How To Compare and Evaluate Cruise Deals and Cruise Packages

When it comes to the fine art of evaluation, there is always the fear that a deal of some kind will be made hollow because of compromise. For those evaluating cruise deals and packages, the idea of having to compromise means one thing — you’re missing out on something. This could not be further from the truth. Being a smart consumer means looking at every aspect of a prospective product to be purchased. The same goes for cruises. You want to be sure to investigate all that goes into finding the right trip for you.

The question, though, becomes a matter of knowing how said evaluation will take place. Sure, there are cruise veterans that know the industry & its mannerisms fairly well, but there are many others who simply have little to no experience finding an ideal cruise package.

First, look at the prospective dates involved in the trip. The first step in finding the right trip for you involves finding dates that actually match your travel time. More often than not, you’re operating from a specific set of dates the denotes your “vacation” days. You may find a tremendous deal on a cruise, but if the dates don’t work with your days off, it’s not really a deal for you.

You next want to look for any packages that include bundle pricing. As is the case with things like cable and phone services, the more items/services you can bundle, the more money you can save in the long run. An example of a bundled cruise package could include the accommodations on the ship, your ticket, meals & drinks, and entertainment/excursions. Taken separately, these items would probably be still available, but you’d probably be paying a little more. Here’s where looking at the numbers pays.

Don’t necessarily be taken in by the new and shiny. There are a number of bigger and bolder ships offering a dizzying array of amenities for its guests, but you aren’t the only person checking things out. Rather than fight for a spot that may not actually be there, look at deals & packages on ships that aren’t as new. They still get stellar ratings, provide top-notch amenities and service to their guests, and operate under tremendous safety records.

Finally, the best thing you can do in evaluating various cruise packages and deals is know when to walk away. Evaluation, as noted earlier, is an art, one forged through experience and a willingness to cry, “Foul” when necessary. Pricing on cruises can fluctuate quite a bit. In fact, savvy cruise shoppers will tell you that pricing can change from one day to the next. It pays to know when something just doesn’t feel right. As you compare one deal to another but you aren’t satisfied with either, that would be a golden opportunity to wait for something better (and better-priced) to come along.

Cruise deals are not hard to find. With a bit of gumption and tenacity, you, too, can find & book the trip of a lifetime.

Cruise Line Loyalty

To keep their customers coming back, the majority of cruise lines now offer some kind of customer loyalty scheme. These vary from each cruise operator and can include future booking discounts, invites to VIP parties, and onboard privileges such as priority embarkation. But is this enough to keep your loyalty? Or are you really looking for cabin upgrades and onboard credit?

Here is a summary of each cruise lines membership club and benefits to tempt you to come back time and time again…

Royal Caribbean International – Crown and Anchor Society

Membership to the Crown and Anchor Society is automatically granted after your first sailing. The club offers discounts and benefits according to the number of “cruise credits” obtained. These are calculated by the number of days at sea and the cabin grade you sail in. As their sister company, you will also receive equivalent recognition in Celebrities membership club. There are 4 tiers within the club escalating from gold to platinum, diamond and diamond plus. As a gold member, you can expect onboard bonuses such as complimentary wine tasting and a small commemorative gift, as well as online booking discounts. As your membership level increases you can look forward to priorities over other customers with check in, and waitlisted services such as spa treatments or shore excursions.

Celebrity Cruises – Captains Club

Celebrity’s 3 tier Captains Club offers a slightly more generous loyalty scheme which involves a one category upgrade at the most basic membership level, which is also applicable when booking your cruise through a travel agent.

The tiers range from Classic, Select and Elite, and loyal customers can expect invitations to onboard parties, behind the scenes tours and at the highest level, guests can take advantage complimentary use of the Thalassotherapy Pool, where available, and also a private departure lounge.

Norwegian Cruise Lines – Latitudes Program

As a past guest, NCL do offer some pretty good reductions when rebooking with them, aside from this, many of the benefits of their club, which ranges from bronze, silver, gold and platinum levels, are nothing to get too excited about! Whilst they offer the standard past guest party, plus priorities over other guests with check in, disembarkation, and reservation only restaurants, having completed 14 cruises, and earned your platinum status, all you really get is complimentary dining inthe “Le Bistro” restaurant, which would usually incur an additional charge. Oh and you get a latitudes ship pin…

Princess Cruises – Captains Circle

The Captains Circle club features gold, platinum and elite levels of membership with all levels receiving preferential pricing offers on selected itineraries throughout the year. Further standard membership benefits include, “exclusive events”, no doubt that will be another captain’s party then, and also a Princess Passport, a scheme whereby guests receive stamps, depicting the cruise destination which are then signed by the captain and displayed in a Princess Passport.

As membership increases to platinum status, guests are entitled to priority boarding, free internet minutes and upgraded travel insurance. (If the basic level is purchased) Guests that reach their 16th cruise, or their 150th cruise day with Princess will be members of the elite club, where extras such as a complimentary mini bar, upgraded bathroom amenities and a 10% discount in certain onboard shops will be applicable.

