Itinerary: Valparaiso, Antofagasta, Pisco, Lima, Manta, Puntarenas, Puerto Quetzal, Acapulco
When we first heard that Silversea was launching a new, larger ship, we had mixed emotions. While we were excited about one of our favorite cruise lines introducing a new flagship into her fleet, we were concerned that it would be difficult to deliver Silversea's trademark service to 540 guests. That's 150 more than Silversea's next largest ship. Fortunately, our concerns were unfounded. Silversea has somehow managed to deliver on its long-standing tradition of excellent, personal service on a much grander scale.
Our assignment was to sail aboard the new Silver Spirit for 14 nights from Valparaiso, Chile, to Acapulco, Mexico. Admittedly, this was not an itinerary at the top of our wish list. But this is Silversea, and this is a brand new ship, so whenever we are given these opportunities, we take them! As it turns out, the itinerary was much more enjoyable than we could have ever imagined. In fact, I would not mind doing it again.
Silver Spirit is the largest ship in the Silversea fleet with guest capacity of 540 and a crew of 376 representing 25 different nations. This new ship underscores the changes that are occurring in the small ship segment. Small ships are getting bigger. Silver Spirit joins Seabourn's Odyssey-class and Regent's Seven Seas Navigator as the new standard for small ship luxury cruising. Increasing a ship's guest capacity and overall size is a risky proposition for a luxury cruise line that caters to upscale clientele, many of whom were attracted by smaller ships, fewer people and more attentive service. Therefore, Silver Spirit marks a paradigm in the small ship market.
Silver Spirit's designers retained much of the Silversea DNA familiar to the cruise line's loyal following. The exterior looks like a bigger version of Silver Whisper/Shadow. Even though it has been re-located amidships, The Bar is still on Deck 5. The Panorama Bar is on Deck 9 aft, and the Observation Lounge is on Deck 11 forward. The Silversea faithful should feel right at home aboard Silver Spirit. Perhaps the most notable feature of this new ship is in the ride quality. In 14 days of cruising the Pacific, we were amazed at how rock-solid the ship was, even when buffeted by 50 knot crosswinds and 10-foot swells.
The interior of the ship has an understated Art Deco theme throughout. This is evident in the glass dividers in The Bar, elevator fascia and even in carpet design patterns. There is more emphasis on art throughout the ship than on other Silversea ships, which now appear almost bland in comparison. This makes Silver Spirit the most visually stimulating ship in the fleet without being ostentatious or garish.
We believe that it is our job to seek out and report on any problems or shortcomings we encounter during an editorial assignment. However, finding problems on Silver Spirit requires us to stoop to the level of nit-picking. Overall, this is a great ship and one of the few that we would feel comfortable on for an extended period of time, like say a World Cruise.
Getting on and off Silver Spirit is a smooth and painless operation. When we arrived at the port in Valparaiso, Chile, we were first dropped off by the shuttle (from our pre-cruise hotel) at a terminal building where Silversea personnel greeted us, issued our suite keys, took our passports. We then boarded a smaller bus that took us to the ship. Once on board, we stopped by the reception desk where they quickly snapped our photo (for security) and a white-gloved stewardess took our hand-luggage and led us to our suite. When we arrived at our suite, our checked luggage was already waiting for us, as was our room stewardess, Leabeth, and our butler, Heri (pronounced "Harry"). After a quick tour of the suite and an explanation of all the features thereof, Heri went off to fetch my requested bottle of liquor and Leabeth scurried to find Rickee more hangers.
Disembarkation was no less efficient. We had our large bags outside our suite by 11pm the night before we left the ship. We were asked to vacate the suite by 8:30am, which we did. We cleared Mexican Immigration in the theater on Deck 5 and then had plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast at La Terrazza before catching our 9:45am ride to our post-cruise hotel.
What We Like:
- Everything - smooth and efficient
What We Dislike:
MIDSHIP VERANDA SUITE
Our Midship Veranda Suite (522) was located just forward from The Bar on Deck 5. This made it very convenient for me each morning to get to my Early-Riser coffee. The suite itself is 376 square feet and feels narrower than Midship Verandas on other Silversea ships. Even though the decor of the suites follows in the tradition of Silversea with dark wood treatments, curtain divider separating the living room, a walk-in closet, comfortable bedding, and a large bathroom with separate tub and shower (ala Silver Whisper/Shadow), that is where the similarities end.
