By Ellen Uzelac, Cruise Critic contributor
With Silver Spirit, its first new ship in a decade, Silversea Cruises wanted to build on its tradition of classic luxury while punching up the experience a bit with stylish Art Deco design elements, wider variety in dining venues, and a spacious spa. But the big headline for small-ship purists is Silver Spirit's size. With 540 passengers, it is considerably larger than Silversea's five other vessels, (which accommodate between 132 and 382 passengers.) That's not exactly super-sized by today's standards, but it's big enough to trigger discussion, debate and disassembling by Silversea loyalists.
Does it succeed? On our 10-night cruise of Mexico's Pacific coast, Silver Spirit wasn't sailing at full capacity so it's difficult to judge how crowded the ship might feel otherwise. A few passengers I talked to who had sailed when the ship was fully loaded were disappointed with the experience. Others could have cared less. Notably, with 6,700 cubic feet of space per guest, Silver Spirit does boast one of the highest space-to-guest ratios at sea. And sure, while size does matter, the underlying issue seems not to involve size at all but a few quirks in the ship's design.
Let's just say design at times trumps some of life's more practical considerations. As an example, the Midship Veranda Suite is longer and larger than it is on Silver Spirit's companion vessels but it is also narrower; there are a scant 22 inches between the end of the mattress and start of the built-in vanity table. It makes for a tight squeeze in what amounts to the bedroom's only passageway. Outside the theater, which seats 320 people, there are just three toilets: one for men, one for women and one with handicap access. Get 20 people in a hallway waiting for the loo and you bet it will feel crowded. And on Deck 11, where the handsome Observation Lounge is housed, there's no public restroom at all. One other oft-heard lament: There's no bar, and therefore no bar service, in the theater. It's BYOB.
Is any of that a deal breaker? Not for me. But the niggles are valid -- and Silver Spirit to its credit has worked dutifully to address many of the nuts and bolts complaints aired by passengers. It's too late to massage the bones of the ship, of course, but during its inaugural world voyage Silver Spirit did make a few service adjustments that matter to long-term passengers accustomed to special handling. It added more hair stylists, for example, and began posting bartenders with trays of wine and Champagne at the theater entrance in advance of performances. The ship even moved up the opening hour of its stylish new supper club -- from 9:00 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. -- to accommodate American guests, who tend to dine earlier than later.
And there is plenty onboard to celebrate, just as Silversea had hoped for. With The Bar, a midship lounge new to Silversea, Silver Spirit has created a central gathering place that's become popular with passengers both day and night. There are two new restaurants unique to Silver Spirit: Seishin, an Asian fusion venue, and Stars, the supper club that is as much about trendy cuisine as entertainment.
Silver Spirit also retains the stellar service quotient that has become synonymous with Silversea. Can't read the menu because you forgot your glasses? No worries. Your waiter will appear with a silver tray featuring a selection of loaner specs. And I'll never forget the waiter who routinely warmed the ice-cold beer for a German passenger who preferred his beer at room temperature. Or the butler who drew me a bubble bath topped with flower petals. So yes, Silver Spirit is bigger than Silversea's other ships. More importantly, the ship lives up to its name. It's got an abundance of fresh, new spirit. And that is big.
Silver Spirit Fellow Passengers
Slightly more than half of the passengers on our cruise were American, the rest English, Australian, German, Canadian, French and Japanese. It was a nice mix. There were also a number of families with teenagers, which was refreshing. Silver Spirit hoped to attract a younger clientele and with an average age of 64 on our cruise, it seems to be succeeding.
Silver Spirit Dress Code
A 10-day cruise typically has three formal nights, four informal nights and three that are deemed casual. Essentially, it's a resort-wear crowd. You're not going to find a lot of denim. On casual evenings, men wear open-neck shirts and slacks while women opt for dresses, blouses and skirts, or pantsuits. On informal nights, men up it a notch with jackets though ties are optional. For women, informal and casual are pretty much the same. Formal night translates into tuxedos or dark suits for the men and evening gowns, cocktail dresses or dressy pantsuits for the women.
Silver Spirit Gratuity
All gratuities are included in the fare, nothing additional is expected.
--By Ellen Uzelac, a travel and financial writer on Maryland's Eastern Shore
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