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107 Silversea Asia Cruise Reviews

So I chose EXCELLENT over VERY GOOD because it was in between. Here are a few of the highlights. Silver Shadow - Second time on the ship. We did Alaska in May. Yes, SS is a bit tired, but still ranked #14 in the world. Veranda ... Read More
So I chose EXCELLENT over VERY GOOD because it was in between. Here are a few of the highlights. Silver Shadow - Second time on the ship. We did Alaska in May. Yes, SS is a bit tired, but still ranked #14 in the world. Veranda cabins are spacious and have....verandas. Went to dry dock for two weeks when we got off at Singapore. Personally, I love the ship. Loyalty Program - My #1 beef with Silversea. You want me to give you $20,000 a year in advance for a 5% discount? What? I'm from Las Vegas where loyalty is REWARDED. 20% discount would have my interest, but there are far too many alternatives in the cruise industry to pay a year in advance for 5%. And what about my casino play? And $5,000 in shore excursions? No reward for that either. And the fact I have multiple cruises with you. I like Silversea, however I'll be shopping the next couple of trips to other providers. Shore Excursions - Silversea needs a system so customers can rate the shore excursions. All we have is the promo material provided by Silversea. And they need to be more selective with their Tour Guides. We had a couple that was supposed to be our Tour Guide one night. Instead of splitting up in the two vans, the rode together and left us on a busy street corner in Ho Chi Minh. Thanks. F&B - Read all the comments. I would agree. It's hit and miss. Liked "Restaurant" on level four for lunch, Le Champagne is consistent ($40 upcharge), La Terazza is just OK. Desserts were below par. Waited close to an hour for food at The Grill. Smoking and Drinking - Smoking is reserved for The Humidor and a couple specific areas on the boat, yet we saw people smoking on the deck of La Terazza. I smoke cigars, so no issues from me, but several customers were complaining. Drinking is fine if people don't turn it into a Carnival drunken cruise fight. We had a bad experience out by the pool. Some folks brought a radio and were blasting it as they got hammered on Tequila. And I do mean hammered. Silversea is lucky they did not fall on the pool deck and crack their heads. Boo! Kids - I have no issues with kids being on the boat, however they need to act appropriately and abide by the dress code. Several teenagers boarded at one of the ports. Guessing they were related to the crew. First they are running up and down the halls. I get it...they are happy to be here. Then they show up at the show later in beachwear. Heard several guests mumbling about it. Drunk Guests, Part 2 - Remember the fools above that got liquored and were disruptive at the pool? They showed up the next day for an early tour looking three shades of green. Ain't alcohol grand? Did I mention they were 15 minutes late, so 40 of us got to sit in the heat and humidity waiting for them. If guest are late...LEAVE THEM. Then they bailed on the tour halfway through and took a taxi back to the ship. For 12 days, every time I saw them, they were drinking. Hey, try the Carnival next time. Shore Excursions, Part 2 - Had one other issue with the tours. We took the Perfume River tour in Vietnam and it was non-stop soliciting. At the first rest stop and for the entire river cruise. It's one thing to have a merchandise table, it's something completely different to have a floating swap meet with people in your face the whole time trying to sell you t-shirts. Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore - We truly enjoyed the trip. Vietnam and Thailand are outstanding. Specifically, Ho Chi Minh and Bangkok. I'm posting this on TripAdvisor and CruiseCritic and sending it to the executives at Silversea as well. Not complaining or judging, just to help them enhance their service levels. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
We chose this cruise as it was my mum's birthday, and we normally like to go on beach type cruises (last year we were on Silver Wind around the Caribbean). So this year we thought we'd try something different to our normal ... Read More
We chose this cruise as it was my mum's birthday, and we normally like to go on beach type cruises (last year we were on Silver Wind around the Caribbean). So this year we thought we'd try something different to our normal holiday destination. The service was amazing, with the waiters having time to chat with you and ask you about your day. The staff knew your preferences almost after the first day. I always drink coke during the day, and when I passed through the panorama lounge to go outside to smoke, they would always ask if I wanted a coke when I walked through. The ship is in dire need of a refurb.. It's due to have one this month I understand, although it's not immediately obvious, if you started to look, you could see worn carpet, on one deck outside there was a hole between the sheets of green deck covering. However saying this, it didn't spoil our holiday in any way. Trivia was the main entertainment during the day, yes it's a small ship so many people wanted to just sit and relax when we were at sea, but the trivia was well attended. The other entertainment was ok, just not to my liking. Our cabin 509, was right at the front of the ship, and a couple of nights we had waves over 4m, and this caused a few bangs and crashes during the night. I'd advise to go as mid-ship as possible to avoid the noise and the motion. The cabin had twin beds, a sofa and a walk in closet (with door that you could secure open or shut). The bathroom had twin sinks, a bath and a separate shower. Food was a bit hit and miss sometimes, however if something wasn't to your liking, it's easy to ask for something different, and there was always the all day dining menu that was available in the main dining room at any time. We have booked on Silver Spirit next Christmas, and we love that ship. We were on her during her maiden season, so hopefully they have maintained it well. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
Wanting to discover Vietnam was the main agenda point for us ,but at the same time adressing other sites in Asia. Silversea was selected based upon the above plus its reputation. They did not disappoint us . At Singapore embarkation was ... Read More
Wanting to discover Vietnam was the main agenda point for us ,but at the same time adressing other sites in Asia. Silversea was selected based upon the above plus its reputation. They did not disappoint us . At Singapore embarkation was extremely effective giving us a first good impression and the manner in which we were treated showed us welcome in every manner. The cabin was spotlessly clean and the butler introduced us to the cabin and the facilities and our expectations of what was available. Throughout the voyage the butler was an intregal part of the experience. He was excellent and a good ambassador for Silversea. There attention to detail was outstanding and demonstrated how high the customer service and focus on delivery to its customers was. Dining was in our opinion excellent in every sense of the word. Whether it was morning breakfast in the cabin or late night snacks it was a first class. The restaurants and the menues were excellent and it displayed a wide range of selection. The entertainment on board we found was professional and the staff engagement was awesome. Customer service is always in the mind of a company and to strive for the pinnacle is something that requires in achieving that excellence. The staff were amazing, they displayed warmth and secereity throughout the total cruise. Their total engagement in ensuring quality towards us was truly noted by us. Can they be better? Shore excursions was of a high quality and they ensured that they could deliver a high standard. Even the shuttle service was carefully thought through. I wanted to do a private trip in the DaNang/Hoi An area we decided to do a private trip with a local and must say he met our demands and was a good. Andyhoiantours.com. Overall this was a value for money experience and certainly met all our demands in excellence, good teamwork, efficiency, safety and security, focus on delivering a good customer experience. Would we sail with them again? Definately yes Read Less
Sail Date November 2016
After giving up on Crystal due to their diminution of services on board and the frenetic pace of the main dining room, we decided on Silversea. What a difference! Crystal still has the best cream soups at sea and the best enrichment ... Read More
After giving up on Crystal due to their diminution of services on board and the frenetic pace of the main dining room, we decided on Silversea. What a difference! Crystal still has the best cream soups at sea and the best enrichment speakers and lecturers, but Silversea's service is the best bar none. I agree with other cruise critics that Shadow is a little worn and shabby, but that will be fixed at the turn of the year when she goes in for refurb in Singapore. We noted how friendly and accommodating the staff are on board. They can take the time to chat and get to know you. Even though a waiter from the Philippines named Randy served us only once, he sort of adopted us and went out of his way to greet and chat whenever we were close to his station or we ran into him in the buffet. He gave my wife a big hug on her birthday All the staff were friendly and outgoing. Due to its small passenger load and various dining venues this ship is ideal for luxury cruising. In the window radiating space where crystal has four tables for two, Silversea has only three. At times when a table for two was not available we were seated at a table for four, just the two of us. This was true in all dining areas. One morning we saw a single woman on board sitting at a table for six all by herself. They will accommodate you. A table for two is large enough to accommodate a tray with oil and balsamic, salt/pepper mills, bread basket, bread plate, six glasses, two large platters, a vase, and a bottle of wine. One thing on Silversea, they quite often leave the bottle on the table. Shortly after we left Vancouver, the captain used the thrusters to do a 360 degree turn so we could see the countryside outside the harbor. It was a full moon that evening and it shone on the water later on. I got great pictures of the moon reflected on the water. The La Terazzo Restaurant is the buffet for breakfast and lunch. Breakfast has ham and bacon that is flavorful, unlike Crystal where it is tasteless. Due to a rather large Japanese passenger load there were ample delicacies to satisfy their palates. One thing I love, but it distresses my wife, is pickled herring. They had three types and I was happy. Seating at the buffet is a check-in and get a table type arrangement. You do not have to hunt for a table holding a plate full of food. Lunch was equally extensive, with three kinds of lettuce and ample fixings. There was usually one special entree each day with other items typically every day. On quite a few days, lunch in the main had special themes and cooking stations set up in the center of the room. Many days also had special hot desserts and we enjoyed peach flambe, cherries jubilee, some sort of pear concoction and cold pavlova. Afternoon tea and not a tea bag in sight. It is all tea leaves along with an hour glass to set the steep time. It has the usual finger sandwiches and small desserts with a piano accompaniment. Ping pong is indoors and it is nice to play without gale force winds. My wife beats me handily, but I sometimes manage to win a game here and there. They have several drink making demos and my wife was the recipient of two of the drinks featured. Everybody else gets a small one or two ounce taste. They were a lot of fun along with the cooking demonstration by the head chef. An Italian cruise line with a French head chef. He was very informative and humorous. In French cooking, "you can never have too much butter". He used almost a whole kilo on the smashed potatoes. His advice on how to clean the raw salmon from the cutting board without using water, "flip it over". Before we left home I counted out our prescription pills and made a huge error when my wife told me to take 35 days of her heart medication. I forgot that it is two pills per day. We went to the ship's clinic and the nurse was extremely helpful in that she had the medication my wife needed, only in 100 mg form. She took the time to quarter the pills to get down to 25 mg dosage. I think because of the way my wife wrote out the prescription pill description using medical terminology for dosage etc, she recognized that my wife was a nurse. I think it was professional courtesy that we did not get charged for the visit or for the pills. The daily Silversea Chronicle is very well done with a full page color photo of your current port on the cover. It lists all the activities for the day as well as where all the Silversea ships are on that day. We thoroughly enjoyed our first Silversea cruise. It definitely has six star service. We hope to sail with them again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
Having done two prior cruises with Silversea it was an easy decision to book a suite (deck 7**) from Vancouver to Tokyo via Alaska and Russia, believing it would be a great adventure, and it really was (mostly), but the inability to ... Read More
Having done two prior cruises with Silversea it was an easy decision to book a suite (deck 7**) from Vancouver to Tokyo via Alaska and Russia, believing it would be a great adventure, and it really was (mostly), but the inability to disembark for a day at Petrapavlovsk (rough weather) meant we were at sea for seven and a half days - far too long, but no fault of Silversea. The suite was spacious and appropriately appointed, but was tired and dated, and much in need of refurbishment. The sea state from Dutch Harbour to Kushiro was mostly rough to very rough, only abating as were neared Japan, generally making it a difficult to move around the ship. This meant there were long periods confined to the suite, revealing just how uncomfortable the couch and chairs really were. Compounding the physical discomfort, the flat screen LCD TV had very poor picture and sound quality, even though the choice of satellite channels was mostly news channels such as MSNBC, FOX, SKY and BBC broadcasting world events ad nausem. Fortunately the library had a good selection of fact and fiction. The food and service in all restaurants was excellent. The menu selection was varied with smaller portions, giving one the opportunity to savour everything on offer without overeating. The wine selections were also varied and of good quality. The musical entertainment was rather ordinary, not a patch on previous cruises on Silver Wind in 2008. For those who might be Blues Brothers fans, I would liken the entertainment to "Merv and the Magic Tones". In a word, boring. Fortunately the day/s were saved by the enrichment lectures, brilliantly presented by by Rick Senat and Phillip Hurst. The staff and crew onboard all deserve a special mention, but I must heap praise on Albert our butler, always there when needed and nothing was too much, Jess our maid with a smile that brought sunshine into our day, and the young maitre'd at Champagne whose service was above and beyond, and in my estimation, will go far in the hospitality industry. The ports in Alaska all seemed to be far flung outposts of civilisation, but the experience was marred by the proliferation of jewelry outlets that detracted from the character, heritage and history of the destination. I was unimpressed by the overt display of art and artworks for sale on board, but my strongest criticism is the trashy sandlemaker's stall on Deck 8. This is the sort of stuff you'd see at a Sunday market or a Country fair, and is totally out of place on a so-called luxury cruise ship. I should also note the overt marketing of jewely through the on board shop, with ambush points (AKA buying opportunities?) strategically positioned near various social activities. Would I cruise Silversea again? No. I mark down the tired state of the cabin, the amateurish entertainment, and the upselling inappropriate for a luxury cruise. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
Itinerary and the reputation of SilverSea were our reasons for choosing this cruise. The itinerary was all we hoped for; the older ship and its management less so, based on flooded cabins. Embarkation in Hong Kong and debarkation in ... Read More
Itinerary and the reputation of SilverSea were our reasons for choosing this cruise. The itinerary was all we hoped for; the older ship and its management less so, based on flooded cabins. Embarkation in Hong Kong and debarkation in Tokyo were handled very well: easy, lots of direction and help, punctual. Our suite was sizable, with a walk-in closet that was very welcome. Staff service at all venues, and our butler, were outstanding. The food was good, though not as good as Oceania. Entertainment was good, but limited; the cruise director did double duty as a singer/comedian, and was actually not bad. One good lecturer, one mediocre. We noticed immediately, however, that the ship was in need of work: e.g., the deck railings were in serious need of varnish. Later we learned this ship is due to be "retired" next year, which may explain possible deferred maintenance. The problem arose on day 10 of the 16 day cruise, when we encountered high winds and heavy seas. That can happen. But this older ship was simply not "ship shape." Dozens of staterooms--our deck 5 starboard was the worst hit--were flooded by wind-swept rain and ocean spray that leaked through the veranda door seals, soaking the carpets (and some clothing and under-bed suitcases). That continued for at least 12 hours, with no solution offered to stop the leaks and no official communications from the captain. Inconceivably, very little, and nothing effective, was done over the remaining five days of the cruise as the soaked cabins became uninhabitable from the smell alone. We were offered downgraded accommodations (no balcony), but had to insist on getting some help moving. Even that cabin had a leaking window. No announcements by the captain, no meetings with ship officers, no remedial plans presented and no offers of help. Silversea, after several weeks, finally offered us (but apparently not others), a very modest and restricted credit toward a future cruise, hardly proportionate to the number of days we had no use of our suite. Amazing, and disappointing, for a high-end cruise line. My ratings below are for the first 10 days, before the ship and its crew were tested by stormy weather. For the last week of this cruise, most of these ratings would have been negative. I can only hope those sailing on the Silver Shadow this year enjoy good weather, and that at least the Deck 5 suites have been stripped and refurbished while in port. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
We embarked Silver Shadow in Singapore on 25 February 2016, the registration process being as faultless as expected. The ship has been waitlisted in all cabin categories for months with 370 passengers sailing, comprising 107 British, 82 ... Read More
We embarked Silver Shadow in Singapore on 25 February 2016, the registration process being as faultless as expected. The ship has been waitlisted in all cabin categories for months with 370 passengers sailing, comprising 107 British, 82 American and a veritable League of Nations beyond that. The senior team comprised Captain Marco, HD, Lester and CD Kirk, with RM Antonio. It was good to renew acquaintances amongst the above and reminisce about old times. Inevitably, there were some old and some new faces amongst the staff and crew, Rosie having been our butler on a previous sailing. After a rainy spell in Singapore, the first day - at sea, was fine and sunny and the pool deck crowded. The lunch time buffet proved very popular and Rommel and his team worked extremely hard and efficiently in very hot conditions; we told Lester how pleased we were at these efforts. That night was formal and we dined with the GRM, Alix and the future cruise consultant, Charmaine together with two other couples in the MDR. Service was very slow and we did not finish our meal until 10.30 pm, too late, unfortunately, to go to the show. Generally speaking the Shadow is in pretty good condition considering her age. One can always find fault with anything, but we haven't found any aspect that has made us raise our eyebrows. The swimming pool has now "sprouted" two additional steps and the mosaic tiling has been changed from blue to brown/cream, although evidence of the old blue surround is visible at the edge, and some of the tiles are lifting. As usual, painting of the outside was in progress on our return from ashore in Kuching, although she had not looked in need of any on our embarkation in Singapore. Following SS's acquisition of the "cobblers" sandals business, passengers can now buy this footwear not only in the Caribbean, but also in the Far East. The Shadow appears to be at present the vanguard ship for "art". We had an art director on-board, and various pieces of art with labels and prices, were hung around the ship. It is obviously going to be a “sales opportunity”, but the positioning of these art works along the corridors are incompatible and unsuitable, and unlike in a gallery where they are placed to the best effect, these are just an unattractive jumble. Apparently this has been in the planning for four years and we must wait and see if and how it develops. Needless to say our lack of knowledge indicates our degree of interest! Trivia has shown a solid turnout with five teams of eight or nine. Kirk has clearly worked hard in devising the questions and there was no acrimony. Unfortunately, not up to our past record, we only came joint third! We felt so sorry for the Voices of Silversea who were struggling with technical sound problems. This was most disconcerting for the artistes who were trying very hard to deliver an excellent standard as they did on the Whisper last November on the Amazon cruise. We seriously hope that these defective sound problems will not impact on the singers' ratings One night in the MDR produced shortcomings in our main courses. Madame's leg of lamb was completely red raw, whilst Sir's partridge appeared to have been a victim of a nuclear attack. Otherwise food and service were excellent in all venues. Dover sole and crepe suzette were excellent. In conclusion the staff and crew were as hard working and obliging as usual on SS. By the end of the cruise, a very high proportion of them had bothered to learn Sir and Madame's names. Overall, we felt that the food was a bit hit and miss, but mainly the former. One point of particular note concerns the currency devaluation which has occurred since our Whisper cruise last Nov/Dec!! Then, an SS visor cost 90 prize points, but now it has increased to 110!! Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
This was our fourth Silversea cruise and we would list this trip as our least favourite. Silversea did a fantastic job of taking care of us but after two expedition cruises - the Arctic and the Galapagos - we found ourselves missing all of ... Read More
This was our fourth Silversea cruise and we would list this trip as our least favourite. Silversea did a fantastic job of taking care of us but after two expedition cruises - the Arctic and the Galapagos - we found ourselves missing all of the activities involved with the expedition experience. Sure we could take a tour to a mall or a beach but these options didn't interest us. The one kayaking trip on the cruise was cancelled as we were the only people interested in it. This was our error as we really should have done a better job of researching the ports before booking. The food was very good in all locations although dining outside at Le Terraza and Hot Rocks were our favourites. The service on the ship was always first rate, I loved the California Chardonnays and the champagne and our butler was always available when we needed anything. Unfortunately my hubby picked up a virus a few days into the trip and he suffered with it for most of the cruise. The ship doctor took great care of him and saw him each day until he started feeling better. My only real complaint during our time onboard was the saving of lounge chairs. Daily we would see people come up to the deck and put their personal belongings on "their" chairs and then disappear for a few hours. Silversea asked people not to do this but more and more people did as the cruise continued on. I found myself taking people's belongings off chairs when I couldn't find a shady place to sit and then I would get glared at upon their return. This made me feel very uncomfortable and after a while, I just gave in and sat over by the Panorama lounge in the smoking section. Not ideal and it left a bad taste in my mouth. At the end of the day I would sail Silverseas again but we will stick to the Expedition ships going forward. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