The first thing to jump out at you when you walk into a Midship Veranda suite on Silver Spirit is the television image peering through the mirror in the bedroom. Another flat screen television is similarly hidden behind the mirror over the desk/entertainment center in the living room. This gives the room a much cleaner, more modern appearance, and is just plain cool. We wonder why the concept was not integrated into the Silver Suites and Grand Suites as well. There are two different remote controls, even though a single remote will operate either television. An iPod dock/alarm clock is located on the desk in the living room. By having the iPod system in the living room, we were afraid to use our iPod while sleeping for fear it might disturb our neighbors. We would rather have seen the iPod/clock on one of the nightstands. This would have required the inclusion of a power outlet next to the bed. The digital clock light was so bright that, even though it was located in the living room, we had to put a piece of paper over it at night to keep it from lighting up the entire suite!
If memory serves correctly, the walk-in closet is not as large as the ones on other Silversea ships. Nevertheless, there is plenty of storage space. What is missing is the little clip rack for holding ties and other small garments. In fact, there is a general lack of hooks throughout the suite, a problem that can easily be remedied. The bathroom is a nice size and has a odd-shaped, but very functional, shower stall with handheld wand and rainshower head, too. The vanity offers a lot of storage underneath coupled with two slim, but roomy vertical storage areas with four shelves on each side of the huge vessel sink. The sink places form over function. While it is visually striking, it is not well designed. It is virtually impossible to use the sink without getting water splashed everywhere. Much of the problem could be solved by replacing the faucet with one that extends further into the bowl and away from the edge of the sink. However, there is more surface room on the vanity than we had with a similar sink on Silver Wind. Also missing is the little retractable clothes line for hanging wet bathing suits to dry.
|Leabeth, Rickee and Heri
Notwithstanding the "nits", the Midship Veranda is a very comfortable and roomy suite. The ability to separate the living room from the bedroom via the light-blocking curtain is great for those who like to stay up late and read or watch TV while the other occupant sleeps. The balcony features comfortable wicker furnishings on a teak deck. And the bed is as comfortable as you will find on any cruise ship in the world.
What We Like:
- Incredibly comfortable bed
- Pillow menu
- Very quiet, well-insulated suite
- Televisions behind mirrors
- Fox News Channel
- Butler service
- Dampeners on all drawers
- Lots of storage, drawers, shelves, etc.
What We Don't Like:
- Hard to close closet door (requires a very strong pull to release from the magnet)
- Makeup vanity across from foot of bed is too close to the bed. If someone is sitting there, you have to crawl over bed to get from bathroom to living room or the person sitting there has to move to let you pass.
- Vessel sink in bathroom
- Lack of hooks in closet, and no retractable clothes line over tub
FOOD AND DINING
Dining is an important part of any cruise and Silversea takes dining very seriously. Silver Spirit offers more dining choices than many ships twice her size. The food quality, preparation and presentation seems to be on par with other Silversea ships.
The Restaurant is located aft on Deck 4 and is the largest dining venue on Silver Spirit. The decor of The Restaurant is very classy and imparts an air of formality. Even though it is open each day for breakfast and lunch, we found very few guests dining here at those times. Most prefer to dine in La Terrazza with its extensive buffet selections. On all but one day we, too, opted for either the Pool Grill or La Terrazza for lunch. With perfect weather, it is difficult to ignore the al fresco dining!
The Restaurant is most popular in the evenings and even more so on formal nights. The menu choices appear to be pared down somewhat from years past, but there is still a nice selection of appetizers, salads, main courses and desserts each evening. The food and service in The Restaurant is very good and will be familiar to anyone who has sailed on other Silversea ships. However, menu items tend to be geared more toward European tastes. Items such as Pigeon 'Souvaroff', a breast of Pigeon slow-cooked with Foie Gras and Truffle Shavings, is not something you find in most American restaurants. The dishes are so sophisticated and complex that they become intimidating to all but the most sophisticated palates. We think the popularity of new venues such as Hot Rock are an indication that, even on Silversea, today's cruise enthusiast longs for simpler food that places more emphasis on flavor than flair. Nevertheless, The Restaurant continues to provide guests with a traditional cruise dining room, attentive service, and well-prepared dishes.
This is Silversea's multi-tasking restaurant. Buffet by day, romantic Italian bistro by night. Each morning, La Terrazza puts out a tempting breakfast buffet that includes everything you could ever want. There are always scrambled eggs, bacon (American, English and Canadian), ham, sausage, baked beans, a variety of breads, fresh fruit, yogurt, grains and cereals, etc. If desired, the kitchen can prepare egg dishes to order, including Eggs Benedict and omelets.
At lunchtime, you will find guests making their way to Deck 7 once again for the excellent lunch buffet at La Terrazza. I personally think Silver Spirit has improved the lunch offerings here to such a degree that other Silversea ships will have to make modifications to keep up. This is one area where "bigger is better." In addition to an impressive platter of fresh Sushi and Sashimi, there is a variety of salads, breads, meat dishes, vegetables and a carving station with a different roasted meat featured each day.
