Where to begin??
I chose Silversea because I had always wanted to sail on a smaller ship, and this 17 year old ship only holds 382 passengers. The itinerary was a 14 night sailing from Seward, Alaska to Tokyo, Japan.
Silversea's marketing materials boasts luxurious accommodations, free beverages, and a butler with every suite (all cabins are considered suites). So far so good.... but, in my opinion, that is where the marketing materials and reality part ways.
Bus transfer to the Train Station: Having pre-purchased a transfer from the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage to the train station located adjacent to the Anchorage airport, the day before embarkation day I went down to the Silversea's representative's desk in the hotel lobby to collect a time slot ticket that would allow me on the bus. That went smooth enough. however we were told to be down there to hand over our luggage no later than 9:30 a.m. on embarkation day. Problem was there was no one there to take the luggage, no rep at the desk, and several of us ran around trying to figure out if we were even in the right place. Finally, the Rep arrived and a porter started scooping up the luggage left beside the Rep's desk, and we all just hoped it would go to the correct place as it seemed very hap hazzard.
Transfer to the Ship: A complimentary transfer was provided through Silversea from the train station in Anchorage to the port at Seward. The description of this 4 1/2 hour journey said that 'refreshments' would be provided. Said 'refreshment' was about 2 ounces of sparkling wine to make a 'toast'. The seating on the train was on very tight bench seats with a table in front of you, so there was people on each side of the table looking directly at each other. We had been warned that there was no room for carry-on luggage and they didn't disappoint on that score. You had a space below your bench seat that was about 12 inches in height, which would accommodate a handbag, and perhaps a very small camera bag. We were 1/2 hour late leaving and basically from 12:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. if you wanted to eat or drink anything you were forced to order ridiculously overpriced beverages and tasteless food from the caterers that had the contract for the train.
Arrival at the port: Since our 'check-in' had been done at the train station boarding the ship was quick and smooth. We were told to go to 'The Bar' on deck 5 where some very confused looking staff fumbled around and then you were assigned a miserable looking (in my case anyway) butler to show you to your cabin. It is one of those things that is supposed to make Silversea look good (in their minds anyway) but actually makes them look disorganized, and is off-putting with the lack of social skills by your escort.
Cabin: I was in a mid-ship balcony on deck 6. It was pretty much as advertised and there were no problems at all. The 'teak deck' they advertise is just some teak planks placed over top of a steel deck, so not even as nice as the surfacing you would find on Celebrity's balconies. Oh well, it's an old ship so that can be forgiven. The nice thing about this cabin was its proximity to the laundry facility. The laundry machines become very busy during the cruise (and don't trust the time read outs on the machines) so it was easy to nip back and forth checking on my laundry.
Food and Dining experience: Okay folks, hold on to your hats because this to me was the most unbelievable disappointment on this ship. The main dining room (cleverly named 'The Restaurant') is not a pleasant venue at all. Most nights it was kept at a temperature slightly above that of a meat locker. Even with the room half empty the service is painfully slow, the food arrived barely warm, and the food taste and quality was poor beyond description. The filet mignon was absolutely disgusting. They don't ask you how you want it cooked, and if you inquire they say they don't need to know!?! What arrives is a bland looking grey blob that looks like it was parboiled and finished off in a frying pan. If you don't believe me I invite you to pay a small fortune to sail on the Shadow and experience it yourself. After the second visit to this dimly lit, freezing cold, venue I refused to have dinner there again, so spent the rest of the cruise dining in La Terrazza, Le Champagne, and on one occasion The Grill (Hot Rocks).
Le Champagne ($40 per person) and The Grill (free): I would recommend both of these dining venues. I went to Le Champagne three times and felt is was well worth the cost. Both food and service were outstanding!
La Terrazza ~ this is the venue that serves as the 'buffet' for breakfast and lunch. However, it is far superior to a traditional buffet found on the non-luxury cruise lines, so it easily transitioned to a quaint Italian themed venue in the evening. I had registered as requiring a gluten free (gf) menu. To give you a frame of reference on Princess when you register as gf each evening after dinner the Maitre'd brings you the next evening's menu and works with you to advise which dishes can be adjusted to be gluten free. You then pre-order your specially prepared gluten free dinner (and can also pre-order lunch) for the following evening.
In La Terrazza on the Silver Shadow ~ you arrive and are handed that evening's menu with 'Gluten Free' scrawled in handwriting across the top. Beside each dish is the hand written notation 'NO', 'NO', 'NO' and then eventually a check mark for a dish that doesn't contain gluten. News flash: I don't need these Bozos to point out which dishes contain gluten, I know that already. If I didn't know better I would have thought I was being punked!! Bare in mind folks this is a cruise that easily costs four times more than a similar itinerary on Princess, and this is their idea of providing 'luxury' service. Having been on 62 previous cruises with many different cruise lines it soon became apparent to me that the Chef/Chefs on this ship think they are above even the Captain, and rule with an iron fist. If I had a nickel for every time they removed prawns from the menu and replaced it with tilapia, or we were told 'No' for a request made at dinner, I'd be rich!
Okay, so I could go on and on but you get the picture. I just want to leave you with one final experience that really brought into focus the Shadow's senior staff's attitude towards the passengers. One morning we were in port and I chose to remain on the ship. Around 10 a.m. I went into the Panorama Lounge to get a cappuccino and noticed four senior officers (Including the Hotel Director and the Head Maitre'd) sitting in one corner of the lounge. I took a chair a couple rows away from where they were sitting but noticed that they had lowered their voices when I came in. Well, as time went on their voice became easily audible and their comments shocked me. First they complained how the Cruise Critic passengers want a gathering organized on the ship, but they only talk to each other online and don't bother mingling once on board. Then the conversation moved on to how demanding the passengers were in the dining room, how they complained that the fish wasn't fresh, etc. etc. The degree of resentment towards the passengers exhibited by these officers was unbelievable.
So there you have it folks. If you want to pay through the nose for sub-standard food, and be viewed as enemy #1 by the senior staff, have at it. Personally, I don't feel the need to drain my bank account for that kind of experience, especially since I had significantly better service and food on the Carnival Conquest last November.