This review describes my cruise on the Silver Cloud in November 2010 from Barbados to Los Angeles, via the Panama Canal.
Travel To Port of Embarkation:
After disembarking the Silver Spirit and spending 4 days touring Barbados, on cruise day, I got a taxi to the port and was the first person to check in. It was so nice and relaxed - much better than when I disembarked the Spirit, which was chaotic. Silver Cloud was the only ship in port and my bag was spirited away as soon as I got out of the taxi. I was driven to the ship in a shuttle, photo taken and told my suite wouldn't be available until 230pm but I could have lunch and relax until that time. The whole embarkation procedure had taken less than 30 minutes...an awesome start to the last part of my holiday!
I had been totally spoilt by travelling on the Silver Spirit with it being a larger and new ship. I immediately noticed the Cloud being run down. I'm not complaining, it was just very noticeable to me. I found the ship to be incredibly noisy, with lots of vibration. I did not like the Bar, it stank of stale smoke and the noise from the engines got on my nerves. I loved the Panorama Lounge and spent most of my time there.
My suite was 445 on Deck 4, nice and close to the Restaurant. When I first went to my room, I discovered a few of the big carpet dryers along the hallway - this didn't look promising.
So here I was back in a Vista suite, down in the dungeon. They really are lovely but the bathroom, after being on the Silver Spirit, was a real let down. The shower was in the bath and quite small in comparison. Ok, I know, the Cloud is a much smaller ship but I didn't like this bathroom. I seemed to be dyslexic when it came to the shower. I either scalded myself with hot water or took cold showers. During the 17 days, I could never get it right. Even when I changed suites, I couldn't get it right (more about that later).
I had no idea that the ships have the same menus so I was able to partake in a number of meals that I'd eaten and enjoyed previously on the Silver Spirit. Generally speaking, I enjoyed the food although I did have some dud meals. One was pigeon - never again, it was dreadful but that was no one's fault but mine for ordering it.
LT was not up to expectations. If you have read my review on the Spirit, I described my best ever pasta dish. This dish was on the menu also but the night that I dined there, it wasn't on, so I requested it. This didn't seem to be a problem but became one. My friends got their main courses and mine had been forgotten. When it finally arrived, it wasn't nice, the sauce was too runny and they hadn't used the same cheese that they'd used on the Silver Spirit. I was disappointed. I had dinner at LT 3 times during the trip and pretty much found it disappointing each time. Very unlike Silversea!
However the lunch buffet was always very nice even if it did get a little busy. The quiches (a different flavour every day) were to die for.
I also dined several times under the stars on the pool deck. The menu is similar to the Hot Rocks Cafe on the Spirit but there weren't any hot rocks on the Cloud. One night when we were bunkering outside of Panama, there was a smoker who blew smoke all over us between each course. It wasn't very pleasant and it was also very dangerous but nothing was done about it. Another night, it was so cold that the waiters got us rugs. A very nice touch.
Room service was a bit iffy. One night, I ordered some guacamole & chips. What I got was a bit of guacamole on top of a crab salad. Obviously this was a leftover so they just sent it on to me.
One of my favourite room service meals is the TexMex turkey burger which I have eaten on the Whisper and Spirit so I ordered it from Room Service. Yuck, instead of the yummy turkey mince, it turned up with a Macca's style patty!! Why on earth would a luxury cruise line have a hamburger patty? And they were also putting plastic style cheese on the hamburgers - yuck! (sorry Jean)
The service was excellent. My butler and room attendant (Ray and Lakmal) were great. Even after I moved suites, they wanted to come up from Deck 4 to look after me. That wasn't allowed so I got Yogish and Larry who were also very good. I was served by the best bar attendants ever: Monteza, Elbert and Arthur. When I walked into the Panorama Lounge, Monteza would start making my morning coffee. In the evening, she, Elbert or Arthur had my Bellini waiting for me. We even came up with a new version of the Bellini and called it "the Jennifer". Martin in La Terraza always looked after me at lunch time and Myra at the Pool Bar mixed a mean Mudslide. They are all fantastic employees.
I really did far too much eating and drinking but when I wasn't doing that, trivia was my favourite activity (as usual). I had a good crowd of people but not as smart as my Silver Spirit buddies. Most of the time we were either second or third. I played Bingo again but it was a bit of a dead loss for the first week because they had lost a few of the balls. Later I went back when I discovered they had found the full set. No point playing if you can't win!
The personal shopper, Catherine, presented some good seminars on watches, jewellery and precious stones. She was on hand to assist passengers who wanted to make large purchases and could advise what shops gave the best deals. When we diverted to San Diego, Catherine found a shopping centre for us and photocopied the floor plan. She was very professional and that shopping centre was amazing!
Other seminars included history of perfume, how to tie a scarf and the various fitness seminars which are just hard sells for the various fitness extras that are available on the ship.
