If you're luxury cruise shopping, it's not surprising that at some point in your research you'd ask yourself, "Should I pick Oceania Cruises or Silversea?" While Oceania doesn't come to the table with the same all-inclusive cruise fare structure that Silversea does, it's a solid competitor in terms of ship choice, well-designed cabins and suites, exemplary dining venues, shore tours, spa services, and onboard activities and entertainment.
Which cruise line and ship you ultimately select will depend upon some personal choices like where you want to go, the size of the ship you prefer, whether you want an alcohol-inclusive experience, how many shore excursions you plan to take, and what sort of onboard activities you find rewarding. Read on to drill down into the nitty-gritty of each cruise line to determine which is the best match for your cruise style.
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The Oceania Cruises fleet includes six ships: four 684-passenger, older-yet-beloved R-class ships and two newer, 1,250-passenger O-class ships that were built specifically for the cruise line. The smaller R-class ships include Regatta, Insignia and Nautica -- which joined the Oceania fleet in 2003, 2004 and 2005, respectively -- and Sirena, which joined the fleet in March 2016 after a $40-million dry dock. For those looking for newer, larger ships with more bells and whistles, the O-class options are Marina, launched in 2011, and Riviera, launched in 2012.
Oceania refurbished Riviera in 2015 and Marina in 2016, while its R-class ships, refurbished in 2014, are scheduled for some updates, including stateroom and suite redesign, new decor in shipboard restaurants and updated bars and lounges. This upcoming refurbishment is part of the line's $100-million OceaniaNEXT initiative. The upgrades will begin with Insignia in December 2018, followed by Sirena in May 2019, Regatta in September 2019 and Nautica in June 2020.
Silversea's fleet is made up of luxury cruise ships and rugged expedition ships. For the purposes of this story, we'll focus on the line's five luxury cruise ships: the 596-passenger Silver Muse (launched in 2017); the 608-passenger Silver Spirit (launched in 2009, refurbished in 2018), 382-passenger Silver Whisper (2001), 382-passenger Silver Shadow (2000), and 296-passenger Silver Wind (1995). Whisper, Shadow and Wind were all refurbished in 2017.
Silver Moon and Silver Dawn, sister ships of Silver Muse, are scheduled to join the fleet in 2020 and 2021, respectively. The entire line will see upgrades over the coming years as part of Project Invictus (see below).
Silversea's four expedition ships include the 116-passenger Silver Discoverer (launched 2014, refurbished in 2016), 100-passenger Silver Galapagos (launched in 2013, refurbished in 2017) and 144-passenger Silver Explorer (built in 1989, joined Silversea in 2008 and refurbished in 2017). The ice-class vessel Silver Cloud, a former Silversea cruise ship, joined the expedition fleet in 2017 and can accommodate 254 passengers.
The line is currently building a new, 100-passenger expedition ship, Silver Origin, to sail the Galapagos. When it launches in March 2020, the line will retire Silver Galapagos.
Now under the Royal Caribbean umbrella (since June 2018), Silversea is in the process of revitalizing its ships and brand over the next few years as part of Project Invictus. For example, Silver Whisper will undergo an extensive refresh in December 2018 to give it a look in keeping with Silver Muse's modern decor. Silver Wind will also get a makeover.
Oceania and Silversea offer a different bundle of inclusions in their fares so it's important to understand that you can't simply compare brochure prices on similar voyages. Instead, you'll need to dig a bit deeper to determine which line is a better value for your cruise style.
In general, Silversea base cruise fares are higher for most voyages (though the gap narrows for itineraries in certain destinations such as the Mediterranean and Australia). That's because it generally includes more amenities in its cruise fares; on Oceania, you'll pay for extras including alcohol and gratuities. In addition, Silversea utilizes more expensive materials and ingredients onboard its vessels, creating a more luxe environment that demands a higher price point.
Choose Oceania if you prefer a base fare with a la carte pricing on extras.
One of the nice things about Oceania is that it doesn't force you to pay for inclusions you don't necessarily want. Instead, the line offers a lower cruise-fare price point; then you can add on packages or pay a la carte for items such as alcoholic beverages and shore excursions. Tips are also not included in the base fare.
