Silversea Cruises Silver Spirit Review
Silversea’s elegant boutique ship Silver Spirit coddled and indulged us on a memorable Mediterranean sojourn.
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The Spa at Silversea, Beauty Salon
A good percentage of Silver Spirit’s real estate is devoted to this elegant, 8,300-square-foot facility specializing in coddling treatments. Managed by Steiner Leisure, an outfit that handles spa services on most cruise lines, the facility is colored in cream tones, with stone tiles, marble and wood accents. Shared facilities included a sauna and steam room, and there were changing rooms for men and women with lockers and showers.
Among the treatments on offer were stone, Thai herbal poultice, bamboo, deep tissue and Swedish massage; 50-minute treatments started at $132, and a couples massage was $242. Other therapies included Ionithermie cellulite reduction, seaweed massage, a nourish wrap and massage, etc. There is a Thermal Suite, with heated ceramic tile loungers and an exterior deck with a whirlpool; a daily pass was $25 (or $99 for the week). And somewhat rare on cruise ships was Silver Spirit’s private Turkish hammam chamber; a traditional 25-minute full-body salt or sugar scrub was available for $69.
The roster of services at the salon included hair treatments (style, coloring), nails and waxing, teeth whitening and various facials; the 50-minute facials started at $129.
On Silver Spirit there were four dedicated bars, though drinks could also be ordered at any of the restaurants during operating hours. Most spirits and mixed drinks were complimentary and there was a decent variety of complimentary wines. During the day, the action centered on the Pool Bar and Grill (discussed on the previous page), where bartenders and waiters were charged with keeping up with the pool crowd. By sundown the emphasis shifted to several indoor bars, described below. Collectively, these didn’t seem much different from one another in decor or ambience, meaning they were fairly interchangeable, and by the end of our cruise they were dull.
The selection of complimentary wines available at both the ship’s bars and restaurants encompassed more than a dozen options. Among the bottles we liked were Tierra Vientos carmenére, Piegaia Chianti Classico, Castello di Gabiano Corte Monferrato bianco, Fanti Rosso di Montalcino rojo, and Tenuta Sant’Antonio Fontana soave. Other wines were available if not always close at hand, but waiters were happy to offer alternatives on the rare occasion we wanted something different. There was also a good selection of premium wines, available at a surcharge that appeared to be not much more than retail pricing. This included such items as Louis Roederer Cristal, Penfolds Grange, Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia, etc., as well as more moderate priced bottles. A sommelier was onboard to guide us to the right selections.
Bartenders had a good handle on mixed drinks, whether they were on the menu or not. Standard spirits encompassed most of the top mainstream labels—Bushmills, Jameson, Glenfiddich, Grey Goose, Ketel One, Absolut, Stolichnaya, Bacardi, Mount Gay, Jose Cuervo Especial, Bailey’s, etc. The short list of beer options included Becks, Boddingtons, Stella, and Leffe. There were espresso machines located at all drinking and dining venues, and we had good cappuccinos, made with Lavazza coffee. Brewed coffee, on the other hand, ranged from poor to middling, ship-wide.
Paper napkins were never used for drinks—only linen, embossed with the Silversea logo (classy, even when joined by plastic glasses at pool).
Silver Spirit offers three main types of cabins, all of which Silversea calls “suites.” Least expensive is the Vista category, comprised of ocean-view suites, all on Deck 4. There are just 12 of them on the ship but, at 312 square feet, these are about double the size of a typical ocean-view cabin. The Veranda category—what we stayed in—is basically identical to the Vista inside, with the addition of a balcony. These represent the vast majority of cabins on the ship, and there are six different categories, based on view and deck level. Finally, there are four categories of true suites (two distinct living/sleeping areas), including 26 Silver Suites, with 624 square feet of interior space, and three larger types of suites, all described below. No inside/interior cabins are available on Silver Spirit. Some cabins accommodate three guests, and a few have connecting doors to other cabins.
Silver Spirit does not have a dedicated area for kids. We were told a counselor is usually brought aboard in summer months, when more families are likely to be sailing.
There were about a dozen kids on our cruise—aged 8 to upper teens—and unfortunately neither the crew nor the parents (one of whom was accompanied by a nanny) paid a lot of attention to general unruliness that emerged at times. At certain times, this group dominated the ship’s one and only pool, and another time had a raucous game of shuffleboard going above La Terrazza. It wasn’t the atmosphere Silversea guests expect, though a couple doing back-to-back sailings on Silver Spirit said the cruise immediately preceding ours was kid-free and had a more subdued ambience.
We had an itinerary that explored off-the-beaten track ports shared by no other cruise ships. For dinner we dined on risotto flecked with real gold leaf one night, and we were serenaded by a jazz duo in an intimate cabaret lounge another. Bartenders remembered our names—and our favorite drinks, each one supported by linen napkins. And when we retreated to our cabin—er, our suite—we plugged in our iPod, surveyed the passing scenery with binoculars supplied by the ship, and then settled into a long soak in our full bathtub. Were we dreaming or had we magically joined the 1 percent?
Offering a long list of upscale amenities, some of the most spacious “standard” cabins at sea, and itineraries that explore fine ports in the Mediterranean and beyond, Silversea Cruises’ classy Silver Spirit arrived on the scene in 2009. Although it’s the largest vessel in the Silversea fleet, at just 36,000 tons Silver Spirit is considerably smaller than ships sailing for the big-name brands. Yet Silver Spirit has plenty of big-ship features. With a full-service spa, salon and gym, multiple restaurants and bars, a casino and showroom featuring live entertainment, a cruise aboard Silver Spirit could hardly be classified as an exercise in restraint.
Without question, Silversea Cruises’ Silver Spirit provided an enjoyable cruise that pampered us day and night. And yet our voyage wasn’t perfect—there were a number of annoyances that shouldn’t have occurred with any cruise line that touts a luxury ride. There was also a nagging comparison that unexpectedly tugged at us from embarkation till the morning we checked out.