I will begin by echoing previous reviewers and say that the Shadow really needs attention. It is past time for refurbishment in most areas. This review, however is mostly a comparison of small ship cruising versus larger ship cruising. ... Read More
I will begin by echoing previous reviewers and say that the Shadow really needs attention. It is past time for refurbishment in most areas. This review, however is mostly a comparison of small ship cruising versus larger ship cruising. For those of you considering a cruise on an upscale small cruise line like Silversea, this review might interest you. There are many things to be said in favor of a smaller ship, ease of embarkation, everything onboard is closer, and excellent cabin service to name a few. Our cabin was spacious and the butler and her assistant were suburb. Our pre and post cruise hotel accommodations at the Shangri La hotels in Hong Kong and Singapore were outstanding. The choice of excursions was good and mostly the excursion experience was enjoyable with the exception of being taken to a "jewelry factory" in Hong Kong that was mostly a captive selling opportunity, making everyone feel like sheep being led to slaughter. What we did not enjoy about the cruise when compared to our 10 or so previous cruises was the limited choices of dining and entertainment. There was no place on the ship, as with every other ship on which we have sailed, that you could simply go and have a meal in the evening other than room service. All the dining choices which were somewhat casual in the daytime became something else at night. Even the buffet at lunch time required your being seated, going through the whole wine or not thing, having glasses and silverware removed and replaced and dealing with a person standing outside the actual buffet area wanting to carry your plate back to the table for you. To some this might sound like excellent service, to others like my wife and me it seemed overly intrusive, having to say no thank I can carry my own every time you wanted to go back for a cookie. In the evening at any of the dining venues we tried, we never had a meal in less than 2 hours, not counting a pre dinner cocktail which was never offered by the waiter, or coffee after dessert. (If you wanted a drink before dinner you had to ask for it, unlike wine which was always offered). Sometimes after rising early to exercise and doing excursions all day, it would be nice to just go and have a quick casual meal, without making a 2 hour production of it. If this is the case with you, then the Shadow is not the ship for you. Also regarding the food, I could not say that the food was not good, but what I can say is that Silversea goes out of their way to make their meal choices, for my taste, needlessly complicated. One evenings entrée choices in the main restaurant were duck and rabbit. Most entrees which might start out sounding like a regular entrée came with some kind of sauce or topping with ingredients most people had never heard of. I am not strictly a meat and potatoes kind of a guy, but (you would find polenta strips instead of potatoes with most choices), again, if you wanted a steak or chicken or a burger, it was room service for you. All other cruises which we have been on had a restaurant menu which included a selection of "we have these items every night" along with the changing menu choices for the night. Not Silversea. If you want one of the "we always have" items, it again would be from the room service menu. Our enrichment lectures were first rate, but the entertainment was mostly not available. There was a quartet on some nights and a dance music DJ on other nights. Unlike other cruises which had 2 show times or real entertainment, the quartet and DJ started at 10pm. Anyway, if you are looking for a cruise with many dining choices, some casual some not, where you can eat a meal without having it be a grand dining experience whether you want that or not, and you want shops, casinos, lounges with entertainment and real production type main entertainment shows at a reasonable time, choose a larger ship, and get all those things for far less money. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
The Silver Shadow is a smaller ship and easy to get around. We had a last minute booking owing to the cancellation of our Mekong cruise. We had little time to fully research the cruise but as it was Silversea we felt confident it would be ... Read More
The Silver Shadow is a smaller ship and easy to get around. We had a last minute booking owing to the cancellation of our Mekong cruise. We had little time to fully research the cruise but as it was Silversea we felt confident it would be great. We were not disappointed. Our Deck 6 cabin was in easy reach of all activities. The full crew are well-trained and cannot do enough for you. We were pampered for the full 10 days. The first half of the cruise had good weather but then an unseasonal weather event prevented our visit to Chan May and gave us another sea day. The weather in Halong Bay was cold and wet which spoilt the activities and view somewhat but it was still a great bay to visit with it's limestone shapes looming in the mist. The restaurants on board are all good - Le Champagne - is a treat - it's extra but worth it. The Terrace is a buffet until evening when it becomes Italian fine dining - another evening treat. We found the food and wine all excellent and the wait staff very obliging in every restaurant. Everything Silversea was in control of was perfect - If only they had been able to extend control to the weather as efficiently! Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
The raison d’être for booking this cruise was to visit Myanmar (Burma), a long held ambition, and once Aung San Suu Kyi indicated that tourists should come,” but be mindful of where they spent their money”, .i.e. travel ... Read More
The raison d’être for booking this cruise was to visit Myanmar (Burma), a long held ambition, and once Aung San Suu Kyi indicated that tourists should come,” but be mindful of where they spent their money”, .i.e. travel independently and not do “government” operated tours, we felt that the time was ripe. Unfortunately on doing further research, we discovered how vast the country of Burma is. By sailing into Yangon, it would necessitate flying to both Bagan (nearer) and Mandalay, and in the time available, it was not possible to see both. In the event, whilst Silversea originally offered these two itineraries, only Bagan was on sale as a shore excursion. The title therefore, mirrors Rudyard Kipling, who ironically also never visited Mandalay, like us, only staying three days, and his famous poem is based on a pagoda he visited in Moulmein. Maybe next year? Flying to Singapore March 15th 2015 Picked up by Emirates limousine service by virtue of flying business class, the driver said they always plan to arrive 15 minutes early, which is a nice touch and negates the need to worry, should they not turn up at the appointed booked time. The journey to the airport was uneventful with little traffic, being a Sunday. We stayed in the car whilst our driver went and procured a trolley for us and proceeded to load on our cases. Check in was quick and we were soon negotiating the snake-like passage to the security. Here there was a considerable hold up. There was only one female security person, and the person in front of me had let off the alarm on several occasions, and was being re-checked with the security guard's magnetic wand. My husband and several men however had gone through without interruption, and my husband thought I had been kidnapped! Eventually it was my turn, and despite not setting off any alarms, she was obviously in full flood and ready to frisk me as well. Finally meeting up with my husband, I was horrified to see my hand case open and in a state of disarray with my husband helplessly watching. It transpired that I had my spare pair of contact lenses in a pocket in my hand case which I have done for many years without being questioned. This time however, the lenses had come out of their respective cases and had to go in the proverbial plastic bag to go back through the security x-Ray. I then had to spend a good ten minutes to try and repack the dishevelled mess into some sort of order. Finally arriving at the Emirates lounge, I recounted my sorry tale to the lady on the desk. It was only then that I realised how lucky I had been. The same thing had happened to her, but she watched as they opened the case and disposed of her lenses into the bin!! A lesson now for the future for me and all contact lens wearers! Having eaten our breakfast not long before, we had a drink and a snack, although the food on offer was good. Our flight was called and we made our way down to the boarding gate - typical of what a good airport Manchester is not - the gate is at the extreme end and the last of the boarding gates, so it was quite a long walk to the plane. First and Business class passengers are the last to be called and therefore there were few economy passengers waiting to board. The former board by a separate entrance and are all seated on the upper deck, so never co-exist with economy passengers. There are 14 first and 72 business class seats. The business seating plan of the Emirates A380 is rather unusual and is geared to the solo traveller, in that there are very few adjacent seats, for example on the seating plan, seats 14A and 15B appear to be side by side on an angle, whereas 14a is a true window seat and 15B (there is no 15A) is an aisle seat. In the middle for example 11E and F are side by side, but the row behind, the equivalent seats are on the aisle and separated by personal stowage bins and the entertainment console, therefore a couple booking these seats and expecting to be seated together would actually be seated apart. Another point to note is that amenity bags are no longer given to Business class passengers who are on day time flights, so we were told. However three weeks later, departing early afternoon with an arrival in the UK of 19.15, we were given them. It therefore seems it is dependent on the flight crew onboard. The bar is located to the rear of the business cabin, which may mean noisy passengers in the bar might disturb those in the rear rows of the business cabin. The first and business cabins are entirely segregated from the economy cabin by virtue of being on the upper deck. Our departure was scheduled for 13.20 but was delayed slightly for some reason, and the flight itself was uneventful. We were however stacked over Dubai, turning a potential ten minute early arrival into one that was 20 minutes late. The flight deck gave neither apology nor reason for this, and did not advise that we had arrived at the B gates within Terminal 3. Whilst all Emirates flights depart from Terminal 3, getting between gates lettered A, B and C may involve long walks, extensive use of escalators or lifts or even a train shuttle, so plenty of time needs to be allowed when changing planes in Dubai. There was a huge crowd attempting to pass through security for connecting flights but we had been given a priority card that enabled us to bypass this queue. Fortunately we had plenty of time before our 03.15 departure to Singapore and went into the Executive Lounge for the A gates, this is oval shaped with each of the 20+ gates feeding off the central lounge area. Due to this layout, the ambience is not good, and you feel you are sitting in a corridor. Our onward flight was also an Emirates A380 but we had the same misfortune as on the first leg to Dubai, where neither the tablet console controlling the TV, nor the handset were operable in the same seat on both flights. This begs the question as to the way the planes are maintained, because for the situation to arise on two different planes consecutively suggests either poor fault reporting, or a lack of attention by repair staff. As both the planes were full in business class there was no opportunity to move. A friend who flew two days later also had the same problem with his entertainment console, so maintenance is obviously lacking. On the first leg, lunch was served and we had an excellent tuna starter, and slow cooked lamb with rice for the main course. A generous portion of cheese followed, overall a highly enjoyable meal. On the second leg to Singapore, breakfast was served from two hours prior to arrival. The flight duration of seven hours twenty, was therefore disrupted after about five hours giving little time for sleep. Although the seats recline to provide a near flat bed, they are not completely flat, and mattresses were brought round for those that wanted extra padding. This however does not compensate for the angle of the beds. Contrary to another report we have seen, that said the ambient temperature on both legs to Singapore were certainly chilly, we did not experience this, indeed on the Singapore leg, the cabin could fairly be described as stuffy. For our breakfast main dish we opted for scrambled eggs with spinach and vegetables. The scrambled eggs were disgusting and did not give the appearance of being eggs at all, due to their greyish colour. They were overcooked and cold. On both flights there was a wait of between 30-40 minutes for the main dishes to arrive, so dining became quite protracted.. Arrival in Singapore was a little early into Terminal 1, and there was no problem in passing through immigration by which time our checked bags appeared quickly on the carousel and we made our way to the Emirates executive limousine service to take us to our hotel. Crowne Plaza Changi Airport Singapore, 16-18 March We have stayed at the Crowne Plaza Changi on two previous occasions and were allocated on request a runway facing room on the sixth of nine floors. By virtue of our IHG status we were entitled to this modest upgrade, (other guests have to pay a surcharge for runway facing rooms), together with a complimentary drink from the hotel bar and free Wi-Fi in the room during our stay. Leaving our luggage in the room, we made our way to the MRT station which is accessible from both Terminal 3, (also the terminal for the Crowne Plaza), and also from Terminal 2. However to buy a tourist pass, it is necessary to go to the ticket office at the Terminal 2 end. This costs either SD$26 for two days, or 30 for three, which includes a ten dollar refundable deposit on the card, redeemable on expiry. The MRT system is very easy to use and the trains are air conditioned and very clean, and with excellent announcements for the next station call. Over the three days we stayed in Singapore, we visited a number of shopping malls. Our first port of call was at Lucky Plaza adjacent to Orchard MRT. We first shopped here in 1996 and have returned several times subsequently, on each occasion finding it more and more down-market. Most of the retail outlets were selling clothes and shoes with hardly any offering electronic goods. As with all the malls we visited there were a number of fast food outlets. From here we walked to the adjacent Tang Mall. Here the retailing was more up-market with fragrance counters on the ground floor, more designer label clothing and a large range of fast food outlets in the basement. Further along Orchard Road is the Far East Plaza. In terms of merchandise, this sits between the first two malls already described with more electronic goods available, though with a fairly limited range. Here ttoo, were several bespoke tailoring shops for both men and women. Bugis has several malls which can be accessed from this MRT station, though not all are signed at the multiple exit points. A previous post referred to an excellent Thai restaurant at Bugis, but did not give any directions which made it impossible to find. This means it is very important to ascertain exactly where you want to visit and then determine the correct exit from the MRT station. Bugis Junction and Bugis + were again more high end in their retailing with the former having many fast food outlets. Bugis market by contrast is a cramped maze of small outlets where the merchandise is low end, with no electronic goods on offer, but with a large selection of hair and beauty salons and nail bars on the upper floors, though prices were not cheap by UK standards. At the main entrance to Bugis Market is a stall selling fresh iced fruit juices for only one Singapore dollar and these must rank as the best value purchase in Singapore. On our way to the Singapore Cruise Terminal our taxi driver pointed out the newest and largest mall connected to Harbourside MRT. We concluded that Singapore must have more malls per capita than anywhere else in the world because the above describes only a small sample of what is available. Crowne Plaza's Azur restaurant, 17 March Azur offers a buffet dinner for $SD39 plus GST and service charge, with a variety of different dishes, both Asian and Western and is open to non residents. There were a number of chicken dishes including soup, but the problem is the way the meat is butchered, meaning that even in a soup dish, there are often many tiny bones to negotiate. This also applied to the chili slipper lobster which I declined realising that this would also contain a large amount of shell. Remarkably fresh whole crayfish, mussels and even American oysters were on offer, which apparently are flown in daily. On enquiring about the ingredients of an intriguing mix of items in little bowls, a member of staff told us it was a Singapore dish called Rojak. This consists of a variety of raw fruit, vegetables and nuts; all mixed up with a sweet sour and spicy sauce and was extremely tasty. We later learned that it is popular throughout South East Asia and this street food can be found at many hawker stalls. The recipe is not written in stone, and is very flexible dependent on ingredients available at the time. There was a wide selection of desserts, which surprisingly included bread and butter pudding with crème anglaise to accompany it. Also on offer, was a bowl of M&M's and three different coloured marshmallows, as well as individual fresh fruit tarts, and several plates of gateaux. Finally there was also a variety of different cheeses. Central Thai restaurant, 18 March We decided to try this restaurant which is located on the viewing level of Terminal 2 at Changi Airport. This chain has various outlets supposedly serving authentic Thai food prepared by Thai chefs. The furnishings are not as fancy as some of the other restaurants, having bare tables with cutlery –a spoon and fork, already in a basket on the table with a sealed wet towel, but no serviettes. An unusual feature is that diners are given a little pad, complete with pencil to write their own order. We speculated on the reason for this and guessed with the multiplicity of languages of the clientele, there would be no misunderstanding as to what dishes the patrons wanted. All the dishes on the menu were both displayed pictorially and also numbered. It also indicated against each dish, either one or two chillies, to denote the spiciness. We chose Thai fish cakes with sweet chilli dip to start, followed by two sweet and sour chicken dishes and a green vegetable, resembling pak choy with sambal olek and spinach. The former were very rubbery but tasty and we both thought the main dish was one of the best we have ever had. Most unusual, at least to us, and extremely delicious was the drink we chose. Oddly it could be either hot or cold, the price being dearer for cold than hot. It came in what appeared to be a screw top jar complete with handle - lemongrass. Apparently this is cut into small pieces, crushed and then boiled. The bill came to around £20 per head, which included as always GST and service charge. Embarking Silver Wind, 19 March We got a taxi at 11.15 to the Singapore Cruise Centre, the original one situated near the cable car to Sentosa, which cost 27.60 Singapore dollars. There is now another cruise terminal at Marina Bay for larger cruise ships; so in future, embarking passengers will need to make certain from which dock they are sailing. Porters were waiting to take our luggage and we joined a short line waiting to fill in the norovirus forms and for boarding to commence at 12 noon. Formalities completed we made the long covered walk to the ship, passing several crew members who greeted us by name and as long lost friends. Making our way to 804, we dropped off our hand cases and before we left, our cabin attendant popped her head round the door to introduce herself, someone we recognised, although she had not been our cabin steward previously. Our butler was Mani, who we knew well, when we had enjoyed his service on the Shadow in 2012, so we had a great cabin team. We started to unpack, broke off, for the safety drill, and then completed the remainder when our three checked bags arrived. That evening we dined with two friends in the Terrazza, where the menu is now changed after three days, rotating through seven different menus according to the Executive Chef. The Master was Captain Palmieri on his last voyage on the Wind before transferring to the Cloud, Colin Barbiere-Brown, the Cruise Director and Hedi the Restaurant Manager, both well known to us from past cruises, and the Hotel Director Gianni Dotti who we hadn’t had the pleasure to sail with before. As the cruise progressed, we saw many more faces among the crew whom we recognised, and several passengers who sailed on our Cape Town to Barcelona trip in February/March 2014. The ship, Silver Wind 19 March to 5 April 2015 Silver Wind is now 20 years old. Generally, she carries her age well but in some respects needs upgrading but remains our favourite ship. A number of passengers said that the ship was “tired” and was past her sell-by date. Areas around the swimming pool needed attention and painting was required on the exterior of the ship. However, whilst the owners do need to spend money, it was particularly difficult to effect any of the above considering the waters in which we were sailing. A large proportion of our time was sailing through possible pirate areas, hence heightened security, together with difficult tidal waters, restrictions on what the ports would allow, the high heat and humidity, and finally the many days at sea. (Anybody sailing on the following voyage would have seen painters by the score!!) To exacerbate the situation, a major hot water pipe burst on Deck 6 causing significant disruption but fortunately the ship was not full (214 out of a possible 298) so passengers could be relocated whilst cabins were dried out. The ship is scheduled for dry dock in 2016. We were not provided with a breakdown of passengers’ nationality but were told Australians formed the majority, followed by British and then Americans some way behind. From our experience on SS over the last couple of years, cruising Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Northern Europe, the former American pre-eminence by number has gone. With the ship ¾ full, there was no pressure anywhere, be it during dining, in the theatre or on pool deck. Service was thus excellent and lacking the fraught air one can sense on cruise ships that sail habitually full and (not infrequently) under-staffed. The small size of the ship also means that on longer voyages, such as our 17-night sailing, the staff get to know you by name and remember your preferences. The majority of waiters and bar staff, together with cabin stewards, are from the Philippines and they are well trained and work very hard on nine-month contracts. Many butlers are Indian males, though there are some Filipino women. Hedi from Tunisia, the highly-experienced extremely personable Restaurant Manager, balanced his staff between the various bars and dining venues to meet prevailing demand. It did not take long for most of the staff, and all the officers, to be calling us by our names, something for which we enjoy because it demonstrates people are taking the trouble to make you feel welcome, instead of the rather cold ‘sir’ or ‘madam’. Depending on the Executive Chef, lunch and dinner menus can include dishes from the region being visited. This was the case on our current sailing and we enjoyed these as a change from