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Spoiled on Silver Spirit

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On April - 12 - 2011

In these days of ever-expanding megaships, with thousands of passengers pouring off at each port, there’s something to be said about the more personal and intimate aspects of small-ship cruising. The 540-passenger, all-suite Silver Spirit is just a year old and is the first new ship for ultra-luxury line Silversea Cruises since 2001. While Spirit is the biggest ship in the Silversea fleet it still offers the familiar layout of the line’s other vessels and maintains the line’s hallmark of high customer satisfaction.

Luxury lure

Anticipating a cruise onboard Silver Spirit is a bit like going back to see an old friend. The last time I spent significant time on the Spirit was to report on the vessel’s sea trials in late 2009 while it was still under construction in Italy. I know the Spirit inside and out, but I was curious to see how it functioned with passengers. I’ve always believed you don’t really know a cruise ship until you experience it with a full load of passengers.

Fast forward to December, 2010 and I am in Barbados sipping a flute of champagne while being escorted to my suite by tuxedoed staff. My butler Karthik asks if I would like my luggage unpacked and if I need anything else. I decline and decide to savor the champagne from my deck and admire the azure blue Caribbean sea. Talk about being spoiled!

SilverSpiritCaribGalleryCruise lines can build great ships, but if they don’t have a great crew everything suffers. On Silversea the devil is in the details and even the smallest details are remembered by crew. For example, my nightly drink preferences at Connoisseur’s Corner were always remembered by the bar’s attendant, Ricardo. Ricardo is the epitome of the type of crewmember you will find at Silversea – seasoned and highly polished in the art of service etiquette. Prior to working for Silversea he plied the waters as a crewmember for Sitmar Cruises and Royal Viking. He says Silversea is one of the few lines left that truly values highly personalize service. “That’s what luxury cruising should be,” he says. Indeed this sybaritic ship is all about surrounding oneself in luxury, fine dining, and like-minded travelers on a quest for new horizons.

Loyal Silversea customers, who on any given voyage can total more than 40 percent of the passengers, are very discriminating. Known as Venetian Society members this group knows and demands luxury. One crew member told me when the Spirit first came out it took some ‘Venetians’ time to get used to the bigger ship. Some Silversea aficionados are split on the preference between the line’s smaller ships and the Spirit. A business titan from the Midwest, who was marking his 300th day cruising on Silversea, told me he likes the Silver Spirit best because it has amazing new features, but his wife prefers the Silver Cloud for its ‘coziness’. Another couple I met was on their first Silversea cruise and immediately fell in love with Silversea and the Silver Spirit. The couple, who are long time Regent Seven Sea Cruises customers, quickly realized Silversea offered them more of what they were looking for and now insisted that nothing but Silversea would suffice.

European roots

SilverSpiritCaribluggageOne way Silversea has decided to keep posh factor high is to stick to its European roots in ambiance, dining, and amenities. The ship’s 270 suites range in size from 312 to 1,668 square feet (95 percent with balconies) and passengers lack for nothing in these suites. There is a menu of eight pillows to choose from, a selection of room scents from Laura Tonatto, a choice of Bvlgari or Ferragamo toiletries, and never ending bottles of Pommery Champagne and boxes of Pierre Marcolini chocolates. And, every suite comes with a butler who will not only unpack your suitcase but clean and freshen it as well.

The Art Deco décor is understated and evokes a comfortable atmosphere. Vintage nautical photos decorate the walls and plush chairs and sitting areas are everywhere inviting guests to linger. Indeed they do — passengers gather at all hours to drink Bellinis or cappuccinos or just to relax to soothing musical entertainment. Deck space onboard is expansive with numerous comfortable lounge areas affording shade or sun allowing guests to choose their al fresco preferences.