Costa Cruises – Costa Club

Loyal customers will be pleased to hear that Costa offer one of the most rewarding loyalty schemes at sea. Whether you are a basic aquamarine member, coral member or their highest pearl member, you can receive a 5% discount on any of their cruises. In addition, guests at aquamarine level will receive a generous 20% discount on wine packages, mini bar drinks and laundry service, 10% off Costa merchandise, and a cocktail with the captain complete with a souvenir photo.

Membership to the club is achieved through earning points; these are accumulated through cruise days with Costa as well as onboard spending. At higher levels of membership, guests will qualify for priority boarding and disembarkation, a complimentary meal in the a la carte restaurant, a bottle of wine and welcome gift.

P&O Cruises – Portunus Club

Membership to the Portunus club is automatic after completing your very first sailing with P&O Cruises. Throughout the year, there will be selected Portunus sailings, which give members reductions on standard cruise prices.

At a basic level, ruby members are entitled to a 5% discount on onboard spend, this increases to 7.5% when you reach sapphire level of membership, and gold members can take off an extra 10%. At the highest level, gold members will also get a dedicated check in service and priority disembarkation.

Members of the Portunus club can also gain points from sailing on Ocean Village, Princess Cruises or Swan Hellenic.

Cunard – World Club

World Club has 4 levels of membership; silver, gold, platinum and diamond. Automatic membership is granted after your first sailing with Cunard. After this, members are entitled to a 5% discount of further sailings.

Further benefits for guests who have completed 20 days onboard include; a souvenir gold membership Cunarder pin, complimentary internet minutes, and cocktail party invitation. As guests reach platinum level, they can expect, in addition to lower level benefits, a 20% discount on dry cleaning and laundry service, 10% off White Star Luggage Delivery service, additional internet minutes and a platinum member Cunarder pin. Diamond members will also receive priority luggage delivery.

MSC Cruises – MSC Club

MSC’s loyalty club consists of 3 tiers; classic, silver and gold. Membership is awarded by a points system which accumulates with the number of cruise days taken with MSC.

At each level, members will receive a welcome cocktail, a 5% discount on excursions and 5% discount in onboard boutiques. As a classic member, you are entitled to a 5% discount on most cruises, silver members will receive 8% and gold can take off an additional 10% off their cruise cost.

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines – Oceans

Each night spent onboard a Fred Olsen cruise will earn you 1 point. Once you reach 30 points, you will qualify for their first level of membership. At this “blue” level, guests will receive 5% off both onboard spending and shore excursions booked prior to departure. As you reach 31 points you enter the silver level where members will receive a 2% cruise discount, Oceans cocktail party and usually priority embarkation. Once you have exceeded 100 days onboard a Fred Olsen cruise, you will be rewarded with a 4% cruise cost discount, personalized luggage labels, a welcome aboard gift plus a complimentary shuttle bus pass.

Carnival – Concierge Club

After your 10th cruise with Carnival, you will enter their membership club at the platinum level, then, those members who complete their 25th, 50th and 75th sailings will receive a shipboard credit representing 25, 50 or 75% of their cruise fare. Those who reach an impressive 100th sailing will earn a complimentary cruise of up to 8 days.

In addition, all platinum members are eligible for priority check in, disembarkation and dining waitlists.

Cruising the French Riviera on a Shoestring Budget: Cannes to Menton

When you find an area you like and you feel relaxed in, it’s hard to imagine moving on to explore further afield. The Iles de Lerins just off Cannes are one of those places. With so much to do – visit and attend a service in the monastery on Saint Honorat, sample the famous wine made by the monks from grapes grown on the island, climb the ancient tower for spectacular views over all the islands and across to Cannes, stroll along the tree-covered paths of each island, take a dip in a private cove, watch the boats coming and going, explore the fort on Sainte Marguerite where the man in the iron mask was locked up for many years, try some wild blackberries – it really is hard to leave! But the time will come, usually with a strong wind forecast or a big swell, and you’ll decide to move on. So here’s the east Riviera on a shoestring…

Best Value Marinas (prices based on a 15 metre sailing yacht)

  • Nice Port – reservations available by email, excellent shelter, friendly service, shower facilities, wifi, excellent provisions, daily market, restaurants surrounding the port and in the old town, beach clubs, easy access to the old town of Nice and further afield by bus and train, about £50 per night in peak season.
  • Villefranche-sur-Mer – reservations available by email and telephone, very helpful and friendy staff, excellent shelter, some provisions, lots of restaurants, pretty town with access to cliff walks, about £60 per night in peak season.
  • Port de Beaulieu – an excellent alternative to the exceptionally expensive port in St-Jean, reservations by email and telephone, helpful and friendly staff, excellent shelter, good provisions in town, easy access to trains to Monaco, buses to Eze, about £55 per night in peak season.
  • Fontvieille – although cheaper than Monaco Port, it is still expensive but one that provides excellent service and value for money. Explore Monaco and Monte Carlo on foot from the marina, enjoy the hustle and bustle of the Principality but know that you have a peaceful marina for the night. Very friendly and helpful staff, reservations available, heliport, roughly £80 per night in peak season.
  • Menton Old Port – very friendly and helpful, provisions in town, willing to help in bad weather although the visitor quay has poor shelter from the swell. Wifi, water and electricity all available for about £50 per night in peak season.