standard SS fare, though one or two were perhaps a little lacking in authenticity. Overall, the food was up to standard, though towards the end of the cruise we, and others, commented that dishes were heavily salted, a point I raised with the hotel director. Earlier in the cruise I had complimented the Executive Chef in avoiding over-salting the lobster, which made a change from so many other lobster dishes I had eaten on other SS ships. We were told that this was the Executive Chef’s first tour on the Wind. On formal nights, in particular, it is customary for him/her to make an appearance in the dining room at the end of service but, with one exception, we did not observe him ‘doing the rounds’. A welcome change has come in the standard brand of coffee served, which we previously regarded as bitter (name supplied on request). We were told that SS’s owners asked what it would cost to stop passengers complaining about the coffee and the result was a switch to Illy, which is also Italian and far superior. Other SS regulars agreed with us. We remain unhappy with the olive oil, however, which lacks the green hue one would expect, if it were good quality extra virgin oil, and definitely inferior to that previously supplied “as standard”, not necessarily only in La Terrazza.. The olive oil on pool deck is always harsh-tasting, possibly due to its quality, possibly due to being out in hot temperatures. Even the oil on the tables in La Terrazza seems sub-standard for a dining venue on an Italian-inspired ship. We have also ascertained that the fantastic Cicolella Extra Virgin Oil with Sicilian lemon, has given way to a galley-produced (and much inferior but immeasurably cheaper) alternative. The other disappointment is the cheese board. Most waiters will always bring the cheese menu with the dessert menu, and having a savoury tooth rather than sweet, I will always go for the cheese. The variety of cheeses on offer is not good, and most are tasteless. Unfortunately SS seems to cater for American tastes this respect as their American brand Cheddar is not what UK residents would recognise, being very bland. Even the Stilton, has not got the “bite” one would expect. The pay-for restaurant Le Champagne, was quiet, according to the Head Waiter. She said this was common on longer sailings but we suspect it also depends on passenger mix (Americans seem to patronise it more than others), whilst the need to spend onboard credit (if any) is another influence. A further factor on our sailing was having only 214 passengers aboard. As is the norm on SS, both the Captain and Staff Captain were Italian. We dined with both during our cruise and saw Captain Palmieri en passant during the day, though some passengers commented that they never saw him. During much of the voyage he was, however, preoccupied with piracy issues as we sailed waters where this is a great risk. As previously mentioned, Gianni Dotti was the hotel director, this being his first posting to the Wind after several years on sister ship Silver Cloud. Cruise Director Colin Barbiere-Brown was his customary sociable self and arranged a full programme of activities without the need to resort to evening parlour games. He did make himself visible during sea days, unlike some CDs who seem to eschew the public areas. Evening entertainment comprised a fresh collection of performances, ranging from a 1960s songbook production to Colin’s famed piano recitals, the latter being among the best attended. The talks by the enrichment lecturer, Patrick, dealt with the history from colonial times of the countries visited and were well received. Prices in the Steiner-run spa seemed comparable to a year ago. A manicure with shellac coating offered a 14-day guarantee for the latter. However the shellac began to peel off after a week but unfortunately it was not feasible to re-join the ship in Aqaba to complain! The shops on board have recently been revamped and are now run by Starboard Cruise Services, both Harding Bros and H Stern having gone. The shops were probably the quietest, most deserted parts of the ship, so much so, that the staff were regularly to be seen standing in the corridor, looking for custom. The merchandise appeared not to correspond to passengers’ taste or be way over-priced ($75 for a T shirt made in China) or both. Not every cruise passenger wishes to buy Armani products whilst on a cruise!! Also please note not to forget small toiletry items or medicine, as this is now locked away in a cupboard and the range is not as extensive as previously. The ports visited PORT KLANG MALAYSIA 20 MARCH We docked at 8.00 am and we were fortunate to be "seaside", as we had ordered room service breakfast, and as usual with all the butlers who lay the table with linen and crockery, we asked him to do so, on the large balcony table. This is where the Medallion suite is brilliant, plenty of room with two sun loungers, three armchairs with cushions and two little tables apart from the big round tall one on which breakfast was laid. Having made the decision we were not going to find the train to take us into KL, we took the shuttle offered by Silversea to the Aeon Bukit Tinggi Shopping mall, about half an hour away. We had hoped this was situated in the town of Port Klang, but in the event it was some miles away, so we were unable to walk around the centre. The Mall was reminiscent of so many, with a large supermarket type grocery shop on the ground floor. There were four levels, with the basement for a car park. We had not changed any money into Ringetts, although there was nothing that tempted us. We were surprised at the prices and decided this was a high-end shopping experience, selling shoes, clothes and electronic items including I-phones, and jewellery with some shops only selling watches; as well as several fast food outlets. Having checked a couple of floors, we decided to return to the ship via the shuttle. We sat on our veranda in the sun and recounted our adventures so far. GEORGETOWN PENANG 21 MARCH Again drawing the lucky straw, we were docked seaside, but chose to eat at the Terrazza and watched as the Superstar Virgo docked astern. After breakfast armed with our notes, we walked ashore to find the first stop for the CAT, not as you might imagine the seagoing variety, as this stands for the Central Area Transit bus, which as its name implies, is a free circular bus round the centre of Penang. Their website is so comprehensive that it lists things to see, both right and left from each bus stop. This is not a tourist bus at all, and is used by those not possessing a car to go shopping and to get to work. Consequently it was full, and initially we had to stand. I would highly recommend this bus to anyone visiting Penang, as it gives you an overview of the town, even if you do not get off, and should you wish to do so, it is so easy to catch another. The added advantage of course, is that English is widely spoken. Penang was quite affluent, we expected it to be busy and bustling but were surprised at the number of new and prestige makes of car we saw. We had virtually done a complete circuit on the bus, but chose to get off to see the Time Tunnel. Time Tunnel This is a very good well organised display of the history of Penang from its origins to the present day, with models dressed in authentic costumes, items of household implements, beautiful hand painted cups to a great many pictures dating back to the 19th century and many contemporary photographs, some depicting World War II. Alongside each item there was written text in various languages explaining a bit more about what was on show. Finally at the end there was a chance for you to have your picture taken against a backdrop scene such as the quayside of Penang in the early 20th century. We declined this and made our way back to the bus stop to continue our journey. Old Town White Coffee bar We alighted in the middle of Penang Road, which extends for some distance, where colourful shops with a great many items of clothing were hanging up at the entrances. We found a little cafe called Ban Heang Café where we sat and purchased a coffee which is a Malay specialty - it was also sold in Port Klang and it is called "white coffee" - highly descriptive as it is not only the name of the producer, but it is also what it looked like. The coffee beans are roasted over wood fire roasters, the roasting and the resultant caramelising effect makes it quite bitter. The four main ingredients are instant coffee, castor sugar, non-dairy creamer, and natural flavour enhancers. The non-dairy creamer is extracted from palm oil. For people who do not take sugar in their coffee this sounds very sweet, but surprisingly enough, it is not overpoweringly so, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We also bought an iced pure fruit juice, one lemon and the other pineapple, which resembled a cross between a "lolly" and a frozen yogurt, which was really very refreshing. Weld Quay Clan Jetties Leaving Penang Street we retraced our steps back to catch the CAT to the main bus terminus at Weld Quay. Alighting here, virtually behind the bus station are the Chinese Clan jetties, a collection of dwellings built on wooden stilts on the seabed, inhabited by the descendants of the original Chinese who arrived in Penang over 200 years ago, who came to work as dock labourers, and never returned. The decorations were still up celebrating Chinese New Year (a month before) and the red lanterns glistened in the sun and swayed in the breeze which was coming off the sea. The jetties are owned by individual clan members and are residential, and are no longer used for cargo trans-shipment. Walking down the first jetty, we were struck by the tidy condition, with many of these houses surrounded by smart aluminium railings. All however, had shoes neatly laid outside the front door, enabling one to know how many people were home. We walked to the end of the jetty and could see the other clan jetties extending out into the bay to the right of the Lim jetty, which we had been told is the least touristy. The area was very quiet and we attracted no attention from the occasional resident we saw. Although it was only a half a mile to walk back to the cruise terminal, we spied a cycle rickshaw whose driver suddenly appeared at the prospect of custom. We negotiated an accepted price in Malaysian Ringetts and squeezed on board. Bear in mind we were facing the wrong way and needed to do a U-turn in the midst of buses, trucks and cars, with us at the sharp end! The drive back to our destination was not for the faint hearted. Surprisingly vehicles were very polite and made way for the various manoeuvres needed by the driver including the U-turn and crossing a line of oncoming traffic to park outside the cruise terminal! PHUKET THAILAND 22 MARCH Phuket (the “h” is silent) is Thailand’s only island province connected to the mainland by a causeway, and has been called the “Pearl of Thailand”. Tourism is of course a big earner, but the province’s wealth is derived from tin production which started in the 1500s and still remains the centre of the tin production in the country along with rubber coconut and export of seafood. Probably best known for its notorious Patong Town area, its biggest city, and a very crowded beach and now synonymous for its large gay scene, exotic nightlife and beloved of backpackers. However the island is large, over 215 square miles and there is much more to see. The best beaches are on the west coast Karon, and Kata which have superior hotels and restaurants. Our stay here was too short, arriving at 7.00 am and sailing at 2 pm, did not give us enough time, particularly as we were docked at the deep water port of Phuket which is over 20 minutes drive to Phuket Town. Having been to the island in the early 1990’s we chose to visit Phang Nga Bay by speedboat. Leaving at 7.45 we were driven by coach to the speedboat jetty, a journey of nearly 45 minutes. Due to the tides, it was a “wet” embarkation, having to wade through ankle deep water to get on the boat. There were two coach loads and we had two boats, so it was not too crowded. The weather was glorious and we made our way out to sea en route to Phang Nga Bay National Park, .passed the large limestone karsts, many hued and towering huge above us as we got closer. Our first visit was to Khao Phing Kan Island, made famous by James Bond’s film Man with the Golden Gun, made in 1974, and now universally called James Bond Island. We expected it to be very touristy, and we were not disappointed, with many souvenir stalls selling tatty overpriced goods, but the biggest sorrow was the waters edge which was dirty and rubbish strewn. Koh Panyi is a water village with more than 200 houses built on stilts and about 1700 residents, who originally came from Indonesia some 200 years ago. There are wooden walkways to traverse many of which seem to be in a state of collapse, so one needs to walk carefully. It is incredible that these people live and die on the island, some never leave the island and there is a small cemetery at one end. There is a large mosque as well as a freshwater well, and children go to the floating school in the mornings. The village surprisingly, includes a floating football pitch which children built from old scraps of wood and fishing rafts. After making it to the Semi-final on an inland tournament, the whole village was inspired to take up the sport. They built a brand new pitch, although the wooden one still remains and is popular among tourists. There are many stalls selling a variety of goods, from clothes to food to electrical goods, not of course only for tourists, who can only visit during the dry season, and trade seemed to be brisk.. After a short visit we returned to the speed boat for the journey back to the jetty and thence to the ship. In conclusion, whilst we were glad to have visited this area, the limestone karsts were not as spectacular as those of Halong Bay, and the area has now become far too touristy. The best part of the tour was the speedboat journey. YANGON, MYANAMAR (FORMERLY BURMA), 24 TO 26 MARCH The sail up the Irrawaddy and then the Yangon River took four hours after embarking the local pilot. Although the inbound transit was in the middle of the night, the outbound gave a good opportunity to observe riverside life. Departure after three days, two nights, had to be delayed for about 90 minutes to await the river level to rise on the incoming tide. Pronounced ‘Yangoh’, ‘Yangoon’ or still referred to as ‘Rangoon’ by some, this is a large, bustling, and congested city. Our visit came towards the end of the dry season and daytime temperatures reached the low 90sF, coupled with high humidity. Silver Wind’s length is 514 feet, and the maximum length a ship can be to use Yangon’s dock at Bo Aung Kyaw Street Wharf is 547 feet, so possible, but with little to spare! We were therefore so fortunate to be on the Wind, as ships bigger than 547 feet have to dock at Thilawa, some 25 kilometres south of Yangon, and at least an hour away from the centre of Yangon by road. Very fortunate for the passengers, but quite a nightmare for the Staff to navigate to this berth, with a tidal range of around 20 feet and the necessity to cross both the Inner and Outer Bar at near high tide to ensure sufficient depths, as well as contending with the velocity of the current, it was no easy sail, particularly as the pilot had boarded at around 2.00 am! Whilst the Myanmar Port Authority appears to have fresh water facilities, there was none for us. Normally, ships in port take on fresh water through a blue pipe but none was available so we were asked to curb our water use. Equally, there was no facility to dispose of the ship’s ‘grey’ water. The port authorities told the ship to sluice it into the river but this would contravene Silversea protocols. Instead, road tankers were hired to accept the grey water, which they discharged into the river further round the dock! Mental note not to swim in the river in Yangon! So for our enjoyment, there were a great many hurdles to overcome! Exiting the dock gates, you join the wide dock road, which runs parallel to, but segregated from, Strand Road. Turning left, a 10 minute walk brings you to the covered footbridge, which is used by foot passengers crossing both Strand Road and the dock road to reach the Dala Ferry terminal which is located on the left. Surprisingly, this footbridge has ‘up’ escalators. The Strand Hotel is close to the footbridge. Just beyond here, road vehicles can join Strand Road and so access the city centre, this being the road taken by our complimentary ship’s shuttle. Bo Gyoke Market aka Scott Market The centre of the city can be regarded as Scott Market or Bo Gyoke Market on Bo Gyoke Road. This is one of the principal thoroughfares in the city, with many small shops and pavement vendors on the opposite side of the road to the market, the former extending for some distance in both directions. The market itself has at least two floors, though getting from the ground level involves quite a hunt for a narrow, steep staircase. Entering from Bo Gyoke Road, there are some seats which are popular with those wishing to use the free Wi-Fi in the market. Continuing inside, jewellery stalls dominate the wide, central walkway. Legal currency exchange facilities are also available hereabouts. Penetrating along the narrow side alleys, one finds stalls offering a variety of merchandise, notably clothes and clothing material. Some stalls even have on-site women sewing garments. There are also food stalls on one side of the site. By contrast, the retail outlets on the opposite side of Bo Gyoke Road are generally more ‘budget’, with quite a few offering street food. For those in need, there is, though a pharmacy. Another curious phenomenon, whilst walking on this street, trying to find a particular building for which we knew the number, we enquired of the retail staff what was the number of their shop, and without exception, they had no idea and had to go to ask someone else!! Yangon Circular Railway Continuing on foot along Bo Gyoke Road, with the market on your left, brings you after about ten minutes to the left turn that leads to Yangon Central railway station. The station building is classically colonial but is not the entrance for those wishing to take a ride on the Yangon Circular Railway. Instead, continue along Bo Gyoke Road to the next intersection and climb the stairs to the covered walkway that leads over the railway tracks. About halfway along, a broad staircase on the right takes you down to the island platform 7 from which the Circular Railway trains depart. You cannot access this direct from the main station building. There is a ticket booth at the bottom of the staircase on the platform. As other local trains also use this platform, ask for a ticket for the Circular Railway; the station staff are used to this, so language is not an issue. The cost at the time of our visit was 300 khats or USD1. We were not asked for our passport, neither did we have to put our name and address on the ticket. Being a circular route, trains depart in both directions and one can travel either way round the loop, or alight at any intermediate stop and return to Central Station. Some of the trains comprise older, non-air conditioned coaches, whilst some are formed of more modern a/c vehicles. Observation suggested that departures are half-hourly in each direction and so there would not be a long wait if the first train did not have the sort of rolling stock you wanted. We wanted the older, non-a/c coaches because it is possible to lean out of the open windows to observe the activity at stations. Our 11.30 clockwise departure was not full but emptied out as people alighted but then began to fill as we began to head back into the city. Vendors patrol the coaches, offering food, drink or newspapers. At several stops, locals pushed bags of vegetables as big as themselves through the open windows, using the train to get to or from market and home. There is no doubt that this rail service provides and excellent way of seeing local Yangon life at minimal cost. For the train enthusiast, diesel locomotives of three types were seen, these being Classes DB, DD and DF. A shunting diesel was also noted preparing a short freight train at the back of the station. Getting around central Yangon Taxis are plentiful but not metered. Drivers will accept either khats or US dollars but negotiate and agree the fare first. As a tourist, expect to be quoted a high price and be prepared to negotiate; one’s negotiating skills will determine whether you get a good deal or are overcharged. This means that fares can be quite good value when compared to the alternative. The alternative to taxis is foot power. This has the advantage at busy times of nearly being as quick as a taxi because Yangon’s traffic can choke the roads. A rough estimate would be a walk of about 30 minutes from ship to Scott Market but the heat and humidity will deter most from doing this. Strand Hotel We poked our nose inside this surprisingly-modest sized property, unable to eat as we were inappropriately dressed, but wanted to see it and possibly return another day. In the event, we ran out of time. It retains its colonial ambiance and appeared well maintained. The menu for afternoon tea looked interesting; though the restaurant was fully booked with fellow ship passengers on the day we visited. There did not appear to be any disability ramp for access to the hotel. Dala ferry Just over the long, covered footbridge from close to the Strand Hotel is the terminal for the foot passenger ferry to Dala Island. The round-trip fare was US$4 and the crossing takes only a few minutes. We did not go but a friend who did reported that a cycle rickshaw driver on the ferry propositioned him and they struck a deal on US$10 per hour. He found his island tour fascinating, visiting the driver’s home village, where the dwellings lacked piped water. Undoubtedly this is less prosperous than across the water. In fact there is a constant stream of passengers on the ferry who probably work in Yangon, and travel home each day. Bago Having spent our first day in Yangon, we and two friends organised a private tour to Bago, formerly Pegu. We booked this over the Internet prior to arrival with a taxi driver/guide called Tony Hlashwe, (email address tonyhlashwe@gmail.com) and we can highly recommend him. He was informative, friendly and spoke good English and he followed the itinerary we set out at the beginning. Although only 45 miles as the crow flies between the two cities, we began our tour at 8.30am due to the heavy traffic we expected to experience. This proved to be a wise move. The road north-eastwards, until we left the environs of Yangon behind, were clogged with every conceivable form of transport, and often we came to a complete full stop. After driving through small dwelling houses on either side of the road, after about an hour we arrived at a slightly more substantial village and we stopped to get out and take a closer look. There were many people thronging around, and all were very friendly, small stalls abounded almost at the roadside, so it was difficult to negotiate with the steady stream of road traffic passing by. Looking at the merchandise there were several bottles labelled “Scotch”. On enquiring if it was indeed alcohol, I was assured that the bottles had been recycled and contained fruit juice! Continuing our journey we were aware that we were nearing Bago as once again the traffic snarled to a halt. We were surprised that it appeared to be quite large and prosperous town with a multiplicity of shops, a city of some 300,000 inhabitants. Our first stop was to the Kyakhatwine Monastery, Myanmar’s largest. The visit is specifically timed to coincide with the resident 600 monks’ final meal of the day; they only eat twice a day – taking place before noon. They are called to dinner by one monk striking a wood sounding board several times followed by banging a gong a minute later. All the monks who ranged in age from young boys, to teenagers, to older men, file in single file in complete silence to accept the offerings proffered by the general public, obviously mainly Burmese, although I did see some Westerners giving money. As the monks carrying their little lacquer bowl, (about the size of a basketball, resembling an urn with a lid), file passed the people, they are given items as diverse as a bowl of cooked rice (presumably cold), bars of wrapped soap (Lux), packets of noodles, toothbrushes, bars of chocolate, and also money. All of these items go into their little pot and they continue to file past into a large dining area, where they sit on the floor and consume the