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8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
The ship is in excellent condition. The cabins are very nice and very clean and the bed was comfortable. The food was excellent and high quality. Filippo Bulgarini the Maître D is very good at insuring everything is perfect. All staff ... Read More
The ship is in excellent condition. The cabins are very nice and very clean and the bed was comfortable. The food was excellent and high quality. Filippo Bulgarini the Maître D is very good at insuring everything is perfect. All staff members have a excellent attitude and really care about insuring you have all your needs and wants met. Lots of area's on the ship to relax and enjoy the beautiful views. The on board credit was very easy to use and the store on the ship had a great selection of watches and clothing. We have travelled on many cruises. This was our first cruise with Silversea and we will return very soon because the overall experience was better than advertised. The ports of call were excellent and the extended stay in some of the ports was great because you did not feel rushed. The ship arrived on time to the ports of call everyday. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
Beautiful ship with large cabins and plenty of public spaces to get away. Lots of restaurants, but food choices were somewhat limited. Like most cruises, there were minor issues along the way, but we really enjoyed this cruise. ... Read More
Beautiful ship with large cabins and plenty of public spaces to get away. Lots of restaurants, but food choices were somewhat limited. Like most cruises, there were minor issues along the way, but we really enjoyed this cruise. Embarkation seemed a bit disjointed with multiple stops. Staggered times based on suite category meant no big lines and cabins immediately ready. Our boarding opened at 2:00 pm. Don’t get too comfortable unpacking and miss lunch as the hours are limited. Welcome champagne glass and a full bottle waiting for you in the suite. We toured and photographed the ship after lunch. Disembarkation went as scheduled with full room service breakfast available (a rarity on most lines). Out of the cabin by 8:30 am, we waited until 9:15 for our group to be called right on time. Uber for two to FLL was less than $12 + tip. Why would anybody spend more for a bus transfer? Ship. So much room throughout the ship that we often asked ourselves, “Where is everybody?” Like many newer ships, this ship has the plethora of quiet places to “hide out.” Lots of elevators and stairs made it a snap to get around. Service and Amenities. Mostly what I would expect for a luxury cruise line. All-inclusive alcohol and wine flowed freely. Water, iced tea, and juice at the gangway with cold washcloths back on the ship. Friendly staff always greeted guests in passing, but don’t expect them to remember your name like they do on much smaller ships. Bulgari toiletries. All the toys in the cabin except binoculars. (I bring my own anyway.) No fresh flowers or fruit in our cabin. Clientele. Most people we met were very experienced cruisers. Some were avid Silversea clients, but quite a few were on their first Silversea cruise. A fair number of Brits. The clientele age was more varied than we expected. We quickly made friends with a lot of interesting people and enjoyed their company throughout the cruise. This is not a ship for kids, although the one 5-year old girl onboard got a lot of attention. Entertainment. Six singers and dancers did all the shows, including their solo acts. Other musicians also onboard for piano music, etc. Enrichment activities. Ira Feldman was our destination lecturer. He was very informative and approachable. We didn’t spend time doing most of the other cruise trivia, bingo, bridge, etc. We like doing puzzles and this ship could use a better location than the card room for that purpose. Restaurants. Very different arrangement than many other cruise lines and we were quite confused when trying to make pre-cruise online reservations. I’ll try to provide the information I wish I had before boarding. There is a cluster of four restaurants on Deck 4. Atlantide is the closest thing to a main dining room and doesn’t require reservations unless you have special requests. Menu only changed slightly once during the cruise. Indochine is similar with an Asian menu, but we never went there. Seishin (Asian) and LeDame (French) are the small, premium restaurants that are pricey and small. Hot Rocks (aka The Grill) is outside on Deck 9 by the pool. For lunch they serve burgers, but for dinner you cook your own food on a hot stone. Just upstairs overlooking the pool is the pizza restaurant Spaccanapoli. It’s not really a dinner restaurant, per se, but it does have a dinner menu if you want pizza. La Terrazza is the buffet converted to a sit-down Italian restaurant in the evening with both indoor and outdoor seating. Surprisingly, it had some of the best food on the ship, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Finally, Silver Note is a nice restaurant on Deck 8 that transitions into a piano bar with dancing at night. Menus vary by restaurant, not by day, so the idea is to try the different venues if you want variety. Finally, Arts Café is a gem of a place to get snacks next to Silver Note. That is where they serve afternoon tea with scones, cake, sandwiches, etc.. Unfortunately, the amazing cakes are replaced with only chocolate after dinner. It’s a good place to get an after dinner drink. The biggest critique I have is that afternoon post-shore excursion food was limited. Waiting an hour to get a burger from The Grill or room service just doesn’t cut it when you have been walking all morning and you are starving hungry! The simple fix would be to provide more substantial food (e.g. sandwiches, sushi, fruit, cookies, etc.) at the Arts Café during the entire lull period between lunch venues closing and dinner venues opening. Food Quality and Service. We were disappointed in the quality, variety, and availability. Although we had a few excellent meals, most were just average, which was disappointing for a luxury cruise line. Appetizers were typically the best part of the meal. Our lobster tails were overcooked. Steaks were not very tender and often undercooked. Lots of good fish choices, so we ate a lot of fish. Service was too often painfully slow, sometimes taking 2 ½ hours for a three course meal. What is it about some ships and the timing of the coffee? I like to drink my coffee with dessert, but the coffee usually came 15 minutes after dessert was served and long gone. Our last dinner onboard at La Terrazza was the best food and service of the cruise. Dress code. Two formal nights and five other nights requiring jackets for men. I would prefer more nights of “country club casual” or a dress code based on restaurant venue. Wearing formal clothes or even a jacket to an outdoor pizza restaurant didn’t make sense. Internet. Finally! Free, unlimited internet. Still ship-slow and sometimes difficult to get a good connection, but at least you are not being billed for every minute. Upgrades to higher speeds and more devices were available. Self Service Laundry. With machines on every floor, we were actually able to find open machines on a sea day, which made quick work of the laundry we needed washed. Free with a confusing soap dispenser. Machine instructions were practically non-existent and also perplexing. It didn’t help that the machine labels were German and the water temperatures were degrees Celsius. Cruise lines could really help out their guests by providing no-nonsense guides in English with recommendations about which of the 14 cycles (from 20 min to 3 hours) works best for most clothes. Spa & Fitness Center. Lots of treatment rooms. We enjoyed the Thermal Suite, which was an extra package price and limited access. Silversea could take a tip from Oceania and provide free Gatorade. Smoking. This was one of our main reasons for not sailing Silversea earlier. It is now reasonably restricted and the occasional whiffs of smoke from a designated smoking area did not bother us much. Ports. Santiago de Cuba, Grand Cayman, Cienfuegos, Havana, Bimini. Most people were on this cruise to see Cuba. Almost everybody went ashore to get a chance to see it firsthand. We invested heavily in shore excursions primarily because we didn’t know what to expect in terms of access and meeting the U.S. requirements to visit Cuba. All the Cuban tours were operated by Havanatur and transportation was provided on relatively new Chinese buses with toilets (an amenity you will appreciate in Cuba where every bathroom has an attendant with their hand out for a tip). Our shore excursion guides were all high quality. Everything was on time and the three sea days were a welcome respite from touring. An unexpected extension to our time in Havana allowed last-minute shore excursions to the nightclubs and shows. Friends we met through Cruise Critic were able to book their own independent tours, but we did not have the time to do all the advanced research and booking. Tenders. This was the first Silver Spirit itinerary to Cuba so there were many learning opportunities. Particularly problematic was the tendering service. Some of the tender rides were 35-45 minutes, but this was not entirely Silversea’s fault. Even this relatively small ship was not allowed to get close enough in some of the ports to have reasonable tendering times. This caused several of us to miss evening plans in Santiago because we could not get back to the ship in time to go back for the evening shows. Havana was the only port where we used a dock, which was a real luxury after all the tendering. The one big misstep was in Bimini, where bad management of tender rotations caused an hour wait that made several of us miss our afternoon shore excursion. The ship staff accepted full responsibility and refunded our ticket prices, but it was disappointing. In summary. We’ve never taken a perfect cruise, but expectations can be high for luxury cruise lines like Silversea. However, after 18 cruises on a variety of lines, this cruise makes our top 3, with Regent and Azamara. We loved the location and size of our cabin. Now that we understand the system, we will make better dining choices next cruise. Cuba is a must see and we will be back in the future to see the progress. Overall, we really enjoyed this cruise and will be back Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
We chose this cruise for several reasons. Rated 6.0 luxury. It was our first cruise so we wanted to keep the days down to a minimum, and this cruise lasted 7 nights. It was refurbished last year so it was practically new with beautiful ... Read More
We chose this cruise for several reasons. Rated 6.0 luxury. It was our first cruise so we wanted to keep the days down to a minimum, and this cruise lasted 7 nights. It was refurbished last year so it was practically new with beautiful soft colors and rich woods. I read many reviews and it was touted to have excellent food and service. It did not disappoint. We loved everything about this ship. Everything went smoothly and everything worked perfectly. Our cabin was perfect, enough space for all our things. Everything was put away and there was never any clutter due to lack or storage. Our butler was terrific and very accommodating. We tipped him when we were first introduced, although we knew it was not expected. We just wanted to be sure he was happy with us from the beginning. He was sure to bring us our snacks in our room every day at 4:30 when we got back to the cabin to relax before dinner. All the restaurants were terrific. We were on deck 7 so it was very convenient to go to La Terrazza for breakfast every morning for their buffet. We could sit in or out depending on the weather and the wind level. La Dame was elegant as was Seichin. We loved eating at Atlantide. Very elegant and great service and food. Although there were 555 passengers, we found everywhere we went it was never crowded. We even found lounge seating at the pool area along the side of the ship where we were completely alone just looking our at the Caribbean Sea. It was glorious. We loved the hot rocks dinner at the Grill at the pool in the evening. The massages in the Spa were excellent. The shows were lovely. This was not Broadway, and coming from New York we get Broadway whenever we want it, but it was wonderfully entertaining. If you wanted daily activities they were there for you. We went on shore excursions, and we chose to play Trivia which was headed every day by the cruise director Rico. He did an excellent job throughout the cruise keeping us all happy and laughing. All in all, I'm sad to say our cruise ended. We can't wait to have this experience again. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
We found this trip at a great price on Vacations to go. We chose Silversea Silverwind because it was going to Cuba. We had never even heard of Silversea and were excited to enjoy this trip. We went with a group of 8 friends. We flew to ... Read More