For most of us, the luxury cruise experience corresponds closely with gourmet, and on this front Silver Spirit delivered—for the most part. Many of our meals were excellent, and the range of menus available on any given night was surprising. Further, though it’s not heavily promoted, kitchen staff worked to accommodate special requests, especially when local or seasonal items were brought on at certain ports, allowing the chef to veer from the usual menu.
In addition to the main dining room (The Restaurant) and the ship’s buffet (The Veranda, which doubles as a full-service Italian venue at night), there are two specialty restaurants that require an up-charge—one with French the other offering Japanese gastronomy, both were superb. Other options were not as consistent, but the sheer variety on offer meant these could be easily dodged. Throughout Silver Spirit, all dining venues had a sufficient number of two-top tables so that we were never expected to share with other guests. In addition to the venues below, self-serve continental breakfast was set up at The Bar and the Panorama Lounge each morning.
The main dining room of Silver Spirit delivered delicious meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, in a functionally elegant, one-story dining room on Deck 4. The atmosphere was subdued, especially at breakfast and lunch, with deferential service at all hours. We loved our meals here. The menu highlighted regional dishes, prepared with local ingredients, and every night there were vegetarian appetizers and a meatless entrée.
For dinner, the menu was divided into two sections—one side included items available throughout the cruise, primarily grilled fare such as the New York strip, charred pork chop, whole roasted free-range baby chicken, and a fish of the day. Various condiments and sauces topped these items, and sides of cooked vegetables could be chosen to accompany. The short list of starters from this side of the menu included beef tartare, swordfish carpaccio, lobster bisque and tomato velouté.
We usually chose from the other side of the menu, which offered a nightly chef’s selection that was often more adventurous. On Formal night this included an assiette of artichoke, escargots, and a fabulous porcini mushroom velouté that was rich without being heavy. Our mesclun salad was underdressed—typically our preference, but this one needed a dash of salt and pepper. For palate cleanser, a pink champagne sorbet was offered with a sparkling sliver of sun-dried lemon. For mains we tried the Black Angus Wellington, which was unsurprising but competently prepared, the flesh perfectly rare. Souvlaki was good but we shouldn’t have expected much from this—we could have opted for the grilled Maine lobster or Dover sole.
Another night, a mille-feuille of asparagus was delightful, and the rack of lamb with caponata and pine nuts was flawless. Other dinner entrées that caught our eye included steamed black mussels with vegetables, Wiener schnitzel, and fresh cod in green peppercorns. Desserts were a real highlight—we adored the Sicilian sponge cake studded with candied fruits, marzipan and ricotta cheese, but even an old war-horse like tiramisu was given new life with an elegant presentation. Only complaint: The cheese sampler seemed a little tired and ordinary.
Breakfast was calm and pleasant, never busy, and a bottle of Champagne Pommery sat chilled at the entrance. We had good blueberry pancakes with nice plump berries, and the cumin scented egg white Florentine omelet was tasty. There was a grilled half peach, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with pistachio, providing a Middle Eastern touch. Other left-of-center breakfast offerings included a Vitamix fruit and vegetable blend of the day, buckwheat pancakes, rye French toast on mango and strawberries, breakfast couscous with honey and dates, and a “full English special.”
The lunch menu was a bit shorter but, like the dinner menu, changed daily. To have a full-service dining room available with excellent lunches daily—even on port days—was a real luxury. Options included tried-and-true favorites like broccoli and stilton soup, a proper cobb salad, delicious pistou soup and a minute steak. We particularly enjoyed the spaghetti alle vongole (clams), just like mom used to make. The pastry chef was on the ball again, with irresistibly decadent creations that were as good to eat as they were to ogle.
The retail stores aboard Silver Spirit offered a slightly more upscale lineup from what we see on most ship. Most of it was focused around The Boutiques where we found women’s clothing by Joseph Ribkoff, men’s wear from Chopard and Polo, and handbags from Harrods. Silversea logo merchandise included sweaters, mugs, and luggage, and there were T-shirts and trinkets from destinations we were visiting, with a few previous port destinations heavily discounted. In fact, there were good sales on a number of out-of-season items.
A few dozen perfumes and colognes were offered, including most of the name brands—Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, DKNY, Issey Miyake, Tom Ford, Prada, Calvin Klein, and Hugo Boss, along with skin care products from Estee Lauder, etc. A small section was devoted to personal items such as deodorant, basic medicines, toothpaste, razors, etc., along with a few items like Toblerone and other chocolates.
There was also an H Stern gold jewelry collection, including a number of very handsome pieces.
Serving as the axis of the ship, The Bar was located between the lobby and the Show Lounge on Deck 5. Most guests passed through daily, making it a good spot for socializing and people watching. In the mornings there was a small continental breakfast buffet setup—sliced fruit, pastries, juice, tea and brewed coffee—but it was a bit dark for hanging out in by day. There were some activities held here, such as beginner language lessons (Spanish, Italian), and in the evening light piano or other easy listening music would be played.
About Our Cruise
Monaco-based Silversea Cruises is a private venture of the Lefebvre D’Ovidio family of Rome. Starting in 1994 with the 296-passenger Silver Cloud, the line has grown to eight ships, including three expedition vessels that specialize in the Galapagos Islands and Arctic regions. Silversea is unique in that, despite the small capacity of its fleet, its ships sail to all seven continents, calling on hundreds of ports annually, many of them never visited by any of the big-name cruise brands.
Although none of the voyages offered by Silversea could be classified as remotely inexpensive, we booked a cabin aboard Silver Spirit at a great price, a fare that included all beverages (except truly premium wines and spirits), all gratuities, and a balcony suite that was almost twice the size of a standard cabin on a mainstream cruise line. It was a reminder that those who can be flexible with travel dates or itineraries (or can book just a month or two out) can snag excellent deals, even on the most upscale cruise lines. By contrast, our fellow passengers did not appear to bargain-hunters. A mix of European and North American, and mostly ranging in age between 40s into 80s, the guest list represented the type of crowd we’d probably encounter at a five-star Med resort. Formal night was discretely enforced by the crew.