contents. I found this all rather bizarre and felt rather like an intruder watching people eat. Despite the offerings of the visitors as they file passed, they are also given a large plate of rice which is scooped out of a massive pot, and put into their alms bowls. Food that is not consumed on the day is not kept, and goes back into the community who donated it, or is given to the resident stray dogs that live in the temple grounds. Buddhist monasteries are completely dependent on the lay community outside their walls; they do not produce or purchase their own food. Therefore they get what they are given – whether by central collection, as is the case with large teaching monasteries like this one, or by way of daily alms rounds and monks are asked not to favour one food over another. We didn’t stay to watch them finish eating, and along with many other tourists, we retraced our steps the way we had come, walking down the corridor, to the small road off the main highway to find Tony and continue our journey. Most of the religious sites one visits in Bago are spread over a wide area, so it is necessary to have transport, as it would be too far to walk from one to the other. Our next stop was to the Shwemawdaw Pagoda. This is often referred to as the Golden God Temple. At 375 feet in height, the Shwemawdaw holds the record for the tallest pagoda in the country although the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon is usually credited as the tallest pagoda in Myanmar at 98 metres. However this Myanmar Stupa dominates Bago Town, and it is said to be over 1000 years old. It has been repaired many times over the years, despite being damaged by a succession of earthquakes, until the one in 1930 completely levelled the Stupa. Reconstruction commenced in 1952 and was completed two years later, when it reached its present height. The glittering golden top of the Stupa supposedly reaches 14 metres higher than Shwedagon in Yangon. As in the latter, the Stupa here is reached by a covered walkway lined with stalls and “sales opportunities”. There is also a collection of faded paintings illustrating the terrible earthquake of 1930, and its subsequent rebuilding. Our day trip was all inclusive, covering entrance fees and camera charges, so we do not know whether or not the cost included the $US10 entrance fee. Other posters have said this can be avoided, by using the secondary entrances and not entering by the western gate, and to avoid passing by it when you're inside. The Shwethar lyaung Pagoda has a Buddha, which at the length of 55 metres and a height of 16 metres, is the second largest Buddha in the world. It is placed inside a steel pavilion built in 1906 to preserve it from the weather and deterioration. Tradition says it was built in 994 during the reign of the Mon King Migadepa to commemorate his conversion to Buddhism. It eventually fell into ruin and was covered by jungle overgrowth. It was not found until the British era when an Indian contractor found it whilst constructing the railway line. We also visited Kanbawzathadi Palace. The original palace, built for King Bayinnaung in 1556, consisted of 76 apartments and halls. It was burned down in 1599, reconstructed in 1990 and finished two years later. The very ornate golden palace gives a good impression of the splendour and wealth of the second Burmese empire and externally both the building and the grounds are very imposing, but the inside was a disappointment. Feeling that we were “pagoded out” and having been on the go since very early morning, we stopped at what could be described as “a roadside restaurant” on the edge of Bago. This occupied quite a large area, with tables virtually at the edge of the carriageway, but extending quite a way back to the kitchens and the toilets. Apparently, the latter two were best seen after we had eaten!! Our guide/driver Tony also ate with us – initially we had said that we would not eat out and our butlers had given us packed lunches, consisting of sandwiches, drinks, biscuits and some fruit. However we decided to take the plunge and had a chicken and rice dish, which was very tasty and none of us had any ill effects. The price was only a few dollars and we ended up giving Tony some of our packed lunch. Our penultimate stop was to see the Kyaik Pun Pagoda which has four gigantic Buddha images all of them in a sitting posture facing the four cardinal points of the compass. They are seated back to back against a massive brick pillar. This unusual pagoda, lies only a few hundred feet off the Yangon-Bago road and was built in 1476. This statue is 27 metres tall and is quite impressive and very highly coloured.. However our lasting memories of this place will be burning our feet. Needless to say you have to be bare footed, and the surrounds of this pagoda are bare concrete, and broken in places. There are no mats, it is open to the elements and the temperature that day was not far short of 100F!! Our last stop was to the Taukkyan War Cemetery for Allied soldiers from the British Commonwealth who died in battle here in the Second World War. It contains the graves of some 6500 soldiers, as well as some 52 soldiers who died during the First World War. There are also memorial pillars, and many of the graves contain remains of unidentified soldiers. It is a very peaceful place, despite being on the main highway, only 25 kilometres north of Yangon, and is beautifully tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It is certainly worth a visit and it is poignant to read the ages of so many of the fallen. The journey back was uneventful, and Tony our guide managed to return to Yangon and our ship without hitting too much of the rush hour traffic. It had been a long day, but we were all pleased that we had been to Bago. Our final day in Yangon, we left the best to last. Unable due to time constraints to see the Shwedagon Pagoda at sunset, the day previously, we determined to at least visit it in daylight hours. Really too far to walk, particularly in the heat and humidity, we got a cab from Scott Market to the Shwedagon Pagoda. The entrance fee is $US5, not as expensive as that charged in Bago. The area it encompasses is quite amazing, 114 acres, even the terrace is 14 acres. It stands on a hill that is 190 feet above sea level and the Pagoda itself is over 100 metres tall. To say it is imposing, is rather an understatement. It gleams in the sunlight, not surprising as so much is gold, either gold leaf or gold plates. One could spend hours in the complex, there is so much to see, with many Buddha images hidden away in nooks and crannies. There are of course a great many tourists, milling around, but due to the size, they are not overwhelming, and it never felt that there were too many people that it was not possible to photograph. The diamonds and precious stones are dazzling, and the number of diamonds in the Orb alone is over 4000. There are several places similar in the world, the Grand Palace in Bangkok, for example, But for sheer grandeur, the Shwedagon Pagoda has to be the “jewel in the crown”. Some observations about the country in general. Viewed in March 2015, what might Burma stand for? Burma Undergoing Rapid Modernisation Already It was a surprise to see so many cars in Yangon especially, but also in Bago. Though by no means to the extent seen in Singapore, smart phones were not uncommon in Yangon, so there is clearly a degree of affluence which media reports had not really led us to expect. Clearly the main cities are undergoing rapid change, though one did not have to travel far to find people enduring a third-world existence, without piped water into their homes. An oddity concerns roads and road vehicles. Myanmar was of course a British colony until 1948. The cars had right hand steering and drove on the left side of the road. In 1970 all traffic was moved to the right. There are two commonly held beliefs for this, both of which point to the eccentricities of General Ne Win. One theory is that Ne Win’s wife’s astrologer said that the country would be better off driving on the right side of the road. The second is that the General had a dream that the country should switch directions. Either way, the General called the shots and traffic was directed to move sides overnight!. The anomaly, however, is that at least 90% of all vehicles continue to be right-hand drive, whereas they should be left-hand drive. When asked about this, we were told that RHD vehicles were cheaper. Even more odd is that the toll booths on the Yangon to Bago highway are set up for RHD vehicles, yet they should properly be positioned for drivers sitting on the left; weird and probably unique! Observing the physique of the people, the indigenous Burmese appear bigger than the neighbouring Thai people but not as big as Indians, who of course have come across the Bay of Bengal for centuries. We saw a lot of Buddhist monks. Considering how their diet is supposed to be so frugal, they were among the fattest Burmese we saw! We should have sailed at 4.30, but due to the tides, we were unable to leave until they had risen sufficiently enough for us to leave our berth and retrace our steps down the Yangon River into the Irrawaddy. We finally left about 5.45 pm, and managed to see something of the land either side before darkness set in. COLOMBO SRI LANKA, 30 MARCH Four of us decided to hire a taxi for two hours touring the main sights/sites. Eventually, one driver quoted US$15. We wanted to see the Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple, a drive round the main city incorporating the Pettah area and Sea Street, home to three important Hindu Temples, the Ganeshan, the Old Kathiresan and the New Kathiresan. All have their intricately-carved and colourful gopurams (doorways). This road is now quite up-market with many jewellery shops. We also wanted to visit a supermarket to buy spices. The local hospitality rep here in Colombo was extremely informative and very helpful, suggesting that we visit a supermarket for the spices rather than the markets, as the former would be better quality. We were fortunate as in many of the other ports, these local reps who are brought on board by Silversea, often have limited understanding and spoken English, are often not well informed, and in some cases completely wrong in their advice . Our first stop was to the Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple, built in the 1880s. It is not what it seems from the outside. It is not only a place for worship, but a bustling temple complex with a library, a museum and an extraordinarily eclectic array of bejewelled and gilded gifts presented by devotees and well-wishers over the years. Some of the objects look like implements from a bygone era. In the Image room is a huge gold Buddha decorated with ivory elephant tusks. Every temple in Sri Lanka has a sacred Bo tree, and this one is no exception. According to legend, it was the Bo tree under which Buddha sat whilst obtaining enlightenment. There are many plants and flowers which they were watering when we were there, so be careful as you are walking round in bare feet, should you try and walk where the mats are, they are completely saturated!. The museum houses a wide ranging collection of bric-a-brac and Buddhist memorabilia and gifts from other Buddhist nations, an old car, including a Japanese sandalwood cabinet which apparently is worth £1 million. Another object is the world’s tiniest Buddha, smaller than a thimble, which revealed extraordinary detail underneath a microscope. It is certainly less like a place of worship than a museum, apart from the clouds and smell of incense, a real dichotomy. We then drove along clean well laid out roads with manicured trees and flowers to the other side of town. The Galle Face Hotel was a good spot to see the beach-front, as well as the exterior of this colonial hotel, which was undergoing refurbishment. Our driver had already pointed out the expanding number of 5* hotels which are being built in the city, and the Galle Face clearly now has to look to its laurels, although of course it does have a superb position with, at the moment, uninterrupted views along the ocean road. The supermarket, Arpico Supercentre, apparently the leading supermarket chain in Sri Lanka, was quite large and well stocked with a wide range of merchandise, plus a café. As might be expected, there was an extensive array of spices, Sri Lanka being noted for black pepper and cinnamon amongst others. A local lady, with perfect English, guided us and explained the difference between roasted and un-roasted curry powders, a distinction about which we were unaware. We bought various items and the cost was not expensive. On returning to the ship at an obvious slow pace, we had strayed over our agreed two hours. The driver claimed we had negotiated US$40, despite the four of us protesting. We had, however, had a great tour, the driver had been very obliging and we decided not to argue and paid him what he asked. The moral, however, is to write down the price at the start. We were impressed with Colombo, not for the variety and quantity of things to see, but with the air of relative affluence when compared to, say, a large Indian city. There is so much more to see than just Colombo, and the time we had was nowhere near enough to get more than an inkling of this fascinating country. COCHIN INDIA, 31 MARCH Sadly, we were only scheduled for an afternoon in this fascinating city but fortunately we had spent two days here previously. The city is sprawling, with much of it having a village-like feel by virtue of the general absence of any high-rise buildings and the main roads being modest, two-lane affairs. We had two objectives. One was to go to Bazaar Road in Mattancheri and the other to visit the Jewish synagogue, which is less than a mile away from there. We had been denied entry to the latter during our last visit because of being dressed in shorts. Both these locations were not too far from where our ship docked in the port on Willingdon Island, where an Aida ship had been docked for three days and Azamara Quest was also in port, though neither close to our berth. Willingdon Island is arguably the principal port area for Cochin, though the prestigious Taj Malabar is located here with a magnificent view of Cochin Harbour. The local hospitality official advised that a tuk-tuk to do what we proposed, total time two hours, would cost US$30 and we laughed at him! Maybe in a Rolls Royce, but not an open-air tuk-tuk. As usual, the taxi drivers waiting on the quay wanted anything up to US$40, so we walked outside the port gates where plenty of others were waiting for custom. After a short negotiation, we agreed US$4 for two hours covering our two objectives. The enrichment lecturer on board admitted he had been guided by the local hospitality rep and paid US$30, showing his inexperience in world travel, even though he lectures for SS regularly. In most ports round the world, taxis et al, have to pay a bribe or premium to enter inside the port gates, so, not to be “ripped off”, it is always wise to walk the few extra yards to venture outside this area.. We set off and our driver said his tuk-tuk was a Ferrari, which was as close as he (or we) would come to owning one!. He did not drive like a Ferrari owner, however, which suited us, particularly over the heavily rutted roads in places! Our first stop was at a warehouse-type complex that dated back 400 years, having been built by the Portuguese. In one building, women were shaking root ginger on a large grating to remove unwanted parts. The air was very dusty because of what they were doing and one fears for the health of their lungs. Upstairs in an adjoining building, spices were on sale and several locals were buying. We also bought a packet of crystallised ginger and some masala tea. We continued to the synagogue, located at the end of a street with tourist-targeted shops on both sides. The entrance fee is only 5 rupees, which our “Ferrari” driver gave me rather than me changing a high denomination note, which I thought was a very nice gesture. Unfortunately, the synagogue really only consists of one room with some old photographs on the walls, and outside in the grounds there were some haphazardly standing grave stones, which were roped off, so you could not get a closer look, all in all a big disappointment and not as interesting as the oldest Sephardic synagogue in Dubrovnik. . At the junction where the street to the synagogue turns off the through road, is The Spice Shop, which we had patronised previously. This is also targeted at tourists and prices are fixed and not especially cheap but we had found previously the quality to be good. We bought a plastic screw top jar of spices for fish, which was bigger than we had bought previously. After some discussion about price, we were given a gift of a tablet of lemon grass soap, so a very good deal overall. Our driver asked if we would agree to make two calls at tourist shops during our trip. He explained that bringing tourists meant each shop would stamp a card and, once he had five stamps, he could get free fuel for his vehicle. He showed us his card with three stamps already and agreed to his request, provided he did not charge extra when two hours had elapsed. The two shops to which we were taken both sold the same array of bric a brac, jewellery, carpets and ladies apparel. Ironically, the one thing we would have bought – an incense burner – neither shop had, so we had shown legitimate interest but not bought. Our driver did, however, get his two stamps and was happy. On return to the port, he was even happier when we gave him US$10 instead of the agreed US$4, as indeed, were we because we had achieved our objectives for this too-brief a visit to a fascinating city. MUMBAI INDIA, 2 APRIL Having seen all the sights (and sites) in this fascinating city that we wanted to see during a previous visit, and opting not to toil up the steps on Elephanta Island to see the caves, we had a leisurely few hours at our own pace here. A shuttle bus took us the short distance from Ballard Pier, where we (and later Seabourn Odyssey) were docked, to the port gates. Once outside the gates, there were taxis-a-plenty vying for our business and we negotiated a price of US$4 for the drive to Colaba Causeway, about two miles or so away and which is a shopping area a little way behind the famous Taj Mumbai hotel and the Gateway to India. We browsed the shops, looking for silk bedding in particular but without finding what we wanted. Walking along Colaba Road, it was soon evident that someone Very Important was due. Soldiers stood on the pavement every ten yards and gradually all traffic ceased. We were told to stand away from the edge of the pavement. Eventually, a cavalcade of black cars, with police cars front and rear, swept past, the Prime Minister’s car (the latest largest BMW), being in the centre of four other cars, one at each corner. All very dramatic, but they have been known to assassinate their PMs in India! We crossed Colaba Road and began retracing our steps, heading ultimately for the Taj Mumbai Hotel. The side streets also bustled with shops and we bought antibiotics from a pharmacy for under a £1 and some essential oils. Wrought iron gates barred the entrance to alleyways that led to private gated communities but these were juxtaposed with hens running around on the pavement, whilst a tethered cow blocked our way at one point and we had to circumvent it by walking onto the road! A short walk along the waterfront brought us to a side entrance of the Taj Mumbai hotel, an oasis of air-conditioned tranquillity, splendour and cleanliness after Colaba Road. To be fair, the central area of Mumbai has been tidied up since our last visit and we saw a street sweeper in action. We looked round the ground floor and swimming pool area before heading for the Sea Lounge Restaurant on the first floor. By virtue of it being just 12.30, the restaurant wasn’t busy and we secured a table next to the window, with a beautiful uninterrupted view of the Gateway to India monument and the ferries plying from there to Elephanta Island. This is the restaurant that serves Mumbai street food dishes at lunch time, though the menu is naturally more extensive. We ordered two dishes, the Bhel Puri and the Dhai Batata Puri. The former is the most commonly sold chaat on the streets of Mumbai and its ingredients consist of puffed rice, papadi (small crisp deep fried flour puris), sev, onions, potatoes, and raw mango. The latter consisted of potatoes, onions, tomatoes and coriander leaves with yogurt or lassi. The dishes came with Green Mint Coriander Chutney, made from fresh mint, lemon juice and salt. Sweet Tamarind Jaggery Date chutney and finally red chutney which is hot and spicy made from garlic and dried red chillies, reminiscent of Malaysia’s Sambal Olek. The date and chilli chutney was something we had never seen or tasted before. Several days later whilst in Muscat, we bought a bottle of date syrup so we could make our own. To accompany the food we chose two Aged Monsoon Malabar coffees, not strong on caffeine, but with flavours of clove, nutmeg, chocolate and cedar, which were delicious, as was the food. Including service, the bill came to GB£33, say US$50, which we judged to be good value, particularly as the portions were generous. Another couple from our ship had a beer and a glass of wine for not much less! Exiting the hotel, a taxi was dropping off a fare and this situation is often the best way to get a good price for your journey. He quoted US$4 for the return to the port, the same as outward, so we jumped in and returned to Silver Wind. MUSCAT SUNDAY 5TH APRIL After a less bumpy night than the previous one, we arrived to the well remembered outskirts of the port of Muscat at around 7.30 am. Opting for breakfast in the Terrazza due to time constraints, it was decidedly less busy than expected. We were due to collect our passports at 8.45 for 9.00am disembarkation. At 8.45 we were told that only two immigration officers had arrived and there would be a delay. The arrangement was supposed to be that our passports would be checked on board, visas issued, returned to all passengers who would then need to have these stamped on exit at the port gates. Apparently one batch of passengers did manage to leave, those on a Silversea airport transfer or a stay at an hotel, leaving the rest of us to fume onboard. A further announcement from the cruise director told us that all passports had now been taken ashore and would be processed at the dock gates. We had previously asked reception to get the Hotel Director, who was ashore, if he could inform the waiting taxis and those others waiting to pick up passengers, that there had been a long delay, and passengers were unable to proceed ashore. Finally at 10.30 we were told that all passengers could finally disembark and to collect their passports ashore. Since our last visit they have built a lovely small cruise terminal, which appeared not to be totally commissioned, as there was nothing inside apart from an operational scanner through which our carry-ones went. Walking out onto the quayside, we found our luggage, and our pre-arranged pick up car driver who had not been told about the delay and had been waiting since 9.00am for us to appear!! With our luggage duly stowed in the car, we sped off the few hundred yards to the dock gates, only to be told that he should have picked up a piece of paper from the immigration officers on the quayside! So turning around we drove back to some of the still waiting passengers, who presumably were also waiting for this elusive piece of paper! After sometime our driver got this piece of paper and once again we drove back to the dock entrance. Here we had to get out of the car and were met by this bizarre scene. A melee of passengers were climbing up a steep set of about six steps to yell their cabin number through a little window into a small room filled with about six men, many of whom had fistfuls of passports. They seemed incapable of understanding the numbers they were being given, no doubt due to language difficulty. The scene became even more fraught as there were several, presumably other immigration men outside also with handfuls of passports vainly trying to answer the dozens of passengers who were not standing patiently with their heads poked through this little window! It was a complete and utter shambles and in any other circumstances it would have been laughable, but we paid the price for this, as the tour we had booked could not be completed in the time left available. We finally left the port of Muscat at around 11.20, en route to Nizwa! Our vehicle, a Toyota Landcruiser, and