For those who are familiar with Silversea and are wondering about the new ship, I will review a few details, mostly good, some not so much, in the latter part (skip the first paragraph), but I would like to start by making one thing clear ... Read More
For those who are familiar with Silversea and are wondering about the new ship, I will review a few details, mostly good, some not so much, in the latter part (skip the first paragraph), but I would like to start by making one thing clear for the uninitiated: by far the main reason one chooses this line and pays a significant multiple of the regular cruise line prices is the clientele. It can cut both ways, depending on one's preference, so I will try to explain for those who might be wondering what they would be paying extra for and what the experience might look like without passing any judgment whether this is the right place for you. For client selection, the steep price is coupled with a very conservative dress code - there are very few "casual" days (and even that does not mean shorts, flip-flops, tank tops, etc), and "informal" means jacket for gents that is required on most days, plus 2-3 formals (tux or business suit) per 10-15 days. Even on informal days many passengers wore suits and ties... The company actually had to reverse an initial more casual policy because of customer demand (https://www.cruisecritic.com/news/news.cfm?ID=8009). Both factors yield not only a well-heeled, but also a rather sophisticated international crowd. It is like a club of old money plus newly minted members who can fit in on multiple criteria besides money. Let me share two overheard conversations to illustrate. "Our daughter came out and married young..." If you are wondering whether this refers to the person being gay, you are mistaken. The reference is to a debutante, and if you don't know what it means, maybe this is not a place for you. The other example was a story by an amazed physician whose hedge fund manager patient showed him how he can change the illumination color on top of a NY skyscraper visible from his penthouse with his cell phone, because he owned the building. Getting the drift? A Boston Brahmin would be a typical guest. The wardrobes, watches and jewelry just reinforced the obvious, and quite frankly surprised us a bit - we usually do not bring tens of thousands of dollars worth of stuff to the ship, especially because typically we have a land portion before/after the sailing - kind of silly to haul it to Machu Picchu! This might not be everyone's cup of tea (no extended pinky if you are consuming it!), but we had a very good feeling, because despite the obvious wealth, people did not seem overtly pretentious, were certainly not intrusive, and maybe the dress policy weeded out potentially annoying nouveau riche (?). We do not socialize a lot on cruises, but all guest interactions were polite, pleasant and sometimes even interesting. OK, call me elitist, guilty as charged!
Now more tangible characteristics starting with those that truly distinguish Silversea. The most extraordinary experience is the butler service. Our butler Rahul not only fulfilled every request in the most professional manner, but he anticipated certain needs and proactively addressed them. No wonder, because the butlers on Silversea are trained in the same school whose alumni work at the Buckingham Palace, and I believe that the Head Butler actually did work there. There are other nice service touches, such as a pool guy coming by and cleaning glasses (as in sunglasses and reading glasses).
A rather amazing experience was acupuncture by Shiroto-sensei in the spa. Quite "simple": she ameliorated long-standing health problems for both of us, and we also saw a written testimonial by a customer that verges on a medical miracle! It is hard to overestimate how big of a difference such an individual can make for the trip as a whole.
Overall, the food was quite good with a great variety and IMHO it surpasses our previous cruise experiences incl. Silversea. It is probably impossible to create a Michelin-level dining on a ship, but most of the restaurants are just a notch below with the emphasis on excellent ingredients and fresh preparation. La Terazza is probably the best choice, as it serves a classic Italian repertoire (being an Italian company probably helps) without any compromise, and it is more spacious with better views than all the restaurants on Deck 4. For atmosphere, Silver Note with a fantastic music duo is the best, but the food is kind of lackluster there - limited selection with some real flops, like the crudo sampler that was, well kind of a joke (miniscule portions, I'd say sub-gram range, of fish crumbs placed in tiny wells that seem to be more geared towards escargot, and then half of the wells essentially empty with a few specks of the same spice...?). Our best routine then evolved into a dinner in La Terazza, followed by a few steps to the bar seating in Silver Note at 9am to enjoy the music. Atlantide is very solid (meat/steaks are quite good), the Indochine is OK, while I would not recommend the Kaiseki if you know the real Japanese food. Did not try La Dame, if I want a really haute cuisine, I'd go to Jean Georges. At the pool deck, Spaccanapoli has the best true Italian pizza, and I'd do the Grill for dinner once max. The selection of complimentary wines is quite good and satisfies even a discerning oenophile, while the cocktails are expertly made with premium spirits.
