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9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
Starting several weeks prior to departure, we had expectantly scanned reviews for confirmation that we made the right choice of cruises. Rest assured - you can sail with complete confidence in excellence of service with this cruise line. ... Read More
Starting several weeks prior to departure, we had expectantly scanned reviews for confirmation that we made the right choice of cruises. Rest assured - you can sail with complete confidence in excellence of service with this cruise line. We sailed from Barbados over the Christmas holiday. Although the wait to clear customs was a bit tedious (several jumbo jets arrived at the same time) and this led to a delay in getting all of the passengers to the ship by departure time. In fact, we were among the last to arrive and check in, even as the muster station drill was in progress. No worries - soon afterwards, the head barman, Chester, was sympathizing with us that all of the usual flawless embarkation procedures had been thrown off by these circumstances and that he felt terrible about this since Silversea clientele are not used to this, but that we would make everything right - which he immediately did with several exceptional cocktails! We were thrilled to see several waiters that we remembered and who actually also remembered us from a Silversea cruise 2-1/2 years prior in Alaska. The warmth, humor and constant entertainment they provided during all of the meals in all of the venues is an example of what distinguishes this line from others. Even the pool staff were quite exceptional, rescuing our books which he had left on the pool chair when it briefly started to rain. We were amazed that the butler and maid always knew when we had left the room and were in and out without fail before we returned. We commented on this to them and they replied - "we have to remain sensitive to when people are resting!" We were also surprised that although the ship was almost full, as we were disembarking and traveling home, there were still many passengers whom we had not come across during the cruise. Again, a tribute to how well spread out the ship was - you never felt crowded. Even during the sea day when the pool was quite popular, there were always places just around the corner to escape for some quiet reading time. We had one of the most outstanding lunches in the main dining room during a port day at Curacao - there were only a few tables occupied and we had the full attention of the entire wait staff! Meals in all of the other venues were likewise excellent. While the buffet often remained the same, you still had the option of asking for something customized to your taste and they produced it without fail. Entertainment was excellent. The shows were quite varied, not too long in length and very amusing. Cruise director Moss Hill was a hoot! There were many activities which we simply didn't have time to participate in. Could go on and on about specifics, but don't worry - you'll discover it on your own. Enjoy! Read Less
19 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2016
Booked because of the top notch reputation of Silversea. Was extraordinarily disappointed. The condition of the ship was so tattered that it was clear that she needed a full restoration. Tattered draperies (& with "moth" ... Read More
Booked because of the top notch reputation of Silversea. Was extraordinarily disappointed. The condition of the ship was so tattered that it was clear that she needed a full restoration. Tattered draperies (& with "moth" holes) into theatre. Broken/scratched brass railings in theatre. Rugs worn , dirty and stained. Cabin furniture had scratches. Cabin doors had peeling paint. Balcony had rust on all fixtures. Raw pitted railings (until we complained) , then we were the only railing that looked decent. Curtains were dirty and falling off the hooks......until we complained. Unable to use bathroom sink for washing face because the high curved faucet would hit us in the head. All teak looked worn and neglected. Restaurants were so cold, woman were wearing table cloths to keep warm and men stated that they were wearing 2 undershirts and a wool sport coat to fend off the chill. Paint on windows of main D R was peeling away and the rust residue was building up. Great way to start the day ! If the ship top side was in this condition, how about the engine room? First time I have not felt safe on a cruise. The staff in La Terrazza was top notch. Food was excellent. The only place where we could escape the rest of the "floating, outdated, tired funeral home". Girls at reception were super helpful and kind! Our butler, Roy, was superb, a true gift. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2015
Having recently cruised on Oceania we were expecting high quality food on Silver Spirit- regrettably that was not the case. Dinner service was extremely slow and food quality was mediocre at best. Food preparation was marginal (uncooked ... Read More
Having recently cruised on Oceania we were expecting high quality food on Silver Spirit- regrettably that was not the case. Dinner service was extremely slow and food quality was mediocre at best. Food preparation was marginal (uncooked meat...) Only Buffet service was breakfast and the specialty restaurants that we tried were unimpressive. The Butler service is a mislabeling - cabin steward was polite but had been working on SIlversea only a couple of months. In general the entire service staff was good but they did not have much to work with. We understood that Silversea headquarters had revamped the entire restaurant service and obviously reduced the food quality. We shared dinner with several dedicated Silversea passengers who were very disappointed and are likely to avoid this line. To repeat, the service staff was attentive but obviously worked with the owners guidance. We booked this pricey cruise with high expectations, but were truly disappointed. We found that free wine and alcohol was of very marginal value to us. Having one showtime only was disappointing - many of the older people (like we) would have preferred an earlier showtime - to follow an earlier dinner. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2015
We recently returned from our first cruise on a Silverseas ship. We booked a Veranda room and were very satisfied. The veranda itself isn't large, but it was sufficient. Our room was nice, especially for a cruise ship. The bathroom ... Read More
We recently returned from our first cruise on a Silverseas ship. We booked a Veranda room and were very satisfied. The veranda itself isn't large, but it was sufficient. Our room was nice, especially for a cruise ship. The bathroom was also a good size. Our butler was great. Matter of fact, the whole staff was great - not one person disappointed us. We were very impressed with the food and service. Portions are very small but you can have as many courses as you want - you will not go away hungry. The boat is small so you never feel crowded and we never had to wait on a line. We only went to a show once since we're morning people and shows were starting too late for us. For the one show we did see, we were impressed with the talent. We weren't so impressed with the excursions we took but I believe that was more the fact that the Caribbean, for the most part, is more about the relaxation and beaches than fact-finding, interesting excursions. In addition, I was hoping for some interesting, educational lectures to be offered. There were talks about the islands we were visiting and one cooking demo, but I was hoping for more. I was also impressed that there were several launderettes available for those of us who didn't want to spend the money on having someone on the staff do our laundry - and the machines and detergent were gratis! I didn't go to the gym, but my husband, who goes to a gym on a regular basis was very impressed with the gym. We did not use any spa services because we found the prices to be exhorbitant. We wouldn't hesitate to taken another Silverseas cruise. Read Less
27 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2015
The only thing luxurious about this cruise was the price. We have cruised many lines but the best was the standard provided on Seabourn and that is our benchmark because Seabourn is truly a luxury line. The food and service on ... Read More
The only thing luxurious about this cruise was the price. We have cruised many lines but the best was the standard provided on Seabourn and that is our benchmark because Seabourn is truly a luxury line. The food and service on Silversea were a huge disappointment! Food totally lacked creativity. Comparable to what you would get at a low end family style restaurant; certain packaged processed foods were also served at times, definitely no fine dining here. The breakfast buffet restaurant ran out of plates, and the menu did not change at all. The service in the Terrace restaurant is painfully slow at lunch. I ordered a salad at the pool deck. It had many wilted leaves, I pointed that out to the waiter and told him I could not eat a salad like that, so he said ok and took it away...that was it....no apology, no replacement... No nothing. Waiters sometimes forgot part of the order, or served one person and the other had to wait 10 mins before their meal arrived, even though we ordered at the same time. The vegetable side dish in the main restaurant was a 1/2inch piece of boiled zucchini, potato and carrot this was the same every night, and very little of any other vegetable side dishes. They did not serve bottled water in the restaurants or in the rooms. Water was in glass carafes, don't know where it came from. We requested to have water in our room, and they provided a carafe with a paper cap. Customer service: The staff don't appear to have been given any customer service training. They push their way past guests (this is a regular occurrence). If you don't get out of their way, they will bump into you. They think nothing of interrupting another waiter who is taking an order. They avoid interacting with guests and prefer to have conversations with each other in languages other than English, mostly Filipino. Their English language skills are very poor, they seem to have a serious comprehension issue. Staff are unable to answer the simplest of questions, their standard answer is "I don't know I only started last week", or simply "I don't know" This remark is never followed by 'I'll find out' they simply walk away. The tour desk and sometimes the front desk just can't be bothered to answer questions, their typical answer is "look it up in your chronical" ( the daily newsletter), seriously... this is how you speak to people and have the gall call yourself a luxury line. The tour desk loves to argue with people when they complain that the tour they booked and paid for was not what was provided. In their opinion the customer is always wrong! They are always telling the customers that they probably misunderstood something. I witnessed this type of behavior on many occasions and experienced it myself. Butler service is a joke. The butler introduced herself on the first day, could not answer any questions, because she too started last week. Never saw her again for the rest of the cruise. Not sure what they do, because there are other staff that clean the rooms and deliver room service. A few issues with hygiene: there are very few hand wash stations, none at the entrances to restaurants. At the buffet restaurant waiters will carry your plate to your table, but they have bare hands rather than white gloves. Food servers also do not wear gloves of any kind. On a number of occasions the glasses had lipstick stains. The AC in our suite could not be adjusted and never got cool enough. The shower went from very hot to very cold. The windows in the panorama lounge and poolside cafe are filthy, they were that way for the whole duration of the cruise. Nightly entertainment consisted of the same people singing "Voices of Silversea". The shows were very corny and 45 minutes long. It became very boring very quickly. The entertainers are also Silversea staff, they do other jobs during the day and then sing for 45 minutes in the evening. We received a notice in out room that we will be charged $1. Per day per person for some charity. This will be done automatically unless we fill in a form and deliver it to the front desk. There is no problem with asking for a donation to a charity, but to say that will be automatically added to your bill is not appropriate. Embarkation and disembarkation was not well organized, you would think we were on a ship with 4,000 passengers instead of the actual 398. We booked transfer to the airport from silversea; they provided a very cramped and very old mini bus with broken AC. To summarize.... a disorganized mess from start to finish. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2014
My partner and I had a great time on an all too short 7 days Caribbean cruise. this was our second SilverSea and certainly the better of the two we have been on. There had apparently been turnover of staff and many of the staff on-board ... Read More
My partner and I had a great time on an all too short 7 days Caribbean cruise. this was our second SilverSea and certainly the better of the two we have been on. There had apparently been turnover of staff and many of the staff on-board came onto the ship the same day that we boarded. That created a few dips in the service, especially around the pool where we watched a number of tables waiting for service. Did we mind waiting, not at all. The drinks were flowing, the music was playing. All was good! The only day of the cruise that it rained, was the night of the deck party so it was cancelled. (Couldn't they have tried that again another night...maybe not?) So no deck party this cruise. The Cruise Critic meet and mingle was fun and Duct Tape- We love you! The Ports were nothing to write home about except for St. Baarts which was fantastic. The shows were ok, nothing great but the supper club singer was amazing! We'd go in after dinner and just listen to her. Crazy good! Food, ok, the breakfast buffet could use a little work but overall was impressed with the experience. Why why why Silversea do you have formal nights (2) in the Caribbean?? Take a page from others and drop the tuxes and go casual! Cabin stewardess and Butler were just Beyond- huge kudos to those folks! Overall- We liked it and felt it was a great experience. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
This was our first Silversea cruise. The experience was everything and more than we dreamed of. The ship is immaculate and very well kept. The crew is friendly and helpful, but never intrusive. Even though there were over 500 passengers, ... Read More
This was our first Silversea cruise. The experience was everything and more than we dreamed of. The ship is immaculate and very well kept. The crew is friendly and helpful, but never intrusive. Even though there were over 500 passengers, we never felt crowded. The food was excellent; comparable to the finest restaurants we visit. The service, with rare exception, was outstanding, if not memorable. Our party of four had two vegetarians, a pescaterian and a meat lover. All felt the food was superb. While a number of CC people fret about the evening attire, we found the instructions provided by Silversea to be easy to follow. Virtually all passengers followed the dress code and those who didn't were fine. The atmosphere on Silversea is refined elegance and layer back. Everything was first class and we will be back! Read Less
Sail Date: December 2011
West Indies, December 2 -- 18, 2011. Back to back 9-day cruises Ft. Lauderdale / Barbados / Ft. Lauderdale. My wife and I are seasoned travelers and have cruised a dozen times from the big ships to The World of Residensea. We are also ... Read More
West Indies, December 2 -- 18, 2011. Back to back 9-day cruises Ft. Lauderdale / Barbados / Ft. Lauderdale. My wife and I are seasoned travelers and have cruised a dozen times from the big ships to The World of Residensea. We are also foodies who enjoy dining out at all levels and have given up on the crowds of the larger ships. Suite 1110: Our Silver Suite was excellent and spacious except for the tiny TV's. I was surprised however being put on the top deck towards the front after having told our travel agent that my wife was prone to seasickness. All four of our sea days were pretty ruff and we basically laid low in our cabin. The top floor has vibration issues we were told are associated with the HVAC system located nearby. Our suite was very noisy under way with lots of rattles. Food: The food overall was our biggest disappointment. Boring, unseasoned and overcooked, most befitting a typical 3-star chain hotel. We stopped looking forward to meals after our fourth day onboard. The only way we could get our steaks and fish cooked to our satisfaction was to do it ourselves at Hot Rocks. Seishen was good but limited in menu. La Terrazza offered great pasta but the sauces were boring. The pool deck lunches were Holiday Inn at best. I could do an essay simply on the food but I'll just say that we found the specialty dining aboard Royal and Celebrity Cruises to be much better in terms of both food and service. Service: Service was all over the board. It appeared that about half the food wait staff had not been trained in table service or even instructed to stand aside and make way of a guest walking down the restaurant isle. On the other hand our suite butler was excellent. Smoking: This issue really bothered us. Smoking cigars seemed to be allowed on suite veranda's making using ours difficult at times. One port side (left) of the pool deck nine is smoking and the staff did not enforce the ships no cigars rule on the aft portion of deck nine which basically polluted about 50% of the deck space on deck nine and ten. We found ourselves with sore throats after day four. Space: On sea days we found a lack of deck space for chairs and shade even though our two cruises were only at 75% to 80% occupancy. Towels were scarce at times and the pool food and towel crew seemed to offer the worst service on board. Restaurants all had low ceilings and the décor seemed dated for such a new ship. The Musak in some public areas reminded us of a 60's dentist waiting room. Dress: Sun and surf make for warmer body temps in the evening plain and simple. To have formal nights in a hot tropical climate made no sense to us. Overall: Our first cruise on Silversea was a big disappointment and we'll likely be our last on the line. We had hoped for a good experience and were prepared to sign up for a 2012 Med cruise if we liked it, but that won't be happening. We paid a very premium fare but received below average food and service. Every meal we had ashore including our return flight to LAX on Virgin America was better than was offered onboard the Silver Spirit. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2011