Some elements of “luxury” can be quantified. With just 270 cabins and a crew of 376, Silver Spirit offers one of the most favorable crew-to-guest ratios in the industry, just 1.4 passengers for each crew member. Further, the overall passenger/space ratio—the amount of ship, public and private, devoted to each passenger—is also quite generous by industry standards. Our cabin sprawled more than 365 square feet including the balcony, and offered ample living space, an oversized, swanky bathroom with separate tub and shower, a walk-in closet, and nifty extras like an umbrella and pair of binoculars, along with the services of both a maid and a butler. It was fairly described by Silversea as a suite.
For a relatively small ship, Silver Spirit had a surprising number of dining options. In the main restaurants, meals were generally excellent, with a special hats-off to several fine pasta and seafood dishes. The Restaurant (aka the main dining room) and The Veranda offered lovely food, and we enjoyed our dinners in two specialty restaurants that carried a surcharge—we don’t think we’ve ever had a better meal at sea than the one we experienced at the very intimate French restaurant, Le Champagne. But other options, including the pool grill, a supper club, and in-room dining, fell short. We found the quality of brewed coffee varied all over the ship—it was sometimes oddly poor (cappuccino and espresso was available everywhere and was more reliable).
We had problems with a few other aspects of the operation. Our cabin distinctly smelled of cigarette smoke. Smoking is seemingly allowed inside cabins, though Silversea collateral is perhaps deliberately vague on this subject—at times, ambient smoke was an issue in other areas of the ship. There were about a dozen kids onboard our cruise—aged 8 to upper teens. Parents (one of whom boarded with a nanny) did little to control occasional unruliness, and neither did ship staff.
Editor’s note: After our review was published, Silversea clarified its smoking policy. Smoking is no longer allowed in guest rooms or on balconies, or in other public areas of the ship. Exceptions are the Connoisseur’s Corner, designated areas of the Panorama Lounge and Pool Bar, and select tables at La Terrazza. These policies were in effect during our cruise, but perhaps not enforced to the degree they should have been.
On the third day of the cruise a letter arrived in our cabin announcing that we would be donating $1 a day—charged to our room account—to the Maruzza Foundation, a charity started by the family behind Silversea. While we had no objections to the foundation’s objective (palliative care for children), nor would we take issue with Silversea’s owners donating profits, we were not comfortable that even a minor surcharge was being added to our bill for a charity we had not personally heard of much less vetted. At the front desk an attendant said it was not a problem to remove the charge from our bill; our names were added to a list.
Our Cabin: Veranda Suite
Though we might question using the term “suite” to describe our cabin’s layout, there was no complaining when we saw it. We measured the quarters at 301 square feet, not including a 65 square foot balcony. The generous size allowed for a large bathroom with separate tub and shower, a walk-in closet, and a large sofa; the bedroom could be separated from the living room by a curtain, and there were TVs for both sides. A small box of Belgian chocolates from Pierre Marcolini welcomed us to the cruise.
We slept well on a king-size mattress, sumptuously wrapped in fine Pratesi linens from Tuscany and a plush duvet, with pillows that seemed designed just for us (our butler alerted us to a pillow menu but what we had was fine). On either side of the bed was a lamp that provided ample light for reading, and a built-in flat-screen TV was behind the mirror facing the foot of the bed.
Between the bed and the balcony was what we’ll call the living area, with a 72-inch couch that doubled as a pullout bed. Opposite was another cabinet structure with a second flat-screen TV behind the mirror. There were a number of shelves and cabinets that were too shallow for any practical purpose (we didn’t bring our collection of glass figurines for this cruise), but we found stemware and the minibar. At the desk area there were 110/220 outlets for U.S. and Euro plugs; another set faced the bed. In addition to the couch (which could seat three or even four—bigger than was really useful), there was a comfy leather chair and a good-sized coffee table.
The door to our balcony was heavy, sufficient to lock out sounds from outside. There were three sets of curtains fronting the balcony door, including a set of sheers and a decorative curtain; in between, on one half, there were blackout drapes but, oddly, the other side was missing blackout curtains.
Our bathroom was superb, tiled in marble, with wood accents, contemporary fixtures and amenities by Bvlgari. There was a large, oval sink, a jar of cotton balls, aromatherapy fragrances, and a 110/220-volt outlet. The bathtub was more than sufficient for bathing, though we mainly used the separate shower stall which had both a standard handheld shower nozzle and a rain shower feature. The towels we received were thick and plush. A freestanding makeup mirror was in the bedroom, along with a hair dryer (Belson 1875 Pro).
A walk-in closet provided ample storage room, with luggage racks, a dresser and both wooden and padded clothes hangers. This was also where the life jackets, bathrobes, slippers, wool blanket, sewing kit, shoe polish, lint brush and umbrella were found, along with the safe (large enough for a medium-sized laptop).
Three main sets of recessed overhead lights illuminated the cabin: One for the entry hallway, another in bedroom area, and another for sitting area (one of which was out). There were also wall-mounted reading lights on either side of bed and on either side of couch, along with vertical lights framing the bedroom mirror, and mini-overhead lights above the mirror in the living area. There was a switch for a light for balcony, but this didn’t work. There was ample lighting for the closet and in the bathroom. Overall, in contrast to most ship cabins we stay in, there was an abundance of good light options—so much so that we never felt we needed to have them all on for proper illumination.
A couple issues we had: Our room smelled of leftover cigarette smoke, primarily in the entryway. We noted this to our room attendant and she apologized, saying sometimes the air conditioning filters the smell in from other cabins. She opened the door to our cabin while we were at dinner, but this did little to solve the problem; perhaps the previous guests were smokers? Also, there was sound leak from an adjacent cabin at times—we’re not sure whether it was louder-than-average neighbors, but the noise was annoying.
The Fitness Centre
We found the gym on Silver Spirit to be fairly modest, even for a modest sized ship. There was current LifeFitness cardio equipment, but just three treadmills, three elliptical trainers, and only one bike, a recumbent model; headphones were supplied. There was a selection of weight machines and free weights. But the overall room was small enough that, with just four or five people using it, the space felt crowded.
Personal training was available, including one-on-one pilates/yoga ($100 for 60 minutes) or fat burning sessions ($80 for 40 minutes), and a separate room was used for the various free classes offered. These included yoga (two sessions in one week), stretching (four), Ab Attack (three), fat burning (three) and core strengthening (two). For anyone interested it fitness, it was worth picking up the schedule at the start of the cruise to plan out a routine.