We found this trip at a great price on Vacations to go. We chose Silversea Silverwind because it was going to Cuba. We had never even heard of Silversea and were excited to enjoy this trip. We went with a group of 8 friends. We flew to San Juan and were familiar with their port and were curious as to which slip/dock we would be loading on to. We were in walking distance to the pier and grabbed our luggage and found them right away. Here we go. So excited. It was real simple getting on and off. We loved the ship. A little bit dated but I still loved it. Silverwind is the oldest in the fleet. It was easy to get around. With it only having just under 200 passengers it was very intimate. Our cabin was perfect for us. The only struggle I had was plugging in the hair dryer. The clock radio was plugged in to the only socket on the vanity. It was hard to plug in the dryer cause it was too close to the wall with only one way to plug it in I was concerned it wouldn't work. There are 2 other plugs on the desk for charging phones. No plugs hy the beds. There were however European plugs that if we had known would have brought conversions. The bath room has a small tub/shower. The bed was so comfy better than I had ever had on any of my other cruises. Our balcony was great. The price of the cruise included the drink package and our butler would bring any bottle of choice to our room The dining was spectacular. There were 4 restaurants to choose from. The Grill is up on the pool deck, for lunch you could order sandwiches, wraps, or burgers. For dinner you needed to reserve a table and their menu of many wonderful items to choose from. We got to cook our main meal on a hot lava stone right in front of us. The laDame was the French cuisine. This one is an extra fee but well worth it. Make sure you leave 2 to 3 hours for this one. The main dining has all the wonderful foods you could dream of. LaTassra for breakfast and lunch had a buffet. Nicly furnished with a variety of foods. Also need to make reservations for dinner. The main dining was also wonderful. Every evening, each restaurant served the featured red or white wine if you wanted. The activities are minimal. The ones we did participate in were great. Entertainment was spectacular. The Voices of Silverwind were awesome. The on board credit aloud us to do shore excursions and what a treat it was. We did the panorama tours of both Santiago and Havana which were very interesting. There were no children aboard this ship. There would be nothing for them to do accept swim. We had the shipwreck snorkeling in Bimini and were disappointed when it took us 45 minutes to tender in and 1 hour to tender back out. Not enough time to do any looking around really disappointed in that. We had some rough weather a couple of nights and with this ship being small we got tossed around some but I expected that. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2018
This Silverseas cruise exceeded our expectations in everyway. The food was excellent, the Island stops were fantastic. The crew members were very, very happy, and friendly. Great Service in every area!!! Dinners were outstanding!!! I wish ... Read More
This Silverseas cruise exceeded our expectations in everyway. The food was excellent, the Island stops were fantastic. The crew members were very, very happy, and friendly. Great Service in every area!!! Dinners were outstanding!!! I wish they had lobster at the Grill, but no big deal! Colin the Ships Cruise Director was excellent & funny!!! The other passengers were all very friendly, and nice. Met some great people on board. Overall, a fantastic cruise, and I would go again in a heat beat. Sopia was excellent. Our butler, Mustofa did every thing perfectly, and he was always there to help us with dinner reservations, formal night, he constantly replaced our wines, and brought us several very nice, wines, and reds to enjoy. He should get a medal! La Terrazza was excellent for dinner, and so was The Restaurant, and The Grill. The pool was never too busy, and we always could get seats for two. The boat never felt crowded, and was very clean, spotless! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
We are retired and have only been on two cruises prior to this. A Norwegian (2 Star) from NYC to Bermuda and an Alaskian UnCruise, on the120 ft Safari Endeavour (10 Star), so we really wanted to experience a 10 star cruise on a larger ... Read More
We are retired and have only been on two cruises prior to this. A Norwegian (2 Star) from NYC to Bermuda and an Alaskian UnCruise, on the120 ft Safari Endeavour (10 Star), so we really wanted to experience a 10 star cruise on a larger ship and we certainly found it on the Silver Wind. WoW, I read a lot of reviews on a lot of different ships, before we selected the Silver Wind and after being on the ship, I honestly have to wonder if some of the negative reviews that I had read on this ship were by other cruise companies, (haha, funny but possible) So lets's establish that we are not cruise experts, but we do enjoy a lot of the finers points in life, including lodging, drink, travel, automobiles (I drive a Bentayga), etc. We enjoy life from a tux to a pair of cut offs and the finest white glove dining to a BBQ joint, so while we do not claim to be cruise experts, we have been down a few dirt roads and Inter-state highways. So here is our scoop on the Silver Wind. I get up at 5 AM and saw how the cleaning crew were working each morning and this is the cleanest ship that you will ever be on. While it was built in 1995, You cannot tell that it wasn't a couple of years old, based on it's public areas and rooms. The staff were outstanding, so professional, so helpful and so attentive. The food and drink were excellent and we can say nothing negative except it took a couple of days to get our suite door lock to work every time, but they really tried. I highly recommend the Silver Wind as a Top Of The Line Small Ship Luxury Cruise and when we take another cruise it will be with the Silver Seas Company. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2018
We chosed this cruise because we got a very good offer from our travel agency in Copenhagen and the timing fitted into our plans. Also, it means that we could get away from the poor and cold weather in Denmark. It was our third cruise with ... Read More
We chosed this cruise because we got a very good offer from our travel agency in Copenhagen and the timing fitted into our plans. Also, it means that we could get away from the poor and cold weather in Denmark. It was our third cruise with Silversea. We have been on Silver Cloud and Silver Spirit. We liked the idea of getting on a small ship again and were definitely not disappointed with Silver Wind even though it is an order ship. The embarkation went smoothly and it was wonderful to get a table on the outside terrace and have lunch. Then you really get a feeling of relaxation. During the cruise we tried all restaurants and the food was delicious. The mail restaurant was in particular very good both with regard to service and food. La Dame was of course exceptional and we thoroughly enjoyed our evening there. We were on excursions almost every day. They were all very good and well arranged. Bathing and swimming with the stingrays at Grand Turk was a marvellous experience. Also, the entertainment on board exceeded our expectations and we found the young artists very skilled. It added to the succes that in some instances the Cruise Director himself played the piano. In order to summarise how very satisfied we were, we took advantage of the offer on board to book our next cruise in the Caribbean for beginning of 2019. We are already looking forward to it. We were in a Vista Suite which was fine, but we will prefer to have a balcony. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
This cruise line, as well as this ship and itinerary, were recommended by friends. It did not disappoint. The accommodations were excellent. The food was extraordinary and service was outstanding. The wait staff in the restaurants as ... Read More
This cruise line, as well as this ship and itinerary, were recommended by friends. It did not disappoint. The accommodations were excellent. The food was extraordinary and service was outstanding. The wait staff in the restaurants as well as bartenders were impressive in their knowledge of languages as well as their ability to remember not only our names but our favorite things to order. They truly appeared to be having fun while at work. Our favorite part, however, was the excursion options. They were exciting, professionally conducted, and kept us active the entire cruise (think snorkeling with power, driving ATV's along the beach, watching sea creatures from a submarine). However, if one were looking for a more subdued vacation, that was certainly available (lots of folks enjoying the sun and the pool). Overall, it was a great trip for seniors who are looking for small ship attentive service with as much or as little activity as you wish. This was our first cruise with SILVERSEA but it will not be our last. We're already looking into the Silver Galapagos! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2018
Why? Brand name. Convenient timing. Confidence in performance based on priorSilversea cruise. Itinerary. Travelled at our own expense from FL to San Juan for convenience. Silversea lived up to its reputation. The ship is lovely, ... Read More
Why? Brand name. Convenient timing. Confidence in performance based on priorSilversea cruise. Itinerary. Travelled at our own expense from FL to San Juan for convenience. Silversea lived up to its reputation. The ship is lovely, comfortable, and well maintained for an older ship. We had a wonderful time. The dining was excellent, providing many delicious options served efficiently and carefully by a very well trained, polite and pleasant staff in The Restaurant and Terrazza. We did feel occasionally rushed at Terrazza lunch when we had to eat close to closing time based on a late land excursion. Our experience at La Dame was disappointing. The service was fine, but our dinners were average. The land excursions were well done and managed. Some more interesting and fun of course. We knew about the hurricane damage, but were saddened to see the actual destruction of homes, buildings and landscape. However,we wanted too see the islands, especially having visited Tortola many times prior. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2018
I chose the cruise because I wanted to try this cruise line I thought it wasn't a bad price espically since I travel solo my air was $199 I went to places I hadn't been I even booked a cruise for next year before I ... Read More
I chose the cruise because I wanted to try this cruise line I thought it wasn't a bad price espically since I travel solo my air was $199 I went to places I hadn't been I even booked a cruise for next year before I took this cruise & on the ship I booked the cruise before making my cruise from 7 days to 17 days. a week trip goes to fast the ship is small which I like I cruise a lot & I enjoy the small ship after being on large ships there were nicer customers on this ship crew like any ship most try to please there was some excellent food I chose the buffet for lunch & breakfast because you don't have to wait the waiters love to carry your food to your table dinner was in the main dining room & they had 10 or more entrees they had vegetarian, special hamburgers, fish, salad, pasta. risotto, general entrees 2 soups, 2 salads, 5 appitizers sugar & non sugar desserts, ice cream buffet had sugar free pastry & glutin free dessert all you want alcohol the room was a suite @ 260 ft the tv had news, movies, lectures you could go & get a dvd there was a nice little library and a lounge on top of another floor with more books great room menu for dining in your room large couch walk in closet your butler gives you a choice for soaps, etc they bring you newspaper entertainment was singers, musicians shops designers gym spa Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2018
We enjoyed a wonderful 7 night cruise on board Silver Wind, sailing the eastern part of Caribbean islands. It’s been 2 years since from our last cruise with Silver Wind and we were very excited to sail with her again. We had amazing time ... Read More