Safe Anchorages

  • Juan les Pins – known in its heyday for its hedonisitc tendencies, this lively town with beautiful beaches has long attracted the rich and famous. The whole bay between Cannes and Juan les Pins is the anchorage of choice for many huge superyachts but the more modest-sized yachts head to the east of the bay and tuck in under the Cap d’Antibes between the Hotel Eden Roc and the small Port du Crouton. You’ll hold well and will be very well sheltered from any wind and swell with east in it. You can leave the dinghy on the visitor quay at Port du Crouton and wander into the town for excellent provisions, restaurants and the Petit Train to Antibes.
  • Cap d’Antibes – a number of small anchorages provide pretty lunch stops but are not particularly well protected. Try Anse de l’Aregnt Faux on the southerly tip of the Cap, the bay off La Garoupe for beach clubs and beach restaurants and the large anchorage east of Antibes for lovely views of the old town.
  • Rade de Villefranche-sur-Mer – anchor at the head of the bay outside the yellow buoys, take care to stay out of the no anchor zone as there can be up to 3 cruise ships a day anchored here. Take the dinghy onto the town quay and tie up with the others. A lovely anchorage, very popular in the summer during the day, quiet at night, but you may need to make use of a stern anchor to keep the boat into the prevalent swell which comes straight in from the sea.
  • Anse de la Scaletta – tucked into the Cap Ferrat and well protected from anything with south in it, this shallow anchorage is another one of those places you can stay for days. Paloma Beach on the shore provides watersports in the day time and romantic summer beach-side evening meals. Easy dinghy access to the port of St-Jean for provisions and a variety of restaurants as well as access to the popular walk along the coast between Villefranche and Beaulieu.
  • Baie de Roquebrune – anchor in good holding under the town of Roquebrune. Good shelter from east but open to the sea swells from the south. Good walk up to the ancient town, stunning views across the riviera and sandy beach with good snorkelling.
  • Cap Martin – the east side of the Cap is a good anchorage for lunch and can be used in very settled weather for overnight stays. Sandy bottom with good holding although quite deep as restricted by protected swimming area.

Helpful Hints:

  • Stock up on provisions at the big supermarkets when you can as small town supermarkets can be extremely expensive. Local bakeries however are excellent value for morning croissants and afternoon pastries!
  • Keep your eye on the weather, check it every day on the radio and again with a local port as local winds can be missed by national forecasts.
  • Book ahead in bad weather. If bad weather is on the way, plan ahead and get yourself into a good harbour. Remember, the less pricey ones fill up first so make sure you’ve got your space.
  • Be safe in the sun. Always wear a hat and suncream and drink plenty of water to keep hydrated and energy levels up.

The French Riviera is truly beautiful all year round. Although the best weather is during the summer months, May and October can be the perfect time to cruise, with lower marina fees, quieter anchorages and warm sun.

Book Your Luxury Cruise Travel With a Travel Agency

Luxury cruise travel means a vacation package which is a combination of cruising and land tours. On this type of vacation you can see everything. You will enjoy fabulous ports which are situated on the coast or beautiful cities. On your luxury cruise vacation, the land tours offer you the best accommodations in five star hotels and your tours will be escorted by experienced travel agents. Organizing a luxury cruise vacation through an agent will give you a lifetime of great memories.

Luxury cruise travel is sophisticated and offers an endless array of activities and entertainment. It is a dream-come-true for everyone because this type of travel offers special activities for kids and at the same time provides spa services, spectacular nighttime entertainment and countless adventure for adults. With cruise travel, usually families get to spend quality time together and can make the most of their vacation.

The most important part is that to make your Luxury cruise travel memorable you need a travel agent who will help you get information about destinations, maps, airport diagrams, and a worldwide time chart and currency conversion rates. On the whole, it can be said that these agents play a very important role in organizing your cruise vacation because they plan the best possible tours for you and help travelers with the necessary schedules, vacation packages, and food facilities. Depending on your budget you can ask your agent to plan an exclusive vacation or a themed one.

Travel agents are always there to help you with the best available travel arrangements. It is true that popular five star hotels, luxury resorts and Luxury cruise agencies use travel agents to highlight their exciting packages. These agents help in offering guidance and recommendations regarding many tourist destinations. For foreign trips, agents offer important information about passports, visas and foreign currencies. Travel and tourism is developing like never before and travel agents have a key role in helping you organize a well planned vacation.

Finding a travel agent for your cruise may be a tough job. When you book Luxury cruise travel through a travel agent, they offer you the best deals and discounts. A knowledgeable cruise specialist can help you find the best deals and also efficiently deal with essential queries regarding luggage and other rules and regulations.

