Embarked in Barbados after a 3-day visit to that pleasant but (to me) mildly dull island. Embarkation was so easy we weren't sure if we were done (!) and cabin was available immediately. Our butler Daniel has helped me understand ... Read More
Embarked in Barbados after a 3-day visit to that pleasant but (to me) mildly dull island. Embarkation was so easy we weren't sure if we were done (!) and cabin was available immediately. Our butler Daniel has helped me understand the point of a butler on a cruise ship (on prior ships we never saw them, didn't see the point) - eg. he polished my husband's shoes without us asking and found him a tie when we realized it was the one thing he failed to pack. yay Daniel. Embarkation in Fort Lauderdale was more formal (by colour group) but also went very smoothly.
Itinerary from Barbados to Fort Lauderdale was good, pretty islands and no big deal when we hit rough weather and went to St. Thomas rather than San Juan (captain made the right/safe decision). We did 3 shore excursions through the ship and all were good - no big bus tours, well-organized and fun. Our 4th planned excursion was cancelled though - apparently no one wanted to watch dolphins in Key West (?!!). I thought perhaps that with this small ship (388 passengers) we might have ports where we were the only ship, but NO. Caribbean is swamped with ships now and even small islands like Bequia had multiple in harbour (though our counterpart there was the lovely Sea Cloud).
Despite the small size, this is a miniature "full-size" cruise ship: it has a full show lounge (with great sightlines), a lounge with a decent dance floor, an all-day espresso cafe, etc. It has been recently refurbished and the decor is modern and attractive (except the main Restaurant which looks 1980's). I liked that there are (sort of) 5 dining venues, though we didn't really have any meals in the Arts Cafe (only very light food there). The Terrazzo restaurant is really special at night, actually much more attractive than the Restaurant and sitting outside there is magical. Pool grill is what you expect and the menu is very limited; Evening poolside menu is even more limited, so fun to try once but then we were kinda done with it. in the evening it becomes "Hot Rocks", a concept I do not embrace (they will cook your food and plate it on request, but somewhat reluctantly). We decided not to pay the big surcharge for La Dame as we found the cruise expensive to begin with, and the room is very blah (others on the ship enjoyed it, though).
I strongly recommend they improve 2 issues (which hold for pretty much ALL luxury cruise lines and maybe all cruise lines, so this is not ship/line specific: 1) green practices - please eliminate single use plastics, especially drinking straws. There is no need for plastic water bottles when people go ashore - provide a re-usable carafe per cabin that can be sterilized between guests; toiletries should be provided in refillable bottles not millions of tiny plastic ones. 2) smoking - it is no longer OK to permit smoking in enclosed or semi-enclosed restaurant, this is not allowed in North America or in most of Europe so I am sure smoking passengers would understand!!! One entire side of the semi-enclosed pool area was for smokers and in the evening when it was "Hot Rocks" it was a smoking section. Day and night the pool area would fill up with smoke even though there were only about 20 smokers on our sailing. They have an indoor Connoiseur Club and an outdoor open deck area - that should be sufficient. (as for cigars, personally I think they should be banned anywhere but the CC - the stench really is intrusive, and more than once I saw people vacate the pool area when someone lit up a cigar). This is a health issue for the cruiseline employees, not only the guests.
In terms of "room to improve" specifically for Silversea and Silver Shadow, the main issue is food and beverage service. The food is tasty and there is good variety. The bar service was fine. The complimentary wine selection is impressive BUT what they have on board is top secret, and it was an endless struggle to know what wine was available. There is no list, they won't provide a list, and even meeting with the sommelier did not result in any list (unlike Silver Discoverer, which provided a verbal list...). The solution was to say "no thank you, could we speak to the sommelier please?" every time a waiter approached us with a wine bottle, but that was really a headache and not always taken with good grace by the waitstaff. This approach really is not in keeping with the sophisticated guest that Silverseas suggests they are hoping to attract. Also, there were a LOT of minor food service errors, which added up to an overall "average" impression. One easy fix would be to use different glasses for sparkling vs flat water!! (I was constantly getting flat water poured into my sparkling and most did NOT remove the glass when it was pointed out).None of this was terrible, but at the price we expected better.
Finally, every cruiser wants a different experience and sometimes, a ship may be delightful but not an ideal fit for you. For the interest of others considering this ship, I will give my impressions of the passengers on board; this is only my impression, and of course, other sailings and other itineraries may attract a different group. Relative to our experiences on Crystal and Regent, we found that this passenger group were less interactive; it was not a very diverse group (mostly white, married couples from the US and UK, aged 60-80), and although people were pleasant enough when we started conversations, with a few exceptions most seemed to prefer the exclusive company of their spouses. There were more people in the bars before vs after dinner; the shows were poorly attended (though pretty good); it was not so much an atmosphere geared to "making new friends". There were few organized activities, even on the sea days (exception: ping pong tournament, which was the friendliest event on the ship). If you are an older married couple who just want some "don't bug us" quality time together, this may suit you perfectly. We missed the more frequent chatting, dining and dancing with other couples that we had enjoyed on other ships.I think this would be a rather tough trip for a single passenger traveling alone, unless that person was really keen on alone time.
Overall, I enjoyed the cruise and the ship, but I do think that for the high prices, the food and beverage service should be improved. I would go on Silversea again if the price or itinerary was right, but it won't be my first-choice luxury cruise line (based on this experience). Read Less