In Polar Regions, 22 expedition team members lead complimentary shore excursions. A Ph.D. crowd (many from Ivy League backgrounds), these passionate seasoned experts accompany all tours. Polar excursions are conducted mostly by Zodiac, usually one outing each morning and afternoon. (However, expeditions are subject to Mother Nature, so passengers should be prepared for Zodiac times to change or be postponed.) Each Zodiac group (about 12 per Zodiac) has its own expedition leader. Passengers are briefed the night prior to excursions. Safety lessons, like how to behave when encountering wildlife, are taught, repeated and strictly enforced. Zodiac handlers are excellent at helping passengers in and out of boats. With 10 kayaks onboard, passengers can also join these expeditions. A kayaking expert leads trips among the ice floes or to shore -- another way to explore the continent.
Passengers revel in nature-oriented outdoor activities, like guided hikes on islands, visiting gentoo, Adelie and chinstrap penguin colonies, spotting Weddell and southern elephant seals, and birds like snow and cape petrels. A geologist leads tours highlighting the volcanic elements of islands. On Goudier, a former research station, there's a museum, gift shop and post office; you can send a postcard while penguins roam outside. On kayak or Zodiac expeditions, passengers admire sculpted icebergs and calving glaciers, look for crabeater and other seals resting on ice floes, see more birdlife and perhaps, spot a minke or other whales. Visiting one of the many Antarctic research stations -- and setting foot on the Antarctic mainland -- is a major highlight. On some cruises, a few hearty passengers opt for a polar plunge -- jumping into icy waters garbed only in bathing suits or T-shirts and shorts, if they dare.
* May require additional fees
In regions outside Antarctica and the Arctic, all excursions are still complimentary and tours, led by expedition experts, possess an adventurous bent. Itineraries usually showcase less-visited locales and remote islands. For example, a Dublin-to-London spring cruise might visit Ben Nevis, Britain's highest mountain, and offer Zodiac tours to St. Kilda, Scotland, the westernmost landmass in the United Kingdom. A hike combining birding and history in the Shetland Islands, and nature walks along the rugged coastline of Berwickshire provide viewing points for watching thousands of nesting guillemots, kittiwakes and razorbills. Such non-polar cruises also offer less-rugged outings, such as touring castles and cathedrals.
If anxious about capturing bucket-list sights, know that an expert photographer also accompanies outings, and often offers passenger tips. He also shoots stills and film, and presents an edited version for sale on the last night. They're usually amazing souvenirs.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
Silver Cloud Expedition doesn't offer scheduled daytime activities other than enrichment activities. In the evenings, two singers/pianists (both good) perform in Dolce Vita and Panorama Lounge. Depending on the crowd, a late-night DJ might spin tunes in the Panorama Lounge.
New to Silversea expedition ships, the Photo Studio offers a dedicated studio manager, individual and group classes at both amateur and pro level, use of editing software for both Mac and PC users and a high-quality printer for passenger use.
Expedition team members present impassioned lectures with slides or film in the Explorer Lounge during the day that are streamed to suites. These engrossing lectures are never snoozers; passengers listen attentively and ask questions. There's usually just one lecture daily as passengers are mostly out exploring.
Even in polar regions, bars and lounges stay busy, particularly pre-dinner. More active passengers head to the Panorama Lounge post-dining for a relaxing cocktail, conversation and even some dancing. Naturally, sea days mean busier bars than on shore excursion days.
Dolce Vita (Deck 5): Dolce Vita is the go-to bar for passengers meeting up pre-dinner. The lounge features a granite bar with taupe bar stools, and small groupings of couches and chairs with teal accents. Soft lighting, sea views and a standards-crooning pianist up the intimate ambiance. Some passengers twirl around the tiny dance floor.
Explorer Lounge (Deck 6): The redone Explorer Lounge feels glamorous. It features a giant curtained stage, and leather chairs and banquettes with cocktail rounds for a more theater-like, rather than lecture-room, vibe. New AV equipment includes a giant screen flanked by two smaller screens. Passengers come for lectures, pre-dinner expedition recaps, next-day briefings and the captain's welcome and farewell parties. Servers offer cocktails and prosecco, and sometimes, high-end canapes.
Panorama Lounge (Deck 8): Come for early riser breakfasts or pre- or post-dinner cocktails. The bar's buzziest after dinner, when a pianist sings and plays or the DJ spin tunes. Some passengers dance. When the weather's nice, cruisers often sit outdoors.
Connoisseurs Corner (Deck 8): Primarily a post-dinner hangout, this spot oozes a men's club vibe, with oversized leather chairs and fine bottles of spirits on display. You'll find mainly men sipping Scotch, puffing on Davidoff or other cigars and schmoozing.