Oceania's fares include unlimited internet; a bevy of complimentary nonalcoholic beverages, including soda, bottled water, juice, coffee and tea, espresso and cappuccino; and meals in specialty restaurants. If you choose to pay the higher OLife fares, you'll also get economy-class airfare (or an air credit), plus a choice of one of the following freebies: a set number of shore excursions, a beverage package or shipboard credit.
Those who do wish to enjoy alcohol onboard can pay an a la carte price per drink or sign up for one of three beverage packages (priced from $39.95 to $59.95 per day if you don't choose it as an included OLife perk). Shore excursion packages also offer reduced rates if you plan on booking several of the ship's tours.
Choose Silversea if you want a thoroughly all-inclusive experience.
Silversea makes it easy to enjoy a carefree cruise with fares that include just about everything you need in order to have a fantastic vacation. Beverages -- including select wines, premium spirits, coffee and tea, specialty coffees, juice and soft drinks -- are complimentary everywhere on the ship at all times. Your suite's mini-bar is even stocked with your preferences, which is a nice perk if you like to enjoy a cocktail as you dress for dinner. Your butler replenishes the drink selection as needed throughout your voyage.
Unlimited internet access for one device is available for every passenger, which goes up to two devices per passenger in premium suites. Gratuities are only required at the beauty salon and spa; there is no auto-gratuity or pressure to tip other crew. Most (but not all) specialty restaurants are complimentary.
All suites aboard Silversea ships are ocean view, and most are also outfitted with a private veranda. A butler is assigned to tend to every single suite onboard, so you'll have someone to help you unpack and pack your luggage, serve breakfast on your balcony, help make arrangements for shore tours and dining times, and even serve you course-by-course dinners ensuite.
With multiple ships in both fleets, Oceania Cruises and Silversea sail myriad voyages across the planet. If you have your heart set on a specific destination, chances are that an Oceania or Silversea ship can take you there.
Both focus on voyages of 10 days or longer, and both have dozens of "Grand Voyage" options, which last significantly longer. Both lines also offer world cruises. If you're looking for a basic seven-night cruise, you'll find a fair number available from both Oceania and Silversea to destinations including Alaska, the Baltic, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.
Choose Oceania if you want to explore Alaska in-depth.
Oceania Regatta sails Alaska from May through August, offering seven- to 14-night voyages. Oceania's 10-night Seattle round trip itinerary is popular and includes cruising the Inside Passage, Hubbard Glacier and the Outside Passage as well as calls on Ketchikan, Juneau, Icy Strait Point, Skagway and Sitka in Alaska, plus Victoria in Canada's British Columbia.
Although seven- to 21-night options are available on Silversea Muse, Oceania has a strong background in this area. Its onboard expert can bring the Last Frontier alive with discussions of its storied past, flora and fauna, and indigenous peoples.
Or if you want to visit Hawaii and French Polynesia.
Oceania Marina and Regatta both offer a variety of voyages that explore South Pacific ports such as Hilo, Honolulu, Nawiliwili and Kahului in Hawaii; Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas; Fakarava in the Tuamotu Islands; and Bora Bora, Raiatea, Moorea, Rangiroa, Huahine and Tahiti in the Society Islands. These sailings range from 10 to 18 nights.
Silversea won't call on any Hawaiian port in 2019 or 2020. As for the South Pacific, Silversea's expedition vessel Silver Explorer visits French Polynesia about four times a year.
Choose Silversea if you want to visit lesser known, out-of-the-way ports of call.
All of Silversea's ships are significantly smaller than any Oceania ship. For that reason, these particular vessels can visit some small, little-known destinations. Silver Spirit and Silver Wind routinely calls on Mayreau and Bequia in the Grenadines; Silver Wind on Les Saintes, Guadeloupe; and Silver Whisper, Silver Spirit and Silver Wind on Roseau, Dominica. Larger ships have a hard time calling on these magical isles.
