My wife has never fancied a cruise. She was seasick on the Isle of Man ferry. However, so many of our friends have talked about how much they enjoyed theirs I managed to persuade her. I did listen to stories of cruising from friends with great interest. Dining at 6pm with the same people every night; 15% added to a $2.50 bottle of water; tipping for just about everybody; long queues on arrival at ports; ships docking 5 miles away from the actual town etc. etc. the list goes on. Enough to put us off completely until I heard of a great experience on a Silversea cruise. I investigated further. It looked a great ship, small number of people, no tipping, all food and drinks. It sounded just what we wanted even if it was more expensive than we wanted to pay. I investigated further and found 3 more cruise lines which tempted me besides Silversea:- Seabourn, Regent and Crystal. How did I decide? By producing a speadsheet with all the good and bad points (sad Aren't I?). Which cruise line won? Well I narrowed it down to 2 actually - Silversea and Seabourn. Both ticked all the boxes but in the end Seabourn won as our choice of cruise was the Baltic and whilst both did this area Silversea's was 7 days and Seabourn's 12.
We went in July on a cruise with flights and transfers included and managed a decent discount off the brochure price. (A regular cruiser on board said aim for half the brochure price). We flew to Copenhagen and were collected at the airport and taken to the Admiral Hotel for the first night (we paid for this ourselves). A very wet Copenhagen meant no sightseeing and had to even stay in the hotel in the morning as the rain was torrential.
On embarking on the ship which was docked very near to the city centre and easily walkable from the Admiral on a dry day, we were welcomed with proper champagne and canapes and following a very quick check in we were soon in our suite to be welcomes by a full bottle of champagne on ice, a bowl of fruit and flowers. We also received a free gift of some premium soaps as well as the more ordinary Molton Brown in the bathroom.
There are 2-3 choices of where to dine on the Pride - main restaurant which is a traditional style of restaurant where head waiters accompany women to the table; Restaurant 2 which is more casual but with excellent food and choice of food and sometimes the outdoor sky bar for barbeque type food. If you don't like the menu of the day they will always cook you what you want but when choices are fillet steak, lobster tails, rack of lamb, proper halibut etc. why ask for anything different. They are cooked French style and I could only describe them as excellent. Most nights in the main restaurant are smart casual and men do need a jacket. I thought I only needed a jacket for the formal night and took a black suit and I could wear the jacket with ordinary trousers on these nights. An extra lightweight jacket would be useful.
Entertainment is excellent with a band, two different duos, guy who played piano/guitar, excellent entertainment manager who also sang together with guests artists eg. McDonald Brothers and magician, Russian dancing troupe etc.
Drinks flow freely and the wine with meals is excellent - they have daily choices but if you don't like what they have you can request others. Cocktails are available in all bars and they do not skimp on the spirits.
Staff are encouraged to call you by name and about 50% of them do - they memorise your surnames from pictures taken as you board. most are friendly, some over friendly, some polite but do not engage and others merely do their job and just say Hi. I only took exception to one member of staff for lack of customer care skills.
The ports we visited were fine although I would have preferred Tallin to Klaipeda. We did not do shore excursions as we found we could find better selection locally at a much better price and fellow cruisers joined us on some of these. St Petersburg was out of this world - so many palaces, churches, statues - cannot take it all in - just wish the Russian people were a bit more friendly - it is as if they don't want our foreign currency. Also, it is impossible to go out on your own in St Petersburg without a visa - would probably be quite difficult as it is such a big city and the language is difficult.
To sum up:
Ship - really nice, spoilt now and would not want to go on one much bigger (can't really get much smaller though) but I would say it's a 4 star ship with 5
star food. Staff, entertainment, drinks, ports all excellent but just watch the bill at the end - I had to point out a $50 charge for non return of DVD had crept on for some reason and casino chips cashed in had not been credited. I also thought I had paid for transfers from the ship at Stockholm but apparently I had not. Not entirely happy with Seabourn customer service on line though - I had to remind them that they had not responded to my emails about various issues and when a reply was forthcoming there was no name of the person who actually sent it.