Tor's Observation Lounge (Deck 9): Curl up with your iPad or a book pulled from the shelves -- they're filled with travel tomes -- at this stunning new lounge. Black leather chairs with black-and-white striped fabric, and black-and-white carpet with pops of red, are modern-Italian-gorgeous. Big windows provide mesmerizing ocean views. This lounge's one design flaw is that access is only from outdoors; if the weather is inclement with high winds (particularly possible in polar climes), outdoor decks are closed and the lounge is unreachable.
Pool Bar (Deck 8): Hop on a wooden stool at the teak bar or grab a seat at a table. (Some tables are for smokers.) Name brands, such as Grey Goose, Bombay Gin, Mount Gay rum and The Glenlivet single malt, fill bar shelves. The bartender makes a mean espresso or cappuccino, too. In nice weather, waiters also take orders from passengers lounging poolside.
Silver Cloud Expedition's pool deck -- a rarity in the expedition realm -- is located on Deck 8. The teak deck features one heated pool, two whirlpools and two rinse-off showers. There are rattan-like dark brown cushioned chaises for two, and dark blue chaise lounges.
One deck up on Deck 9, a jogging track circles the deck with an open view onto the pool below; 10 laps equal a mile. In jogging weather, water bottles and towels are available. No Ping-Pong or shuffleboard are offered.
There's a 24-hour staffed reception desk, expedition desk and a cruise consultant's table on Deck 6. Pebbled leather couches, marble flooring and murals of globes embellish the area.
There's no card or conference room for passengers.
Wi-Fi packages are standard fleetwide. Grand, Royal, Owner, Silver and Medallion Suite passengers receive unlimited premium (fastest speed) access. However, only one device at a time can be connected to a suite account. For all other suite categories, each passenger receives one hour of standard access per day. Packages reset automatically daily at midnight and unused minutes do not carry over as credits to be used on the next day. The offer is not cumulative. Passengers must pay for additional access. There are various plans, such as one full day of standard access per passenger on a personal device for $25. Unlimited access pricing is structured on voyage length.
Below on Deck 5, the Shops of Silversea boutiques provide retail therapy. One offers a mix of clothing, books and regional mementos (think stuffed penguins and Antarctica caps), designer perfume and watches like Citizen. The second boutique showcases sparkly jewelry like golden pearls and tanzanite necklaces from brands like Gucci and Bulgari.
In the Deck 7 library, cabinets teem with travel and expedition books, newspapers, current magazines and novels by popular authors like David Baldacci. Grab reading material and sink into a tufted taupe leather chair that's so buttery soft, you'll wish you had one at home.
Clinic hours for the Deck 3 medical center are from 8 a.m. until 9:30 a.m., and 4:30 p.m. until 6 p.m. daily. Medical assistance is also available by appointment, or as needed, 24 hours.
A self-service launderette on Deck 4 features three complimentary washing machines with a wall-hung soap dispenser, three dryers, an ironing board, iron and sink.
The new Zagara Spa on Deck 7 uses Elemis products and offers amazing treatments for a small ship. Think 12 different facial therapies, from blemish control to pro-collagen age defy. An Elemis Thousand Flower Detox Wrap is among five polish-and-wraps, and nine different massages -- like freestyle deep tissue and coconut poultice massage – also tempt.
When arriving for a treatment, passengers first visit the candlelit mood room. After trying various aromatherapy scents, passengers and therapists converse and pick the aromatherapy, music and mood lighting for the treatment room.
Small changing rooms feature marble sinks and soft hand towels. Thick bathrobes and Silversea-monogrammed slippers await. The shower features shower gel, shampoo and conditioner. Men and women have their own sauna and steam rooms.
The spa's elegant beauty salon sports marble counters, light wood cabinetry and creamy-hued buttery leather chairs. Count four chairs for shampoos and hairstyling, one manicure table and a pedicure chair with a built-in water bath. Elemis, Wella Professionals colors and CND shellac are featured.
This salon does plenty beyond the usual -- low-lighting hair, teeth-whitening, makeup applications and Brazilian bikini waxing. Male-specific treatments include back and chest waxing, sports manicures and speed shaves.
The fitness center is separate from the spa on Deck 6. The gym was doubled in size from the ship's original layout and has all-new TechnoGym equipment. Expect free weights, weight machines, two treadmills, two elliptical trainers, one full-body workout machine and one each recumbent and upright bicycles. Machines offer built-in TV screens and headphone jacks. There are also two benches, a barre, free weights (in kilograms), medicine ball, scale, mats -- even a TechnoGym mat with suggested stretches and stretch-times in Italian (with pictures, thank goodness). Towels feel newer and softer than suite towels. The fitness trainer leads complimentary classes in yoga, Pilates, circuit training and aerobics, but charges for personal training or body composition analysis.
This ship is not family-oriented except for multigenerational passengers traveling with older children. There are no children's facilities, programs or babysitting services. Children under 6 years old aren't permitted on Zodiacs. Babies younger than 1 year old are not allowed to board the ship. A signed and notarized waiver issued by Silversea is required for passengers traveling with children under 6.