We cruised Alaska with Silversea in 2010 on Silver Shadow but this was our first time in the Caribbean and on Silver Spirit.
On arrival at Miami Airport we collected our luggage and just outside the baggage hall the Silversea representatives met us and took our luggage. We boarded the mini bus for the 45 minute transfer to the Silversea pre-cruise hotel which was the Hyatt Regency Pier 66. The transfer was handled well and we arrived at the hotel very quickly.
The Pre-cruise hotel was however not so good and poor value for the cost. This is reviewed in more detail on Trip Advisor.
The following day the 13.00 transfer to the ship (10 mins maximum) was also smooth and as we passed the long time of people standing in the hot sunshine waiting to board the Holland America ship we started to get a bit apprehensive. No need, as we were dropped off in a covered area and swiftly went through customs after filling in a short health form. Next we went up to a desk and picked up our suite “keys” and were then straight onto the ship – less than 30 minutes after leaving the hotel. A glass of champagne waited in reception for us and then a quick photograph for the security card/ suite key and we were all done. We were informed that our suite would not be ready until 14.30 so off we went to La Terrazza for some lunch. We went along to our suite at 14.40 and it was all ready but there was no sign of our butler (we later learned that they have a break in the middle of the day) so we unpacked ourselves to avoid the clothes being even more creased. This I guess is the down side of being allowed to board early but it was nice to get on the ship and get settled before we left port. We also used the time in the restaurant to book tables for later in the cruise at La Terrazza and “Hot Rocks”.
The ship itself has some good points and some bad points. For a relatively new ship there are some quality issues which you wouldn’t expect to find. The chairs in the dining areas are already showing signs of wear with chips on the wooden handles and some of the seats on deck had nasty stains on the cushions. Some of the deck areas are covered in an “imitation” deck covering which is some sort of plastic coating but it is not non slip and there are signs all around warning that it may become slippery when wet. We didn’t find it too slippery but it does look very cheap and nasty. There are however some “bumps” on the deck which do catch you out from time to time. On this warm weather cruise the walking/jogging area became clogged up with sun loungers and we didn’t enjoy walking our usual few miles to burn up the calories quite so much as on other cruises.
The “bar” on deck 5 is a nice area to meet for pre and post dinner drinks and is a good size. The tables in La Terrazza however are so close together that getting to a window table is difficult. The tables in the main dining area are much better spaced. We tried the “hot Rocks” dining one night but it is a bit of a novelty and who wants to cook their own food when on holiday? There seemed to be lots of room on the ship but there were only around 340 passengers.
Our suite was clean and tidy but I don’t think that our choice of Hypo-allergenic pillows had been picked up from the guest information forms we filled in on line (my birthday was missed on our cruise last year as well). We asked the butler to check and they were provided before retiring for the night. The cabin does appear narrow at first as others have commented on but we never really found this to be a problem. It does mean that some of the cupboards are so narrow as to be useless but there is plenty of other storage space. We did find the washbowl a bit shallow and if the tap is turned on a bit too hard water does splash over the mirror. The tap is also a bit fiddly and in our suite you had to push the handle down to turn the water on. There is also only one bowl where some ships have two. The shower and bath worked well but we did have a bit of a smell in the toilet at some stages of our trip – it was not particularly bad and seemed to come and go. The major problem we had on our first night on the way from Fort Lauderdale to BVI was the noise and vibration in the suite. The sea was quite rough with a sizeable swell but the balcony door rattled, the wardrobe door rattled and various other bits of the cabin joined in for good measure. On the way back from Prince Rupert to San Francisco on our previous cruise on Silver Shadow the sea was much rougher but we never had a problems with our suite. Also we don’t tend to suffer from sea sickness but we didn’t feel too good after our first night and the following day we had a light breakfast and lunch and went to bed at 17.00. We complained about our cabin and two maintenance men spent over an hour on the suite door and then pronounced that they couldn’t fix it. We were offered the use of another cabin on deck 6 (we were on deck 8) which we didn’t like so much but we slept there for two nights whilst we were at sea and until the sea calmed down a bit. This avoided us having to pack and unpack again to move cabin. I managed to fix the balcony door with aid of a flannel from the bathroom wedged under the outside runner of the door to make sure the catches engaged properly when closed. The table on the balcony was falling apart and it wouldn’t even take a drink. This was replaced by a better one but it still had sharp pieces sticking out of the side and needed replacing. We were advised that they were all the same. The wooden decking on the balcony rocked as you walked on it and the other end rose up by almost 1 inch. This couldn’t be repaired either as it was caused by a bulge in the metal of the deck according to the maintenance staff. By this stage I was wishing I had packed my tool bag as I am sure I could fix it! The aircon also seemed to be a bit dodgy and sometimes in the middle of the night we would wake up as the room had got too hot. The control unit was only partly secured to the wall and this was reported by the butler but never fixed before we left the ship. The TV remote control sensor is located below the mirrors and just above a couple of useful shelves but if you place anything on the shelf it blocks the sensor and you can’t operate the TV. Poor design.