My husband and I have cruised many times and our last cruise was with Silversea. We had such an outstanding time we decided to sail again to see if it was a fluke. Not at all. The service is above and beyond ones wildest expectation and ... Read More
My husband and I have cruised many times and our last cruise was with Silversea. We had such an outstanding time we decided to sail again to see if it was a fluke. Not at all. The service is above and beyond ones wildest expectation and it was with great pleasure that we found our butler for this voyage was the same butler we had had on our previous voyage 10 months earlier on the Silver Cloud. He was wonderful. On the prior voyage we had take a Grand one BR suite. It was huge, with 1020 square feet and a front and side deck. For this trip we decided to 'downsize' and we booked the Royal one BR. It, too, was huge, around 1000 square feet. I liked the layout much better as this one had a bathroom with double sinks and separate shower and another sink in the separate toilet room. And it also had a half bath off the huge foyer. There was also a huge walkin closet. The main salon had a couch, three club chairs and coffess and end tables along with a dining table and seating for four. A desk was sited along one wall and on the other, at the entranct from the foyer was a lovely bar, with shlves, glasses and refigerator. Wow. The food was very good, although not great as it was on our prior voyage. Overall, this was a wonderful trip and I look forward to another trip on Silversea again in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2011
Spirit of the Caribbean For several reasons, not least a highly attractive price, we booked back-to-back cruises 5135 and 5136 on SilverSea's Silver Spirit. The itineraries were both of 9 nights duration and were part of a season ... Read More
Spirit of the Caribbean For several reasons, not least a highly attractive price, we booked back-to-back cruises 5135 and 5136 on SilverSea's Silver Spirit. The itineraries were both of 9 nights duration and were part of a season which saw the ship sailing between Barbados and Fort Lauderdale for a couple of months during November and December 2011. The Spirit has something of a mixed reputation with past passengers; some love it, whilst others won't return to her. It is the biggest and newest of the SilverSea fleet, and has a normal (not all berths in cabins where more than 2 can be accommodated) capacity of 500. This is over 100 or 200 more than the other ships in the fleet. One of the features of a SilverSea cruise is that the crew make an effort early on to learn your name and we wondered whether this would hold good on our 2 cruises, where there were 473 and 406 respectively on board. We followed our usual practice and arrived in Barbados the day prior to embarkation, in case our luggage did not keep up with us; fortunately, it did. We stayed at the Hilton Barbados (see review on Trip Advisor) and made our way to the port around 13.00. Only Emerald Princess was in port in addition to the Spirit and there was no congestion, with registration being immediate. Our cases were piled with others into a lorry and one was damaged by the time it arrived in our cabin, though fortunately, it was repaired by the ship's upholsterer. After leaving our hand cases in our cabin -- 914 -- we went for a light lunch on the open deck area of the Terrace Cafe, then did our customary ship's familiarisation tour, as we had not previously sailed on her. The condition of the Spirit was excellent. Our lifestyle preference is to have a cabin on pool deck and this influenced our choice of 914, the furthest mid-ship accommodation available for both cruises when we booked. The open deck space around the pool appeared no bigger than on the smaller ships, whilst the pool itself was arguably not as big, a potential issue on sea days when the ship is full. The pool deck attendants were always willing to find, and set up loungers on request. We invariably lunched alfresco around the pool and Bas, the chef, cooked excellent fish to order. The rum & raisin ice cream benefited from a shot of dark rum from the pool bar! The Observation Lounge proved to be an under-used bar both pre- and post-dinner. In fact, it was not unusual after dinner for us to be the only ones there. Sunny made the best pina colada on the ship by adding a shot of dark rum. We were told that the absence of toilet facilities in the lounge would be remedied during the next dry dock, with conversion of the Deck 11 laundrette being the most likely solution. The Panorama Lounge, Terrace Cafe, Theatre, Dining Room and La Champagne speciality dining venues are essentially similar to the equivalent facilities on other SilverSea ships and can thus pass without general remark. One irritant is the requirement that cooked food to order at breakfast in the Terrace Cafe must be via a waiter, rather than direct to the chef. Unique in the SilverSea fleet, the ship has a Japanese dining venue Sieshin, and what is called, the Stars Supper Club. In the latter, a set tapas menu is served to the accompaniment of a light jazz singer and pianist, the entertainers being first class. Overall, the food on board was very good. When we placed pre-orders off-menu at dinner, these were always excellent. We dislike the SilverSea practice of using vegetables purely as a garnish to a plate of meat or fish and ordered extra vegetables, well cooked, which invariably also proved popular with others at our table. Our dinner wine preferences were always accommodated from the table wines onboard. Service at all meals was virtually faultless, a marked change from our experience on Silver Shadow in March. The occasional breakfast in the dining room always found it virtually deserted but the menu choices here added variety to this meal. The main bar, unlike on other SilverSea ships, is, effectively, a corridor on Deck 5. It lacks ambiance and atmosphere at any time of the day, from light breakfast through to post-dinner and is a design error. Our cabin, 914, was a Midship Veranda. As such, it was a typical Silversea arrangement, with large balcony, seating/dining space with a writing desk and drinks/fridge facility, bedroom and walk-in wardrobe with safe. It is, however, somewhat narrower than cabins on other SilverSea ships and, most irritatingly, the dressing table is too narrow, as is the gap between this and the bed. By contrast, the bathroom has an excellent size of bath and a separate rain shower enclosure, which was brilliant. We rarely patronise the spa but it was certainly an extensive facility, though the gym was small and had only basic equipment in addition to the usual cardio-vascular machines. Interestingly, part of the spa, including a wet area (a Hammam) with heated tiled beds, were accessible only on payment of a fee, either on a daily basis, or for the duration of the cruise. Aside from the jazz entertainers already mentioned, we watched all the shows in the Theatre and considered the performers to be very good. Unusually for us, (because we are normally in the gym in the late afternoon) we participated in the late afternoon trivia quiz, though there were never more than 3 teams. Susan, the cruise director, hosted this and, as with other entertainment, conducted herself in a style appropriate to a SilverSea ship. The one area of major weakness was the Shore Concierge Desk. Clive, the manager, had been in the same position during our cruise in March on the Shadow, however on the Caribbean sailings we were extremely disappointed with both the Desk's performance and knowledge. All the staff from Clive downwards ranged from the mediocre to the plain useless. Giving just one example, it took days of emails by us to book an excursion in the pre-cruise booklet but not on the tours list onboard. The company offering the trip (on a rib boat in Grenada), had apparently been reserved by SilverSea, but the staff on board seemed oblivious to this, even when the pre-cruise excursion brochure was referred to. Fortunately our persistence paid off, and we did the trip under our own auspices with only two other passengers, who were staying on the island, but it was most annoying and upsetting for the company, which is a husband/wife operation to realise that they had no bookings at all from the Silver Spirit As we feared, the larger size of ship meant the crew did not get to know your name or your usual preferences, unlike on the smaller SilverSea ships. Surprisingly, the sole exception was no less than His Highness, the Hotel Director, and thus the most senior person onboard (after the Captain?). At the cocktail party on the second night, Paulo came over, greeted us by name and remarked that we were on board for the following cruise too. Full marks, Paulo, and the time we spent in your company during the ensuing 16 nights helped to make our cruise. Although quite a number of passengers were combining 2 cruises, most were from North America and doing round-trip Fort Lauderdale. We were only 2 of 11 doing round-trip Barbados. As is now the norm on SilverSea, the passengers were a league of nations. It was most marked in Philipsburg, (St Maarten) where we were docked along with Norwegian Dawn and P&O's Ventura, to see how it was generally possible to judge which passengers were from which ship! The weather was variable. It poured all day in Philipsburg on the day we should have been in nearby St Barts, the relocation being due to predicted poor weather for tendering ashore. Otherwise, the conditions were generally good, though getting lively as we approached and later left Fort Lauderdale. Across the 2 itineraries, only Bequia was duplicated and during our second visit there, we arranged a schooner with others on board, to visit Mustique, a private island, also part of the Grenadines. When we returned to St Martin (Marigot), on the second cruise, whereas many headed for duty-free shopping in Philipsburg across on the Dutch side of the island (St Maarten), we took the regular 25-minute ferry crossing to the British protectorate of Anguilla. This is noted for its beaches, and snorkelling was a regular feature of our port calls on these cruises. Sadly, apart from Mustique and during the boat trip in Grenada, off-the-beach snorkelling was poor because the unsettled weather was churning up the sea close to shore. On Bequia, we got a local cab $US 10 (same price as the water taxi but avoiding a wet landing) to Lower Bay beach. On Dominica, during a 2-day stay in Philipsburg, Antigua and St Lucia, we toured the island on local buses. These are typically 13-seat minibuses, which charge a Government-set fare and largely pick up and drop off as required. Generally, they will not leave their start point until full, which (for our Soufriere to Castries leg on St Lucia) took 75 minutes but might also be as quick as 5 minutes, as it was on our outward leg from Castries to Vieux Fort, in the extreme south of St Lucia. Drivers and fellow passengers were always friendly and helpful and the fares were so cheap compared to taxis or shore excursions. You also experience more of an island's character by travelling this way. Locals always helped us find where we needed to go to catch the bus we wanted. On St Kitts, we booked the highly enjoyable sugar cane train via the ship and this gave a leisurely trundle round most of the island. (Interestingly on initial research for shorexs, we had tried to book this trip independently, only to be told it had to be arranged through the ship. It would appear that many excursion and trip operators will only take bookings via hotels or cruise lines and refer independent travellers to one or other of these. From our experience the ships and hotels add on a significant mark up). The train trip only being three hours, we returned to Basseterre and got the local ferry across to nearby Nevis and went to Pinneys beach, which proved disappointing for snorkelling. Fortunately, we were the only ship in port in Bequia, Dominica, St Kitts, Grand Turk, Tortola, French St Martin and Grenada. This helped take the pressure off local resources, like taxis, notably in Tortola and Grand Turk. In both the latter we took taxis to Smugglers Cove and Pillory Beach (the latter now hosts the Bohio Dive Resort) respectively. To reach the former involves a 10-minute crawl over a pot-holed road on the other side of the island to reach the beach and taxi drivers do not like making this journey, especially if there are easier pickings from a deluge of ship passengers. The visit was well worth it and there is a Government-set fare. Beware in Anguilla. Based on another posting, we walked just over a mile to the beautiful Rendezvous Bay on the report about the hotel there. It closed 2 years ago and, what has not been demolished, is derelict. If you do go, take drinking water and enjoy the pristine sand and sheltered water. Needless to say there are no facilities there. I have never raved about the Caribbean but these 2 cruises, totalling 18 nights, provided a diverse perspective from a traveller's (a more inquisitive person than a sightseer) perspective. Visiting the West Indies on a small ship has very distinct advantages, not least that it is usually possible to "dock" as opposed to "tender", and the itinerary often includes less run of the mill "touristy" islands. We were extremely fortunate that in most of the ports we visited on these two cruises, we were the only ship. In Grand Turk, for example, if there had been another cruise ship docked at Carnival's purported $US 40 million complex, it would have ruined the visit! However a little postscript -- one of the beachside bars, the much vaunted Jacks Shack outside the complex, didn't open -- apparently because there was not "a big ship" in!! Silversea is classed as a "quiet" ship -- hurrah!! The (relatively) small Silver Spirit offered an ideal vessel from many standpoints, notably comfort and amenity. On cruise 5136, two sea days, then 6 ports and disembark, was not particularly relaxing and a sea day before Barbados would have been preferable. However disembarking on a Sunday morning (about 9.30 am) with no other cruise ships in, was a breeze, and it was incredible to see not only a deserted cruise terminal, but also Bridgetown, and our taxi to visit friends took no time at all, prior to our flight later that day. Would we cruise again with Silversea? Silly question really, already booked on the Shadow from Fremantle (WA) to Singapore next February!! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2011
We cruised Alaska with Silversea in 2010 on Silver Shadow but this was our first time in the Caribbean and on Silver Spirit. On arrival at Miami Airport we collected our luggage and just outside the baggage hall the Silversea ... Read More
We cruised Alaska with Silversea in 2010 on Silver Shadow but this was our first time in the Caribbean and on Silver Spirit. On arrival at Miami Airport we collected our luggage and just outside the baggage hall the Silversea representatives met us and took our luggage. We boarded the mini bus for the 45 minute transfer to the Silversea pre-cruise hotel which was the Hyatt Regency Pier 66. The transfer was handled well and we arrived at the hotel very quickly. The Pre-cruise hotel was however not so good and poor value for the cost. This is reviewed in more detail on Trip Advisor. The following day the 13.00 transfer to the ship (10 mins maximum) was also smooth and as we passed the long time of people standing in the hot sunshine waiting to board the Holland America ship we started to get a bit apprehensive. No need, as we were dropped off in a covered area and swiftly went through customs after filling in a short health form. Next we went up to a desk and picked up our suite "keys" and were then straight onto the ship - less than 30 minutes after leaving the hotel. A glass of champagne waited in reception for us and then a quick photograph for the security card/ suite key and we were all done. We were informed that our suite would not be ready until 14.30 so off we went to La Terrazza for some lunch. We went along to our suite at 14.40 and it was all ready but there was no sign of our butler (we later learned that they have a break in the middle of the day) so we unpacked ourselves to avoid the clothes being even more creased. This I guess is the down side of being allowed to board early but it was nice to get on the ship and get settled before we left port. We also used the time in the restaurant to book tables for later in the cruise at La Terrazza and "Hot Rocks". The ship itself has some good points and some bad points. For a relatively new ship there are some quality issues which you wouldn't expect to find. The chairs in the dining areas are already showing signs of wear with chips on the wooden handles and some of the seats on deck had nasty stains on the cushions. Some of the deck areas are covered in an "imitation" deck covering which is some sort of plastic coating but it is not non slip and there are signs all around warning that it may become slippery when wet. We didn't find it too slippery but it does look very cheap and nasty. There are however some "bumps" on the deck which do catch you out from time to time. On this warm weather cruise the walking/jogging area became clogged up with sun loungers and we didn't enjoy walking our usual few miles to burn up the calories quite so much as on other cruises. The "bar" on deck 5 is a nice area to meet for pre and post dinner drinks and is a good size. The tables in La Terrazza however are so