Last week, I sailed from Buenos Aires aboard Silversea’s fully-refitted Silver Cloud Expedition on what was to be her first voyage to Antarctica as part of Silversea’s luxury Silversea Expeditions brand of adventure cruises. Her recent two-month conversion into a proper, ice-strengthened luxury expedition ship marks a major milestone for the Silver Cloud, which debuted in 1994 as Silversea’s first-ever vessel.
Sadly, an issue with a fuel pump caused us to lose propulsion heading out of Puerto Madryn, Argentina and resulted in the cancellation of our Antarctic journey before it had really had a chance to begin. Silversea handled the cancellation well, refunding all guests and flying everyone from Puerto Madryn back to Buenos Aires, and onward home.
With Silver Cloud repaired and back on-track for her December 1 cruise – and her new maiden voyage to Antarctica – we’ve updated our Silver Cloud Expedition Ship Review with the latest details on Silversea’s newest expedition vessel, and take a look at some of her more prominent changes.
Tor’s Observation Lounge
Tor’s Observation Lounge is a great addition to the Silver Cloud. Located high atop Deck 9 forward, this open space has plenty of seating flanked by massive picture windows that line a full 180-degrees of the room. It is named for Viking Cruises owner Torstein Hagen, who in turn has named a restaurant on his oceangoing ships after Silversea chairman Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio.
Rather than using the existing space (which was occupied by a gymnasium), Silversea elected to tear it apart and create an entirely-new aluminum deck house to house the Observation Lounge. It was the right move: sightlines here are great, and the fact that the deck house extends all the way forward offers a commanding view of the ship’s bow.
Done in a similar style to Tor’s aboard the Silver Muse, this is a great place to be during scenic cruising. The Lounge is also stocked with a very respectable collection of books on exploration, including the Arctic, Antarctic, Africa, the British Isles, and nearly every destination that Silver Cloud will cover in her first year of service. These include guide books, but also nonfiction works of history and biographies of important figures, like Roald Amundsen, Ernest Shackleton, Apsley Cherry-Garrard, and others.
The only downside to the Lounge: there’s no internal connector. To access it, you have to go up the forward stairwell to Deck 9, cross over the open decks between the Zodiacs, and enter the lounge. During my quick voyage, access to the lounge was closed off during high winds and heavy seas. That’s not an issue in the Mediterranean, but the Drake Passage is another story.
The Explorer Lounge
The main theatre on Deck 6 has been turned into one of the largest lecture and briefing halls at sea. Rebranded as the Explorer Lounge, the former theatre now features a much brighter colour scheme, along with new furniture designed to reflect the styling introduced aboard the Silver Muse.
The Explorer Lounge also benefited from some serious technological upgrades, with new audiovisual equipment and three new screens for presentations and recaps. Briefings in this elegant, classy space are a real pleasure, and the increased stage size allowed our Expedition Team to present an amazingly funny rendition of the Beaufort Scale during some particularly nasty weather on the way to Puerto Madryn.
The only downside to an otherwise lovely room: the seating design is awkward and crowded, rendering it impossible to leave the lounge without disturbing other guests during presentations and briefings, especially if you’re seated in the comfy banquettes.
The Restaurant on Deck 4 retains much of its former look, but with an important distinction: most of it is covered with teal-colored carpeting designed to match the new teal-and-blue-checkered upholster on the chairs.
Eagle-eyed observers will also notice the hooks embedded into the floor in order to chain the furniture down in rough weather so that it doesn’t slide around.
New flatware and stemware complements the room’s spruced-up look, which still comes off as one of the nicest dining spaces in the Silversea fleet thanks to its vaulted ceiling and elegant mood lighting.
Even though Silver Cloud is now sailing to some of the world’s most remote places, the same great Silversea food is still served up on a nightly basis, and menus reflect those found on the rest of the line’s classic luxury fleet.
All suites onboard Silver Cloud have had a major overhaul and while the ship is almost entirely full, we managed to snap a photograph of the living area of one of the new Silver Suites on Deck 7. Instead of having only three of these fantastic rooms, as was the case in the past, the fully-refitted Silver Cloud now boasts a total of 12 Silver Suites, each of which measures 541 square feet.
Throughout, staterooms feature new wall treatments, lighting options, switches, power outlets (including two new USB plugs), iHome docking stations with Bluetooth capability, new telephones, all-new furniture, and a new Samsung flat-panel television plugged into the ship’s video-on-demand system.
The existing woodworking, except for the original trim, has been removed from these rooms. Suite bathrooms, redone in a refit a few years back, haven’t been altered from their previous incarnation. Check the latest deckplan, as some suites still offer tub-and-shower combinations (denoted with a water droplet icon), while most suites have the standalone showers that were installed during the last major refit.
The new Photo Academy is an interesting addition to the Silver Cloud. Occupying the space formerly taken up by the Casino on Deck 5, the Photo Academy offers 11 computer workstations (half Mac, half PC) for guests to participate in photo workshops while onboard.
Together with the Expedition Team’s resident photo pro, guests can take part in one-on-one sessions, couples classes, or group sessions for friends and family. These come at an extra cost; a class on Adobe Lightroom basics will run you $120 as an individual class, or $100 per person for a couple.
For those who want to improve their photo skills in the field, you can go out with the resident photo professional for $850 per couple for five sessions in the Photo Academy and on-land. If money is no object, $2800 gets you a Family and Friends experience for up to six people, plus a private Zodiac.
New and Notable
On the ship’s upper decks, a new gantry system stores the ship’s zodiac rafts. There are two of these big, black gantries aboard Silver Cloud now: one aft of Tor’s Observation Lounge, and one aft of the funnel. They’re tucked out of the way, but their position aft does eliminate the possibility to walk completely around the ship on Deck 9, and removes the former jogging track that used to be here.
One deck down, the Pool Deck has been entirely redone, and looks fantastic. I’m perhaps happiest that the green astroturf decking on Deck 9, which would turn soggy and squishy every time it rained, has been replaced with faux non-skid teak decking by marine surface provider Bolidt. It is both classy and functional, and gives Silver Cloud’s upper decks the treatment they deserve.
The ship also boasts a new Fitness Center on Deck Six; new Boutiques; and completely redone décor in hallways and public rooms.
Together, these changes have gelled together to bring a new lease on life to Silversea’s trailblazing first vessel, which soldiers on to new destinations in her role as the company’s newest expedition flagship.
One that now has a brand-new fuel pump, to boot.