Travel agents also help you to cancel your cruise if the need arises. Good agents will help if you are facing any problems and they will help you solve it and negotiate for you with the cruise authority. Travel agents are playing three important roles as advisers, planners and negotiators. Simply take their help to make the perfect vacation plan within your budget.

Let The Spirit Move You

After so many sailings on Silversea cruises, I struggled with what to say about our 14-night transatlantic sailing that has not already been said. If you want to read about incredible Silversea service, you could go all the way back to our first sailing on Silver Whisper in 2002. Fast forward to 2009 if you want to read about a memorable birthday dinner at Le Champagne on my birthday during our cruise on Silver Wind in Africa. And if you want to know how we feel about Silver Spirit, we were just on her in 2010 when we sailed from Santiago, Chile, to Acapulco, Mexico. What can we possibly say about Silversea that we have not already said before? But, cruise reviews are snapshots in time. A cruise line or ship can be great one year, and not so great the next. As ships get older, crew members come and go and the dynamics can change. So, when a cruise line like Silversea continues to “get it right” year after year, it’s more than noteworthy, it is historic. And let’s face it: some things just bear repeating.

When we arrived at the pier in Bridgetown, Barbados, to board Silver Spirit, it truly does feel like we are coming home. We see crew members that we remember from past cruises over the years, and many remember our names. Even some of the other guests look familiar and we know we have sailed with them before on Silversea. So, we were not too surprised when Roland, our excellent butler on Silver Shadow last year in China, greeted us when we arrived at our beautiful Silver Suite (1106) this year.

Embarkation is always smooth as glass on Silversea. Why doesn’t every cruise line welcome you onboard with a glass of champagne? I don’t know, do you? Anyone? Well? Just know that Silversea does, and always has. Within five minutes after we stepped on board, we were being escorted to our Silver Suite. Coming “home” could not be any easier.

THE SHIP

Silver Spirit is the newest and largest ship in the Silversea fleet having entered service in 2010. We initially wondered if Silversea was going to able to deliver the same level of service on a ship with 540 guests. Not to worry, Silversea delivers excellent service regardless of the ship. The ship is masterfully designed to not “feel” any larger than their other, smaller ships. Public spaces are roomy and comfortable. The interior decor of the ship reflects an art deco design and features more works of art than other Silversea ships. Silver Spirit is elegant without being ostentatious.

ACCOMMODATIONS

Silversea has always had a reputation for spacious and luxurious accommodations. Even the most modest accommodations on Silversea deserve to be referred to as “suites”. However, the Silver Suite on Silver Spirit raises the bar for great design and comfort. Even though not the largest suites on Silver Spirit, at 742 sq. ft., the Silver Suites are more than twice the size of the basic Verandah Suites.

The 26 Silver Suites on Silver Spirit dominate decks 10 and 11 forward and give occupants the feeling of being on a concierge level of a luxury hotel. Even the Observation Lounge located on Deck 11 forward feels like a private retreat for Silver Suite guests, but of course, it is available to every guest.

Entering the Silver Suite, guests walk down a hallway to the living room where there is a round dining table capable of seating four comfortably. The table appears to accept a leaf making it larger and capable of accommodating more. A very comfortable work desk was soon consumed by my MacBook Pro, iPod and other gadgetry. The desk has four drawers and two large shelves. The only thing lacking is more electrical outlets, a common oversight by ship designers. There is only a single 110 US outlet at the desk. A small desk lamp and direct dial telephone are the only items occupying the desk space.

A mini-fridge/bar/television cabinet sits on the outside wall of the living room with two large sliding glass doors on either side. A sophisticated espresso machine and accoutrement takes up most of the tabletop space on this unit. Not being an espresso drinker, I soon discovered that the machine and tray holding espresso cups fit perfectly into the two shelves of the desk unit. More space for my electronic gear!

Opposite from the dining table is the suite’s large sofa (which also makes into an extra bed), two chairs and a glass-top coffee table. A small end table holds the high-tech Bang & Olufsen CD player/stereo system. A beautiful fresh flower arrangement decorated our coffee table.

Two large sliding wooden doors can be closed to completely isolate the master bedroom from any activity in the living room. This comes in handy for early mornings when I want to work on the computer, have my coffee and watch Fox News while Rickee sleeps in. I say “master” bedroom since the living room can be converted into a bedroom via the sofa bed. The bedroom is spacious, elegant and very well laid out. The comfortable king-sized bed is flanked by two end tables with lamps. A sizable makeup/vanity table with large mirror resides next to the bed and out of traffic areas. Across from the bed is another flat-screen television and storage unit with several shelves hidden behind doors..

Storage is the Silver Suite’s strong suit: the huge walk-in closet is nothing short of amazing and will even have Owner’s Suite occupants envious. You will never have to worry about running out of storage space in the Silver Suite. There are shelves everywhere, drawers and lots of hanging space. A digital safe sits inside of a shelf unit that was a perfect place for all of my camera and video gear, and I have a lot of it.

