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Silver Nova sails as the sun sets. (Photo: Silversea)

An Evolutionary Cruise Ship Sets Sail for Silversea: Just Back From Silver Nova

Silver Nova sails as the sun sets. (Photo: Silversea)
Colleen McDaniel

Sep 13, 2023

Read time
9 min read

(2:45 p.m. EDT) – Cruise line Silversea has been evolving its brand of “whispered Italian luxury” for years. Its ships long have been well known for understated elegance, fine dining and service built on empowered crew who rarely use the word, "No."

Since 2019, Silversea has introduced a number of concepts that set the company apart from other luxury cruise lines, from its innovative S.A.L.T. food and tour approach to its indulgent Otivm spa and wellness program.

With its new cruise ship, Silver Nova, which set sail with passengers August 14 from Venice, all of the concepts Silversea has been building are neatly wrapped up in one spot.

We’ve just completed a three-night hosted pre-inaugural cruise sailing roundtrip from Venice onboard the 728-passenger ship – the largest in the fleet – to find out whether Silver Nova represents an evolution for Silversea – and the cruise industry. Here’s what we thought.

The Asymmetrical Design Makes Silver Nova Striking

Silver Nova's pool deck is spacious and faces the sea. (Photo: Colleen McDaniel)

Most cruise ships are designed symmetrically; you could cut a ship in half from bow to stern, and each side would look almost the same. With Silver Nova, this is not the case. Instead, the “weight” of the ship shifts from one side to the other. Imagine a birds-eye view of the ship, and there’s an “S” drawn on top; this is the way the ship flows. The result is a horizontal design, higher-than-usual ceiling heights and wide-open spaces.

The most striking spot to see this in action is the pool deck, which is simply stunning. The deck features a surprisingly large pool and wide-open lounging space. What’s interesting is it also creates some lovely intimate nooks, including a pergola-covered seating area (complete with a realistic-looking orange tree), sunbeds and conversation areas. It’s the kind of spot you can settle into for a quiet day with a book or friends.

You’ll notice the design – both subtly and boldly – in the ship’s interior, too, especially midship, which features a beautiful three-level atrium, from Deck 3 to Deck 5. Restaurants are tucked away behind corners, which are sometimes difficult to find – we missed French restaurant La Dame time and again, as it’s a bit hidden alongside the Venetian Lounge on Deck 4, around a corner that feels like a dead end unless you know what you’re looking for.

Silver Nova has a welcoming embarkation deck. (Photo: Colleen McDaniel)

One of our favorite surprises is the ship’s tender embarkation space on Deck 2. It’s more than just the typical awkward passage through crew areas. Instead, it is a comfortable area complete with seating (and fresh flowers!), a water-bottle filling station and a permanent spot from which passengers can grab towels and umbrellas on the way out. This convenience also means you can mostly skip the long climb up a long gangway, as it sits at water level.

It’s no accident that this spot is reminiscent of sister brand Celebrity Cruises’ Destination Gateway on its Edge Class of ships: Silver Nova is the first ship that was still in the design stage when Silversea was acquired by Royal Caribbean Group in 2018, and the Silversea design team engaged with the group’s designers, RCG President and CEO Jason Liberty said. Barbara Muckermann, president of Silversea since January 2023, told us it’s not the only concept Silversea borrowed from Celebrity; Silver Nova also has tender boats that include comfortable and spacious seats, rather than crowded benches that you’ll usually find on other cruise ships.

Silver Nova Offers Art, Light and a Strong Connection to the Outdoors

Silver Nova's Arts Cafe is the spot to go for coffee and tea. (Photo: Silversea)

It’s impossible to miss the impressive elevators, which hug the outside of the ship and have glass sides that open to the sea. I’m typically a cruiser who prefers to take the stairs, but I found myself pushing the elevator button just so I had the opportunity to take in the views. (The ship has two banks, one forward on the port side and one aft on the starboard side, another example of the asymmetry playing out.)

The ship’s coffee hub and casual snack spot, Arts Cafe, a fan favorite, has found a central home in the middle of Deck 4 surrounded by massive, uninterrupted windows and incredible lighting. On our sailing, it was a popular spot, especially in the morning, when guests lingered while chatting and sipping coffee or tea.

The ship’s art collection also is on full display here, and it is elevated when compared with the cruise line’s other ships. Silversea has traditionally taken an understated approach to luxury, with its ships featuring neutral (beige and gray) color palettes that are occasionally punctuated with accents and art. With Nova, the ship is alive with art. Yes, the neutral palette still is there, but it serves as a canvas to the bright vases, abstract art and striking statues. The ship has 1,766 works of art and 230 books by 59 artists from 25 countries. We were particularly fond of the 38 bronze sculptures from Italian artist Francesco Messina, especially the “Scuola di Danza,” a nearly 5-foot ballerina found on Deck 2, welcoming guests with open arms.