our guide driver Sami together with the three of us and all our luggage drove out of town past familiar landmarks, including the Sultan Qaboos mosque, which stands large and imposing with its glittering golden dome sparkling in the sunlight, until we left habitation behind and the scenery became starker with towering granite and limestone rocks on either side of the road. The journey along straight wide dual carriageways was long and took just under two hours. At the first sight of habitation we realised we were on the outskirts of Nizwa, quite a large busy and thriving town, with multiple shops selling a wide variety of goods, from food, clothing to hardware items. Expecting Nizwa to be an isolated place, this was quite a surprise. There is a large car park adjacent to the Fort to cater for the large number of visitors this place attracts, and we stopped here, only yards from the entrance with the car's thermometer registering the outside temperature as 42 degrees C!! We later found out the official temperature here was a mere 39C!! Nizwa fort The heat hit us as we walked up the slight hill to enter the fort, which is a lot larger than it first appears. Built in the 12th century originally, it has been renovated, although only apparently on the facing of the walls. However the initial enclosure houses a variety of small shops mainly displaying tourist goods, including a very large number of big earthenware urns/jugs and one wonders how tourists would be able to transport them back to their respective countries, so maybe these items did cater for Omanis. Unfortunately the original souk has now been closed so the remaining area was a bit clinical with not as much atmosphere as the original dark narrow passages. However the latter were about to appear as we started our ascent inside the fort, rather like walking up a very narrow dark stone spiral staircase which wound its way up higher and higher. At various intervals we came across huge wooden studded doors which now were open, but originally of course these would have been shut and barred. These are original so probably date back hundreds of years, and any vestige of paint had long since gone. After what seemed ages, we finally came out into a circular courtyard with two steep outside stairs taking you to the pinnacle of the fort with magnificent views of Nizwa and the surrounding countryside; unfortunately extremely hazy due to the dust storms ( which would persist the following day, delaying our flight out of Muscat to Dubai.). In this courtyard, on the perimeter were several small cannon, their guns facing through small apertures at unseen targets. Also in this area were several holes of varying sizes covered by grating through which the fort occupants poured boiling hot date syrup on the heads of their unsuspecting enemy as well as various other missiles. These little openings were also hidden on our climb up, by the opened wooden doors, as an extra deterrent, should enemies penetrate so far up to the heart of the fort. With time now so short and of course no possibility of visiting Jabrin Castle and the Bahla Fort, we did not spend much time at the bibliography and history rooms, although we did see the jail and the date store, the latter used not only for food but also as a powerful weapon. Reluctantly, wending our way out, we stopped to use the toilets which put to shame many a British toilet, for its cleanliness and its facilities, very hot water, soap, toilet paper as well as paper hand towels. So typical of the whole of Oman, the fort and its surrounds were clean and free of litter. Al Tourath Al Arabi Restaurant, Nizwa We were taken here for lunch by our driver/guide, after visiting the nearby fort. We were told that the premises were formerly the home of the restaurant owner and comprise three floors, though we only saw two. The building appeared to be fairly old and built of stone and was quite spacious. Outside at the rear was a small seating area. The ground floor was quite busy with locals and a number of visitors from the fort and we therefore went upstairs to secure a table for four. On this floor there were male and female toilets, which were very clean. Furniture and furnishings were in keeping, creating a pleasing ambiance. There was a range of hot dishes already prepared, including shark rice and spicy chicken. Although our driver had the former, and a menu of other options was available, we asked if we could have hummus and the local Arabian bread. We were told that it was customary to have hot food at lunch time and cold dishes in the evening but the owner produced beautifully-presented plates of hummus, accompanied by warm bread, which was delicious. Our driver said he couldn’t eat all his dried shark and rice (the rice being cooked with spices) and so we tried this and enjoyed it. – and no – it didn’t taste of chicken!!. We were offered several different varieties of freshly juiced fruit, two of us had a large glass of pineapple each, which was chilled and fantastic, and the other two had mango, which was equally delicious. As the restaurant was only a minute’s drive from the fort, this little dining oasis was a great choice for a meal, and comes highly recommended. As this was included in our tour, we are unaware of the cost, but do not think it was very expensive. Returning to our car we retraced our steps back to Muscat, with a stop to drop off our friend at the airport for his flight back to the UK, and us to the Holiday Inn Al Seeb. Holiday Inn Al Seeb This hotel as it name implies is situated within ten minutes of the airport and was chosen by us in view of our short time stay post cruise. The hotel was opened in December 2013 and still retains its "new" smell. In a nutshell so many hotels could take a leaf out of this hotel's attitude, where smiles and service are well to the fore. Checking in was painless and we were given a 3rd floor room overlooking the swimming pool, reputedly an upgrade due to our IHG membership, the hotel only has four floors, with the top presumably the Executive rooms. The lobby area is decorated in shades of beige, with rugs and tiled floors and is light and airy, with some large aluminium floor lamp standards, a bank of three lifts, which are fast and silent. The corridors are wide and the lighting good. Our room opened into a small entrance with the bathroom on the right, which comprised a shower enclosure, with detachable shower head, a hand-basin and a toilet with both seats being soft-closed, an innovation which we have not experienced in this sort of hotel. The room had two large floor to ceiling windows, both of which opened, and a settee seating three which could convert to another bed. Facing this was a large glass topped table and an ergonomic chair with an angle poise light. As a reminder to where we were, and presumably as an aide memoire for visiting Muslims, a large arrow on this table pointed towards Mecca. The bed was a large King bed, very comfortable with two large pillows each, one of which had the word "soft" embroidered on the corner, and aptly named. The usual tea and coffee, a small fridge with only soft drinks - the hotel still hasn't got its liquor license, but we were told - soon. Also a couple of packets of crisps, but our free two bottles of water were replenished daily. Finally slippers, but no robes. Housed in one of the two large wardrobes, was an ironing board and iron. As of course this hotel is an airport one, it does not have extensive dining facilities as visitors normally only come for short stay. However they do have one self service restaurant serving breakfast lunch and dinner, on the lower ground floor. We decided not to check out eating possibilities locally, so opted to have the buffet. The cost was 15 OMR per person plus taxes. The selection was varied, consisting of not only local and Arabic food, but items as diverse as noodles with vegetables, pasta and a genuine pizza oven and hot western dishes. Other items ranged from fruit, cheese to yogurts, and cakes. The head chef, a Sri Lankan, Prasanna Amarasinghe offered to cook a special meal for us the following night and was very obliging in his attentiveness to us during our buffet meal. On the lobby floor there is also a small snack-bar, where pizzas can be ordered Breakfast the following morning was amusing. Whilst we partook of "local" dishes, i.e. hummus, labneh etc with Arabian bread, some visiting Arabs, were seen with a plate of fried egg and white bread, although eschewing the turkey bacon! We needed to print our online boarding pass, so visited the Business Centre for which there was no charge to use. This had a number of terminals, some of which had no mouse attached. We had difficulty in trying to print these from the Emirates website, but fortunately another hotel patron was able to assist. On the lower ground floor is a spacious well equipped gym, also free, and a reasonable sized outdoor swimming pool as well as a small children's pool, all clean and well maintained. There are toilets, showers and lockers adjacent to these facilities. The area surrounding the swimming pool is relatively small with only three pairs of sun loungers with umbrellas. At the far end is a small bar area, which was also used in the evening as an exterior area from the dining area. The pool area does not get sun in the afternoon, as the sun goes behind the top of the building. The hotel does provide an airport shuttle at a cost of 8 OMR one way, which is only about a ten minutes drive. We were very pleased with our stay and would recommend it to anyone, particularly if you are flying in or out. It could also be used as a holiday hotel, the downsides, you are some distance from the Muttrah Souk, there is little in the environs of the hotel, and the pool area does not get afternoon sun. Grand Fish Market – Al Mawaleh Muscat We were staying at the Holiday Inn Al Seeb and our tour driver pointed out this restaurant as we approached our hotel, saying it was the best fish restaurant in Muscat. Both the hotel and restaurant stand on several acres of land that is encompassed by the road network and which has only partially been developed, with a few shops and low-rise buildings. It was therefore easy to make the five-minute walk from hotel to restaurant along the grass verge that borders the main road. The entrance area hall is filled with marine memorabilia, from a ship’s steering wheel, a display of different frozen fish and a large open shell water feature, the latter is also replicated on the first floor. We were shown to a table upstairs, with bench seating and the juxtaposition of its height to the table was such that the nose of my seated wife was almost level with the table top! Luckily they also had some free standing chairs, which at least were higher off the ground, and enabled her to eat with relative ease. The main feature of the interior decor comprises a number of aquariums dividing the areas between the tables, where the exotic fish are for decoration rather than eating. One tank had two artificial jellyfish, one pink and one blue, both translucent, extremely lifelike that ebbed and surged with the aerated water in the tank. It was only on closer inspection, that you could see the little tabs that were keeping them in position in the tank. Very ingenious and very effective. With a relatively early start planned for the following morning, we had decided to eat early at around 18.30 and we were the only diners at that time. The menu is quite varied, with dishes other than fish. We were tempted by the tagines, but we opted for fish as our main course. For starters we chose the hummus plate which came with the usual Arabian bread. The hummus was attractively presented with some pomegranates and was very tasty. This was followed by Grilled Hamour (which is locally caught), which was cooked with Omani spices which really overpowered the flavour of the fish. The fish was well cooked and served complete apart from the head, and it was quite an effort to debone it. A dip of tomato, coriander, salt and pepper was provided as accompaniment, which was naturally quite bland, and could have done with more chilli. As the restaurant does not have liquor licence, we opted for a large bottle of water which would have been nice if it had been ice cold. The restaurant accepts credit card payment and the bill came to just under 13 OMR which we thought very reasonable. We then had a pleasant walk back to our hotel. Should we stay again at the Hilton, we would return to this restaurant. Homeward bound Always an anticlimax, we used the hotel shuttle to take us to the airport for our flight to Dubai and then Manchester. Muscat airport is small and alcoholically dry. All luggage and us were put through scanners immediately inside the terminal building. Having checked in, we went to the business class lounge, which was average, and quite small and regimented with their seating, which were in rows and very close together. Our departure gate was close by and we had to use a bus to get to the plane, business class passengers having a separate vehicle from economy. It was then the inevitable climb up mobile steps to reach the plane. The plane was a Boeing 777 and the business class seating, whilst lacking the range of amenities on Emirates’ Airbus A380 planes, provided a much pleasanter ambiance. The seats were more comfortable and had an adjustable footrest. Our flight had come from Dubai and was heavily delayed due to the latter airport being fog-bound earlier that morning. We took off over 90 minutes late and touched down with 35 minutes to change terminals before the gate closed for our Manchester flight. We asked for assistance to get us between terminals as quickly as possible and this was waiting for us at the exit to the plane. We made it to our connecting flight, which was also delayed. Business class was again full and the meal service perfunctory. If one didn’t ask when the main course was cleared, one wasn’t offered a dessert or coffee. We were, however, given amenity bags. Most of the time was spent watching two of the Hobbit movies. The head of the cabin staff said he was unable to say whether our check bags had been loaded, a worry because of the very tight connection at Dubai. Inside terminal 1 at Manchester, we ascertained that two had been loaded but one hadn’t and were told the fact that two bags had made it was because we were travelling business class!! So, if we had been travelling first class, would all three have made it or only one if we had been in economy?! Before reaching the baggage hall, the downside to the A380 became clear, as hordes of economy class passengers were already ahead of us at passport control. The hordes multiplied around the baggage carousel. By the time we had logged our missing bag, which turned up at home the next day, most passengers had gone but there was now a hiatus trying to get through the doors into the arrivals hall. There are three automatic doors but two were out of use and the third only worked intermittently. It took a further 15 minutes to clear this hurdle. An adjoining manual door was shut and, we were told, could only be opened by security staff, none of whom were available. Yet another reason, why Manchester is a dreadful airport. The one bright spot was our limousine transfer home, and our driver who was waiting and this provided a stress-free end to our expedition, albeit arriving home an hour later than scheduled. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
We had great expectations for this alleged 6* cruise ship but we were disappointed in very respect other than with the 'waiter & room service staff'. The ship is very 'tired' with the furniture in our cabin (542) ... Read More
We had great expectations for this alleged 6* cruise ship but we were disappointed in very respect other than with the 'waiter & room service staff'. The ship is very 'tired' with the furniture in our cabin (542) showing serious signs of wear - the sofa was a disgrace. Some bed sheets were discoloured/stained and the towels were 'hard'. It was impossible to view the TV comfortably due to its elevated position. For 4 days we had extraneous high pitched intermittent noises at all times of the day & night which the technicians were unable to fix. When the swimming pool was being filled or emptied it was not possible to stay in the cabin due to the noise and vibration. The food was tepid or cold when served and the range and presentation was poor - certainly well below Regent,Azamara and Princess standards. I met the Hotel Director to discuss my views but he was in denial and indicated to me that as 59 other comment cards all indicated that all was well my comments were not valid. An insult! Maybe you can please most people with mediocre service and poor food - if people continue to use this ship and are happy then so am I because this means more space for me on better ships. His excuse for 'cold' food was that the temperature in Hong Kong when we left was unusually cool so it was not possible to serve hot food - what nonsense. After my comment they did so on the final night. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
After reading glowing reviews and great ratings we mistakenly thought we would have a 6 star experience like we have had on Crystal. Upon embarking in HK our first thoughts were directed to the very poor presentation. The carpets were ... Read More
After reading glowing reviews and great ratings we mistakenly thought we would have a 6 star experience like we have had on Crystal. Upon embarking in HK our first thoughts were directed to the very poor presentation. The carpets were worn, the decor dull and dated, the painting shabby, and the furnishings well " past the use by date"! Certainly not "ship shape"! The sound proofing in our suite was virtually non existent...we could hear whole conversations of the folk next door who were not necessarily a rowdy couple. Our lovely butler then informed us that due to country policy there will be no internet connection whilst in Japanese waters. Given that in this day of modern technology people need to be "connected" for various reasons....Silverseas should have informed potential passengers of cruise 3410 of this issue. Had we known at the outset we would have elected not to proceed with the booking. The food was mediocre and inconsistent for the exception of Le Champagne Restaurant which was well worth the small extra cost for a wonderful dining experience . The entertainment was quite good if one could be bothered to wait around till 10pm! A number of passengers we spoke to also questioned the late hour. I could go on about the land excursions but overall...sanitised and unimaginative. To be taken to the Westin Hotel in beautiful Kyoto and be served what was essentially chicken and chips was terrible. We did however have a fantastic 3 day pre cruise time in Guilin/China. The guide was knowledgeable and friendly and all transfers to and from airports were punctual and very professional..I don't want to sound totally negative so I will finish on another positive note to say the staff were wonderful and did their best to make our time on board as enjoyable as possible. Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
We are regular cruisers and recently took an 11 day cruise with Silversea from Singapore to Hong Kong, taking in ports in Thailand and Vietnam. This is our fourth cruise with Silversea. We have always enjoyed the 6 star style of cruising. ... Read More
We are regular cruisers and recently took an 11 day cruise with Silversea from Singapore to Hong Kong, taking in ports in Thailand and Vietnam. This is our fourth cruise with Silversea. We have always enjoyed the 6 star style of cruising. On the plus side, everything was very consistent with previous cruises, which starts from the moment you get dropped off at the port, in this case, the new Cruise Terminal in Singapore. The Silversea staff are there to make the checkin process as seamless as possible and you couldn't help contrast the process for the Silversea passengers versus those joining the large cruise liner also docked and going through their boarding process. On board, the staff are amazing and cannot do enough for you. We had a terrific Butler (Heri) and he was very attentive and followed through on any requests we made. We really love the configuration of Silver Shadow, a ship that we had travelled on previously about three years ago from Anchorage, Alaska to Vancouver, Canada. We had sailed on a Princess Cruise prior to that cruise and you could notice the step up in class, the ship was sparkling and very stylish. The service levels, the quality of the food, the wine selection that never stops coming and the people generally. Everything seems to happen seamlessly under the surface. The cruise director (David) was very personable and seemed to always be around and made a real effort to get to know the passengers and be very informative about all aspects of the cruise. Now, we are going to contrast that experience, with some aspects of the latest cruise, which to our way of thinking are dragging down the Silversea brand. The first and most striking is the ship. Silver Shadow is looking tired and this is obvious everywhere. The carpets, the furniture throughout the ship, look very much in need of a refurbishment. In our suite, the sofa had threads and fibres coming away from the material, the desk was seriously chipped and scratched, the coffee table the same. The mirrors in the bathroom are degrading around the edges. The tapware had lost it chrome look and really needs replacement. The balcony had splotches of white paint on the ground, timber flooring and chairs and the small coffee table looked like it was ready for firewood. In the Casino bar, the counter tops are chipped and scratched. In the main bar, the chairs look faded, as does the carpet. The gym is adequately equipped, although having only one cross trainer is a big deficiency. They need at least two. The big issue with the gym is the air flow. I assume there is air conditioning, but it is thoroughly inadequate in the warmer temperature, like we experienced during the cruise. If you get a few people in there at the same time, there is no air. They need to install some wall fans to circulate the air. The day we arrived in our suite, there were two towelling robes hanging in the closet. Both robes were quite damp. On two occasions, the clean towels left in our bathroom were also damp (i.e. about the dampness level as if they had been used once). I was in the pool and noticed all this crime on the floor of the pool. I wasn't sure what it was until I moved it with my foot. It was just dirt from one end of the pool to the other. These are not examples of the Silversea standard we are accustomed to. The cruise director was Moss Hill. I understand he is brand new, so we will give him some leeway, but there was not the level of engagement with the passengers as with the previous cruise directors we have travelled with (David on Silver Shadow and Mike on Silver Spirit). What was most concerning to us is that when I talked with the onboard management, they agreed about the condition of the ship, but openly admitted that there was no update in the planning. We think that is unacceptable for a six star luxury cruise product. We recently travelled on Silver Spirit, which is a newer ship, but apart from the condition (which is much better), it is fresher, smarter and more up to date. For example, Silver Spirit has two TV's in the same size verandah suite, neatly incorporated into the mirrors. It also has a wide selection of movies available for accessing from the menu screen. On Silver Shadow, there is an old DVD player in the suite and a common library where you can borrow movies, but when we looked, there appeared to be nothing new added to the library in the past three years. They do have three channels which seem to show a more current movie in a repeating loop, if it happens to be what you want to watch, when it is showing. A couple of comments on Silversea generally, when you are paying top dollar to go on these six star cruises, where it is largely "all inclusive", we can't understand why they insist on charging for use of the internet. Is it just to generate extra revenue, surely not. We travel a great deal and in the higher end hotels for example, it is more commonplace these days that internet access is complimentary. We understand this is the case with Seabourn, the nearest competitor to Silversea. Having to buy minutes and logging on and off in a hurry to preserve those minutes is cumbersome and outdated. Lastly, a new practice that has started on Silversea is that when you come on board, you need to nominate up front which restaurant bookings you want (other than the main restaurant), i.e La Terrazza, Le Champagne and other specialty restaurants when available on the ship. We really find it hard to determine weeks in advance, what restaurant you want to dine at on a given night and how many people would be dining. You tend to meet people on cruises and dine together. How do you know how to include them up front. Plus, from the last experience on Silver Spirit, it seemed that most of the restaurants were panic booked up front and then bookings released during the cruise, so in the end, you could book on the day and still get in. I don't think that process works. Finally, we think that Silversea needs to broaden their offerings in on shore activities. They tend to be all sightseeing and this can get old once you have done it a few times during the cruise. They need to add some activities. Appeal to perhaps some of the younger guests. For example, when we docked in Chan May, it is a very remote port with nothing in the immediate area. We enjoy golf and had privately researched a Nick Faldo designed golf course only 15 minutes from the port. So I arranged with the club for a game of golf. They picked us up, we had a great game of golf at Laguna Lang Co Golf Club and returned to the ship in the afternoon before the sail away with plenty of time to spare. Several of the guests who saw us with our golf clubs commented that they wished they had have known about the golf option and would have preferred that to the Silversea sight seeing offerings. We hope these comments are viewed as constructive and fair. Silversea is an amazing cruise product, with great itineraries, exceptional food and wine and most importantly, incredible people and service. But our most recent sailing has been a quite disappointing due to the matters we indicated above. Read Less