La Terrazza's outdoor seating has been dramatically expanded on Silver Spirit. The doors to the outdoor section have been moved from the rear of the dining room to the sides to reduce the wind that can rush in on diners when people move in and out of the dining room. For some reason, outdoor dining was not offered in the evenings in La Terrazza during our cruise, which was a shame since we had such perfect weather.
Each evening, La Terrazza is transformed into a dimly lit, romantic Italian bistro with a multi-course menu that changes periodically during the cruise. One of the new creations is an Antipasti sampler that delivers nine, yes NINE, different Antipasti creations to try. Each item is basically a single bite, so it is manageable, but filling nevertheless. On our first visit to La Terrazza, we had to cancel our main course order after the Antipasti and the Pasta course. We were too full to continue!
La Terrazza continues to be one of our favorite spots on the ship to dine. The dress code here is always informal, even on formal nights. And, even though reservations are recommended, you can often walk in and get a table. The atmosphere is excellent, the food is good and the service is, well...Silversea!
The Pool Grill
The Pool Grill (Deck 9) on Silver Spirit serves many different duties. Each morning, early-risers can get coffee and pastries there as well as a selection of breakfast fruit smoothies. The smoothies were quite good, by the way. At 11 am each morning, the Pool Grill opens for lunch offering a selection of hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, salads and other offerings. My cheeseburger was good, although the meat had been pre-seared and simply re-heated/finished on the grill before being served. I ordered onion rings instead of french fries and they were cold and very tough. This happened on two occasions, so I gave up on the onion rings. Rickee's pannini, on the other hand, was made fresh and was delicious. The most notable item was the bruschetta. Large slices of crunchy bread topped with garlicky tomatoes sprinkled with basil were a highlight.
Unlike other Silversea ships in the past, the self-serve buffet line with salads and sandwiches at the Pool Grill are gone. Everything is ordered from the menu and delivered to your table. In the evenings, the Pool Grill becomes the support kitchen for Hot Rock.
Stars is an interesting concept, to say the least. The venue, located on Deck 7 just forward of La Terazza, can accommodate up to 26 guests. Stars is described in the daily Silversea Chronicles as ‘foodatainment’ (whatever that is), and “Funky Food with Jazzy music”. The Chronicles “ad” further describes the offerings as “funky snacks and jazzy music”. I am not sure what “funky” means when referring to food, but when it is used twice in the same descriptive ad, it scares anyone from Texas.
|Rickee and me enjoying dinner at Stars
We made reservations for 8:15 one evening, which is when Stars opens for business. Coincidentally, we decided to dine on the same evening as the Venetian Society party, so many guests were eating in The Restaurant at tables hosted by the ship’s staff members. As a result, we were the only two people dining in Stars that evening.
The décor of Stars is non-descript. The brown walls with gold horizontal bars could easily pass for a ship’s library or card room. The “theme" continues to the brown furnishings and tablecloths. As the only diners of the evening, ours was the only table that was set up. The table setup was quite unique with two types of coarse salt, one for seafood and one for meats. In the same rack as the salts are three narrow vials containing Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Rosemary infused Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar. A small plate with chunks of Parmagiano Reggiano cheese is accompanied by five small cups of various dips and olives. There is also a small plate of tostada chips for dipping and a glass containing several strands of pastry-like bread sticks. These treats give diners plenty to munch on before the menu items begin to arrive. All were good. The choice of tostada chips is an interesting one as it make me think "Mexican", while the dips and olives make me think "Mediterranean".
|Innovative, bite-sized dishes at Stars
I found the Stars menu to be confusing. A different letter of the name “S-T-A-R-S” is used to define each course, meaning that there are five courses. Always trying to find the hidden meaning, I assumed the “S” stood for “Starters”. I then began to struggle with what the “T” could stand for…Tapas perhaps? And what about the “A”, did that stand for Appetizer? If so, why would appetizers be the third course? By the time I got to the “R”, my head was about to explode. I finally gave up and asked the waiter and was told that “S-T-A-R-S” is not an acronym for anything. So, my time was wasted trying to figure that one out.
When our waiter arrived at the table with the menu we were told that they recommend we try every course, so that is what we did. We were also offered a red or white wine from the daily complimentary selection. Each of the five courses served in Stars is a trio of “tapas-style” dishes. In fact, we found each portion to be more than a single “bite” of food, often having to employ the services of our knife to cut portions in half before enjoying. With four different courses, and three dishes to each course, we found ourselves to be quite full before the dessert course was delivered. However, for those with larger appetites, Stars also offers a choice of pasta dishes.
