Post Voyage Review: Silver Spirit, Panama Canal 2013
It had been decades since I last sailed on an ultra-luxe cruise ship, and since then I had come to believe that I didn’t miss the experience. Surely I was mistaken because my time spent onboard the beautiful Silver Spirit from Silversea Cruises quickly reminded me how wonderfully sumptuous cruising can be. Just as there is a difference between a Volkswagen and a Mercedes-Benz, so too is there a difference upgrading to the unmistakable luxuries of Silversea.
Silversea is a family owned company which is remarkable because there are very few independently operated cruise lines in existence these days. Consequently, the personality of this line is distinctly personable. It does cost a premium to sail onboard, and the evening attire is generally more formal. However, there is no sense of snobbery from the international passengers who come from fascinatingly diverse backgrounds, and the equally friendly crew is adept at calling you by name. Thus the Silversea experience is indeed an impressive one.
The Silver Spirit herself is the newest of the Silversea fleet having been introduced in 2009. She is also the largest, but with a capacity of 540 pampered by 376 crew, the ship is by no means unpleasantly dense with passengers. In truth, for a smaller ship, her venues and passageways are quite spacious.
The prevailing art deco interior design is a nice timeless touch, especially in The Bar where waterfall-etched glass and black-and-white photographs decorate the space. Additionally, the ship’s exterior design is sleek with a porpoise-shaped bow and a sweeping stern, and her configuration is unique with all suites positioned in the forward two-thirds of the vessel.
Rather than placing venues and restaurants on dedicated decks, Silver Spirit features levels with a mix of suites and public spaces, spreading her points of interest equally across the ship. A forward observation lounge and aft panorama lounge make for relaxing spaces with beautiful vistas, and ample outdoor deck space around the pool and terraces at the stern of several floors delight sun-bathers.
As an all-inclusive line where beverages and gratuities are complimentary, Silversea is refreshingly free of a revenue-driven shipboard culture. While there are very nice boutiques available, they are not open every waking hour to coax passengers to spend ad infinitum, and the fun casino is not intimidatingly massive. Similarly, the spa, salon and gym facilities are smaller, but the beautiful interior design makes the area feel grander while maintaining intimate individual spaces.
Without question, the incredible suites onboard are one of the highlights of sailing on Silversea. A fleet of smaller ships in this case does not mean the presence of smaller rooms, and there are no diminutive cabins nor interior staterooms, only exterior-view suites. In fact, the majority of the guest rooms are as long as half the ship’s width with a singular corridor running down the center.
Ours was a handsome midship veranda suite with 376 square feet of sheer comfort. Upon entering the luxurious abode, a mirrored hallway fitted with convenient coat hooks flanks the heavenly bathroom and walk-in closet before opening up to the sizable bedroom and living room. Beyond that, the teak-surfaced veranda opens up to the sea air and waves below.
The dream bathroom comes complete with a roomy shower featuring a removable handheld head plus a fixed rain head that pours a delightful deluge down over you. Across the marble-lined hardwood floor is a full-sized bathtub and requisite commode along with a wide sink basin and abundant accent lighting. Bulgari toiletries finish off the luxuries.
In the bedroom, the exquisite sheets and comforter are plush to begin with, but a comprehensive pillow menu is available to enhance your sleep even further. At the foot of the bed is a vanity station complete with storage galore. All around, the suites are conveniently full of shelves, drawers and hangars. Also, a flat panel television sits hidden behind the mirror here until turned on.
The adjacent living room space, capable of accommodating a third passenger, features a second television that is always visible. Its selection of free on-demand programming is extensive and makes for perfect entertainment on nights where room service is called for. The convertible coffee table is impressively capable of taking a topper to increase the surface area for in-suite meals, and the mini-fridge, stocked daily with your preferences, sits ready to serve just below the desk.
A hallmark of Silversea is the cruise line’s service, and it starts at your suite with excellent attendants and butlers. Ours respectively, Adesh Gawale and Allan Terez, spoiled us in the best of ways. Surprising us by drawing a refreshing bath, bringing us popcorn for our in-room movie and shining my shoes for formal night, they went above and beyond to make us feel incredibly comfortable.
