I Cruise Silversea To See If Its New Owners Have Ruined It

I Cruise Silversea To See If Its New Owners Have Ruined ItI Cruise Silversea To See If Its New Owners Have Ruined It

Four years ago, Royal Caribbean, best known for huge, good value resort ships, surprised many by buying Silversea, known for ultra-luxury small ship cruising. Having cruised on it before the takeover, I decided I should return to see if the online reviews from other pre-takeover cruisers saying things like, “Not the same Silversea” and “Before it was sold, we thought Silversea was superb, well run, with delicious food. Not now” were right or not. So, I booked myself on Silver Spirit for a two-week cruise, and this is what I found.

But, before I get into what I found to be good, bad, and the same, I thought it’s worth reminding you what Silversea is. Or was!

What is Silversea?

Founded by the Lefebvre family as an ultra-luxury all-inclusive cruise line, it competes with Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, Crystal, and the new Explora Journeys. It has the biggest fleet of all the ultra-luxury lines, 12 making it almost double the next largest.

Unlike most of those, it has a classic and expedition fleet and calls on 900 ports a year, which is double the next biggest competitor, Seabourn.

You’ll pay around $1,300 a night per person in their classic veranda suite. About the same price as Regent and Crystal and more than on Seabourn.

So, what did I find they are doing the same, better, and worse under the new ownership, starting with what hasn’t really changed?

I Cruise Silversea To See If Its New Owners Have Ruined It

Silversea – What’s The Same?

Well, they’re still an ultra-luxury line with both classic and expedition ships. And much of the senior management from before is still around.


One of the things that is the same, but also changed, is the all-inclusive offer as they’ve got more inclusions now as they have “Door-to-Door” and “Port-to-Port” fares.

The “Door-to-Door” fare moved them closer to what Regent do. This fare includes a limo transfer from your home to the airport, usually business class flights, a pre-cruise hotel stay, transfers from hotel to the ship, all the on-board inclusions (butler, drinks, Basic Wi-Fi, gratuities, most specialty dining, and now also a choice of one excursion per port), post hotel stay or a day room, transfer to airport and then limo home.

The “Port-to-Port” is the cruise-only fare with those same inclusions on board.

Talking of fares, they still offer many cruises with low solo supplements, of around 20% to 25%.


They still have butlers for every suite grade not just the highest grades, still making them different to the competition.

Dress Code

It still has, in my view, the strictest and most complied to dress code across the ultra-luxury lines.  This is the only one I felt I needed to get dressed up on more. They have three dress codes: casual, where I could wear collared shirt and slacks. Smart, where I was expected to wear a jacket, with tie optional. Formal, with tuxedos or dark suit and tie.

I Cruise Silversea To See If Its New Owners Have Ruined It


One of the things that is still the same is the style of Service. And this still divides cruisers as it did before.

Silversea has a more formal, even slightly aloof, and, I guess, more European style of service compared to the more relaxed, chatty, and perhaps more American style of the others. While overall good service, there are some issues I feel post-takeover that I will come to.


In terms of entertainment, I found on my cruise that it’s largely unchanged from before.

In my view, it is still stuck in the past and very classic cruise fayre. To be honest I found it a little bit disappointing that it was still the same since Royal Caribbean have enormous expertise in entertainment.

While some tell me on newer ships they felt it has improved, I found the daily program was much the same. Trivia, Bingo, table tennis competitions, cooking demonstrations, live music in lounges, and production shows. Those are the standard themed song and dance, with for me dated themes and music. I’m mid-60s and it felt more my parent’s generation.

They did have an enrichment program that still stood out versus the competition. On my trip they had four speakers, one on destination and ports, one on local South Africa politics and history, one on wildlife and game parks and then, slightly strangely for the region although interesting about the Lindy Chamberlain “Dingo Baby” case in Australia.


I have left dining and food for last in the “what’s the same” category because it overlaps with the improved and worse areas that I will cover next.

In the past I’ve found the food on Silversea to be good and, unlike some reviews and some people on my trip, I feel that they still do good food.

Some told me they felt the grades of meats and produce was worse perhaps by shifting to use Royal Caribbean’s providers or budget cuts. I didn’t think that.

However, there are a couple of things around that that probably drove and qualify my view.

One thing I do feel is different but cannot check as I didn’t keep them from before, is I felt the items and choice on the menus were smaller than they used to be, even though still a good range and choice. Even if not, they are smaller than I had on the competition.

All ships do not have the same dining venues. But what I do like is that, as before, Silversea have many dining venues and more than on most competition.

I Cruise Silversea To See If Its New Owners Have Ruined It

Let Me Talk About Included Dining First

On Silver Spirit I had Atlantide, which is the closest to a traditional dining room in menu and style and open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Then I had Indochine, an Asian focused restaurant which operated more as a main dining room at night. I didn’t have to make reservations in the evening for either of those.

I then had La Terrazza, which is the buffet for breakfast and lunch and in the evening, turns into an Italian restaurant which requires a reservation. They still do great Italian food there. The buffet was and is still relatively small but was generous enough with pasta station and good desserts at lunch.

The Silversea signature grill is still there. This pool deck grill has an informal lunch menu, like hamburgers and so on, but for dinner turns into the signature Hot Rocks, the piping hot lava stones where you can cook your own food.

