Length: 610 ft
Officers: Italian & International
Best For People Who Want
Free-flowing champagne; "best of the best" luxury; implacably attentive personal service; cabins with private balconies; a choice of dining venues; imaginative itineraries; everything included.Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
Bargain shopping; Children's facilities, casual dress, extensive sports; children's and spa facilities.Onboard Experience
Small enough to be intimate, big enough to offer an elegant two-story show lounge and three dining venues, these ships are in the very forefront of the ultraluxe class, la crème de la crème de la crème, so to speak.
You're very unlikely to encounter warmer, more consistently above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty service than on these ships, whose staves seemingly delight in exceeding your most extravagant expectations.
Make no mistake -- this is a very formal cruise experience. Expect no fewer than five courses at every meal other than breakfast. Lady passengers slip into long sequined gowns at the most negligible provocation.
Silver Whisper, and her sister Silver Shadow, are larger than Silversea's original two vessels, Silver Cloud and Silver Wind, and offer extremely high space-per-passenger ratio of 74. The small boutiques offer predictably expensive sunglasses and clothing and ultra-expensive jewelry.
The production shows are a cut above those you'll see on comparable luxury vessels. You're also apt to be able to attend lectures on and performances of opera. Silversea prides itself on its innovative itineraries, and passengers are generally delighted with their shore excursions.
Single, open-seating dining permits you to dine when and with whom you please each evening, and complimentary wine flows like water. Your fare includes tipping and all beverages throughout the ship.
Several new programs intended to emphasize the line's Italian heritage debuted in 2005. Silversea's in-suite bath amenities are now furnished by the Italian fragrance house Acqua di Parma. Paintings by noted Italian artists are proudly featured throughout. Italian luxury brand Loro Piana opened shops aboard each ship offering accessories, gifts and made-to-measure products. But not all is from the land of Leonardo, Galileo, and Verdi; the first Viking Cooking School at sea, held in the new Viking culinary theatres, offers cooking classes led by the unmistakably Gallic firm of Relais & Chateaux.Public Rooms
Moving from one public room to another, or to the dining room, you'll do lots of ascending and descending, but on a ship this size, that isn't a terrible imposition. Deep Wedgwood blue and golden peach fabrics and carpeting, with warm caramel wood tones, predominate. There's lots of blood-red velveteen, and lots of golden brocades as well.
With its brown leather sofas and chairs, the wood-paneled Humidor cigar lounge is a wonderfully comfortable spot for after-dinner cigars ($12 to $47 each) and cognac. The breathtaking Observation Lounge, with 180 degrees of sea views, has a marble bar and is equally inviting for both pre- and post-dinner drinks or morning coffee.
The Panorama Lounge, with floor-to-ceiling windows, serves at night as a piano bar. Pre-dinner concerts and lectures are also staged here, and high tea served as well. Two adjacent rooms house the ship's Internet center (whose computers are nearly always spoken for), and a lending library for book and free videos, respectively. A nice touch: Silversea sends you a dedicated on-board e-mail address before you set sail.
A combo performs nightly in The Bar, adjacent to the main lounge, which is bigger than you'd expect on ships this size. Enjoy Las Vegas-style floor shows, comedians and guest lecturers in this elegant space. There's a small casino.
The tiny shopping arcade includes Silversea's LJ boutique, which replaced the original Bulgari outlet, and offers a variety of upscale merchandise bearing several esteemed logos. Besides the usual pricey casual wear, the main boutique has designer jewelry. Sometimes merchandise from the cruising region is offered for sale on board.Cuisine
It simply isn't as good in the main dining room as on other very pricey luxury lines. Indeed, you're apt to see a scandalously large number of fellow diners sending their meals back to the kitchen in exasperation. Oddly, that which room service delivers is somehow always exemplary; it's as though it's produced in a separate kitchen.Restaurants
You can dine formally in the main restaurant, slightly less formally in the Terrace Cafeacute; or Le Champagne, or order room service. With its large picture windows and tables for two, four, six and 10, the main restaurant offers dining to the accompaniment of a live trio playing romantic oldies. Guests are encouraged to take a spin around the small dance floor. There are plenty of tables for two from which to watch them doing so.
