Silver Spirit offers a strong assortment of shore excursions that hit all activity levels, from minimal to moderate to extensive. You'll find half-day city walking tours, visits to wineries and castles, and full-day excursions that venture farther afield and require transportation via a coach, van or, in the case of a private tour arranged by Silversea, sometimes a sedan. Silversea contracts the best tour operators and that means new-model, air-conditioned vehicles. And the line doesn't pack passengers aboard these coaches. With the exception of our transportation to Florence, there was always room on the bus for each couple to spread out and take up four seats instead of two. A Silversea employee accompanies every single tour to ensure it lives up to the line's -- and its customers' -- high expectations. Tour guides were generally good; some were excellent while others were merely mildly interesting. Tips for guides and drivers are not included in your cruise fare so plan accordingly.
Once you've booked your voyage, use My Silversea to log in and make your shore excursion reservations. You can make your reservations up to 120 days before your voyage -- though the booking engine closes seven days before your voyage. Once onboard, you can also make shore tour arrangements. But be forewarned that some popular excursions -- like the one we took to the medieval village of Carcassone in France -- sell out early. If you have your heart set on a tour, book it well in advance.
While onboard, you can learn more about shore-excursion options by tuning in to prerecorded information on the ship's closed-circuit TV. You can also visit the shore concierge desk -- hours are listed in the daily program -- to ask questions and get advice from the Silversea team. When in port, a local tourism representative is usually onboard for the first few hours of the day to answer questions and suggest touring and restaurant options to independent travelers. Silversea also offers free shuttle bus service from the cruise terminal to the center of town in nearly all ports for anyone exploring the area on his or her own.
In 2016, Silversea included a variety of shore excursions in its Mediterranean and African cruise fares. It's not yet known if this package will be available in the future.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
During the day, you can expect to find a range of daily activities. Some of them -- like trivia and golf putting -- award you points for taking part. Points can be redeemed for Silversea-branded prizes -- think T-shirt, wine opener or baseball cap -- at the end of the cruise. Team trivia takes place each afternoon in the Panorama Lounge while golf putting takes place on the deck or lobby of the Panorama Lounge. You can also enjoy cards and other games as well as bridge in the Card Room on Deck 9.
Throughout the voyage, you'll encounter special events such as the Galley Tour, where chefs show you the kitchen facilities and explain how they are able to create gastronomic delights while at sea.
Music lovers rejoice aboard Silver Spirit because there are many opportunities to enjoy a variety of musical acts every night of the cruise. The Silver Spirit Trio -- one of the standout entertainment groups on the ship -- plays jazz standards each evening, usually in The Bar. The talented band plays several sets a night, starting at 6 p.m. On certain evenings, a dance host is available to get people out onto the dance floor. A pianist takes over the festivities at 9 p.m. Two pianists are onboard every sailing, and each plays several sets a night in different lounges, including the Panorama Lounge and The Bar. A singer/keyboardist duo also entertains, usually on the Pool Deck. Two jazz singers hold court at Stars. You'll find a DJ hosting a late-night dance party and/or karaoke each night, usually in the Panorama Lounge.
Finally, while Silversea does not have Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatics shows or large-scale Broadway revues, its performers do put on some fine shows in the single-tier Show Lounge that accommodates up to 320 passengers. The Show Lounge is intimate so all seats have a good view of the stage. Loveseats for two make up all of the seating so if you attend the show alone and it's a full house, you may end up sitting quite close to someone you don't know. The Voices of Silversea, a singing group consisting of three young men and three women, sang their hearts out during several theater performances. The most popular show featured British music of the 1960s; by the end of the show, it had turned into a full-fledged sing-a-long.
On destination-intensive voyages without a lot of sea days, you can expect a series of enrichment lectures presented by visiting speakers such as history professors or anthropologists. The interactive talks focus on the history of the ports the ship will call upon throughout your voyage.
Silver Spirit's art adviser, curator and collector, Pasquale Iannetti, also sails aboard the ship often and is available to discuss the ship's impressive art collection. (Many pieces are on sale via the Andrew Weiss Gallery.) The collection includes works by Picasso, Joan Miro, Marc Chagall, Bob Dylan and others, and encompasses paintings, sketches, sculptures and photographs. A series of art-related discussions introduce the ship's art collection, as well as the art and lives of specific artists such as Picasso, Chagall, Dali and Miro.
Silversea schedules additional enrichment activities on all crossings as well as those itineraries with more sea days. Some sailings offer a bridge instructor with a full tournament schedule. You can also expect things like cooking demonstrations and the opportunity to shop with the chef in port. The offerings are on par with what you'd find on other luxury lines like Regent Seven Seas Cruises or Seabourn.
Silversea Bars and Lounges
On Silver Spirit, you never have to hunt for a seat at the bar or find an empty table; there's plenty of room across five different lounges, each with its own unique personality. Since the cruise fare includes wines, beer and spirits, most travelers visit the lounges often and generally choose one as the meeting place for their group while onboard. A wide variety of wines and premium liquors are complimentary but you can opt to purchase bottles of wine with the help of the sommelier, or some top-shelf brands of whiskey, bourbon and port that do carry a fee. A menu of free cocktails and paid drinks grace each table in all of the lounges.