They then have Spaccanapoli outdoor pizza restaurant open most of the day and evening. Many say it has the best pizza at sea. I’m not sure that’s true but it was and still is very good. I could but did not need to make reservations.

They also had Silver Note, which is a venue which plays jazz music in the evening, and a venue I loved called Arts Cafe, which is a relatively new addition but pre-takeover. This is their coffee shop, with snacks all day into the evenings.

Then Of Course I Had Room Service

I loved that in the evening, I had lots of variety included in my fare. But they also had some speciality dining with fees which I find strange for an ultra-luxury high fare line. Though it was the case before too.

Like all ships there was the fancy La Dame, which is a Silversea signature, which you paid $40 per person for.

They also had Seishin, which is open some days for lunch, but always for dinner, and is an Asian Japanese restaurant, which was $40 to dine there. I really liked this one.

What I did like too, which is true of Silversea before, is unlike some competition I was not limited to how often I could go to any of the restaurants, and I went to all a few times.

Which leads me on to what I think Silversea  is doing better before some important things I found them to be doing worse.

Silversea – What’s Better?

The first is in dining. They launched the S.A.L.T program in 2021, which  stands for “Sea and Land Tastes”, and the concept is to make food and drink on board more connected to the destination, which even on ultra-luxury lines is not done in much depth.

It includes dining experiences with local menus, with a SALT Kitchen restaurant and Bar on newer ships along with local food and wine excursions and cooking classes and demonstrations.

Less good is it’s not on all ships, like Silver Spirit. The closest I got on my cruise was a South African chef doing a cooking demonstration of three classic South African dishes along with history behind them.

I Cruise Silversea To See If Its New Owners Have Ruined It


The other thing I found they’re doing better are excursions.

First, everyone gets access to excursions when booking. So, they are rewarding those of us who book early. So, for example, on that South African trip, I had booked way in advance and as soon as I did, I could access and book, and I got all the excursions I wanted.

Second, instead of meeting in a venue and being allocated a sticker and waiting,  I just could head out when ready to go and someone at the end of the gangway allocated me then to a bus. It feels much more sophisticated.

Third, though not everyone agreed with me, I felt the included excursions were good and weren’t just basic walking or panoramic bus tours. So, I went on some incredible excursions to game parks, catamarans to view seals, and a 4×4 ride over dunes in Namibia. I didn’t feel the need to book the premium excursions as on other lines with included tours.

So far so good, but what did I find they’re not doing as well as before?

I Cruise Silversea To See If Its New Owners Have Ruined It

Silversea – What’s Not As Good?

First, I think for me, the biggest change that I saw is it felt more corporate, it felt less family-owned, and it’s one of those things that’s hard to put your finger on exactly. Which is why I think many people in reviews said there was “something off”, but they couldn’t quite work out what.

It may be because the fleet has grown since takeover, with five new ships entering service at time of recording (Silver Moon, Silver Dawn, Silver Nova, Silver Origin, and Silver Endeavour). It is a bigger operation and so likely the pre-takeover Silversea crew are dispersed and diluted across the fleet, with lots of new crew.

Also, versus what I remember, the visibility of the senior crew was low and even when about interaction and engagement with passengers was limited. So other than the daily updates or the welcome Captain’s party, you did not really see the Senior Team active with passengers. So that felt very different.

I also found communication and attention to detail was mixed and not as slick.

A simple example was on embarkation day for the muster drill, the television said one thing, the announcements another, the daily program something else and we were told something else when we checked in. So, there was just that attention to detail and consistently.

Another was we had choppy weather, and they dropped a tender port call at Mossel Bay, but it wasn’t particularly well communicated. It was announced and then there wasn’t any senior crew about or willing to take questions on it.


Another thing I felt was less good was a shift from crew giving a personalised and proactive service to a more “ask and you will receive” approach.

Some examples are first, there is a lot a butler can do and bring but if you don’t know what, then you miss out as it was not explained or proactive. Things like getting canapes, or special treats, or ability to have afternoon tea served. I realised I needed to brush up on what I could get before I went, and to ask.

I also discovered after the trip that I could have had caviar on demand, but unless you knew and asked it was not apparent.

I Cruise Silversea To See If Its New Owners Have Ruined It

Same In The Restaurant

The same in the restaurant. I would go most mornings to Atlantide for breakfast, and over the course of the two weeks, I largely had the same waiter, but they couldn’t remember that I liked decaf coffee with skimmed milk and so on. On other ultra-luxury lines, I found that staff are obviously trained and encouraged to remember and offer personalised service and there my decaf and skimmed milk arrives without asking.

I know these are small and picky issues but as ultra-luxury and for the fare, and since the other lines do it and I remember it being the case before it seems this has changed.

Overall, I felt that the service was good but not as sharp as before.

I felt on balance that reviewers are being too harsh in thinking that Silversea is being dumbed down or ruined from Royal Caribbean ownership. It’s grown fast with their resources, and I came away thinking the growing pains are making some edges a bit less sharp, but not so bad that they are ruining it. All are fixable. And I will go again based on what I experienced.


Subscribe to my Tips For Travellers Newsletter

* indicates required



Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply