Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not all that lonely at the top. At the pinnacle of luxury cruise sector are a handful of cruise lines fiercely competing for the vacation dollars of the well-heeled. Which fleet of ships offers the best luxury cruise experiences? Hard for anyone to say with clear conviction. There are as many opinions as there are guests — and then some.
All of the luxury players hang their hats on superb service, first-class cuisine, spacious accommodations and all-inclusiveness, so the real question is, “What makes one luxury cruise line different from the other?” We hope to get around to highlighting the differences between all luxury cruise lines, but for now, we will focus on Silversea Cruises. How does Silversea differ from its small, luxury ship competitors?
Silversea has a fleet of ships that carry between 296 and 540 guests, but one of the things that sets the luxury cruise operator apart is that Silversea also has an expedition vessel, the Silver Explorer, which carries 132 guests, to the Arctic and Antarctic and points between. Silver Explorer is for intrepid adventurists who don’t want to sacrifice luxury and comfort.
Silversea features large staterooms as you would expect on small luxury ships, but what’s different is that every stateroom on Silversea has butler service (yes, even on Silver Explorer). Along with the room stewardess, the butler helps keep the suite tidy and well-stocked. On Silver Shadow this week, my butler Arvind brings fresh fruit daily. He serves my breakfast on mornings when I choose to dine in and serves dinner in my suite, course-by-course, when I want to stay put. He takes care of my laundry, and should my shoes — or glasses — appear dirty, he’ll shine them — and always without me asking. Arvind keeps my cruise on course.
Another thing that sets Silversea apart is its Italian heritage. The company was founded by an Italian family and is still operated by them today. In the galley, chefs use the finest ingredients from Italy, and they make fresh pasta daily from Italian semolina flour. Silversea even embraces the Slow Food concept, which originated in Italy. Basically, it’s about slowing down to enjoy dining and using only quality ingredients. Silversea’s Italian heritage and its commitment to Slow Food is most apparent in La Terrazza, the Italian-themed restaurant on all ships but Silver Explorer.
Speaking of dining, on Silversea guests have five choices for dinner (six on Silver Spirit). Other small luxury ships offer multiple dining options, but what’s sets Silversea apart are two dining venues that you won’t find on any other small ship: Black Rock Dining and Le Champagne. The Pool Deck is transformed each evening for Black Rock Dining, where guests cook their own meat or seafood on lava stones preheated to 1600?F. You won’t find a better place to get a little sizzle with your steak. Don’t feel like cooking for yourself? Let a French chef do it at the only Relais & Chateaux restaurant at sea, Le Champagne.
In the luxury sector, service is paramount, and all luxury cruise lines boast high standards of service. Silversea is no exception. With its low annual turnover of staff, Silversea’s vessels often feature the same familiar faces to repeat cruisers. Staff greet all guests by name and within a day or two know their dining — and drink — preferences. I find it to be remarkable that Silversea staff can make every guest feel as if he/she is the most important person on the ship.
So that’s five things that sets Silversea apart: Six small ships, including an expedition vessel; butler service in all staterooms and suites; a strong Italian heritage that manifests itself in quality cuisine; multiple dining venues, including two that you won’t find anywhere else at sea; and staff who feel like family.