Having so much enjoyed the transatlantic crossing last year I decided to repeat the cruise this year. Although we again started in Lisbon and finished in Barbados, Silversea were sufficiently prescient to include 4 different ports of call out of the 7 visited (Madeira, La Gomera, St Lucia and Les Saintes).
I made my own flight arrangements (Business Class to Lisbon and BA First home from Barbados)and was able to use my BA Miles which worked out considerably cheaper than the Silversea Business Air add-on.
Embarkation at Lisbon could not have been easier or more efficient. I had travelled from the airport by taxi for a mere 18 Euros!
As last year we were blessed with good weather from the start. Also the seas were calm for the whole crossing. Of the six days at sea the first and last were brilliant, with rather more cloud (and the occasional tropical shower) on the middle four days.
On the first morning at sea, en route to Madeira, I organised a CC get together in the Panorama Lounge for those who had posted on our pre-cruise 'thread'. This was well attended with 15 of us showing up and then keeping in touch throughout the cruise. A very nice congenial group.
My cabin was excellent (midship verandah cabin on deck 5) - very quiet and wonderfully spacious for single occupancy. I can imagine that two people might find it a bit of a squeeze because of the oft-mentioned narrowness of the entrance. My steward and stewardess were excellent and could not do enough for me although my wants were small. Just early morning tea which arrived every day at 8am thanks to the delightful Jerry who then opened the curtains and allowed me to 'come to life'. I am not an early riser so cannot comment on those who were pounding the decks at 5am!
Housekeeping in the cabin and throughout the ship is excellent. My cabin was kept spotlessly clean and Jerry even took my shoes without being asked, polished them, and returned them wrapped in tissue paper. Such luxury! Throughout the whole ship cleaning and polishing seemed to be a constant occupation for crew members. The public washrooms were kept vigilantly clean. Full marks!
Fellow passengers were very civilised and pleasant. There were a few passengers I knew from last year with whom it was good to catch up again. Several crew members were also on board again and all seemed somehow to remember me. Quite an achievement when you think of the numbers of passengers who pass through in the course of a year. The service in all departments was efficient and courteous. The only problems arising are at breakfast and lunch in La Terrazza and in the Dining Room in the evening if these venues are full. The staff then seem stretched (but still charming despite appearing slightly over-worked!).
My daily routine did not vary greatly. Breakfast was always in La Terrazza which is mainly self-service unless you wish to order eggs (which I did on two days only and my single Egg Benedict was perfectly cooked and presented on both occasions). The buffet selection does not vary and it was disappointing to see that the big bowl of mixed berries has now disappeared and berries are now only available on request. This was one of a few 'economies' which Silversea seem to have implemented. The others included no butter or marmalade on the table (again, on request only).
Lunch I enjoyed every day except one on the Lido deck, by the pool. I just want a simple light lunch and the caesar salads and toasted sandwiches were perfect. Service was excellent.
I often do not bother with Tea, but the offering in La Terrazza at 4pm was so good that I could not resist. Proper leaf tea correctly served and delicious finger sandwiches and pastries.
I dined either in the Main Dining Room ('MDR') or La Terrazza, always with friends although one night I took 'pot-luck' in the MDR on a table for 8 and it was fine. Service in the MDR tends to be leisurely, particularly if the room is full and I detect a slight disconnect between the waiting staff and the galley. The food in the MDR is somewhat bland and unexciting but I am not a great 'foodie' and if the company and conversation are sparkling (which they usually were) then I tend to be less bothered about the food. Sometimes requests for side orders (necessary because there are never enough vegetables with the plated main courses) were forgotten either by the waiting staff or the galley and a quick return trip to the galley had to be made.
There is no doubt that the best plan is to order off-menu a meal ahead. As a result I had perfect rack of lamb one evening (which never appeared on the menu throughout the cruise) and on another evening a friend and I had grilled dover sole (on the bone) which was the best I have ever tasted. On another evening 6 of us had pre-ordered (the day before to give time for preparation) roast goose. It was absolute perfection. They must have cooked two geese for us because between us there were 3 legs and 3 thighs! That evening the chef even devised for us (without being asked) special first and second courses (fois gras pate and a seafood risotto). So things can be done. It just needs a polite request and a 'thank you' afterwards!
Out of three dinners in La Terrazza two were exceptionally good and one mediocre. So, on balance, quite acceptable.
The wine poured at meals were generally quite good, though on several evenings I requested an alternative which was never a problem. There was a very good NZ sauvignon blanc, an excellent Australian shiraz (until we drank it all!) and some good Californian and French reds.
For entertainment I enjoyed our daily game of 'trivia' in the afternoon in the Panorama Lounge. It was great fun as none of our team took things too seriously. This was run by the excellent Cruise Director, Susan Wood. She is charming, efficient, highly visible and very friendly. I liked her very much. Before and after dinner in the Panorama Lounge the pianist/singer Amadeo was excellent. A couple of evenings we went into 'Stars' after dinner to hear Angela and her accompanist. Lovely renditions of Gershwin, Cole Porter, etc. I just wish that diners who have finished eating but who are showing no sign of taking any interest in the show would move on after dinner to another bar. We has to 'shush' them more than once. I am not keen on 'production' shows but did go one evening to the Theatre to listen to John Bowles, a talented singer, and on another evening to listen to a different 'John' who did a rather amusing (was it supposed to be?) Liberace impersonation!
Only one port of call was new to me (having done a number of crossings in the past) - La Gomera in the Canary Islands. I took a Silversea extended half-day tour which was excellent. The island is very dramatic and quite unspoilt. At other ports I either stayed on board or 'did my own thing'.
At Barbados disembarkation was efficient and I took another extended half day tour which ended at the airport where our luggage awaited. All very civilised and well planned. Then to the BA Lounge and ferried to the plane a few minutes before departure. I slept most of the way home. Lovely.
This was just what I needed - a relaxing holiday with little to do apart from read during the day and have sociable, pleasant evenings. Not for me the 7 day cruises with a different port every day. I like cruising to be what it used to be. Leisurely and relaxed. Full marks (almost!) to Silversea for managing to fulfil my expectations once again.