Line: Silversea Cruises
Routes: Silver Spirit sails two of the cruise industry’s most popular seas: the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. She also circumvents South America and does a transatlantic passage.
Those who want the best of both worlds: the intimacy of a small ship and the variety — in dining especially — of a vessel three times its size.
Passengers who need crowded dance floors at night and poolside hairy chest contests by day in order to have fun. It’s also not the best ship for families who need supervised activities.
- Luxe amenities, such as Pratesi linens and Belgian chocolates, are standard even in entry-level suites.
- The space-to-passenger ratio is just right: The ship doesn’t feel crowded — or empty.
Silver Spirit draws a crowd that enjoys refined pursuits, and breeds an ambiance more subdued and sophisticated than overbearingly loud or party-focused. She carries features that have become signatures of the Silversea brand: butler service for every suite, amenities like Pratesi linens, and bar-raising restaurants such as Seishin.
While she’s slightly larger than her predecessors, sailing aboard Silver Spirit is very much like a voyage on the 382-passenger Silver Shadow or Silver Whisper because of a similar layout and space-to-passenger ratio.
Though the fare is billed as all-inclusive (gratuities and alcohol are factored in), there are fees for some specialty restaurants, and shore excursions are extra, too.
Silver Spirit is an all-suite ship; all the cabins are exterior, and even the entry-level category, vista, offers a lineup of amenities that are notches above what’s usually provided. Be prepared to make choices: A firm or a soft mattress? Will you be taking down or memory foam pillows (among seven other choices) — and silk charmeuse cases to go with them? Bvlgari®, Salvatore Ferragamo®, or Sebamed beauty products? Which Laura Tonatto® scent do you want for your bathroom?
Other details that take the staterooms up another notch: umbrellas and binoculars in the room and turndown treats from Belgian chocolatier Pierre Marcolini. Bathrooms were built to impress with both bathtubs — whirlpools in some cabins — and glassed-in showers.
Royal, grand, and owner's suite guests have the additional benefit of a laundry and pressing service, afternoon canapés, several hours of Internet, and dinner for two at the normally $40 per-person Le Champagne.
But what truly distinguishes Silversea is its butler service in every stateroom. These coattail-clad gentleman will make your dinner reservations, refresh your refrigerator with beverages, and serve you breakfast at sunrise. But this pampering perk might need a little fine-tuning. My butler would occasionally enter my room without knocking, restaurant reservations fell through the cracks, and my order of a bottle of San Pellegrino went unfulfilled for days.
Breakfast is best served on the balcony by your butler. Pick from room service choices such as egg soufflés, fresh fruit, juice, and muffins (the menu is almost as extensive as in the restaurant). Also, the Pool Grill whips up some healthy — and delicious — smoothies and egg white omelets.
For lunch and dinner, guests can choose from a number of options. Lunch includes more casual choices such as fish and chips, and steak and ale pie, as well as an Asian specialty (chili pork ribs, laksa) and a carved roast (honey-caramelized pork loin, whole salmon). Since the main dining room has limited hours midday, most guests end up filing into La Terrazza buffet. The sad-looking selections of ham and cheese croissants, cold cuts, and salads make it more of a grab-and-go place than one to sit down in.
The main dining room serves a nice combination of continental classics (escargot bourguignon, tournedos rossini), regional fare (on my Ligurian Coast-Balearic Islands cruise, ravioli with walnut pesto, and a trio of Spanish tapas), and vegetarian plates (pumpkin and spinach lasagna, potato mushroom pave).
Out of all of Silver Spirit’s alternative restaurants, only Seishin and Le Champagne have a cover charge ($40 each). Neither has many tables, so they fill up quickly, and with good reason. These eclectic experiences add variety and novelty to the sailing.
The cover charge doesn’t seem like much for the teaser or tasting menu at the Asian-fusion Seishin Restaurant, when you consider that it includes such delicately prepared dishes as wagyu beef and caviar sorbet. The sushi and sashimi assortment was fresh and beautifully presented, and the soft-shell crab tempura was light and crunchy.
The dishes at La Terrazza (at night, a slow food-inspired eatery) give Italian ports a run for their money. Pastas are a forte; the ship employs a pasta chef who spends his time onboard making fusilli, penne, and trenette. (On longer sailings, he conducts a demonstration.)
At the '30s-inspired Stars Supper Club, a jazz singer performs nightly. But the meal is just as entertaining. It consists of a series of small plates presented in sets of three, starting with a curious arrangement of nibbles instead of a bread basket. Ingredients are listed on the menu, but not precise dishes, so there's always an element of surprise as the food arrives.
For dinner, the outdoor Pool Grill transforms into a casual venue for searing, choice-cut meats and seafood on individual hot-stone slabs. It’s a real crowd pleaser, and guests flock to the venue even on windy nights. Thanks to the cook-your-own aspect, your meal is always prepared to your liking. (That said, the waiter can jump in to butterfly cut your steak or help you with the searing if you need assistance.)
Le Champagne, a collaboration with Relais & Chateaux, provides a grand experience. I loved that some of the courses, such as forest pigeon with artichoke and truffle ragout, erred on the more adventurous side.
Silversea caters to a demographic that knows its fine dining, so I expected a little more nuance from some of the dishes served onboard. I wished that the oyster in my plateau de fruits de mer was served with a mignonette instead of “just plain,” as my waiter described it. At La Terrazza, the “wild greens” in the wild green salad with parmesan cheese, walnuts, and capers turned out to be iceberg lettuce, and what I was expecting to be prosciutto on my pizza at the Pool Grill was actually … bacon.
As in the staterooms, service in the restaurants left much to be desired. I was told that half portions couldn’t be accommodated.
When I canceled an order of bacon after it failed to arrive with my pancakes, the waiter reordered it and served it to me anyway. The salmon-cake salad I had asked to be transferred to my room must have landed in galley purgatory — it never arrived, though the same waiter was kind enough to ask me about it the following evening.
This is, however, a great ship for wine lovers. There’s a list of more than 35 bottles that the onboard sommelier thoughtfully pairs with the evening’s menus.
Activities and Entertainment
Many of Silver Spirit’s sailings are focused on port-heavy itineraries. So while there’s a choice of onboard activities, they’re not worth hurrying back from land for. You can while away your idle hours with trivia games, shuffleboard, table tennis, bingo — traditional cruise ship pastimes. Or take a dip in the pool or a run at the gym, neither of which ever seem to be crowded. There’s also a guest lecturer who gives historical and cultural information on upcoming ports and a complimentary tasting (with food pairings) and detailed lecture on the upcharge wines.
Each night, a performance animates the Show Lounge, often a tribute to, say, ABBA or Motown. The stage is too small for any elaborate choreography, the acoustics of the theater are poor, and — despite the entertainers’ flashy costumes and enthusiasm — the productions seemed amateurish compared to the shows on bigger ships.
Throughout the evening, several bars play live music (jazz, easy listening) which barely rises over the din of conversation. The volume triples in the Panaroma Lounge, where — believe it or not — some passengers end the night with a high-energy dance party.
Insider Tip: If you can’t get a reservation at the tiny Stars Supper Club, you can (and should) pull up a chair at the bar to sip a cocktail and watch the show.
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