By Erica Silverstein
Cruise Critic Senior Editor
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Dining

We were pleased with the quality of food everywhere we ate onboard Silver Whisper, and were particularly satisfied with the choice of options on every menu. Even the specialty restaurants had vegetarian dishes for every course, and you can always order off the robust all-around menu if you can't manage to find something on the daily menu to suit. One nice touch is that the next day's Restaurant menus for lunch and dinners are delivered to your cabin every evening. That way, you can plan the next day's meals or request alterations if you have dietary restrictions.

Service was generally impeccable but stumbled a bit in La Terrazza during breakfast and lunch when it's a buffet. Though we did appreciate hostesses escorting us to tables, so we didn't need to search for an empty spot.

For lunch and dinner in all venues, bar staff will offer a house red or white wine, and the quality was good. Fellow passengers told us that they did not feel compelled to order off the premium wine list, as they often did on other cruise lines. The wine connoisseurs onboard also complimented the sommeliers, who they said were knowledgeable and did an excellent job of recommending wines based on passenger's tastes, and that the prices on the premium list were reasonable.

The Restaurant (Deck 4): The Restaurant is Silver Whisper's main dining venue, open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The space is elegant but unassuming; there are no wow-factor chandeliers or design elements. White columns and wood flooring separate the restaurant into three main sections (right, left and center) while half walls and service stations further divide the side areas. Floor-to-ceiling windows and light-colored walls make the room feel light and airy.

Meals here are always open seating, with no need for reservations -- though if you're invited to a table hosted by an officer or crew member, it's polite to RSVP. Ask to sit with just your travel party or at an open table to meet other cruisers. The Restaurant tends to be empty for breakfast and lunch; dinner is prime time here, but the venue never feels crowded, and we never saw a queue to be seated. However, know that if you plan on inviting a large group to dinner, the restaurant host will not reserve a table or guarantee you can be seated together.

The breakfast menu is traditional, with egg dishes and omelets, pancakes/waffles/French toast, fruit, pastries, cereal and yogurt. The lunch menu is limited with three appetizers (such as halibut and tabbouleh salad, breaded Camembert, beef carpaccio), four intermezzo (usually a soup, a pasta, a hearty salad and a wrap), the "carving of the day" (which could be a whole fish or turkey), two entrees (usually meat-based like paella or a mixed grill) and an "Oriental specialty" (think chicken korma or shrimp adobo). Vegetarian options are marked on the menu. The dessert menu includes a cheese plate, ice cream, hot and cold desserts and a low-carb/low-cal option.

The robust dinner menu offers many choices in nine categories: two crudo (i.e., raw) starters, two appetizers, two soups (typically at least one is vegetarian), two salads (the mesclun salad is standard), two pastas, two seafood dishes, three meat-based mains, two gourmet burger or grilled selections and two vegetarian options (a welcome change from most other cruise lines). The pastas were consistently good, though we found the starters to be hit or miss. The menus do not identify vegetarian starters, healthier options or gluten-free choices, but passengers with dietary restrictions can use the advance menu copies to pre-order meals that meet their requirements. Most cruisers order three or four courses, followed by dessert.

A red and white wine of the day off the included menu are offered each evening. Often, they are themed (California wines or Italian wines, for example). If the daily wines aren't to your liking, you can order another vintage off the complimentary or premium (extra cost) menu, or choose a cocktail or soda. Waiters also come around with both still and sparkling water.

Silversea is rightly known for its gelato selection; indeed, half the dessert menu consists of multiple flavors of gelato, fruit-heavy Italian frozen yogurt and sorbet. Four desserts change daily (one chocolate, one not, one gluten-free and one sugar-free), and always available are a cheese plate, cookies, a trio of after-dinner chocolates and illy coffee (you can substitute tea) with three miniature pastries.

In addition, at lunch and dinner, passengers can order off Silversea's large all-around menu (the same one used for in-cabin dining, see below).

Service is gracious, and someone is always asking you how you liked your meal. Wait staff pace the meals well, not too quick and not too slow. They also can adapt; on the one night I was somewhat awkwardly eating alone, the servers brought one course after the other fairly quickly, and I was finished with my meal in under an hour.