The Terrace Cafe, popular for casual breakfast and luncheon buffets, at night becomes the alternative Italian restaurant La Terrazza, at which reservations are mandatory. On formal nights, La Terrazza serves as the dining room for those choosing to dress informally. Its windows are even bigger than those in the main restaurant. Reservations are required for the theme meals offered most nights, which might include a Spanish-style lobster and shrimp soup and a Moroccan tagine stew with sea bass and raisin couscous.
The usual matching of wine to cuisine is reversed at the intimate (only 24 seats), intensely chi-chi Le Champagne, where it's actually the food that's designed with the wine in mind. Le Champagne is open for dinner only; reservations are fervently recommended. Surprisingly, incongruously, there's a small additional charge for wine.
One may also dine in-suite, ordering course-by-course from the luncheon and dinner menu - splendid news indeed for those who find onerous the idea of dressing for dinner after a busy day in port. Suites without a separate dining room have a portable table for this purpose. The Terrace serves breakfast and lunch buffets, while The Restaurant offers a five-course luncheon menu. Weather permitting, the Pool Grille operates from 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.Service
From stem to stern, both officers and staff beam with delight at the prospect of assisting you.Tipping
Your fare includes gratuities.Entertainment
Silversea's newly upgraded entertainment features lavish floorshows devised by Jean Ann Ryan. There are also operatic performances and lectures about opera.Cabins
These ships staterooms are uniformly large, comfortable and very well-equipped; a wood-paneled vanity with TV/VCR and mini-fridge, walk-in closets, and marble bathrooms are all standard, as too are new down duvets and Hilden America linens. Honestly, what's left to be desired? Roughly 80 percent have private verandas, with glass instead of metal partitions. Bathrooms, more elegant than any at sea, with the possible exception of those aboard Regent's Seven Seas Navigator and Voyager, have separate shower and tub, plus his-and-hers sinks. The minimum-category Vista cabins (no balcony) measure 287 sq. ft., while the standard balcony staterooms, Veranda, are 345 sq. ft. Both are more than adequate even for a two-week cruise.
Your best bet, though, may well be the 701-sq. ft. Silver Suite, which offers a large living room with dining area, a generously proportioned bedroom, and large balcony. Or if you're even more intent on splurging, there are the 1,286-sq. ft. Grand Suite (cabins 801, 802 have the best configurations in this category). You enter a huge living room that would be right at home in a penthouse in Trump Tower via a marble foyer (with guest bathroom). There's a bar, of course, a gigantic flat-screen TV, a dining area and huge balcony. The walk-in closet is bigger than many lines' mid-sized cabins.
The occupants of the largest Silversea suites - the Grand, Royal, Rossellini and Owner's Suites -- enjoy the ministrations of butlers certified by the Guild of Professional English Butlers, which trains the British Royal Family's servants. Your butler will do everything from unpacking your suitcase to arranging a private car at the next port, from drawing a bath to planning an in-suite cocktail party.Fitness/Spa
The ships have a small but well-equipped fitness center, a beauty salon and massage facilities (for which make your appointments as you board). classes are offered during days at sea. A fast-walking/jogging track has glorious views. One of the best massages you can enjoy at sea is offered here.
As on many (far too many, if you ask us!) new ships, some decks are covered with hideous AstroTurf, where once there might have been teak. However, teak is a hardwood and can present a fire hazard on an open deck.Attire
Bring your tux. Bring your jewels. Some women pour themselves into sequins even on informal nights. Those who don't want to dress up may dine informally in the Terrace Cafe and then retire to a designated lounge for cocktails and after-dinner drinks, but will be turned away at the door of the entertainment lounges. On a ten-night cruise, there are three formal, four informal and three casual nights. Daytime attire is casual.
Report on Silver Whisper Cruise October 14-24, 2010 New York City to Barbados We flew to New York City and spent two nights pre-cruise and finally used the time to visit the Intrepid Museum. We spent five hours there and were really tired after, but it was well worth the effort.
SILVER WHISPER CRUISE SHIP.