We enjoyed a wonderful 7 night cruise on board Silver Wind, sailing the eastern part of Caribbean islands. It’s been 2 years since from our last cruise with Silver Wind and we were very excited to sail with her again. We had amazing time throughout the week, enjoying flawless service onboard and nice destinations. The weather could not have been better in March when sailing the Caribbean. What I in particular waited was to see how they have maintained and refurbished some of the areas. I must say that there is something special in Silver Wind. I like yacht-like look and feel throughout the ship. Small, elegant and extremely well maintained. It was nice to see that many of the public areas had received refurbishment since our last cruise two years ago. All areas looked fresh with a bit more lighter color scheme (similar to Silver Muse) which I enjoyed a lot. This was visible especially in throughout the ship in all lobbies, La Terazza, Panorama Lounge, Observation Lounge and around the pool area. Our suite On this cruise we stayed in a Veranda Suite on deck 5. The suite was as expected. Up to Silversea standards and always immaculate. Our butler and maid did a wonderful job in making sure that everything was always there for us – and always a smile on their face. They did arrange a very nice birthday surprise for us as well on one night which is something to remembered as well for long. The veranda is always a delight and we took a full advantage of that one. However, you may still consider to stay in Vista Suite as well especially on Silver Wind as the ship is so small that you will easily just walk to the deck and find your own special place. The suite is a bit smaller than the ones you have on newer ships such as Silver Whisper or Silver Spirit. What I did miss a bit was a separate walk-in shower. Dining We enjoyed breakfast in La Terazza, The Restaurant and in our suite. The best experience was always in the privacy of our own suite. La Terazza breakfast buffet is a good in terms of selection and service easy casual and fast during breakfast. Considering the size of the ship, I feel that La Terazza can be bit busy during 08-09 at breakfast times. Also hard to get a table for four outside as there are only few tables. In the Restaurant it is a la carte breakfast. Very nice atmosphere for breakfast there. For lunch our favorite is the Pool bar. Excellent service throughout the day. Good food and drinks. You can have your burgers, fries and salads by the pool or nearby tables as you please. Always a pleasure. Afternoon tea in La Terazza: one of the highlights! Try to find some time from your schedule and enjoy afternoon tea on the veranda in La Terazza. It is a wonderful experience to enjoy some pastries and sweets with a cup of tea or champagne and talk about the day and admire the view. Very relaxing and chilled atmosphere. Dinner in La Terazza: this is one of my favorite restaurant concepts onboard Silversea fleet. The food was great during our cruise (as always). You can have your 4 course Italian dinner here. We did feel that it was at times a bit chaotic in La Terazza during dinners. It was mainly due the size of the restaurant; it is fairly small and large tables are close to each other. But nevertheless we enjoyed and had a good time. The setting of La Terazza is better on Silver Whisper and Silver Muse. Superb wine service staff. Dinner in The Grill: always fun experience to cook your own food. Nice to sit outside for the dinner. Flawless services. Food is simple grill food but as the ingredients are excellent you don’t actually need much. Have your salad for the started, followed by a nice steak and end with sweet finale with apple pie and ice cream. Who needs more? Dinner in The Restaurant: good food, attentive service. Superb wine service staff. Elegant a la carte restaurant with changing menu during our cruise. We had one of the best meals on our cruise here. I’ve not been a fan of The Restaurant during my past voyages during our previous cruises but now it really took a special place on this voyage. We all liked it a lot. Dinner in La Dame: small and elegant setting. Food was good, but not great this time. It is a nice experience, but I’m again thinking that is it worth of the extra bee (60 USD per person). Service is great, but so it is across the ship. Food here is good but not spectacular. What I do miss here is to really have a wine pairings included to menu. That would lift the experience in my view. Now serving champagne, white, red wine for the set menu is a bit boring in my view. Of course there is the extensive wine list that you can choose from as well, as we then did. IF you dine here, you need to take the soufflé as desert. It is wonderful. Embarkation We had excellent embarkation in San Juan. We were able to access the ship already around 12. Everything ready, everything easy. Leave your luggage, get your suite card, walk in to the ship, no lines no hassle. Have glass of champagne, get your picture taken and you are all set to go. Some for leaving the ship in all ports flawless and when finally disembarkation came all worked as smoothly as you can image. Clientele On this cruise the clientele was international as usual. Mainly couples and some family groups. On this cruise I think that the clientele was a bit younger as well than on the other cruises we have been on. Overall experience To us Silversea provides always excellent experience and good value for money. It is a great product and we recommend it to anyone who has travelled a lot, has international background, appreciates less is more approach and is not looking for neon lights or rock climbing walls. It’s the ship, the service, the food and the destinations that make all the difference. Silver Wind is a lovely small ship with excellent condition. Such a beauty! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
We are cruisersis out job we are retired and love it. Been on many recent cruises the last 2 years Celebrity, Oceania, Regent. Seems as we are getting to love the smaller ships. This one was awesome never a line anywhere elevator, ... Read More
We are cruisersis out job we are retired and love it. Been on many recent cruises the last 2 years Celebrity, Oceania, Regent. Seems as we are getting to love the smaller ships. This one was awesome never a line anywhere elevator, dinner, getting off and on the ship if you don't like lines this is for you. The food was awesome lunch in the buffet best sushi on the seas everyday. The buffet is small buy the quality is excellent. You can order many items from your waiter for breakfast and lunch try the blueberry pancakes made with fresh blueberrys also the eggs benedict excellent. They don't have special entertainment just the small cast but we went to almost every show they were awesome. The main dining and special restaurant were top notch. The only thing I would change is the strict dress code. They should go along with other cruise lines like Regent and Oceania other wise they get 5 stars. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
We chose this cruise for the itinerary and ease of getting to San Juan to celebrate a birthday. From the airport transfer arriving and departing, the trip was perfect. I've sailed on Silver Sea many times and have always enjoyed the ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the itinerary and ease of getting to San Juan to celebrate a birthday. From the airport transfer arriving and departing, the trip was perfect. I've sailed on Silver Sea many times and have always enjoyed the line. It's been a while since I was on one of there smaller ships. I couldn't have been a better experience. The food was delicious, the service impeccable and the entertainers were better than I've seen in a long while, even on other lines and newer ships. Everyone greeted us with a smile and how can I be of service attitude. Our room was fantastic and the butler was extremely efficient. The staff I hadn't met before on other cruises were quick to learn our names and what we liked. Almost all of the time, our needs were anticipated before asking. Silver Sea makes you feel like you're a part of their family. It's a warm and inviting atmosphere. It is nice to see the officers out and about during the day. They're always willing to stop and talk and answer questions. That makes it very special. We had a Silver Suite and I must say I'm spoiled now. I normally get a Verandah but this time splurged. With two women and a lot of stuff, it was so great to have the extra room. Breakfast our butler prepared a beautiful table for us complete with champagne and freshly squeezed grapefruit juice. I didn't want to get off the ship. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2018
Have been cruising with them for nearly 10 years and every cruise experience has been flawless. We did not cruise the departure city before the cruise, but did do it after the cruise on a ... Read More
Have been cruising with them for nearly 10 years and every cruise experience has been flawless. We did not cruise the departure city before the cruise, but did do it after the cruise on a complimentary tour provided by the Cruise line as our flight departed late in the day. As in all other previous cruises, This Cruise Line does not merely dump you at the Airport when you get off the ship if you have a late in the day flight out, but will arrange for something nice to spend your time till your flight leaves if it departs after 2 pm. The ship has been recently refurbished to a more contemporary decor, but I preferred the old luxury look with stained Oak & Mahogany wood finishes and Burgundy drapes and carpets compared to the present paint, chrome and patterned carpets they have now. The food as always was excellent with many choices that included Chilean Sea Bass, Lobster, Dutch Veal, New Zealand Lamb and Chateaux Briand etc. Free tours at each port, a generous $ 1500 ship Board Credit also was included. Ports of call were great, and service at all levels in the ship and ports was impeccable. We had a minor complaint about the anchor motor noise each morning when we docked, but I cannot blame the cruise line for this, as all ships have to have an anchor and the weight and the motor that goes with it cannot be expected to be silent. Would definitely go again with this Cruise line and highly recommend them without any reservation to any one willing to spend a little more than other cruise lines for the luxury experience - Ganesh Kini Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2018
This is our second cruise with Silver Seas. I wish we would have made time to see some of San Jaun before or after the cruise but we were squeezed for time. My husband, I and my son (14) were greeted in reception with a glass of bubbly ... Read More
This is our second cruise with Silver Seas. I wish we would have made time to see some of San Jaun before or after the cruise but we were squeezed for time. My husband, I and my son (14) were greeted in reception with a glass of bubbly and shown to our suite. Unfortunately our bags had not yet arrived. Not to worry we headed to the pool side grill for lunch. Things to remember for next time. Put your swim suit in your carry on bag so you have it with you as well as your sun screen, we could have been swimming. I loved not having to worry about the cost of lunch or drinks, its all included. Our butler was a pleasure. Make sure to let them know what you want your frig stocked with. After the fact I was wishing we would have booked the silver suite with more room. But I booked the Veranda suite to save a few bucks. It was a tight fit with a 6'1" teenager who wants to leave his stuff everywhere. The chairs seemed like over kill and were in our way most of the time. Wifi - what can I say, you are on a boat and its slow and expensive. My husband had to have it to keep up with his sports. I turned my phone off and didn't give work another thought It was a windy trip. I wished I would have checked the weather prior to traveling as I would have made some wardrobe changes and had more hair ties with me and a light jacket. We had some serious winds one of the nights. We happened to be eating at the Grill and have some great shots of the pool water splashing out before they drained it. The wait staff is excellent. They get to know you and by the end of the trip are bringing you your "usual". We probably under utilized our butler, he was kind and started showing up in the afternoons with a snack. This was great for the growing 14 year old who is always hungry. He found that he could order 2 entrees and an all you can eat lunch buffet he was in heaven. Go to the Grill for dinner one night and cook your steak on a hot stone. Our ship had various things you could participate in during the day and evening. We liked the mini golf and didn't miss a day of it. Get involved go play trivia you are gong to meet some super fun people We were named the adventure family by some of the staff. I highly recommend going to Baths while visiting BVI Gorda. The water was an incredible blue, and warm. We had a chance to swim before and after going on a hike through the boulders/caves. Amazing, I will do again some day. Down side was having all the excursions arrive back at the same time and not enough tenders. This also means you miss lunch and have to eat at the pool bar which was overwhelmed by all the people. Poor planning which I'm sure will be addressed by the time you cruise. Philipsburg you have to do the Soualiga Sky Explorer. Imagine a ride up the chair lift to the top of the mountain, getting a 360 degree view of the island. It was so beautiful. For an added thrill pay the extra and take the zip line to the bottom, exhilarating. We even paid a little more to ride the lift part way up and go down the intertubes. Super fun and the bar had great service. St. Kitts I was a little put off by the aggressive shop owners, I felt like I was back in Turkey. In St. Kitts we went with the zip line tour. It seemed like a really slow start but once you were transported to the start of the course things really moved along. We were hit with a torrential down pour so were soaked by the time we were done, but it will be one we will remember long after some of the others. Fort-de-France was incredibly populated. I have removed it from potential places to retire. We took the trip through the rain forest and visited the rum distillery. Wishing I would have booked earlier and gone on the catamaran tour. Lots of driving and for me just not enough doing. St. John's we took the helicopter ride to Montserrat. I've never been in a helicopter and thought it was going to be super scary. It was not. This was amazing. The helicopter held 6 passengers and flys you out to Montserrat to see the volcano and all the damage that's been done. Our pilot was very knowledgeable. It was fascinating. I highly recommend it. Jost Van Dyke we opted for snorkeling. I wish it would have been a little longer. There were three caves to explore. We used the equipment provided not wanting to bring our own. It was all good quality and no trouble getting the masks to seal. I've seen more fish in other places, but the caves is what did it for me. This was one of our longer stops. We came back to the ship for lunch and then grabbed a bottle of wine, glasses, cork screw, pop and water and headed back to the beach to paly in the water, build a sand castle and watch the sun set. Really doesn't get much better than that. We really like the smaller ship. No lines, no waiting and being able to get into ports that the larger boats can't. We love the all-inclusive nature. It helps to relax and know you are not getting nickeled and dimed. Staff takes the time to get to know you. Do go to the shows at night, they are amazing. I actually felt guilty the night that we missed one of them. Our son thanked us serveral times for taking him. He was engaged in the adventure where the other younger travelers were face into phones and tablets. We are looking forward to our next adventure Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2018