Everything about the bathroom design is near perfect. We can overlook the clumsy operation of the vessel sinks and just be happy with the fact that there are two of them, not to mention a third in the powder room! A large shower stall lined with rich Italian marble is spacious and features a hand wand sprayer (my favorite) as well as a rainshower head (Rickee’s favorite) mounted in the ceiling. The shower even has a seat! A full-sized Jacuzzi bathtub can be used for a relaxing bubble bath, and it was. We had a choice of Ferragamo, Neutrogena, or Bvlgari bath amenities.

A separate “powder room” with toilet and vessel sink is accessible from the bathroom and the suite’s hallway. Since the powder room is accessible from the hallway, it can be accessed by guests visiting your suite, or others sharing the foldout sofa bed, without invading your private bedroom space.

From the living room, there are two large sliding glass doors leading to a very spacious and well-furnished 118 sq. ft. verandah. Our verandah was outfitted with a reclining lounger, three wicker chairs, a large wicker ottoman and small glass top table, perfect for al fresco breakfast service.

After 14 days and nights in a Silver Suite, I would have to say it would easily rate a 5 out of 5 on my rating chart for comfort and design. It has more going for it than virtually any other suite we have enjoyed. In fact, the Silver Suite is so comfortable and spacious that it truly feels like a home-away-from-home.

DINING

Rickee and I are what you might call “seasoned” cruisers. After all, it is our business. We no longer feel it necessary to eat everything in sight when we are on a cruise. In fact, we try to maintain a fairly normal dining routine, not unlike the one we have at home. There are nights where don’t even go out to dinner, opting to stay in our suite and have a light room service meal. Fortunately, that is possible on Silversea. I can call Roland, our butler, at 7:00pm or so and order a Chicken Caesar Salad (one of my favorites) and a bowl of soup and Rickee might get an order of Asian Spring Rolls, and a salad, and that’s it! I know it sounds boring, but it’s what we like and Silversea makes it possible.

Our breakfast usually consists of Roland bringing me hot water for my coffee and Rickee getting extra sleep in lieu of food. While most guests are enjoying everything La Terrazza’s amazing breakfast buffet has to offer, we are in our suite, in our pajamas. On port days, since we have to get up early for an excursion, we will go to La Terrazza and have eggs made-to-order, English bacon and Rickee likes pancakes. She also loves fresh fruit, and it is plentiful at La Terrazza. I have to rush past the mountains of breads and pastries to appease the low-carb Master I reluctantly serve. We always have breakfast in The Restaurant on disembarkation day. It is our tradition, and we aren’t going to change it.

For lunch, we usually go to La Terrazza and Rickee often enjoys nothing more than the excellent selection of salads. I tend to spend some quality time at the meat stations with special attention given to the Oriental dish of the day. Of course, they have everything that anyone could want on their beautiful buffet: a carving station that changes to a new roasted meat every day; fresh, made-to-order pasta station; and yes, the mountain ‘o bread… my evil temptress.

THE RESTAURANT

The Restaurant is the traditional “cruise ship” dining venue on Silversea ships. However, the ‘traditional’ term ends with the practice of providing three meals per day with lunch and dinner menus changing daily. The Restaurant on Silver Spirit has a very inviting decor and offers a lot of seating options for two, for those times when you want a little personal space. Guests can dine whenever and with whomever they wish (within the posted service hours) and no reservations are required.

The majority of guests bypass The Restaurant at breakfast and lunch, opting for the enticing choices offered at La Terrazza and the convenience of buffet-style dining. Plus, dining out on deck is a powerful draw when the weather is nice. So, if you prefer dining in quiet solitude, check out The Restaurant during these times. Service in The Restaurant, like all Silversea dining venues, is crisp and efficient. A complimentary red or white wine is offered with lunch or dinner. If the one offered is not to your liking, the wine steward will gladly try to find another to your liking. Rickee and I like a semi-sweet Riesling, and after day one, the wine stewards on board knew exactly what to pour for us. Now that’s Silversea!

The lunch and dinner menus change daily with a focus on contemporary, wholesome and regional cuisine. There are vegetarian options, wellness options and an Oriental choice each day for lunch. And, don’t let the menus constrain you. If there is something you like that is not on the menu, just ask. I like fried onion rings with my hamburger, but they are not on the menu. No problem, all I had to do was ask and a plate of hot onion rings magically appeared! One evening, a small group of us wanted an Indian dinner. Again, not a problem. We made the request through our butler, Roland, and he set the whole thing up for us.

Le Champagne is the only Relais & Châteaux restaurant at sea and can be found aboard every ship in the fleet with the exception of Silver Explorer. The menu at Le Champagne continually changes to reflect the voyage destination and provides guests with an enhanced experience of authentic regional flavor. Guests can enjoy complimentary wines or choose from the Connoisseur’s List of rare wines for an additional charge. On Silver Spirit, Le Champagne is an intimate, dark and elegant space on Deck 4 across from Seishin and next to The Restaurant. A floor-to-ceiling wine tower is the centerpiece of Le Champagne’s decor. Certainly, Le Champagne is Silversea’s most elegant and sophisticated alternate dining venue. The dress code in Le Champagne is reflective of the ship’s daily dress code.