There were a number of features common throughout all cabins aboard Silver Spirit. These included a sitting area, 3 phones, a Belson 1875 Pro hair dryer, electrical outlets accommodating both US and Euro (220-volt) plugs, makeup mirror, radio/alarm with iPod docking station, CD player, writing deck, personalized stationery, minibar with beer, soft drinks and mixers, bar glasses, Bindux binoculars, Pratesi bed linens and down duvet covers, pillow menu, robes and slippers, walk-in wardrobe, umbrella, safe, marble bathroom with separate tub and shower, Bulgari bath amenities, flat-screen television with interactive video, on-demand movies and music, and satellite news programming.
The two TVs were 26-inch Phillips models, with interactive, account review features and parental controls. The TVs were mounted behind mirrored glass, one facing the bed, the other facing the couch. There was a good array of non-ship channels to choose from, including 209 movies including both new (less than 6 months since theatrical) and older releases. There was a slim selection of kid-friendly fare, plus 14 adult movies, available for a surcharge of $18 each. Finally, our chance to take in “Bodacious Ta Ta’s 2”!
We were a little surprised that, for a European cruise line with possibly a majority European clientele on our voyage, announcements over Silver Spirit’s p.a. system were made exclusively in English. But there were relatively few announcements made at all: some ship activities were highlighted, others were ignored. For the most part, this was great—we appreciated not being bombarded with plugs for shopping events, casino tournaments, or spa specials. Further, our cabin “mailbox” was not littered with sales pitches for jewelry, art auctions, the spa, etc. Not one of these landed in our room during the entire cruise.
The ship’s daily Chronicles newsletter arrived in our cabin the evening prior during turndown and sufficiently highlighted the activities offered on the ship, along with a few highlights abut the each day’s port of call, supplied by Fodor’s Travel.
There’s just one swimming pool and three whirlpools on Silver Spirit, all on Deck 9, midship. Though it’s an attractive area, and not exactly a small pool by cruise ship standards, the size and the number of loungers was inadequate for a luxury product, or for the number of guests crowding the area on sea days. A group of kids commandeered the pool at a couple points, their parents oblivious to how their play was impacting other guests; the crew acted powerless to intervene.
The pool area didn’t offer a lot of shade—even the whirlpools were topless. We also found it curious that no music, live or otherwise, was played around the pool during the day. This wasn’t really an issue for us (we find most cruise pools have excessive music, and we like our iPod), but it meant—again—that ambience was largely dictated by the guests. There were no activities set in this area, except for one sea day when a pool volleyball tournament was organized. Meal and drink service was offered through the day by the Pool Bar and Grill.
The Panorama Lounge
Located on Deck 9, the Panorama Lounge was perhaps the liveliest of Silver Spirit’s indoor bars. The multi-function room extended onto an aft deck with couches—a good spot for sunset or sail-away (note that smoking is permitted on the port side). A few activities were held inside daily, including team trivia, bingo, and coffee chats with the performers on board. At 11 p.m. the DJ would start spinning, though the dance floor didn’t get much of a workout on our cruise. Each morning there was a small continental breakfast buffet setup, and bouillon and crackers were served here from 11 a.m, to noon each day.
We Couldn’t Help Comparing…
There are other upscale cruise lines in the industry, with ships both bigger and smaller and more and less inclusive than Silver Spirit. But our earlier journey aboard Seabourn Sojourn proved to have so many similarities with our Silversea experience, we couldn’t help making comparisons. The ships are almost identical in age, size and layout—Silver Spirit is about 6 months older and carries 20 percent more passengers; per-day pricing is roughly comparable, as well as staffing levels and crew-to-guest ratio. We’ve had just one cruise with each line, so our thoughts are representative of just those sailings.
Cabins on both ships are concentrated in the forward section, allowing dining and entertainment facilities to be focused aft (and keeping noisy back-of-house features away from sleeping areas). Sojourn had an extra whirlpool secreted away on the bow of the ship, plus an extra plunge pool and whirlpools on a quiet rear deck. Silver Spirit’s pool was limited to the one on Deck 9 midship flanked by three whirlpools; this made a key relaxation area more crowded. Sojourn had a small foldout marina that could be opened for watersports while anchored. We also preferred the bar scene—such as it was—on Sojourn; the venues had more varied ambience and seemed more conducive to meeting fellow travelers than what we found on Silver Spirit.
Veranda cabins were almost identical in size, layout and amenities on both ships, but we preferred the lighter, more contemporary look of our cabin on Sojourn, as well as the proper dining table that easily accommodated a full meal for two. But when it came to cabin service, Silver Spirit came out ahead. Our maid and butler on Silver Spirit each oversaw a total of 14 cabins, but we liked that the butler was on duty starting from 6:30 a.m., while the maid was available until 2 p.m. (as well as providing nightly turndown). This schedule made for smoother service than we experienced aboard Sojourn, where one attendant oversaw 10 cabins, and not always efficiently.
Finally, while we had excellent meals on both ships, we had a more consistent culinary experience on Sojourn. Silver Spirit had more dining options, but a couple of them were disappointing. None of our meals on Sojourn—even the pool grill and in-room dining—was a letdown.
Pulling double-duty as both the ship’s main buffet venue as well as being an unexpectedly satisfying full-service dinner option nightly, La Terrazza occupied the aft portion of Deck 7. Though most tables were inside, there were al fresco options—when the weather cooperated, these were quite busy during breakfast and lunch. But we also had a memorable dinner outdoors one moonlit night, shared with only a few others.
The buffet spread was located in a well-defined room to one side of the seating area. This was a great concept, minimizing the noise and congestion that most ship buffets experience at peak hours. It could get busy in here, but at least it didn’t impact the table areas. Waiters were always on hand to carry plates to the table, and while some guests thought this offer presumptuous, we felt it was a smart trick to lesson the congestion. We also appreciated when waiters took note of what we particularly liked, offering to bring us more!
