We've been very lucky to have been able to spend time on-board Silversea Silver Spirit this week, our 1st experience of luxury boutique ship cruising. Let us tell you how we got on, whether this type of cruise is for you...
There are lots of benefits to choosing boutique ship cruise lines! To start the fact they are smaller ships means they can cruise into more ports of call than larger ships; this leads to more diverse itineraries, often starting and finishing in different locations or at least a continuous path of changing itineraries. Further to this boutique ships tend to spend longer hours in port so you really get to know the destination; this is really key if you really want to explore a part of the world without constantly worrying how much time you have left! The cruises can be more intimate, you get more opportunities to get to know your fellow guests and the crew so it can make for a more personal experience and finally, smaller ships tend to be ultra luxury, think Seabourn, Azamara, Regent Seven Seas, Ponant and of course Silversea so you really do get to enjoy the ultimate in comfort when you are on board.
What Makes Silversea a Six Star Cruise?
So what makes Silversea a 6 star cruise line (in our opinion!) Well, the key features as far as we are concerned are the amount of space per passenger across the ship and your stateroom, or in this case, your suite! All staterooms are suites as standard and on this ship there was only a handful of ocean view (Vista) with the rest at least Veranda (Balcony) suites. The suites are very large, very comfortable and with the features within they themselves become a venue for entertaining, for enjoying down time – not just a place to lay your head and to change your outfit. In keeping with this there are lots of features you can personalise to your taste. Prefer a different range of toiletries? No problem. Perhaps prefer a different pillow? Choose the perfect match from the extensive pillow menu (Try the buckwheat pillow!). Want your favourite drinks in your minibar? That's not a problem either and that includes all premium brands...with no shortage supplied (1 litre bottles of Vodka and Gin for example provided)
Anything you need can be provided by your suite steward or your butler (although for us we expected more from the butler service, read further) including 24/7 in suite dining where the butler delivers your 3 course meal to your suite and sets everything up on a table for you. It's not just a trimmed down in suite menu either with the full main restaurant menu fully available too while open. The importance of space can not be underestimated – always a seat in the theatre, always a seat at dinner, always somewhere to perch in the lounge or bar and most importantly plenty of personal space around the pools and Jacuzzi's.....you never feel cramped or surrounded and compared to large 3000-4000 passenger ships where you can end up fighting for a lounger it's an absolute treat. Other touches that differentiate include the lack of an on-board photographer and no signing or swiping cards when ordering your drinks. They really do make a difference.
It may even be that really you won't really appreciate all the benefits of these touches of this cruise... perhaps it's only when you go to another cruise line you'll miss these little things more and maybe want to then return to Silversea? All these small elements add up to create a very relaxing experience, a very calm, stress free luxury experience.
Where do Mainstream Cruise Lines do Things as Well or Even Better?
A lot of key areas although great, were no better than other mainstream cruise lines. For example food was great, but it's easily as good on Celebrity or Cunard. In fact the food on NCL or Royal wasn't far behind either. That's not to say it wasn't great but the standard of food on cruise lines is so high that we would be equally happy with the food on other cruise lines. Equally the service, again good, was no better than we've received before on other cruise lines. There were times when we had to ask for water, or received the wrong water and the service varied a lot between staff. This can happen anywhere but again, it mean't that the overall service experienced was no better than elsewhere to be fair.
The other area was around entertainment and activities. Now to be fair it's hard to compare a boutiques ship entertainment with a huge cruise line like Royal or NCL and boutique ships can never match the scale, budgets and numbers of a large cruise line. The entertainment was good on-board, in Stars club particularly it was exceptional, but there simply wasn't enough of it for us. We wanted more activities, more singing around the ship which could easily have been done by the show team. The team were talented but as they were all nearly on their 1st Silversea contracts it felt like their performances were work in progress... however they could easily have done a solo performance or two around the ship, maybe sang a tribute to a particular artist or teamed up for a set of duets...
So you can't compare but we probably expected slightly more from the Silversea offering. For example showing a movie on the 1st and last nights in the theatre was slightly disappointing – a film that was also available in the suite! Now, if you're going to show a film then it needs to be a current cinema release, or a live event from a theatre or a concert hall such is the current trend in cinemas up and down the country. It shouldn't be on in your suite and it needs to be made more of... if it's a movie night then popcorn, hot chocolate, a special cocktail...like movie nights on Princess! You want to feel you're still part of an event.. not something that's been thrown on to fill a gap in the schedule! On this taster there was no enrichment lectures, no dance classes etc. We would expect more activities perhaps on a longer cruise and particularly on sea days but it wasn't the case here.
Although we liked the concept of the butler, for us, we expected slightly more. Despite feeling a mixture of excitement, apprehension and intrigue about having a butler we were in the end slightly disappointed and to be honest the combined efforts of the butler & suite steward amounted to no more than the Cabin steward alone on other cruise lines. Further more everyone's experience was different with their individual butlers... some weren't shown the range of toiletries or had discussions about the minibar options! Some received offers to pack their case, others didn't! We also felt the service didn't quite live up to the claims and could even go much further! There was no assistance with reservations, no assistance around wardrobe, no offers of shoe shine, no offer of fresh fruit or other snacks, there are lots of things that could have been done...
So who is Silversea for? Why Cruise With Silversea?
So Silversea is not for you if you want lots of entertainment and activities and it's also not suited for families. This is more about having a relaxing, resting, stress free experience without intrusion or too much distraction. Silversea is also definitely for you if your itinerary is important to you where long days and overnights in port are your focus with the luxurious ship there for you to relax in, be served in when you need to put your feet up! That's in no way a bad thing or a negative - it's just important to know before you make the choice!
It comes down to what do you want from your cruise; everyone is different and even from cruise to cruise peoples own demands, requirements and expectations can change...but you will do well to find a more comfortable ship than for example Spirit or the stunning Muse, a more homely ship, a place to rest your weary feet from a day exploring the world and that really does appeal...