close together that getting to a window table is difficult. The tables in the main dining area are much better spaced. We tried the "hot Rocks" dining one night but it is a bit of a novelty and who wants to cook their own food when on holiday? There seemed to be lots of room on the ship but there were only around 340 passengers. Our suite was clean and tidy but I don't think that our choice of Hypo-allergenic pillows had been picked up from the guest information forms we filled in on line (my birthday was missed on our cruise last year as well). We asked the butler to check and they were provided before retiring for the night. The cabin does appear narrow at first as others have commented on but we never really found this to be a problem. It does mean that some of the cupboards are so narrow as to be useless but there is plenty of other storage space. We did find the washbowl a bit shallow and if the tap is turned on a bit too hard water does splash over the mirror. The tap is also a bit fiddly and in our suite you had to push the handle down to turn the water on. There is also only one bowl where some ships have two. The shower and bath worked well but we did have a bit of a smell in the toilet at some stages of our trip - it was not particularly bad and seemed to come and go. The major problem we had on our first night on the way from Fort Lauderdale to BVI was the noise and vibration in the suite. The sea was quite rough with a sizeable swell but the balcony door rattled, the wardrobe door rattled and various other bits of the cabin joined in for good measure. On the way back from Prince Rupert to San Francisco on our previous cruise on Silver Shadow the sea was much rougher but we never had a problems with our suite. Also we don't tend to suffer from sea sickness but we didn't feel too good after our first night and the following day we had a light breakfast and lunch and went to bed at 17.00. We complained about our cabin and two maintenance men spent over an hour on the suite door and then pronounced that they couldn't fix it. We were offered the use of another cabin on deck 6 (we were on deck 8) which we didn't like so much but we slept there for two nights whilst we were at sea and until the sea calmed down a bit. This avoided us having to pack and unpack again to move cabin. I managed to fix the balcony door with aid of a flannel from the bathroom wedged under the outside runner of the door to make sure the catches engaged properly when closed. The table on the balcony was falling apart and it wouldn't even take a drink. This was replaced by a better one but it still had sharp pieces sticking out of the side and needed replacing. We were advised that they were all the same. The wooden decking on the balcony rocked as you walked on it and the other end rose up by almost 1 inch. This couldn't be repaired either as it was caused by a bulge in the metal of the deck according to the maintenance staff. By this stage I was wishing I had packed my tool bag as I am sure I could fix it! The aircon also seemed to be a bit dodgy and sometimes in the middle of the night we would wake up as the room had got too hot. The control unit was only partly secured to the wall and this was reported by the butler but never fixed before we left the ship. The TV remote control sensor is located below the mirrors and just above a couple of useful shelves but if you place anything on the shelf it blocks the sensor and you can't operate the TV. Poor design. We felt that the food quality and choice at breakfast and lunch was not as good as last year but still ok. Most of the fruit at breakfast seemed to be tinned which is surprising given we were between Florida and the Caribbean. The eggs were freshly cooked as usual but at 07.00 when we had breakfast most mornings the other "hot" items were not as hot as they should have been. The hash browns were over cooked virtually every day and disintegrated when a fork was applied. The coffee and orange juice were very good however. The dinner choice was good and the quality fine. The menu had quite a lot of fish dishes reflecting the local produce but the steaks were always an option and superb (you must try the Black Angus steak). The complimentary wine (and champagne) was in my opinion poor except for some good Italian and New Zealand white bottles mainly served at lunchtime. On our previous cruise with Silversea when we asked for something else we always found a good alternative. On this cruise the alternatives offered were also on the whole poor and the wine waiter staff did not seem to know what was available in the their cellar. We never saw the head sommelier during the trip. Screw top bottles of Cote De Rhone are not really 6 star cruising? The staff were on the whole quite good and friendly especially the butlers and room maids but some of the European restaurant staff had a very abrupt manner which was a bit disconcerting. Our butler called us by name but virtually no other staff asked our name or used it. On our previous Silversea cruise the restaurant staff knew us by name within a couple of days. There seemed to be just something missing this time and perhaps it was the very officious Maitre d' who certainly kept the staff on their toes. The "senior" staff (captain, Chief Engineer etc) were not very visible either in the restaurants or public areas but perhaps we just missed them. Disembarkation was as smooth as embarkation and the colour coding system for our luggage and getting off worked well. We were off the ship by 09.30 having had to vacate the cabin by 08.00 making use of the bar to wait. On our previous cruise we were "abandoned" by Silversea at San Francisco airport at around 11.00 for a 17.30 flight which we knew to be around 5 hours late thanks to a text from BA. The ship had been chartered for the next week leaving ASAP and so remaining on the ship was not an option. On this cruise we were offered a "complimentary" excursion which lasted 6.5 hours and included lunch dropping us off at the airport only 3 hours from our scheduled departure - much better! This was offered as an excursion ($139 if pre booked) on the list we received but we did not take it up thankfully. We took 5 Tours (including the complimentary one in Barbados) mainly because we had $500 shipboard credit. None of them looked very inspiring I have to say unless you like beaches or snorkelling. The tour in Antigua (overview) turned out to be really good but that was down to the fantastic tour guide we had on the bus. We spoke to others who did the same trip and they didn't enjoy it. I guess the Caribbean islands do not have that much to see on tours. I would recommend that you do NOT book the Seven Sisters waterfalls tour on Grenada unless you want to spend an hour on a botany lesson about the vegetation on the island, and another couple of hours slithering up and down a steep muddy slope to see a couple of fairly poor waterfalls (the other 5 are so small that it is not worth the effort to climb up to see them). On the way back there is a group of guys who charge you $1 to clean your shoes before you are allowed to board the bus. The tour guides put on a pair of wellies before they set out which was very wise but not an option for us. The cruise Itinerary gave us a good flavour of the Caribbean visiting 7 different islands but I have to say they are all remarkably similar and apart from the sunshine and beaches they are not very interesting. They are all becoming very dependent on tourism and in places like Castries you have to run the gauntlet of taxi drivers just to walk out of the port, many of whom I am sure are not licensed. It was nice to see the Caribbean but it is not for us Read Less
Sail Date: April 2011
My wife and I had another fantastic cruise happening: 10 days of pampered bliss. No one will ever be on a cruise ship with better service, wonderful passengers with the same interests, and of courese, gormet food.Speaking of passaneger: ... Read More
My wife and I had another fantastic cruise happening: 10 days of pampered bliss. No one will ever be on a cruise ship with better service, wonderful passengers with the same interests, and of courese, gormet food.Speaking of passaneger: Rudy and Susan, Terry and Christi and Roxi and the double mothers, all made our trip more fun and enriching for entering into our lives for just 10 days....We hope to see them again on future trips.Our mid ship veranda cabin was 345 SF, with a seating area and outside veranda. Bathrooms had 2 sinks and a sep tub and shower. plenty of space and a walk in closet.(not kidding)This is an all inclusive ship, which takes all the stress out of eating and drinking, literally, all day or night...You can make up a drink, and they will fix it for you on the spot...and if you want 2-3 more, not a problem.(Naps are plentiful!)...Right.Plenty of choices for restaurants to choose any type of meal, form the casual pool deck to the elegant Champagne Room, from continental, carnivores, or Italian, this ship had it all...not to mention all the complimentary wine you can drink. Estefana, you were the best...Of course, the planned excursions are well thought out, and planned with the passengers best interest at heart. We even had our own shopping consultant meet with us both on the ship and in the stores to insure we bought the best jewelery at the lowest price....everyone new Mat Miller....all the best, Mat!Would recommend this cruise line to anyone who loves luxury at the highest level on the high seas..... Read Less
Sail Date: March 2011
My wife and I just completed a 7 day Silversea cruise aboard the Silver Whisper in March going from Bridgetown Barbados to San Juan, Puerto Rico (4105). In short the experience was fantastic! We had very high expectations for this cruise ... Read More
My wife and I just completed a 7 day Silversea cruise aboard the Silver Whisper in March going from Bridgetown Barbados to San Juan, Puerto Rico (4105). In short the experience was fantastic! We had very high expectations for this cruise and I am happy to report that they were all met and often exceeded. We found the ship to be in very good condition. As A former Coast Guard officer I was very impressed with the paintwork and material conditions. The Silver Whisper would have easily passed any of my inspections. Our stateroom was also to be in excellent condition. It was very clean and everything worked perfectly. Our butler, Dann, introduced himself when we embarked and provide a very good description of what he would do for us during the voyage. We saw Dann at least once a day (and some days several times) and he did an excellent job responding to all our requests. Our stateroom was kept very clean and we never returned to it without somebody coming in to put things in order. We also found the food on board to be excellent. Every meal that we were served was of the highest quality. We were particularly impressed with the seafood and beef dishes. We were lucky enough to dine at L'Terreza on three evenings and they were all magic. The pasta was marvelous and my wife commented several times that her main course was some of the best food she had been every served (luckily, she was kind enough to give me a bite). The desserts were also fantastic. We also enjoyed the wide variety and quality of the wines that were included with the meals. The staff was very good and very attentive, without being overly intrusive. Everyone's English was impeccable and it was a pleasure to interact with everyone from our butler Dann, to the housekeeping staff, to the restaurant and cocktail waiters and sommeliers, to the maitre d's, and the officers. Clearly a few were new and were being trained, but they were well supervised and did not cause us any problems. We did not take in much of the entertainment, but we did particularly enjoy the duet that performance during the cocktail hour in the Bar. We also did not participate in many of the on shore excursions, but the one we did were well organized and enjoyable. However, we did find ourselves often asking why we left the ship that we enjoyed so much. My wife and I have not made very many cruises and only one other on a luxury line (Regent). We found Siversea to be the best so far. We were also very impressed with the value of the cruise. Considering the fact that our airfare, transfers, wine, beer, cocktails and gratuities were included we found our total fare to be comparable to similar level staterooms and amenities on much larger lines. The one thing we noticed, and appreciated, was that the Silver Whisper did not have the "shopping mall" at sea atmosphere that we have felt on other larger lines. I read the review of the same cruise by unitedave and was quite surprised. I am sorry they did not have a good experience, but it seemed that we were on two different ships. Taking a small ship, luxury, all inclusive cruise was great - we cannot wait for our next one (and very likely to be on Silversea)! Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2010
First things first. We are Seabourn fanatics and have sailed on month long voyages with Seaboun. I thought I'd share my comments about Silver Spirit that we sailed on for Christmas and NYE. We started cruising on the larger, ... Read More
First things first. We are Seabourn fanatics and have sailed on month long voyages with Seaboun. I thought I'd share my comments about Silver Spirit that we sailed on for Christmas and NYE. We started cruising on the larger, bigger (low scale) lines such as Princess, P&O, NCL and RCCL we then found Seabourn and became instantly hooked. I've written a few reviews on Seabourn Legend if you want to read them. Silver Spirit was a choice that we made last year due to the heavy discounting that Seabourn could not match. It was a difficult decision to make, and we do prefer the smaller ships. On boarding, we were amazed at the quality of the inside of the ship, something that Seabourn Legend of course (due to age) hasn't got. The space per passenger was higher than we had anticipated and we were impressed by the way the ship was laid out (with the accommodation at the front, and the entertainment and dining areas at the back). Our cabins were superb, I can't fault the cabins on this ship, the only negative thing I could find, was they were narrow by the bed, potentially making it difficult to navigate to the lounge area (not a problem for me, but for an older person) We have had amazing service on Seabourn before, and we were interested in the Butler service that Silversea offered. Unfortunatley for me, this proved to be a real let down. My butler was very friendly and efficient, but couldn't see his relevance (apart to restock my bar and pick up laundry). He was always calling my name and after a while, this became annoying. My cabin steward did his job well, but he could have done the job of a butler(maybe I missed something in the 14 nights!) saying that.. they had lots of cabins to attend to, so overloading the poor room steward probably isn't a good idea! We tried "Le Champagne" and we were impressed by the level of service offered, it was a totally different dining experience, however be warned.. $200 is a lot of extra money that is really spent on wine, not food! You can dine here for an additional $30pp, plus buy a bottle from their wine list (this brings down the cost considerably.) The main dining room was always busy, we dined on table of 3 every night, with the same waiters. Our opinion of the food is that it's pretty much identical, however.. SEABOURN wins with the desserts. We found that the desserts consisted mainly of "mousse" and were not to our taste (we are European and Australian!) Coffee on board was HORRID.. Any Europeans will be disappointed! The bar service was great, again very little to distinguish between Silversea and Seabourn. Your drinks were always complimentary and replenished as and when required. To be fair, we need to travel on the newer Seabourn ships to give an accurate account of any differences. We did enjoy our cruise, and wouldn't hesitate to go back in a heartbeat. There was one negative about our cruise, my Mother and Grandmother were in a disabled cabin, and it STANK, not just a little, but enough to make you vomit at night. We made several complaints to various people, but it was never resolved whilst on board. We are not complainers AT ALL.. but this kind of spoilt the holiday for them. Silversea did compensate us post voyage after writing to them to be fair. We are booked again on Seabourn Legend in September of this year, and it will be an interesting comparison again. Any questions, please feel free to email me. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2010
Background Information I booked this cruise while we were on the Maiden Voyage of the Spirit in December/January in order to take advantage of the 2% onboard savings and the free air program. We enjoyed the Spirit on our first sailing, ... Read More