Breakfasts were very satisfying. Egg dishes—omelets, fried eggs, Hollandaise—were ordered from servers only; the plates emerged in about 5 minutes. Beyond the predictable options, there were gluten free breads, trout and marinated herring, and a fruit selection that included sliced fresh peaches, kiwi, stewed figs and apricots.
Choices blossomed at lunch, when we found fare as varied as chicken chow mein, veal Milanese, Greek pastichio, moussaka, panzoti lobster, an onion, tomato and rosemary tart, and leg of lamb at the carving station. The salad bar included the usual greens and accompaniments, and there were prepared salads daily. Pizza was available by the slice at the buffet, but there was a menu of 10 whole pizzas. We looked at the menu of options and licked our lips in anticipation of a Neapolitan-style pie—thin, crackling crust on the outside, limber and gooey center. But the one we received had a moderately thick crust that seemed below-average by Italian standards—our only letdown at La Terrazza.
Dinner was by reservation only, from a traditional Italian menu that changed each day. Our meal started with a breadbasket primped with a branch of rosemary and bulb of roasted garlic. For starters we tried the antipasto—little bites of meats and marinated veggies, artfully presented—and a carpaccio of sea bass with nuggets of tomato and capers. We tried two of the homemade pastas, and both were exquisite: ravioli with sage butter and pecorino cheese, and maltagliati with rosemary butter and parmesan. We could have quit here, but secondi to come included fillets of turbot and lemon sole that were simply, perfectly seared. Desserts were handsomely embellished—and delectable.
We do have a couple quibbles with the dinner arrangements, at least on the outside deck. There’s no background music on this terrace, which might—by itself—be okay, but also the entire deck is illuminated only by harsh fluorescent light. Replace this bit of ugly with another lighting concept and La Terrazza might be the most romantic place to dine on the ship.
We did not stay in the rest of these cabins, but we have summaries here provided by Silversea Cruises. Note that photos below have been provided by the cruise line and not our reviewer.
A quiet sanctuary. The sitting area has plenty of room to relax. Large picture windows frame panoramic ocean views. The perfect backdrop for breakfast in bed. Some Vista Suites accommodate three guests.
Dimensions: 312 sq ft
Large picture window providing panoramic ocean views
Stylish and sophisticated. Separate dining and living rooms. Larger verandas. Situated midship. Perfection in design for comfortable living. Silver Suites accommodate three guests.
742 sq ft including veranda (118 sq ft)
Teak veranda with patio furniture and floor-to-ceiling glass doors
Living room (with convertible sofa to accommodate an additional guest)
Separate dining area
Marbled bathroom with double vanity
Bang & Olufsen audio system
Available as a one-bedroom configuration or as two bedrooms (as illustrated) by adjoining with a Veranda Suite.
One Bedroom: 990 sq ft including veranda (129 sq ft)
Two Bedroom: 1,366 sq ft including veranda (194 sq ft)
Large teak veranda with patio furniture and floor-to-ceiling glass doors; two-bedroom has additional veranda
Living room (with convertible sofa to accommodate an additional guest)
Sitting area; two-bedroom has additional sitting area
Separate dining area
Twin beds or queen-sized bed; two-bedroom has additional twin beds or queen-sized bed
Marbled bathroom with double vanity, separate shower and full-sized whirlpool tub, plus a powder room; two-bedroom has additional marbled bathroom with full-sized bath
Bang & Olufsen audio system
Expertly designed and exquisitely appointed. Ideal for entertaining friends or enjoying a quiet dinner “at home”. Whatever you wish. Available as a one-bedroom configuration or as two-bedrooms (as illustrated) by adjoining with a Veranda Suite.
One bedroom: 1,425–1,532 sq ft including veranda (560–667 sq ft)
Two bedroom: 1,772–1,879 sq ft including veranda (595–702 sq ft)
Two teak verandas with patio furniture and floor-to-ceiling glass doors; two-bedroom has additional veranda
Living room (with convertible sofa to accommodate an additional guest)
Sitting area; two-bedroom has additional sitting area
Separate dining area
Twin beds or queen-sized bed: two-bedroom has additional twin beds or queen-sized bed
Marbled bathroom with double vanity, separate shower and full-sized whirlpool tub; plus a powder room; two-bedroom has additional marbled bathroom with full-sized bath
Bang & Olufsen audio system
The name says it all. A stylish apartment. Prestigious and classic. For those whose standards are higher than most. Available as a one-bedroom configuration or as two-bedrooms (as illustrated) by adjoining with a Vista Suite.
One bedroom: 1,292 sq ft including veranda (190 sq ft)
Two bedroom: 1,668 sq ft including veranda (190 sq ft)
Large teak veranda with patio furniture and floor-to-ceiling glass doors; two-bedroom has additional large picture window
Living room with sitting area; two-bedroom has additional sitting area
Separate dining area
Twin beds or queen-sized bed: two-bedroom has additional twin beds or queen-sized bed
Marbled bathroom with double vanity, separate shower and full-sized whirlpool tub, plus a powder room; two-bedroom has additional marbled bathroom with shower
Bang & Olufsen audio system
In addition to WiFi throughout the ship, an Internet Café was located in the Library, on Deck 7. There were 7 PCs, and an IT concierge was available for a few hours in the morning and evening each day. The basic pay-as-you-go rate for Internet access was a relatively reasonable .50/minute, while and packages brought down price (starting at 100 minutes for $45).
One of Silver Spirit’s two special restaurants that require a surcharge, Le Champagne occupies a very intimate room with just 12 tables, each perched fairly close to another (request one on the end, rather than between two). With just one turnover nightly, a maximum of 24 guests dine here each evening. This equates to only about one-third of the passengers on a typical 7-day cruise, so reservations are essential; most tables were fully booked for our cruise by the first night.
Although good wines were included in our cruise fare, when we stopped by for our reservation there was a light push for one of the high-end (non-included) wines by the maître d’: “If you let me know what wine you want to drink I can have it decanted and waiting when you arrive.” Ahead of our cruise we felt the $30 up-charge for dinner at Le Champagne was a bit nickel-and-dimey, considering the not-inexpensive cost of an “all-inclusive” Silversea cruise. But after our meal, we weren’t complaining. The service was right-on—attentive and never over-bearing—and the food was truly special, as fine a dining experience as we’ve ever had at sea.
