The cruise should have been fabulous: 10 days to areas of Denmark, Sweden, and Finland rarely visited by cruise ships, with expected weather a relief from the heat of a New Jersey summer. Instead, the cruise started off badly, with problems regarding food service and an excursion, and never quite recovered.
Let's start with the best part of the cruise: our room and its attendants. Our superior veranda suite was nearly indistinguishable from the suites were used to on our usual cruise line, Regent. Our butler, Rahul, and our cabin attendant Jobie kept the room in tip top shape. Rahul attended to our every need, including our unusual requests for pomegranate juice and other beverages, and even provided me with a tie, since I had forgotten to pack one.
Now for the worst: our first excursion, and several bad food experiences in the first two days. These things created a bad impression that was never overcome, even though the cruise improved as we went along.
The highlight of our tour in our first port, Ronne, Bornholm, was supposed to be a ruined castle, and Silversea sent at least 5 buses there. Unfortunately, there was no coordination between the ship and tour provider on one hand, and the Danish parks department on the other hand. As a result, we arrived at the castle at 8:50 am, only to find that the visitors' center (with toilets, gift shop, panoramic view, and an explanation of the site) wouldn't open until 10. The guide pointed to the castle, and we were on our own. No explanation, no place for my wife (for whom the trail was too steep to walk in 85 degree heat) to wait, no bathrooms. At other stops, the guide also failed to guide, and didn't tell us about an interesting museum. Our complaints about the tour to the Silversea excursion desk fell on deaf ears.
After Bornholm, the excursions improved, but they were pricey. The best was the second day, to Kalmar, Sweden from Borgholm, Sweden. Good guide, good tour. In Lulea, Sweden, the trip to a UNESCO heritage site, Gammelstad, was nice; but we could have gone there on a bus for $3.50 instead of $89. The Arctic Arts and Culture tour was pricey (nearly $250 per person), long, but interesting. We could have done without time spent making key chains in 2 different places, and lunch at one of th3e museums was meh. In the one place where we took a free shuttle, Sundstrand, the shuttles were overcrowded, and they made some people wait in the heat for the next bus 30 minutes later. Couldn't they get more shuttles when the need became obvious?
Overall rating of tours other than the F in Bornholm: B minus for content, C for value.
Our first dinner on the ship, at The Grill, was pretty bad. It was too hot for us to cook the food ourselves, and the food was over cooked by the kitchen. I'd give the meal a D plus. On our first day, after we returned from Bornholm and had lunch, there were more food goofs. We got hungry in mid-afternoon . The ship has no afternoon tea, which is a big minus for us; so we went to the pizzeria, Spaccanapoli. We said we were hungry, and asked how long the food would take. "10 minutes", we were told. After 25 minutes, we asked what was happening, and were told that a group of 11 people had ordered before us. Why didn't they tell us that when we were told the wait would be 10 minutes, and why didn't they say that the restaurant had ice cream. (We found out about that on the next to last day of the cruise.) We had ordered a pizza margarita and a mushroom pizza. The margarita was awful-bad crust, no flavor. Instead of a mushroom pizza, they brought one covered with ham, which we don't eat. Just awful!
Other food disasters included an order that was lost in the kitchen of Indochine, so that our main course arrived 50 minutes after our appetizers. By then, we were too tired to eat it. We had food allergy problems at Silver Note. I'm allergic to chocolate, my wife to strawberries. As listed, the desserts had either chocolate or strawberries. However, the non-chocolate dessert included a beautiful chocolate tower, which they removed for me (creating a very blah dessert). After tasting strawberries in her chocolate (but no strawberries) dessert, my wife inquired about dessert ingredients. She was told "no strawberries", but decided to be cautious. That was a goof thing: 5 minutes later, the waiter rushed to the table to apologize for the fact that the dessert did, indeed, have strawberries. That could have cause a major medical problem.
We tried on at least 4 days to speak to the food manager about our food problems. We never connected with him. That's very bad management on the part of Silversea.
We shared a private tour with people who were vegans. They will never sail Silversea again, since the ship apparently didn't even know what a vegan was. Inexcusable.
Ratings of individual restaurants:
Silver note - small portions of slightly odd food, dessert disaster, opening time (8 pm) too late for us. D
Spaccanapoli - as noted above, F
The Grill at supper - C minus
Indochine - We ate there twice. The first time, as noted, an F. The second time, with some friends, a B. The menu is still too limited, with only raw foods or soups too spicy for my wife as appetizer choices.
Atlantide - Nice menu, but still limited choices and the menu never changes. Excellent service. A minus.
La Terrazza lunch - Standard luxury ship buffet; but it's odd that there's only one choice of pasta on an Italian ship. Very friendly and courteous staff. B
La Terrazza dinner - Excellent food, lots of choices. A.
La Dame - Small number of choices, but excellent food in a nice atmosphere. Rating is an A; but it's annoying to be charged $60 per person for a meal on a luxury liner, and then to have to sign a bill.
