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Silver Spirit Cruise Review

Page 7
Continued from page 6

Silver Spirit tender in Alghero, Sardinia

ABOVE: Going ashore by tender in Alghero, Sardinia.

Shore excursions

Alhambra tourLike other cruise lines that feature port-intensive itineraries, Silversea offers shore excursions at most ports of call. Typically, passengers can choose among several different tours, which might range from a 3-hour city walking tour to an all-day excursion. (On our cruise, the most ambitious shore trip was a 9-hour coach tour from Málaga to the Alhambra in Granada.)

Unlike many cruise lines, Silversea usually keeps its groups small, which means that buses are less crowded and guides don't need to herd 40 or 50 guests.

Tour guide with Quietvox microphoneOn selected shore excursions, passengers of Silver Spirit are given Quietvox devices and headsets. The system consists of a small radio receiver (a little larger than a granola bar) and a lightweight earpiece that plugs into the receiver via a USB connector. We tried the device during our Alhambra excursion, and it proved useful: Thanks to the radio connection, we could hear the tour guide more easily in crowded or noisy places, and we didn't have to miss the guide's insights if we hung back to grab a photo or to look at something that interested us.

Tour from Palma de MallorcaThe shore concierge staff can also arrange private half- and full-day tours by private car or van. (One advantage of booking through Silversea, instead of on your own, is that the ship is less likely to depart without you if your driver has a flat tire or gets stuck in traffic.)

  • Note: A handful of cruise lines include shore excursions in their fares. This makes sense on specialized cruise ships with an educational focus, but for most cruising, we prefer Silversea's a la carte approach. Silversea often provides an onboard spending credit of US $500 to $1,500 per suite, and you can use this credit to pay for the shore excursions that interest you--or for other things, if you prefer independent activities to organized tours.

Shuttles

Shuttle bus sign in Palma de Mallorca cruise portIf you've cruised with mass-market and mid-priced lines, you've probably experienced the annoyance of needing to hire a taxi or find public transportation from a remote pier to the city center. One of the luxuries of a Silversea cruise is having a free shuttle bus in ports (such as Palma de Mallorca or Málaga) where the pier is more than a five- or 10-minute walk from the sights. Air-conditioned coaches normally run every 30 minutes in both directions, with a break for lunch.

Tenders

Silver Spirit tenderIn some ports (such as Alghero, Sorrento, or Porquerolles), shallow harbors or inadequate piers make it necessary to go ashore by tender. This can be a nuisance if you're cruising on a large ship, where you may be required to obtain a "tender ticket" from the reception desk and sit in a lounge while waiting for your group to be called.

Boarding a Silver Spirit tenderOn Silversea, there are no tickets and no waiting: You just go to the tender deck and board the next boat, which usually leaves within a few minutes. On shore, Silversea sets up a tent or awning where you can get out of the sun and enjoy a bottle of water while waiting for the next boat.

  • Free bottled water on Silver SpiritNote: Unlike some cruise lines, which hustle overpriced bottled water to passengers going ashore, Silversea provides free bottled water at the gangway or tender hatch in every port. (This may not be a reason to book a cruise on Silver Spirit, but it illustrates one of the differences between a luxury cruise line and mainstream cruising.)

Next page: Crew, service




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