Sail Date February 2014
Over the years, we have cruised for over 240 nights on all of the 5 Silversea ships combined with the exception of the Explorer-type ships. It is very sad to report that the last two cruises, back-to-back (25 days aboard), that we just ... Read More
Over the years, we have cruised for over 240 nights on all of the 5 Silversea ships combined with the exception of the Explorer-type ships. It is very sad to report that the last two cruises, back-to-back (25 days aboard), that we just finished: voyage 3404 from Singapore to Singapore (14 days) continuing on voyage 3405 from Singapore to Hong Kong (11 days) were really a disappointment especially when it came to the overall condition of the ship and especially the cabins. We last cruised on the Shadow in September/October 2013, from Vancouver to Shanghai (27 days) and the Shadow needed big time "TLC" then; we were told at the time that it was going to go in dry dock for a refurbishing before the end of 2013. Fast forward to this year's cruises and to our surprise when we boarded in Singapore we did not see any changes or updates in the public areas. When we checked into our suite, it looked dated to say the least and really needed work, the desk area looked like a mad child had taken a hammer and made nicks on its surface, the letter area on it was scratched and worn, the sofa and arm chair in the suite had threads coming out as if a cat with long nails had used them for scratching pad and the straight chair in front of the desk swayed like a rocking chair. The bathroom hardware was so worn that the chrome had worn was almost off. The black granite counter top was so worn out that it was white in some areas although the original color was black. The shelf underneath the two sinks was sagging and a someone had placed a large screw to hold it, but it had been so long that the screw had eaten through the wood and one had to be careful not to scratch ones hand when using the shelf. I could go on but I hope that by now the reader gets the idea of the condition of the suite. Silversea usually gives you a mid-cruise questionnaire asking you to return it to the Hotel Director, in this case it was Martin Blanar, I did write a lengthy review pointing out the things that I saw wrong and expressing my disappointment. Normally, once the questionnaires are submitted the Hotel Director normally sends a reply addressing the concerns, this time, we got a call from the front office requesting a face-to-face meeting with the Hotel Director and the Stephen, Guest Service Manager. I did go to the meeting and they basically told me, after apologizing profusely, that they kind of agree with me and that very little had been done during the dry dock to the ship and that they did not know of any plans to update the Shadow, and it was out of their control, at least they were honest. The next day when we were out the straight chair was changed and I noticed that the screw in the sagging shelf had been repaired. One of my big peeves is the fact that walking into a suite at any of the Silversea ships should have the same feeling as I was walking into a room at a Four Seasons, Ritz, Shangri-La, Peninsula or similar 5 star hotels. The suite should not feel like you are walking into run down Holiday Inn, especially for the premium prices that we pay to sail aboard a Silversea ships and the hype of their advertising. I do not know who bestows all the awards that Silversea gets but I am positive that these people have not sailed aboard the Shadow lately. Why do we pay so much money for these cruises and still have to buy blocks of time for the Internet, and be mindful of not over using them and making sure that we sign off correctly. Many times the sign on and signing off is so slow (I know because of satellites) that we have to go to the IT Concierge and when we complain and in most cases he gives you the time back without any fuss. It was announced during our cruise that Silversea was launching another Explorer-type ship, I feel that instead of expanding they should use the money to retrofit the existing ships, the company seems to be getting too greedy and it going to hurt them in the long run. I could go on but I don't want to lose the reader so I would just mention the latest "improvement" to the travel experience, it is the booklet that Silversea now sends with the ticket before we leave. It is personalized and it tells you all about the shore tours you have reserved, and it also gives you a partial description of the tour and it instructs you to go to the Silversea website for further information, unfortunately the company takes the tour information down one week before the departure so one is in la la land. When I asked the Tour Desk about the information they told me that they had no written information they could give me since Fort Lauderdale did not print the little booklet we used to get listing all the tours. Also, they used to send us two "leatherette" baggage tags, those were eliminated, I guess Silversea needs to save money. The booklet also tells you that now you can make reservations in the specialty restaurants up to 180 days prior to the sailing date. Who knows a few months before what kind of dinner one wants to have on a particular evening, I thought that one of the "big" pluses that Silversea advertises is that one could eat in any restaurant wherever one wanted, only La Terrazza, Le Champagne and pool Grill needed reservations, but normally you could get one a day ahead and in many cases the same day, I guess that we need to plan ahead from now or take our chances. I guess you probably wonder why we keep coming back to Silversea, and it is the wonderful crew and the service they give you. It never ceases to amaze me how they remember you, your name, and in many instances what your preferences are. The crew goes out of their way to make sure that all your requests regardless of how minute or odd may be, are taken care of. I hope someone at Silversea reads these reviews and wakes up.   Read Less
Sail Date February 2014
This was our sixth cruise, but the first one on a "6" star ship, and the first on a small ship. Our initial exuberance was immediately impacted by the embarkation process in HK - basically you have to drag your bags through a ... Read More
This was our sixth cruise, but the first one on a "6" star ship, and the first on a small ship. Our initial exuberance was immediately impacted by the embarkation process in HK - basically you have to drag your bags through a shopping mall, very poor signage and little assistance. The disembarkation in Singapore by contrast was excellent. Our first impressions of the cabin were good until we saw that the desk chair was ripped and needed to be replaced immediately, which happened, but its replacement was also in poor condition. The rest of the ship is dated and bland - there is no wow factor on this ship that you might find on newer vessels. The outdoor furniture was worn, the pool towels were brown, and even though there was plenty of space for more loungers, there were non available once the existing ones were taken, even though there was plenty of space. And bizarrely, what I expected to be teak decks looking over the pool, were covered in green artificial turf which retained the water from overnight rain and so anything you put on the ground was immediately wet. For a 6 star ship this was a disappointment. The general level of food was inconsistent. First night was a shocker - I ordered a Laksa from the menu in the main dining room, which, being in Asia I thought would be terrific. I was served a warm broth with rice which had no resemblance to the dish I had ordered. The food in the Italian restaurant was promoted as being the only slow food Italian on the sea. We saw no evidence of any slow food - and when I ordered the Veal ragu I got minced Veal. The level of service, which I imagined would be a quality "European" feel, being an Italian ship, was provided entirely by Filipino and Indian staff, who were not well trained or well dressed. In fact their did not seem to be a spirit on board where the crew were all helping each other and having a bit of fun, which we have seen on other ships. The quality of the wine however was surprisingly good, and we did not need to order from the premium wine list. The entertainment in the bars was very poor - everything dumbed down, with no real interest by the entertainers. The Theatre entertainment was limited to the same six people singing, of whom three seemed to have good voices. Not comparable to other ships we have been on. All in all we could not see where the value was , the service was probably worse than we have had on other ships, the food was average - the bakery and desserts particularly poor. The highlights were our butler and maid who were excellent and provided great service. This line needs a wake up call - looks like they are living in the past and there is far better quality and value elsewhere. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
We were first time Silversea cruisers, chosen firstly for the itinerary and second to experience 6 star cruising. Overall we had a pleasant 16 day cruise though honestly we are more comfortable on large cruise ships. Really enjoyed the ... Read More
We were first time Silversea cruisers, chosen firstly for the itinerary and second to experience 6 star cruising. Overall we had a pleasant 16 day cruise though honestly we are more comfortable on large cruise ships. Really enjoyed the food and service in The Restaurant and had one very nice meal at La Terrazzo one evening, other than this found breakfast and lunch on the ship fairly average, particularly after 16 days. This is of course just our opinion based on the fact that this was a 6 Star cruise line and we had expected something more? We found a little piece of heaven in the Panorama Lounge early each morning with a wonderful young barista, Paul, who made a splendid cappuccino and long black (or espresso) for us, and we completed breakfast with lovely fresh muffins and pastries and a plate of freshly sliced tropical fruits. Silver Shadow has by far the finest coffee we have ever had on board a cruise ship! We thoroughly enjoyed the excursions we went on though felt truly embarrassed for those people at Petropavlovsk who hadn't been advised by anyone from that scarves or head coverings are required for women to enter Russian orthodox churches. We felt this was the ships duty to let people know this as we had learnt from a previous cruise to St Petersburg - all local customs were spoken about prior to disembarking for an excursion. Really enjoyed the wine and food lectures - these gentlemen tried particularly hard to bring us information that related to the ports that we were travelling to or had just departed from.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
First cruise with Silverseas on the Silver Shadow, a pleasant enough cruise blessed with generally good weather at almost all the ports of call. Here is a list of things that Silverseas gained points for, things that were a little ‘so ... Read More
First cruise with Silverseas on the Silver Shadow, a pleasant enough cruise blessed with generally good weather at almost all the ports of call. Here is a list of things that Silverseas gained points for, things that were a little ‘so so’ and things it lost points for, including the likely deal breaker for us taking another Silverseas cruise! Merit points for; Cabin/Suite - Our Silver Suite accommodation was very nice, had all the things required and the butler service is a nice touch. Having the included laundry service was also very good. Crew  Almost universally genuinely friendly and helpful. The duo in the bar were great and even learnt a song on request! The poor girls in the Casino did not seem to get that much custom, so they were happy to spend time teaching me to play blackjack! Pool grill hot rock dining  This was quite fun, sadly the colder weather closed the pool grill on quite a few evenings, but when available it was by far the best food on the ship for both lunch and the evening ‘hot rock’ dining (see later comments re the food in main restaurants). Fellow passengers  We met some delightful and interesting people on board and encountered very few crashing bores that we had to avoid. Not something a cruise line has any control over of course, but meeting fellow passengers is very much part of the overall cruise experience and this trip scored top marks on this front. What was ‘so so’; Range of activities There were a good range of enrichment lectures and food/wine demonstrations, but apart from that if you are not into Trivia (which we are not) then there really was not much else on offer for the several sea days. Demerit points for; Food  The catering in the main dining room and the Italian al a carte restaurant were very much hit and miss. Some things were great and others were just plain dull. We eventually learnt to avoid the daily roast offering as it was usually well below standard. On a few occasions dishes had to be sent back as they were cold. We have done some previous cruising on smaller expedition style ships (not SiIverseas) and one trip on a larger Celebrity ship, frankly the food was not quite as good as any of our previous cruises. Just to be clear, the food was not bad to the point that you would complain, it was just not that outstanding. I should also add that despite the generally positive attitude of the staff, service in the main dining room could also be a little hit and miss. Big time demerit points (and likely future Silverseas cruise deal breaker); The extremely poor ‘all inclusive’ wine selection. This was by far and away the biggest disappointment, so much so that we may well not book with SIlverseas again for this one reason. The selection of wine offered as part of the normal ‘all inclusive’ selection was quite dire. Now I should add that we only drink white wine and Champagne, and the bubbly on offer (Monopole) was perfectly acceptable. But the white wines offered were a rather dull selection of old fashioned mostly French offerings, not one Australian or New Zealand wine to be found. The only ‘new world’ white on offer the the included selection was a Chilean Sauv Blanc that tasted like you could have probably happily driven your car on it. We are absolutely not wine snobs, but the selection really was very disappointing, we could not find one white wine that we really liked and so wound up drinking very little of the wines offered. We did speak to the head Sommelier and we were able to establish that they did have one of our favourite NZ Sauv Blancs on board, but it was $40 a bottle from the ‘Premium’ selection, and for some reason it did not even appear on the premium wine list! So we wound up spending quite a few extra bucks on bottles of that. Overall, I am forced to conclude that the ‘all inclusive’ model really does not work, or at least as currently implemented by Silverseas it does not work. I would rather have paid a little less for a ‘non all inclusive’ package and then have selected what wines I wanted. As it is we paid for an inferior all inclusive style product and then were effectively forced to pay again to avoid a pretty dire selection of wines. Unless Silverseas can demonstrate an improvement on this point then it’s fairly unlikely we will be booking with them again, which is a real shame as we otherwise quite enjoyed this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
My husband and I had never been interested in cruising but after a 10 Day river cruise in Burma last year, we decided to try an ocean cruise and having been recommended and settled on Silver Seas, we were not disappointed. Here are the ... Read More
My husband and I had never been interested in cruising but after a 10 Day river cruise in Burma last year, we decided to try an ocean cruise and having been recommended and settled on Silver Seas, we were not disappointed. Here are the things we loved, embarkation was seamless, our cabin was spacious and well appointed and Gertha our Cabin Cleaner was a delight and very thorough, the restaurants had a good ambience, the staff were absolutely professional and the choice and quality of dishes was good, the complementary wines were fine, although the dessert wines were woeful, we did indulge in copious quantities of Cloudy Bay ($40.00 a bottle extra) when a fellow cruiser discovered that it was on board, in room dining was good too, but sometimes delivered lukewarm! The entertainment on board was great, from the accomplished pianist in the bar to the nightly shows and the lectures in between. Tammy's efforts in trying to teach us Bridge were greatly appreciated and our lack of progress was in no way a reflection of Tammy's teaching skills. We loved the camaraderie and rivalry particularly over the table tennis and trivia, go Egg Heads... It can't be easy but Dirk handled the entertainment with aplomb and we thoroughly enjoyed the last show. Things that could have been done better...when we arrived on board, I was expecting to be asked to choose which bathroom amenities we wanted, how and with what we wanted the refrigerator stocked with and whether I wanted our butler to unpack our clothes (not that we did) but it didn't happen and I felt a little let down (having said that we did have to leave the ship soon after embarkation to pick up something and that could well have interfered with the process?). I made a mistake in not booking onshore excursions which, after talking to those that did, I will be doing next time but the two that we did belatedly book, were great and seamless. The fitness centre was small but very well equipped and Tomaz was a great Pilates / Yoga instructor and ran a rigorous fitness class. I unexpectedly enjoyed the prescribed dress codes which I had been dreading; our fellow cruisers were largely delightful and engaging. All in all this was a wonderful holiday which my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed, so much so, that we have booked another for next year. Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
This was our first Silversea cruise and only our 2nd ever cruise. We booked for the luxury experience and because of the itinerary. There were many things that contributed to us having such a good holiday but the first thing I have to ... Read More
This was our first Silversea cruise and only our 2nd ever cruise. We booked for the luxury experience and because of the itinerary. There were many things that contributed to us having such a good holiday but the first thing I have to mention is the people. The staff were all very efficient but provided their services in such a friendly manner that we were made to feel really comfortable. We also met some lovely people on board who were keen to help ensure our first Silversea experience was a memorable one. We never at any time felt that we didn't fit in although we wouldn't normally travel in such luxury. The all inclusive nature of the cruise, and the onboard credit we received, meant that we could really enjoy ourselves knowing that everything had been paid for up front. As for the actual cruise experience, the suite we had was bigger than we expected it to be and the double sink in the bathroom and walk in wardrobe were fantastic. The bed was very comfortable. The food was perhaps not quite as good as we expected, particularly in La Terraza in the evening, although we really enjoyed the lunches there. By far, our favourite place to eat in the evening was at the pool side for the 'Hot Rocks' experience. The fillet steak was excellent and the waiting staff the best on the ship. The entertainment was just perfect for us, Charlotte and Jonjoe providing background music in the bar, and the 6 singers (and Kirk, cruise director) providing a 30-40 minute nightly show. The quality of the entertainment was excellent without being intrusive, or taking up too much of our free time when we wanted to socialise. The ports of call were partly why we picked the cruise so no complaints there, and having an overnight stop in Tianjin meant we could fully experience the sights of Beijing. We definitely plan to sail with Silversea again in the future. Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
I sailed on the Silver Shadow from Vancouver to Tokyo in September 2012. The ship was not full - 189 passengers to Kodiak, then 139 to Tokyo. Ship The ship looked great and I really liked it's size. I had an issue with the air ... Read More