First Course: Lobster Avocado – Beetroot Gorgonzola – Duck Foie Gras
Second Course: Mussels – Quail Breast – Duck
Third Course: Red Fish – Cod – Lobster
Fourth Course: Lamb – Tournedos Rossini – Black Pork
Fifth Course: Baby Pear – Cherry Cinnamon Crumble – Chocolate Fondant
Also Available: Penne – Pansotti – Gigli
Now, lets talk about food execution. This is where Stars shines, no pun intended. The dishes coming out of the Stars' kitchen are very good. A lot of attention is given to presentation, which would rival any nouvelle cuisine restaurant on land. The waiting time between courses was reasonable and each course was delicious. The service in Stars was up to Silversea standards as well, warm and pleasant without being overly attentive.
The “jazzy music” part of the “foodatainment” starts each evening at 10:00pm. We finished our meal at about 9:45, so we were a little tired before the show began and did not stay for the show. We did hear from several other guests, however, that the show in Stars is very good. For those who like to eat late, say around 9:00 to 9:30pm, the timing of the show is perfect. During the first hour or so of our meal, we did enjoy Lucas playing the piano.
Stars delivers a unique dining experience that every Silver Spirit guest should enjoy. The food taste and presentation is excellent; the service attentive and there is even an opportunity to enjoy a great jazz show to boot. Stars suffers from less than ideal marketing and an identity crisis. It is advertised as “funky snacks,” which sounds like something you would enjoy after having eaten a full meal in one of Silver Spirit’s other venues. The number of courses and portion sizes can in no way be described as a “snack”. This is an elaborate and well-executed meal.
Hot Rock is a completely new concept that has definitely found a following. To be quite frank, Hot Rock is just a unique way of serving grilled meats from the Pool Grill. Its kind of like an outdoor steakhouse, but with a twist. Hot Rock is located on Deck 10, just above the Pool Grill. Tables are set each evening and the restaurant opens at 7:30pm. You had better make reservations, because this place is full just about every night. Diners are greeted and seated before being presented with the Hot Rock menu (See sidebar).
To read our blog about Hot Rock click here.
The menu at Hot Rock is simple, as you can see. Basically there are three courses: salads, meat and dessert. Now THIS is a menu even a Texan can understand! We dined at Hot Rock... no, wait a minute, "dine" is too formal of a description...we ate at Hot Rock on two different evenings. On both occasions, we shared a table with our friends, Linda Garrison* and her mother, Marvel. Between the four of us, we had an opportunity to try a variety of offerings. I heard no complaints from those who ordered the New York Salad and my Caesar Salad was substantial and quite good. Methinks Silversea has replaced their previously bland Caesar Salad Dressing of old with a new, tangier, garlickier and more flavorful one.
What makes Hot Rock unique, and fun, is the way in which the meat dishes are served. Each diner is adorned with their own "bib" which is attached using small clips and chain that fits around your neck. Next, your main course is placed in front of you on a hot (and I mean HOT) sizzling piece of stone. The meat is only seared to 'rare" before being placed on the stone, so it is up to you to cook the meat to your desired level of doneness. When you have cooked your meat to a satisfactory state, you can move it to the small adjoining plate for the consumption phase (aka 'eating'). This interactive meal experience is unique to Silversea and one that we would like to see extended to all ships in the fleet.
Hot Rock is a hit!
* Linda Garrison is the Cruise Guide for the About.com website (cruises.about.com).
Seishin is Silver Spirit’s Asian restaurant. Unlike Stars, when you step into Seishin, you know exactly where you are and what to expect. Seishin feels like an Asian restaurant. The dark woods and backlit panels evoke the spirit of Japan, as does the open presentation sushi kitchen in the center of the restaurant. Seishin is a concept that works, and it works very well. However, there is a degree of confusion over the menu. Unlike Stars, there is a fee associated with dining in Seishin. The fee depends on which menu you choose and any accompanying wine or sake. The prices are not posted anywhere other than periodically in the Silversea Chronicles, but after asking a lot of questions, we were able to come up with the following:
Teaser Menu 1 (4 course seafood): $30
Teaser Menu 2 (4 course chicken and beef): $30
Asian Degustation Menu (9 course): $40
Asian Degustation Menu with Sake pairing: $80
Asian Degustation Menu with Wine pairing: $200
Since Rickee does not care for sushi or Asian food in general, my dining partner for Seishin was Linda Garrison, Cruise Guide for the About.com website (cruises.about.com). We each decided to try the Teaser Menu #2.
Our experience started with an amuse bouche of caviar sorbet, which was a small greenish-gray dollop with the consistency of a pâté. Neither Linda nor I care for caviar, so it was not really suited to our tastes.