Port & Shore Excursions:
It was raining on and off in Aruba so I just walked around the port and visited the shopping centre. We were only there for ½ a day so couldn't really do too much.
We had a lovely SS evening in Cartagena with folk dancing and this was followed by authentic Colombian finger food and drinks. Many of the passengers whinged and complained that they didn't like the dancing and that it was too long. I thought it was very nice. After sailing into Cartagena, I would have liked more than a few hours there. Sailing up the river and into the harbour was spectacular.
We spent the entire day at San Blas Islands. Why does SS stop there for the whole day? There's nothing to do but feel sorry for all the poor people there and donate to their charity. Many people were complaining about this stop and I had to agree, especially when we only had half a day in Cartagena and half a day in Cabo San Lucas.
Transiting the Panama Canal was by far the highlight of the trip. It was incredibly interesting and a phenomenal engineering feat.
In Puntarenas, I went zip lining. This was such great fun, zipping through the rainforest on the 2 cables. There were 8 lines and one of them was 550metres long. Can't wait to zip line again.
Big disappointment in Puerto Quertzl, Guatemala. 14 of us had booked the private plane to take us to Tikal (the Mayan pyramids). We arrived at the military airstrip and waited and waited and waited. Later we discovered that because the farmers were burning off their sugar cane, the plane could not take off/land because of all the smoke. SS immediately advised that they would refund our cost and give us another tour for free. So we all got back in the bus and off we went to La Antigua, the world heritage site. Unfortunately our bus broke down (this happens to me a lot!) and we had to wait quite awhile to get another van to pick us up. Anyway we finally got to La Antigua, saw the sights and had a very nice lunch. Incredibly disappointing to not see those pyramids but there was nothing we could do about it and the SS tour desk did their best for us.
We spent too long in Acapulco, all day & night, and as I'd already been there many years ago, felt no great urge to see if it had changed. We also had the pool BBQ that night. Whilst it was very nice, it started off being a total kerfuffle because no one knew where to start on the buffet queue and there ended up being two lines that crossed over in the middle. It was quite chaotic. Later in the night, there was a fantastic cultural dance show and that was quite the highlight of Acapulco for me.
I went to Walmart in Puerto Vallarta - I was looking for Mexican Walmartians - unfortunately I didn't see any.
In Cabo San Lucas, we arrived just after lunch and had a long wait for the tender to take us in to go on our excursion. No one seemed to know what was going on and many passengers that were not going on excursions were allowed to take the tender first. Anyway we got there and then transferred to another boat to see the Hole in the Rock and the lovely scenery around it. Then we went to a restaurant on a hill overlooking Cabo - great view. After that, we went to a glass blowing factory - waste of time and I don't think anyone bought anything. Then we drove a long distance to San Jose del Cabo where we went to a lovely cactus garden, walked around the town and then had to high tail it back to the ship. We were the last tour back to the ship and as the tender approached, we could see the anchor going up. It was a shame that we had to rush through the remainder of the tour.
Ensenada was cancelled and we re-routed to San Diego. This was fantastic because I was able to go to a shopping centre that had every US department store under the same roof. I had a great time but my credit card didn't.
I went to a couple of shows, one where the CD, Judie Abbott (who is superb at her job) sang and another show where a French-Canadian named Claude-Eric Brunelle, sang. His style was a bit like Michael Buble. I had dinner with him the previous night and he was a very charming guy.
As I mentioned above, when I embarked, there were a lot of carpet dryers on Deck 4. Everything was ok for the first 7 days, then when we left Puntarenas, a noise developed outside the window of my cabin. It was one of those noises that drives one crazy - like a can banging on the side of the ship, non-stop. As well as this, water started seeping out of the carpet in front of my bed. I reported this to Reception and many people came to "look" at the problem. The next afternoon I went back to Reception and asked what was happening. No one could tell me what the noise was so I was told that I would be moved to another suite, "once we've dried the carpet". Oh dear, I thought I'd be swimming to Los Angeles. Anyway, they moved me to a balcony suite and everything was good. There was no flooding again in this suite. On the second last day of the cruise, a pipe broke in a suite a few doors down from me and there was water everywhere. Despite the fact that so many people came to look at my problem, Reception resolved it quickly.
We had a leisurely breakfast and were ready to disembark after the US port authorities had cleared us. I took the bus back to the airport. All good.
There were a few little niggly things but what I remember most about this cruise is having the worst lot of whingeing passengers I have ever come across. This cruise was heavily discounted and marketed to the British Isles and whilst I met some great people, particularly the Cruise Critic people, there were some that didn't stop complaining about the food, the wine, the service, the Chef, the berries, the fish. OMG, the whingeing never stopped. Many of these passengers were first time SS cruisers and a lot were constantly comparing the Silver Cloud to the large Celebrity ships! Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed my cruise on the Silver Cloud.