Background Information I booked this cruise while we were on the Maiden Voyage of the Spirit in December/January in order to take advantage of the 2% onboard savings and the free air program. We enjoyed the Spirit on our first sailing, though we traveled where it was cold, and I thought a warmer itinerary would be fun. We have been on a number of Silversea sailings on Whisper, Shadow, and Wind and hope to get on the Cloud sometime soon. We have also sailed other lines We're in the travel industry and I am a Certified Travel Industry Executive (CTIE, Certified Luxury Specialist (CLS) and Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), as well as a former technology quality assurance lead. I seem to approach a lot of my trips from a QA perspective, and my husband often points that out to me!! This review will focus on this sailing, as I've done comparisons of the other ships, other lines, etc. before. Travel & Hotel Info We left Houston IAH on American, and Silversea was nice enough to let us have some say in our itinerary on the free flight promo. That was very much appreciated. We left on a flight leaving Houston at 10:40 a.m. and arriving in Miami at 1:25 p.m. Our only requirements were for complimentary internet, breakfast and 24 hour shuttle. We got all that, and that was about it. We stayed at a Comfort Suites in the highest end room there (lol) and walked to IHOP nearby for a quick dinner. It was nothing like any IHOP we have been to, but we ate. In the morning, we had an easy shuttle and took the next American flight into Barbados BGT, arriving around our expected time. The day of our departure, Silversea provided those with flights to Miami, JFK, and the UK a transfer at 9 a.m. to the Savannah Hotel in Barbados where we had a hospitality room (group) with towels, juice, coffee, tea, water, pastries, fruits, light sandwiches, and a couple of hot appetizers. They had an air conditioned room with board games, and we had full use of the pool and beach. Todd and I wore bathing suits under our departure outfits, and we took full advantage of the facilities. Unfortunately, they announced the departure time only to those in the main room, and the "rumor mill" time was not quite right. We stumbled into some of the group loading up and ended up with a few others on a second bus. The Savannah was OK, plenty of loungers and adequate shade, but the water off of their short beach was natural and 100% full of rocks. Some guests stayed all 4 1/2 hours in that room and did not look around. Others laid at the beach or pool. Some ate and had drinks. We sat under an umbrella by the pool and got in the water a number of times and walked around in the sand. We also had a few snacks. Arrival & Embarkation We arrived into Barbados BGT airport at 1:15. We had hoped to see a Silversea rep to direct us or at least signs since a number of Silversea guests were on our Miami flight. No such luck and no baggage assistance either inside the baggage claim or at the Silversea provided transportation. A lady was outside with a list of expected arrivals, but she did not even know her list had the cabin numbers, and she seemed almost unable to manage the group of maybe 14 people. She sent people here and yon and finally got everyone in cabs where no baggage handling was provided either free or at a cost. We all helped each other schlep our bags right into the vans. Then we waited a long time while they tried to cram another couple on, but eventually we proceeded when nobody came. We certainly did not have room for their bags. There was no water provided. We had a ride longer than the 6 of us in our particular van expected. Traffic was bad, and we inched along. When we got to the port, we were still self-directed with no rep in sight, but since we had been to Barbados before, we sort of told our group where to go and reached the tables with Silversea reps that were requesting cruise tickets. We then were put on a local bus again with no water and taken to the ship, though it was a very short distance. At that point, we had our ID cards and were told rooms would be ready. When we got to the gangway, someone took my bag and carried it up, but we were scolded for standing 2 inches from where they wanted us. I am sure newbies in front and back of us were not impressed, and nobody carried their bags or Todd's. Greeting was nice with cold towel and escort to the bar for nice drinks, nuts, chips, and party mix. No canapEs or greeting spread for the first time on Silversea. Nobody announced it, but I knew Silversea would have something nice open for everyone somewhere, and I was delighted to find that the lunch buffet was left open until 3:45. Todd didn't come up, as he wanted to wait for the butler, but I had my first of many delightful meals onboard, and I prefer the full meal to the canapes. Ship Info The ship holds 540 guests, and there were about 479 onboard or 89%. There are lovely public lounges onboard the ship. Last sailing, we loved the new main bar which was open day and night at that time and just off the lobby. Of course, it is still open for seating, and they have a big screen tv going in the afternoon, but drinks are not served in the afternoon as they were when we sailed over the holidays. One had to go to the Panorama or the pool deck or one's own cabin. This started to make those spaces where we hung out, and a lot of people used the nice space behind the Panorama or other nice shady areas around the ship. There are 3 hot tubs on the pool deck, and they were at 3 slightly different temperatures. I think it was on purpose and seemed thoughtful to me. The pool was used more than I have seen the pool used on any luxury sailing. We used it a few times ourselves, and I was really pleased to see Todd enjoying the water areas more than usual (not that he doesn't like them, but he never "gets around to it" much). We did not use the spa, steam room, etc. this time. I have covered these areas in my original report, along with the pluses and minuses of some of the locker areas. The ship is very easy to navigate, and our cabin 647 could not have been better positioned. We were in between two elevator banks and two staircases, and we were just about anywhere in a short moment. The library and internet cafe are mixed, and there is no divider for the internet section. The conference room is near the theatre. There is also a small card room. The medical facility is on deck 3, and unfortunately, I had to pay them a couple of visits after slamming my finger in the cabin door for nearly a full minute. Activities Activities were generally led by the cruise director and two social hostesses, along with members of the production cast. We participated in all of the team trivia sessions. Todd played in several table tennis tournaments. We attended many golf putting contests. Together, we did one shuffleboard contest, and Todd attended several others. On the sea day, I attended the wine tasting in the Panorama Lounge. This was led by one of the 3 sommeliers, Norman, and he was assisted by one of the others, Simon. There was a white and a red in the tasting. I also attended the cooking demo in the theatre. At the cooking demo, the emphasis was on fois gras. The chef made a fois gras terrine that everyone got to taste and a seared one that nobody got to taste. I had ordered this through our butler the day before, and he arrived that night with two beautifully prepared plates and a full table setup. On the sea day, they also did a bridge tour and a galley tour. I tried to sign up for the galley tour long before the deadline, but it was already full. I would not have been able to go due to my accident anyway. My accident really put a damper on the sea day and the last 1/3 of the cruise. I was on my way to arts and crafts to make a bracelet when I injured my finger in the door. Also in the arts and crafts department, they had origami lessons. There were Italian, French and Portuguese lessons, too. I believe there were card games. There were some classes from the spa on detox, acupuncture, botox, etc. There were two enrichment lectures on the sea day based on geology and Barbados. We enjoyed the things that we did, and we got some logo prizes at the end for participating. One night, we played blackjack at the casino before dinner. I won $5, and Todd won enough to pay for the two tours we did. We did not go back after that, as we were happy with our winnings. Also, there is a full exercise program and dance lessons with the ballet duo available at no additional cost. There was a captain's party on the formal night, and like last time, it was split between The Bar and Panarama Lounge. There was also a Venetian Society one night in the theatre. There was one couple that was honored for going over 500 nights. They will receive a complimentary 14 night cruise. Service The pool deck was a bit more crowded than our last sailing on Spirit due to nicer weather, and the deck staff was not as quick to remove towels. They were not usually resetting up towels like they usually do on Silversea, so we'd have to go seek a towel. Also, though there were more waiters than we have ever seen, but if you weren't sitting at the dining tables, you had to go ask for service. The pool deck service has always been over the top before, so it was a step down even though there were probably twice as many servers. They just seemed to be wandering sometimes. They were happy to do anything when asked. Some people did not think that the dining service was that great. Ours was fine to good. At lunch, it was not always easy to get wine without begging, and they rarely carried the plate to the table anymore, which is something I really enjoy them doing and something I really needed for 3 days. Breakfast service is the best we've ever had, and the other service was better than on the maiden voyage on Spirit. Our butler service started slow. We received the Bvulgari toiletries right away but wanted to try the new ones. We did get those after a few hours. It took about 5 or 6 hours to get our bags unpacked, and we had to let the butler repack a few hours before we were ready. Other than that, the butler and cabin service were exemplary. Several days, we received beautiful snacks at cocktail hour - things like huge mussels, crab dip on crackers, chilled shrimp with cocktail sauce, pate, crab claws, and meatballs. He knew that I liked limes and brought them automatically after a discussion on exactly how many I would need each day. He always kept our chardonnay stocked and our soda and ice, too. He, along with our room attendant did a wonderful job with the suite. When we ordered room service , it took so long. I tried to give up and go eat upstairs at noon when they opened and left for a tour at 12:10 (I was told the meeting time was 12:30 to make it to the tour at 1 pm) and went down to the tender. They had just left without me, and I missed the tour after getting over on the tender and finding they had left by 3 minutes after time even though they called the boat to see if I was on it. The head butler did not know this, yet he came to apologize for the delay with room service, which was caused by them calling to say they were not happy with the quality and were redoing the order. I thought that was very classy of the head butler to make a visit, unlike the shore department who did not bother to start lunch early anywhere in order for anyone to have lunch. Sometimes they served drinks in the theatre, which was something that was missing on the maiden voyage, and this was very welcome. The reception staff was also very courteous, and the bar staff remembered everything all the time and were so courteous and efficient. We always love Silversea service, and it a major factor in why we sail with them. Port & Shore Excursions We overnighted in Barbados on the ship, and I paid a couple $20 to take me around for an hour for some photos and to explain some of the historical and picturesque sights. They took me to a beach that had some hurricane damage and down into Bridgetown and some other places. It was enjoyable. Elsewhere in the review, I talked about our day in Barbados at the Savannah Hotel at the end of the cruise. The first port was Dominica. This was the only new port for us based on the originally scheduled itinerary. I went on the aerial tram tour. They brought an old rickety bus, which was not exemplary of Silversea, and it broke down 7 miles up the road. We were safe and looking at a beautiful volcano, but two ladies were uncomfortable and trying to talk everyone into going back to the ship. Twenty minutes later, we were rescued and divided into two vans that were still full but were more of the style of what Silversea should have sent in the first place. The tram ride was very interesting, and everyone crossed the foot bridge in the rain forest. There was some light climbing and hiking. Photos don't do it justice. We never got to see the 5 waterfalls like the description, at least not water falling but could hear them and saw a couple of rivers coming off of them. It was worthwhile, but I would not go again. Todd did the accessible tour. He went to Morne Bruce viewpoint and experienced a lovely view overlooking Roseau and could see the ship and also some rain forest. Next, they went to the botanical gardens and saw birds and some flora and fauna. It was small and had a lot of hurricane damage from Tomas that had just come through. There was not a lot to see except some nice views. They went on a long drive (at least 30 minutes) with nice views, first along the beach and then up a mountain in the rainforest to Jaco Falls. There was about 45 minutes there, and some of the bathrooms were not great. They walked down a steep area with a lot of rocks. Todd wanted to get in, but there wasn't much time since he had stopped to take so many pictures. At the end, both tours offered both a rum punch and a non-alcoholic beverage. Todd dined on the pool deck after his tour, and I dashed to the buffet. The people that went on the whale watching and dolphin tour mostly saw dolphins. I think the people that did the emerald pool enjoyed that one. I also went inside the market area and also toured the visitors center and walked a ways down from where the ship was docked for more photos. The next day, they flipped the itinerary around and went to St. Kitts instead of St Barths. Todd did not get to the ship. Last time we were there, he golfed at the Marriott, and I went to the casino and pool and beach there. This time, I walked quite a distance up and down various streets and viewed some old churches and other buildings, along with a brief look at the touristy shops at "The Circus". We never did go to St. Barths due to the safety issues and damage from Tomas. The captain spent a long time circling around Phillipsburg in St. Martin, but there were 25,000 people there from large cruise ships, and there was no slots, so he went to the French side where it was necessary to tender. We were a long ways out, and the tender was a 20 or 25 minute ride. That is the only thing I saw since the tour abandoned me, and we have only been to the airport there. I just got right back on the tender since I was upset. In Bequia in the Grenadines, many people just jumped on the back of the trucks sitting there for island tours. We did that last time and went to the fort and turtle farm and a beach. There were water taxis to take people to the beach, and I think Silversea organized a beach tour and also an island tour. I walked all around the waterfront as far as I could and took a number of beautiful photos and walked the little beach there. A number of people sat around at the little restaurants and bars there and had cocktails. I walked over to the vegetable markets to look around and also went to watch some local fishermen working with fish. I stayed there a while, as I was enjoying that. There were a number of people who had zodiacs docked and were coming in and out from yachts offshore to get things at the markets. The iced tea and chilled water at the tent where guests were to wait for the tender was a nice touch. Our Suite We adore the verandah cabins. The rain head shower is nice, and the shower is tall enough. Todd finds the space a bit snug, but it is fine for me. The tub is a luxury size for a cruise ship, and I love the nice rinse off spout that they installed. The cabin had plenty of storage space everywhere. There are two TVs controlled by one remote. This time, we had no issues at all with the system, and there are over 400 movies from which to chooses. We enjoyed several recent releases. Our drinks of choice were always there, we never ran out of anything, and after a very short conversation with the butler the first day, the things we did not need were removed to allow space for what we liked. We had nice fruits and orchids, and we had champagne on ice upon arrival. The verandah was very inviting in warm weather, especially since the loungers will lay back, and with footstools and a nice table, it is just a terrific place to be. Dining I enjoyed the buffets at lunch the most. The dining room was full, but they are using a sharing concept to help with this (optional). On the days that Todd did not come up, I always shared, and I really enjoyed the conversations. The restaurant was always open for course by course lunch, but I was enjoying selecting my own fruits and salad ingredients. Todd liked the meats and vegetables a lot. There were mostly cold soups at lunch, a disappointment, but there was a delicious squash soup one day. Most days, the lunch buffet has a regional theme. There is usually an Asian item (a couple of times, it was a chicken curry, and the other days, it was Thai or Chinese). There was always a carved meat, quite a few fresh vegetable dishes and a few nice dishes. One day, there was a nice boulliabase. Also on the lunch buffet are beautiful lettuces, a variety of dressings, salad toppings, a salad of the day, sushi, sashimi, gourmet cured meats, fresh pastries, a cheese trolley, gourmet ice cream and sorbet, and fresh breads. The fish was the most disappointing since it was usually dry and overcooked, but the last day, there were large, nice sea scallops. Todd enjoyed a burger a couple of days on the pool deck. Another day, he just got onion rings. We shared a pizza one day. I heard one lady say she didn't want her food anymore because it was taking too long. It can take a while since it is cooked beautifully to order, so if you want a quick bite before dashing off somewhere, this is not the venue to use. If you are hanging out, it is a lovely option, and you can get your food at your pool chair or the table. There is a full menu on the deck. There is a full menu for the room with very nice choices, and you can get the restaurant offerings during meal hours. The day after I hurt my finger, we stayed in a lot since I was in pain, and we had a nice room service lunch. The tables that they set up in the Spirit verandah suites are larger than on the other ships since there is more space. Todd had French onion soup, and I had tomato basil. I ordered a pesto pasta, and Todd ordered steak. At breakfast, you can go to the restaurant for the course by course service, it was never crowded. You can also go to the buffet. For the first time at the buffet, my waiter always asked me if I wanted to order anything such as eggs, waffles, etc., and things were prompt and beautifully prepared. They have asked Todd before, but I have never been asked. Daily, a variety of fresh fruits were carved throughout the service time, and there were other varieties of fruits and gorgeous berries. They had piles of smoked salmon and cheeses. There was