The highlights of Silver Cloud's popular (if pricy) shore excursions are the knowledgeable guides the cruise line regularly contracts. Given the ship's small size, it can get into some smaller, lesser-visited ports, where excursions run the gamut from half-day city orientations and winery outings to full-day safaris. The majority of excursions are run via van or coach, though some city tours are conducted on foot. A Silver Cloud staff member accompanies every shore excursion to make sure everything is running smoothly.
On most sailings, the line runs at least one not-for-profit "Good Citizen" tour, focused on philanthropic opportunities ashore (like visiting an orphanage). For all tours, the activity level (minimal, moderate, extensive) is indicated as such in the excursion booking details, as well as whether the excursion is handicapped accessible. Shore excursions may be booked in advance (from 120 days up to seven days in advance of your sailing) online, or aboard the ship (based upon availability).
New for 2016 (no word on 2017 offerings just yet), many of Silver Cloud's African and Mediterranean voyages offer passengers a selection of complimentary excursions in every port. Note that gratuities for local guides and drivers are not included on any of Silversea's excursions.
Supplementary Silversea-hosted pre-cruise, post-cruise and even mid-voyage "land adventures" can also be arranged, which include on-land accommodation and transfers to/from the ship (examples might include a safari in Africa or watching the Grand Prix in Monaco).
The shore concierge gives briefings on ports a day or two before docking via prerecorded information that airs on the ship's closed-circuit TVs; he or she will go over the excursions provided by the line and detail how passengers can tour on their own. At each port, a local expert usually comes aboard just after docking and can provide maps, restaurant and attraction recommendations and information on taxis.
The line's dedicated shore concierge team (their desk hours are listed in the daily program) is available to help independent travelers with destination suggestions or with coordinating private tours with a vehicle and driver and/or guide. Independent travelers can also utilize the complimentary round-trip transportation into town that's provided via shuttlebus, as needed.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
Silversea, with its small ships and strong emphasis on ports, is, in general, fairly light on shipboard entertainment during the day, but several offerings are on the roster, like bridge (some sailings even have dedicated bridge hosts on board) or language lessons. The most popular pastime is the cruise director-hosted daily trivia competition, usually held in the late afternoon. The main theater, the Venetian Lounge, also screens movie matinees some afternoons, and a popular cooking demo is also held there (usually with the ship's executive chef and head sommelier) at least once per cruise.
Evening entertainment features a quartet and pianist/singer who roam between bars and the main restaurant, as well as "The Voices of Silversea" in the Venetian Lounge, a troupe of three female and three male singers/entertainers who perform everything from Beatles hits to Broadway show tunes to opera. In some ports, local entertainers (dancers or musicians, for instance) might be brought on for a special one-off performance. The quality of the entertainers is fairly high for a ship of this size.
Other special social events include the captain's welcome and farewell cocktail receptions in the Venetian Lounge, as well as regular sail-away parties held on the pool deck, with music by the quartet, when Silver Cloud leaves port. For solo travelers, a get-together hosted by the international hostess is scheduled early on in the sailing; some special sailings employ onboard gentleman hosts to dine and dance with solo female travelers, on request.
There's also a small swanky casino on Deck 5, complete with chandeliers dangling overhead, that gets fairly good table action on the roulette, blackjack and poker tables, but not too much slot play at the nearly 20 slot machines. There's the occasional afternoon blackjack tournament held here, as well.
Silver Cloud brings onboard some talented guest lecturers (historians, authors, professors, etc.) to present a series of talks in the Venetian Lounge, with their subject matter emphasizing the cruise destinations at hand. For instance, on our South African sailing, we had a wonderfully engaging South African professor of history onboard who gave near-daily, visually supported presentations designed to illuminate the history, contemporary issues and future of South Africa. If you don't make it to the talk, not to worry; the lectures are recorded and repeated on the ship's closed-circuit TVs so that you can watch them in the comfort of your stateroom.
Silver Cloud Bars and Lounges
With nearly all alcoholic beverages included in the rates (with few exceptions for some premium liquors and wines), Silver Cloud offers a welcoming environment for passengers who enjoy imbibing. A handful of inviting bars and lounges offer changing settings in which to socialize and sample the expansive cocktail menu featuring more than two-dozen listed cocktails (like the signature "Silver Spirit," made with St. Germain elderflower liqueur, gin, sauvignon blanc and a splash of lime). Of course, each suite comes with its own ensuite mini-bar, stocked with your preference of wines, beers, spirits and even Champagne, if you don't wish to wander beyond your own suite to enjoy your favorite drink.