The Bar (Deck 5): The Bar, with its exquisite Art Deco style in tones of sea greens, blues and golds, is one of the ship's central meeting points. It's a nice, quiet spot during the day, and later on it's a lively spot where you'll want to mix and mingle before and after dinner. Music lovers tend to gravitate to this lounge. The Silver Spirit Trio playing jazz standards and a pianist taking requests perform alternating sets here.
The Connoisseur's Corner (Deck 8): If you enjoy quiet, dark spaces and don't mind the smell of smoke, give the Connoisseur's Corner a try. We rarely saw anyone inside the ship's cigar bar and when we did, it was usually someone working on a laptop or a few friends enjoying quiet conversation. Since this is the dedicated smoking lounge, you are allowed to enjoy cigarettes, cigars, pipes and e-cigarettes at this location. You can also order fine spirits by the glass for an additional fee. Whiskeys (Aberlour A'Bunadh, Ardberg Uigeadeil, Johnnie Walker and Highland Park) run from $10 to $21 a glass. A Graham 20-year-old tawny port is $15 and cognacs run $10 to $45 a glass, though there is a Courvoisier Collection Erte for $98 and a Remy Martin Louis XIII that will set you back $170 per drink.
Pool Bar (Deck 9): If you plan to spend any time at the pool, you'll get to know the bartenders at the Pool Bar. These friendly gentlemen make the rounds on both decks 9 and 10 to make sure everyone lounging has what they need. While the cocktail menu is the same as what you'll find within the ship's indoor lounges, you'll notice more frozen and fruity drinks being ordered here than elsewhere. You may smoke cigarettes, cigars, pipes and e-cigarettes at designated tables near the Pool Bar.
The Panorama Lounge (Deck 9): The Panorama Lounge was our favorite daytime spot on the ship -- both the intimate indoor area complete with a dance floor that many couples make use of before and after dinner and the expansive outdoor balcony area with a variety of rattan sofas, chairs and loungers. On the outdoor lounge you can smoke cigarettes, cigars, pipes and e-cigarettes at designed tables. A pianist plays here several times a day.
The Observation Lounge (Deck 11): We love the view afforded by the slanted floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows in this lounge but found it somewhat warm and stuffy each time we visited during the daytime so we didn't stay long. However, evenings hopped here -- it was staffed with bartenders from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. -- with many passengers enjoying pre- and post-dinner cocktails. Designed to make you feel as if you were onboard a small but luxurious yacht, the Observation Lounge is decked out with wood paneling with a provincial finish, rose marble accents and bookshelves made of glass and brass. Club chairs and sofas make up the seating here and there are some high chairs at the bar itself. There is a powerful telescope at the entrance, which is useful as the ship enters or leaves a port.
Silver Spirit Outside Recreation
Deck 9, midship, is home to one of the most beautiful cruise ship pool decks we've seen. You'll find the Pool Bar and Pool Grill at one end of the large rectangular pool and three raised hot tubs at the other. We loved the hot tubs but wished they were 2 degrees warmer. Lounge chairs are comfortable and plentiful on this deck; we never had trouble snagging a prime spot. Plexiglas partitions line the railing to make this a wind-free zone. If you prefer a cool breeze, walk up the staircase to Deck 10 with a view of the pool and loungers ringing the deck.
The staff sets up table tennis and shuffleboard daily on Deck 8, aft, weather permitting until 7 p.m. Golf putting competitions are held throughout the cruise. There is a makeshift jogging track on Deck 10, aft. Ten laps equals 1 mile, and you will need to share the promenade with other guests who may be using it to talk or enjoy the view.
Silver Spirit Services
Self-service laundry rooms -- complete with complimentary soap and irons -- are found on each deck with passenger suites. Laundry, dry cleaning and pressing services are also available through your butler for a fee. (Silver Suites and above receive free laundry throughout the voyage.)
You'll find the Reception desk on Deck 5 in front of The Bar. This is the place to ask general questions and check your bill. Across from Reception is the Shore Concierge, who can answer questions about each tour and sign you up for any of the options.
There is a small library with seven computers next to Stars Supper Club on Deck 7; a manager is on duty during certain daytime hours to assist with your Internet needs. Vista and Veranda passengers get one hour of free Wi-Fi per cruise. You can also purchase internet packages: one day is $30, two days is $50, three days is $60 and a seven-night cruise is $140. Internet service on a cruise of eight or more nights is charged at $16 per day. Alternatively, you can purchase 1,000 minutes of access for $250. Silver, Royal, Grand and Owner's Suite passengers get unlimited internet access throughout the cruise for free.
Shoppers can head to Deck 8 to do a bit of boutique shopping. You'll find jewelry from Sophia Fiori Diamonds and Buccellati and watches from Frederique Constant. The small sundry shop sells things like designer handbags, women's apparel and various toiletries as well as a few Silversea-branded items such as baseball caps and T-shirts.
Finally, the medical center on Deck 3 -- which is only accessible by using the forward elevator bank or stairs -- is staffed by a doctor and nurse for one hour in the morning and one hour in the early evening, but they are on-call 24 hours a day.