The menu offers three or four options for each of five courses. After making our selections, glasses of Piper-Heidsieck Monopole were offered for toasting, along with an hors d'oeuvre plate—tasters of foie gras, a king scallop, lobster and a scintillating porcini mushroom cappuccino. Our taste buds were primed and readied for the first course, a cold appetizer that emerged from under silver domes. The red tuna carpaccio was perfect, laced with dollops and drizzles of three different mustards (even more would have been nice); we also enjoyed the plate of farm-raised Ossetra caviar, with buckwheat blinis, Jersey potatoes and other condiments. The hot appetizers that followed were no less flashy, including grilled king scallops (yes, again—this time perched on a cauliflower puree), and a risotto flecked with edible gold leaf. The gold imparted no taste, but the rice was subtly flavored, served al dente.
Our next course dazzled, led by a bouillon of Dover sole and Camembert, an unusual broth with only the soft, melting rinds of the ripe cheese for texture—we’ve never had anything quite like it. Le Champagne’s lobster bisque offered one of the showier presentations we’ve encountered for this favorite: It was a splendid soup, not overly rich or abrasive like some, with a big succulent lobster tail swimming in the middle of the tarn. For our surf or turf main course we opted for the Dover sole, served Normandy-style, and lobster thermidor—both of which were just fine. Other options for the course included New England venison, rack of New Zealand lamb, and breast of forest pigeon.
Desserts ranged from a subdued, slightly underwhelming Grand Marnier soufflé to an over-the-top trilogy of Valrohna chocolate lava cakes—one of which erupted with a chocolate plume. The latter was a bit of overkill considering the subtle Dover sole that preceded, but flanking the dessert course were lollipops of chocolate-dipped green tea “ice cream” and a tray of chocolate truffles and vanilla macaroons. That macaroon was exquisite, collapsing gently in our mouth with a creamy surrender.
Outside the gym and pool, there were limited recreational opportunities. There was a Ping Pong table at the top of the stairwell on Deck 10, and jogging was permitted on Deck 10 aft, around the funnel—10 laps equaled a mile. Jogging and power walking was not permitted on Deck 10 around the pool area.
The Observation Lounge
Yet another very quiet spot for drinks and socializing. On our cruise, this bar was somewhat hidden away and little used. Owing to its location on Deck 11, forward of the uppermost Silver Suites, it almost felt like the space was reserved for them. There was a radar screen, binoculars and reference books, and the view (from above the bridge) was sometimes nice.
Since the venue went unused during the day, it could be a good place to curl up with a book, but a tired soundtrack replayed endlessly during our voyage. Violins oozed saccharine renditions of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “What a Wonderful World,” and “The Way We Were.” It encouraged us to get out our knitting.
Most aspects of the operation aboard Silver Spirit were excellent, delivering a level of quality, service and amenities that is all but unheard of in the mainstream cruise industry. The first class ministrations begin with arrival to the port—we were swiftly checked in (by one of the singers it turned out—nice touch) and aboard in little more than 5 minutes. The (mostly) all-inclusive aspect of Silversea means we weren’t always being asked for our cabin key or to sign for purchases; we didn’t fret over how our checkout bill was adding up. Most of our meals were terrific, and the service was generally flawless.
Only a few other cruise lines operate at this level, such as Regent Seven Seas, Crystal and Seabourn, and although Silversea is ostensibly all-inclusive, we particularly appreciated how there wasn’t a hard-sell for tours, shopping, spa treatments and art auctions, as we commonly experience on most cruise ships.
Would we sail Silver Spirit again? Given the right price and cruise, absolutely. But, offered the same cost and itinerary on Seabourn Sojourn, we might opt for the journey with Seabourn again. Some of our preference is based on personal likes (lighter décor, for instance, on Sojourn, and a guest list that seemed a bit less entitled)—not necessarily quality. But when it came to dining, the consistency and subtlety of meals aboard Seabourn Sojourn edged into first place.
Without question, however, we look forward to our next opportunity to sail with either line.
The outdoor walkway on Deck 5 was mostly narrow and did not circuit the ship; there were no loungers provided for sitting on this deck, so few guests were seen out here. Deck 10, however, was the main sun deck above the pool area. Deck 12 served as an Observation Deck, a good place for enjoying scenic passage.
Unique in the Silversea fleet, Seishin is the second of Silver Spirit’s specialty restaurants requiring a surcharge—in this case $20 for the standard menu or $30 for the 9-course degustation menu. We tried both options, and very much enjoyed the array of Asian tastes, some of which represented truly high-quality seafood. As at Le Champagne, the tables at Seishin are very close together, and there are just 13, turned once nightly (reservations are required). We recommend dining early or late to minimize chances of someone being seated next to you for the entire meal.
From the standard menu we started with the sushi and sashimi platter, artfully arranged and satisfying. We followed with a waterpaper roll of spider crab, which came with au jus of green pea and lemon-grass infused olive oil. The main course was a stunning tiger prawn tempura—moist, melt-in-your-mouth creations accompanied by a Japanese chili sauce. A dollop of green tea sorbet rounded out the meal. While satisfying, we’ll note that the standard menu does not represent a large dinner.
Following a provocative caviar sorbet for amuse bouche, the degustation menu also featured the sushi and sashimi platter and moved on to black cod sashimi and a sample of exquisite little marinated clams. There was flying fish roe (who knew?), and crispy grilled amadei (a fish we weren’t familiar with), leading to a couple fine legs of royal crab. The degustation took a surprising turn for a plate of tepan Wagyu beef with wasabi that was tender and rich.
Lunch was also served on some days at Seishen. We didn’t try it, but eight different bento box options were available, and there was no up-charge for lunch.
There was no official dress code during daytime, but swimsuits were considered “appropriate” only for the pool area, and guests were asked not to walk barefoot, shirtless or in bathrobes in the public areas of the ship. Caps and hats were not allowed in restaurants. “Long-length” shorts were allowed in public area during the day.
