While on Silversea’s newest ship, the 540-guest Silver Spirit, I spent time considering what defines an ultra-luxury vacation. After much thought, I believe that a 6-star cruise experience needs to provide aesthetic appeal, an attractive design for the ship’s hardware (the ship and its furnishings), and the software (the food and other items consumed).
Freedom to do what one wants, when one wants. A stress-free experience in which service is attentive and nearly every want and desire is satisfied with minimal apparent effort on the part of a happy and friendly staff. Most of the newer four and five-star ships provide attractive surroundings, and physical comfort and good levels of service, but complete guest freedom is not typically available. An ultra-luxury ship, on the other hand, should provide excellent service and freedom of choice in all aspects of the voyage. The ship met expectations for attractiveness and physical comfort; my verandah stateroom on Deck 8 was nicely appointed, and the bed was one of the most comfortable I’ve ever experienced at sea. However, there was some room for improvement when it came to meeting ultra-luxury levels of freedom and service.
I should add that the butler service provided for all staterooms is outstanding and this exceeded that of competitors. Otherwise, on occasion, there were lapses of quality and service that weren’t executed as expected.
I had great expectations for dining at the various speciality restaurants that are prominently advertised by Silversea and quickly learned that many of the restaurants—such as Le Champagne and Stars Supper Club—had been booked weeks in advance and there was nothing available on any night. I tried eating at La Terrazza—it’s the largest speciality restaurant, so walk-ins shouldn’t be too difficult to accommodate, especially if one arrives outside of peak times. Approaching the maître d’ several evenings at 8:30 pm, I was told, “Sorry, there’s nothing available,” even though half of the tables appeared to be empty.
Service ship-wide conveyed a feeling of disorganisation. Table settings in restaurants, for example, would vary from table to table. One table would have a plant and candle on it, while an adjacent one would not. One would have an oil and vinegar set on it, while another would not. Staff engagement could have been better at times too.
- Detailed Review +
- Facts & Amenities +
- Deck Plans +
- Member Reviews +
Check-in experience and boarding
Silversea had no staff or signage at the terminal’s vehicle drop-off location, so it took me a while to find my way inside the correct building. The check-in agent greeted me by name and advised me to head onboard to check in.
Unfortunately, the staff advised they were not able to help with my carry-on luggage, but once I got to the ship’s gangway, the first Silversea staff here offered to provide help. I was escorted to Deck 5 reception, where I had another check-in process to complete. After waiting several minutes, the staff collected credit card details and my passport.
Lined up were numerous Silversea staff, some walking around with trays of bubbly. As I walked away from the counter, I made eye contact with a staff member who then escorted me to my cabin.
Staterooms and suites
My Deck 8 stateroom (category V6) was nicely appointed, except for the furniture which I felt conveyed design choices based on durability rather than luxury. Heavy curtains can divide the room into a sleeping area and a living area. The bed was extraordinarily comfortable and was dressed with Frette linens. The stateroom had a walk-in closet with a large, built-in dresser. A single clothes rod ran the full depth of the closet, but unfortunately, the full length of the rod is not usable due to the width of the dresser.
Entertainment on the two televisions included a comprehensive library of on-demand programs and live stations. The veranda was generous and included two deck chairs and a small side table.
Suite 838 was quite noisy due to its proximity to the butler station’s constantly ringing telephone and noise from people walking down the hall.
The following should be noted when selecting staterooms on Silver Spirit:
To avoid noise from the butler stations, avoid suites 738~741 and 836~839. On other decks, the butlers’ phones are not located in the public corridor. The corridor serving the suites on Deck 4 is plainly decorated. The verandahs serving suites on Decks 5 and 6 have more height and are taller than those on Decks 7~11.
The walls of the bathroom and the countertop were covered with marble, and the floor was wood laminate with marble trim. The bathroom included a large—compared to other ships—shower stall and a separate bathtub. The rain showerhead had plenty of water pressure, but the shower walls weren’t the most luxurious, being made of fibreglass.
Only one sink is provided, an oversized vessel sink that took up a majority of the counter. It was shallow and water splashed on the mirror every time I used it, but there was excellent lighting and plenty of shelves for storage.
After embarkation, the butler brought a silver tray to my room and displayed the range of bathroom amenities available, all of which were high-quality brands, such as Bulgari and Salvatore Ferragamo.
The food and beverage product on this ship could sometimes seem on the disorganised side, but the quality of the food and its presentation was usually excellent.
I was excited to try the speciality restaurants that Silversea so prominently promotes. After checking in and eating lunch, I tried to make restaurant reservations. I was told that Stars Supper Club and La Champagne had been fully booked months in advance. The staff member empathised with my disappointment and so managed to find a single opening for the entire cruise at La Terrazza, and again another, at the Pool Grill.