Each menu begins with the Silversea Sashimi Platter, which Linda and I soon learned can be “customized” to taste with a combination of sushi and sashimi items. We each requested no shellfish items and the addition of a spicy tuna roll. No problem. As the sous chef began to prepare our platters, we had time to take a few photos of him in action. All items are prepared fresh, right in front of you!
Within minutes our Sashimi/Sushi platters arrived and were packed with a variety of delicious and expertly prepared items. The traditional wasabi, fresh ginger and soy sauce were instantly being applied to various bits of fresh tuna, salmon, mackerel, tuna rolls, eel, sweet tofu, and more. We were offered a glass of Argentinean sparkling wine, which was a perfect complement to the raw seafood offerings.
The second course, a teriyaki-flavored chicken thigh, was as beautiful as it was delicious. For this course, Linda and I were offered a complimentary Riesling. The final course of Wagyu beef was the highlight of an already excellent meal. Three thin slices of fork-tender Wagyu beef could not have been more flavorful or delicious. The meal ended with a dessert of Green Tea Sorbet that I almost skipped, since I just don’t eat dessert as a rule. However, I decided to take a small taste, and soon I was scooping it up as fast as I could. The blend of savory flavors with a little sweetness was sublime.
Notwithstanding the slight confusion over menu pricing, Seishin is one of the best alternate dining venues I have experienced on any ship to date. The meal was a bargain at $30. When you combine a great concept with an innovative menu and excellent service and execution, what you end up with is a winner. Seishin is a winner and a “must” for anyone sailing on Silver Spirit.
Le Champagne is Silversea's Wine Restaurant by Relais & Chateaux, the only such restaurant at sea. The extraordinary six-course experience celebrates the world’s most distinguished wine regions. Le Champagne delivers an intimate ambiance perfectly suited for private dinner parties. On Silver Spirit, Le Champage is an elegant, wine-themed dining room with a floor-to-ceiling wine rack display as its centerpiece. While we did not have the opportunity to enjoy Le Champagne on Silver Spirit, we did indulge ourselves last year on my birthday while aboard Silver Wind. Our wine pairing menu was exceptional and was a meal we will not soon forget.
When dining in Le Champagne, a cover charge of USD$30 per guest is charged for Gourmet Dining. Wine selections from the Connoisseur’s List range from USD$50 upwards, and will be charged to your account. Silversea’s complimentary selection of wines is not offered in the Wine Restaurant. For the Dégustation Dining option, a USD$200 per guest fee includes the USD$50 cover charge, a set selection of five premium wines served by the glass and a select after-dinner drink. Pricing is subject to change at any time without notice.
Silversea offers 24-hour room service to all guests. We love room service. There are some evenings when we just don't feel like getting all dressed up and going out to eat. On many cruise ships, evening room service is pretty limited. However, on Silversea, the room service menu is extensive. And, during Restaurant hours, you can have any of the evening menu items delivered to your room! You can even have course-by-course service in your suite if you wish. Since Silversea includes a complete copy of the evening Restaurant menu in the Silversea Chronicles, it makes ordering as easy as picking up the phone, which we did on more than one occasion.
Like every dining experience on Silversea, even room service is taken to a higher level. When the butler arrives with the tray of food, a folding tabletop is placed on top of the oval coffee table, converting it into a large dining table. A linen tablecloth is spread out and elegant silverware and crisp linen napkins are added. When completely set up, it is like dining in The Restaurant, but in your pajamas!
What We Like:
- Hot Rock - Interactive dining experience is a big hit
- Seishin - Best new restaurant on the ship, maybe on any ship
- Le Champagne - The ultimate wine paring dining experience at sea
- La Terrazza - Great lunch buffet, expanded al fresco dining, and vastly improved evening menus
- The Restaurant - It still delivers the traditional cruise dining experience
- Afternoon Tea - Very well done!
- Room Service - Fast, efficient and you can eat dinner in your pajamas
What We Would Like To See Improved:
- Pool Grill - Cook everything (burgers, fries, onion rings, etc.) fresh to order
- Stars - Good food, but a confusing concept, needs some tweaking
- Coffee - Needs improvement throughout the ship
SERVICE & STAFF
Silversea has racked up so many awards and accolades over the years from travel guides, magazines and websites (including CruiseReport.com), that to even try to evaluate their service is an exercise in futility. Even on a much larger ship, Silversea has again managed to deliver the kind of service and personal attention that their loyal guests have come to expect, and that we have come to admire.
|Fernando in full St. Patrick's Day regalia entertains guests
On this cruise, we finally had the opportunity to sail with Fernando De Oliveira, the legendary Silversea Cruise Director. We have been hearing stories about Fernando for years and we finally got the opportunity to experience him firsthand. Every Silversea Cruise Director has been excellent, and Fernando is no exception. We were especially impressed with how he seemed to know everyone's name by the second day of the cruise! No small task on a ship with 300+ guests. In fact, we had more staff call us by name on this cruise than any we can remember in recent history. And, just in case you think it is because we are world-famous travel journalists (sure), think again. We verified with several guests that they, too, were all being called by name.