October 14, we boarded the Silver Whisper about 12 noon in spite of the suggested time of 3:00 PM. Our Luggage was in our cabin and we had lunch. We explored the ship and found it to be in great shape. The Silver Whisper is one of the Silversea (an Italian Company) ships. Registry is in the Bahamas. The builder was Mariotti, and it was built in Italy completed on July 2, 2001. The ship's capacity is 382 with a crew of 295. The ship has a gross tonnage of 28,258 and an average speed of 21 knots. It is 610 feet long, 81 feet wide, has 7 passenger decks and 194 outside rooms. It supports four restaurants and has five elevators. It seems like I did not ever have to wait on an elevator over20 seconds.
We had cabin 828 selected by my travel agent and it turned out to be a great choice. Deck 8 has the pool deck and a bar that is open 9:00 AM until. It was 20 steps from our room. If you are a pool person this is the deck to be on. The one elevator amidships seemed to be adequate on this ship. There were four aft in the areas that had more activity and the area to disembark the ship. We never waited very long for an elevator on this ship anywhere. It was easy to get to deck 10 by elevator and get some coffee in the observation lounge. Of course there was excellent room service which my wife used everyday for coffee. We did not do the in room dining since it was much more fun to be in one of the dining areas. Deck 4 aft was the main dining area and if you were on deck 5 you were close to reception and only one down to dining. The Casino and the Grappa Bar (opened late) were on deck 5 along with the shops. This is an all inclusive cruise and I found the drinks to be very adequate serving the best liquor. I did find however that the wine was poor choice for me, but that could be because I like cheaper wines. I did not like the wine aboard. The specialty restaurant (le Champagne) aboard was not good for us, but it could have been because we picked the wrong night. Each night has a fixed menu in several courses. The wine and champagne served were just not to my taste.
The service was the best that I have had after 41 cruises. The food was as good as on any other ship I have been on and better than most. The wait times for special cooked eggs was nothing and you did not have to wait at the cooking station. You just told the cook what you wanted and he fixed it the way you liked it and had it delivered to your table. We always ate in the le Terraza restaurant which was the buffet style. The buffet was never crowded. It was like the buffet was there just for you. The main restaurant was reported to be a little slower for breakfast. The service certainly could not have been any better. One special main restaurant buffet style “Galley Brunch” was spectacular and held in the main dining room. They laid out the food in the kitchen so you got a tour of the kitchen while you went through a beautiful display of food which was very tasty also. The shrimp made a magnificent part of the display and I had shrimp every day.
The night of the first day of cruising was quite a roll. As they say the ship will move. My wife and I both took a scopace tablet (scopolamine) and went to bed. We found that laying crossways in the queen size bed was better than laying length wise and we faired the night quite well. The next day we had a much better weather and the rest of the cruise was quite smooth.
Our first port of call was BERMUDA and we were supposed to stop at St.George. The captain decided that the wind was too high to get through the narrow passage to the harbor of St. George and we docked at the British Naval Dockyard. We had pre-arranged a taxi for St. George and he met us at the Naval Dockyard and we toured the entire island so we got to St. George and Hamilton in addition to the Dockyard. Colin Jennings our taxi driver gave a three hour tour for $40/hr for the four of us. He said that a basic home in Bermuda cost one million dollars. Bermudians paid no income tax, but import taxes were high and this was passed on to the consumer.
Bermuda is an archipelago of islands connected by causeways and bridges. There about 22,000 square miles and have a population of 65,000. Bermuda has very strict immigration laws. Visitors cannot rent a car and can only go on their own using the mopeds. The largest business in Bermuda is the re-insurance business in which insurance companies insure other insurance companies. They pay no income tax so it is beneficial for them to do business here. Bermuda doesn't produce anything for export but does grow a few fruits, but not enough to export. We spent the night in Bermuda and the next day (Sunday) we toured around the Naval Dockyard area which was not that much to see and do, but nice shopping areas and we ate a very nice meal at the Bone fish Grill.
We had two days of smooth sailing to San Juan and played our Joker Poker game with friends and boys beat girls 9 games to 5.
Arriving at SAN JUAN I had pre arranged a Segwey tour. None of us had ever been on a Segway before and we got our instructions and found it to be very easy to do. We thoroughly enjoyed our two hour tour out to Fort Morro and it beat walking. They don't have that many Segways so it seemed best to pre-arranged this tour for the four of us. It worked out to $90/p for the two hours, but a 10% tip was given because of the expert treatment we received. I would definitely recommend this tour www.segwaytouyspr.com My wife and I found a very nice P.R restaurant behind the Sheraton Hotel for an authentic Puerto Rican meal. San Juan is a great city to visit, and I would recommend that one stay in old town to enjoy the full effect of the culture.