I sailed on the Silver Shadow from Vancouver to Tokyo in September 2012. The ship was not full - 189 passengers to Kodiak, then 139 to Tokyo. Ship The ship looked great and I really liked it's size. I had an issue with the air conditioning especially in the Athenian Lounge. It was so cold during lectures that many of us had to use blankets. I mentioned this in my mid-cruise comments and although I received a prompt letter from the HD, it didn't seem to get any better. There were also two occasions where a strong smell of sewage pervaded the ship. Not sure what happened but they opened a lot of doors to let the fresh (very cold) air in to get rid of the smell. Suite Terrace 533. It was a very good location and very quiet but was wasted due to the cold weather. I think I went out on it four times during the whole trip but on one of those occasions, in Petropavlovsk, I saw a seal swim right up to the ship and it was barking at us! That was special. The Restaurant MDR - I ate lunch and dinner here on many occasions. The service was excellent (should be with the ship half full). I particularly enjoyed the soups. Just a note, if you like your veggies, you need to order them as a side dish. La Terrazza Buffet at lunchtime and I always enjoyed the freshly made quiche of the day m,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,. I like being able to serve myself plenty of salad and there were some lovely seafood salads as well. I also had a seafood pizza freshly made for me. I had one dinner at LT and whilst I enjoyed it, the pasta was a little bit firm and I preferred the pasta that was served in the MDR. Le Champagne In a word, wow...I was the only diner there so what service! It was a spectacular meal and well worth the additional $30. I'm not a wine drinker but I was able to have my cocktails during this meal. I really like the new system here, i.e. you order off the menu. They have done away with the 'themes'. Hot Rocks It was too cold for me to eat at this venue, although I did see some very hardy souls under blankets. Pool Grill I had one meal here and it was on the last sea day before Tokyo. The weather had warmed up a bit. Service was good. Room Service I ate breakfast in my room every morning. I had granola, yoghurt, mango and mixed berries every morning. And what was really good, we didn't run out. On previous cruises, these items have always run - too popular I guess. Food is so subjective but I was surprised when a passenger told me she hated the food because it was so bland. I don't know what she expected but I certainly didn't find it so. Butler Allan from the Philippines was very attentive and on this cruise I used him more than I normally would have. I also bumped into my butler from my Cloud cruise in 2010 and it turned out that he and Allan were roommates on the Shadow. It was really lovely to see Ray again and we had a nice chat about the Panama Canal. I got the hang of using the butler on this trip and really liked having him look after me. I now like the whole butler concept. Patricia, my room cleaner, has worked with SS for 12 years, 9 of those on the Silver Shadow. SS must be doing something right for their crew. Enrichment There were two Professors that spoke about whales and glaciers. I found them interesting but Dr Herb, he's been on SS before and I'm not a big fan. I liked a couple of his lectures, but he was always trying to canvas his book and I found it annoying. At one lecture, he spoke about the life and music of Judy Garland but at the start, he sang 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow'...it made me cringe, I didn't want to hear him sing it. I really enjoyed Hyperion Knight's shows. He was another entertainer that I'd seen on a previous cruise. I never miss Liars' Club and it didn't disappoint. Some of Jimmy Kovel's (CD) explanations were hilarious. The cooking demonstrations were interesting and entertaining especially when one of the chefs was trying to cook 'healthy' and the other cooked up a lemon butter sauce with what looked like a kilo of butter. I played Bingo and even won a few. I would have liked more Bingo but it was only played on sea days. I only play Bingo on cruises and I always enjoy it. Trivia I actually was a part of two trivia teams. My first team left in Kodiak so I had to join another and my new team was great. We won three nights running and Mr & Mrs Silver Spectre from Cruise Critic were excellent participants. It was a pleasure meeting them. Jimmy Kovel did a fantastic job, giving little hints that really mixed up the play. He gave a great new spin to trivia that I haven't encountered before and you really needed to be on your toes to get the hints. Kudos to Jimmy. Ports & Excursions Ketchikan - I did the Misty Fjords by floatplane. This was fabulous and we managed to have the sun shining for awhile. Juneau - I did the Tracey Arm fjord and glacier by boat. This was great although very cold but I saw lots of icebergs and saw the glacier calve...excellent! I'm glad I did this excursion because the ship had a problem and missed the fjord altogether. Skagway - I did the White Pass Railway and Mushers Dog Camp. The railway is very scenic. Now the Dog Camp - well if you are expecting to see blue eyed Siberian Husky dogs then you are sadly mistaken and they tell you this on the bus on the way to the camp. These dogs are the sled dogs that run in the Iditarod and Yukon Quest and they are bitsa dogs bred for endurance - they are called Alaskan Huskies - so I guess that's where the confusion is. They are extremely hardy and gorgeous but they aren't the Huskies that some of us were expecting. The dog sled ride was also a bit lame. The 'sled' is like a large golf cart and the dogs pull it around a loop...probably 10 minutes if that. Seeing and petting the puppies was lovely. Kodiak - I had to cancel my walk in the Fort Abercrombie park so I got the shuttle bus into town and wandered around myself. Petropavlovsk - I did the ATV volcano trip. This was great, although extremely bumpy, because the weather was perfect and it was a really pretty port surrounded by lots of active volcanoes (29 of them to be precise). Hakodate - I did the highlights tour because this was the only tour on offer due to low numbers. Hakodate was a very pretty city and the view from the top of the mountain was spectacular. Tokyo - I did the city tour and transfer to Narita. This would have been great but it was raining too heavily to do any sightseeing and most of us stayed on the bus. SS provided shuttles in Kodiak and Hakodate as the ship was a fair way from town. All of the other ports were walking distance if you wanted to pop into town on your own. Petropavlovsk was a tender port but only took 10 minutes (if that). I found the weather very cold in Alaska, especially Kodiak. The Bering Sea crossing was brutal at times for me. Not being able to get on deck and four days of 75kph winds started to get to me. One night I nearly fell out of my chair whilst typing on my computer. Some people thought this was mild, I'm just not a good sailor. Many people on the message boards have said that SS has lost its edge. I did not find this although I did notice a few little things that have changed. No welcome champagne, no fruit bowl, no next day's menu in The Chronicles - although I rectified this by requesting it at Reception. Caraffes of water in the bar fridge instead of bottled water. The silver cardboard breakfast menu is now on photocopy paper and alas, the passenger list is no more. Of course, you need to opt out of the charity charge, but that's easy to do. This was cruise number 5 on Silversea and I've booked another for next year. I enjoyed the cruise and was happy with the level of service that I received. If anyone would like further information or copies of The Restaurant's menus, please email me at gingiepoo@hotmail.com. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
Embarkation Having been through Vancouver before and faced major queues for emigration, we were pleasantly surprised to be the only ship in port and upon arriving at US emigration found 6 bored operatives who almost fought over our ... Read More
Embarkation Having been through Vancouver before and faced major queues for emigration, we were pleasantly surprised to be the only ship in port and upon arriving at US emigration found 6 bored operatives who almost fought over our custom. The process was extremely quick and very polite. This was probably the nicest US emigration experienced in nearly 40 years. We met Natalie, newly promoted from receptionist to Guest Relations Manager as we got on the Shadow, and it's always a nice surprise to see an old face in a new job. Reception sign in, photo taking and credit card hand over were all completed with a minimum of fuss, and as it was just after midday, no queues. The Ship The Shadow is still a great ship, the interior is still in pretty good nick, and it was nice to see the new pool furniture that had been installed since our last visit. The repair to the bow was more obvious from the outside, and really looked like a quick patch up job, but from the top of deck 9 it looked better, if a little obvious. The decking was in good shape, the jogging track also. The interior furnishings were not showing any age and our suite was also in good shape. Guests & Staff On the run up to Kodiak (which Silversea sold as an optional 6 day cruise) there were an additional 48 guests on board. After Kodiak we had 143, which included some 7/8 guest lecturers, bridge directors and chefs, and about 260 staff, so about 40 light from a full complement. Guests were a good cosmopolitan mix, 20+ Aussies, quite a few Brits, some other Europeans, some Canadians and less than half were from the US. Unfortunately the removal of the Passenger Lists makes this very difficult to establish these days. As usual there were some healthy & active guests in their 80's. I think there were 23 singles, most of whom were female. Most guests were over 50, a couple of late teens were travelling with families, but there were no children on board. Only saw one instance of poor behavior, one of the Kodiak 48 got rather drunk, lost money in the Casino and was last seen banging the bar in the Lampadina. Rod (the barman) saw him safely to his suite and he was next seen at dinner the following evening, still nursing a hangover. MDR Ate here most evenings and apart from the galley lunch did not venture in during the day. Generally the food was very good. The Executive Chef Ricardo Dotti seemed to set a fairly high standard across the board. Had one bad meal when my steak came well done (ordered med rare) and when it reappeared some 15 minutes later was still well done and I had lost all my vegetables. It was easier to leave it, although no one came to check to see what had gone wrong. It was just a bad night. I had met the head sommelier, Carolina, before and made sure that we drank what we wanted, and unlike some others I never had any problem with the house wines. It did help to have a chat with her on the first day and also to her main assistant. Plenty of choice with the wines, for instance 2 NZ SB's, two French SB's and one Chilean SB. Some nice Syrah and Cab Sav's. One point worth noting, there were only two sommeliers onboard, I think one of the 40 staff who had been relocated was the other one, and this meant it was tough for them to cover all 4 dining areas in the evening. Occasionally they struggled, and I'm aware that it annoyed some guests. La Terazza Ate breakfast here most days. It was the usual buffet style, plenty of fresh fruit and there were always strawberries available. Service was always good. Most days I ate lunch here as well, mainly for the Sashimi, and on this cruise the sashimi salmon was the best I had for a long time. The other food was generally good. The day after leaving Vancouver they served approximately 350 fresh local oysters which had all gone by the end of lunch and were very good. Only ate once in the evening and apart from the excellent duck ragout the food is not special anymore. Pool Grill Ate here a couple of times at lunch, but for most of the trip it was either too cold or too wet to be outside. Came back late one day from a port (at about 3:50) and the chef cooked me an exquisite piece of Halibut. This was real service with a smile. On another occasion, and with a different chef, I had the surliest service on the ship. This was an Indian chef who had just been moved from the main galley and it was obvious that no one had told him how to react with guests. Due to the inclement weather we only ate outside on the first and last nights. On both occasions we had excellent food and service, and we just love the hot rocks. Some hardier souls ate here more often, provided it was not closed. Le Champagne Gave it a miss on this trip, but did have lunch with David Bilsland on one of his cook and learn days, see below. In suite dinning / Room Service Have never felt the need. Afternoon Tea in the Panorama Always a delight to have a nice cup of tea, not so sure about the array of extra food, although most guests thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Bars The main bar was run in an amazingly efficient fashion by Chester, supported by the lovely Welma. After asking for a particular pre dinner cocktail on the first night, it would be ready most evenings by the time Chester had spotted me walking to the bar. Smoking was still allowed on the right-hand side of the bar, but caused no problems at all. Rod ran the Lampadina, which was much underused. Francis ran the Panorama and Marylin the Pool bar. Bulter and assistant Both were very sweet and did all we asked, but seemed worried that we had very little call on their time. Enrichement Apart from the cooking demonstrations we did not attend any of the lectures. We watched some of them on the TV on repeat. The lecturers themselves were nice, but it's not really our cup of tea. Bridge The bridge lecturers, Tony & Dee Hoffman were outstanding, and he was a wonderful teacher. I was impressed that he had all his own audio/visual equipment for his lessons. Some guests thought he was the best bridge teacher they had ever met. The afternoon duplicate sessions were well run and tabulated (by hand) extremely quickly. Silversea should certainly use them more often. Trivia Trivia was well attended, pretty competitive and very well run by the CD, Jimmy Kovel. He certainly introduced some new twists. Jimmy is actually a very good CD. Other stuff Bingo also existed, a mileage pool ran most days. There was putting with the SS Artistes, but no shuffleboard, table tennis and the weather was too nasty for water volleyball. There was a liars club one evening which was great fun, and a couple of name that tune evenings. Entertainment The Artists of Silversea put on a number of shows, now all based around singing, and ranging from classical to relatively modern. The best show, if a little short, was the British Invasion. It would normally be held on deck with a BBQ, but this type of crossing and the cold meant it was in the theatre. All three female and three male artists were very good, and very approachable outside of the shows. What was amazing was that one of the male artists had arrived on the ship at Vancouver and without any prior run throughs. He had to learn everything on the ship from the bottom up, and you would never have known. He was a true professional. One niggle here was that Jimmy sometimes put the shows on at 9:45 instead of 10pm, which made it hard to get there for the start. Supposedly this was because of the constant time changes forward and the age demographic of the guests. We were not amused. Cooking As this was an L'Ecole des chefs voyage we had David Bilsland onboard along with an American/Chinese chef named Ying Chang Compestine, who was very into green tea cooking. In addition to the standard Ready Steady Cook show there were four or five other morning cooking demonstrations, all of which were excellent. David ran 3 cook and learn lunches in Le Champagne, again they were excellent and the food memorable. David also ran a market visit in Hakodate which was a lot of fun. We thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the voyage. Ports & Tours The Shadow mostly docked very close to the centre of the port town, and when it was further out, as in Hakodate a free shuttle was provided. We walked in Ketchikan, Juneau (went up the Mount Roberts ropeway which was fun if rather wet), Skagway and in Kodiak. In Kodiak the only disappointment was the Russian Orthodox Church was closed at its normal afternoon opening time. It had been opened in the morning for a ships tour and I think we just lucked out. Apart from Kodiak there were at least 2 and sometimes 5 other large cruise ships in port, and this meant all the points of interest were crowded. In Petropavlovsk we did the ATV Volcano trip, which was awesome, and included 15kms up and then back down a dry river bed. They also provided an excellent typical local lunch along with local beer and vodka. In Hakodate we did the market visit and then went up the cable car to the observatory. There were wonderful views of both sides of Hakodate. The town itself was a joy to visit, along with the English speaking schoolgirls who were waiting for us by the shuttle stop at the main station, and who came and did multiple renditions of the local Cuttlefish dance on the dock as we sailed away. Tokyo was disembarkation day, which went very smoothly, but unfortunately it was teeming it down which rather made the day a very damp squib. Weather As expected it was cold once we had left Canada and even colder going across the Bering Sea. Things looked up when we got to Russia. The sea was also rough for two days in the middle of the crossing, and on some days it was pretty windy (>50mph). A number of days were wet and we also had a morning of fog. Wildlife We didn't go on any trips specifically to see wildlife, but did see a number of whale sightings from the ship whilst in Alaska, saw some seals and an otter, and also saw a pod of killer whales between Russia and Japan. General Comments The removal of the Guest/Passenger List is a real drawback, and even if it happened because of privacy complaints (as was alluded to), this could be covered better in the Guest Info form that we all complete or with a check once onboard. It looks like SS decided to ditch it because it saved both paper and time. People should complain until we get it restored. Because of an engine problem we did not sail past Tracey Arm, so saw no glaciers. Not a huge problem but a bit of a shame. It was often cold in the theatre in the mornings and on a couple of days it was freezing. People were wrapped up in blankets. When asked if the A/C had failed the response was no, but that the engineers never came up to the public areas so had no understanding of the temperature. Believe that one if you will. There was a smell of drains on the 4th deck quite often, near the rear lift, and on one day in the Bering Sea it was across decks 4, 5 and 6. Someone very cleverly had opened the side doors on deck 5 near reception and it was blowing a gale through the middle of the ship. The smell was better than the arctic wind though. There were no Gentlemen Hosts on this voyage, and with at least 20 single women onboard, almost no one to dance with. This was a serious oversight, and it's interesting that the 2013 voyage is listed with Gentlemen Hosts. The slow erosion of the "benchmark in ultra-luxury cruising" continues and unfortunately it is not the Captain & crew that are causing this, but the bean counters in the offices who rarely get on the ships and see what really matters to Silversea's guests. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
Our Cruise on the Silver Shadow allowed us to see some opportunities for this prestigious line to move into the next evolution of luxury cruising. I feel that with some small tweaks they could really be so much better. Was anything ... Read More
Our Cruise on the Silver Shadow allowed us to see some opportunities for this prestigious line to move into the next evolution of luxury cruising. I feel that with some small tweaks they could really be so much better. Was anything horrible - No. In fact, many of the elements were spectacular- The complimentary wines/Spirits were top notch . The wines often amazingly good. The staff amazing- Calm even with the ugliest passenger attitude (We witnessed this more than once and it makes the term Ugly American - All too real). Overall, did we find that there was some room for improvement? Yes, indeed. We arrived into Shanghai's pier for embarkation and luggage was handled quite well. However the Pier was unprepared to do a documentation check and did so on the gangway in stifling heat. It would have been so much easier to do this in an air conditioned part of the terminal rather than right on the gangway. Really no big deal, but wasn't a great first impression. We were escorted to our Silver Suite which I must say is stunning. Worth noting if you carry a lot of electric things (Phone, Ipad, Camera Chargers, etc.) the amount of outlets in the suites are limited. The bathroom is gorgeous with big towels and a rainfall shower head. Our luggage arrived in a flash and 30 minutes later, we were unpacked and ready to explore the ship. We found the ship to be in really good condition. Fabrics/Carpeting/window treatments all in very good shape. The wait staff was just fantastic and they really went out of their way to learn your name and your home town. Never once were we disappointed at the service but rather at some of the policies the line has about how to serve. Small things that made you scratch your head. For example, in the main dining room why, when your entree comes, is only the main protein on the plate? Every side must then be french served to your plate. By the time you had all your sides the main Entree was cold. Seemed like it would be easier for staff as well as the kitchen just to plate up the sides onto the individual entree plate. Overall the food was just ok. We loved La Terrazza and ate their as much as we possibly could. We were not alone in our disappointed in the main dining room, the staff really tried but often food came out under cooked or over cooked. We saw a lot of dishes going back to the kitchen on our few meals there. . Cold Food, bland food poor and a menu that honestly didn't flow well at all. This is a major opportunity for improvement for Silversea. Currently Silversea has the concept of "Slow Food" being featured in their marketing efforts, however no one on the ship knew anything about that at all. I think a class on that for the La Terrazza waiters would be helpful. Our biggest disappointment was the famed Relais and Chateaux experience at Silver Shadow's "La Champagne". The meal was ok- We were a bit hungry when we left, but more importantly the ambiance in that room is non existent. It appears to have been designed originally as a conference room - then turned into a dining room. Lighting runs down the entire center of Le Champagne spotlighting guest who happen to be sitting in the middle of the room. the lack of carpeting means loud footfalls when walking and sound just bounces. With a bit of redo on the decor it could be so much more pleasant. I will say that the lamb was great! Another oddity is the pool deck- they have a great lunch Bar B Que daily but only one menu per table. so it has to get passed around, Big problem? No, but easily fixed simply set with a menu at each place setting. We really didn't see any shows so I can't comment on the entertainment but most of the guests seemed quiet pleased. It would be awesome to share with the guests what movies were playing and the time they would start (perhaps a channel on the TV itself that had a schedule) Needless to say, we saw a lot of movies from the middle. Perhaps "on demand" would be considered. We caught the port lectures on TV and both the asian historian as well as the port lecturer were very good. As we set off to disembark in Tokyo, we felt that things were very well organized. That reception desk does an amazing job and they really keep on top of a lot of things. Kudos to them! So with a nice breakfast we departed to see a bit of Tokyo and to head to the airport for the long flight home. It's true that cruising with just 380 means there are no lines and you can truly relax. Overall a great trip and with some minor improvements this line has a bight future. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
We embarked Silver Shadow on 23rd February 2012, in Fremantle Perth Australia. Embarkation was smooth, and an extra nice little touch, the mandatory form passengers must sign regarding Norovirus, had already been printed by Silversea, ... Read More