Service on Silversea means starting every morning with Joey in The Bar for early-riser's coffee. Joey would assist me with my coffee-making duties. On this cruise, I decided to bring my own coffee and a small French press that I found at Target. It worked great! Joey would go out of his way to rinse it out for me after I had finished my first two cups so that I could make another round. Each afternoon I would return to The Bar with my laptop to check my email (better Wi-Fi signal there) and Rex, the afternoon bartender would greet me by name and have my Coke Light waiting for me. When Rickee was not feeling well the first couple of days of the cruise, the ship's nurse would call every few hours to check on her. This is the kind of service that Silversea is known for, and to which Silversea guests become accustomed.
|Joey working early-riser's coffee each
morning at The
Bar on Deck 5
What We Like:
What We Don't Like:
ACTIVITIES AND ENTERTAINMENT
With an expanded cruise staff, Fernando provided us with quite an array of onboard activities, especially during days when the ship was at sea. Guest lecturer, Hugh Thomson, enlightened guests with in-depth information about Peru and Machu-Picchu while Destination Consultant, John-Tabbutt-McCarthy offered interesting details of upcoming ports-of-call. We were fortunate to enjoy a Pisco Cocktail lecture presented by specialist Guillermo Ferreyros and learned all about this national drink of Peru complete with samples. Delicious!
|Lecturer Hugh Thomson takes time to visit with a Silver Spirit guest
This was the first Silversea cruise where we have experienced Bingo. Each day we would migrate to the Theater where Alessandra, the ship's International Hostess, would bestow massive amounts of Silversea Points on Bingo enthusiasts. For those of you who are not familiar with Silversea Points, well let me enlighten you. Guests can accumulate Silversea Points throughout the cruise for participating in a variety of onboard activities, such as Bingo, Team Trivia, golf putting, etc. At the end of each cruise, these points can be redeemed for Silversea logo items. It is a very interesting study in human psychology when you see a group of multimillionaires energized over accumulating little green pieces of paper that will eventually bring home something as mundane as a bookmark or a key ring. Nevertheless, it becomes addictive, and we soon found that Alessandra's Bingo was the shortest route to Silversea Point wealth.
In addition to Bingo, lectures, the always popular and hotly contested Team Trivia, Silver Spirit also offered wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian language classes (all taught by the amazing Fernando), Bridge classes and dance classes. There was water volleyball featuring guests against the crew, table tennis against the cruise staff, daily shuffleboard competition and even a boat-building and dressmaking competition! There were daily fitness seminars and spa seminars. I am sure I have left out many other activities but there was always something for guests to do.
|Team Trivia faithful meet every day in Panorama Lounge on Deck 9
The production shows are alive and well on Silver Spirit. On our 14-night voyage, the Silver Spirit Singers and Dancers performed in five different shows, one of which took place at the deck barbecue poolside under the stars. Other featured entertainers included international singing sensation, Helen Jayne; Swarovski Crystal electric violinist Craig Halliday; piano entertainer Mark Farris and international singer Michel Bell. On nights when there was no live entertainment scheduled, movies were shown on the big screen. One night showcased the ever-popular Liars' Club, we had a game of Name That Tune and we even had a karaoke night!
Stars had Lucas on the piano before the jazz entertainers performed and guests could dance to the music of Amedeo in Panorama Lounge or Mark Farris in The Bar. The Silver Spirit Quintet (which was sometimes a trio or a quartet) performed in The Bar after dinner.
The Internet Cafe is located on Deck 7 in the library. There are only seven computers, which seems small for a ship designed to carry up to 540 guests. However, there is Wi-Fi wireless capability throughout the ship. I was only able to get a signal in our suite a couple of times and found myself relying on a location in The Bar to reliably connect to the Internet. I spoke with one guest who recommended cracking the door of the suite open to get a better signal, and it did seem to help. I suppose it depends on where your suite is located in relation to the Wi-Fi transmitters. The Internet connection was fairly reliable, albeit slow. Paul, the Internet Point host, had regular hours throughout each day in the Internet Cafe and was eager to assist guests with computer questions.
