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Silver Spirit Cruise Review

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Mamma Mia on Silver Spirit

ABOVE: Passengers get into a "Mamma Mia!" mood during an ABBA-themed show on Silver Spirit.

Is Silversea right for you?

Passenger on Silver SpiritThe term "luxury cruising" can be a turn-off for some travelers (even those who can easily afford the fares), since it has implications of exclusivity, pretension, and stuffiness. If your experience with butlers is limited to watching Downton Abbey and you think tuxedos are best worn by waiters or nightclub performers, a Silversea cruise may not rank high on your bucket list.

But don't be too quick to judge: "Luxury" has a different meaning in the 21st Century than it did in the 20th, and Silversea--luxurious though it may be--isn't your grandfather's upscale cruise line.

On our Silver Spirit cruise, we encountered a wide spectrum of passengers, such as:

  • A handful of expensively-dressed women who could have been heiresses or movie stars.

  • Middle-aged Russian men with young wives or female companions.

  • Down-to-earth Australians, including one entertaining lady who (if she'd been British) could have played the hero's malapropistic mother in Gavin and Stacey.

  • A small multi-generational group from Japan, including two women who made origami cranes for us at lunch during a tour to the Alhambra.

  • A surprising number of pop-music enthusiasts, ranging from 20-somethings to a lady in her 70s or 80s, who shed their inhibitions while showing off their dancing skills during the nightly DJ session in Silver Spirit's panorama lounge.

  • A sprinkling of children, including a baby and a toddler.

  • Other low-key cruisers (mostly, but not exclusively, couples) from Argentina, Brazil, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Chile, Curaçao, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Mexico, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, the United States, and Venezuela.

Jewelry in Silver Spirit boutiqueStill, we wouldn't want to give the impression that Silversea has lost its edge with the landed gentry or the hedge-fund crowd:

  •  Some guests charter private jets from their home cities to the departure port (for a family or small group, a private jet can be a better value than business class or first class on a transoceanic flight).

  • Other passengers, such as aristocratic types who are used to sleeping apart in their palazzi or châteaux, book separate suites instead of sharing. And the fellow with the nautical cap who's peering through the brass telescope in the Observation Lounge may be cruising with Silversea because his own yacht is in drydock.

One final thought about luxury: To us, the luxury of a Silversea cruise isn't about free-flowing Champagne, upscale jewelry in the ship's boutique, or French chocolates at bedtime. It's about the quality of accommodations, the lack of crowding, the freedom from nickel-and-diming, and the unpretentious but attentive service.

Formality on board

Silversea passenger in gownSilversea hasn't abandoned dress codes or "formal nights" (which remain popular with traditionalists), but the evening ambiance has changed quite a bit since we first cruised with Silversea in 2002. Back then, you couldn't go anywhere on the ship after 6 p.m. on a formal night unless you were dressed appropriately. Most men wore black tie, evening gowns weren't uncommon, and the atmosphere was that of a charity event at the Waldorf.

Silversea still has a handful of formal nights during a typical cruise, with "casual" or "informal" (jackets, but no neckties) prevailing on other days.  But nowadays, the formal-night dress code applies only to the main restaurant and Le Champagne, and "formal" doesn't mean what it once did. On the two formal nights during our nine-night Silver Spirit cruise, only a minority of the guests wore tuxedos and gowns.

Cruise fares

Silver Spirit in CadizLuxury cruises have become more affordable in recent years, thanks to competition and higher occupancy rates.

When we first sailed with Silversea in 2002, a Mediterranean cruise in a standard Veranda suite was priced at nearly US $1,000 per person per day.

Ten years later, the per diem for a comparable Silversea cruise is in the $400-600 range, and most fares include an onboard spending credit of $500 to $1,500 per suite that you can use for shore excursions, Internet-access fees, surcharges in specialty restaurants, premium wines, spa treatments, or shopping.

We aren't authorities on cruise pricing, but we've been told that--unlike some cruise lines--Silversea eschews promotional fare-slashing. You'll probably get a better deal by booking early than by waiting until the last minute, and you'll certainly have a better choice of staterooms. (To check fares and special offers, see the cruise listings on the "Destinations" pages of Silversea's Web site, which we list on our Silver Spirit Web Links page.)

  • Note: Silversea's fares are "all-inclusive." That term shouldn't be taken literally--you'll be charged for shore excursions, spa treatments, and Internet access, for example--but many items that are extras on other cruise lines, such as drinks and crew tips, are included in the fare.

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