Oceania and Silversea excel when it comes to offering their cruisers intriguing and well-guided shore excursions. Neither line rolls up the cost of shore tours in its cruise fare; instead, you must pay a la carte for each excursion you wish to book.
However, both lines do sometimes offer special promotions that offer complimentary shore excursions. Look to Oceania's OLife promo, where you can opt for free shore tours (the number of which depends on the length and itinerary of your cruise). On Silversea, a number of Asian cruises in 2018 and 2019 are eligible for the "All-Inclusive Package" promo, which includes shore excursions (at least one in every port), airfare, pre- and post-cruise hotel, and free transfers.
Choose Oceania if you'd like to buy a discounted shore excursion package.
If you can't or don't want to opt for free excursions as your OLife Choice perk, you can still buy packages that bundle discounted tours.
The Unlimited Passport Collection gives you access to unlimited excursions throughout your cruise, but you must select from a set list of options. The package doesn't include every shore excursion sold on an a la carte basis by the company. While you can't choose from the complete list of tours, you will get up to 40 percent off the tours that are included in the Unlimited Passport Collection.
Alternatively, opt for the Your World Collection package that allows you to custom-design your shore time by selecting any of Oceania's available tours. You'll get 25 percent off a la carte prices and you'll need to book a certain minimum of tours to get the discount. (The minimum is dependent on the particular cruise you've selected.)
Or if you're a foodie and want to experience the cuisines of the ports you visit.
Oceania gets high marks for its Culinary Discovery Tours that introduce a traveler to the port's culinary history and local food scene. The ship's chef or a chef instructor accompanies the tours, which focus on meeting locals and sampling the specialties of the region. Book these tours in advance since they are limited to groups of 20 or fewer.
Choose Silversea if you want to explore farther afield on a multi-day tour.
Silversea's Mid-Voyage Adventures give passengers the chance to get off the ship for a few days mid-voyage. Ranging from small, intimate tours to multiday shore excursions where you disembark in one port and embark in another, these tours allow you to explore more out-of-the-way places than you could on regular port day trips. (Tour prices include airfare, hotel, a guide and most meals.) You can explore remote places, such as Mongolia, Tibet, the Australian Outback, the South Pole and the Serengeti.
In addition, you can take in the highlights, local traditions and a destination's natural, cultural and historic treasures in Silversea's Signature Land program. These pre- and post-cruise land extensions include premium accommodation, gourmet meals and private group transportation. Land extensions are available around the world and are a great way to explore places such as Iceland, Sri Lanka and the Chilean wine country.
Or if you want to be well cared for.
Silversea makes sure its passengers enjoy shore excursions in a number of ways, from limiting the number of people on each motor coach (allowing for a more comfortable ride for all) to having bottled water on hand and handing out umbrellas or ponchos when the weather makes a turn for the worse. A representative from the ship -- often someone from the Shore Excursions desk -- accompanies each tour, which gives passengers an added level of comfort and security.
Oceania and Silversea have many things in common when it comes to accommodations, but there are some major differences as well. Both lines have beautiful, comfortable and well-maintained cabins and suites. Oceania offers its Prestige Tranquility Bed, with a heavenly two-inch-thick, gel-filled pillow top. Silversea tops its beds with sumptuous Pratesi linens.
And while Oceania's R-class ships offer smaller staterooms, on average, than those aboard Silversea's smaller ships, top suites across both lines are very spacious.
Choose Oceania if you want a suite decked out by a designer.
Respected designer Ralph Lauren created the gorgeous Owner's Suites and New Yorker Dakota Jackson developed the interiors of Vista and Oceania suites aboard the line's O-class ships, Marina and Riviera. If you wish to go all-out, you can't go wrong in any of those top digs.
The Owner's Suites span 2,000 square feet and include a spacious living room, bedroom with a king-sized bed and two walk-in closets, and both indoor and outdoor whirlpool spas. Each Owner's Suite aboard Riviera and Marina will receive a "next generation" refurbishment soon. Furnished by Ralph Lauren Home, the color palette will focus on navy, white, cream and camel with pops of metallic, silver and gold. Riviera's redesigned Owner's Suites will be debut in April 2019, while Marina's follow in May 2020.