The Internet service was typical for a cruise ship, perhaps even slightly more reliable than most. I use the Internet more than most people since we update our blog from the ship each day and check email 3 or 4 times each day. I was able to accomplish everything in 500 minutes for the entire 14-day cruise.
1000 Minutes - $250
250 Minutes - $85
100 Minutes - $45
Pay-as-you-go $0.50 per minute
The Spa at Silversea & Fitness Center
The Spa located on Deck 6 aft offers guests a wide variety of treatments and is adjacent to the ship's Fitness Center. At first glance, the Fitness Center is looks small for a ship of this size, but close inspection reveals that it contains excellent cardio equipment including treadmills, bicycles, stair climbers, etc. There are also free weights and weight machines. There is a shaded outdoor deck area aft of the Fitness Center with cushioned loungers and a hot tub. One guest said that there was a $25 fee for using this area unless you had a massage scheduled, but I was not able to verify this.
I visited the spa one afternoon to take advantage of the sauna and steam room facilities. I was surprised to learn that the locker room, steam room and sauna on Silver Spirit were unisex, a fact that could have been quite embarrassing had I not specifically asked. I did not see any signs indicating that men and women shared this facility and that bathing suits were required. I am pretty certain that the facilities on Silver Wind and Cloud are separate. The locker room is very small and, since it is coed, you are required to use an adjoining restroom to change clothes. There are no hooks or seating in the restroom (except for the obvious!), so changing in there is cumbersome. Towels and bathrobes are provided and there is no additional charge to use the steam/sauna. There is a shower stall in the room with the steam and sauna, but again, no hooks, so there is no place to hang your towel or robe.
In addition to any kind of massage treatment you can imagine, the spa also offers Botox, Dysport and Restylane injections; however, we could not find any pricing information on any of these services. There is also a fully-equipped beauty salon in the spa for hair and nail treatments. Each day, the Spa advertised specials such as discounts on their Silversea Signature Treatments.
The casino on Silver Spirit is located on Deck 8 aft and is much larger than on other Silversea ships. There are a variety of slot machines, poker machines and card tables. Craps and Roulette are also available. I visited the casino three or four times and each time I was the only one in there; however, I never visited late at night which is when most people go to the casino. After making a quick and sizable donation to the slot machines, I think I found out why nobody else was there!
The Boutiques of Silversea
Located on Deck 8 aft, the boutiques of Silver Spirit offer the best shopping of any Silversea ship. An excellent logo shop is stocked with a wide variety of caps, polo shirts, t-shirts and other logo items. A small H Stern jewelry store offers high-end jewelry while another shop stocks clothing, formal wear, costume jewelry, sunglasses and fragrances.
Silversea always offers a wide variety of shore excursions and this was the case on this voyage. If private arrangements are more your style, the Shore Concierge team can make those arrangements for you and suggest itineraries for independent exploration, as well. The Shore Concierge team can make lunch or dinner reservations at local restaurants and help with information and useful tips about the area. Their aim is to help you enjoy the port in the best light and in your own way whether it be a coach tour, a small group adventure or a private van. At each port, an onboard Hospitality Desk is set up for a few hours with a local representative to provide maps and brochures and information about the port that day. This representative could make restaurant suggestions or point out things of interest to see on shore. A service that everyone appreciated was the complimentary shuttle buses that Silversea provided in most ports to transport guests into the local area. This really came in handy when the port and the city you want to visit were many miles apart such as Callao and Lima. Another nice feature was the port and shore excursion information that was always available on your in-suite TV.
We began our journey by flying into Santiago, Chile, for a two-day pre-cruise stay. In fact, we were one of the first international flights to land at the earthquake-damaged airport once they reopened it. There was a little bit of confusion when we landed as to where the aircraft should park but that was soon sorted out. Then we had to remain on the aircraft until all luggage was unloaded and placed in an area outside the makeshift tent that was being used for Customs/Immigration as the building normally housing Customs/Immigration had been severely damaged in the earthquake. When we deplaned, we walked to where all the luggage had been placed, retrieved our bags, then went into the tent and got in line to clear Customs and Immigration. The line moved quickly as they had several agents on duty. Once off the aircraft, we only spent about 10 minutes clearing Customs. We then walked out of the Customs/Immigration tent to where cars were allowed into the airport. We noticed a lot of damage to the outside of the airport building. We also saw another tent set up for what we assumed were departures. It was not long until we saw a man holding a sign with Chris's name on it. This was our driver sent from the Ritz-Carlton to take us to the hotel in downtown Santiago. He pointed out some of the damage done by the earthquake as we made the drive, but we were surprised to see how little damage was evident. It was worth the $70 the car and driver cost to have someone waiting for us and to not have to worry about getting a taxi in a Spanish-speaking country. To read about our experiences at the Ritz-Carlton, Santiago, click here.