La Terrazza (Deck 7): La Terrazza is Silver Whisper's buffet venue for breakfast and lunch, yet it manages to be both serene and elegant. The secrets to its success are manifold. First, the buffet itself is tucked into an adjacent room to the seating area, so you don't walk into queues of people with trays. Second, waiters escort passengers to tables and assist with carrying dishes, so folks aren't wandering about searching for tables. Finally, with multiple venues available for breakfast and lunch, plus white-tablecloth room service, passengers aren't generally flooding the buffet all at once.

Tables are available inside and out on the aft terrace. Inside, the venue is done in tasteful neutrals with paintings depicting idyllic scenes of Italy. Two-, four- and six-top tables are all available.

Dishes in La Terrazza often mirror the menu in The Restaurant, so you can choose a quick-and-casual option without missing out. Breakfast includes cereals, breakfast breads and pastries, premade egg dishes and pancakes, breakfast meats, cereal, yogurt and fruit. One complaint is that made-to-order options aren't well advertised; unlike other luxury lines, there is no a la carte menu or posted specials, and waiters don't specifically ask if you'd like to order anything a la minute. However, you can order omelets and eggs from the dining team, but not in the buffet area.

At lunch, there is an array of sushi, smoked fish and deli meat, a lovely salad bar with lots of vegetable and protein toppings, a carving station, hot dishes, several types of pizzas and quiches, bread, cheese and desserts (a mix of cake slices and small bites).

Our biggest gripe about La Terrazza is inconsistent service. Waiters will escort you to a table even when plenty are readily available and offer to carry your small plate of dessert. But no one came to our assistance when we were balancing a bowl of hot soup and a full plate of food; nor is anyone around to hail when you realize you forgot some butter or ketchup.

At night, La Terrazza transforms into a reservations-only sit-down Italian restaurant, where the dress code is always informal and you can choose to dine indoors or out. We appreciated the ambience that was more intimate and more relaxed than The Restaurant, and was surprised the venue was so empty when we ate there.

The menu is not extensive and is dominated by pasta, which is delicious. Start with your choice of antipasti, such as a caprese salad, beef carpaccio, calamari or cold tomato soup. Seven pasta choices are divided into short and long categories, with prosciutto ravioli and penne with eggplant considered short and spaghetti Pomodoro and pappardelle with duck ragout in the long category. Four main dishes include osso buco, beef striploin, fish of the day and stewed grouper. Alternatively, you can opt for a family-style set menu with three courses: artichokes and pecorino, penne alla carbonara and pan-fried pork chop. Desserts include Silver Whisper's regular ice cream and sorbet menu, plus some Italian sweet treats like tiramisu and rum baba.

La Dame by Relais & Chateaux (Deck 7); $60: Silversea has an exclusive relationship with the luxury hotel and restaurant association, Relais & Chateaux, and offers the only Relais & Chateaux restaurants at sea. La Dame serves fine French cuisine in a truly intimate setting. The restaurant has only seven tables (each seating up to four diners), has a maximum capacity of 24 and does not turn tables over for a second seating. The $60 surcharge -- a rarity among the inclusive luxury lines -- does little to limit demand with this crowd. On our cruise, reservations were nearly impossible to get if you had not booked online the moment reservations opened. It was the one place onboard where we felt the ship was striving to create an exclusive, rather than inclusive, venue, and where passengers were disappointed because they could not get a table.

The menu strives for the finest of ingredients. Starters include caviar, foie gras and lobster. Soups are lobster bisque or mushroom soup with truffle oil. Mains range from duck to lamb and lobster tail. Finish with French cheeses and/or a dessert like a Grand Marnier souffle. The plating of the food is exquisite, with unique dishes and beautiful garnishes, and you will feel compelled to photograph every course as it's presented. The wines are more premium than what's offered in The Restaurant, though the line no longer pairs wines with each course.

While we were wowed by the presentation and the ingredient list, we were underwhelmed by some of the dishes -- especially in comparison to the lovely meals we'd eaten in The Restaurant. While our mushroom soup was exquisite, our turbot (one of two dishes recommended by the waiter) was fine but nothing special. Our dining companion said her lobster tasted frozen though her husband highly enjoyed his caviar starter, and we agreed that the dessert was mediocre. For a $60 meal on an otherwise all-inclusive line, we would expect an out-of-this-world dining experience. La Dame did not deliver at that level.