Reservations are required. Per guest reservation fee is US$30.

La Terrazza offers guests a selection of Italy’s best cuisine. During the day, La Terrazza is the ship’s breakfast and lunch buffet restaurant. Each evening, it is transformed into an intimate, romantic Italian dining venue. One of our favorites is the fresh, home-made pasta. And, no visit to La Terraza is complete without trying the Antipasto sampler platter. La Terrazza is the expression of Silversea’s distinctive Italian heritage and partnership with Slow Food Promozione. La Terrazza’s dress code is always informal or casual depending on the evening dress code (no shorts or jeans, however), so for those who are looking for a casual alternative on formal nights, La Terrazza offers a delicious refuge.

SEISHIN RESTAURANT

Seishin Restaurant takes its name from the Japanese word for “spirit”. This intimate restaurant aboard Silver Spirit is located on Deck 4 across from Le Champagne and next to The Restaurant. Seishin specializes in Asian fusion cuisine including regional dishes from Japan as well as from China, Thailand, Vietnam and India. The centerpiece at Seishin is the open Sushi preparation station where diners can watch their artful dishes being created by the masterful Sushi chefs. Seishin begins serving dinner each evening at 7:30pm and offers a choice of three set menus.

Seishin Teaser 1 is a 4-dish degustation menu for seafood lovers. Teaser 2 is for those who prefer meat (fowl and beef) over fish. There is also an 8-dish degustation menu that combines seafood and meat choices. All Seishin menus begin with a Sushi sampler platter. However, we were able to make a special request in place of the Sushi platter (a Spicy Tuna Roll for me and California Roll for Rickee). On our sailing, there was a $20 pp reservation fee for Teaser 1 or Teaser 2 and a $30 pp reservation fee for the 8-dish menu.

During days at sea, Seishin offers a complimentary sushi and sashimi bar for lunch. The dress code for dinner is reflective of the ship’s daily dress code but guests can dress informally and dine here on formal night.

STARS SUPPER CLUB

We first dined in STARS in 2010 during our South American sailing on Silver Spirit. Even though I remain confused as to the culinary point of view of STARS, I continue to be impressed with what it delivers. STARS is one of the most unique dining experiences you will find on any cruise ship, or land-based restaurant for that matter. Silversea attempts to re-create the atmosphere of an art deco-inspired big city supper club where jazz musicians and singers entertain diners as they enjoy an elegant meal. To that end, STARS delivers. The menu is a set, multi-course collection of regional and seasonal delicacies to be enjoyed in tapas-style “bites.”

The atmosphere in STARS is understated and elegant, not unlike the rest of Silver Spirit. The jazz duo of Michelle Yap and Seandrea Earls does give STARS a retro supper club feel and provide a show worthy of a visit to STARS even without a meal. Service is crisp, polished and efficient and the food preparation and presentation is without rival. STARS is Silver Spirit’s best-kept culinary secret.

THE GRILL

Formerly referred to as “Hot Rocks Grill”, The Grill may have a new name, but the hot, volcanic stone method of meat preparation remains the same. The Grill is one of most popular alternate dining venues on Silver Spirit. The Grill’s dress code is always casual and meals are served al fresco on decks 9 and 10 poolside (weather permitting). The Grill menu is a meat-lovers paradise. Thick rib-eye steak, filet mignon, veal, pork, lamb, prawns, and salmon are all on the menu.

On our most recent visit to The Grill, the meal begins with a basket of tortilla chips and guacamole dip. Complimentary wines are offered with dinner (as in every Silversea dining venue), so we chose a Cabernet from Chile. After a salad course, my rib-eye steak was a thick slab of marbled, tender beef served on a 700-degree chunk of volcanic stone. The interactive dining experience allows guests to cook their meat to their desired degree of doneness. The easiest way is to cut the huge steak into smaller chunks to increase the surface area contacting the stone. Once the meat reached medium (my preference), I began moving the pieces to the wooden base where consumption soon followed. All meat dishes are accompanied by a baked potato and a skewer of veggies. A trio of dipping sauces add additional flavor to the meat, which really needs no such help.

I am pleased to report that our most recent visit to The Grill reveals that this popular venue is a good as we remembered.

ROOM SERVICE

As I mentioned earlier, there are many times on a long cruise that Rickee and I will just stay in our suite, relax and enjoy room service. Unlike most cruise lines, room service on Silversea is something to look forward to. It starts with our calling Roland, our butler, to place the order. He arrives with a tray of food and converts the dining table into an elegant table setting with white tablecloth, silver flatware and china. It is just like eating in The Restaurant, but with a TV! In fact, during dining hours, you can order from the Restaurant menu and have items delivered to your suite course-by-course if you desire.