The port of Gustavia, St. Barts was cancelled because of flooding there and we substituted ST.MARTEN (SXM). We however anchored in Marigot bay and tendered in rather than go to Phillipsburg dock and tangle with the Soltice and its traffic. We went to Orient Beach and spent the day at KAKAO restaurant area. Round trip $12/p. We then did some local shopping in Marigot before catching the tender back aboard. We stayed in St. Martin until 12 midnight because we had a wonderful barbecue around the pool aboard ship and being stationary we didn't have to contend with wind around the pool We couldn't have found better entertainment anywhere in St. Marten. We had a Latino show put on by the dancers around the pool with a manufactured stage using a backdrop.
Our next port was ST.JOHN'S ANTIGUA. Having been there several times in the past years we hired a taxi for a ride to Devil's bridge and the long bay area. We also had a look at Dickenson bay since we heard there had been some damage, but it looked to be in good shape. We past by to check on the Blue Waters hotel which was in good repair. There is a new Sandals on Dickenson bay right next to the old one. Apparently both are still functioning. Sandals on Dickenson Bay in Antigua would be a very nice place to spend a week. The Royal Antiguan a property on Deep Bay, that we had spent a week in 1994 had gone into some disrepair. The old Jaws restaurant on Deep Bay where the sunset was so magnificent as you dined in the evening was out of business and only used for private parties.
BEQUIA, GRENADINES was our next port of call. Bequia is a small island in the Grenadines measuring just seven square miles and is home to about 5000 people. It is just above Grenada in the Eastern Caribbean windward islands group. Independence from Great Britain was in 1979. The capital of the Grenadines is St.Vincent just across a small section of water 15 min by boat as long as the waves remain calm. The only thing about taking a ferry ride away from your cruise stop island is that if the waves kick up you might get stuck on that island and miss your cruise ship. There are several very pretty beaches on Bequia and quaint waterfront bars. Port Elizabeth is the main town and we disembarked there and met up with our taxi driver Noel Olivierre with his open air taxi. This actually was very nice in that it gave a good opportunity for photography from the back of the truck and was cool as the breezes flowed through. We remembered that this was the same type of transportation as in Papeete,Tahiti and Kirimati (Christmas) Island in the South Pacific used for touring. We stopped at a quaint little restaurant bar with a three room hotel. One would have to know it was there to find it. It had a quaint little small beach associated with it.
We went up to Hamilton fort to overlook Admiralty Bay and Port Elizabeth and then later went to Sargent's Model boat shop. One boat that was a replica of a yacht was commissioned for $5,000 by the owner of the yacht.
We visited Mr.King's turtle farm where he is raising Green and Hawksbill turtles. He is trying to help save the endangered sea turtle species. He said there are seven species of sea turtles. Bequians hunt the turtles for the shells and it was much more popular before they came out with the plastic shells. It is hard to maintain a species when only one out of 3000 will live to maturity after birth in the wild, so he is trying to improve the odds. He raises the turtles until they are full grown and releases them. He has permission to find the eggs on the beach and protect them.
Our final port was BARBADOS for disembarkation which went off very well. We hired a cab to gives us a 2 hour tour on the way to the airport and we went to the Crane Beach Hotel complex to have a look around. We had previously visited Crane Beach at a private home and could see the hotel, so we used the time to visit the hotel. The Crane Beach gets its name from a crane that was on the beach and used to unload cargo. Now you might see a statue of a crane in the lobby of the hotel. Crane beach has been listed as the 17th most beautiful beach in the world by the beach raters from a Travel Channel program. The hotel turned out to be more of a maze of little cottages than an actual hotel, but had a beautiful beach and an elevator to get down to the beach. The beach is under a high cliff that the hotel is built on. It was a good trip and no unusual problems. This cruise had more British than any other nationality aboard.
The down side of this cruise was I didn't like the wine on the entire cruise and didn't enjoy the specialty restaurant le Champagne. The Millennium class of Celebrity cruise ships has some cabins with 270 degree veranda views and that is the only thing I could see that would keep me with Celebrity if I was doing a Fjord Norway, Chilean Fjords, or Alaska Cruise. Otherwise the service and food in general on the Silver Whisper was far better than on a Celebrity cruise ship.