The Spa at Silversea takes things to another level offering a medi-spa and Oriental Medicine Program with onboard physician. At 8,300 square feet it is the largest in the fleet and features a beauty salon, fitness center, nine spa treatment rooms, two sauna rooms and two steam rooms. The spa also debuts a Thermal Suite, an exclusive spa area furnished with heated lounge chairs along with a private Hammam Chamber (Turkish bath), where guests can customize their scrub treatments. In addition, The Spa offers an outdoor relaxation area with expansive aft sea views and comes equipped with plush loungers and large whirlpool allowing spa lovers a place to relax pre- and post-treatment.

Epicurean delight

Perhaps the highlight onboard Silver Spirit is the culinary delights in the six restaurants. The line has a partnership with Relais & Châteaux; the only cruise line afforded the honor. The line’s staple restaurants are here including The Restaurant, which offers 21 menus from International classics to inventions made on the ship. La Terrazza is the heritage of Silversea and offers freshly made pasta with ingredients flown in from Italy. The Pool Grille offers spa and quick fare and in the evening is transformed into the fun Hot Rock Grill. This al fresco dining experience is the most relaxed on the ship. This is a cook-it-yourself affair, where you grill your own meat or seafood on hot volcanic stones. I ordered the Filet Mignon, accompanied by lobster, grilling both myself. To make the job easy, the meats are seared before being delivered, still sizzling, to the table.

Le Champagne is highlight of the line’s association with Relais & Châteaux where for $30 guests can indulge in a six-course menu and for an additional $200 sample the wine pairing offerings. Seishin carries a $40 cover charge for the 11-course degustation menu that includes such specialties as Beluga caviar sorbet, sushi, sashimi, carpaccio of king scallops and more. Seishin’s main feature is the rounded and centered food prep station known as la table du chef where guests can watch the chef at work sculpting fresh sushi and sashimi. Adding premium Sakes to the degustation menu is an additional $40 per person, while the wine pairing menu goes for $200 per person each.

Stars Supper Club is a truly special place and was packed every night during the cruise. The venue is modeled after the Rainbow Room and is more than dining, it’s food-entertainment. The ambiance is jazzy and offers a bite size tasting menu encompassing flavors from around the world. Indeed you could make a meal here if you order all 20 tastings. The live jazz singer who works the room makes this venue an unforgettable experience.

The art of doing whatever you want

SilverSpiritArrival2Cruising is as much about the journey as about the destination. My favorite part of the voyage was staying on the ship and savoring the art of doing nothing. I’ve been to every island in the Caribbean and I didn’t feel guilty about not going ashore. The Spirit is big enough where every day I was stumbling on undiscovered nooks and crannies to relax in. Truth be told, I spent much of my time in my suite, a place so wonderful and comfortable I didn’t want to leave. I passed entire afternoons on the veranda, lolling on the wicker lounges and watching the Caribbean slide by. Of course I took occasional breaks to check on e-mail, work out in the fitness center, or to order room service that offered everything on the daily restaurant menus.

Ultimately, the real luxury of Spirit, though, is its focus on keeping the traditional cruise experience alive and highly refined. As we pull out of Grenada I hear a couple laughing at the pool bar. The woman points over to the gigantic cruise ship docked next to Silver Spirit. “We will never go back to that again.” Indeed you don’t really know a cruise ship until its being enjoyed by passengers and Silver Spirit is certainly living up to all its passenger’s expectations.

If you go:

Silver Spirit plies the waters of the Mediterranean in the spring and summer months, and the Caribbean and South America in late fall and winter. Prices for 7-day voyages begin at $3,518. Visit Silversea Cruises Website for more details.

Further reading:
Silver Spirit takes on the seas
It’s early September as I arrive at the Fincantieri Monfalcone shipyard in Trieste, Italy. Dawn is breaking and the winds are howling down from the mountains. Hundreds of yard workers, vendor specialists, technicians, and Silversea Cruises employees are gathered on the pier to board the Silver Spirit. There’s excitement in the air as the ship is going out for sea trials.

By Anita Dunham-Potter (editor@www.expertcruiser.com)

© www.expertcruiser.comYour online consumer guide for cruise travel and information.

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