Could the dramatically redone, now 608-passenger, Silver Spirit be your cup of cruise tea? This ship debuted in 2009, but with a massive 2018 makeover -- including a new longer midsection; new restaurants and lounges; an expanded pool deck; additional suites, suite refurbishments and other niceties -- its luxury ante was upped in a chic next-gen way. Check out our pictures for a peek at the changes.
Photos: Janice Wald Henderson, Cruise Critic contributor
The remodeled suites feature a light neutral palate and a clean modern Italian design. Expect an abundance of gorgeous granite and buttery-soft leather furnishings. The many additional plugs (both 220 and 110 voltage) and USB ports ensure every cruiser can readily recharge, even bedside.
Few miss the old main dining room with the debut of no-reservations-needed Atlantide, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. With Art Deco touches, stunning marble columns and winning window views, elegance abounds. The new eight-seat bar lures appreciative diners for pre- or post-dinner drinks, and delivers a hipster-y vibe. With numerous tables for two, handholding cruisers can tuck into prime steaks and impeccable seafood a deux, come dinnertime.
Walk in for dinner anytime at the new Indochine, offering a modern take on pan-Asian cuisine, and featuring Indian, Chinese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese dishes. This stylish eatery, designed in soft shades of brown and blue, features woven fish sculptures and artsy metal "screens" with squares of light boxes mirroring Japanese privacy screens. Servers appear with an Asian-accented cocktail du jour while you peruse the adventurous menu -- quite cool.
Formerly Stars Supper Club, Silver Note switched locales with the casino and now showcases an opulent supper club vibe. The lightly lit, intimate room displays gorgeous china bowls and burnt orange chandeliers that look more like art than light fixtures. The quirky menu possesses some oddly named dishes, like Cereal (ancient grain medley), but taste great. A charismatic jazz singer performs three sets nightly. Many passengers pop in post-dinner to sip a drink and catch a show.
No longer one big buffet for breakfast and lunch, La Terrazza was redesigned into three stations. One dishes up a.m. omelets, and switches to pasta and stir-fries midday (all ordered via a server). Another blends smoothies and veggie juices to order, and transforms to a dessert mecca at lunchtime. Lines are virtually nonexistent, as servers will retrieve any dish, any time. The Italian dinner menu remains table service only, with modern menu updates, such as tableside antipasti.
This no-reservation, super-casual, alfresco pizza eatery stars three blazing-hot pizza ovens, with chefs fashioning crispy-edged thin-crusted pies in minutes. Primo toppings and 26-month aged Parmigiano-Reggiano ensure authentic flavors. Open from late morning until 11 p.m., Spaccanapoli lures cruisers like moths to flames, thanks to irresistible wafting aromas.
Count the Arts Cafe as one of the buzziest hangouts onboard. The barista excels at making cappuccino, and can brew a proper cup of tea with high-end Ronnefeldt varieties. Or come here for cocktails and liqueurs, and grab an outdoor seat for sips with a view. Gastronomic goodies fill glass cases, from morning smoothies and lunchtime paninis to afternoon tea cakes and late-day white, dark and milk chocolate truffles served in mini glass jars.
This new central lobby lounge enchants with Art Deco accents, a stunning crystal chandelier and conversation-inducing seating areas outfitted with plush chairs and couches. During the day, cruisers gather to read books and relax. In the evening, Dolce Vita draws both a pre- and post-dinner crowd for live entertainment, such as a classical pianist and a singing guitarist.
Tor's Observation Library
The Observation Lounge, renamed Tor's Observation Library, is a great haunt to quietly curl up with a book or just revel in stunning ocean views. The pretty design -- mostly blue, with pops of red -- includes comfy chairs and sofas. Books to borrow fill shelves, and include tomes from travel guides and best-selling suspense novels to the works of Shakespeare.
The Fitness Centre features all-new Technogym equipment; think treadmills, bicycles, lat and rowing machines. A separate weight room showcases all new weights, both in kilos and pounds. Walk outside the Fitness Centre to find a new third workout area on deck, with four spinning bikes and a case filled with mats (both for yoga and stretching) and weighted balls. It's a lovely spot to stretch or spin amid the ocean breezes.
With both an expanded pool deck and sun deck above, it's a snap to find a chaise lounge for vegging out. Servers stop by to take drink orders or bring requested munchies. At the adjacent Grill, a new canopy cover and heat lamps make it easier to dine alfresco, no matter the weather. (The Grill also offers more seating now, too.)
It's one of the most common cruising questions: When is the best time to cruise Alaska, Australia, the Caribbean, Canada/New England, Hawaii, Europe or the South Pacific? The answer depends on many variables. For example, fall foliage enthusiasts will find September and October the best time to cruise Canada/New England, whereas families prefer to sail in summer when temperatures are warmer for swimming. The best time to cruise to Alaska will vary depending on your preferences for viewing wildlife, fishing, bargain-shopping, sunshine, warm weather and catching the northern lights. For most cruise regions, there are periods of peak demand (high season), moderate demand (shoulder season) and low demand (low season), which is usually the cheapest time to cruise. High season is typically a mix of when the weather is best and popular travel periods (such as summer and school holidays). However, the best time to cruise weather-wise is usually not the cheapest time to cruise. The cheapest time to cruise is when most travelers don't want to go because of chillier temperatures or inopportune timing (too close to holidays, the start of school, etc.). But the lure of cheap fares and uncrowded ports might make you change your mind about what you consider the best time to cruise. As you plan your next cruise, you'll want to take into consideration the best and cheapest times to cruise and see what jibes with your vacation schedule. Here's a when-to-cruise guide for popular destinations.