We embarked Silver Shadow on 23rd February 2012, in Fremantle Perth Australia. Embarkation was smooth, and an extra nice little touch, the mandatory form passengers must sign regarding Norovirus, had already been printed by Silversea, therefore you merely had to sign your name, thereby saving time. As has been commented by others previously, the welcome glass of champagne has now shrunk even further and there is virtually only a mouthful in the glass! We checked the forward programme for evening events to enable us to then make dinner reservations in the restaurants that require pre-booking, so that we did not clash with special evening events. What proved interesting was the variability in patronage of Le Champagne and La Terrazza on different nights. There was no welcome bottle of champagne in our cabin, another shrinkage from last November. Our butler said that in line with their Italian heritage, they were now offering Prosecco, but only on request! However newcomers to Silversea would be unaware that this welcome gesture was no longer being provided except on request. We asked for and received a bottle of champagne. Our cabin was 814, a standard veranda suite on pool deck, whose location is ideal for our "lizard" lifestyle (love of fresh air and sunshine during daylight hours). This was the same cabin as on our Shadow cruise last March, when we sailed from Singapore to Hong Kong, which was also reviewed on CC. The furnishings had stood up well to a year's use, after being refurbished during dry dock prior to that cruise. Another shrinkage, however, is that the little foot mats by your bed in the evening have been dispensed with. Despite emailing Silversea in advance (and being assured the ship had been informed) to request a soft mattress, nothing had filtered to our cabin care team, so we spent an uncomfortable night until the issue was attended to. Returning to our cabin after a light lunch, our cases had arrived and unpacking commenced, interrupted at 17.00 by the mandatory safety briefing. We met only Mrs Crab and her husband, a delightful Aussie couple from Perth, for a pre-arranged CC get-together in the Panorama Lounge at 18.00, (the others not appearing, apparently due to jet lag) before getting ready for dinner in a quiet La Terrazza, where service and food were up to standard. This is a tip for those who enjoy eating in this venue because the first night of the cruise seemingly finds a significant proportion of passengers 'finding their way around' and thus there should be no problem getting a table here. We were told the menus are now changed every four days. We were due to tender into Geraldton the next day but choppy seas cut this out. Sadly, if we had waited an hour for a short squall to pass, the sea calmed down and might have made tendering viable. We sailed more slowly than planned towards Exmouth, our next port. This was also by tender and it was touch-and-go, but use of the portside bow-thruster kept the tender platform sheltered and we made it ashore for a snorkel trip on Ningaloo Reef. We were one of the first tender boats to go ashore, and it was certainly an up and down experience! Luckily the transfer was short and we were met by a rep from the Ningaloo Reef Dreaming company, and transferred to what was quite an old vehicle with fresh air a/c, capable of holding about 15 of the 23 allowed on the boat. We had been told that the transfer to the boat would be about 1.5 hours, but in the event, we were told the sea was rougher in that area, so we were taken to an alternative site. We only took about 15-20 minutes to get to the mooring, and arriving at the jetty, our party of 23 took it in relays to get in the dinghy and motor to the boat. There were three crew only, the Captain, the "cook" who was the general factotum, and the young female Sydneysider who had driven from there to Exmouth, taking a week, in a pick up solus, apart from the company of a dog, and had arrived only the day before!! Unfortunately we seem doomed as far as snorkelling is concerned. We have been fortunate to do so in reputedly, the best sites in the world, but usually there has been a high sea running, with poor visibility and a strong current. This was no exception, and even trying a drift snorkel in the afternoon was no better, and there were several passengers who got into serious difficulty. In the event, Silversea were very fair and refunded $100 off the cost of what was quite an expensive shorex. At least the day wasn't completely wasted, as despite the bad visibility, we did see a couple of turtles, but the sea was too murky to see corals and smaller fish. We met acquaintances from a previous sailing, who had been on the Shadow since Auckland (a 19 days cruise) and who regarded the food in the dining room as something of a curate's egg. The executive chef was the same one who had been on our Spirit cruise last November. Yet again, as in November, the lobster was way too salty, but most other main course dishes were good. In fact, the venison served in the dining room was almost as good as that which was part of our meal in Le Champagne. On the Spirit last November, the executive chef had performed a culinary demonstration where he made a mushroom risotto, which was perfect. We had the dish in La Terrazza and the rice was hard and undercooked. On the Shadow cruise reviewed here, mushroom risotto was offered one night and was totally different in flavour and texture to either of those on the Spirit. How can the same executive chef serve the same dish three ways and with only the one he cooked on stage turning out perfectly? A further shrinkage is the elimination of the cheese trolley. Last March, demand was such that a second trolley was brought into use. Now the cheese is plated in advance in the galley, with reduced choice and no personal control of portion size. Dining room service was generally good and it was nice to see Rose had been promoted to Junior Sommelier. Perhaps because the Australians comprised the largest contingent, it was noticeable that the dining room filled up quickly and was quite full by 19.45. Yet again, the Americans were very much in the minority, so this is perhaps why Silversea is struggling. If there hadn't been such a large contingent of Australians on our cruise, the Shadow would have been as empty as apparently it had been on the previous voyage. The menus in Le Champagne have been changed since our sailing on the Spirit last November, and we opted for the mushroom-orientated fruits of the forest creation, with venison cooked rather rare as the main course. There were only eight patrons that night, whilst the asparagus and lobster menu attracted a full house. Last November on the Spirit, it was spinach with every dining room dish but this cruise it was asparagus that was available in profusion! We opted out of the wine paring and had to buy wine from the connoisseur list, the complimentary wine being unavailable. There has been some discussion on CC concerning this issue, some ships seemingly, being willing to serve complimentary wine in Le Champagne. We varied our breakfast and lunch arrangements to suit the day ahead. Generally breakfast was taken in La Terrazza, where the disjointed layout of all Silversea ships sees some fruit in one area and other fruit some distance away; annoying. Bread and pastries were very good. The speed of production from the galley was faster than the Silversea's habitual snail's pace when breakfasting in the dining room. It was interesting to note two different forms of preparation of the spinach and bacon souffle, just why there should be such inconsistency is odd. Room service breakfast suffered from the long walk it had to undertake from the La Terrazza galley to our cabin, one deck higher and forward, therefore hot food was either avoided completely, or had to be eaten "out of course" immediately on arrival. Lunch was generally taken from the pool grill, often the freshly grilled fish. La Terrazza offered a few themed buffets, though the advertised Indonesian food turned out to be predominantly Greek! In all the dining venues, during all meals, service was attentive and obliging, as always, nothing being too much trouble. Christophe (probably incorrect spelling -- so apologies in advance) was the stand-in Restaurant Manager, covering somebody on compassionate leave and was highly visible throughout the ship, something that cannot always be said for some of his permanent colleagues. He was on the ball and on top of his job and deserves to be given the position permanently. Similarly, Flavio, the hotel director, was also visible around the decks and was only too happy to stop and have a word with any passenger. Another area of cutback appears to be in the evening entertainment. The post-dinner offering one night was the Liars' Club, during which International Hostess Anita provided a review of the rise and fall of her love life and past partners (one of whom we knew). Whilst this might have been cathartic for her, who did endeavour some humour (she is German and humour in a foreign language is tricky), it was a little excruciating at times. On another night, there was a quiz on musicals, which combined with some karaoke. Finally, there was a specific billed karaoke night. Has the Silversea's entertainment budget been cut to the point where passengers are offered no more than parlour games for their main post dinner entertainment? We only watched one show, a Motown tribute. Whilst the singing was generally very good, both the choreography and dancing were virtually non existent and wooden to those who remember the 1960s performances by the Supremes, Four Tops et al. Furthermore the bank wasn't broken on the costume front. Cruise director Kirk, a recent arrival from RCI and Azamara, did a good job with the well-attended teatime trivia quiz. The weather changed after leaving Australian waters, becoming more cloudy, less hot but more humid. On arrival at Komodo Island, the sheltered bay created perfect conditions to tender ashore. Here there is a simple wooden jetty, with a steep upward slope to the beach (presumably the incline being dependent on the tide). Dragons were sighted on the beach prior to our arrival. We were divided into groups of about 15 and ours had three local ranger guides. Fortunately walking was pretty easy because we followed a well-kept track that was generally dry. Our guides pointed out local flora and fauna before arrival at the watering hole, where several dragons were congregated. This was the only area where it could be considered "contrived", as during the dry season -- there are pipes carrying water to this watering hole to ensure that the dragons are likely to be there. From here a short walk led to a parting of the ways. The mountain goats among our party attempted a tricky hill climb, the descent being more tricky and slippery, where a couple of people needed assistance. Meanwhile, the chickens continued with a ranger on level paths back to the village area and the shopping opportunity -- which was no more than a group of villagers side by side under a covered awning. Various merchandise, from postcards through carved dragons and Ts were on sale. Dragons roam freely across the island and are not fed by the locals to make them quiescent for the tourists because any dragon could turn up anywhere. Indeed on the return walk, nearly at the beach, in the middle of the path on which we were walking, there was a large pile of dragon poo -- (white for those wishing to know the colour, and just a bit bigger than kangaroos!), proving that they do not differentiate from paths or undergrowth!! En route we saw a dragon padding along the beach, whilst another lazed under one of the stilted houses in the village. Our ranger waited to escort us the 50 yards to the jetty and back on board. Originally we were told that no passenger would be allowed onto the island if they were not doing the shorex -- but obviously "business" overcame their resolve, and passengers were allowed to walk the short distance to the "shopping opportunity". Passengers wishing to take cameras ashore, had to prepay on board the day before, several US dollars and the charge for using a video camera was $US19, very much a business venture for the Indonesian authorities!! Being a small ship, we could dock in Benoa, Bali. We wanted to sample a traditional Balinese massage and also use an Internet cafe. We shared a cab with a couple from our quiz team but making the arrangements proved fraught. We agreed a price and trip duration but the driver tried to make us stay longer so he could get another fare in between, and then tried to overcharge on return to the port. We got 30 minutes of Internet for $2 and a 90-minute massage cost $10! This was in Sanur, about 15 minutes from the port, a small town boasting a lovely beach area. On our return to the ship we saw the behemoth Caribbean Princess in full flow with its tendering operation to get passengers ashore. We of course were tied alongside. The joys of small ship sailing Our ship-organised vintage train trip in Semarang was cancelled because the train was out of service. Instead we opted to get a taxi to a recommended local mall, travelling via the old town to see the sights. Here there was excellent organisation for taxi procurement. There was a printed price list of fares to typical destinations or for sight seeing, whether you wanted a tour or just a "drop of". You paid your money to the man behind the desk, your destination was written in duplicate on a piece of paper, top copy for you and second copy for the taxi driver. We were escorted out of the main ferry terminal area to a driver, who was given his copy of our destination, taken to his cab and away; painless! The mall was large and offered quite a variety of outlets, especially stylish shoes. A furtive-looking man at one entrance offered a poor rate of currency exchange but this was used to facilitate a few purchases, which had to be made in Indonesian rupiahs. An adjoining hotel's business centre offered cheap Internet but the hotel spa was expensive for a massage. What was surprising, was that the hotel did not have a money exchange and we were directed to the same little furtive man in the corner of the mall. We later found out that his rate of exchange of American dollars was not as bad as we had thought. Securing a taxi for our return was easy and we paid the same amount of $10 that we had paid from the port. Jakarta is the Indonesian capital and was our final port. Good old Silversea provided a free shuttle to a large mall where we had a 90 minute reflexology/massage for $10. Unfortunately, this was the only port Silversea were able to offer the free shuttle into town, as in all previous ports, the taxi union is too strong, and they are prohibited from offering this service. Browsing the shops, it was staggering to find electrical and electronics goods priced higher than in the UK. Laptops were only loaded with Windows 7 home basic. The pharmacy shelves were labelled in English, rather than Indonesian, surely an oddity, but one we have seen elsewhere. We bought antibiotics without prescription for under $2. We arranged for our butler to fold our laundered clothes, ready for packing, on the afternoon we were in Jakarta, and this speeded our packing on the last sea day. A butler with 15 cabins cannot pack and unpack for all passengers in those cabins, but at least our arrangement was well before the dreaded "Packing Day". So far as onboard activities were concerned, the teatime trivia was pretty much all we did. Silversea issue points tokens for attendance at such events and on the last day of trivia, three other team members gave us their tokens, making a grand total of 106. These were redeemable at 18.00 on the last day and a range of Silversea branded items were available from a pen to a cap (100 tokens). These caps cost about $15 in the shop, so one can appreciate the token system is for fun, not value. A large number of passengers gathered to redeem their points and when I asked for a cap, I was told there were none left. I could have a key ring, a pack of cards, a bill holder, a credit card wallet but not a cap. We still had sufficient OBC for me to get a hat from the shop but that was not the point. Now I know this comes down to budgets, and different cost centres within the ship but, as a matter of principle, on a cruise line like Silversea, there should not be an issue of 'none left' and I made this point. I said I expected a cap to be in my cabin by the time I returned from dinner and, yes, there was, with a note of apology, which I duly accepted in a 'thank you' note. Silversea, please don't be so mean in saying you have 'run out' of particular prizes. These are your branded goods passengers are sporting during their use. Just make sure your stocks are more than adequate and don't remonstrate with passengers in public about such a minor issue! It leaves a bad taste. Disembarkation in Singapore was easy, helped by Jennifer from the tours office in the luggage area, helping to find bags. She of all the staff in the Tours Office was the only one who was extremely helpful, charming and professional, and it was a nice touch by Silversea to depute a member of staff "shoreside" to help passengers with their luggage. This is often a complaint made by other cruise passengers on other lines who say that once they leave the ship, they are on their own. Once clear of immigration, we were approached by a 'fly' taxi driver, who offered an airport transfer for a fixed rate pf $50 Singapore dollars, and said we would pay 25% more in a metered cab. We knew from our visit in March 2011 that this was a con and took a metered taxi, which worked out at Singapore $17.07, about US$14! Silversea was charging US$49 per person for the transfer. So in summary, the Shadow's staff were as obliging as ever and, overall, the food was good, sometimes very good. The ports of call lived up to expectations. We were not alone in noting the various cutbacks and a Silversea diehard planned to schedule the economies of recent times. It's clearly hard times in the cruise industry as a whole and this reflects in some unprecedented pricing. On the back of this, we've just booked a Suez transit in November because Silversea will not be sailing this route in 2013 due to poor demand. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
We have taken many cruises over the years, with our most recent an excellent Adriatic journey on the Seabourn Odyssey in July. We were eager to try Silversea and thought that this 8 day China itinerary would provide an interesting, ... Read More
We have taken many cruises over the years, with our most recent an excellent Adriatic journey on the Seabourn Odyssey in July. We were eager to try Silversea and thought that this 8 day China itinerary would provide an interesting, comfortable way to see new ports. Unfortunately, we found almost everything about this experience a notch below both Seabourn and our expectations. Our check in set the tone for the week, with nobody available to escort us to our room. We stood at the front desk while the receptionist had to speak very sharply to someone to find assistance. We were uncomfortable and offered to see our way up ourselves, but help did eventually surface. The butler (more on that later) came by later for a very perfunctory tour of the room. Our only request that day was for him to remove the welcome fruit, half of which was rotting. SUITE We were in a Silver Suite, which was as expected. The bed was comfortable, the room quiet and the temperature easy to control. A lot of the room is wasted space, with a large hallway leading to the sitting area. The bedroom is just a bed cordoned off by a glass door and curtain, so I am not sure if the extra cost is worth it. The sitting room furniture was upright and small, with two chairs (one of which was missing for two days until our request for a replacement was finally honored) and a small love seat. We found the seating uncomfortable and, oddly, some of the less expensive cabins have more appealing furnishings. There is also a table and four chairs plus a nice balcony. ROOM ATTENDANTS/BUTLER I reserve my strongest criticism for the butler system, which is poorly defined and implemented. My observation is that the butler spends about 90% of his/her time doing room service orders, which means he is bustling around the ship with trays, not in view at all. They are dressed in formal wear which looks silly and adds an unnecessary pomp. Our butler came by the first day and spent maybe two minutes with us. At no time did he explain the range of what he could do for us. For example, we were never offered wine or alcohol for our room (though I know we should have been), he never mentioned unpacking, shining shoes, etc. He only explained room service and laundry and told us to page him when we needed something. Well, we needed a chair that was missing in our room and we asked him for it one afternoon (note: the room should have been prepared properly from the get go). The following day, we heard nothing so we paged him again and didn't hear back. We were about to ask at the front desk, when we ran into him in the hall and asked yet again. Knowing we were unhappy, he then turned from being totally absent from our sphere to being a pest. Random things started to happen, like shoes disappearing to be shined, a bath drawn unnecessarily and back issues of another guest's magazines left in the cabin. I contrast this with Seabourn where our cabin attendant was always around and added tremendous warmth and professionalism to our experience. I will also note that the lovely woman who cleaned our cabin, very well indeed, seemed to have a horrendous work load. If this butler system is to work, I suggest that Silversea standardize the initial contact with guests to learn of their preferences and to also let guests know what is possible. Until then, every guest is going to have a different experience. FOOD The dinners in the dining room were just dreadful from our menu selection/taste perspective. Lots of smoked duck, stilton, foie gras, gelees, etc. - heavy and odd combinations. We are easy to please, but tended to pick "always available" choices, which were bland but edible. We ate at La Terrazza for one dinner and had an extraordinary pasta followed by tuna that couldn't be cut with a steak knife, so we hit both extremes. Breakfast and lunch buffets at La Terrazza were fine, but nothing special. I do appreciate that the Dining Room was open (though lightly used) for both breakfast and lunch, which was not true on Seabourn. Tea was our favorite food event of the day. We missed having a dedicated coffee bar, but there were always a few places on board to get tea or coffee throughout the day. The service was generally good across the board, with many lovely members of the wait staff. There were two formal nights on our sailing and, for some reason, the second one was held on an evening that we were in port until 9 PM. Since we had 3 sea days, this seemed like a poor choice, so we opted for room service rather than rushing around after a day in town. SPA The spa was smallish but serviceable. We only waited for the recumbent bike once. We had massages in the spa which were good and, happily, had no hawking for Elemis products during the treatment. It must be noted that we booked these massages a month before sailing online with Silversea and these reservations did NOT make it to the ship. I showed the spa attendant the confirmations, but we were out of luck. Apparently, this slip up has occurred before. In our case, we were able to rebook for less desired times but it is really sloppy. My advice, even if you think you have an appointment, check first thing on board to be certain. ACTIVITIES We don't expect much from small ships in terms of events, but the options on this sailing were beyond dull. There was a lot of bridge and random things like Intermediate Italian lessons that just aren't universally interesting. We played BINGO once and, with 5 other people, it felt more pathetic than fun. There was a minor diplomat who made a few lectures that we enjoyed but absolutely nothing else. Since we ended up with 3 sea days, it would have been nice to have a movie in the day or some other attempts to fill the time. We only went to two shows - a classical pianist who was excellent, but both performances were very similar. There is an excellent library. Wireless was available, with various packages, the cheapest rate being 25 cents/minute. Service was spotty, but to be expected in China. ITINERARY In a word, awful. Things started well, with Shanghai a wonderful port. The second stop, Jiangyin, was fine, but certainly not a highlight of China. From there, things took a turn for the worse, as we were advised that we would not be going to Nanjing, as it was too crowded and the Chinese Authorities could not guarantee a safe berth. That meant missing a great port plus adding another sea day in very rough conditions. Things go wrong, and we understand that, but this might have been self inflicted, as Silversea chose to run this itinerary during the Chinese National Holiday week, one of the busiest times of the year. We ended up with three sea days in a row. One was titled "cruise the Yangtze," which was really nothing but another sea day as there was nothing to see. At the next stop, Xiamen, the city of 3 million had an additional 1.5 million visitors on the day we stopped. I cannot adequately describe the crowding and crush of humanity. It was impossible to even walk in this port. We ended in Hong Kong, where we were told we could leave the ship at approx. 6 PM and that we did not need our passports, which the ship still had. At 6 PM, with dozens of us milling around waiting to get off, we were told that we did have to wait for passports after all, keeping us on the ship until after 7 PM. Some of this could be caused by local authorities, but Silversea calls at Hong Kong frequently and should have the drill down by now. DEPARTURE We did not get our wake up call, which was requested at reception the night before, again a sloppy touch. We were told to call for help with our baggage on departure morning, since we had a private transfer. Nobody came for 15 minutes, so we started to leave on our own, but fortunately, the butler and another crew member offered to help. One staff member was stationed at the desk when we left the ship and she didn't even make eye contact, let alone wish us a farewell. FEEDBACK/FINAL THOUGHTS On our Seabourn cruise, we were impressed that a survey was done mid cruise, to be used to make adjustments in real time. On Silversea, nobody seemed a bit concerned and the cruise rating form we received to complete was mostly a series of checking boxes. If they truly want feedback, space should be left in all categories for people to comment, rather than just a generic empty space at the end. We plan to stick to Seabourn going forward...... Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
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