Having limited freedom for dining, especially on a port-intensive cruise when lunches are eaten ashore, was not something I expected for a ship in this competitive set. So take note, that all restaurants except for the main dining room require reservations.
Order-taking on the Silver Spirit is done with tablet computers. When a waiter first approaches, the greeting includes a, “What’s your suite number?” This pulls up one’s picture and name, and the waiter focuses his attention on punching in the meal orders. It felt a little impersonal for my liking – but staff, including my butler, did make an effort to remember my name, which was appreciated.
As a result, Silver Spirit’s dining isn’t as refined as I’d have liked or expected.
Main dining room
My table had nice china and flatware but no flowers or any other type of decoration: very plain. I wasn’t keen on either the Chianti or Sauvignon Blanc offered, and asked what other wine options were available. The waiter advised there were no other complimentary wine options, but I could buy a bottle of something different.
On other wine-inclusive cruise lines, staff offer a choice of complimentary wines. As I thought the waiter might not know the ship’s wine policy, I asked the wine steward, who advised the same.
One positive aspect of this dining experience was that the food was exceptionally good.
I also ate breakfast in The Restaurant. With only two other tables occupied, the service was excellent and the food delicious.
While interior design likes and dislikes are a personal matter of taste, the décor of The Restaurant was uninspiring, but most importantly was clean and tidy.
Speciality restaurant 1 (La Terrrazza)
Breakfast primarily involved a buffet; a small number of items could be ordered from menu cards, but these weren’t supplied at every table. The buffet area is plainly decorated. Most plates provided at the buffet were warm, so putting cold items, such as yoghurt, cold cuts, and fruit on them, to me, is a bit like serving ice cream in a warm bowl.
Lunch also follows a primarily self-service affair. Salad lovers will like the large offering; other buffet items, however, could have been presented better.
At dinner, one must have a reservation. Even if guests ‘no show’ and half the tables are empty, there’s no guarantee you’ll be allowed to dine. With a bit of polite persistence, asking several times why I couldn’t be seated when half the tables were empty the maître d’ did prepare a table for me.
The quality of the Italian food at dinner was good, with breakfast and lunch not quite at the same level. Service levels could be better in areas.
Speciality restaurant 2 (Stars Supper Club)
I was waitlisted for a table at Stars Supper Club, and on the ship’s formal night, I was lucky enough to benefit from a last-minute cancellation. I had been quite excited about visiting this venue, and my high expectation levels were exceeded.
Stars is a small, dinner-only venue with approximately fifteen tables, as well as a small bar area and a corner of the room for the club’s entertainment. The entertainment was superb. A dynamic duo that incorporated an outstanding vocalist and her accompanying pianist, this team provided all of the great musical standards.
The set menu included numerous small plate items, each of which was flavorful and elegantly presented. All staff were extremely friendly and helpful, and all requests were met with an enthusiastic ‘of course, no problem’. Stars provided the best dining experience I’ve ever had on a cruise ship. This venue epitomises what an ultra-luxury cruise should offer on a consistent basis: great food, service, decor, and entertainment.
Speciality restaurant 3 (Seishin Restaurant)
Seishin serves as the ship’s Asian restaurant, serving as a sushi venue at lunch and, for a $20~$30 per person supplement, tasting menus at dinner. The restaurant is small, with good service levels and decent food on the whole, but I thought the sushi rice was overcooked.
Cups of saké were not available. Instead, only large, 720ml bottles were available for purchase, with only four of the nine bottles listed on the menu actually in stock. Overall, while the service at this restaurant was excellent, the quality of the food was average.
Speciality restaurant 4 (Pool & Bar Grill)
This poolside restaurant requires reservations for dinner and provides an opportunity to cook one’s own steak or seafood dinner on a hot slab of rock slab. The salad I was served consisted of some soggy iceberg, bacon bits, and a small amount of dressing. As with other restaurants, water glasses weren’t refilled, and tables weren’t set-up consistently, with candles and oil/vinegar sets on some tables but not all.
When visiting the Observation Lounge, only one table was occupied. Five minutes after ordering drinks from the menu, the waiter returned to tell me that Basil Gimlets were not available in this lounge and that some of the drinks on the lounge’s menu are only available poolside. After changing my order, I waited twenty minutes for my drinks. I asked the bartender for some nibblies—they weren’t served automatically—and the waiter brought me some pretzels.
The nightly entertainment in the theatre was the usual cruise fare: a group of young, energetic performers providing musical numbers and standard covers.
The pool deck
The single pool is a reasonable size. The deck is spacious, but the staff set up a limited number of deck chairs, with most left in stacks on deck. Staff did not bring towels to the guests, which had to be retrieved from boxes on the deck. Once seated and due to the small number of pool staff, there were sometimes long delays in catching the eye of someone to take a drink order.
