Sailing the Inside Passage aboard Silver Shadow
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
Silversea’s Silver Shadow was making an easy 16 knots when I awoke this morning, hugging the coast of Vancouver Island as we made our way up towards Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands) and on to Alaska.
People often ask me why they should bother with a balcony stateroom or suite in Alaska. The answer is simple: the views. The scene I woke up to just outside the balcony doors of my Veranda Suite was nothing short of fantastic. You won’t be doing much sun-tanning on the balcony, but you will be spending plenty of time there admiring the scenery.
I’ve sailed to Alaska several times now, and I’ve cruised with Silversea on a number of different voyages. I’m also a creature of habit, so I tend to find a handful of things I like to do both onboard and ashore and stick with them. Not so on this voyage: I’m actively seeking out things I’ve never done before.
In keeping with that theme, I made an appointment yesterday at the Spa at Silversea to have my hair cut this morning at 9:00 a.m. I’ve never had my hair cut before on any cruise, but I’ve always been curious about it. And, since my hair styling was madly out of control, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try something new.
No longer exclusively a female domain, spas onboard cruise ships offer dedicated treatments for men in addition to a wide array of massages and other exotic rituals. And, at $45, the Men’s Cleanse, Cut and Style Dry option is only about five dollars more than I’d pay to have my hair cut at home. Sorry, Adam – you can cut my hair next month. I promise!
Monika from Poland was my stylist for the hour it took to cut my hair. She asked how I’d like my hair cut and checked frequently to ensure that the style was coming out right, and that I was happy with the length. The room was bright and pleasant and looked out onto the corridor running along Deck 10 from the forward stairwell to the Observation Lounge. Roughly four people – if I am not mistaken – could have their hair cut at the same time on a busy day. I am sure this afternoon will be booked solid, as tonight is Formal Night here onboard the Silver Shadow.
If you’re thirsty, you can enjoy a glass of water or some tea or coffee while you have your hair done. Monika brought me a glass of water, and forty minutes of clipping and pleasant conversation later, and I was done; feeling – and looking – much better.
Would I get my hair cut again on a ship? Definitely. In fact, I think this was easier than trying to cram in an appointment at home before my cruise when the rush is on to pack and get organized. I also appreciated that there was no “hard sell” for additional products like you sometimes get at shipboard spas. The entire experience was very pleasant.
Before leaving the Spa, I decided to sign up for another brand-new experience later on in the cruise – but you’ll have to wait a few days to find out what that is! I am assured it’s “cool” for men to get it, so we shall see.
Worth mentioning is the fabulous mix of guests onboard the Silver Shadow this week, with a large number of guests hailing from Australia and Canada. Many guests, of course, have come from the United States, and there is also a smattering of guests from Europe and further afar.
I am also pleased to see a healthy number of families with kids ranging from babies to teenagers. I know it’s not typical luxury-line doctrine, but I think a Silversea cruise would be a fabulous experience to give your kids. Obviously it’s not suitable for every family, but the kids onboard have been nothing but pleasant and well-behaved, and seem to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. There are even dedicated kids programs onboard for them, taking place three separate times today. It’s not as elaborate as something on, say, Carnival or Disney, but I think it’s a great effort to try to cater to the broad age demographic that this sailing has attracted.
The only thing I am disappointed in are the activities scheduled for the day. At first glance, it looks like the program for the day is chocked wall-to-wall with activities. But once you remove the jewelry seminars, port shopping talks, and detox-for-weight-loss sessions, not much is left aside from tea and trivia – and those both take place within 40 minutes of each other.
Now, I don’t need to be entertained. Far from it. I would also hazard a guess that most other Silversea guests don’t suffer from boredom, either, and are quite happy reading or socializing. But the port, diamond and artwork seminars seem to be super-heavy today compared to other voyages I’ve taken with the line. It’s something I’d expect on a mainstream ship, but not necessarily on Silversea.
Instead of detoxing for weight loss, I went the other direction and headed to the Pool Grill for lunch. We’d finally sailed past the northern tip of Vancouver Island by this point, and the Silver Shadow began to move around in earnest with the swells coming in off the unsheltered expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Around 1:30 p.m., we passed Holland America’s Zuiderdam on our starboard side as she entered the Inside Passage on her way back to Vancouver.
Zuiderdam is one of my favorite mainstream ships, and I’ve enjoyed two separate trips to Alaska on her. But it really got me thinking about some of the differences between mainstream and luxury cruising – particularly as I was enjoying an Alaskan Amber ale with my Grilled Chicken Burger.
This morning, I’ve had a cappuccino, a cup of English Breakfast tea, and the aforementioned beer. On Silversea, those items come with no additional cost. On mainstream lines, I’d be out nearly $15. It’s not a lot of cash –but multiply it by 11 mornings, and you have $165. Then add in some wine with dinner, a few soft drinks or cups of coffee or the odd martini here and there – and the onboard account on a mainstream ship can start to catch up with the actual ticket price of a luxury one.