OK, now some question marks and complaints. The first one is very subjective and has to do with the ship's interior design. It is all "man-made" materials, fake plastic wood, faux leather, etc., which did not appeal to us. The hotel director explained that these are the new ship building safety codes (everything must be fire resistant). I don't know, but some of the other ships that we have sailed in the past seem to have more natural materials, or at least they were better fakes. Did not care much about the art, either. If confused or in doubt, go to Sotheby's and get yourself a few 17th century maybe not so famous Dutch guys, and/or lesser known Impressionists for $20-50K a piece. Finally, the "atrium" is an architectural miss. I understand that one cannot have a typical soaring atrium of the big ship variety, but here is an idea: staircase made of transparent material...!? It's a quirky side-bar, but I could not resist mentioning it (see attached photo): the hallway carpets have a dizzying pattern that seems designed to induce/enhance sea-sickness?
The biggest weakness was the land concierge. They were essentially focused only on packaged excursions, which we generally abhor and rarely take. I thought that aggressive excursion peddling is a sole MO of cheap cruise lines...? Even the "lectures" on ports of call were 100% regurgitation of the excursions - what a waste! On our previous cruise there were tons of useful port information and a knowledgeable concierge (in some cases even dedicated local ones for specific ports) with all sorts of hints. Here close to zero, to the level of embarrassment. Our first two ports of call were Cozumel and Belize, where probably the #1 activity one can think of would be scuba diving. We were told that that there were no excursions with scuba diving, because they always had to cancel them in the past due to a lack of interest, and that there were only snorkeling trips. OK, we hate excursions anyway, although in our experience almost every boat going out can, and in many cases does combine scuba diving and snorkeling. More importantly, why can't the concierge just book us with a scuba shop? Instead, after 3 visits to the desk, I finally got a list of scuba shops from the internet in Cozumel for me to check. Excuse me, I can google myself...! Then upon my insistence, they tried to book something, but neither of these shops had the right start time (either too early or too late). It also turned out that these shops were quite far from the dock (nobody had a clue about the layout of the port, distances, etc.). When we disembarked, just outside the port entrance, there was one scuba shop after another, I simply walked in and in 30min I was on a boat heading to a reef... Wouldn't a concierge actually know this by just visiting the port once, let alone do some research or have a local contact? To add insult to injury, when we actually did book an official excursion (diving with sharks in Honduras), one of the staff had no idea what was required (like filling out a card with equipment needs, etc.). To be fair, most of the negative experience was with one staff member and another one was much better.
Besides the brilliant experience with Shiroto-sensei with acupuncture described above, the spa has glitches, some of which could easily be avoided. Very often the front desk is empty, which is explained with a sign noting that all personnel are busy with clients. Besides the inconvenience of not being able to schedule anything, the real problem is that one can get keys to the gym lockers only at the front desk... Furthermore, most people book treatments on sea days. When I was booking and asked for appointments on sea days, the lady did not know when the sea days were, and it took her 5min to find out!? I also think that the gym size, and even worse for the sauna (max 2 people with one shower???), are not adequate for 500 passengers.
Entertainment is OK, but uneven. The piano players Natasa and Milan and the duo in Silver Note are world-class, as was the Uruguayan guitar player in the main theatre, but others not so much. One can understand that a mid-size ship cannot mount a big production, but recruiting more solo top artists should be in the realm of possibility.
All in all, I see that I have assembled a long kvetching list, which reflects my desire to point out things that can be fixed (does Silversea read these reviews? They asked me to fill this out, so hopefully yes). However, overall this is a memorable experience and I would recommend Silversea to anyone who is interested in this type of a cruise. Read Less