Itinerary: Vancouver, Ketchikan, Haines, Wrangell, Sitka, Metlakatla, Vancouver
If you're one for nature and scenery, then Alaska is for you. The sight of the Sawyer Glacier up close, the snow-capped mountains, the whales, the bears, the bald eagles are truly spectacular. SilverSea even provides binoculars in each suite. I cruised through the tranquility of the Misty Fjords. But I must say that as spectacularly beautiful as Alaska is, for me nine days of this was a bit repetitive.
Our cabin was Vista (439), a mid-ship, no-balcony cabin. We thought we wouldn't get much use of a balcony on an Alaskan cruise. For our particular trip I think I was right. However, the cruise that sailed the week before ours encountered temperatures in the mid- to high 80s with blazing sun. On our cruise, the temperature maxed out at about 72, and that was rare. The cabin was spacious and comfortable. The bathroom had dual sinks, a separate bath and shower. The Bulgari amenities were nice and were replaced twice during the cruise. There was a walk-in closet with a safe, which worked intermittently. The refrigerator was well stocked, and I was asked what two spirits I'd like brought to us. Oddly enough, when the spirits were brought to the stateroom, one had been opened already. It was returned and replaced after a lengthy conversation with room service. They apparently didn't understand why I might not want an already opened bottle.
There really wasn't a bad meal to be had aboard the Silver Shadow: The food ranged from very good to outstanding. The cuisine in the ship's main dining room, The Restaurant, was superbly prepared. On most of our previous cruises, I would elect to order something off the menu, but the food was so good on the Silver Shadow that I didn't choose this option.
The ship offers two alternate dining venues: La Champagne and The Terrace Café. Both require reservations, but there is no supplemental charge to dine in either restaurant. However, no wines in La Champagne are complimentary; they must be purchased from the premium wine list. La Champagne offers a menu with few choices -- not quite a set menu, but given that it's a very small room the options are limited. The menu changes every two or three days in La Champagne. The ambiance was that of an intimate restaurant. The food was very, very good. The Terrace Café is adjacent to La Champagne but is a much larger room. This venue offers different themes each night. I went for the Mediterranean evening. Here you can choose between the complimentary wines and the premium wine list. Again, the food was deliciously prepared.
There seemed to be a dichotomy in service aboard the Silver Shadow. Certainly the service throughout the ship was impeccable and efficient; yet it was strangely impersonal. Service wasn't overly friendly. I think only one staff member ever asked our names, or what we liked/disliked. That one staff member was the Cruise Consultant, and he needed the info to book our next SilverSea cruise. This was a marked difference from Seabourn, Radisson or even Queens Grill on Cunard.
This was very poor. We were given key cards on the pier, then were told to board the ship. Once we were in the lobby there was no guidance or assistance. There were crowds of people at both the reception desk and the shore excursion desk but I didn't know why. We couldn't believe that we had to make our own way to the stateroom -- on other high-end lines you're escorted -- so I asked a staff member. Only then did we learn that we needed to go to the reception desk or shore excursion desk to have our photograph taken for security. Embarkation really seemed disorganized.
This was similarly disorganized. People were given color-coded tags that indicated when and in what order they would disembark the ship. For example, passengers with earlier flights would disembark prior to people with later flights. When it came time to disembark, the order in which the colors were paged was wrong, which had many people concerned. The later-flight people disembarked before the passengers with earlier flights.
The décor of the Silver Shadow is very attractive, very light, and not at all glitzy. She's an easy, comfortable vessel to get around, with all staterooms forward and most public rooms aft. The Observation Lounge, which overlooks the bow, was packed while we cruised the Misty Fjords and the Sawyer Glacier. This lounge is really for relaxing. It offers coffee and tea, but isn't really a bar setting. The more social locations on the ship were the Panorama Lounge and The Bar. It was in these lounges that people congregate for cocktails and conversation. One caveat for you ship lovers: If you're looking for a nautical experience, you won't find it on this ship. The Silver Shadow is more like a floating Ritz-Carlton than a seafaring vessel.
We didn't opt for any of the ship's offerings, so I can't comment on that. We arranged our own excursions and enjoyed them quite a bit. These included two floatplane adventures (Ketchikan and Sitka) and a two-hour ground tour of Sitka.
The ship had three entertainers on board -- a singer, a magician/comedian, and a banjo player. I only saw a snippet of the comedian/magician. He was fine. Other passengers commented on how good the singer was.
Why I took this cruise: I had business in Portland and saw a good deal on this cruise that was leaving just two days later from nearby Vancouver, so we booked and sailed.
We will be back on SilverSea in November for a South America cruise. I enjoyed this cruise and the SilverSea experience. I personally would give Seabourn the edge on service but SilverSea's ships are more modern.
Previous cruises: QE2 - transatlantic '95 QE2 - transatlantic '01 QM2 - maiden voyage Seabourn Sun - Capetown - Las Palmas Seabourn Spirit - Southeast Asia Radisson Mariner - Baltics Radisson Voyager - Bermuda..no, wait..we ended up in Canada!