Another oddity is the way the restaurant is arranged. The seven tables are set in a loose circle. There were no four-tops during our night there, and chairs were arranged so that everyone's back is to a wall and they face into the restaurant, which means you're staring at the people at the other tables throughout the meal, rather than feeling like you're have a private or romantic meal with your party. This invites socialization -- our table was approached by four of the other six dining parties throughout the meal -- though the maitre d' seemed to be annoyed by the chitchat. The setup and atmosphere just felt off, given that La Dame is the ship's finest restaurant.

The Grill (Deck 8): The Grill is the love child of a poolside barbecue and a casual sit-down restaurant. It's located on the pool deck, with tables along the port and starboard sides and clustered around the grill itself. Yet there's no queueing -- you order from a menu, and food is delivered straight to your table.

At lunch (noon to 3:30 p.m.), choose from sandwiches (caprese, chicken breast), salads (caramelized fig and goat cheese, chicken Caesar), sliders, burgers (including an off-menu veggie burger), hot dogs and other grilled specials (fish of the day, jalapeno steak skillet, grilled polenta) and a handful of refreshing desserts (ice cream sundae, fruit salad). You can request fries (regular or sweet potato) or a side salad with your meal. You can also order Mediterranean or Italian snack plates (dolmades and spanakopita, arancini and focaccia).

At dinner (7 to 10 p.m.), the venue offers hot rock dining, where passengers control the cooking of their protein of choice on a hot lava stone. The menu is simple -- you start with your choice of salad, then choose a protein to grill (including steak, veal, pork, fish, portabello mushroom or tofu). This comes with a baked potato and grilled vegetable skewer. Desserts are also very basic (apple pie, fruit salad or chocolate mousse).

When your main dish comes, the waiter places the raw protein on a hot rock and gives you some guidance about how long to cook it. You also get an apron to protect your clothing. We found that the stone was probably too hot for our salmon; it seared on the outside but remained raw in the center. To cook it through, we kept cutting the meat into smaller pieces to get the middle on the hot rock. While ultimately tasty, we basically destroyed the piece of salmon while trying to cut it. Presumably, you can ask the waiter or chef to cook the meat for you. We appreciated the casual option (we saw one of the families with young children dining here because their toddler could run around without bothering anyone) and the alfresco venue, but the concept seemed like a strange one for a luxury cruise line.

Afternoon Tea (Deck 8): Afternoon tea is served from 4 to 5 p.m. daily in the Promenade Lounge. Choose from a menu of Ronnefeldt teas, with caffeinated and decaf options. Waiters deliver three-tiered trays of cookies, petits fours and finger sandwiches, and offer a choice of scones (plain, raisin and chocolate chip) along with jam and cream. A pianist plays delightful background music. It's all very elegant but we suggest sharing one tray of goodies among three people at the least -- no one needs that much food at 4 p.m.!

Room Service: Silversea's All Around Dining menu goes beyond in-suite service -- you can order off the menu in The Restaurant and in any operational public space. You'll find multiple courses for fine dining in your cabin, casual fare for a light lunch (including sandwiches, burgers and pizza) and desserts, including cheese and ice cream. (The menu even has the delightful sentence, "Ask your butler for our ice cream menu.") In addition, during breakfast, lunch and dinner open hours in The Restaurant, you can order items off that venue's menu to be served in your suite.

For breakfast, you can also request room service the night before by filling out a card and placing it in your cabin's mail slot. It has a range of hot and cold items: coffee, tea, milk, juice and smoothies; breads and pastries; pancakes, waffles and French toast; fruit and yogurt; cold cereal and oatmeal; eggs, omelets and souffles; and bacon, sausage, hash browns and baked beans.

In our experience, service was prompt and within the time marked. We had no problems ordering tea and toast late at night or getting a salad delivered to the bar during trivia. Butlers will put down a white tablecloth and set your table properly, rather than leaving you with a tray. Ours even brought extra breakfast items (a smoothie, some raisins for oatmeal) that he thought we might enjoy. You can request for your lunch or dinner to be served course by course, should you wish.

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