There were three different dress codes for the evening, designated in the ship’s daily Chronicles newsletter. Casual meant dresses or blouses and pants for women; sports shirts and slacks for men. Informal indicated dresses or pantsuits for women; jackets for men, with ties optional. Formal designated evening gowns, cocktail dresses or dress pantsuits for women; tuxedos, dinner jackets or dark suits for men. However, on Formal night, this dress code was enforced only in the Restaurant or Le Champagne; Informal wear was considered okay in the other restaurants on this evening.
On our 7-day cruise, there were 3 Casual nights, 3 Informal, and 1 Formal. On the Formal night we were gently reminded to dress up when showing our face in a bar a few minutes after the 6 p.m. cutoff time for daytime wear.
Stars Supper Club
We love the idea of an intimate supper club on board a cruise ship, and although we enjoyed some aspects of our dinner and show, we ultimately felt Stars needs some polish. The venue is located next to La Terrazza (and utilizes the same kitchen). It’s a dimly lighted room designed with a few 1930s art deco curves and angles; there’s a stage with a small dance floor in front. With seating for just a few dozen guests, reservations are essential. The pianist played solo till 9 p.m., which was then followed by 45-minute sets with a jazz vocalist till midnight.
The five-course set meal is made up of smaller, tapas-style portions. An appetizer of bread sticks, dips and generous hunks of parmesan came out first, and was soon followed by two of the courses, featuring somewhat larger than bite-size portions: raw tuna with a dollop of curried aioli, mozzarella with diced tomato, pata negra, prawns. But following these plates, service slowed to a crawl—presumably backed up in the kitchen. The next course was seafood, followed by meat, and some delicious hot items were showcased, including a pair of scallops sitting atop raisin brandy, sea bass, venison and veal, eventually leading to a trio of desserts.
We sat down for our reservation promptly at 8:30 and that dessert did not land until 11:40 p.m. There was no reason for the meal to be drawn out, and for most of that time, empty plates sat on our table. It was an unreasonably long time for dinner to unfold.
The jazz pianist and vocalist were well equipped for the venue. The singer had a broad repertoire of American standards under her belt and took requests (between sets they mingled with the audience—a nice touch). There was a bit too much echo on the singer’s audio, though this became less obvious as set went on and dining voices got louder. It’s also possible to sit at the bar without ordering dinner, though limited seating—a good option if you don’t get a reservation or prefer not to have a drawn-out meal.
Full laundry, dry cleaning, pressing and alteration services were available—for a fee—with complimentary self-service laundry rooms located next to the forward stairwell on decks 5 through 11.
Shows & Entertainment
Silver Spirit had one venue for stage performances, the Show Lounge. Seating sloped gently down toward the main stage, which was flanked by a pair of small ancillary stages. It was a comfortable venue (especially considering the modest size of Silver Spirit), holding about 320 guests in love seats for two; there were no obstructed sightlines. Nice touch: Latecomers were guided to their seats by ushers with flashlights.
We saw two of the shows performed here, but we weren’t terribly impressed. Both were one-off performances, and they started at 10:15 p.m.—late for some guests. One was a Motown review (what a groundbreaking concept!). But the vocal mix smothered us with too much reverb and echo over a tame music track. Silver Spirit’s five singers were classically trained and a couple of them just couldn’t pull off the Motown sound. This meant the interpretation was very white—and we don’t mean Barry White. At least the song selection reached a little deeper into the Motown catalog than the usual cruise ship reviews. There was little to no costuming, but we’re not complaining.
Another night the singers put on a show of what we’d call “p’Opera.” While it was a good showcase for these beautiful voices, they were needlessly, shrilly over-amplified. And while we don’t object to a collection of opera’s most obvious greatest hits, inserting Lennon/McCartney’s “Yesterday” midway through was an abrupt 180 we didn’t need (it may have worked for the Three Tenors, but it broke the mood for us).
Year-old movies were shown in the Show Lounge on a couple evenings. The venue offered decent presentation, though the soundtrack seemed to be mono pumped through the surround speakers.
There was plenty of other live entertainment on the ship on the daily schedule. This included a jazz duo that appeared poolside on most nights, a pianist who turned the Bar into a cozy cocktail lounge, followed by a trio that performed light dance music well into the evening.
The Pool Grill, Hot Rocks
Flanking one end of the pool, this was our most disappointing dining venue. By day, the Pool Grill selection is fairly predictable, but some of the most basic items like a cheeseburger and fries were presented with as little imagination as possible—dried out burger, tepid and limp French fries, unpalatable onion rings, and cole slaw lathered in mayo. But the catch of the day—mahi mahi—was nice and light, with citrus-y sauce and little salad. The crab Caesar was fine for the crab, but it didn’t taste much like a Caesar. There was a decent salad bar. When we ordered drinks, the waiter didn’t know much about the beer or wine selection, and when delivered they came in plastic mugs. Even a martini came in plastic-ware.
In the evening, the Pool Grill evolves into Hot Rocks, and although we love dining under the stars, we’re not big fans of doing the cooking when we’re on a luxury cruise. The menu is fairly simple—a few salad options that were merely perfunctory, followed by cuts of meat and fish, ranging from 6-oz center-cut filet mignon to 14-oz Berkshire pork chop and Atlantic salmon to Madagascar prawns. Hot stones were delivered to our table to grill the entrées and we set about tending to our steaks. On the side were a baked potato, a skewer of already-grilled veggies and steak sauces such as peppercorn and Béarnaise. But, sorry, despite using decent quality Sterling Silver meats, what comes off a proper grill in the kitchen will be better than the best steak a master griller throws onto a hot rock. To our mind, the hot rock grill-it-yourself gimmick is a bit passé, and we’d give it a pass on a future cruise.
Midway through our cruise we discovered that the Pool Grill also serves a limited breakfast selection, and this proved to be a nice alternative when La Terrazza was crowded one morning. The menu included such items as rye French toast, cumin-scented egg white omelet Florentine and a grilled half-peach with honey—items available at The Restaurant—plus a trio of smoothies and Vitamix drinks. Very few other passengers seemed to discover breakfast here, so it was a quiet option.
General Health & Safety
Hand sanitizers were present all most restaurant entrances, but there was no major push to use them.