We had a prior trip with Silver Seas in the Mediterranean (last year) and had a fabulous time. We really enjoy the size of the silver seas ships (small ships with some big ship amenities) - less the lines for everything. While this ... Read More
We had a prior trip with Silver Seas in the Mediterranean (last year) and had a fabulous time. We really enjoy the size of the silver seas ships (small ships with some big ship amenities) - less the lines for everything. While this Caribbean cruise was not quite as well pampered as the Mediterranean one we took, the experience was excellent. At the outset of the cruise, it felt like an inordinate number of staff were working for their first time - the service did not feel as personal or attentive and we regularly met with lines (which we hate). This got better as the cruise went along. The ports of call were spectacular, a nice combination of ports with other big ships (and amenities to go with it) and small quiet coves that are more "island" in nature. We enjoyed that. The included excursions were also excellent with a nice combination of relaxed and adventure options. We took advantage of a rum distillery tour, two zip line tours, two snorkeling tours and a helicopter tour of the Monserat volcano (which was excellent, but not included). All in all, we would recommend this cruise highly and would love to do it again. Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2016
We flew to San Juan on the morning of our trip since it wasn't far so I can't comment on local hotels. The ship does dock in Old San Juan which is close enough to walk around a little if you have time and is a pretty place with ... Read More
We flew to San Juan on the morning of our trip since it wasn't far so I can't comment on local hotels. The ship does dock in Old San Juan which is close enough to walk around a little if you have time and is a pretty place with lots of history. Boarding was very easy and relaxed. All of the food we had was good to excellent on this trip. We dined in all of the restaurants more than once including Le Champagne. My daughter really enjoyed the Hot Rocks grill by the pool at night. I thought is was fun and a very nice casual experience for days that we were a little tired from all of the sun and fun. The main dining room was nice, not too large but not crowded, and formal nights were beautiful as many guests did choose to dress up on this cruise. Here's the part where I say that Silversea is definitely a bit more formal on all evenings than some of the larger ships so keep that in mind if you are not someone who likes to dress for dinner and settle in for several courses. There are "informal" evenings but this is still upscale casual attire expected. Personally I enjoy this type of dress code but I realize it's not for everyone. I think the good food was made even better by the staff. I felt a cohesiveness on this ship that is sometimes lacking in the service industry. It really seemed like they were all working together and truly enjoyed making us happy. Entertainment--yes, it's minimal but very good. There were six singers who performed nearly every night with a different spin on the show, even an opera night to showcase two amazing opera singers. All of these folks were excellent entertainers but the fact that they also go on excursions and participate in games with the passengers makes their shows more special. There are also some pool games, trivia, golf putting, etc. that occur. These aren't on the level of the bumper cars and rock climbing some of the larger ships but rather a nice opportunity to fellowship with other passengers. We stayed in a mid-ship veranda suite for this cruise. While there were a few signs of the Wind being an older vessel, I was surprised at how well-kept she was. Also, I understand she is going to dry-dock soon so any rough edges should get taken care of. I have nothing bad to say about the suite except that I should have paid attention to the fact that the pool deck was right above us and the crew has move the chairs around late at night and early in the morning. Keep the noise in mind if you are a light sleeper. The linens were nice, the veranda was just large enough to relax on, and the bathroom was functional and clean. On the subject of our suite, our butler, Gideon, was AMAZING! From his politeness and efficiency to the thoughtful surprise snacks he and our cabin steward, Fritz, left us when our excursions made us miss teatime. What a wonderful pair they were! Honestly, we only chose this cruise because it fit the week we had off but I would go again. Some of the excursions were very good, some not as exciting but the weather was nice and it was a great way to see several islands that are difficult to get to by plane. In fact we had some of the islands to ourselves as the only ship or one of two in port on the first few days. We did hit a few islands on Sunday and Good Friday so that limited our excitement on those days but mostly just the shopping areas were closed. St Thomas: Most shopping and the mountaintop ride was closed as a local resident told us they only open for large numbers of tourists and we were alone at the dock that day. We did take a kayak, hike, and snorkel excursion. Not too relaxing but very pretty beach area. Dominica: Maybe my favorite as it is not yet too touristy and still retains the island character that has been lost in some places. It's very lush and the water is very dark and deep here so the views are stunning. They also have whales surrounding the island much of the time. Antigua: We took a tour around the island and did see some beautiful views but the buzzword here is "beaches". Some of the most beautiful beaches we saw and a nice catamaran ride was one of our favorite activities. St. Barts: Unfortunately, I didn't book an excursion as there weren't many offered and I read that you can just show up and enjoy it--no, actually I did and I've been trying to forget that one. It was the semi-submarine ride. I don't think anyone on our tour enjoyed that and it is severely claustrophobic so book that only if you aren't bothered by cramped, hot spaces and if you have young children that will be fascinated. I would recommend having a plan for St Barts. The area around the tender dock was very crowded and the little town quite busy. There is a beach that is supposed to be within walking distance but we were a little turned off by the initial crowds and chaos so we decided not to pursue this. I wish I had planned better as I'm sure the island is very pretty but it's just not easily accessible if you don't have a plan. There is shopping right by the dock but it is similar to what we have at home so nothing terribly unique or Caribbean. St Kitts: Enjoyed this island. There is a shopping area at the dock that reminds of an outlet mall but once you get past that, there is a lot of local flavor. There were several ships in port so more crowded that some of the others. We went ziplining and to the batik studio and enjoyed both. The people were nice and the island was pretty. St. Maartin: This was the most crowded as their were 5 ships in port and some were very large. We were so thankful to be on the Silver Wind. We had no lines on and off and no lines for our excursion. I actually took pictures of the half-mile long lines from the other ships. We did an art tour which was pleasant but the best part was that we drove around the entire island and got a great overview. This was more of a busy and populated island than the others with a very developed dock area and fewer easy-to-get-to beaches. Tortola: We were here on Good Friday so much was closed. It was a pretty island with lots of hills and winding roads. We took a history tour but our guide turned it into a sightseeing and beach break since most everything he was supposed to show us was closed. As another reviewer put it, this is not really a cruise for children. I did travel with my grade-school age daughter but I would guess that she is the exception rather than the rule for this type of travel. If your child needs to be entertained or doesn't like to sit quietly at dinner and eat adult-type food, then this environment might not work for them. The crew was lovely to my daughter but there just really isn't much for kids to do. That being said, it's exactly the reason some travelers will enjoy these ships. The atmosphere is quietly elegant and focuses more on relaxation and fellowship with other passengers than shows and recreation. For us, time to unwind and read a book with a glass of champagne that magically appears anytime we want it, is the definition of luxury. If you are looking to be entertained by robot bartenders, magicians, and diving shows, or if you want to stay up all night dancing, this probably isn't your cruise. There's nothing wrong with that but sometimes our expectations drive our experiences and you will be disappointed if you are looking for these types of activities. Also, this is a small ship which makes many things very convenient but does make the voyage a bit more difficult for some especially in choppy waters if you are prone to seasickness. Disembarking in Ft Lauderdale was easy and far too quick as it was like leaving a crew who felt like family for many of the passengers. Not to mention the great people who were our fellow travelers. From the deck crew to the hostesses and cruise director, and the captain himself, we enjoyed meeting each of the crew that made our trip so special. It wasn't perfect all the time, but it was good enough that we are looking forward to our next Silversea adventure. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2011
Getting There: We had the free air from Manchester but as we had a 4 hour wait at Chicago, waiting in immigration, we missed the connecting flight. Despite appealing to both the airport personnel and American Air Express ... Read More
Getting There: We had the free air from Manchester but as we had a 4 hour wait at Chicago, waiting in immigration, we missed the connecting flight. Despite appealing to both the airport personnel and American Air Express Connection people they basically told us "hard luck" you have to stay in line. So instead of at least trying to fast track those with onward documents they ignored us. We spent the first night in Miami instead of San Juan and we could only find a Days Inn at 1.00AM.However Silversea in the form of their out of hours reps. Travel Services swiftly arranged for us to be picked up from the Airport etc. Thank you Mona Lisa Torres, you were superb.Cruise After the bad start Silversea Whisper and their staff were brilliant and quickly banished any bad feelings we may have had and Elin(staff) helped refund the missed hotel.We did anticipate a good cruise but it exceeded our expectations. The food, the cabin, the staff were first class and we have been to the odd superb hotel in our time. Our butler Danni, who seems to have been mentioned before exemplified all that Silversea are striving for. He produced tea for my wife without being asked and attended to all our needs, sometimes before we knew we needed them! Both he and indeed all the staff we met seemed genuinely pleased to do anything we wanted to make the cruise special.Excursions Just to pick out the Segway on Antigua and the River tubing in Dominica as great fun but they need care as there is the possibility of an accident and whilst serious injury is unlikely cuts and abrasions did happen.Going home This was the only minor problem as friends had been told that they were going to a hotel before the flight but when we asked the concierge she said that we were going straight to the airport. In the event we all went to the hotel but some of us would have dressed differently if we had known.One point, as we were going to Manchester via Gatwick the duty free booze we bought in Barbados was confiscated when we went through security at Gatwick to board the Manchester flight because it was not sealed at Barbados. Worth noting.Finally thank you to Phil and Helen whom we met on the cruise and whose company we very much enjoyed. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2011