We felt that the food quality and choice at breakfast and lunch was not as good as last year but still ok. Most of the fruit at breakfast seemed to be tinned which is surprising given we were between Florida and the Caribbean. The eggs were freshly cooked as usual but at 07.00 when we had breakfast most mornings the other “hot” items were not as hot as they should have been. The hash browns were over cooked virtually every day and disintegrated when a fork was applied. The coffee and orange juice were very good however. The dinner choice was good and the quality fine. The menu had quite a lot of fish dishes reflecting the local produce but the steaks were always an option and superb (you must try the Black Angus steak). The complimentary wine (and champagne) was in my opinion poor except for some good Italian and New Zealand white bottles mainly served at lunchtime. On our previous cruise with Silversea when we asked for something else we always found a good alternative. On this cruise the alternatives offered were also on the whole poor and the wine waiter staff did not seem to know what was available in the their cellar. We never saw the head sommelier during the trip. Screw top bottles of Cote De Rhone are not really 6 star cruising?
The staff were on the whole quite good and friendly especially the butlers and room maids but some of the European restaurant staff had a very abrupt manner which was a bit disconcerting. Our butler called us by name but virtually no other staff asked our name or used it. On our previous Silversea cruise the restaurant staff knew us by name within a couple of days. There seemed to be just something missing this time and perhaps it was the very officious Maitre d’ who certainly kept the staff on their toes. The “senior” staff (captain, Chief Engineer etc) were not very visible either in the restaurants or public areas but perhaps we just missed them.
Disembarkation was as smooth as embarkation and the colour coding system for our luggage and getting off worked well. We were off the ship by 09.30 having had to vacate the cabin by 08.00 making use of the bar to wait.
On our previous cruise we were “abandoned” by Silversea at San Francisco airport at around 11.00 for a 17.30 flight which we knew to be around 5 hours late thanks to a text from BA. The ship had been chartered for the next week leaving ASAP and so remaining on the ship was not an option. On this cruise we were offered a “complimentary” excursion which lasted 6.5 hours and included lunch dropping us off at the airport only 3 hours from our scheduled departure – much better! This was offered as an excursion ($139 if pre booked) on the list we received but we did not take it up thankfully.
We took 5 Tours (including the complimentary one in Barbados) mainly because we had $500 shipboard credit. None of them looked very inspiring I have to say unless you like beaches or snorkelling. The tour in Antigua (overview) turned out to be really good but that was down to the fantastic tour guide we had on the bus. We spoke to others who did the same trip and they didn’t enjoy it. I guess the Caribbean islands do not have that much to see on tours. I would recommend that you do NOT book the Seven Sisters waterfalls tour on Grenada unless you want to spend an hour on a botany lesson about the vegetation on the island, and another couple of hours slithering up and down a steep muddy slope to see a couple of fairly poor waterfalls (the other 5 are so small that it is not worth the effort to climb up to see them). On the way back there is a group of guys who charge you $1 to clean your shoes before you are allowed to board the bus. The tour guides put on a pair of wellies before they set out which was very wise but not an option for us.
The cruise Itinerary gave us a good flavour of the Caribbean visiting 7 different islands but I have to say they are all remarkably similar and apart from the sunshine and beaches they are not very interesting. They are all becoming very dependent on tourism and in places like Castries you have to run the gauntlet of taxi drivers just to walk out of the port, many of whom I am sure are not licensed. It was nice to see the Caribbean but it is not for us