Silver Nova's Marquee is a two-story stunner. (Photo: Colleen McDaniel)

The idea of connecting to the sea continues on the back of the ship, where La Terrazza, the ship’s buffet restaurant, the Panorama Lounge and the Connoisseur’s Corner (cigar and whisky lounge) all feature extensive indoor/outdoor spaces. At the back of the pool deck, too, you’ll find the Dusk Bar, a new-to-Silversea bar that stays open late and is the best place for watching the sunset. The aft features a curvature that you’re more likely to notice from ashore looking at the ship than you would onboard.

One of our favorite places to dine for a casual meal is The Marquee, which encompasses the Italian (and pizza) restaurant Spaccanapoli as well as The Grill, which the space turns into at night. This spot is striking from all angles. A variety of tables for two or four sit under a two-deck-high white pergola. A modern blue and white tiled floor ties together the space, along with tall white-flowered faux trees and giant vases filled with flowers. At night, as diners enjoy seafood and meat cooked tableside on hot rocks, the lights change, and the flowers are lit with blue. The space is breathtaking.

S.A.L.T. Program Comes to Life on Silver Nova

Silver Nova's S.A.L.T. Lab is available for cooking classes and a Chef's Table. (Photo: Silversea)

“It’s not any one thing; it’s an ecosystem,” S.A.L.T. Director Adam Sachs says.

The concept was first introduced on Silver Moon when it debuted in 2021, then on Silver Dawn when it launched in 2022. On Silver Nova, it feels like the program finally has realized its potential onboard.

The ship’s S.A.L.T. Lab, where guests can take cooking classes and learn about local cuisine, is found on Deck 10, which brings in all the natural light you could want. (The large doors can be kept open when weather is nice.) This is a departure from the approach on Moon and Dawn, where this space was found in the belly of the ship and lacked any connection to the sea.

The location is also ideal for the Lab’s new function: In addition to the cooking classes that take place here, it’s where guests can indulge in the 11-course Chef’s Table experience. This is a new option for Silversea guests, and the meal is a special one. Here, the food is the star, and a chef and culinary team walks diners through each course, describing the origin of the food, the importance of the ingredients and how they have prepared it onboard.

We tried out this concept, which is still being refined, and enjoyed the stories around the food as well as the actual eating part. One piece we really liked: watching the chefs prepare the courses in front of us in the open-air kitchen/prep space, something that’s usually done behind the scenes on other cruise ships offering chef’s tables. Wines and craft cocktails are served throughout to enhance the meal, with some winners and some that had us politely taking a sip and passing along our glasses. The 3-hour (plus) extravaganza, which can hold 24 guests, does come with a fairly steep $180 fee. For foodies, it’s a no-brainer.

Silver Nova offers a S.A.L.T. bar. (Photo: Silversea)

Right next to the S.A.L.T. Lab is the S.A.L.T. Bar, which is a favorite of guests on other ships. On Nova, the space is greatly expanded from that on Moon and Dawn, and, like with the Lab, it features natural light. On the other ships, it has a speakeasy charm but often got too crowded because it is so small. On Nova, it retains much of that charm but is big enough to accommodate more craft cocktail-eager cruisers. (Our only quibble is it now feels a bit like a walkthrough space instead of a destination because cruisers pass through it to get to the Observation Lounge.) Still, the reason people visit the bar is it offers creative craft drinks made with spirits that also tell the story of the regions where you sail, and the cocktails will change depending on where Nova is in the world. (It’s also the only spot on the ship where you can find local craft beers.)

The ship’s dedicated S.A.L.T. Kitchen remains the restaurant where I’d go night after night to find locally inspired food that is new to me – I love to try things that I’ve never tasted before and that occasionally challenge my tastebuds. It’s open every night, offering a rotating menu.

A Hybrid Ship that is More Fuel Efficient

Silver Nova sails under a blue sky. (Photo: Silversea)

Also, the ship is equipped with shoreside power, so when it is in a port that supports shoreside power, it can simply plug in rather than generating its own power.

Guests definitely will notice the shape of the ship’s hull, which is square and features a blunt “nose.”

Liberty says the shape makes it “dramatically more efficient in terms of fuel efficiency,” and that the ship “has a significantly small carbon footprint.”

Thought even went into those glass elevators, which generate electricity when going down, then use that electricity going up.

Silver Nova's atrium offers sweeping ocean views. (Photo: Silversea)

With Silver Nova, it’s clear Silversea is seeing the impact of being owned by the Royal Caribbean Group, a brand that is able to offer additional resources and decades of experience to this one-time family-owned luxury brand. Liberty compared Silver Nova, the first ship in the Nova Class, to Oasis of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean ship that changed the course for the cruise line, and Celebrity Edge, which redefined and elevated Celebrity Cruises.

Silver Nova still feels like Silversea – all the hallmarks of the brand are still in place – but there’s an elevated approach to everything, every detail, that comes from being under the umbrella of a brand that is innovative and willing to invest in its ships. And Muckermann, a relatively new president but longtime Silversea visionary, has had a clear picture of the path for the Silversea brand for years. We’re seeing it come to life on Silver Nova.

Updated September 13, 2023
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