ham, bacon, sausage, potatoes, beans, pastries, yogurt, and cereals. The pink grapefruit juice was so delicious that it tasted like I was drinking a grapefruit ( I was!!). We went to La Terazza one night. We had soup and an antipasto platter and salads. Todd had sliced steak, and I had wonderful osso bucco. Todd had the tiramissu, and I had the panna cotta. I didn't like it because it had nutmeg in it. Service was nice, and the restaurant was quiet and relaxing. We really enjoyed our evening there. Early in the cruise, we went to hot rocks. I ordered the veal chop, and Todd ordered a steak and a couple of shrimp. The server insisted that I order sea bass, but it was not like any sea bass I have had and was too fishy to eat and likely was not sea bass. I normally love the sea bass on Silversea. We had salads, and Todd had a baked potato. My veal chop was divine, but there was no way I could finish all of it. Todd had the same issue as last time with it cooking before he could eat it and getting too done. The restaurant is so popular now that it is hard to get in if you don't reserve early in the cruise. We had a second reservation and gave it up. We had a great evening and really enjoyed the Filipino singer that sings up to the diners from the pool deck. We enjoyed our dinners at the main dining room, though there was often no fish choice besides the daily salmon choice. I ended up ordering other things. I couldn't order vegetarian due to it always having mushrooms, but I always found something like pheasant or shellfish or something. On formal night, I asked to have my lobster prepared without butter, and I loved it. Since the shows were at 10:15, too late for us if we finish dinner at 9:30, we adjusted our schedule to 8 or 8:30 the two nights of the production shows and went to the Panorama beforehand and listened to Amadeus and the DJ music and relaxed. It actually made for a complete evening doing it that way. One evening, we dined with a couple that had been married 61 years, and we had a wonderful time with them working our way through all 5 courses. Evenings were great until I hurt my finger, and then we just watched movies after dinner. That was fun, too. I just couldn't sleep. On the night of the pool bbq, it was just hours after I slammed my finger in the door, and I just had 4 crab claws and one rib, and Todd had 3 ribs, and I was just in too much pain, so we left about 15 minutes after it started. This event is not our thing, but we liked how this time they put smaller tables for 6 or 8 vs. those long tables we have experienced on most sailings. The main dining room was open, but I was not up to it. We did not go to Seishin or Le Champagne. Seishin has two teaser menus and the main degustation menu, and you can pair with complimentary wines, wine pairings, or sake pairings, and there are different prices for each of these choices. Le Champagne is so beautiful on this ship, if I was going to go there, it would be on this ship, but many times, I know that the menus are too exotic for Todd's more meat and potatoes taste. Entertainment I found this to be weaker than it has been on other Silversea cruises since there was no guest magician or comedian or cabaret act. Last time on Spirit, they offered the shows twice in an evening, and I know that was short-lived for only one or two cruises. This sailing had two production shows, both are repeats for us from the maiden voyage 10 months ago. Only Keeva remains from the original production company, and I feel the original entertainers were better, though this group is good. The Rocketman show was not nearly as good as with the other group. Same with Dawning of Aquarius. There was a Taste of Things to Come show that was very short. It was on the pool deck. On the BBQ night, there was a show by the production company. We were not able to attend that due to my accident. There was no guest performers at all, and that is a first time for us ever on a luxury ship and was a disappointment. Several nights, they had movies in the theatre, and those were on the TV anyway. There was live entertainment on the ship and DJ sets. Any we attended were quite pleasant, but the timing was not always just right for when the people were in the particular lounge. STARS was so crowded on the nights of the lack of live entertainment in the theatre that we could not even get a seat or get to the bar, We tried several times and never stayed over 5 minutes since it was just too full. Disembarkation The butler packed for us before dinnertime, and we kept our bags in the room and put them out before the 11 p.m. deadline, keeping out a few things for our day at Savannah Hotel. I had a short breakfast because we had to be off the ship for our ride to Savannah at 9, and both the doctor and the restaurant didn't open until 8 a.m. We did not get the luggage assistance that I requested, but we did alright and easily located our bags in the terminal. We took the shuttle over to Savannah, it probably took 30 minutes. We had easily opted out of the charity donation, and there were no unexpected charges on the bill. We had the two tours and my $606 and change doctor bill. There was a sort delay of 15 minutes for passport pickup which also made it a challenge to go to breakfast and the doctor, but I managed it all. This was not our best Silversea cruise due to a few issues with the shore excursions and the handling of my accident, but it was mostly very enjoyable. Our cabin was excellent, dining service was mostly excellent (beverage service was good but not excellent in the dining rooms). The shore staff size needs increased, and they need to take a look at getting back into treating people to a more luxurious tour style. We relaxed so much all around the ship, in our balcony and in the cabin, and we enjoyed every activity we attended and wish we could have made even more, though we gave it a valiant effort. I did a blog, which is a work in progress at http://www.luxurycruiseandland.com. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
My wife and I just completed a 14 day Transatlantic cruise on the Silver Spirit out of Lisbon and wanted to share briefly some of our expectations that were met and not met by Silversea. This was our first Silversea cruise and looked ... Read More
My wife and I just completed a 14 day Transatlantic cruise on the Silver Spirit out of Lisbon and wanted to share briefly some of our expectations that were met and not met by Silversea. This was our first Silversea cruise and looked forward to it very keenly based on the many positive reviews we read and talking to our cruise consultant. In summary from my first touch-point with the cruise line: 1) the website is cumbersome and tired for an upscale cruise line. In fairness it has undergone an update but still lags other. 2)Booking spa treatments before the cruise is a nice plus other lines don't offer but 3)we find it maddening that one cannot book the specialty restaurants before hand as most other lines allow. If one wants to make sure they obtain their choices they need to rush aboard and run around the ship to each restaurant and book since it is not automated but manual lists are kept 4)beverages and gratuities included in the tariff is a major plus especially on a 14 day cruise 5)embarkation was smooth but again manually performed? 6)upon boarding you can have lunch in the Restaurant or (not publicized) in La Terrazza before departure 7)Staff is attentive and by mid cruise most remember your name 8)the Butler service is spotty compared to past ones we have had 9) the ship is new obviously but somber and almost non-offensive in its color palette and uses of woods. The narrow cabins and funky sink are well documented and accurate. Storage is ample 10)The Restaurant and La Terrazza are the 2 best with no surcharge restaurants aboard. Seishin was very poor in every respect. The concept needs to be rethought. La Champagne was tried 3 times and was fine in food quality but not worth $300 with wine. Stars was fun with its tapas concept and music but once the music started the diners were asked to be quiet while everyone listened to the "concert". Hot Rocks was intriguing as it is on the outside upper pool deck and everything is served for you to grill. Some nights can be gusty indeed and the heaters are rolled out. 11) Getting a poolside perch was not difficult during the cruise. 12)The average age of cruisers was older then we thought and certainly much older then we preferred. If I were to guess I would say in the 70's. This had a tempering effect on ALL activities on the ship. 12) By 10:00pm or so the ship save for a hearty 20 to 30 of us "goes to sleep". If this is your style this is your ship. 13)The Casino is small but adequate as we used it nightly. 14)The internet worked beautifully as I had to use it quite heavily for business 15)The shore excursions were simple and thoughtfully geared to touring for the older audience. 16) debarkation was simple and felt not rushed. So, in conclusion if I haven't lost you yet the key question is would we cruise Silversea again and would we do it on Spirit or on one of the smaller "clubby" other Silversea ships. I honestly don't know. We purchased a refundable trip for the future and gave them a $1,000 deposit to save 5% off on a future cruise. We have 12 months to let this one sink in and regroup. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2010
We boarded the Shadow Early in Lauderdale around 1PM. Were directed to the Terazza for buffet lunch, it was easy quiet and very well organized. We had lunch and the cabins were ready. Luggage was already there (yes in one hour) and the ... Read More
We boarded the Shadow Early in Lauderdale around 1PM. Were directed to the Terazza for buffet lunch, it was easy quiet and very well organized. We had lunch and the cabins were ready. Luggage was already there (yes in one hour) and the butler was knocking on our door soon thereafter. Cabin was in good shape, a few dings and dents but overall still in shape and we always enjoy the two sinks that the smaller ships lack and the separate shower. The butler helped us unpack and brought us hangers and met all our needs with shampoo choices, shoe shining and even brought glass polishing clothes for us and polished our dirty Sunglasses etc....really excellent cabin attendants throughout our cruise. Laundry service which we used often, was flawless and happily free as we had over 100 nights on the line. Great perk. Food onboard was delicious and the quality of fish and meats was excellent. If we did not like something we always ordered something else. Sometimes off the menu and sometimes on the menu...whatever we asked they did and made as long as we gave 12 hours notice. Get creative, their kitchen was working amazingly well and ate some excellent food. On Deck buffet night was fun with much eating and drinking, grilled lobster tails and claws shrimp as far as the eye could see and ribs and a huge paella...deserts were also fabulous. As you can tell, we LOVED the food and we are are tough judges. Entertainment was the weak spot as the shows are all the same. The entertainers themselves were OK...but these are the same shows we saw last year at this time and again in August and October everything is the same. They need to end this and go back to cabaret performers. We once had Emma Sinclair onboard years ago and she was fabulous....she could sing every night as far as we were concerned. She had a beautiful voice. That said we last saw her on Regent so who knows whats going on with Silverseas entertainment. We were unimpressed and the last 2 years have not changed our feelings about this. Activities onboard were many. The New Cruise director, a lady who was English, name escapes me...was excellent. She had lots of energy and bring much to the ship. Activities were language lessons, cooking and wine pairings, ice carving, water volleyball, dance lessons and a speaker. The speaker and X CIA operative was true to his bio however his speeches we felt were a bit boring....he was chatting in a bit of a monotone and was very relaxed which put us to sleep. And the people next to us. They now have Phillip onboard hired by Diamonds International, Colombian Emeralds and Tanzanite international (same owners ultimately I think) to sell their jewelry...he gives talks and is big on "upgrading your diamonds"...friendly fellow. We also had artwork onboard and it was all for sale and you could meet with them to "learn about art" at many times during the day. We were not in love with either of these changes....however if it keeps Silversea as good as it has been we can put up with it. It is an additional revenue stream which costs us nothing. That said....buyer beware.. and there were lots of people buying. Ports were nice, and weather was lovely, little cold out of Lauderdale. Ignazio Tatulli is the Captain and he is excellent and we have sailed with him before. We always feel in capable hands with him. Other captains hardly talk or just smile a lot or can barely speak English....Tatulli really seems to care and we understand him on the loudspeaker. Overall the Shadow was fantastic for us. Levels of service both at the bars and restaurants were great. Gille the wine steward, Gilbert the maitre D, Antin in la Terazza handled the 350 us like guests and not passengers....it was spoiling and much enjoyed. The crew really seemed to work together as a team and it was nice to see. Are we going back for more? YES. Wishing you a wonderful journey and may yours be as nice as ours on the Shadow! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2009
I am a solo traveler and was on Silversea's Silver Shadow for 9 days beginning November 13, 2009, embarking in Barbados. I have cruised on Seabourn several times, so many of my observations about Silversea will be from the perspective ... Read More
I am a solo traveler and was on Silversea's Silver Shadow for 9 days beginning November 13, 2009, embarking in Barbados. I have cruised on Seabourn several times, so many of my observations about Silversea will be from the perspective of comparing two luxury cruise lines. The reason I chose Silversea over Seabourn for this particular cruise was for three reasons: Silversea had a generous single supplement (only 125%); the itinerary was the southern Caribbean (only Seabourn's new ship, the Odyssey, is sailing that particular region right now....and their single supplement is 175%), and Silversea still has formal nights in the Caribbean (Seabourn's smaller ships do not). I was in a Vista cabin, on the fourth deck. Embarkation was very easy. I had come into Bridgetown, Barbados several days early and stayed at the beautiful Hilton. I am a scuba diver and, since I dive only about once a year, I chose the Hilton for its gorgeous views of the Caribbean, and the fact they have an on-site dive shop. I loved the hotel and the diving was great. Interestingly enough, I met a couple, on CruiseCritic, who was also on my sailing and we met up at the Hilton for dinner, and boarded the Silver Shadow together. One of the great benefits of the CruiseCritic message boards is meeting people before your cruise. Especially if you are traveling solo, it's nice to have some "friends" right off the bat! I chose early embarkation and got on the ship about 11am. Very easy to get things squared away and fortunately, the suites were ready. 430 is a Vista cabin on the fourth deck, and I was very impressed with the cabins. Similar to Seabourn's standard suites, the Silver Shadow has one nice touch; a shower separate from the bathtub. As I bring my scuba gear with me, the tub was a great place to rinse it off and leave it! The cabins are gorgeous; nice big window, beautiful decor. Flat screen TV, desk with personalized stationery, and...surprise...a very comfy bed! The bathroom was very beautiful with marble everywhere (the towels, as other reviewers have reported, are a bit scratchy), two sinks, and Bulgari products (hair conditioner and shampoo, body lotion, etc.) Very nice. The luggage did not arrive for awhile, but that gave me the opportunity to scour the ship, as this was my first Silversea cruise. The Shadow has the capacity for 384 guests (Seabourn's three smaller ships hold 208). Our ship was full, but other than around the pool (or if we were gathered in the show lounge), there was never a feeling of crowds, ever. The ship itself was gorgeous, I loved it. Lots of places to hang out, the expansive Observation Lounge (with massage chairs, an impressive selection of books, and a breathtaking view of the ocean), a very well stocked library, and both the stern of the ship and deck 10 (where there is a wide walking/jogging track) gave you great views. It took me awhile to figure out to get to the restaurant, I had to go up one level, through reception, and down to deck 4 again (the deck plan showed the restaurant on level four....you can't get to it from four though!). No problems, it was fun being on a larger ship that had so many places to be. One vast improvement of the Silversea ships over the smaller Seabourn ships is the pool area. Large, perfectly positioned pool in the midst of deck 8, surrounded by chairs, so it's a very social gathering place. On our two sea days back to Ft. Lauderdale, we had stellar weather and this was the place to be. I absolutely loved this part of the ship. One of my favorite places to hang out on Seabourn's small ships is the forward jacuzzi on deck 5. I was planning to miss this feature, but Silver Shadow's happenin' pool area more than made up for it. They also had table tennis and shuffleboard "tournaments", which were lots of fun. I enjoyed the stability of the larger ship as well, and seldom felt any movement of the sea at all. Of course, we enjoyed very good weather (only Bequia and St. Bart's had intermittent rain). Our ports were Bequia, Martinique, Dominica (wins in my opinion for the friendliest people in the Caribbean), St. Kitts, St. Bart's, Tortola. I dove in every port except St. Kitts, where I took a horseback ride. Pretty island, had lots of fun. From the reports of the other passengers, they seemed to enjoy all the shore excursions that Silversea provided in the ports. The one disappointment was the food on the Silver Shadow. I'd say upwards of 50% of the time I did not like what I was eating. Most of the time I'd have just fruit in the morning (either in the Terrace buffet, or by room service), and then a quick lunch (same). I ate in the restaurant six evenings, the Terraza once and Le Champagne once. In my opinion, Seabourn's food was far superior to Silver Shadow. The service on the Shadow was friendly, but did not blow your socks off like Seabourn does. That being said, I enjoyed my cruise so much I booked Silversea's new ship, the Spirit, for another Caribbean cruise in 2010. The pool deck really won me over. On all my cruises, I've never run into a friendlier group of people than were on this sailing. The passengers were just delightful and very warm to a woman traveling alone. I was invited to dinner often, and felt included in conversations wherever they were taking place. Unlike Seabourn, Silver Shadow does not have "hosted" tables every night at dinner in the restaurant. I do like that feature of Seabourn, but all I had to do was show up in the restaurant and request a table with others who wanted company; I always had a great group of people to talk to. I did receive one invitation to dinner at a hosted table, the first formal evening. Being exhausted from diving all day, I never took in ANY of the entertainment, so I'm sorry I can't comment on that. I heard from other passengers that it was very nice. The one thing I did was Liar's Club (where they come up with a word you've never heard of, and four people give you silly definitions, one of which is true, you have to guess which one!), and that was great. I spent alot of time in the gym; they have treadmills, stairsteppers, and other exercise equipment. They also have another room with mats, exercise balls, and weights. I did not do anything in the spa as their services were over the top expensive. The people who ran both places, though, seemed very nice and helpful. The cruise director, the reception area staff, the suite stewardesses, the international hostesses, the waiters, were all wonderful. Silversea has a wonderful crew and I liked them. We did have an incident on the sailing with a man overboard, this was on the last sea day. It is a miracle, and I thank God, that the man was recovered alive and well. Kudos to the crew of the Silver Shadow for their hard work in finding him. Even after a sleepless and traumatic last morning, they were appreciative and gracious as they said goodbye to us and scrambled to invite on a new group of people. All in all, I thought Silversea a very nice line. Obviously I liked it, since I booked it again. I would give Seabourn higher marks in food and service, but that in no way takes away from how hard Silver Shadow tries to please its guests. I would be very comfortable recommending this beautiful ship to anyone. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2007
SILVERSEA CRUISES - Revisited Several years ago I sailed on Silversea Cruises' SILVER CLOUD in the Mediterranean. I greatly enjoyed the experience but haven't found the time to return as quickly as I had hoped, until now. My ... Read More
SILVERSEA CRUISES - Revisited Several years ago I sailed on Silversea Cruises' SILVER CLOUD in the Mediterranean. I greatly enjoyed the experience but haven't found the time to return as quickly as I had hoped, until now. My partner and I choose the SILVER SHADOW for a 9-night cruise beginning in Barbados on October 17, 2007 and ending in Ft. Lauderdale. We also spent two nights at Sandy Lane in Barbados prior to the cruise. For those that prefer to "cut to the chase" so to speak, I'll tell you upfront that Silversea lived up to all our expectations and even exceeded them. The reports I have read on various message boards about declining standards were not evident on my sailing. In fact I think some aspects of the cruise were upgraded upon reflection of my previous Silversea experience. Pre-cruise Special mention must be made of Silversea's pre-cruise documentation. They say first impressions are lasting impressions in this is certainly the case with Silversea. I don't think any Cruise Line or Tour Company has a better presentation. Your documents arrive in a silver box, and inside is a lovely black document holder embossed with the Silversea logo. The documents have the personal touch and the ticket is actually printed on Silversea letterhead rather than typical ticket stock. Also included is a leave at home itinerary, pre printed baggage tags, two Silversea permanent luggage tags, shore excursion booklet, question and answer book, a suite preference form, and a gift order form. It's this early indication of attention to detail that continued throughout the cruise and sets Silversea apart from other lines. [ http://public.fotki.com/eroller/silver-shadow---oct/silver-shadow---cor/img2624.html ] Sandy Lane - "simply to die for" We flew from Atlanta to Barbados on American and the flight was average. Nothing to write home about but we (and our luggage) arrived safely and in tact. That alone is a good flight in my book. Once we cleared customs our private car (BMW 7-series) and driver were there to greet us. Round trip transfers are provided by Sandy Lane if you book through the American Express Fine Hotel and Resorts Program (Platinum and Centurion Card holders). It's a fairly long drive from the airport to Sandy Lane. I would say it took about 40 minutes and although we were tired, we quickly forgot about our fatigue once we pulled through the gates of Sandy Lane. "Stunning" is really the best word to describe the property. Flowers, fountains, a fresh fragrance, birds chirping, and the ocean lapping truly put us into sensory overload. A very warm welcome from the accommodating staff (kudos to Sandra, Sophia, and Walwen) immediately put us at ease. Ice-cold menthol towels were presented along with a delicious concoxion of fresh island juices. We were escorted to our suite in the Orchard Wing where the check-in formalities were conducted and an orientation of the suite was given. You might wonder why we would need an orientation, so please have a look at the pictures (see pictures link at the end of the review) and you will see why. The suite had soothing dEcor, traditional in style but high-tech at the same time. There were three flat-panel TV's where you could program music, watch TV, play DVD's, access hotel services, or surf the net (free of charge). In addition there were several control panels throughout the suite that controlled curtains, music, lights, air conditioning, fans, door locks, etc. Even the "do not disturb" sign was an electronic light controlled from the panel. In addition we enjoyed the high-tech espresso maker. Our suite included a bedroom, walk in closet, marble bath, second half bath, dining area, parlor, and entry hall. In addition the patio was massive and also included it's own dining area and seating area. Please see the pictures, as words really can't describe this gorgeous room. [ http://public.fotki.com/eroller/silver-shadow---oct/sandy-lane---barbados/ ] We were only steps from the beach, which was an added plus. That night we enjoyed the Manager's Cocktail reception in the main patio area and then a delicious tasting menu dinner at L'Acadou, the fine dining establishment. It was delicious and very expensive! While we dined we enjoyed entertainment from native Barbados dancers along with island music. The other backdrop was a beautiful starlit beach and a calm surf adding to the ambiance. Sandy Lane offers an amazing spa, massive pool with waterfalls and swim up bar, country club with three golf courses, childcare center, and a beautiful beach. The entire nature of the resort is one of relaxation, indulgence, sport, and quiet reflection. Notes and highlights include: amazing beach service and wonderful padded chairs; incredible spa; three championship golf courses with beautiful clubhouse; GPS navigation system in every golf cart; majority of British guests; wild monkeys roaming the property; stunning beach and pools; warm, friendly service from the heart. I'm pretty much a ship fanatic and usually can't wait to get to the ship. Staying at Sandy Lane was the exception. I really didn't want to leave. It was simply that fantastic. We were given hugs from the staff as we left and another private car took us to the SILVER SHADOW, about a 20-minute drive away along the coast. Boarding SILVER SHADOW Boarding the SILVER SHADOW was impressive as ever. A group of about ten staff were pierside in white gloves to welcome you onboard. Once up the gangplank, Fernando the Cruise Director from Portugal was present to personally greet you. Champagne was offered and check-in formalities were conducted in the showlounge. Mission quickly accomplished, we were escorted to our suite, cabin 618, slightly forward on Deck 6 and what Silversea labels a Veranda Suite. Suite 618 Renee, our cabin Stewardess from New Zealand quickly arrived and introduced herself. She pointed out all the features of the suite and made sure we knew how to contact her for anything we desired. She also asked what type of pillows we prefer, and how we would like the bar stocked. Amenities in the suite included binoculars; umbrella; sewing and shoe shine kit; extra blanket; slippers; robes; safe; clock; cosmetic mirror; stocked refrigerator; ice; glasses; and wonderful Bvlgari bath products. Of course a bottle of champagne awaited us along with the daily program (the Silversea Chronicles) and personalized stationary / welcome letters. Service provided by Renee was exemplary and the cabin was kept spotless. Everything was like new and in perfect working order. This cabin was very quiet and we rarely heard noise from outside the cabin. Special mention must be made of room service. It is truly exquisite. There is an extensive room service menu, but if there is something else you desire just ask and the staff will do their best to accommodate you. The breakfast menu is quite extensive and I enjoyed delicious blueberry pancakes most mornings. Lunch and dinner are also superb, and you are free to order off the dining room menu (included in the daily Silversea Chronicles) during normal lunch and dinner times. Room service is not just dropped off, but prepared on a special table that fits over the coffee table in your suite. Frette linens and fine china / silverware accompany the delicious cuisine. At dinner, you have the option of having your courses served course by course if you desire. The room service alone is reason enough to sail on Silversea! The Ship SILVER SHADOW is typical of the Silversea fleet. Modern, clean, impeccably maintained, understated, comfortable, and well designed. I slightly prefer the SILVER SHADOW over the SILVER CLOUD for a few reasons. The gym and spa are larger, as is the pool deck. Also, the outdoor decks are more expansive and the cabin bathrooms are larger. SHADOW also had a newer feeling to her, which makes sense as she is a newer vessel. The differences are small enough that I would not hesitate to sail on the smaller Silversea vessels again if the opportunity arises. Food and Service I felt both were impeccable. I never had a bad meal and the service received everywhere onboard was outstanding. The staff learned your name very quickly and called you by name whenever they had the opportunity. The Restaurant was available for all three main meals, as was La Terrazza, which is the more casual venue. Breakfast and lunch in La Terrazza were buffet style although there was also a small menu at each table with daily selections. Plenty of staff are on hand to carry your plate and provide beverages. A lovely outdoor area with teak furniture is available at La Terrazza as well. For dinner, La Terrazza becomes a specialty restaurant, which I greatly enjoyed. I didn't feel the food and service were any better than The Restaurant, but it was a nice change of atmosphere. Reservations are required. The Restaurant had a four-piece band and dancing on certain evenings along with candlelit tables all adding to the ambiance. Many people danced between courses. Le Champagne is an extra tariff restaurant and one of the few things you pay additional for on Silversea. I never tried it so I can't comment. It never seemed too busy but then again nothing seems to busy on Silversea. There is simply no waiting and no lines anywhere. Finally there is the Poolside Grill. Beautiful teak tables and chairs are located in shaded areas poolside, and there is a special menu. Here they have burgers, hot dogs, fresh fish, chicken, salads, and wonderful deserts. Unlike poolside grills on most ships, this one is all waiter service. Everything is brought to you and made to order. If you want something off the menu, just ask. I really enjoyed the Poolside Grill, as I tend to spend a lot of time by the pool. Something Silversea is well known for is an evening barbeque poolside. This is not a typical barbeque but truly a first class affair with dancing, entertainment, waiter service, real china, and linen covered tables. I greatly enjoyed this on SILVER CLOUD and was looking forward to it on the SHADOW as well. Unfortunately after the crew spent hours preparing, it had to be canceled due to showers. A disappointment for the passengers, but I felt more sorry for the crew who worked so hard to provide a truly memorable experience. Entertainment Entertainment is very low key on Silversea. There are no art auctions, photographers, bingo, pool games (besides water volleyball) Vegas shows, or revenue producing announcements. Instead there are enrichment lectures and demonstrations during the day, with a small show (usually a vocalist or musician) at night along with dancing and music. Don't be fooled though, evenings can be lively on Silversea with dancing and conversation going into the wee hours. One set of lectures I enjoyed on this sailing were provided by the Cruise Director Fernando. It's turns out he is a bit of a ship nut like I am. Just like I did as a child, he collected brochures, deck plans, and visited any ship possible while growing up in Lisbon. He is quite knowledgeable about ships and put on an entertaining lecture all with his own slides. Fellow Passengers In keeping tradition with my last Silversea Cruise, our fellow passengers were a diverse group. There were only three children onboard, with a nice mix of ages for the adults. I think something like 27 nationalities were represented among the passengers, which speaks volumes considering the ship had just under 300 passengers onboard. I think the majority of passengers were from the UK, with the US close behind. What I love about Silversea passengers is how well traveled they are. Most love to talk about travel and they have lots of interesting stories and antidotes to share. Many seem to know each other from past Silversea Cruises. It really felt like a big family and everyone seemed to get along famously. With only 300 passengers onboard, you always ran into a familiar face, which is a pleasant change from the mega-ships. Weather The weather was simply marvelous from start to finish. We had short rain showers in St. Barts (between the sun and stars) and the rest of the time it was glorious sunshine. Our final morning pulling into Ft. Lauderdale we were met with overcast skies and rain, but at that point who cares? Seas were calm and usually it was difficult to tell the ship was moving. There was a slight rocking on a few nights, just enough to lull you to sleep. Ports Barbados; St Lucia; Guadeloupe; Antigua; St Bart's; St Kitts; Virgin Gorda; Prickly Pear. I'm not going to write too much about the ports. We had been to most before and we really went on this cruise for the ship experience more than the ports. Barbados and St Barts were my favorites, and I would certainly return to either. I wasn't too thrilled with St Lucia or Guadeloupe. In fact Guadeloupe should have been skipped all together as far as I was concerned. In St. Bart's we went to the lovely Guanahani Hotel and enjoyed an afternoon of sun on the beach. We were able to use all the facilities of the hotel and enjoyed a wonderful lunch poolside. The Guanahani is a first class resort, but personally I much preferred Sandy Lane on Barbados. The SILVER SHADOW actually arrived in St. Bart's at 11pm the night prior to our schedule arrival. We simply anchored off the island and spent the night in the shadow of the island. It was kind of magical with the ship being so quiet (no engines) and the shoreline being so close. Silversea provided a lovely private beach barbeque on Prickly Pear Island. This island is next to the exclusive Necker Island owned by Richard Branson. Literally everything was brought ashore from the ship via tender and the crew did an amazing job. The only thing local was the music, which was great. Cocktails, champagne, beer, etc. were all included just as they are onboard ship. A special treat were the waiters who waded out into the ocean to serve guests champagne and beer (or anything else you wanted) from special floating trays. It was truly a sight to behold and I quite enjoyed the experience, decadent as it was! I think the waiters enjoyed it as much as the passengers. I know Seabourn Cruise Line had done this for years, and now it appears Silversea is getting into the act as well. Disembarkation All good things must come to an end, and unfortunately this Silversea cruise was no exception. Debarkation was smooth and civilized. There are no announcements before 8am and I was even able to enjoy my blueberry pancakes via room service the last morning. We said our goodbyes and we were off the ship by 9am. The staff was lined up to say goodbye as you exit the ship and available to carry your hand luggage if you so desire. We took a cab to Miami where we caught an uneventful American flight back to Atlanta. Final Thoughts I hope from this review you are able to determine how much I enjoyed this vacation. I truly feel Silversea is better than ever, as they continue to provide a first class cruising experience. The combination of newer small ships, larger cabins, balconies, spotless vessels, delicious cuisine, attention to detail, interesting itineraries, and excellent personal service truly places Silversea at the forefront of the luxury cruise industry. I did not witness any penny pinching or a decline in service as some have indicated on various message boards. In fact I felt many things were even better and more luxurious than my past Silversea cruise about six years ago. Some people just can't be pleased and seem to look for anything to nit pick at. I have sailed on over 60 cruises on many different cruise lines and I can tell you it would be difficult to surpass my experience on the SILVER SHADOW. Just below is a link to pictures and my email address if you have any questions. I hope you enjoyed the review and pictures. Ernie Roller Pictures Link: http://public.fotki.com/eroller/silver-shadow---oct/ Note - the pictures are divided into several different folders (ports, cabin, ship, etc.). Any questions? Please contact me at: eroller@bellsouth.net Read Less
