Silversea Silver Whisper. The First Impressions of being on-board.
382 passengers. It suddenly struck me that was less than a tenth of the number that were on the last cruise I was on. I started to examine the deck plans of Silversea Silver Whisper on my flight to join the cruise a little more closely. Looking at it deck by deck, it was suddenly looking much smaller than it had than when I first signed up to go. All my cruising so far has been on large cruise ships like Queen Mary 2, MSC Preziosa and P&O Arcadia. Big ships with lots of space and lots of choices. Would the absence of the water-slide, nightclub and 4-D ride from my last cruise be a disaster?
Pulling up in front of the ship docked in Stockholm on a bright sunny summer’s day, the ship did not look as small as it had shrunk to in my mind. It looked very sleek and well proportioned. Not large, bulky and overly stacked up top. The small pagoda tent set up dockside to check us in was manned by crew from various departments on the ship, including a beautiful singer from the entertainment troupe with the fabulous name of Krystle Rose Simmons. We chatted and joked with her, and we spoke about London (which she loves) and we asked about Atlanta (which we now know something about). There was no large, sterile corporate processing centre with taped off lines to shuffle along. It was chatty, personal and fast.
302 crew. Another fact I had remembered from my last minute flicking through the brochure. Almost one for every one of “us”. This really showed when we got on-board, as we set off to find our suite and tour the ship, everyone had time to stop and wanted to know if we liked being on-board and needed any help. Do they know I am a travel writer here to record my experiences? Is this what famous people feel like? Being recognised and given extra attention? Everyone, unfortunately, was being treated the same. Coming on-board to capture my experiences was not getting me any extra attention. The only people that probably did were the passengers being greeted with excited “hellos” from crew that knew them from previous journeys. There seemed to be a lot of those.
The ship kept getting bigger. As I toured it, the deck plans seemed a bit unfair to the Silver Whisper. Where was all this space coming from? I don’t remember seeing it on the deck by deck layouts.
First impressions are important. The sleekness and more orderly proportions of the ship design and the welcome at check-in set the tone. What were my other impressions on the first day?
Getting to know you service.
There is a definite feeling that, as the song goes, of “getting to know you, getting to know all about you”. Every time I interact with any of the crew, they are trying to get to know me, and what I want. They always greet me, they ask about me and they always ask what they can do. I suspect I will find that things start to happen around me, and pre-empt my asking.
Small but perfectly formed.
The brochure said there were 7 decks, and so I was thrown when the lift offered to take me to Deck 10. Had the ship grown? It took me a few trips up, down and around the ship to click that the passenger decks start on Deck 4, where the main restaurant is. This means there are at least 3 decks hidden away where they crew live and work.
The ship does not lack facilities. There is still all the things you expect, and choices for some. For example, there are 5 places to eat at night (the main restaurant, the Italian, the posh gourmet one, the “hot rock” cooking by the pool one and the extensive room service one). There is choice of bars and lounges to drink in. There is a theatre, fitness centre, spa, casino, shop and large pool.
The ship does not feel small. The venues are not smaller, just less of them and quieter. But they are available.
The up-market touches.
Silversea calls itself a luxury cruise line, and the price reflects that. I was interested in how that would be reflected, having been on cruise lines like Cunard, that I had felt had were luxurious in style and with flair in service. The touches of luxury are subtle and you slowly come to appreciate them. For example:
- The loungers around the pool are plusher and more comfortable than any I have ever lolled about on. I am almost tempted to mistakenly take home some of the towels, as they are softest I have ever dried off with. There are daybeds, some have domed whicker canopies and others are plump soft white double beds.
- The toiletries in the bathroom are Bulgari, although if that up-market brand is not up to your tastes they have alternatives to chose from.
- The in-room breakfast menu is like an encyclopedia of bread types, methods of cooking eggs (some of which I had never heard of) and bacons from a multitude of regions of the world.
- The tables in the self service restaurant, the La Terrazza, are laid out with dazzling white linen, a myriad of glasses, oil and balsamic vinegar dispensing bottles and expensive looking knives, forks and spoons laid out ready for full on banquet dining. No wipe down easy to maintain surfaces here.
Never having to sign.
The all-inclusive fare means the only time I have to take out my cruise card on-board is to open my suite door. Every drink and every snack is covered. I do not drink alcohol and so do not usually rack up a big bar bill, but those Diet Cokes and Orange juices can mount up. I like the ambience and feeling of not taking your card out. It also, as a non drinker, makes me feel less like the sommelier thinks I am a cheap skate when turning down a wine menu!
United Nations of Cruisers
I have mostly cruised with UK based cruise lines, and the ships are usually full of fellow country men and women. This is different. At the muster drill we heard a myriad of languages. Diverse and varied. The feel is cosmopolitan and multi-cultural. There is a strong American contingent, but the overall feeling is a multi national buzz.
The evening of the first night was quiet around the ship. It will be interesting to see how that evolves as people get settled in, and those flying in catch up on their early morning flights. There was one solo and determined blackjack player and one slot machine addict in the casino. A man catching up on emails was watching the movie playing in the theatre, and there were a lot of in-room breakfast cards outside doors by 10:30pm. The open seated dining for all creates a more leisurely and less structured evening as hoards of people are not frantically fitting into a set program for the evening. Will the energy and buzz level rise at night, or will it remain a quieter and more individual quiet time in the evenings?
The first day has ended. The ship has grown. The adventure has begun. So far, it is wonderful.
I travelled as a guest of Silversea on the Silver Whisper on a 7 night Baltics Cruise from Stockholm, visiting Tallinn, St. Petersburg, Helsinki and Copenhagen. Silversea are a privately owned, luxury all-inclusive, small ship cruise line with an Italian heritage that appeals to well-travelled, international guests.