We recently returned from 16 fabulous nights on the Silver Cloud - voyage 1111, which took us through the Panama Canal. It was our second time through the Canal, and as with many years before, the experience was extra-ordinary - although the last time did not come with cool towels and mimosas!
We arrived in San Diego the night before departure, and spent a lovely overnight at the US Grant - one of those not-to-be-missed grand old hotels. The $$$$ to experience one of their suites is definitely worth the cost, and the overall ambiance was the perfect entree to another Silversea voyage!
The morning of departure we had a bit of a shock - no ship was docked where the Cloud was advertised to be! Turns out, heavy seas had slowed their progress, but by 10:30AM she had arrived, and we breathed a sigh of relief! Embarkation at 2:30PM was painless, with champagne firmly in hand within 10 minutes of arrival at the port. Even with the Cloud's late arrival, suites were available almost immediately, and our baggage (which we shipped ahead with Luggage Forward - a great, great shipping service!) was waiting for us. We were unpacked and situated before muster at 4PM.
The 16 days flew past! From the spectacular sunset sail out of San Diego until the too-soon disembark at Fort Lauderdale, the staff literally pampered us to death! Yes, the Cloud will benefit from the planned dry-dock in 2012 - she is showing some wear, but the ship was immaculately clean, and the level of constant cleaning/maintenance/attention to detail was amazing. I am sure this is a result of the oversight of Gianni Dotti, the hotel director. He was everywhere, all the time, checking, looking and interacting with passengers. Quite often we saw him having both lunch and dinner with a group of 10+ passengers (we were lucky attendees one evening!) - something we have never seen from a hotel director, and which obviously allows him to be at the forefront of what passengers are experiencing.
SUITE: Our suite was fantastic, and pre-requested beverages were already in place when we arrived. Our butler was amazing - he very quickly learned our preferences, and acted upon them most times without us ever asking. For instance, he often delivered a bottle of Conundrum, a shrimp martini, and a order of spring rolls about 6PM each evening. Shoes were shined, toiletries updated when needed, and breakfast arrived on time - and HOT - each and every day. We forgot our power strip (YES - you have to have one on the Cloud - absolutely no outlets!), and we sorely missed it! It was waiting patiently on the end of our bed when we returned home. And the washroom is small, small, small - that is one thing I wish they could update in dry dock, and the one thing I am sure they logistically can't accomplish!
CREW: Superb crew! Most knew our names within the first day, and quite often had our preferences down within that time frame, as well. Of all the Silversea ships we have been on, the Cloud blows everyone else away in terms of service! Captain Pontillo was gracious, how could you NOT love Judie Abbott the CD, Jeorge the Restaurant Manager was professional, personable - and he never once frowned on us for not joining him on his run at every port (LOL), Gianni was on top of all issues, and we truly did not meet even one staff member who was 'having a bad day' - how DO they do this????
SHORE EXCURIONS: Here is one area we really were disappointed with. The shore excursion in Cabo (tequila/ceviche) was a disaster, and although Silversea refunded us half of the cost, it was simply not up to their standards and we felt should have been fully refunded. Other excursions were just okay - and frankly, we also felt this way with the excursions on the Spirit last year. Just okay - nothing spectacular - which is too bad - you can tell we are Silversea fans! Silversea needs to bring their excursions to the level of service they provide, in our opinion!
ENRICHMENT: Wow - we loved Corey Sandler and his informative lectures - a perfect blend of learning and laughing. Another highlight of the trip was David Bilsland, who is a culinary trainer with Silversea. We were fortunate enough to sign up in time to go shopping with him in Zihuatanejo, participate in lunch and learn, complete the knife skills class, and more! Silversea really needs to provide more information on their enrichment programs, especially on their website - the offerings were spectacular and added that extra special element to our holiday! David is not only a wonderful chef, but his delivery is excellent, he is hilarious, and with the exception of his singing ability...lol...well, all is well...
SHOWS: Honestly, we only saw one-half of a production - Lands - and it was very well done. We tended to end the evening in the Panorama Lounge listening to Mario sing....wonderful!
FOOD: We realize that food choices are highly subjective! We ate at Le Champagne 3 times, and it was superb - partly due to Fred - the maitre d. La Terrazza 3 times - amazing! The Restaurant....actually very good. We do admit to sending some items back, but again this is where the crew came through - they perfected putting extra touches on our holiday (Martin, one of the waiters, brought me chili sauce no matter where I was sitting), our 'standing' orders were carried through without our request, and my DH moans every day that he cannot have the hot dog from the pool grill along with his Navy Grog!
The voyage was very well sold - only 30 or so persons down. It was a great mix - a large contingent of Swiss, a healthy scattering of Australians, some Brits, some US....we met wonderful people!
In closing - what a great holiday! Several months ago I did start a roll-call for CC'ers, and only one person responded. During the course of the cruise, I never did discover the one CC'er who said they were sailing with us. The last night of the cruise, we were leaving the Restaurant quite late - as was one other couple whom we had thoroughly enjoyed talking with many times during the voyage. She said, "I'm still looking for WinWin..." - LOL - CC'ers - unite!