagre 17,400 tons. It doesn’t provide the stylish drop-down stern and marina of some boutique competitors, nor romantic double chaise longue – if you are so inclined, however as the majority of passengers were retired if not exactly octogenarians these facilities might be interpreted as somewhat superfluous if not dangerous! The ship aspires to traditional excellence in a relaxed / Italian (via Miami) style – with a ‘Country Club’ atmosphere. The open-sitting dining is conducive to meeting new friends and I have never been with friendlier, nor more generally open passengers. Similarly the crew were largely dedicated and highly attentive, if a little too numerous at times. Unfortunately there were occasions, for example at embarkation, when it was necessary to ask for help and supervision might be a weakness. There were other times when I felt the ship was over-staffed and the crew were looking for things to do – most noticeably breakfast in the main dining room as when I visited the number of other passengers fluctuated between eight and none! There was, however, an overly motivated and very thorough future sales co-ordinator!
The product is good if not perfect and there are clear areas of weakness. However, whilst I have cruised many times I have still yet to sail on a perfect ship. This ship similarly fails to achieve perfection and I agree with the 2009 Berlitz rating of 4 Star Plus – and indeed with most of the narrative. One disembarking passenger much experienced of cruising remarked whilst they awaited their airport transfer that their cruise had been good, very good, but they were not certain it had been good enough to justify a return visit.
The line seems to be conscious of what its competitors provide and are keen to provide similar, even if it is not always appropriate to the ship. All cabins have Butlers, and whilst they were all charming and delightful I am not sure what their duties involved, except perhaps serving in-cabin breakfasts, cleaning the exterior of suitcases prior to passengers re-packing them, and greeting passengers by name as they walk to their cabins. They do not pack and un-pack for passengers – a fact that I found reassuring. It is, however, the crew’s determination to greet passengers by name and to know things about them that I found unnerving at times and somewhat reminiscent of Big Brother. As I surfaced from my cabin the first morning disorientated from a long flight I was greeted by name by a member of the crew that I had not previously met – who wished me an ‘Excellent morning’ and enquired if my Mother (who had a cabin elsewhere on the ship and I am sure they had not previously met either – or any reason to know we were travelling together) was comfortably settled. It seems the crew are issued with pictures and possibly even short biographies of passengers and required to learn them. I find this form of forced familiarity unwelcome and intrusive.
The sip was built in 1995 and last re-furbished in 2008. It is generally in very good condition with a good level of ongoing maintenance. For example and marks left of the hull from mooring are quickly painted over. It is difficult to find fault with the maintenance except perhaps for the caulking. I question why the slightly older Silver Cloud has still not been similarly refurbished and wonder whether this indicative of a limited future. There is an excellent amount of space per passenger even during this full cruise and with the exception of one tea-time, no hint of a queue or over-crowding anywhere. Indeed in the evening it can be difficult to find co-passengers in some parts of the ship.
The shore excursions I took were well thought out and reasonably priced and a real strength. However, I don’t know if this is representative of the line’s other excursions, or merely the nor, for the geographic area. Prior to the cruise I was frightened by pre-cruise literature that included the option to take some remarkable, if extremely highly priced excursions. I assumed all excursions would be in this price league and was relieved by the reality. The excursion office were also extremely helpful with alternative arrangements that we could make for ourselves and their service was supplemented by visiting local tourist representatives – a delightfully useful service for those who like to go off and explore on their own.
The food is OK if not exactly sparkling. Breakfast was excellent wherever taken, lunch was good, except for the pool-side service and dinner even less so – especially the deserts. The ingredient spend was quite good, although gallons of good caviar was certainly not flowing (unless you paid for it) and it seemed to lack a certain sparkle. I enjoyed the informal lunch in La Terrazza, where a traditional buffet was supplemented with pasta cooked to order and even pizzas cooked to order. Dinner wasn’t bad and indeed I preferred dinner in the alternative zero cost La Terrazza to the main dining room. In the latter I felt the food lacked sparkle and the crockery a strange choice, especially the coffee cups which were a long way removed from demitasse and more serviceable for sturdy on-deck service. There was, however, a good mix of choices with an additional range of staples and very reasonable accompanying wines (or whatever else you might want to drink) gratis and a good wine list if you wanted connoisseur wines. There was similarly a connoisseur restaurant, but I failed to try this. The ship was certainly very generous with free alcohol, but the novelty of it for me had faded by the end of the cruise.
I was surprised to see how large the delightful tiered show-room was. It was used for talks, films and unfortunately the inevitable dance shows. I have never really enjoyed the shows of most ships, but the dancers here really hit a new low. They were lovely people who at times assisted as hosts and were lovely to talk to, but for me dancing and entertaining was not their skill – nor do I think this type of show appropriate to the ambience of the ship. Personally I would have preferred more intelligent entertainment or Western band / Jazz pianist. There were some good musicians on the ship, but they were not Western and were perhaps thus handicapped in their rappour. For children there was little entertainment except a reasonable video library and whilst the line indicated it would try to accommodate children I question what they can achieve – and whether this enthusiasm for children would be shared by the other passengers.
There is a choice of local television channels, international news channels, ship sourced enrichment shows and ship shown films. I generally found everything that was ship sourced to be of little interest and was grateful for the international news and in-cabin DVD player – although I did seem to have seen most of the DVDs in the library.
The ship was very comfortable and followed a seemingly well planned itinerary. It is, however, not cheap – especially at peak times – and the jury is still out as to whether I will return. The crew (largely Philippino and Indian) try hard to provide a good service, but there is a cultural gap and I suggest the ship should work harder at projecting its own image, rather than what seemed to be forever looking over their shoulder at what their competitors delivered and replicating it.