As for the Pool Grill: I’d forgotten how much I missed it. Rather than just having a standard cheeseburger on offer, Silversea’s Pool Grill features numerous entrees and even a choice of several types of hot dog. If you’re hungry, it’s tough to go wrong with the “Transatlantic Double Dog.” Even with temperatures hovering around the 10°C mark, sitting on the pool deck was quite pleasant if you had a coat on. Blue wool blankets were also placed on each chair, and they’ll keep you nice and toasty. Heaters mounted to the steel bulkheads of the forward section were also turned on for added warmth. All in all, Silversea made being up on deck – even in chilly conditions – extremely pleasant.
Tonight is Formal Night here onboard the Silver Shadow. I never really write a lot about formal nights, for two simple reasons: one, they tend to run late, and I tend to be up late as it is writing and posting these reports. Two: I hate bringing my camera along. My main goal is always to write about the onboard experience, but I feel that I’d be impacting the experience of my fellow guests if I was to wander around with a huge DSLR camera all evening.
What I can tell you is this: evenings are truly where Silversea excels. They’re certainly my favorite part of the day. Once the clock strikes five, guests retreat to their suites to put on their finest. That doesn’t mean ritzy-glitzy clothes from high-end designers; the dress code for Formal Nights like tonight recommends “Cocktail dresses or dress pantsuits” for ladies, and “Tuxedoes, dinner jackets or dark suites and tie” for men. And since the entire vessel dresses up, this becomes an event, not a chore.
Then, most guests amble down to The Bar on Deck 5 to listen to some live music and to enjoy pre-dinner cocktails. Tonight, Captain Alessandro Zanello will give his Welcome Aboard Toast (with more cocktails) in the Athenian Lounge on Deck 6. Conveniently, this can be accessed right from two doors that flank the port and starboard sides of The Bar.
After that, most guests will head to The Restaurant for the Captain’s Welcome aboard Dinner. Tonight’s menu:
En-route to Ketchikan | Friday, 20 May 2014
Our Chef’s Selections for Tonight
King Crab Timbale
Egg • Shallots • Chives • Sour Cream • Keta Caviar
Grilled Foie Gras
Caramelised Forest Fruit • Port Wine Reduction • Pain d’epice
Assiette of Artichokes
Grilled • Marinated • Stuffed • Gazpacho
SOUP, SALAD & PASTA BAR
Vegetable Cubes • Solferino Sherry
Baby Leaf Salad
15-year old Balsamic • Lemon Extra Virgin Olive Oil Vinaigrette
Penne alla San Remese
Penne • Lobster Chunks • Seafood Sauce
Grilled ‘Maine’ Lobster
Saffron Risotto • Lobster Jus
Fresh Alaskan Rock Fish
Champagne and Caviar Cream • Celeriac and New Potato Mash
Brioche Crouton • Pan-fried Foie Gras • Perigord Truffle Jus
Ask Your Waiter for Today’s Chef Special • Choice of Side Offerings
Singapore Fried Noodles
Spiced Oriental Vegetables • Roasted Sesame Seeds
What’s particularly cool about this menu – and last night’s menu, for that matter – is that there are several Regional Fare selections that are based around locally-sourced produce loaded on to the vessel at different ports of call on our itinerary. Only the Alaskan Rock Fish is regional tonight, but last night’s menu listed no less than four regionally-sourced options. I had the Rock Fish, and it was superb; plenty of flavour, but without a heavy “fishy” taste to it. The Lobster, as you might imagine, seemed to be the dish of choice this evening.
As we end our first day onboard Silver Shadow’s Voyage 3417, I realize that I’ve imagined the Silver Shadow incorrectly for four years. I had used to think of her as a scaled-down Silver Spirit, but that’s not accurate. In truth, she’s a stretch version of the Silver Cloud and her sister, Silver Wind.
Silver Shadow may have more bells-and-whistles than her pioneering fleetmates, but she has the same intimate onboard atmosphere, wrapped up in a slightly larger and more elaborate package. It’s an atmosphere that, like the rest of the Silversea fleet, lulls you into its embrace, no matter where you are in the world.
Our Live Voyage Report onboard Silversea’s luxurious Silver Shadow continues tomorrow as we come ashore in our very first port of call in Alaska: Ketchikan! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.
Follow along with our entire journey!
Silver Shadow, Alaska
|Thursday, June 19, 2014||Vancouver, British Columbia||Embark Silver Shadow||18:00|
|Friday, June 20||Cruising the Inside Passage|
|Saturday, June 21||Ketchikan, Alaska||08:00||14:00|
|Sunday, June 22||Juneau, Alaska||09:30||23:00|
|Monday, June 23||Skagway, Alaska||08:00||17:00|
|Tuesday, June 24||Sitka, Alaska||09:00||18:00|
|Wednesday, June 25||Cruising Tracy Arm / Sawyer Glacier|
|Thursday, June 26||Wrangell, Alaska||07:00||16:00|
|Friday, June 27||Prince Rupert, British Columbia||08:00||17:00|
|Saturday, June 28||At Sea|
|Sunday, June 29||Victoria, British Columbia||08:00||23:59|
|Monday, June 30||Vancouver, British Columbia||07:00||Disembark|