For those who follow such developments, Silversea’s newest vessel begs the question: How will it compare to the other luxury launch of the year, Seabourn Odyssey?
The short answer is “favorably.” For the explanation, read on.
I’ve been on both vessels in the past couple of months, cruising in late July for seven days on Odyssey from Athens to Venice. My accommodation: Veranda Suite 622, measuring 365 square feet with the 65-square-foot veranda included in that measurement.
Weekend before last, I boarded Silver Spirit for its sea trials from Trieste to Ancona (both in Italy). In the almost-bare Veranda Suite 725, I slept on a cot with a thin blanket. The carpet was covered with plastic; the balcony doors were covered with paper. There were no chairs, tables, no mini-bar, no luxury amenities: In place of Bvlgari soap was a man-sized bar of Palmolive and a bottle of supermarket brand shampoo. With Silversea’s executive team and the two captains, I dined alongside shipyard workers: pizza for breakfast, pasta for lunch. Think “Camp Silver Spirit.”
The sea trials were cut short due to a faulty bearing. Despite that hiccup, two days on board was enough to show that Spirit will give Odyssey some “spirited” competition.
Spirit’s Slightly Larger Suites
For starters, Spirit is the larger vessel, carrying 540 guests, compared to Odyssey’s 450. Spirit’s Veranda Suites also are a tad larger than the comparable category suite on Odyssey. On Spirit, the Veranda Suite measures 376 square feet with a 65-square-foot veranda, giving Spirit 11 square feet more interior living space than Odyssey.
Spirit’s Veranda Suites also feature, not one, but two 26-inch, flat-panel televisions (one in the bedroom area, the other in the living area) with more than 400 movies available free of charge. The bedroom television will hide behind a mirror when not in use, a nice touch.
By contrast, Odyssey’s televisions were small for the room, 21 inches being my best estimate, with tinny sound.
With the introduction of Spirit, and extending fleetwide, Silversea will offer new services, including an expanded pillow menu featuring a selection of nine pillows. Also new: “luggage freshening.” Guest luggage will be washed and wrapped in a ribbon, clean for the ride home.
Six Dining Venues
The larger Spirit features six restaurants compared to Odyssey’s four. Two of Silver Spirit’s restaurants are reservations-only.
Spirit will introduce Seishin, an Asian fusion restaurant, where the signature item will be Kobe beef, served with sushi, sashimi, exotic sakes (the rice wine), and more. Pricing has not yet been established for the reservations-only restaurant, but it will likely be in line with Le Champagne, at $200 per person.
Silversea execs are aware of Odyssey’s frustrating reservations procedure with regard to dining, and they vow to avoid the frustrations, though how they intend to do so is not yet clear. Execs on the Spirit sea trials say they plan to bring the reservations process online, but no firm timeline was given.
On my Odyssey sailing, guests could reserve at specialty restaurants 48 hours in advance -beginning at 7:30 p.m., and only by phone. Imagine the switchboard. Lines were busy on several nights when I dialed.
Nonetheless, Odyssey’s restaurants are stunning, and its main restaurant is exceptionally attractive, with flowing sheer curtains that serve as separators to create cozy areas, reminiscent of South Beach’s Delano Hotel. Odyssey’s main restaurant also features a couple of attractive high tables for those who prefer a more casual dining experience in the formal dining room.
South Beach/Palm Beach Meets Old World/New World
If Odyssey is a bit like South Beach meets Palm Beach (as Seabourn strives to appeal to both young and mature guests) Spirit is a bit more Old World meets New World. Service and cuisine will be in the European style, with a twist that the line hopes will please its largest passenger demographic, North Americans.
With its reception area, Spirit has matched Seabourn Square (Odyssey’s library/internet cafe/coffee shop/purser’s desk/shore excursions and attractive public room), by integrating a bar and dining area for light snacks.
Of course, it should be pointed out that I was unable to experience Spirit’s delivery of service, as the only personnel on board were Silversea execs and shipyard workers. Odyssey’s service was, as you might expect, at a high standard. Until Silver Spirit begins revenue sailings, it remains to be seen which of the new ships delivers the all-important “software” component, that is, the staff attitudes, attentiveness and professionalism.
Clearly, both Odyssey and Spirit are top contenders in a segment where the differences between ships and service is as thin as a razor’s edge. Spirit’s six restaurants, slightly larger staterooms, larger televisions, and additional pampering (i.e., luggage freshening) can indeed make a difference to discerning clients. The innovation and improvements taking place on both ships, however, are ratcheting up the proverbial bar, and for connoisseurs of luxury, ‘spirited’ competition can only be a a good thing.