We were a little worried about Silver Sea after having a bad time on a cruise about 5 years ago (poor dining room service several times too many). This cruise was just the opposite: everything just went as well as anyone could wish. My ... Read More
We were a little worried about Silver Sea after having a bad time on a cruise about 5 years ago (poor dining room service several times too many). This cruise was just the opposite: everything just went as well as anyone could wish. My wife and I had a private dinner with the captain one night and 2 private dinners with the cruise director, Don Fluke. We found both to be very knowledgeable and enjoyable. (As often is the case, it helps to get to know someone before critiquing him/her).The food was good, the wine selections satisfactory (although my wife found and returned a bad bottle, the sommelier agreed), and I purchased a 3-bottle wine package for $303, which was fairly priced for the wines involved; the sommelier (Robin or Rose) made sure where we were eating each night so the wine could opened 1-2 hours prior to dinner.The room butler Dann was ever-present and every request was granted, and some we didn't even think about (like making sure our clothes were ready for formal night, and we had just a regular cabin).The internet was fairly priced: $85 for 250 minutes. We were charged $200 for 250 minutes on Oceania just the month before.My wife required a gluten-free menu. The gluten-free bread was a special recipe (which they gave us), her meals were thoughtful, and gluten-free vodka (yes, they are needed---wheat-free) was in our cabin and on the floors.We have signed up for the Prince Albert in Dec. We expect rough water for 2 days, but otherwise can only hope the over-all cruise is as good as this was. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2006
SILVERSEAS luxurious SILVER WHISPER: A long review of a short Caribbean cruise, with reflections on small ship cruising and suggestions for independent enjoyment of ports of call (St. Barts, Antigua, and Tortola) Lets be honest. One ... Read More
SILVERSEAS luxurious SILVER WHISPER: A long review of a short Caribbean cruise, with reflections on small ship cruising and suggestions for independent enjoyment of ports of call (St. Barts, Antigua, and Tortola) Lets be honest. One of the pleasures of cruising is the fantasy factor. You know what I mean -- for a few days each year one is made to feel rich and famous, from spacious suites with attentive service to haute cuisine with fine wine. Mainstream cruise lines offer a degree of luxury with their upper echelon suites and surcharged restaurants, but the kind of pervasive luxury and personal attention that I am talking about here is the raison detre of such cruise lines as Silversea, Regent (formerly Radisson) Seven Seas, Seabourn, and Crystal. These ships range from about 200 passengers on the older Seabourn yachts to about 1,000 passengers on the newest Crystal ship. Perhaps because the smaller luxury ships carry fewer passengers on less common itineraries, or perhaps because wealthy passengers are not as interested in cruise review web sites as the rest of us, there are relatively few recent reviews of ships like the Silver Whisper. BACKGROUND: What follows is a review of our experience on a four night March, 2006, Caribbean cruise on Silverseas all-suite ship Silver Whisper. I am semi-retired, in my late 50s, and not in the travel business. My wife and I have taken 17 cruises on a variety of cruise lines. When on vacation I prefer not dealing with lines or crowds, and tend to travel independently rather than with tour groups. I shall begin this review with a discussion of LUXURY CRUISING IN GENERAL; follow with a discussion of our SILVER WHISPER cruise in particular; then give suggestions for INDEPENDENT SIGHTSEEING at our ports of call (St. Barts, Antigua, and Tortola) with a gentle warning about an Antiguan incident; and conclude with a discussion of WHETHER LUXURY CRUISING IS WORTH THE PRICE. I shall HIGHLIGHT some topics in all capital letters, so that the reader can scroll down to any topic of particular interest. Before I begin, please understand the facts that: First, I have a value-oriented approach to travel. Those of you who have read my previous reviews (e.g. Star Princess in the Baltic, Constellation in the Southern Caribbean, Galaxy in the Eastern Mediterranean, Zuiderdam in the Eastern Caribbean, Tahitian Princess in Polynesia) are used to my personal viewpoint. Second, I am not an experienced luxury cruiser. Most of my previous 17 cruises have been on the cruise lines listed above. This may make me a less biased observer, or it may make me blind to some of the perks of luxury cruising. Third, this was a relatively short, heavily discounted itinerary from a U.S. port (San Juan), and as such may not be representative of the usual Silversea cruises, which average about ten days in duration and $5,000 per person for the least expensive cabins. Finally, cruise ships change with time, and what I say here may not apply when you read this. Also, I apologize for any errors and omissions I have made, and suggest you supplement this review with other information from other reviewers. That being said, lets begin the review with the bottom line. THE BOTTOM LINE: This was an enjoyable cruise on a highly regarded small cruise ship calling at three of the less crowded Caribbean ports. PROS: The spacious cabins with double bathrooms (all cabins are outsides, most with balconies); the understated elegance of the extensive public areas; the absence of noise and crowds; the absence of sales pitches (no art auctions, no photographers, no bingo games); the talented musicians and entertainers (who were presented at reasonable decibel levels); the well traveled, well educated, and articulate passengers; and the inclusive pricing (drinks and gratuities). CONS: Minor lapses in service; minor lapses in food preparation; inadequate exercise facilities; excessive off-line and internet computer fees; and a tendency of the ship to roll in good weather during mild to moderate seas. SILVERSEA BACKGROUND: Silversea is a privately owned Italian cruise line with four luxury ships. The officers are predominantly Italian, and the staff is international. The Silver CLOUD and Silver WIND were built in 1994/5 for 295 passengers each. The Silver SHADOW and Silver WHISPER were built in 2000/1 for 382 passengers each. All cabins are outsides, and most have balconies. Silversea prefers to call them suites rather than cabins, although most are a single room with a dividing curtain between the sitting and sleeping areas. Silver SHADOWS and Silver WHISPERS cabin size (345/287 square feet with/without balcony), space ratio (74 tons per passenger), and staff-to-passenger ratio (1.3 to 1) are almost twice those of mainstream cruise ships, and are significantly better than most other cruise ships in the luxury category. SILVERSEA CRUISE PRICES: How much does a luxury cruise cost? As an exercise to determine how much Silver Whisper cruises cost, I searched the internet for the lowest net per diem for various itineraries in 2006, after any available discounts but before taxes and port fees. With a few exceptions the prices ranged from about $400 to $700 per person per day (pppd) for the least expensive (outside but no balcony) cabins. The lower amount was for itineraries such as Asia, and the higher amount was for itineraries such as northern Europe. A balcony adds significantly to these prices, the price depending on whether the balcony cabin is located forward or mid-ship. The largest (named) suites are much more expensive than this. Repositioning cruises are less expensive, beginning around $300 pppd. SILVERSEA ITINERARIES: Like most luxury cruise lines, Silversea offers itineraries that span the globe, sometimes calling at ports not readily accessible to larger cruise ships. Most itineraries range from 7 to 14 days, but Silversea adds the option of designing your own cruise itinerary, allowing you to embark and disembark at any of the ships ports of call around the world, as long as space is available on the segments you want. The longer itineraries mean that the high per diems will have an even greater impact on your cruise cost. This is offset to some extent by the fact that all drinks and gratuities are included in the price, although one may wish to select surcharged premium wines and liquors or additionally tip staff as a matter of personal preference. SOME SILVERSEA OPTIONS: Adding to the price of the cruise are optional pre- and post-cruise hotel programs, some of which include sightseeing. Many of these are three days long and average about $300 pppd for hotel and transfers. Some, such as their English manor stays, may range up to $1,500 pppd. In addition, combined hotel and air programs, which include economy airfare and one night deluxe hotel stay prior to the cruise, are available through Silversea. Business class upgrades, home airport transfers, luggage pre-shipment, and cancellation insurance are among additional options. SPECIAL VALUES: Bargain prices are sometimes available in cases when a cruise is poorly subscribed, as one passenger reported on a war-time Middle Eastern itinerary and another on a last minute Alaskan itinerary, although neither listed the price or per diem in his review. Because of a heavily discounted price and a desire to sample the Silversea experience before committing several thousand dollars to a longer cruise, we selected one of four short (four night, three day) back-to-back cruises round trip out of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Although the discounted per diem (actually per nocem on a short cruise such as this) started out higher, I found a price of $250 pppd on these itineraries, and our cruise agent (Pavlus Travel) kindly included taxes and port fees in that price. We jumped at this opportunity, even though the cruise included only three ports for our $1,000 pp cruise fare, and the least expensive (independent) airfare from our regional airport added another $700. JUSTIFYING THE COST OF A LUXURY CRUISE: This leads to rationalization #1. If a luxury cruise is priced per diem at double what one would pay on a mainstream cruise, it is a good value, since the per passenger space and staffing ratios are nearly double those of mainstream cruise ships. Unfortunately, the usual per diem for luxury cruises is closer to three or four times what most of us are used to paying for a mainstream cruise. Then there is rationalization #2, which is the result of new pricing policies that some mainstream cruise lines have adopted in the last few years. Some mainstream cruise lines have curtailed discounting on cruise fares (you probably already know which cruise lines, one of which used to be our favorite). This leads to the frustrating message call our 800 number for the cruise price when one tries to plan a cruise vacation on the internet. Because of this opaque pricing and anti-discount policy, we find ourselves cruising less often, and as a result have that much more money to spend on a non-mainstream cruise experience. Finally there is rationalization #3. If you need to justify a luxury cruise, then you probably cant afford it. If luxury cruise prices are a significant concern to your conscience, if not your wallet, you probably arent going to enjoy spending that much money on self-indulgence. HIDDEN BENEFITS OF A LUXURY CRUISE: In talking with our fellow WHISPER passengers about why they selected a luxury cruise, each one mentioned the lack of crowds on the ship and in port. When a small ship is docked, one can generally walk off and back on without waiting in line. Unfortunately, this benefit is nullified when tenders are used, since these can add significantly to disembarkation times at popular cruise ports. The decision to tender passengers may be based on security or dock availability issues, but may also be based on financial issues as docking fees get more expensive. Personally, I think all cruise lines should include information whether the ship plans to be docked or tendered at each port of call in their itineraries, just as they disclose their port fees and taxes. This would help one choose among otherwise similar itineraries, and also would help the disabled make informed cruise choices. A significant theoretical benefit of small cruise ships involves HEALTH and SAFETY ISSUES. In an age of pandemics, why would one choose a ship with thousands of passengers when much smaller ships are available? Pandemics begin with an index case and