Pictures at: http://www.cruisemates.com/gallery/view.php?id=5321
Just Returned From Silver Whisper-FABULOUS!!
My husband and I were on Silver Wind ten years ago and had the trip of our lifetime. I never thought it could be repeated again. But it was! Another trip of a lifetime on Silversea!
We were on a 9 day cruise - June 6-15 to Greek Islands, Sicily and Italy.
Of course the ports were wonderful, but I am not going to review the ports since everyone chooses an itinerary based on their own preferences. My objective is to discuss our experience on Silversea.
From the moment we boarded the ship- The service was incredible!! Every staff person always greeted us and had a big smile on their faces.
Woke up very early every morning (we couldn’t wait to start our day on Silver Whisper) - and ordered cappuccino delivered to our rooms. Ten minutes later it would arrive and placed on our balcony with fine linens and china. 24 hour room service- you can order anything to eat or drink. Ordered drinks at 2:00 a.m. and same efficient and quick service.
Then we would go to La Terrazza for buffet breakfast when it opened. Huge wonderful assortmentof breakfast items, juices, fresh omelet station, fresh fruit station with staff cutting the fruit. etc. - Glasses for juices were chilled. The attention to this kind of detail was evident in everything they did on the ship. Then you could have pancakes, waffles etc., prepared for you.
I am not a breakfast eater- so ordered Lamb Chops, with wild mushrooms and ice tea every morning. (Asked for fresh pineapple slice in my ice tea). By the second day, the waiters knew me and would say - “Are you ready for your Lamb Chops and your Ice tea with fresh pineapple”. 10-15 minutes later the Lamb Chops arrived. The point I am trying to get across is whatever special request you may want- the answer is always “YES”! The waiters would carry your plates to your table from the buffet. All the waiters had wonderful attitudes and were there to please you in every way. You are made to feel very special!
We had a veranda suite which included a balcony. We loved having the balcony and used it all the time. The room is lovely, with plenty of closet space and more drawers than you can fill up- and we had 4 pieces of luggage. Personalized stationary with your name on it. Fresh flowers in your cabin. The bathrooms were fantastic! - double sinks, shower and tub with Bulgari amenities- soap, shampoo, conditioner etc. Very comfortable bed with fine linens and duvet cover.
The stewardess was fantastic. Always smiling and calling us by our names. Good morning Mr. and Mrs.…... The stewardess’s- work in teams with 2 people taking care of your suite. The cabins are cleaned twice a day and the cleaning was immaculate. They even lined up my makeup in a straight row!
We kept saying to ourselves, this service is UNBELIEVABLE!!!
We had to keep asking ourselves how anything can be so perfect like this.
We ate dinner every night in the main dining room and also ate once in the Italian Restaurant. The food was excellent. Many choices and if you don’t see what you like on the menu- they will bring you what you request. One day I saw an appetizer from lunch that looked interesting and requested it for dinner. Nothing was ever a problem! The dining room wait staff was so professional, great attitudes and impeccable service.
We were greeted by the waiter and wine steward the minute you sat down. Every night it was like eating in a fine restaurant. Presentation of the food on the plates was always beautifully done. The beef dishes were extraordinary- beef melted in our mouths! You will be pampered beyond belief!!
Most nights we would stay in the dining room for 3 hours talking to our fellow guests we were dining with at our table.We enjoyed the formal nights as it made for a Glamorous Evening!
Chef David was accessible to all the guests. Coming out to the dining room, greeting everyone and making sure you were happy. One day my husband told the chef- he may prefer something different instead of a filet of fish. The chef said call me and let me know- he said "do you want a whole fish- I can make it anyway you want".
Almost on every port before we were ready to sail- there would be a lovely small buffet set up by the pool area before dinner. Chef David was always walking around - getting to know all the guests.
One night we had a "Barbeque Dinner" on the pool deck. It was FANTASTIC! Forty desserts to choose from- I counted! The pool deck was set up with fabric covered chairs, linen tablecloths. Great entertainment and dancing to the wee hours. We were talking to a few couples and the Captain came by our table and talk to us for one hour! That is what made our cruise so special- all the staff treated you like family!