Spa and wellness
The massage rooms are attractive and quiet. The spa uses Elemis products and no sales pitches were made, a welcome respite from some other cruise ship spas.
The changing room would benefit from more mirrors, toiletries and other amenities to recompose oneself before leaving the facility.
The 50-minute Swedish massage was excellent. But after the massage, I was only offered a plastic bottle of water and no herbal tea or fruit as is common in the post-treatment, relaxation period. When I asked the therapist where I could relax after the massage, she said the only option was to use the pre-treatment waiting room. The therapist advised that if I paid an additional $29, then I could use the spa’s thermal suite area, which includes day beds.
Although small for a ship of this size, the gym was very clean and kitted-out with modern equipment.
Room service—both for breakfast and lunch—was a delight. My butler provided the high-quality service one expects from a luxury cruise. Served on-time, to the minute requested, the food was hot, good, and presented in my suite with proper cutlery and linens, on a white tablecloth.
Staff and service
With the exception of my butler, not enough of the staff went the extra mile to make the cruise as relaxing and special as I expected. I didn’t see the senior officers enough for my liking either. The restaurants felt disorganised at times, and I wished that the waiters weren’t as reliant on their iPads.
The shining stars on the cruise were the butler and suite attendant. Their services far exceeded my expectations and exhibited the professional delivery expected of a leading luxury cruise line.
The ship has a capacity of 540 passengers, with approximately 470 travelling on this September voyage. Passengers were a mix of Americans, Europeans, Australians, and other nationalities, primarily couples in their early 60s to late 70s.
I had my bags picked up from my room at 6:45 am, and they were left outside on the pier, unattended, I could see them from my verandah. From the time I departed my cabin to the time I collected my luggage on the pier, no one (including gangway security) said goodbye or thank you. And I would have appreciated some help with my bags.
I expect an ultra-luxury ship to have nice surroundings and excellent, personalised service and to provide guests with the ability to choose what they want to do when they want to do it. Guests should have the freedom to be spontaneous, and they should feel as if they are travelling on a friend’s private yacht.
I did not have access to an abundance of choices and high-quality service throughout.
Silver Spirit may suit travellers who are seeking port-intensive itineraries and like to have everything planned and will use the ship primarily as a floating hotel room. The ship’s dining and service levels aren’t perhaps as important to them.
- Year Built 2009
- Last Refurbished -
- Tonnage 36,000 tons
- Registry Bahamas
- Length 642 feet
- Beam 86 feet
- Passenger Capacity 1,080
- Crew Size 540
- Total Inside Cabins 0
- Total Outside Cabins 0
- Cabins & Suites w/ verandas 245
- Suites 4
- Dinner Seatings 2
- Seating Assignments in Main Dining Room Assigned
- Dining Hours 6:15pm & 8:30pm
- Onboard Currency US Dollar
6 Dining venues
First-hand knowledge from LuxuryBARED members who've been here.
What I liked
Silver Shadow, (not Silver Spirit ) – June 2015:
Butler service in rooms was excellent; the cabin decor was functional, yet not too boring or plain; the food on the ship was generally very good, in the particular the Le Champagne restaurant was exceptional (and the staff at that restaurant were excellent as well) and the variety of food at the different restaurants on the ship was good.
What I disliked
Silver Shadow (not Silver Spirit) – June 2015:
As per the review of the Silver Spirit, the check-in and departure processes were sub-standard. On departure (we used the Silversea train to get to ship) passengers were made to wait in a room that basically just consisted of some tables and chairs for over an hour; once on board the ship, the queues to check in were very long and the staff were not very welcoming. The service in the restaurants (excluding Le Champagne) was below par – wait staff were generally disinterested and noisy (even, on one occasion, a Manager telling staff off in front of customers!). Of course, there were a couple of great waiters, but they were the exception rather than the norm.
What I liked
We travelled from Seward to Vancouver on the Silver Shadow. The butler and house maid service were excellent and the rooms were efficiently designed and very clean. The food quality and choice were exceptional. Le Champagne restaurant was a highlight, with great service. The logistics of day tours and the activities were well managed.
What I disliked
We were unable to find the check-in from where we were dropped by the taxi at Anchorage airport. We finally found it after walking right around the building to find an entrance with no staff at the door or any signage. Overall, the cruise check-in procedure was disorganised and difficult.
The first-in first-served booking system for the restaurants was chaotic and the resulting uncertainty regarding whether or not you were able to dine in the restaurant of your choice was frustrating. Not a very relaxing way to start the journey!
Some staff at La Terrazza restaurant seemed more interested in having a chat amongst themselves rather than providing menus and service.