spread rapidly in areas of high population density. It seems logical that an index case is more likely to appear, and the spread to be more rapid, on a mega-ship with thousands of passengers. Very few cruise ships, large or small, put enough emphasis on passenger hygiene, including passenger hand-wash options and gel dispensers near all dining and beverage areas, especially self-service buffets. You might want to take along your own disinfectant towelettes for use on the ship and on shore. In addition, if there is a fire or other disaster requiring passenger evacuation or re-routing, it seems logical that this is much more easily done on a small ship. Do not get me wrong, the mega-ships are just as concerned about passenger safety as the small ships are, but beyond a certain point the huge number of passengers and crew on some ships makes the logistics of responding to disasters exponentially more difficult. MEGA-MEGA-SHIPS: This brings me to the latest development in the cruise industry. Why in the world are we seeing plans for ships carrying 5,000 plus passengers and 3,000 plus crew members when such ships will swamp many cruise port facilities and will carry all of the increased risks mentioned above? Such enormous ships are not nimble enough to alter itineraries easily, and if one of them is out of commission due to fire, health hazard, or other cause, the financial loss to the cruise line and the ill-will generated among the passengers will be staggering. My impression is that these mega-mega-ships are being built to satisfy a perceived public desire for increased choices in shipboard activities and dining options, which is now being taken to bizarre extremes. Cruise ships are being bloated into floating theme parks. Why do I mention these issues in a luxury cruise ship review? It is with the hope that mainstream cruise lines will learn from the automobile and other industries that smaller and better quality products will ultimately prevail over behemoths. I hope that mainstream cruise lines will re-think their options and will start building small cruise ships with reasonable cruise prices, so that the public has additional choices in the small ship arena. Time to get off the soapbox and get on with the REVIEW of our SILVER WHISPER cruise. Silversea PRE-CRUISE documents are similar to those of other cruise lines, with options including pillow preference, bed configuration, and special dietary needs. Although alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are included in the cruise fare, there was no option for us to indicate personal preferences for our mini-bar. One can enter ones cruise preferences in Silverseas web site, but the site was not working properly when I tried it. Their webmaster told me that they were upgrading the site, and presumably it is functional now. We simply faxed our pre-cruise information forms. Those interested in the alternate dining at La Terrazza or Le Champagne restaurants (see dining options below) should inquire about the possibility of pre-cruise reservations (all of the La Terrezza nights were full and waitlisted by the time we boarded). Information about shore excursions and spa treatments is on the web site, and one might want to pre-reserve those also, although I heard no problems about booking them onboard. Silversea cruise documents arrive in a silver colored box, and include two black leatherette document cases and two black leather luggage tags with a metal Silversea logo (a stylized S that looks a bit like a seahorse). We used neither, but they make nice souvenirs. The most useful tags we ever received from a cruise line had our names, membership numbers, and an 800- number to call if the baggage was found. That luggage locator tag has remained on our bags ever since. Other cruise lines should consider a similar service. EMBARKATION: We generally find it less expensive and more flexible to make our own air and transfer arrangements. Our flight touched down at San Juans airport (SJU) at 4:30pm on embarkation day. Since we travel without checked bags, just a regulation carry-on each (see my previous reviews for the secret to traveling light), we were at the cruise dock ready to board the ship at 5:00pm. No cruise transfers are necessary in San Juan since it has an excellent and safe taxi system for tourists. The airport and the cruise docks have taxi dispatchers who will write down your destination and the appropriate taxi fare, giving a copy to you and to your driver. That way there is no problem with overcharges or unwanted city tours. Look for the dispatchers booths curbside at both locations. The cab fare for two between the airport and Old San Juan, where most cruise ships dock, is $19 (plus $1 for our two bags). Many of the cabs are mini-vans, which can hold several people and extensive luggage. GREETERS: One of the negatives of cruising on a small ship is that there may be no greeter at the airport to answer questions and confirm the ships location. The WHISPER was docked at a different pier than stated in our pre-cruise documents, and Silversea did not send us an e-mail or (apparently) notify our agent of the change. Fortunately the two piers were nearby, and our taxi driver found the correct one. It would be nice if all cruise lines used an e-mail alert system similar to that of airlines. Silversea recommends embarking between 3 and 5pm. Early boarding (including lunch onboard) is available for a $100 per person surcharge if pre-reserved, but it is gratis to Venetian Society members (repeat Silversea cruisers) who have completed more than 250 Silversea cruise days. Similar late disembarkation is available in some ports, but not U.S. ports, which require disembarkation of all passengers once a ship clears immigration. LINES: The WHISPER was docked alongside a much larger mainstream cruise ship that was making a port call at San Juan. Unfortunately there was a long line of returning passengers from that ship stretched along the sidewalk, waiting to clear security. There was no Silversea representative curbside to allow us direct entry to our own ship, so we waited in line along with the other ships passengers. The curbside delay was only 15 minutes. As we waited in line I realized that some of the advantages of small ship cruising disappear as mega-ships proliferate and make cruise ports more crowded. In any case, we met some enjoyable fellow travelers as we waited. We felt a little smug, not because we were boarding the WHISPER instead of the neighboring mega-ship, but because our entire cruise luggage was smaller than some of the shopping bags waiting in line with us. (More about compulsive shopping when we land in St. Barts.) WELCOME ABOARD: As I look back on our welcome aboard the WHISPER, what I remember most is that there was no special welcome aboard. We cleared security and were directed to the reception desk, where we turned in our cruise tickets, were photographed, received our key cards, and that was it. One must imprint ones credit card (or arrange other payment for ones shipboard account), but for some reason the reception desk did not do this at embarkation. We received a notice later in the cruise to do this, but think it would have been more efficient to handle it at the outset as other cruise lines do. We had imagined that a ships officer or hotel manager would greet us and a waiter would offer us a glass of champagne at embarkation, but there were none. There was a tray of partially filled champagne flutes on the registration desk, but since the levels in the glasses varied, we assumed that these had been sipped and were waiting to be cleared. There were several chambermaids in line near the registration desk, and one of them assisted us with our hand carries and led us to our cabin, where a bottle of Pommery brut champagne on ice was waiting for us. The champagne was a great anodyne after our three long flights that day. FIRST IMPRESSIONS are important, and Silversea certainly missed an opportunity to impress from the outset. Embarkation on our other cruises has ranged from elegant to disorganized. This seems to vary more by individual ship than by cruise line (each line has had its hits and misses). To be fair to the WHISPER, we were 15 minutes later than the recommended boarding time due to the curbside line, and the boat drill began 15 minutes after our embarkation, so their staff was busy. ROOM SERVICE: Since our flights had no food service, we were hungry for a snack with the champagne. One of the negatives about a small cruise ship is that there are gaps in food service. After our boat drill there was no food venue open until dinnertime and the mini-bar had no snacks, so we called room service. Unfortunately the room service button on our phone responded that this service is not currently available. Another room service number we found in our cabin directory responded with a persons name and a please leave a message answer machine. We never needed room service after that and do not know how efficient it is. We had packed Girl Scout cookies for just such an occasion, and had a great time celebrating the start of our cruise by drinking the champagne and raising toasts to the little scout who had sold us the cookies the day before. The secret to a happy vacation is to be happy. THE DECK PLAN of the WHISPER is quite logical, with cabins located forward and public areas located aft on all decks except deck 10, where the observation lounge and spa are forward. This deck plan makes it easy to find almost any venue quickly, without that lost-in-a-maze feeling one sometimes has during the first few days on larger ships. The one downside of the deck plan is that there is only one small elevator forward in the cabin areas, but there are four elevators aft in the public areas. Since there is no service elevator for room service or other crew members, the one forward elevator is often used by the crew. It makes for some snug but friendly trips among enormous breakfast and dinner trays. We really appreciated how hard the crew works, and we told them so when we rode with them on the elevator. THE CREW: That brings up the issue of how some passengers treat crew members. Every cruise we have been on has had a few toxic passengers who make things difficult for the crew. Being demanding is especially tempting on a luxury cruise ship that advertises its premiere service. We have found that crew members on all cruise ships tend to be interesting, intelligent, and often highly educated people who by chance were born in a third world or war-torn country, and therefore do not have the job opportunities that we as Americans were born to. We do not impose a false camaraderie on them as is done on some cruise lines, but we do try to let them know that we appreciate that they are individuals and not just service employees. I think that most cruise passengers do the same, and the thought is appreciated. CABIN LOCATION: Our cabin was one of the Vista Suites, which have a window rather than balcony. These are the least expensive accommodations and account for approximately 20% of the cabins (all cabins are outsides, and 80% have balconies). Vista Suites are clustered on deck 4 forward, and abut the dining room bulkhead. That means that Vista passengers must go up one or more decks to reach any of the public areas, including an up and then down trip to the main restaurant entrance on deck 4 aft. Being on deck 4 can be an advantage in rough weather (it is nearest the ships center of gravity), especially since the ship tended to roll in good weather with mild to moderate seas. This certainly is not a problem on the usual Caribbean cruise, but may be a concern when crossing the North Atlantic or other rough seas. Several passengers we met were wearing accu-pressure wristbands for motion sickness, and these passengers were all repeat (Venetian Society) cruisers. Deck 4 is also nearest the sewage treatment area, and we noticed a faint odor of sewage several times as we approached our hallway. This odor was never a problem. It was not apparent in the public areas, just in the deck 4 stairwell and hallway, and it did not seep into our cabin at any time. CABIN AMENITIES: The WHISPERS cabins are almost double the size of the average cabins on mainstream cruise ships. The cabin configuration is standard, with the bathroom and closet along the entry hall, then the sleeping area, and then the sitting/dining area adjacent to the window or balcony. One does not notice the extra floor space so much in the sleeping and sitting areas, but it is very apparent in the bathroom, which allows two to bathe and dress for dinner at the same time. The tub and shower are separate, and there are two sinks (and double bath amenities) at the granite counter. We did appreciate the quality of the cabins accoutrements. The duvet was sparkling white and light as air, the towels were textured and double thick, and the robes were heavyweight terry. A table converter (for room service dinners) was stowed in the closet but we never needed it. The TV had a DVD player, but I cannot imagine why anyone would use it when there are interesting ports of call, although it may help pass time when there are back-to-back days at sea. Our minibar was stocked with beer, mixers, and fruit