We have only done a few ultraluxury cruises before, including with Silversea, so we are not as experienced as many on these boards and perhaps my expectations were too high. Overall we had a very nice time, with a few annoyances and ... Read More
We have only done a few ultraluxury cruises before, including with Silversea, so we are not as experienced as many on these boards and perhaps my expectations were too high. Overall we had a very nice time, with a few annoyances and disappointments.
This was an anniversary cruise for us, focussed on the Monaco Grand Prix, as we are big Formula One fans (we DVR and watch all the F1 races at home) We booked 8 months ahead of time to assure we would get space and tickets to the race that were being organized by Silversea, so we would not have to worry about the hassle of getting to/from seats at the track or having to fend for ourselves at what we expected to be a very crowded event with potential for disorganization and "mob scene" we wished to avoid.
We had made our own arrangement in Barcelona for four night before the cruise, as I could not get timely pre-cruise hotel information from the Silversea booking agent despite several attempts. Barcelona is awesome, we plan to go back for more days.
EMBARCATION: flawless, no lines even though it was just 1.5 hours before latest check-in time, painless passport check, pleasant and welcoming staff starting right at the port when the cab dropped us.
SHIP: The Spirit was clean, smooth and comfortable everywhere and everything seemed to work. Public areas were uncrowded and low stress. The African themed art hanging in some of the hallways was, to me, pretty ugly and uninspired, but other than that the decor was tasteful and elegant. I have a back and muscle problem so the soft and comfortable dining chairs in all the indoor and outdoor venues were especially appreciated.
SUITE and SUITE SERVICE: Our 365 sq-ft (counting veranda) V5 suite was and remained immaculate through the cruise. Our butler Jerry and his cleaning helper Larry (really) introduced themselves almost immediately, and they efficiently filled and refilled our unusual mini-fridge stocking requests. My towel gluttony request for always having six bath towels on hand was honored. The bed was nice and soft, the bathtub and separate shower and bath toiletries (there is a choice, I chose Bulgari) were perfect. The retractable clothesline over the tub was welcome for small items, though we also used daily laundry service regularly and our clothes were only lost (and then quickly found) once. The veranda lounge chairs were ergonomically just right for positioning my difficult back and legs. We used room service for appetizers a few times and it was prompt, food was tasty. In addition, after a particularly long excursion, the butler surprized us with an unexpected array of appetizers as well, anticipating we'd be tired and hungry.
Internet wi-fi was slow and expensive as it always is on cruises, but way better than on our last SS cruises (Alaska, South America). For $250 we got the 1000 minute package and the speed was fast enough to get a reasonable amount of work and communication done and still have leftover minutes.
DINING: surprizingly, a mixed bag. Our favorite was the Stars Supper Club, where we ate on formal night (you can be informal there) and were pleasantly surprized with sequential tasty small bites and a sultry singer. La Terrazza outdoor deck dining on the buffet food was efficient, uncrowded and reasonably tasty for breakfast and lunch, and dinner the first night was exquisite, though table service (coffee) was spotty in the mornings. The 3 dinners and 1 breakfast we had in the dining room were mostly just good enough, nothing wow like we'd had on the Silver Cloud. The gratis white and red wines poured were mostly the Silversea label which I did not care for, so we just ordered and paid extra off the Connoisseur menu. Seishin was interesting, tasty sashimi, though the waitress struggled for several minutes with the mechanics of how to open a bottle of special wine we'd ordered (after having first brought the wrong bottle). But she also noticed I was using my hand fan, because the room was hot, and immediately set off to get the AC turned up. Breakfast in the room always arrived on time and with what we ordered, though the offerings of European style "lunch meats" that were there and all over the ship were tasteless.
SERVICE: Mostly good, though there was one lady at reception who did not seem to like her job and who had some attitude problems, and some of the (mostly Filipino, not uncommonly talking Tagalog to each other in public areas) wait and cleaning staff seemed tired, especially towards the end of the cruise. One annoying episode was where we'd ordered a Connoisseur wine we did not finish that we wanted to take back to our suite to store for the next day (we always bring the air removal pumping devices for this purpose). The waiter insisted on sending someone to bring the wine to our suite, rather than letting us just carry it ourselves (it really isn't that heavy!). We waited a half hour in our suite, putting off going to sleep as we anticipated a door knock, and the wine did not appear, so I got redressed and set out to track it down. No one seemed to know where it was, until finally, it appeared, late (the next night we knew better, and just carried the wine back ourselves :)
ENTERTAINMENT: the only show other than in Stars we went to was opera night, where a mezzo named Victoria Morgan moved me to tears with the beauty of her voice singing Carmen, but one of the male singers was just so-so.
PORT AND SHORE EXCURSIONS: -- some guides were great, some not so good, all excursions we did (except for the separately organized F1 race) were good and worth the price, with clean buses and functioning AC, and though the toilets on the buses were routinely locked, the bus driver on one excursion stopped and opened up the toilet for a desparate passenger, which was nice.
SETE: all-day excursion to Carcassonne, interesting. About a one hour drive in a comfortable bus with AC, then you see a charming hillside medieval walled town. The local guide who gave a brief tour was terrible (heavy accent, plus the heavy wind this area is known for did not help), though he tried. There was time for a leisurely early lunch of cassoulet (we chose Le Jardin De Templier near the Basilica). It was nice we had enough time for a local lunch, as opposed to just a stroll to buy souvenirs, and time to tour the fortress. A Russian Orthodox choral group happened to be performing in the Basilica, lovely.