The passenger safety drill following embarkation was more involved than most we’ve experienced. Names were checked off as we arrived at the muster station, and passengers were requested to bring life jackets from their cabin to the drill. We were then walked single-file to lifeboat stations with our hand on a shoulder of the guest in front. While it made sense to familiarize us with the location of our lifeboat, the process seemed a little seat-of-the-pants—somehow, it did not reassure us about how things might transpire in the event of a real emergency.
Although carry-on bags were scanned during embarkation, there was no scan required when re-boarding ship at any of the ports we visited for out small camera bag or laptop (in a sleeve). Our passports were held at the front desk immediately after boarding until disembarkation.
With a somewhat small crowd of gamblers on board, The Casino was not exactly the hoppingest part of the ship. Large enough to hold several dozen slot machines and a half-dozen table games, the room was curiously easy to overlook. There were times when the facility was open and no customers were present. Although the slot machines generally opened soon after we left each port, the tables did not open until after dinner (9:30 p.m. or later). Minimums at tables were generally in the $5 to $10 range.
The breakfast menu could be delivered within 30-minute windows from 6 to 10 a.m. Menu options included most everything offered on the breakfast menu at The Restaurant. We ordered ours for 7:30-8:00—it was delivered at 7:41 a.m. An extension that fitted over our coffee table provided a simple solution for our lack of proper dining table.
The scrambled eggs and an artichoke-spinach soufflé arrived fairly warm. Toast wrapped in linen came with butter in a silver bowl and marmalade and cherry jam in glass jars. An order of pain au chocolate was also wrapped in linen. The fruit plate was just okay—the melon was neither flavorful nor sweet. The tray came with salt and pepper shakers, coffee in carafes, and sugar in packets; there were no flowers or other embellishments. Apparently we neglected to check off cream for the coffee, so there was none; we called our butler and it was delivered about 15 minutes later.
An additional in-room dining menu was available 24 hours, and included an array of hot and cold choices. This included such lighter fare as sandwiches (a tuna Niçoise wrap, veggie ciabatta, panini), salads (chicken Caesar, strawberry and baby spinach), burgers (traditional, turkey or Thai crab), hot dogs (New York, Mexican chili), and pizzas (crudaiola, Napoletana, quattro stagioni). There was also pasta (ravioli with sage butter, penne with herbs and tomato sauce), and a selection of entrées, including grilled salmon, grilled chicken breast, and a 12-ounce New York sirloin steak with Béarnaise, green peppercorn or mushroom sauce; all of these were served with garden vegetables and potatoes. The desserts included crème brûlée, cheesecake with caramel sauce, bitter chocolate mousse, ice cream or frozen yogurt, a fruit platter, and a cheese plate served with celery sticks, dried fruit, nuts and crackers.
We called to order lunch one afternoon and were advised of “approximately 25 minutes” for delivery; the knock on the door came 36 minutes later. The waiter who delivered our lunch did not put the table extension on the coffee table (he forgot to bring a table cloth), so the four oversized plates our meal came with spilled past the edges of the table. We ordered crispy corn cakes served with baby leaves and garlic dip, maltagliati pasta with zucchini and shrimp, a spring roll Provençale, and a club “triple-decker” with roast beef, turkey, ham and cheese. The pasta had started to cool by the time we could get to it, and the pasta stuck together as we ate it—not good. The spring roll salad was okay, but the fried roll was also cool. For the triple decker club bacon was substituted for the ham. Overall, our in-room lunch left much to be desired.
In addition to the breakfast menu and the 24-hour menu, we could also order from the day’s breakfast, lunch and dinner menus at the Restaurant, during its operating hours. The options were so extensive that one could easily have every meal delivered to the room and never have the same thing twice. But we decided to venture out now and then.
There was a selection of fine Petrossian caviars that could be delivered to our room. These ranged from Chataluga “Prestige” (1 ounce, $50) to Beluga “Royal” (1¾ ounce, $550)—each accompanied by buckwheat blinis and condiments.
Like The Bar immediately next door, the Lobby on Deck 5 was heavily trafficked through the day and evening. The front desk was located here, along with the shore excursion desk and the future cruise consultant. On Deck 7 we found the small Library, intermingled with the Internet Café. There was a small selection of books, but good titles, along with guidebooks that covered most of the destinations we were visiting on the cruise. Along with a number of major foreign newspapers, we found printouts of USA Today and International Herald Tribune here. Oddly, the New York Times and Wall St. Journal were either not printed or someone made off them each morning.
A Conference Room was available on Deck 5, seating 10 around an oval table, along with a Card Room with various board games for play. The Connoisseur’s Corner was a surprisingly large room dedicated to the ship’s contingent of cigar smokers. Vintage and high-end cognac, whiskey, port and grappa were available for purchase, along with cigars.
The Medical Centre was located on Deck 3. It was generally open for consultations for one hour in the morning and another in the late afternoon. The staff doctor and nurse were available 24 hours as needed.
Silversea says most public areas of Silver Spirit are designated as smoke-free, but we found somewhat lax enforcement. The line says cigarette smoking was allowed in designated areas on open decks 9 and 10. Silversea’s policy does not directly address whether cigarette smoking is allowed in cabins (it’s not permitted on verandas), which may be why our room smelled of old cigarettes when we first boarded.
Silversea builds gratuities into their cruise fares, except for spa services. The line says “No additional gratuities are necessary,” although we suspect some guests chose to leave an additional tip for their room attendant and perhaps bartenders or waiters.
The Venetian Society, Silversea’s frequent-cruiser program, offers benefits starting after the first completed cruise. This includes a $250 onboard credit for introducing a new cruiser to Silversea, a private party, ship visitation privileges, and a 5 percent discount on select cruises.
After 100 days sailed with Silversea, and additional 5 percent discount is offered on future cruises, along with complimentary laundry service (excluding dry cleaning and pressing). After 250 days, there’s an additional 10 percent discount on future cruise bookings, and after 350 days, Silversea awards a complimentary 7-day cruise in a Veranda Suite.
Despite Silversea’s European veneer, Silver Spirit’s currency was U.S. dollars.
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