Silver Seas makes a very big deal about service and luxury. Our experience is that they perhaps should talk less and do more. There was nothing wrong as such, but there were some oddities that made this less than five star.
Upon arriving at the airport, we were met by a cruise rep, as arranged. She explained that we would be taken to the ship, although it was too early to board. However, we could check our luggage, then go into the city for the day. She said the cruise would be available for boarding at about 2 pm. The transfer to the port was by private car. When we arrived at the port, there were reps there as well. They, however, did not know what to do with us. The woman we spoke with suggested we wait for boarding (4 hours!). She was obviously busy with passengers leaving the ship, but even when I told her what had been said at the airport, she was clueless. After 45 minutes I saw a desk that had a checked luggage sign, and yes indeed it was where we could leave our luggage so we could tour the city. That the ship's own representative was ignorant of a service that existed within 100 feet of her was rather stunning.
We finally boarded around 3 pm. No one showed us to our stateroom. The stateroom was just fine, and lived up to the claims of Silver Seas for the Spirit appointments and amenities. It was very large and comfortable, with two flat screen televisions (but outdated movies). One problem was the "desk" in the sleeping area. It was more of a ledge than a desk, very shallow, and there was very little space between it and the bottom of the bed. The hair dryer is permanently attached in a drawer there, so you have to use this space to do your hair. However, if one person sat there to do that, the other had to climb over the bed to get to the bathroom or closet. As for the walk in closet, at first I thought it was a good idea. However, I think we ended up with less space for hanging garments than we do in cabins that do not have this feature.
I have read some of the reviews about services offered on this ship and by this line and let me just say that a lot of it was news to me when I read the reviews. No one indicated we could have the butler unpack or pack our luggage, least of all him. It was not clear what he would or could do, other than make sure that our fridge had the water and drinks we requested, and serve us room service if we ordered it. He offered to help us in any way, so perhaps I was supposed to make whatever demands I wanted and leave it to him to comply or not? We found a card that said we could request a choice of newspapers, but he explained that was no longer offered free of charge.
The lack of information was a bit of a problem in many areas, in our opinion. The ship seemed to assume we were more aware of how it operated than we were, since this was our first experience on this line.
When it came to service, again nothing was "wrong." On the other hand, there were peculiarities. When you went to the breakfast buffet, a waiter took your plate and carried it to your table. All fine and good, but an example of how the ship did these showy "service" things that were not really necessary. What was odd was that no one explained that you could request certain other items from the waiter in addition to the buffet, such as pancakes or eggs Benedict, or that the waiter would put in the order for an omelet so you did not have to wait for it. There were all these waiters watching passengers trying to do that themselves, and not saying a word about the service they offered. They just took the plate and carried it, then asked what you wanted to drink. I just found this peculiar. Perhaps no one else does.
The lunch is only served until 2 pm in the buffet or the dining room, which is annoying. After that the only option is a very limited menu at the pool grill. One day I asked if perhaps I could order from the room service menu instead of the grill's menu.(I did not want to eat in my room.) I assumed that it would be available since room service was available. The staff had no idea what to do with my request, and eventually said, no, only items on the menu could be served there. My point is that many of the staff do not seem to be empowered to go the extra mile to ensure the service being touted. They have a little list they have been taught of their duties, and unusual requests seem to confuse them.
The excursions were pretty typical. One was not well thought out and included a stop that made no sense, where we visited a resort for ice tea and little cakes. I think it was included just to claim the tour, which was pricey for the time involved, had X number of stops when in reality it had X minus one. A long excursion to Seville would have been better if more time had been set aside to be on our own. 90 minutes to both eat lunch on our own and shop was not sufficient in a Spanish city. Neither the cruise rep who was with us nor the tour guide offered any advice on restaurants either, which was less than helpful. (Actually, I purchased nothing on this trip because all of the excursions left so little time to do so. By the way, while in Gibralter we discovered it was a duty free zone. None of the ship's information had indicated this. Considering the high VATs in Europe, it is the sort of thing passengers might want to know, I think.)
The food was very good in the dining room. More selection would be nice. Efforts were made to create distinctive dishes with unusual tastes. We were fine with this, but those who like less creativity might find it less appealing. The wine was adequate. The free pourings were all of a "light" taste--very light in some cases. I think they could do better in this area. They seem to be choosing the wines by the lowest common denominator in terms of what would be considered drinkable. So the wines had little depth or body. I think that one can request a different wine, from the bar, if the offering does not appeal. Ask for a specific varietal and it will be brought.
The Italian restaurant was, again, somewhat typical, and not gourmet. Think well done Trattoria food. It did provide a change of pace from the dining room.
Debarkation went very smoothly. We stayed an extra two days in Lisbon at the Tara hotel. It is a large business hotel, with large rooms but somewhat tired decor, in an upscale neighborhood some distance from the city center, with very few restaurants in walking distance. I think the cruise line uses it as an option because it is near the Ritz, which it also uses. Be warned that this hotel has the hardest beds I have ever slept in, and I am used to European beds being hard.
Our flight back was fine, but the cruise line might have warned passengers about the problems with the Lisbon airport. It is not an airport where you want to cut it close. Besides a long walk to the area that has the International gates, there is a passport control that creates a huge bottleneck. We stood in that line alone for over half an hour. We made it to our plane, but there were five "no shows" in business class (out of 12 booked passengers), including at least one couple from our cruise who I knew should be there. Another couple from the cruise made it just in time. While this is an airport issue, Silver Seas should warn passengers about this, since they use Lisbon on a regular basis.
We found ourselves, after all was said and done, trying to articulate why we were a little disappointed in this experience. Not unhappy, mind you, just a less than wowed. We felt it had not compared favorably with cruises taken on other luxury lines, but pinpointing why took some thought. The initial lack of service upon arriving at the ship did not help, of course. I have tried to give a picture of the little things that accumulated to give us this feeling that Silver Seas customer service and general experience was slightly "off."