juice. In addition to the champagne bottle waiting on our arrival, we were given a bottle of red wine during the cruise. We never opened it and left it for the next passengers. We did not request extra alcohol for the minibar, but I am certain many passengers do. We would have preferred having some colas and champagne splits, but we never asked for them (or were asked our preferences). We simply went to the nearest bar each evening for our pre-dinner drink. No problem. ALCOHOL: This brings us to the issue of free (included and essentially unlimited) alcoholic beverages. I have mixed feelings about this. Although we did not see any noisy drunken behavior, we did see a few quiet drunks, just as on any other cruise. Human nature leads people to over-indulge when drinks are all-inclusive. Those who drink reasonably end up subsidizing those who drink excessively -- restraint always pays for excess, whether it is health insurance, car insurance, or any other form of subsidy. Some cruise lines and all-inclusive resorts limit included (its never free) alcohol to wine or beer with meals, and this seems a reasonable compromise. I am told, however, that this is unpopular and that other semi-inclusive cruise ships are going fully inclusive soon. At some point this will become a safety issue, as one reads more and more about cruise passengers acting foolishly and even disappearing overboard. When careless or drunken behavior becomes a threat to passenger safety, the cruise lines will be forced to reconsider their alcohol policies. We will see how this develops with time and media exposure. STEWARDS: Our cabin was maintained by two chambermaids, one from Iceland and one from India. Although from opposite ends of the earth, one a fair beauty and the other a dark beauty, they made a great team and did a fine job keeping our cabin ship-shape. We rarely saw them, but when we wanted something (like additional personalized stationery) we simply left a note and they responded efficiently. THE PUBLIC AREAS ARE SUBTLY DECORATED in neutral colors, mainly off-white with pale blue, gray, or beige accents. There is no glitzy atrium or hey-look-at-me type dEcor. Everything is elegant in an understated way. The art collection is not extensive, but features pleasant antiquarian prints and occasional ethnic art works from various ports around the world. The one must-see art collection is the Florentine style mosaics in the bar on deck 5. These interpret in stone various famous prints by Gustav Klimt  the images are familiar and the craftsmanship is impressive. A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS: Rather than my describing each of the public areas around the ship, I suggest you log on to one of the many web sites featuring Silversea photos taken by previous cruisers. Just google Silversea Silver Whisper reviews and follow the trail. The photos are beautiful, far better than any of my own. The ship is very handsome inside and out. SPACE RATIO: The excellent space ratio is apparent throughout the ship. No public area ever seemed crowded, although the alternative dining rooms and the show lounge were sometimes full. The exception was the tiny gym, which seemed cramped even when no one else was there. The ship was so quiet compared to our previous cruises that we sometimes wondered where everybody was. There were no more than a handful of cruisers in the library, the lounges, or the shops when we were there. The privacy and sense of calm were very impressive. THE ENTERTAINMENT was surprisingly enjoyable, especially for such a small ship. Although there were no enrichment lectures or formal concerts on this itinerary, the musicians, vocalists, and dancers were all very talented. A VOCALIST played piano and sang every evening in the deck 5 bar. He has a fine voice and great sense of style. Ingeniously, he used his laptop screen instead of sheet music. A PIANO TRIO provided dance music every evening in the deck 8 Panorama lounge. They knew all the standards, took requests, and even did vocals on some of their numbers. My wife and I thought that the dance floor would be too crowded to use on a cruise like this, but we found only a handful of passengers in the lounge with us, and they listened at the bar but did not dance. The JEAN RYAN COMPANY of six dancers and two vocalists provided entertainment in the show lounge every evening after dinner. Their productions ranged from an evening of Broadway show tunes to a Cirque du Soleil style performance that combined avant-garde music with acrobatic dancing. The production values matched any that we have seen while cruising, and the bonus is that this is the first and only cruise production company we have encountered that does not over-amplify its music and vocals. I usually have to leave the cruise ship theater after a few minutes of ear-blasting pain, but on this cruise I was able to enjoy each production from start to finish. Kudos to the man in the sound booth (and to the absence of loud music around the swimming pool)! FELLOW PASSENGERS on this cruise were not what we expected. The average age was around 60, but ranged from the 30s to 80s. The average BMI was around thirty, but ranged a good deal higher (thin and rich do not always go together). We expected the dress to range from Armani to Zegna, and were worried that our three outfits (formal, informal, and casual) would not be sufficient, even on a short cruise. Mirabile dictu, the average dress during the day was shorts and T-shirts. Dress during the evening was surprisingly informal. In fact, although everyone was presentable, people made less effort to dress well on this cruise than we were used to seeing on previous Holland, Celebrity, or Princess cruises. Perhaps it was just this particular short cruise. Sartorial habits aside, everyone we were seated with when dining on this cruise proved to be well traveled, highly articulate, and very entertaining. On some cruises my wife and I prefer to dine at a table for two, but on this cruise we always opted to join a group because of the enjoyable company. Perhaps the maitre d has ESP -- he always seemed to look into ones eyes, think for a moment, and then say Hmmm, yes, I think I have the perfect table for you. He was right every time. DINING can be a touchy subject because it is so subjective. As I mentioned earlier, we were never able to sample the regional Italian cuisine in LA TERRAZZA restaurant because this was fully booked before we ever boarded the ship. We also opted not to try the multi-course dinners and wine tastings in LE CHAMPAGNE dining room. These had a nominal fee of $150 pp to cover the cost of the premium wines. Although I enjoy a good wine, I cannot detect the subtleties of a great wine, so it would have been a wasted evening for me. That leaves the deck 7 buffet and the deck 4 main restaurant. The BUFFET is very enjoyable at breakfast. Since we did not have a balcony, we preferred to eat breakfast on the veranda outside the buffet rather than have room service. The buffet selections are varied, well prepared, and nicely presented. The breakfast buffet is very comparable to those found on mainstream cruise ships, but without the lines and crowds. That in itself makes the experience pleasurable. The lunch buffet parallels the menu in the main restaurant. As a matter of portion control and made-to-order freshness, we preferred the main restaurant for lunch. THE MAIN RESTAURANT: The food is good to excellent, similar in quality to the good food found in the main dining rooms of Celebrity, Holland, or Princess ships to the excellent food found in the surcharged restaurants on those same ships. We experienced a few minor lapses in service on the WHISPER. One appetizer and two drink orders were forgotten; often my water glass was not refilled when empty (the wine service was more reliable but the water was more important after a long day in the sun); and sometimes there were unusually long intervals between courses. A few dining quirks are native to Silversea. On our first night we ordered leg of lamb. The meat came without vegetables or potatoes, which were listed on the menu but have to be separately ordered to appear with the main course. A sorbet is always listed between the salad and the main courses, but this too must be ordered since it is not served automatically. The drinking water is served in beautiful grand cru stemware which magnifies the chemical odor of water just as it does the aroma of good wine. Requesting bottled water with the meal should be a simple task, but it almost always elicited a sour expression from the waiter, and the request was never carried out through the entire meal. Such minor lapses made me appreciate the service at traditional dining venues found on mainstream cruise ships. When the waiter and his assistant see you every evening, they get to know your preferences and their service improves accordingly. Similar service is probably available to Venetian Society members on longer cruises. The dining room was never crowded on our cruise. In fact the quietness of the main dining room was a pleasure, and contrasted sharply with the noisy, multi-tiered dining rooms on larger ships. THE CUISINE: The WHISPERS main restaurant provides a cuisine that matches, and sometimes exceeds, the fine dining we have experienced on other ships. Cruise lines know that dinner is the highlight of the day for most passengers, and they allocate their resources accordingly. Even mainstream cruise lines are now extremely successful at providing memorable dining, and the margin between cuisine on the WHISPER and that on other ships is very narrow. The menu has somewhat greater choice than on some other ships, perhaps because most of its cruises are longer than one week, and most of its passengers are repeat cruisers. The WHISPER adds the extra option of ordering specialty items not listed on the menu (if ingredients are available). On a short cruise such as ours this was not necessary, but for a long round-the-world cruise this would be a lifesaver. Some passengers on our cruise apparently tried to order exotic dishes but were unsuccessful, which in my opinion was just as well, since there was adequate choice to be happy for four evenings. We did encounter a few minor lapses in food preparation and a few menu choices that seemed a bit odd. The fish courses were generally cooked to perfection, although my lobster and salmon were each somewhat overcooked on one occasion. This is a matter of chance. The lobster I was served was rubbery and adherent to the shell. I simply left it uneaten and instead treated myself to an extra dessert at the end of the meal. Another person at our table that evening found his lobster so excellent that he ordered a second portion, which turned out as tough as mine, so he left his second portion uneaten. One feels bad about ordering and then not eating food, but everyone was discreet about it. The fish courses are served with the traditional fish knives and forks. Ironically, the fish courses sometimes were matched with al dente vegetables that were so crisp that one could not cut them with the fish knife or spear them with the fish fork -- a great excuse if you prefer not to eat your vegetables. Our lamb chops were ordered rare and came seared on the outside but translucent red on the inside. The unique taste of lamb was undetectable. Medium rare should get you the pink to red doneness that you want. One appetizer was made with taco shells straight off the grocery shelf  unfortunately they were stale and tough. The filling was excellent though. Salads were sometimes overdressed and low fat dressings were not featured  the easy solution is to request the dressing on the side. One dessert was a creamy chocolate mousse that had clear gelatin cubes inside  a strange combination. Another dessert was a banana concoction constructed on a translucent gelatinous base  flavorful but strange in appearance and texture. These issues are minor, and only serve to reinforce the old saying de gustibus non disputandem est  there is no arguing matters of taste. You will have a very enjoyable time in the WHISPERS main restaurant, and if you plan far enough ahead, you may be able to sample their alternative dining. Before we leave the ship for a discussion of the ports of call, let me warn you about the EXCESSIVE COMPUTER AND INTERNET FEES. Formerly there was a charge only for uploading or downloading data from the internet, and the resulting fee was reasonable. Now there is a US $.75 per minute fee from the first keystroke, whether working off-line or on the net. When I tried to use their system, I generated a charge of US $4.50 before even logging onto the net to access my e-mail. The on screen meter which tracks these charges is not that clear, nor is the log-off window. Fortunately a shipboard IT assistant alerted me to the charge and I logged off with her help. When I politely expressed my dismay to the reception desk, they just as politely removed the charge from my account. I never did use the net on the entire cruise. Some passengers brought their laptops and used the ships wireless capability for e-mails and internet phone calls. I am uncertain whether there is a charge attached to this service. Some passengers complained that the net