Probably the most popular room service item is breakfast. Silversea provides cards that you can fill out and leave on your suite door the night before so that your breakfast will be brought to your suite the next morning at the requested time. If you forget to fill out the card, just call your butler. We did enjoy room service breakfast one morning and everything was delivered hot, fresh and delicious.

If you wish, each afternoon your butler can deliver a selection of canapes to your suite. You can even order afternoon tea to be served in your suite. Nothing is impossible on a Silversea cruise!

PUBLIC SPACES

As the largest and newest ship in the Silversea fleet, Silver Spirit is capable of catering to 540 guests with a crew of 376. Even when sailing full, the staff-to- guest ratio is one of the highest in the industry. The ship is designed so that even when sailing full, guests will never feel crowded or cramped. Standing in line is an experience that Silversea guests rarely, if ever, have to endure.

THE BAR

One of the most popular meeting spots on Silversea ships is The Bar. Typically located just behind the show lounge on other vessels, The Bar on Silver Spirit departs from this tradition and is positioned amidship, almost as part of the reception area. Decorated in cool blue and gold, The Bar invites guests throughout the day to socialize and enjoy complimentary cocktails, soft drinks or specialty coffees. There is a small dance floor, and musical entertainment is offered throughout the day and evening.

BOUTIQUES

Located forward on Deck 8 are the boutique shops. The collection of duty-free shops offers guests a wide selection of designer jewelry, perfumes, watches, fashions and clothing. Silversea logo items have been expanded and there is also a small selection of sundries in case you left home without sunscreen, or in my case, a toothbrush!

LIBRARY/INTERNET CAFE

The well-stocked Library is located aft on Deck 7, just forward of La Terrazza. There are hundreds of popular hardback titles neatly arranged behind glass doors. Unlike some other ships, you are not required to “check out” a book. Simply choose your book, take it with you and return it when you are finished. What you won’t find in The Library is a DVD selection of movies. Silver Spirit is the only Silversea ship with an interactive movie-on-demand system making DVDs unnecessary. There are more than 190 movies on the menu to be enjoyed in your suite and all are complimentary!

Integrated into The Library is the Internet Cafe. There are seven workstations where guests can log onto the Internet to check email, browse the web, etc. Internet rates are competitive with other cruise lines and can be purchased in discount packages:

  • By the minute $.50 cents
  • 100 minutes for $45
  • 250 minutes for $85
  • 1000 minutes for $25

For those on longer cruises, the 1000 minute plan gets the per-minute rate down to $.25 cents, the lowest we have seen on any ship. Internet service can also be accessed via the ship’s Wi-Fi wireless system and we had no problems getting a good connection from our Silver Suite on Deck 11.

FITNESS CENTER AND SPA

The Fitness Center located on Deck 8 is a great place for guests to work off those extra pounds that come from indulging in all the excellent dining on Silver Spirit. There is a very nice selection of treadmills, upright and recumbent bicycles, elliptical trailers, free weights and weight machines. Complimentary classes in yoga, stretching, aerobics and Pilates are conducted by the onboard fitness trainer. A personal trainer is also available for an additional charge.

The 8,300 square-foot Spa is a sanctuary of personal bliss. The nine treatment rooms, indoor/outdoor relaxation areas, and outdoor whirlpool make this the most elaborate spa in the fleet. Guests can indulge in a wide range of therapies including facials, body wraps, massages and even acupuncture.

Men and women’s saunas and steam rooms are are a great way to relax before or after your spa treatment or after a workout. An outdoor relaxation area offers bar service so you can enjoy a complimentary fruit smoothie, champagne or cocktail while soaking in the expansive spa whirlpool.

OBSERVATION LOUNGE

Located all the way forward on Deck 11 is The Observation Lounge. This lounge is just steps away from our Silver Suite (1106) and is a great place to enjoy scenic sea days. Cocktails and canapes are served here each evening before dinner making this a relaxing alternative to The Bar on Deck 5.

PANORAMA LOUNGE

Every Silversea ship features a Panorama Lounge and they are always popular gathering spots for taking in expansive views of the ocean or the day’s port-of-call. Often used for Afternoon Tea or as the evening disco, The Panorama is an excellent place to enjoy a cocktail before or after dinner. On our cruise, team trivia is held each day in Panorama.

SHOW LOUNGE

No day would be complete without at least one visit to the Show Lounge on Deck 5. The large stage is flanked by two movie screens that bring you up-close to the action. The Show Lounge is an excellent venue during the day for Silversea’s extensive lecture series, cooking demonstrations and big-screen movies and, in the evening, production shows and performances by guest entertainers. The seating is comfortable and there really is not a bad seat in the house.

CASINO

The Casino on Deck 8 features roulette, blackjack, poker games and slot machines. Gaming tournaments were held and the casino staff offered gaming lessons several times during the cruise. You have to be 18 years of age to play in the casino.