On the day of embarkation, we took the motorcoach transfer provided by Silversea to the port of Valparaiso where we boarded Silver Spirit. Embarkation required an additional ride on a smaller bus to reach the ship once we were at the port, but it was, all in all, a simple procedure.
After a leisurely day at sea, our first port-of-call was to be Antofagasta, Chile, but high seas prevented us from calling there. Because the ship had to be cleared to leave Chile to travel to Peru, Captain Sangiacomo had to find an alternate port where the document-checking could take place. This was accomplished at a place I had never heard of and I think we were the first cruise ship to ever be there. The local authorities came out to the ship which was docked outside of the harbor and the paperwork formalities were accomplished.
Another day at sea and our next port-of-call was Pisco but we actually docked at Port San Martin, about a 30-minute drive from Pisco and 15 minutes from Paracas. A shuttle bus was provided here to take guests to a shopping/restaurant area on Chaco Boulevard in Paracas. We were amazed at the terrain that we passed on the way to the shopping area. If you didn't know better, you'd think you were in the Middle East! The sand dunes were amazing. Pisco is the port from which several guests took the excursion to fly over the famous Nazca Lines. We opted to forego an excursion and take the shuttle to Paracas to take a look around then spend a relaxing day on Silver Spirit.
After another day at sea, we reached Callao, the port for Lima, Peru, where we overnighted. The ship's literature states that Lima is only about six miles from Callao, but due to traffic, the drive could take more than an hour! To me, it seemed much farther than six miles between the two cities and they were definitely right about the traffic! Callao is a typical industrialized port city and it is not recommended that guests walk around there. Lima is huge with lots of history and culture worth seeing. From here, some guests took a three-day ship's excursion to the Galapagos Islands and got back on the ship in Ecuador. Before the cruise, we had arranged for a private guide to meet us at the port for a full-day tour of Lima. Monica Velásquez of monicatoursperu.com met us at the port and took us on a marvelous tour of Lima. It was wonderful to be able to go where we wanted and skip what we weren't interested in seeing. At the end of our tour, we had Monica drop us off at the Marriott Hotel so we could catch the shuttle back to the ship in Callao. It was a great day in Lima! Silversea also offered several excursions to see Lima, some of which were night excursions with dinner and entertainment.
The second day in Lima, we took the ship's excursion to the ruins at Pachacamac. Not only did we visit the ancient ruins, but we had lunch and a horse show at a local hacienda where the beautiful Peruvian Paso horses are bred and raised. The weather was warm and sunny and there was lots of walking involved at the Incan ruins. You definitely need comfortable shoes and a hat and sunglasses for this excursion.
We had another day at sea before docking at Manta, Ecuador. Even though one excursion was offered here and a shuttle was provided to a local artisans' market and to a shopping mall, I think we mainly stopped here to pick up the guests who had taken the Galapagos excursion. In Manta, we were surprised to learn that the Panama hat is really made in Ecuador. We took the shuttle to the artisans' market in search of a magnet and we bought a Panama (Ecuador) hat there. We took the shuttle to the mall next and found the magnet! Victory! Other than the one excursion and the artisans' market, there wasn't a lot to do in Manta.
After another day at sea, we arrived in Puntarenas, Costa Rica's major Pacific port on the Gulf of Nicoya. The excursions offered here all required a long motorcoach or van ride into the interior to take part in some of the eco-activities for which Costa Rica is famous. Guests could choose among activities such as zip lining or river rafting or sky walking in the tropical jungle. We chose the Corobici River Floating excursion and enjoyed it although it was a very long van ride to get there and back and not such a long rafting experience.
Another day at sea was followed by a visit to Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala. There is absolutely nothing where we docked but a few local artisans selling their goods. Here again, any excursion requires a lengthy ride into the interior. Two of the excursions, each to visit Mayan ruins, required airplane flights. We opted for the Pacaya Volcano Climb, which turned out to be one of the most physically challenging excursions we have ever taken! After lunch at a local eatery, we barely made it back to the ship before time to sail but we did have a few minutes to check out the local wares at the pier. We bought a hand-woven belt and what else....a magnet!
One more day at sea and we docked in Acapulco where we ended our part of the voyage.
Silversea has done it again. They remain at the top of their game and have managed to transfer 5-star service onto this larger platform. In our opinion, Silver Spirit is the perfect addition to an already great, luxury cruise line. With more dining options, expanded entertainment, top-notch service and unbeatable itineraries, Silver Spirit has everything it needs to deliver the ultimate cruise experience to the discerning cruise enthusiast.
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