Vista Suites have similar layouts but a smaller footprint, from 1,200 to 1,500 square feet. Oceania Suites are 1,000 square feet and are perfect for entertaining, with a living room, dining room and second bathroom for guests.
All three types of suites include priority embarkation, 24-hour butler service, a complimentary ensuite bar setup with six full-size bottles of premium spirits and wines, plus complimentary, unlimited Wi-Fi and access to the VIP Executive Lounge.
Or if you just need somewhere to sleep.
Every ship in Oceania's fleet has a few inside cabins; Silversea has none. While the lack of a view might bother some cruisers, others appreciate the value of a lower-priced stateroom -- especially if they'll only be in the room to sleep and get dressed in the morning.
If that sums up the way you use a cruise ship cabin, an Oceania inside stateroom could be a good value for you. Oceania's R-class ships also offer several categories of ocean-view staterooms that can be valuable on many itineraries. Always compare rates on both lines to see which line and stateroom best suits your needs.
Choose Silversea if you want a butler.
While only a few of Oceania's top-end suites are tended to by a butler, Silversea offers personalized butler service 24 hours a day in all suites. Your suite will be your oasis, with a butler and steward tending to all of your needs. Don't miss having a meal served course-by-course on your veranda; it's a special experience.
Or if you want more space.
While Oceania sails four R-class ships that are a favorite among a loyal group of cruisers, the ships' ocean-view accommodations are a bit tight at just 143 square feet. Compare that to ocean-view suites aboard Silversea ships that range from 240 square feet on Silver Wind to 287 square feet on Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper and 312 square feet on Silver Spirit. That's a lot more space to enjoy if you plan to spend some downtime in your stateroom.
Balcony options reflect the same result, with Silversea always offering more space than Oceania. For example, Silversea's veranda category ranges from 295 square feet (room and balcony) on Silver Wind to 345 square feet aboard Whisper and Shadow to 376 square feet on Silver Spirit and, finally, a very spacious 387 square feet on Silver Muse and Silver Moon. Oceania's R-class veranda category tops out at just 216 square feet and its O-class veranda cabins max out at 282 square feet.
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One of the toughest questions is: Which line is best for fine dining? That's because they both have a lot to be recommended. Oceania Cruises consistently gets excellent ratings for restaurants across its fleet -- and that includes its main dining rooms, specialty restaurants, buffets and poolside grills. On Oceania's larger ships, Marina and Riviera, you will be spoiled for choice by the range of free specialty restaurants, including options designed by famed French chef Jacques Pepin.
Silversea comes to the table with consistent fine dining offerings, including one of the best main dining rooms at sea. (Don't miss it at lunchtime!) It also has a fantastic alfresco steakhouse called Hot Rocks, an Italian restaurant devoted to the Slow Food movement, a fun supper club, an Asian fusion option, outdoor grill and more.
Meals are complimentary at all Silversea restaurants except Kaiseki and La Dame by Relais & Chateaux (formerly Le Champagne), which are each $60 per person. Seishin, a specialty restaurant onboard Silver Spirit, carries a $40 per person fee. If you prefer room service, you have access to it 24 hours per day, and it's always complimentary. In the evening, you can even order selections from The Restaurant (main dining room) menu.
Choose Oceania if you love fine dining and want access to a variety of complimentary restaurants.
Foodies love Oceania for its incredible choice of dining venues -- especially on its larger O-class ships. You don't pay a dime for the line's specialty restaurants (with the exception of a special wine pairing dinner at La Reserve, in partnership with Wine Spectator). On the flip side, certain ships in Silversea's fleet offer specialty restaurants that carry a surcharge: $60 per person at the Japanese venue Kaiseki and the French La Dame, and $40 at Seishin, a sushi and Asian-fusion venue.
Jacques Pepin, one of the most beloved French chefs of our time, partners with Oceania as the line's executive culinary director. His even hand can be seen in everything from the high-quality provisions to each restaurant's unique menu offerings.
