Editors Note: In August 2017, Silver Cloud will be refitted to sail as a polar expedition ship. The vessel will carry only 200 cruisers on Arctic and Antarctic itineraries, allowing the ship to land at a broader range of sites. On non-polar sailings, the ship will sail at the full 260-passenger capacity.
Dining options will remain the same: The Restaurant, Le Champagne (the Relais & Chateaux restaurant), La Terrazza, The Grill and room service. The ship will add expedition staff and a fleet of 18 Zodiac watercrafts for exploration. It will also offer destination lectures, photo presentations and complimentary excursions.
The spiffy little Silver Cloud, a member of Silversea Cruises' fleet of small luxury ships, is the nearly identical twin of Silver Wind; they were launched one after the other back in 1994 and 1995. Like all Silversea ships, the 296-passenger Silver Cloud stands out for its high levels of service, gourmet dining and spacious, all-oceanview suites. Its small size allows it to pull into lesser-visited ports, which is great for far-flung exploration, especially in Africa, where it operates about three months of the year, when it's not in Europe. It's elegant without being too stuffy, fun but not too frivolous and ideal for mature couples that enjoy fine food, sublime service and intimacy.
Silver Cloud has among the highest space-to-passenger ratios in the industry, which is reflected in the spacious all-suite cabins (most with private verandas). The genuine and warm crew members make passengers feel truly at home, and every cabin offers butler service. Many of the onboard staff have been with Silversea for years, demonstrating a true dedication to the personalized cruise experience. The small size of the ship means your name will almost always be remembered by staff.
Plus, Silver Cloud's fares are all-inclusive. Food, alcohol, as well as gratuities, are all included in the fare. (The main exceptions are a meal at the exclusive Relais & Chateaux restaurant and any high-end wines or spirits.) In addition, in select ports, the ship offers free transportation into town; plus, throughout 2016, Silversea is promoting complimentary excursion offerings in every port on many of Silver Cloud's Mediterranean and African voyages.
The elegant ship exudes a faintly Italian-inspired design scheme, with a lot of muted peach hues, wooden furnishings and finishings that subtly tie together one public space to the next, continuing on into most of the guest suites. While Silver Cloud awaits a complete refurbishment later in 2017 (when it'll be absorbed into Silversea's expedition fleet), be forewarned that there are some slight signs of wear and tear in passenger suites and public spaces, since only light, as-needed cosmetic changes are being made ahead of the ship's upcoming transformation.
Silversea's passengers are generally 55 and older, with perhaps a younger honeymooning couple or two sprinkled in the mix. The age range skews a tad younger on shorter Mediterranean voyages. Passengers are sophisticated, well-traveled and well-to-do, with a penchant for pampering. They appreciate the degree of old world-style cruising formality that Silversea offers, which includes embracing the fast-fading tradition of formal nights at sea.
The ship attracts a large American following (typically about half of the cruisers), as well as a big UK contingent, with a smattering of other cruisers represented from elsewhere in Europe, Canada and the world over. All announcements and printed materials are in English, though there is an International Hostess on board that can assist passengers who speak Spanish, French, Portuguese or German (and sometimes Russian or Japanese), and translate menus and daily programs. There are no real special accommodations made for children, and the sailing that we were on was completely child-free.
Daytime dress is always casual, whether on the ship or in port. A typical weeklong sailing includes one formal night, when the dress code is cocktail dresses and evening gowns for women, and tuxes or dark suits for gentleman (a tie is required); three evenings with "informal" apparel (dresses or pantsuits for women, jackets for men); and three casual nights (casual dresses or blouses and pants/skirts for women, sport shirts and slacks for the guys).
Though most passengers choose to participate in formal nights (where plenty of sequined gowns and tuxedos make appearances), they can opt instead to dine in La Terrazza in "informal" attire; The Grill always offers the option for casual evening dress. If passengers don't adhere to the designated evening dress code, staff will politely attempt to enforce it, but they won't flat-out refuse them entry to the dining venues or bars for not abiding by the policy. On shorter, weeklong sailings in the Mediterranean, the formal night is always optional.
Silver Cloud uses the U.S. dollar as its onboard currency. Gratuities are included in the upfront cruise fares, and additional tips are not expected; however, some passengers still give them for exemplary service. Tips are not included in the cost of spa treatments (passengers can add on the standard 15 to 20 percent), but no tipping is required for the supplementary-fee Relais & Chateaux restaurant or for ordering fee-extra wine or spirits.
Cruise fares include nearly all nonalcoholic and alcoholic beverages (with the exception of some premium wines, Champagnes and spirits), including a setup of complimentary beverages in passengers' ensuite bar and mini-fridge. There is also a complimentary shuttle service provided from the port into town (and back), as needed.
As of January 2016, passengers get 60 minutes of free Wi-Fi each per day; higher-level suite guests (Silver and above) get unlimited Wi-Fi. Also new for 2016, the majority of Silver Cloud's African and Mediterranean voyages are eligible for even more inclusions via "The Most Exclusive All-Inclusive" program, such as select excursions in each port, a two-night pre-cruise hotel stay (for Mediterranean sailings), a three-night safari in Kenya or South Africa (for Africa sailings), round-trip economy flights (from select locales) and ground transfers. Details on whether or not the new ultra-inclusive program will continue into 2017 have yet to be announced.