MEDICAL CENTER

There is a Medical Center onboard staffed with a doctor and nurse who are available 24 hours a day. Some medications are available. Opening hours are printed in the daily Chronicles. Be sure to have travel insurance as a visit to the doctor on a ship is never inexpensive. Rickee developed what she felt was a cold about three days into the cruise and visited the onboard Medical Center where the doctor examined her and prescribed three medications. The total charge was $195.40.

LAUNDERETTES

Even though Silversea offers laundry, pressing and dry cleaning services for a fee, there are also complimentary self-service launderettes located next to the forward staircases on Decks 5-11.

ACTIVITIES & ENTERTAINMENT

Shipboard activities and entertainment become even more important when you are at sea for several days in a row. One reason some cruise enthusiasts shy away from transoceanic sailings is the fear that they will be boring. If there is a line between boring and relaxing, Silversea is firmly on the correct side of that line. Cruise Director, Don Fluke, and his team did an excellent job of keeping guests occupied with a variety of activity and entertainment options. Silversea arranged for a gentleman dance host to be onboard to dance with the ladies.

LECTURES

Silversea has always had an excellent enrichment program, and this cruise was no exception. We have really come to enjoy the lecture series over the years and leave every Silversea cruise feeling that we have learned something new. Silversea obviously emphasizes enrichment on sailings with several days at sea. On our sailing, we really enjoyed lectures by Morton Dean, former CBS and ABC correspondent. We especially enjoyed his video clips from his assignments as a Vietnam war correspondent. He and his wife Mary also joined us on our 13-hour tour to Marrakech, Morocco.

In addition to Mr. Dean, there were three other informative lecturers on this voyage. We had previously sailed with Ambassador Adrian Sindall during a Silversea cruise in the Middle East a few years ago. It was nice to see him again and hear his excellent series on diplomacy and Middle East politics. Biologist Dr. George Losey educated us about all things ocean and Dr. Jerry Labriola enlightened us on crime and why criminals do what they do and also analyzed some famous trials.

You probably won’t find this anywhere else on the Internet. Below is the actual prize list and number of points required for each. And of course, this is subject to change at any time.

THE ARTISTS OF SILVERSEA

Silversea has revamped their entertainment program with a series of concert-style productions created exclusively for Silversea by Choozi Entertainment. The Artists of Silversea feature a cast of classically trained vocalists, and the new shows offer a unique variety of musical styles including Motown, opera, pop and rock.

Evening entertainment on Silver Spirit begins in The Show Lounge at 10pm most evenings. The Artists of Silversea, the ship’s cadre of classically trained vocalists, performed four shows during our cruise: “FABBAlicious!” was a tribute to ABBA; “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”, featured the music of Motown; and “Decades”, was a musical extravaganza that brought famous stars to life. One production was held al fresco around the pool: “Voices… The Billy Joel Songbook.” Individual members of the troupe were featured in their own shows. For example, James Martin starred in “Broadway’s Best and More” and the graceful Dian Meechai took the stage in “An Evening With Dian Meechai.” In addition, The Artists of Silversea can be found performing at other venues around the ship. We were entertained by the jazz duo of Michelle Yap and Seandrea Earls while dining at STARS Supper Club. Michelle and Sonny performed poolside during our dinner at The Grill. Other entertainers who appeared in different venues around the ship included: pianist, Alfredo; pianist Eric O’Bach; The Silver Spirit Trio; and DJ Oskar.

Silver Spirit featured several guest entertainers in The Show Lounge. Piano showman Kyle Esplin entertained and international violinist, Ralph Allin impressed all with his prowess on the violin.

MOVIES AND TELEVISION

As mentioned previously, Silversea offers more than 190 movie choices through the ship’s interactive video/TV system. All movies are complimentary and you can even save, pause, rewind, etc. when watching a movie. As for television programming, it mostly involves international news channels. CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, Fox News, Sky News and BBC are all available. There are also several channels of closed-circuit TV showing various ship-related information such as the view from the bridge camera, shore excursion information, a Wine and Food channel, Spa & Boutique information, as well as a channel where you can view replays of the enrichment lectures.

THE SILVERSEA EXPERIENCE

We met a couple at lunch on the Marrakech tour. Mike is a doctor in Kansas traveling with his wife Patty. Mike is not your “typical” cruise enthusiast. He could not care less about formal nights, trivia, Silversea points or even lectures for that matter. Mark is after one thing and one thing only: relaxation. His idea of the perfect vacation is relaxing by the pool with his favorite book. He does not want to “have to” be anywhere at any particular time. He gets enough of that in his every day work life. I think Mike exemplifies the “Silversea Experience.” On Silversea, you can do pretty much anything you want, or nothing at all, and do it in unequaled style.

Silversea is being greeted with a glass of Champagne at embarkation. Silversea is having a butler that can figure out how to hook up your iPod to the television to play a movie. Silversea is making new friends from around the world. Silversea is 5-star dining, even in the comfort of your suite. Silversea is visiting exciting and exotic destinations. Silversea is having staff that call you by name. Silversea is never having to sign a ticket for a bottle of water, glass of champagne or soft drink. There are other great cruise lines, but there is only one Silversea.