More food issues - Dress code - I don't like having to put on a jacket (sometimes with a tie) for dinner; but it's part of the Silversea culture. New Silversea cruisers need to be aware of the code.
Hors d'oeuvres - Uniformly the worst I've ever encountered. Tiny and a bit odd, especially in the Arts Cafe. (One shrimp with gloppy sauce in a mason jar? Weird!) Certainly not enough to hold one until the late Silversea dinner hour, which is a big problem for us.
The biggie: late meal times, no afternoon tea, impossibly late show times. We normally eat at or before 6 pm, so even the 6:30 dinner time on Regent is a problem for us. The problem is solved by having some fruit, tea, and sweets at afternoon tea. Still, 6:30 dinners mean 9:30 show times, which is late for us. We make it to the shows on Regent about half the time. On Silversea, early dinner is at 7, show time at 10, and there's no afternoon tea. We found ourselves trying to have an afternoon snack, so we wouldn't be overly hungry by 7 (or worse, by opening time of 8 pm for Silver Note). That was difficult, (especially since we didn't know Spaccanapoli had ice cream). Pizza at Spaccanapoli was a disaster, Room service took more than 30 minutes. The grill closed at 3:30, usually before we were hungry. (The one time we sneaked it at 3:25, the food was excellent). The only thing that worked for us was making cheese sandwiches from the breakfast buffet, then eating them when we got hungry at 4 or 5 pm. Not exactly a luxury experience!
We were only up late enough to try one 10 pm show. That was in the Panorama Lounge instead of the main showroom; and we couldn't get a seat in the room. Bad! There were three 6:30 shows, a time which pushed supper to later than the too-late-for us 7 pm dinner time.. The two opera singers were terrific, the individual singer so-so, and we had no interest in a blues and soul show.
Just singers, late shows, no dancers or guest entertainers, no local entertainers even when we left ports at a late hour. Pretty lame. Grade: incomplete, since the 10 pm show time made us miss most shows.
The ship was shiny and new, as it should have been two months after the "big stretch." Public spaces were generally good, except for the overly small and unattractive show lounge. Our basic problems were with design, particularly with spaces too small for an increased number of passengers. The gym was small and cramped. Seishin (which we didn't try) and La Dame were too small. The laundry rooms had only one small washer and dryer each, and no place to sit down. Someone thought it was a good idea to have all public spaces in the aft part of the ship, which has pluses (no stateroom over most of the lounges) and minuses (vibration in each restaurant or lounge, no aft cabins.) The strangest thing is having the grill on the 9th deck and the buffet restaurant on the 7th. That means that one can't have a lunch partly from the grill, partly from the buffet, as we've often done on at least five different cruise lines. Strange! Overall grade for the ship: B.
We chose the ship because of the terrific itinerary, and the ship mostly delivered on the itinerary. If we come back to Silversea, it would be because the line has more interesting itineraries than other luxury lines.
Our whole experience on this cruise was less than the sum of its parts. Somehow we never adjusted to the meal hours, the late activities, the lack of a good (but light) afternoon snack, the failure of management to respond to our problems, and the early excursion times in most ports. Silversea is probably great for most people; but it was not a good fit for us.
Our superior veranda suite was nearly indistinguishable from the suites were used to on our usual cruise line, Regent. Our butler, Rahul, and our cabin attendant Jobie kept the room in tip top shape. Rahul attended to our every need, including our unusual requests for pomegranate juice and other beverages, and even provided me with a tie, since I had forgotten to pack one.
On a hot day with 4 cruise ships in port, it was great to take a nature tour with another couple. We saw lots of scenery, including a beautiful lake and a bronze age burial site. There were sheep and horses as well as birds at the lake, and on of the horses nuzzled my wife and left marks on her t-shirt. Amazing. Lunch was vegan, and the vegetables and potatoes were a nice light change from the heavy cruise ship fare.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Our guide, Marianne Praeger, was one of the best we've ever had. She gave us a comprehensive tour of the Great Synagogue, then took us down into the subway to see the art work and archaeology. Then we had a walking tour of old tow, My wife wilted in the 85 degree heat, so she sat comfortably eating ice cream while we (I and another couple) completed the tour. Wonderful!View All undefined undefined Reviews
No, this isn't a review of a Copenhagen tour. Most of our ports were too small to be listed by Cruise Critic.
Ronne, Bornholm - no stars. A hot visit to a ruined fortress that didn't open until we were ready to leave, a fishing village where the guide didn't guide us and failed to mention a museum, an endless bus trip, a clueless guide. One of the worst tours ever.
For other tours, see our main review. The Bornholm tour to Kalmar was 5 stars, Turku City and Castle 4 stars, Lulea tour to Gammalstad 3 stars (but the waterfall portion of the tour was 5 stars), Kemi arctic culture tour 4 stars but way overpriced, Sundsvall free shuttle inadequate - 1 star.View All undefined undefined Reviews