We were first time cruisers and aiming to celebrate my 60th Birthday and being together with my Partner for 25 years. We chose a Black Sea Cruise as we were looking to visit some new destinations. We wanted to do this in some style.
We cruised on the Silver Wind. Expectations were high and we were not disappointed.
We are a gay couple and I think we were the only gay couple on board which suited us very well. The travellers, as well as the crew, were from a wide range of nationalities. The ship takes around 270 passengers. Of these around 90 were from the US, 50 from the UK and 30 from Australia so a high proportion of English speaking guests. Part of the enjoyment was in meeting a variety of well travelled and cultured people.
The ship is truly luxurious. Everything, apart from the excursions and premium drinks were included so the hospitality was both lavish and refined. The crew really went the extra mile and many made the effort to remember our names. I have worked for many years in and around the hospitality industry. Few establishments measure up to the consistently high standard of service we encountered on the Silver Wind.
The ship is not glitzy but it is extremely comfortable. Cabins all have views and most have verandas. For us they were not large (around 300 sq. feet including veranda). They have small baths with shower over although the newer Silversea ships have larger bathrooms. There is butler service in all suites. This is one luxury which one could forego as we used the Butler very little.
Silver Wind is a small ship but large enough not to feel crowded anywhere.
Entertainment was limited: a quartet in one of the bars, a pianist in another bar, a small dancing/singing troupe and a pair of Russian magicians. However, we did not miss having any more lavish entertainment as we enjoyed a slow meal in the evening followed by a short walk to the nearest bar!
The Black sea as a destination is really interesting. Highlights included visits to Yalta and Odessa in the Ukraine and Nessebur in Bulgaria. All very attractive resorts. Odessa has some stunning buildings and enormous one way streets with little traffic. At Nessebur we even encountered a smiling immigration officer and a notice which asked for feedback on the service received (a long way from its Communist past!).
Highly disappointing was Sochi in Russia which was grey and unwelcoming. Constanta in Romania was also grey and less developed. Somewhere in between come Sevastopol in the Ukraine (Crimea) which has a fascinating history: charge of the Light Brigade etc) and the former hidden submarine base at Balaclava, an attractive resort nearby. Sevastopol itself is still a naval base for the Russian navy and not a place for a long holiday. Trabzon in Turkey was quite atmospheric but somewhat undeveloped as was Batumi in Georgia.