Sail Date: October 2007
Las Palmas to Barbados: 2nd October to 17th October 2007. I have wanted to cruise for a few years, but was discouraged as I was unsure about being on a ship for a week or even more. I spoke to friends who all advised different things, ... Read More
Las Palmas to Barbados: 2nd October to 17th October 2007. I have wanted to cruise for a few years, but was discouraged as I was unsure about being on a ship for a week or even more. I spoke to friends who all advised different things, some said standard cabin, and some said balcony etc. In the end, I had to make up my own mind. My partner Lynne and I decide one afternoon that rather than go to Arizona as planned we should book a cruise for my 50th. I had read about cruises from the Berlitz guide and knew that there are about 4 quality lines, Silversea, Seabourn, Crystal and Regent. Frankly I would have been happy with any. Our travel agent offered us a repositioning cruise at a very good price on Silver Shadow. It included a stop on Tenerife, which we liked as Lynne's brother lives there. It also gave us a taste of sea days; about 8 in all and 6 stops at places we fancied seeing. I had been reading many reviews of Silversea and in about 90% of the reviews, the customers seem very happy. My concern was the 10% who moaned. I will give you our conclusions at the end. As we arrived at the ship we were warmly welcomed on board and taken to register, which took two minutes and I mentioned about the balcony. The receptionist was charming and asked us to look at the cabin to see if we would be comfortable. We did and we both thought it was lovely. Without spending time boring most of you with details of our daily activities, I will tell you our opinion. Cabin The brochure describes the cabins as suites, which in reality is a comfortable well-appointed room with a lounge area. We chose the standard cabin without a balcony, which was roomy at about 275 square feet. We did not pay extra for a balcony as we have one at home and we have never ever used it. I was concerned about this as I wondered frequently if I would regret it but the travel agent and Silversea customer service assured us that if I were not comfortable they would honor the upgrade charge on a daily basis. The cabin was beautifully appointed with robes, walk in wardrobe, fresh flowers, Champagne on ice waiting, a stocked mini bar, fresh fruit and all the usual 5 star hotel amenities. One good idea was a Silversea fabric bedcover that was over the Frette comforter so you could unpack your suitcases without marking or damaging the comforter. In the stylish and spacious marble bathroom, we had a separate shower, twin sinks, ample quality Frette towels and a full size bath. There was a choice of Bulgari, Aqua de Parma and other toiletries. Baggage delivery was quick and efficient. . Food. We ate in the main Restaurant about 10 nights. We found no problem obtaining a table for 2 and we thought the variety of food and choice on the menu was excellent. The Maitre D' and his team of Head Waiters and waiters looked after us in a very personal way. I had requested no shellfish and they remembered without either of us ever having to remind them. They constantly offered to make us anything special. Considering that this is mass catering we felt the food was very good. No, it is not Gordon Ramsey 3 star Michelin but does anyone seriously expect that on a daily basis. There is the option of a Gourmet small restaurant, which charges about £100 extra, but this includes a full Digestion menu and wines of the highest caliber. I looked at it and thought the price was very fair considering it included Dom Perignon champagne and wines of similar standard. We did not try this restaurant, as the menu was predominantly seafood. However next time we will as I am sure there will be no problem having the chef prepare a full menu without shellfish. On the other 5 nights we ate in the Italian La Terraza restaurant where we found the food and atmosphere tranquil and very relaxing. Every evening the chef introduced himself and always offered to make us any favorite dishes. We accepted his offer on 2 occasions and we were delighted. I have noticed on some Silversea reviews customers seem to feel that the restaurant service is slow, but we felt it was just right and it is possibly because service in America tends to be quicker than here in Europe. Remember this is a European line with European service standards. One evening we decided on room service. Whatever we wanted was available but we really fancied a couple of hot dogs, both stylishly delivered. The waiter insisted on setting a dinner table up for us, another example of the excellent customer service and attention to detail. I also noticed that cling film was placed round the spout of the Hot Chocolate to stop it from spilling as the waiter delivered the tray and to help keep it hot. The poolside restaurant that the sun worshippers seemed to like, served barbecue style food and a full drinks menu. We did not try it but the feedback was very good. We also experienced the famous Galley Brunch, which was everything we expected. One evening there was a magnificent poolside barbecue with interesting dishes as well as traditional barbecue food. Overall, we were very happy with all our meals and felt every waiter really tried to ensure we were very happy by remembering our personal wants and desires. Bars and Drinks. There are about 4 bars aboard the ship and I must say that drink just flows. You can have virtually everything you like included in the price. House champagne flowed constantly and was Pommery, Mumm or NicolasFeuillatte. If you required Krug or any other expensive premium brand it was available at an extra charge. All alcoholic beverages were was also available in your room. One evening we enjoyed a certain bottle of wine and the waiter insisted on sending another to our cabin. We both enjoy Vermouth while getting ready and asked for Noilly Pratt and a bottle arrived immediately. The standard of the included wines were quite good and they changed daily. You could always ask for a previous wine and if they had it you were given the bottle. We liked the Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc and the Benzinger Cabernet Sauvignon. Some in our opinion were of a slightly lesser standard but this really is personal preference. I did find the bar team very personable and friendly. Many of the staff have been with Silverseas for many years and staff retention in my opinion always leads to excellent customer service and high staff morale. We did overhear a complaint by an elderly couple that there was a run on Pimms! After 5 days the ship had run out of Pimms and the couple complained. The bar manager introduced himself to the couple to apologize profusely. He offered to arrange a tasting of similar drinks for them to try. The couple also felt that the cashew nuts at the bar were not fresh to which Sujith assured the couple that fresh cashews would be fried each night and available at the bar for them. Personally, I felt that this was unnecessary but I also feel that it is the company's intention to ensure that you are very satisfied with your vacation. Maintenance. Silver Shadow is in pristine condition both inside and out. Painting is a continuous task and new carpet was discretely being laid throughout the ship. The ashtrays are cleaned and the Silversea logo embossed on the sand constantly. The public toilets were spotless and again the logo embossed on the toilet roll. The maintenance staff also impressed me. Many of these employees are from the Philippines, India and Goa. All speak perfect English but more importantly always smile, say good morning to everyone and help all guests if they need assistance with the lift and opening doors. Lectures, Trips and Entertainment. There were two daily lectures while the ship was at sea. I found the talks interesting, diverse and well planned. The morning Lecture was normally medical with a Doctor from the Mayo clinic and in the afternoon it was a couple who were hoteliers and spoke about a variety of topics including Claridges hotel and a series on English country houses. Evening entertainment was varied, with each act appearing twice and with different show. These included a magician, two separate singers, a classical concert pianist from Japan, a high wire style act and an outstanding classical violinist with a tremendous personality called Beverly Davidson who added a little extra to the violin. Local entertainment was featured when the ship was in port. During the day there were numerous organized events ranging from Easy Spanish to picture shows of old cruise liners. These were organized by the cruise director Fernando who worked tirelessly throughout the trip. The resident pianist and separate quartet were of good quality and appeared nightly in the bars and lounges. We decided to take most of the organized tours with the Silversea team. The reason was that I felt the prices were fair, about £40/ $80 for a 4 hour tour on average and we were more comfortable being confident if anything went wrong the ship would wait for us as it was their organized tour. The organization of the trips was excellent, we liked the fresh juices and drinks that were available and we were always accompanied by Silversea crew. They set up Silversea stations in corporate livery for us to have snacks at and I felt all the trips were worth the price. Tipping. This is a contentious topic. All tips are included in the fare but I was not sure of the protocol so I asked other passengers. Some did not tip extra, some donated to the crew fund and some gave to individual members of staff. Our opinion was that it did not make any difference to the way you were treated whether you tipped extra or not. We received excellent service from everyone. We decided ourselves which of the options we wanted to do and our opinion is for each individual to do whatever they feel they most appropriate. Conclusion. We think it is simple. If you are the sort of people who look forward to going on holiday with the intention of having a great time I am sure you will thoroughly enjoy every minute of a Silversea cruise. We have a dear friend who seems to start out thinking that this and that won't be right. Subsequently he always seems to think that his holidays are poor and that the resorts are nowhere near as good as people say. He stayed at the Four Seasons in Hong Kong, which has just won Asian hotel of the year by a leading travel magazine and he felt it was barely 4 stars. We think it is simply down to approach and attitude. Sadly we do not think our friend will ever enjoy a holiday, probably just like the 10% on the board here who feel Silversea is poor. We however cannot imagine what these people find to moan at and need to take a reality check. However if you go with a positive attitude you will definitely have a fabulous time. I hope I have not offended anyone with any of my comments and I hope it may help anyone thinking of taking a Silversea cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2006
Silver Shadow December 12-21, 2006 Barbados - Ft. Lauderdale This was our first trip with Silversea. We decided on this cruise due to favorable press and internet reviews of Silversea, a fantastic price considering the all-inclusiveness ... Read More
Silver Shadow December 12-21, 2006 Barbados - Ft. Lauderdale This was our first trip with Silversea. We decided on this cruise due to favorable press and internet reviews of Silversea, a fantastic price considering the all-inclusiveness of Silversea, the time of the cruise - just at the beginning of our long, Chicago winters and the itinerary included a number of islands that we have not been to. What also made the cruise especially wonderful was that some wonderful British friends we had met on the Radisson (now Regent) Navigator in 2004 were able to join us. We have been active on the various internet boards for some time, but for those who don't know us, we are both salaried professionals in our early 50's with a love of travel and cruising in particular. Most of our cruises have been on Celebrity, although, as mentioned above, we have cruised with Regent once and decided to try Silversea for our early winter cruise this year. Overall Impression While we enjoyed many aspects of the cruise, we were not blown away. On a 10 point scale we rate the cruise as an 8. Had it not been for the price/value and all inclusiveness of the cruise the score would be lower. If we had paid even close to what Silversea charges for many of their cruises we would not have been as satisfied. The Ship The Silver Shadow was built in 2000 and first sailed in 2001. It is an elegant, beautifully simple ship that is tastefully decorated with mostly muted colors and very nice art. We stayed in cabin 810, listed as a Veranda Cabin in the brochure, and the cabin was also tasteful, roomy and elegant. The granite, double-sink, separate bath and shower bathroom is an especially keen design accomplishment. Speaking of the bath, the BVLGARI toiletries are very nice. Our cabin stewardess also offered Acqua di Parma and Neutrogena products if you wanted something different. If you enjoy Rembrandt, you may want to select this cabin as there is a very nice self-portrait etching just over the bed. Much of the art is related to the classics, whether they are ancient Greece and Rome, or Shakespeare and Rembrandt. The more modern art seems to be primarily based on classical themes as well. The room bar set-up was exactly as requested on-line. Unfortunately we were not able to fully use the Ketel One Vodka and Grand Marnier as it was so easy and convivial to get a cocktail elsewhere on the ship that we rarely had a drink in our room. When we did ask for a new bottle of wine (twice) there was nary a problem with the request. About the only thing our stewardess did not do was removing all the items from our mini-fridge that we did not want or use (causing a minor issue when we wanted to refrigerate some champagne later in the cruise). The ship is advertised as having the biggest square foot to passenger ration in the industry and I don't doubt it. Even though the ship is relatively small, and normally houses a bit under 400 passengers, it seems much larger due to the spaciousness of the public areas. The ship sailed well for a small ship. We had a couple of nights with pretty rough seas and the ship did some bobbing and weaving but always seemed quite stable. It was also relatively quiet, although you can't escape a few creaks here and there. In comparing the Silver Shadow to the Navigator, the Silver Shadow wins by virtue of less noise and vibration. Otherwise the elegance and layout are very similar. Maintenance Our bed was very firm and my guess after the first of many restful nights was that the mattress had been recently replaced. Sure enough, when we arrived in Fort Lauderdale they were replacing the other 50% of the mattresses, so if you sail on the Silver Shadow in the near future you are assured of a very new and comfortable bed. The crew was busy re-varnishing many of the teak railings during the cruise and there was evidence of continual cleaning throughout. Our only criticism, and it is relatively minor, is that the carpeting was stained more than usual and is in general need of replacement in the hallways and entry areas to the public spaces. Otherwise, for a six year old ship it was in great shape. Restaurants, Bars and Other Public Spaces There is no wow factor for any of the public spaces of the ship. In fact, the overall design of the main restaurant, secondary restaurant (The Terrace or La Terrazza) and two main bars is rather nondescript. The location and use of the restaurants and bars is also somewhat questionable. The main restaurant is on Deck 4. Except for a few cabins forward of the restaurant, there isn't anything else on Deck 4. The Bar is on Deck 5. This was the most active bar on the ship for pre-dining cocktails. The entertainment consisted of a one man band and his electronics and there was very little dancing. Also on Deck 5 is the main reception area, the (very) few (expensive) shops and the (very) small casino. The lower portion of the main theater is in front of the bar, but the primary theater entrance is on Deck 6. The theater is only public area on Deck 6 and it is large - especially considering the overall size of the ship. I'm not sure, but I think it could hold everyone on the ship if necessary. The sightlines and acoustics are excellent. (More on the entertainment later). Deck 7 houses the casual Terrace Restaurant, the small (pricey) alternative restaurant Le Champagne and the Humidor cigar smoking room. Except for a few tables in the back of the restaurant there is very little outdoor seating available at this restaurant. That means if you want to get food from the restaurant and sit outside by the pool, you have to take your food and go upstairs to the pool area. This really makes no sense. This restaurant should be on the same deck as the pool (and they could move the Promenade Bar which is on Deck 8 and woefully underused to Deck 7). The nice-sized pool and two Jacuzzis are surrounded by plenty of lounge chairs and other outdoor seating on Deck 8. There is the always busy Pool Bar and the small but busy Pool Grill. Aft of the pool area is the previously mentioned Promenade Bar. This is a huge space that (at least on our cruise) was rarely used. Early risers could get a coffee and snack here, and the three-piece Silver Shadow orchestra played here late each night (usually around 11-12) even if they weren't performing with the main show. We thought