Every cruise they do an open Kitchen Galley Buffet Lunch. What a magnificent presentation! So interesting to see how the kitchen functions.
See pictures of Kitchen Galley Lunch, Barbeque Dinner Buffet on Pool Deck and Breakfast Buffet:
At the bars they use linen napkins- another attention to fine detail! All the bartenders made great drinks! I like Pina Coladas and had it prepared in Hawaii with vanilla ice cream. I told the bartender and with in a few minutes they went down to the kitchen galley and got the ice cream. No request is denied!
When we disembarked at the ports they had cold bottled water to take ashore and on the way back waiting for the tenders to return to the ship -at the ports they had cold punch, water and chilled towels!
What makes Silversea cruises so special are the fellow passengers you meet. We met wonderful, fascinating people from all over the world. Everyone was so friendly and wanted to socialize. We have made some lasting friendships that we will keep in touch with.
If you want wonderful service, great food, and a smaller ship than there is only one Cruise Line- SILVERSEA!
The advantage of the smaller ship is that it is easier to make friends since you run into the same people all the time and the staff members get to know you personally.
Ron our cruise director was so friendly, and eloquent making announcements and always had a big smile when he greeted us.
The entertainment was classy, A Broadway singer, a famous pianist etc.
On the third day the Cruise Hotel Director delivered to all cabins a sheet asking if there is anything that he can do to make your cruise more pleasant please let him know. I wrote back on the sheet: “HOW CAN YOU IMPROVE PERFECTION” And I meant it. There is nothing that I would add or change.
Spoke to many fellow passengers the last day of the cruise and everyone had the same opinion saying it was FABULOUS!
If you like Four Seasons hotels than you will love Silversea!
In fact I think Silversea is a cut above Four Seasons Hotels if you compare everything.
Silversea is a CLASS ACT! You will not be disappointed. In fact it will probably be one of the highlights of your life!! You will be blown away with the Perfection in everything they do to make your cruise a memorable experience.
Silversea is expensive, but worth every dollar you pay. We loved an all inclusive cruise- never have to sign for anything. Everything is included.
We kept asking ourselves, how can a cruise line deliver such a perfect product down to every last detail.
We travel all over the world for our business and have stayed in the finest hotels- and the Cruise we just went on with Silversea in all around service, food, attention to detail, and staff is top on our list.
To be honest it was hard to go back to reality when the cruise ended as this cruise was a Fantasy come true!
Our experience on Silversea was beyond our wildest dreams!
How would we describe our cruise? MAGNIFICENT! AMAZING! PERFECT! FANTASTIC! INCREDIBLE! AND FABULOUS!!
If you want the best service, great food, a wonderful cruise experience than Silversea is for you!
Let's 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 d'etre 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.
What follows is a review of our experience on a four-night, March 2006 Caribbean cruise on Silversea's all-suite Silver Whisper. I am semi-retired, in my late 50's, and not in the travel business. My wife and I have taken 17 cruises on a variety of lines. When on vacation I prefer not dealing with lines or crowds, and tend to travel independently rather than with tour groups.
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 10 days and $5,000 per person for the least expensive cabins.
The bottom line: This was an enjoyable cruise on a highly regarded small ship, calling at three of the less crowded Caribbean ports.
The Good: 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, photographers or bingo games); the talented musicians and entertainers (presented at reasonable decibel levels); the well traveled, well educated and articulate passengers; and the inclusive pricing (drinks and gratuities).
The Not-So-Good: 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.
Background Silversea is a privately-owned Italian line with four luxury ships. The officers are predominantly Italian, and the staff is international. The Silver Clouod and Silver Wind were built in 1994-95 for 295 passengers each. The Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper were built in 2000-01 for 382 passengers each. All cabins are outsides, and most have balconies. Silversea prefers to call them suites, although most are a single room with a dividing curtain between the sitting and sleeping areas. Silver Shadow's and Silver Whisper's cabin size (345/287 sq. ft. 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.
Pricing How much does a luxury cruise cost? I searched the Internet for the lowest Silver Whisper net per diem rates for various 2006 itineraries, after discounts but before taxes and port fees. With a few exceptions, prices ranged from about $400 to $700 per person per day (pppd) for the least expensive cabins (outside, but no balcony). The lower amount was for itineraries such as Asia; the higher for itineraries such as northern Europe. A balcony adds significantly to the price, depending on whether the balcony cabin is located forward or mid-ship. The largest (named) suites are much more expensive. Repositioning cruises are less expensive, beginning around $300 pppd.