CANNES: two days -- wonderful. One day we did an excursion to St. Paul de Vence and Chateau de Saint-Martin for wine tasting . Though St. Paul was cute (warning -- steep walking!), the trip to the beautiful Relais and Chateaux location of Saint-Martin alone, where excellent wines and appetizers were served on a gorgeous view patio, was worth the excursion fee. No herding, no mad rush. The only disappointment was that we could not buy the wines we'd just tasted on site.
The next day we went on the Nice and Perfumerie Fragonard excursion. This was well-organized but it is a long drive, lots of traffic (included time to buy wholesale quality perfume after a tour of the production facilities). When we stopped in Nice, after some traffic, a guest asked the local guide about toilets and the guide said there were none other than going into a cafe to buy a coffee , "that is just the way things are done here." After we'd wandered around a couple minutes we found immaculate, staffed public pay toilets at the nearby Seven Continents Square (hard to miss), so I mentioned this when we got back on the bus, for the guide's future reference for guests. She defensively said, "Yes, they are there, but I did not mention this because you have to pay 50 cents!" Perhaps local excursion guides should be advised that it is likely Silversea pax would not mind paying 50 cents for a clean toilet?? :)
On embarkation, we were told the Clos Capitoro Wine Tasting excursion out of Ajaccio was cancelled, so we rebooked into the Walking Tour and Fesch Museum option. Then that tour was also cancelled the night before, and none of the remaining tours appealed to us so we set out walking the lovely town on our own (which actually turned out fine). The Fesch Museum is worth a visit, do not miss the Corsican art in the basement which was our favorite.
MONACO, 2 days.
EXCUSIONS TO NICE AND EZE -- Medieval Eze is beautiful (VERY steep to walk up to!), but unfortunately we were too early in the day, and did not have enough time to have a leisurely lunch in one of the excellent (and expensive) local dining venues. Had just enough time (45 min) for a stroll, drink, and pictures, or a quick purchase.
MONACO GRAND PRIX PACKAGE -- Key issue: You will not have VIP seats or service at the race! Two nights before the race we were issued F1 package swag bags which consisted of a cheap mini-backpack with F1 programs, ear plugs, some cheap binoculars, a tiny plastic rain poncho, and our lanyards and tickets. We were given a detailed orientation RE how to get to and from the ship to the track. Access would be only to the races that day (Sunday), not Saturday's qualifying, no pit walk, no special access, just regular grandstand bleacher seats for Sunday, is what we should expect. We were told our seats would be mostly in the K2 section grandstands, "near the checkered flag" (though it turned out we could not see the checkered flag from our seats, as it was up and behind us). We'd been told at booking, and that night, that there would be a "former F1 driver" at the upcoming cocktail party, but we were still not told who it would be until we got the late night newsletter on our bed, where a wiki printout of the bio on Allan McNish awaited us. McNish had started in only 17 F1 races, so technically he was indeed a "former F1 driver" and Silversea did not lie, though his greatest fame was actually that he was a 3-time American Le Mans Series champion. Then the night before the race a special, formal cocktail party in La Terrazza, with excellent canapes and champagne and almost everyone dressed to the nines. A lot of the pax there seemed less interested in F1 than in just being where they thought they should be so they could tell people about it when they got home, but many were hardcore car buffs, and it was nice to meet fellow afficionados. This was followed by an entertaining talk given by McNish, who was a great speaker and we were happy to meet him even though we'd never heard of him RE F1 racing until this trip. Then we had a special dinner with not extra special food at La Terrazza with fellow F1 fans.
Then came the actual race on Sunday: we tendered in early to allow time to walk up the hill to the track. The streets were a zoo, full of souvenir shops and tourists as well as high end boutiques, some ladies in outrageously gawdy outfits as you'd expect, but mostly just casual attire like we'd been told to wear. No drivers or celebrities viewed. Our grandstand seating (no backrests), out in the blazing sun was indeed in K2 and, as noted, we could not see the checkered flag. Toilets were few and far away dirty portable units with LONG LINES (3 stalls, one broken, for hundreds of women), so we were afraid to eat or drink anything though the drunken Aussies behind us (not SS pax) kept climbing over us in the bleachers to go get more beer. Overhead announcements were hard to hear and the display board showing driver standings had big delays. As we sat for a few hours, uncomfortable, trying to focus on the race, we longingly gazed at others in town who were luxuriating watching the race from commercial service yachts and hotels, drinking champagne and eating lunch in real chairs, (presumably with access to clean toilets), thinking that if we'd paid a few hundred dollars more (we looked it up), we could have been there instead of suffering on our bleachers.
For $1500 per person, we (perhaps unrealistically) expected more, and would not do this again, as we are not interested in bragging rights for just having been there (when we got home, we then watched the race on TV:)
PORTOFERRAIO -- we took the tour across the island first, and then toured Napoleon's old villa, nice views and some interesting history. Could have skipped the island tour and just toured the villa on our own.
DISEMBARKATION smooth, no problems, took the bus SS had organized to the airport
SUMMARY: overall an entertaining cruise, with mostly excellent service on an uncrowded ship, though we probably would have picked a different Silversea cruise (or bought our own GP tickets with better seats) if we'd known the Grand Prix experience was going to be so uncomfortable relative to the price. Read Less