connection is slow, so the charges can be daunting. PORTS OF CALL ON YOUR OWN: That brings us to the other reason (after the food) that we enjoy cruising  the ports of call. Our cruise left from San Juan and was scheduled to call at Virgin Gorda, then Antigua, then Tortola, then return to San Juan. ST. BARTS: Because of the ocean surge at Virgin Gorda, the tenders were considered unsafe and our first port of call was cancelled. After some communication with the Silversea head office, our master decided to spend the first day motoring to St. Barts instead, where the anchorage is more protected. Essentially we had an unscheduled day at sea, anchoring at St. Barts in the late afternoon, with shore tenders available from 4-11pm. Having never previously called at St. Barts, which is reputed to be one of the most wealthy and stylish islands in the Caribbean, we were interested in seeing as much as we could in the two hours of daylight we had left. Fortunately we reported to the tender gangway early, because our late arrival in port meant that everyone was eager to disembark and the wait was a bit longer than usual. Meeting the tenders onshore in Gustavia were taxi (mini-van) drivers willing to provide a one hour island tour for US$12 per person (for a minimum of six people or $72). There were about 60 passengers on our tender, and not a single one was interested in seeing the island. They all headed directly to the main shopping street, which is lined with enough designer boutiques to satisfy any affluent Parisian. It was like watching a zombie movie, but the zombies were lusting after designer fashions instead of human flesh. It seemed an apt commentary on our consumer society, where even those who have everything seem to spend their vacations searching for more. In any case, since daylight was limited we did not wait for the next tender to provide more possible tour participants. Instead we walked along the waterfront clockwise past the small Anglican church and then over a small rise to nearby Shell Beach (Plage de Grands Galets). The route is marked or one can ask a local person. It is a pleasant ten minute walk from the tender port. What added to the pleasure of the walk was a line of the largest and most elegant sailboats we have ever encountered. Apparently a regatta was scheduled to start in a few days, and luxury sailboats ranging from about 40 to 60 meters in length were lined up at the dock. One could smell the affluence, even though the crew members we spoke with (perhaps an occasional owner hidden among them) were quite personable. Each boat had a minimum crew of ten, and what we saw of the rigging and the interiors was breathtaking. Shell Beach is quite pleasant, with rough rather than fine sand (as the name implies). The near end has a beach bar and restaurant that is convenient for those spending several hours at the beach, but we preferred to wade around the rocks to the far end of the beach for more privacy. We had a wonderful sunset swim and saw no one else from the SILVER WHISPER on the beach. There were a few yacht owners swimming laps parallel to the shore, with their crew following them back and forth in zodiacs for safety. As we were passing the Anglican church on our way back to the tender port we heard singing and stepped inside. The church choir was practicing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handels Messiah for their upcoming Easter service. We sat for a while and enjoyed their amateur but joyous rendition. It was dark by the time we made it back to the tender port, feeling refreshed and happy that we had a chance to enjoy our brief stay on St. Barts. ANTIGUA: The SILVER WHISPER docked at the cruise pier in St. Johns and was dwarfed by an adjacent RCL cruise ship. Exiting the cruise pier leads one through a gauntlet of tourist shops, tour operators, and taxi drivers. The natural tendency of cruise passengers is to walk briskly through this gauntlet, ignoring the various people offering goods and services. Instead of ignoring them, at least acknowledge our shared humanity by looking at them directly and thanking them politely when declining their offers. Remember that these people own the island and we are their guests. In our 17 cruises we have never opted for a tour organized by the ship. We prefer to explore on our own, using xeroxed sections of guidebooks we purchased or obtained from our local library. On Antigua we enjoy the inexpensive public transportation. Official minibuses leave frequently from the west side and east side bus stations, covering almost any destination (or beach) on the west or east side of the island respectively. From the cruise pier, the west side bus station is three blocks inland to Market St., then several blocks south to the market (which is located behind the large white statue and is worth a quick visit in itself). The east side bus station should be (we have not used it for a few years) one block north to High St., then several blocks inland to the park. Any local can direct you. From the west side bus station we usually take the bus south to Jolly Beach (US $1.50 pp). It is the end of the line (about 15-20 minutes by bus) and has frequent service because many locals work in the shops and resorts there. A dispatcher at the bus station will guide you to the correct bus. When using the local minibus, it is customary to greet other passengers as one boards, and to move as needed for passengers to enter or leave. We have found our fellow passengers to be very helpful in answering questions or pointing out destinations. At the end of the Jolly Beach bus line, follow the signs to the gravel road public access west and south around the gate-guarded resorts to the south end of the beach. Walk north along the beach past the various resorts (they get a little more upscale as one walks north) until you find the perfect patch of sunshine (or shade) for your beach towel. Jolly Beach is travel poster perfect, and typical water activity rentals are available. On this visit, for the first time during any of our many visits to the Caribbean, we came across a little attitude. We had put our beach towels on the sand in a patch of shade under a thatch roof on the beach (all of which is public land). An hour later a hotel security guard chased us off  apparently a guest felt that the shady spot was his because he had placed a beach chair there several hours earlier. Cruise ship pool pigs leave a book or T-shirt on the chaises longues early to reserve them for use later in the day, a practice we dislike and think should be eliminated. This little beach incident was similar but took us by surprise. Generally the public access to, and public use of, beaches is respected. If you prefer, minibuses to Dickenson Beach head north from the west side bus station, but we have not gone there. From the east side bus station buses head southeast across the island to English Harbour (Nelsons Dockyard historic district). Shirley Heights is not far away from there, and one might consider exploring that too. If I recall correctly, there is a nice, very private beach over a small hill just a short walk away from Nelsons Dockyard. Any local can direct you (ask at the nearby store). Last time we were there, an enormous yacht was anchored nearby, and a Duchess of Windsor type surrounded by several of her stalwart sailing crew motored ashore and shared the beach with us. Riding local minibuses can be as exciting as watching an Imax movie. On this trip our driver made change for passengers, smoked a cigarette, spoke on his cell phone, shifted gears, and turned the steering wheel, all while driving on the left and dodging pedestrians (which is the reason we do not rent cars in the Caribbean). As in an Imax film, if you get frightened during the drive, just close your eyes. In the afternoon, as the day cools, consider a walk though the town of St. Johns. It is a somewhat gritty town, but the people are polite and very friendly. There is a large old Anglican church on the hill several blocks east and north of the cruise pier. When we were there this time, the funeral of a prominent citizen was taking place. The parishioners were beautifully dressed, and the sound of their 500 voices singing traditional hymns in harmony echoed off the beamed ceiling and penetrated to the heart. It was a most moving experience. TORTOLA: The SILVER WHISPER was scheduled to tender into Road Town, but since we were the only ship in port, we docked instead. Tortola is very much like St. Thomas but more affluent and less crowded. One of the nicest local beaches is Cane Garden Bay, which resembles Magens Bay on St. Thomas but has no fee and is less private. Just east of Cane Garden Bay is Brewers Bay, which is said to provide good snorkeling. Taxis wait at the pier and will take you north over the spine of the island to the beaches, with fantastic views in all directions along the way, for about US $6 pp each way. Alternately, an open taxi (jitney style with sun protection) waits at the pier and offers a 3 hour round island tour, again with fantastic views of neighboring islands and photo stops along the way, plus an hour swim at Cane Garden Bay, all for US $20 pp. The drivers name on this visit was Larry, and I think he meets each cruise ship. If not, the local tourist board representative or taxi dispatcher who are at the pier should be able to arrange it for you. As Caribbean islands become more crowded, especially when more than one ship is in port, my wife and I prefer to escape to some of the nearby islands for a beach day in solitude. In this case, one can take the private ferry to nearby Peter Island (still owned by the Amway Corp. I believe) for US $15 round trip. This is a very quiet, very upscale island resort that allows day visitors but requests that they use the far east end of Deadmans Beach. The near end is reserved for resort guests. The far east end of the beach is shared with the yachters whose boats are anchored offshore. A restaurant is available in the middle of the beach, and we were told it takes credit cards. A taxi will take you from the cruise pier to the Peter Island ferry pier (caution, there are several ferry piers) for US $4 pp each way. Notify the ferry captain on your return that you need a taxi, and he should be able to radio ahead. As I write this, outbound ferries leave Road Town at 0830, 1000, 1200, 1400, 1530. Return ferries leave Peter Island at 0900, 1130, 1330, 1430, 1630, 1800 and 1930. Verify the schedules with the tourist office representative (or on the net) to make certain you do not miss your boat! Other ferry services run to neighboring islands, but these are farther away and less practical for a day escape. END OF CRUISE DISEMBARKATION: This follows the usual drill and is handled efficiently. Color coded baggage tags are distributed the day before disembarkation. The color code determines the disembarkation priority, and is based on a questionnaire distributed during the cruise. Baggage is left in the hallways the last night of the cruise, and is reclaimed and cleared through customs dockside by the passengers as they disembark the next morning. Passports are held by the cruise ship for the duration of the cruise and are returned to the passengers (in order by luggage tag color code) between 0700 and 0800 on the day of disembarkation. U.S. immigration inspection generally goes quickly, but every passenger must be cleared by immigration before any passenger is allowed off the ship. Disembarkation begins around 0900 and is complete by 1000. As Silversea recommends, do not book a return flight much before noon, since one must taxi to the airport, check in, and go through security inspections there too. As we disembarked, the gangway was relatively steep. Without being asked, a WHISPER crew member graciously took my wifes roll-aboard down the gangway to the dock for her. As we left the ship we felt truly pampered. It is time to bring our cruise and this review to a conclusion. In the end, WHAT DOES ONE GET FOR THE EXTRA COST OF A LUXURY CRUISE? Judging from our experience described above, one can expect more space, fewer crowds, and better itineraries. Dont expect better food or better service than on some mainstream cruise lines  over the last few years their food and service have improved to match what we experienced on the Silver Whisper. IS A LUXURY CRUISE WORTH THE EXTRA COST? Yes and no. The choice in cruise ships is very much like the choice in new automobiles  there is one for every taste and budget. Some people insist that a Lexus or a Cadillac is the only way to travel. Others insist that a Ford or Toyota is the logical choice. The bottom line is that there is no single automobile (or cruise line) that will make everyone happy, but there is at least one automobile (or cruise line) that will make each one of us happy. TO END ON A PERSONAL NOTE, last year for the first time I bought identical Honda Accords for myself and my wife, together less than the cost of one Mercedes. The Hondas are safe, reliable, economical cars that are a delight to drive. They have given us as much pleasure as our Mercedes ever did. I guess that says it all. Happy cruising! efschlenk at hotmail dot com. Read Less
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