they would be playing before dinner each night, but that wasn't the case - and with no entertainment at the Promenade Bar and the huge, empty spaces it was a disconcerting place to have a cocktail. We liked the idea of it, but it got lonely, so we moved down to Deck 5 to be with other cruisers. I'm not exactly sure what the purpose of the Promenade Bar is. It has the appearance of a large nightclub but with no nightclub activities it is dead space. Deck 9 is open above the pool area and provides additional seating and service by the pool bar and grill staff. The walking/jogging track is also on this deck. The 10th deck houses the spa, workout room and observation area. The Food We were not wowed. Dinners in the restaurant were hit and miss. In general the best main courses were the beef. The fish could either be very good or illness inspiring. Other meats, such as pork and lamb were equally inconsistent. The food preparations also lacked creativity. On Celebrity they typically have very interesting appetizers and even soups, but except for the rare exception the soups and appetizers were mostly forgettable on the Silver Shadow. We kept the same waiter we had on the first night, Leonard, and his service was always friendly and professional. We had dinner twice in La Terrazza and found the food to be generally better, but except for the lobster presentations on formal night, were not much better than the average Italian Trattoria back home. We generally enjoyed the selections of wines from the every day selections. If we wanted a different white or red, the servers were always accommodating. We were especially fond of a nice French Chablis, a New Zealand Pinot Noir and a Chilean Cabernet. It was also a pleasure to be able to get a nice glass of desert wine or cognac after the meal (and not having to pay extra for it). We did not order from the optional wine lists but the pricing for a couple of wines that I recognized was about three times retail. Our best food and beverage experiences occurred at the pool! The burgers, turkey burgers, hot dogs, pizzas, salads, French fries were all very good. The pool bar was very accommodating with the usual tropical treats as well as special requests. We breakfasted en-suite as well as at The Terrace and The Restaurant. The room service meals were hit and miss. A couple of times they arrived fresh and hot, and other times cold and stale. Service at The Restaurant was abysmally slow so we only ate there once. The Terrace, which acted as both a buffet and table service, was also inconsistent. The biggest problem with the Terrace is their disorganization. Instead of waiters and assistant waiters having specific stations, it is pretty much catch as catch can. The waiting time for two fried eggs is way too long at 15 minutes. Our omelet orders were always messed up. The Eggs Benedict was served on a plate that was so hot that the bottom English Muffin stuck to the plate. One day a server's hands got too hot and the plate slipped and one Benedict flew off the plate. The baked goods, especially the croissants, were not good. They were dry and tasteless. The only good bread on the cruise was a German Style bread served at breakfast. Perhaps the bakery cook was German? (This is not to slight the Germans, who can be great cooks, but I've never had good baked goods or good coffee in Germany). Speaking of coffee, the everyday coffee was pretty awful. They even kept it on little burners just like mom and pop coffee shops. On the other hand, if you like good, strong espresso or cappuccinos, then this is the cruise for you. We enjoyed these morning, noon and night. In fact, my drink of choice when getting back on the ship in the afternoon was a wonderful iced cappuccino that our pool bar waiter Jordan had waiting for me as soon as he saw me! Considering the relatively small number of passengers and the reviews we had read prior to the cruise, we were disappointed with the food. In general, the food on the Navigator was much better and even the food on most of our Celebrity cruises was better. Silversea takes a bow for its drinks and wine. Susan and I aren't big champagne drinkers, but many Silversea cruisers are, and they really got their money's worth! We also enjoyed not having to sign all those little chits!! That made up for a lot. The Spa The Mandara Spa is actually run by Steiner, the ubiquitous spa company for most cruise lines. Still, it's supposed to be a cut above, and based on Susan's experiences they are. Susan had a facial, manicure and full massage. She was especially impressed with the lady who did the full massage. The masseuse was a registered physical therapist and Susan had one of her best massages in some time. Considering the prices were all inclusive (no tips) Susan also thought the spa prices were quite reasonable. If using the spa onboard is an activity you enjoy, then Silversea and the Silver Shadow are a great choice. The Crew In general the captain and the crew were not very visible around the ship, and when encountered were pleasant but not very friendly. This could be because they are all being replaced in a few weeks. There was a large brochure in our stateroom about the upcoming world cruise and the list of primary crew-members was different than those on this cruise. For those of you who keep track of these things, the captain was Marco Sangiacomo, the hotel director was Rene Peter and the Food and Beverage Manager was Herbert Wagner and Chef de Cuisine was Richard Weichbold (gee I guess I was correct about that German connection!). Frank Freeman was the cruise director. He said it was his first cruise as cruise director (after a major faux-pas when he thanked the employees and crew of the Silver Wind at the farewell cocktail party). He is an affable enough fellow with a pleasant singing voice (he gave a one-man show during the cruise). Unfortunately, he had a tendency to hang out with the same folks, forget your name and did a major disappearing act during disembarkation when there were some serious issues (more about that later). Everyone else on the ship was quite friendly and professional. I believe the best gig on the ship was the Golf Pro. Bruce Mendelson enjoyed his first cruise as the golf pro by putting on daily putting tournaments and arranging for one (yes, one) golf excursion on Puerto Rico that ended up being rained out. The ship has no facilities for golf lessons, so why bother? I would think the demographics of this cruise line would cater to golfers and certainly the destinations offered many wonderful golf courses (on Barbados, Grenada, Martinique as well as Puerto Rico), but this is certainly an area that Silversea needs to work on. The Entertainment The same organization that provides entertainment to Regent also provides singers and dancers to Silversea. The shows on this cruise were definitely a step above the usual cruise shows. We especially enjoyed the last show, called Cirque Neuveau which was clearly a knock-off of Cirque-type shows but was still quite creative and required a lot of acrobatic as well as dancing skills by the dancers. Unfortunately, the entertainment staff was hugely underutilized. On Regent, the entertainment group was very visible around the pool area and during other activities, such as trivia, bingo etc. Not so on Silversea. A shame, since their attractiveness and personalities might have improved attendance at these activities.  The Bar on deck 5 had an adequate one man band before dinner (well, at least he was in tune with himself) but his selections did not get many people up on the (tiny) dance floor. He was usually joined by a female singer after dinner, and while she had a very nice voice, she was totally unfamiliar with the music (required sheet music throughout the cruise) and I don't think she had performed with the one man band before, and we witnessed them having a couple of spats. She also NEVER SMILED. There was a little more dancing, though, when she sang, as the selections were better. The so-called Silver Shadow Orchestra consisted of a great jazz pianist, good bass player and excellent drummer. They accompanied performers on a few shows, but were best when playing on their own (which was far too seldom). The Bar was the evening disco (a poor choice as the promenade bar had a larger dance floor and more seating area). It was going pretty good most nights, with a lot of use by the Spanish passengers. On the last formal night, a large group danced til 2 a.m. to a great selection of oldies and we had a blast. Our Shipmates We were pleasantly surprised at the overall youthfulness of the cruise passengers. I would say that Susan and I were probably about the median in age, with about half the passengers younger than 50 and half older. There was also a nice international contingent. Americans made up about 60% of the passengers, with a large contingent - perhaps as large as 25% - from Britain and Ireland. There was also a nice group from Spain and Portugal that brought some wonderful energy to the ship. If Silversea's marketing is geared to getting more youthful cruisers then, at least based on this cruise, they are being successful. The Islands The cruise began in Barbados. We flew in a couple days before and had two wonderful days at the Hilton. The Hilton resort is just south of Bridgetown and its beach does have waves (which we thought was just fine - what a wonderful sound at night!). Still, it was a nice swimming beach, and the pool area(s) are beautifully landscaped. The service is top notch, and the use of the executive lounge with a nice continental breakfast and fully inclusive cocktail hour is an added plus. I could see spending a week here easily. We took an island tour to see parts of the island we had not seen before and it is quite beautiful on the North and East coasts and inland. We enjoyed a very gourmet meal at The Restaurant at Southseas including three star service. I'd say that we'll be back for more. Bequia, part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, was our next stop. This is the Caribbean the way it used to be. A small, clean fishing village and beautiful, unspoiled beaches. We took a water taxi to Lower Bay and it was the epitome of beautiful white sand, warm calm waters and natural shade. St. Georges, Grenada was our third stop. It has recovered a lot since Hurricane Ivan although you can still see lots of construction going on. We picked up a few odds and ends and spices in town and then took a water taxi to the beach to the south of Grand Anse Beach. It was also quite beautiful, with a few more people than Bequia. Although we didn't snorkel, a couple we met on the way over did do some snorkeling by the rocks and they said it was pretty good. The beach had services, local cold beers for $3 and battling water-taxi drivers. Well, not quite fully battling, but nice shouting matches, anyway. We enjoyed Grenada a lot. I can see coming back and spending more time here. On Martinique we had reserved a rental car with Europe-Car, but they were closed, so we stood in line and picked up a car at Budget next door for E56 (about $70). We took a leisurely drive up the coast to Saint Pierre where we shopped, toured the museum and looked at the ruins from the 1902 volcanic eruption and had a marvelous lunch with some morning caught fish or perfectly French Boeuf au Poivre and nice cold Cote de Provence Rose. After a nice stroll back to the car, we continued inland to the cloud-covered volcano and drove back into town on the Route de la Trace. This was one of the most beautiful drives I have ever taken (and that includes driving in Italy and France). Every twist and turn gave new vistas, new weather, and new foliage. We had read about this drive in the guidebooks (which was why we rented the car) and it was all we had read about and more. (Unfortunately, my passengers, having enjoyed their lunches and wine all too well, napped through a good portion of this drive!). Driving in the capital city was the typical urban adventure, but we managed to return the rental car in one piece with time to get back to the ship for the 5 p.m. sail-a-way. St. Barths continues to be St. Tropez in the Caribbean. Even with the high Euro some good deals can still be had. A couple of years ago we discovered a Mephisto store here with prices much less than back home. This year, after the first rainstorm of our cruise came to an end, we sought out the same store. The proprietor, Sophie, remembered us and we spent a pleasant hour or so shopping and trying on shoes. We had priced out sandals and shoes locally before we went and the prices, even with the Euro at $1.32, still couldn't be beat. We window-shopped and shop-shopped at many of the other stores and boutiques (many of which are still way out of our price range, but are evidently not a problem for many of the island's visitors) and stopped for a cafe or cocktail before heading back to the ship. There are some marvelous beaches here, but the weather was iffy and we had lots of beach time on our first three stops so spent a pleasant afternoon back on the ship. San Juan Puerto Rico on a rainy Sunday is not a great cruise stop. We took the time to use an internet cafe in the city (at 1% of the cost on the ship) and visited with some dear friends we had met on a cruise a few years ago. We had brunch at a private club that was a throwback to Miami or Havana circa 1955 and caught up with our good friends. The rain in San Juan ended around noon but evidently it followed the golfers who went to one of the Robert T. Jones Sr. courses an hour or so west and after a few holes they were washed out (but they got full refunds). Speaking of the internet. Our friend Rodney did purchase internet services on the ship and his report is that it is quite expensive and very slow. Samana Dominican Republic might have some interest if the weather is decent but when the rains are falling and the winds are howling, it is not a good place for a cruise ship. The local town is dirty, falling apart and full of hustlers on noisy, smelly motorcycles. Some cruise mates said they hired a taxi to get out of town and were so depressed by the poverty, they turned around and came right back. Others took the excursion to the waterfalls, which they said were pretty but nothing like the scenery on Dominica or St. Lucia. Most of the passengers were in agreement that this stop was awful. It appears Silversea already knows this since they apparently don't have any more plans to stop here. Carnival has built a wonderful new pier and port facilities at Grand Turk and it has many of the attractions of most of the cruise lines private islands, such as Princess Cays. They have built a beautiful pool area with a swim up bar provided by a pleasant Margaritaville knock-off. The beach is nice, although you need swim shoes since it is rocky and there is some coral. There are some nice duty free stores and it was a very pleasant and enjoyable stop. The snorkeling excursions that left early in the morning had great weather and very clear water. A fantastic storm blew in around 1 p.m. and about 2 inches of rain fell in the next 3 hours. Many folks still at the resort/beach got really soaked! We had gotten back on-board around 12:30 p.m. to have a leisurely lunch and it turned out our timing was perfect! The one sea day on the last day of the cruise was picture-perfect. As I mentioned earlier the pool area and service on Silver Shadow are excellent so we had a great day soaking up the sun and enjoying the libations. Disembarkation in Fort Lauderdale was not pleasant. The ship docked on time around 8 and everyone retrieved their passports and we were ready to disembark. Many passengers had early flights (before 11 a.m.) that Silversea said shouldn't be a problem. Well, 8:30 came and went - 8:45 here is our cruise director - any news? No news. Pursed lips. Never saw him or heard from him again. 9 a.m. Nada. Crowd getting larger and more nervous. No announcements. 9:15 a.m. a passenger is chased back up the stairs after accidentally coming down the stairwell where we are supposed to exit. 9:30 - rumors fill the full hall - problems with the luggage, problems with US Customs, we'll never know. Finally about 9:40 they let us off. After racing through immigration, we get a porter, find our bags and are ready for customs, taxi and airport. We might still make our flight. But no Customs. I'm serious. We were the only ship in port (rare for Port Everglades) and no Customs agents to be found. Calls are made, customers get unruly and surly Customs agents finally appear (evidently upset the ship released us prematurely!). We get a taxi and race to the airport and find out our plane was delayed!! Well, that could have been good news, but we ended up at the airport an extra 2 ½ hours (could have been worse if we had been going to Denver which was shut down). We're still not sure what happened on the Shadow, and having done many cruises understand there can be some delays getting off the ship. But we have been off much larger ships with many more ships in port much sooner than this. What was also galling was the lack of communication from the cruise director. For many of us, it was a sour ending to what had been an otherwise wonderful cruise. Summary Our cruising friends Rodney and Dorothy were also comparing Silversea with Regent and decided by day 5 that they preferred Regent (even in the pre-all-inclusive days). At this stage, with a few days between us and this cruise, we have to agree. Regent has better food, more affable crew, more activities, similar entertainment and more variety. Depending on the cruise, it's either more expensive or less expensive, but now that Regent is going all inclusive, comparisons should be much easier to make. We also must say that Celebrity looks better and better compared to both Regent and Silversea. Yes, we still have to deal with the chits and the tipping, but the atmosphere and overall cruise quality are very comparable especially if staying in a Sky Suite like we usually do. If you would like more information about this cruise or any of our island stops, feel free to e-mail us at greygypsy1@yahoo.com. Respectfully submitted, Susan and Jeff Taxier December 24, 2006 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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