A six-star cruise offers personal, attentive, but not obtrusive service; fine dining when you want and with whom you want; spacious public rooms and comfortable suites. And there is no sales pressure in the spa or the stores; there are no ships’ photographers and no art auction. And that is what Silversea Cruises is all about.
We had the opportunity to sample a Baltic cruise aboard the Silver Wind this past August and enjoyed the luxuries and attention to detail afforded by the 16,800-ton, 296-passenger ship.
Going ashore early one evening in St. Petersburg, for example, the main restaurant opened two hours early to serve dinner for passengers going to a ballet performance. When we came back that evening, senior officers, including the hotel director, welcomed everybody aboard, and there was a midnight buffet served in case somebody needed a late snack.
Baltic History and Art
We sailed from Copenhagen and spent a day at sea, before arriving in Helsinki, and spent three days in St. Petersburg, after which the Silver Wind sailed to Tallinn, where we disembarked. The cruise continued through the Kiel Canal to London. It should be noted that Tallinn has a wonderful little airport with amazing service and good flight connections to other European cities for connections back to the U.S.
In Helsinki, the Silver Wind docked at a different port away from the other larger ships that were also calling. . We participated in a walking tour of the town, which turned out to be very interesting, with an excellent guide. The advantage with a small ship, of course, is that any tour group is small. In addition, these passengers were well behaved and considerate of others.
The highlight of the cruise, however, was St. Petersburg, where again the Silver Wind docked away from the big ships, and was later joined by the Silver Cloud, which had followed us from Copenhagen.
The advantage of cruising with a small ship was again clearly demonstrated in St. Petersburg where we were able to visit the Hermitage Museum before it opened to the general public(!) and tour groups from six other cruise ships.
The service onboard the Silver Wind was nearly impeccable (nobody is perfect); the food was very good (our understatement); the drinks were generous, and the complimentary wines did not disappoint. Bartenders, cabin attendants and others made an effort to learn passengers’ names.
Just in case we were not happy, there was a very accommodating reception staff, in addition to an informal survey halfway through the cruise, which also asked if there is anything else the ship could do to make your cruise more enjoyable. (We could not think of anything.)
Liquors and wines are included in the fare, although there is a charge for premium liquors and wines.
Dining choices included The Restaurant; La Terrazza, featuring cuisine from a different Italian region every night; and Saletta, which paired select wines with foods for an extra charge. Silversea has a collaboration with Relais & Chateau master chefs which have brought together vintage wines and regional cuisine.
In addition was 24-hour room service. And room service does not just bring the food, the waiter also sets your table – perfectly – with silverware, glassware and flowers.
The passengers came from 18 countries with fairly sizeable contingents from many different nations. If there were more Americans onboard, it was not by much. There were many passengers from Great Britain, Australia, Italy, France and Malaysia, in addition to other countries.
Entertainment was low-key but high quality, including enrichment lectures on the Russian Tsars and on Baltic Amber. There was also a Relais & Chateau cooking demonstration, which prepared and served samples of sautéed sea scallops in Swedish mustard sauce, followed by moist chocolate cake, accompanied by different wines.
The atmosphere was laid-back and friendly with crew and officers always greeting passengers. And after a while it became so contagious that passengers were also greeting each other. In the end there were smiles and hellos all around.
Excerpted from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Fall 2008