Room service is never just delivered, for instance. Our butler always set up our table like in the main dining room, placing each plate out neatly and holding our ice cream back to avoid premature melting until we were finished with our entrees – usually tasty pizzas. He would even pour our favorite drinks as desired.
All throughout the ship, the crew really gets to know you and your preferences quickly. As an example, I often ordered an orange juice in the panorama lounge, and before long, I didn’t even need to ask for them to serve me one. From the captain and the cruise director to the waiters and drink servers, Silversea attentiveness is quite apparent.
I also had the pleasure to interview David and Jo Clough who have been on about 120 days worth of Silversea cruises since 2005. His assessment of the service was that “almost without exception, they will always go the extra mile to do want you want them to do if it is possible,” and it is that “standard of service,” as he calls it, that keeps them loyal to Silversea.
The food on Silversea is also top notch. The Restaurant, Silversea’s main dining room, serves delectable dishes including traditional favorites and rarer delicacies, crafted with creative flavors and artful plating. Plus, the complimentary house wines are superb and accent the food flavors perfectly at all the dining venues onboard.
Just off from The Restaurant are Silver Spirit’s two culinary gems, Seishin and Le Champagne. These 24-seat exclusive dining rooms charge a nominal fee for extraordinary cuisine. Seishin presents exotic Japanese fusion, and Le Champagne features fine French fare. Both are not to be missed, especially Le Champagne as the only Relais & Chateaux restaurant at sea.
Other included specialty restaurants include La Terrazza and its Italian cuisine. Buffet service is offered here during the day for breakfast and lunch with delicious pizzas available a la minute. The same great pizzas are available in suite as well. At night, the restaurant offers full service dining with many tasty pasta selections and entree offerings such as ossobuco.
Stars Supper Club and The Grill round out the mix with unique experiences. The first pairs a delicious tasting menu with great live jazz music, and the second is participatory where you can cook fish or steaks over your own sizzling lava rock. During the day, the pool grill serves up inventive hamburgers, sandwiches and those great pizzas mentioned previously.
The excellence of Silversea’s entertainment was a pleasant surprise onboard a smaller ship. The approach is much different than on other mainstream lines where the focus is on elaborate productions with a few comedians and magicians thrown in. Here the shows are minimal and classical in nature.
The main company consists of six singers who include the best I’ve ever heard at sea, and while the orchestra backing never exceeds three members, the shows are fantastic and range from opera to pop. It was refreshing to see a traditional opera show on a cruise ship as was it to see many members of the cast get solo shows. Rebecca Franz, in particular, is a talent to contend with.
Between headline shows, classical instrumentalists take to the stage such as violinists, guitarists and clarinetists. The cruise director also entertains on one of the nights. Additionally, Silversea boasts an excellent enrichment program that features unique speakers throughout the cruise.
While some cruises cater to a more mature set of passengers, it was truly nice to see a diverse age demographic onboard Silversea. In fact, after speaking to Don Fluke, the cruise director onboard Silver Spirit, it became apparent that the future of Silversea is an expanded dedication to younger guests. For instance, I was not alone as a passenger in his twenties, and one guest was even being pushed around in a stroller, reminiscent of my own first cruise.
With excellent cruise quality and enticing new offerings, it is easy to see this trend continue. Next up for Silversea in September of 2013 is the launch of the Silver Galapagos, naturally deployed to the Galapagos Islands. Silversea’s second expedition vessel will also feature an exclusive partnership with the Royal Geographical Society to enhance the line’s enrichment programming.
Silversea Cruises is all about treating its guests to a phenomenal cruising experience. I feel privileged to have enjoyed it myself, and I can’t wait to return. To gather more information for your own Silversea Cruises voyage, visit the line’s website, read our extensive Live Voyage Review, and watch our Silver Spirit Ship Review Video.
Do you have any questions about our experience or opinions you’d like to share. Please let us know in the comments section below…