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 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 per person cruise fare, and the least expensive (independent) airfare from our regional airport added another $700.
Pre-departure Silversea pre-cruise documents are similar to those of other 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 preferences in Silversea's web site, but the site was not working properly when I tried it. Their webmaster told me that they were upgrading, and presumably it is functional now. We simply faxed our pre-cruise information forms.
Those interested in alternate dining at La Terraza or Le Champagne restaurants (see dining options below) should inquire about the possibility of pre-cruise reservations (all La Terraza's nights were full and wait-listed 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 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.
Embarkation We generally prefer to make our own air and transfer arrangements. Our flight touched down at San Juan's airport at 4:30 p.m. on embarkation day. Since we travel without checked bags, just a regulation carry-on each, we were at the cruise dock ready to board the ship at 5 p.m.
No pre-booked 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.
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 ship's location. The Silver 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 5 p.m. 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.
On the ship, 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. One must imprint one's credit card, but for some reason the reception desk did not do this at embarkation. We received a notice later in the cruise to do this. 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.
Since our flights had no food service, we were hungry for a snack with the champagne. 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 "please leave a message." We never needed room service after that and do not know how efficient it is.
The Ship The deck plan of the Silver Whisper is quite logical, with cabins forward and public areas 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.
The one downside: 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.
The Cabin 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 percent of the cabins (all cabins are outsides, and 80 percent 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 ship's center of gravity), especially since the ship tended to roll in good weather with mild to moderate 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.
Silver Whisper's cabins are almost double the size of the average cabins on mainstream cruise ships. The 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 cabin's 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 mini-bar 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 mini-bar, 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.
Our cabin was maintained by two chambermaids, one from Iceland and one from India. 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.
Public Areas The ship's public areas are decorated subtly in neutral colors, mainly off-white with pale blue, gray, or beige accents. There is no glitzy atrium or hey-look-at-me 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.
Rather than my describing the public areas around the ship, log onto 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.
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.
Entertainment 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 numbers. My wife and I thought the dance floor would be crowded 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 Ann Ryan Company of six dancers and two vocalists provided entertainment in the show lounge every evening after dinner. 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.
The Passengers Fellow passengers on this cruise were not what we expected. The average age was around 60, but ranged from 30s to 80s. 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. But to our surprise, 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 America, Celebrity, or Princess cruises.
Everyone we dined with 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 one's 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 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 Terraza 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 per person 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. 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.
In the main restaurant, the food is good to excellent, similar in quality to the good food found in the dining rooms of Celebrity, Holland America or Princess ships to the excellent food found in the surcharged restaurants on those same ships.
We experienced a few minor lapses in service. One appetizer and two drink orders were forgotten; often my water glass was not refilled when empty; 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 that 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.
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 main restaurant provides a cuisine that matches, and sometimes exceeds, the fine dining we experienced on other ships. Even mainstream cruise lines are now extremely successful at providing memorable dining, and the margin between cuisine on the Silver 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 Silver 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.
The fish courses were generally cooked to perfection, although my lobster and salmon were each somewhat overcooked on one occasion. The lobster was rubbery and adherent to the shell. 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.
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 that 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. You will have a very enjoyable time in the main restaurant, and if you plan far enough ahead, you may be able to sample their alternative dining.
Computer Fees We did encounter 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 cents per minute fee from the first keystroke, whether working off-line or on the net.
I generated a charge of $4.50 before even logging onto the net to access my e-mail. The on screen "meter" that tracks 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 removed the charge from my account. I never did use the net on the entire cruise.
Some passengers brought laptops and used the ship's wireless capability for e-mails and Internet phone calls. Some passengers complained that the net connection is slow, so the charges can be daunting.
Disembarking 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 7 and 8 a.m. 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 9 a.m. and takes about an hour. Silversea recommends not booking 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 Silver Whisper crew member graciously took my wife's roll-aboard down the gangway to the dock for her. As we left the ship we felt truly pampered.Is a Luxury Cruise Worth the 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.
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.