The main dining room gets high marks from diners, and even the ships' buffets and pool grills serve up some delectable dishes. Across the fleet, you'll find steakhouses (Tuscan Steak on Sirena and Polo Grill aboard all other Oceania restaurants), an Italian restaurant (Toscana), an outdoor cafe and grill, and the Asian-inspired Red Ginger.
If you love French food, Jacques and The Bistro are not to be missed. (Francophiles, take note: You will only find Jacques as a standalone dining room that's open for dinner aboard the O-class ships, Riviera and Marina. On R-class vessels, the Grand Dining Room transforms into the more casual Bistro each day for lunch.)
Choose Silversea if you appreciate slow food.
One of the most special restaurants across Silversea's fleet is La Terrazza, a venue highlighting authentic Italian cuisine made with sustainable ingredients. Focusing on Slow Food (the concept of using high-quality, locally sourced ingredients to prepare food according to regional culinary traditions), the menu is rife with specialty provisions such as homemade pasta, buffalo mozzarella sourced in Naples, delicious organic balsamic vinegar and olive oil from Umbria, and 24-month-aged Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Or if you love supper clubs.
If you enjoy dining on small plates while listening to live music in a cozy venue, you'll love Silversea's Silver Note. This complimentary dining experience can be found aboard Silver Spirit and Silver Muse. Be sure to make reservations before you embark or on embarkation day because this intimate venue fills up fast.
When it comes to having fun onboard Oceania and Silversea ships, there's plenty to keep you busy on both lines.
Choose Oceania O-class ships if you're interested in cooking or art classes.
Oceania gets a slight edge over Silversea if you're looking for daytime pastimes. Oceania's O-class ships feature culinary centers where you can take a hands-on cooking class with a master chef. For art enthusiasts, or anyone that wants to focus on their creative side, there's the Artist Loft. That's the place to go to meet the artists-in-residence who offer step-by-step instruction in different mediums such as sketching, watercolors or collage creation. (The Artist Loft is also available on Insignia during its world cruise.)
Choose Silversea's larger cruise ships if you love live music and evening shows.
Silversea excels when it comes to live music, and nearly every venue offers a musical diversion each evening. The Voices of Silversea sing on each vessel and are the focal point of the production shows in the theater. Expect to hear a range of styles from jazz classics to the music of the Rat Pack to big-band-era hits. In addition to Silversea's own in-house performers, the line brings aboard guest entertainers. You may watch a magician, listen to a solo violinist or even dance to a samba troupe.
Or any Silversea ship if you like to dance and appreciate the presence of a gentleman host.
On many Silversea sailings, you'll find gentleman hosts, generally between the ages of 45 and 70, who dance and socialize with solo travelers. It's a nice extra that makes sure even those traveling alone can enjoy a twirl around the dance floor.
To be frank, neither of these lines is a perfect fit for families. They don't offer a lot of facilities for children nor do they normally organize activities that would keep little ones busy. Both lines are more suited for families traveling with young adults or kids who are happy entertaining themselves and enjoying adult company.
Choose Oceania Cruises if you're sailing to Alaska with kids.
While Oceania doesn't normally offer children's programs, the line does present the Alaska Explorer Youth Program during its Alaska summertime voyages. Counselors organize complimentary games and educational activities for kids ages 5 through 12. Those voyages are your best bet if you want to sail Oceania with your children in tow.
Choose Silversea if you're traveling with adult children.
If you're celebrating a special occasion with your adult children -- maybe a high school or college graduation -- Silversea is an excellent option since you can book two-bedroom suites with luxurious common areas including a living room, dining room and expansive teak balcony. (If you are traveling with younger children, consider Silver Muse. It's the only ship in the fleet with a dedicated kids club.)
Choose Oceania if you prefer a larger ship with various cabin categories, a la carte pricing on extras, complimentary dining, some free perks and kid-friendly cruises to Alaska.
Choose Silversea if you prefer an all-inclusive experience aboard an intimate ship with spacious, butler-serviced cabins; appreciate pampering and personalized service; and want to experience special dining experiences in the slow food tradition and are willing to pay for them.