The Bar (Deck 5): The most popular spot for socializing onboard Silver Cloud is The Bar, a sophisticated space with a long central bar lined by leather stools and several side tables with meant-for-lingering seating. The Bar opens up around 6 p.m., and folks meet and mingle here before and after dinner or shows (which are held in the adjacent Venetian Lounge).
Don't be surprised when the barkeep calls you by name and remembers what you drink after one visit. On many evenings, the Silver Cloud Quartet performs here, and sometimes there's a pianist and/or late-night DJ, too. The small dance floor is great for showing off your moves.
Venetian Lounge (Decks 5 & 6): The multi-tiered Venetian Lounge, named so for its lightly Venetian-inspired decor and "frescoes," provides a pleasant setting for evening shows (with a wait staff taking drink orders), enrichment lectures or movies. Generous banquettes, armchairs and tables are spread out via stadium-style seating, which overlooks the raised stage at the front of the theater. Views are pleasantly unobstructed and there was more than enough room for everybody in attendance at each event we attended there.
Panorama Lounge (Deck 8): The aft-facing Panorama Lounge is a great place for sipping drinks (including teas and specialty coffees), listening to music or simply sitting and watching the sea go by or sun set. (A handful of tables and chairs are set up just outside of the venue, on the outside deck area.) In the evenings, a pianist usually plays and sings here.
The Humidor (Deck 8): Tucked into a corner of the Panorama Lounge, this small dark wood-paneled room, with just a couple of tables, is the only spot for indoor smoking on the ship. For purchase are a selection of premium cigars (choose Cubans and more from a cigar menu), as are special top-shelf cognacs, brandies, whiskies and more.
Pool Bar (Deck 8): A favorite daytime drinking spot for warm days at sea, the outdoor pool bar serves up refreshing cocktails (pomegranate mojito, anyone?), beer, wine, Champagne and more (typically from 9 a.m. till 10:30 p.m.). A roving wait staff will ensure that you don't have to lift a finger to have a drink (including specialty coffees) in hand.
Silver Cloud Outside Recreation
Silver Cloud has a sizable saltwater pool (large enough for laps) and two hot tubs on Deck 8. The deck space is more than ample for sun-lovers, with plenty of chaise loungers in both sunny and shaded sections framing the pool. There are extra loungers overlooking the pool area on Deck 9. On sea days, there may even be a game or two of pool volleyball.
You can try your hand at paddle tennis or shuffleboard on the pool deck (weather permitting), or practice putting at the near-daily scheduled golf putting events, somewhat humorously staged with portable putting greens in the lobby.
Silver Cloud Services
Silver Cloud's lobby on Deck 6 is fringed by a 24-hour reception desk, shore concierge desk (hours are posted in the daily program) and a station for the Silversea cruise consultant, for cruisers interested in booking future Silversea sailings while they're on board.
Also on Deck 6, the Card Room (which can also be used as a conference room, on request), with a half-dozen card tables, provides a great meeting place for bridge players. Some sailings even bring guest bridge hosts aboard to teach the game to new players and run tournaments.
Next door to the Card Room is a 24-hour Internet cafe with five PC stations and a complimentary-use printer; the Reception Desk will also happily make copies for you. You can also use your own laptop or tablet to access the Internet via ship-wide Wi-Fi. As of January 2016, all passengers in standard suites get 60 minutes of complimentary Internet access per day. If you go beyond that 60-minute limit, several Internet packages are available, with options like $30 for one day or $140 for seven days of unlimited Internet. Higher-level suite passengers (Silver Suites and above), get unlimited Internet for the duration of their sailing.
There's an attractive library on Deck 7 with leather armchairs and dark-wood wall units, where shelves come well-stocked with a selection of novels, nonfiction works, travel guides, hundreds of DVDs and some CDs. Passengers can also pick up printouts of quizzes, Sudoku and crossword puzzles here. Silversea provides passengers with access to a free PressReader app whereby passengers can download complimentary digital versions of international newspapers (like The New York Times) to their digital devices.
The duty-free boutique on Deck 5 offers a selection of perfumes, sportswear, costume jewelry, Silversea-branded clothing and hats, sunglasses, watches, designer handbags and incidentals like sunscreen and motion sickness bands. For those in the market for real finery, the upscale section of the boutique offers a mesmerizing selection of high-end jewelry and home accents, including a selection of collectible Faberge eggs (averaging around $10K apiece).
There's a self-serve, complimentary Laundromat on Deck 4, with a half-dozen Miele machines, sink, detergent and iron and ironing board. The medical center on Deck 3 has regular hours (posted in the daily program), plus an onboard doctor is available at any time for emergencies.