As Silversea Expeditions marked its 10th anniversary in June, Travel Agent was onboard the recently updated Silver Cloud Expedition, its newest flagship, for a London-to-Dublin celebratory sailing. Originally launched in 1993 for Silversea Cruises’ classic fleet, today it’s the line’s largest expedition ship, carrying 254 guests (200 in polar regions).
During a $40 million 2017 drydock, Silver Cloud received an ice-strengthened hull, so it can operate safely in polar regions. This past June, for example, it journeyed to 82 degrees north, less than 500 miles from the North Pole. Here are a few “take-aways” from our non-polar two-night cruise.
Interior Changes: Guests who’ve sailed on Silver Cloud in the past will notice that the ship’s interior has a lighter interior color scheme, similar to what’s on Silver Muse. Public spaces and suites also have expeditionary-focused artwork — in many cases large, historic black-and-white photos of famous expeditions. Thanks to Silversea’s partnership with the Royal Geographic Society in the UK, select voyages feature RGS speakers who lecture in the onboard Explorer Lounge. These small steps show how the ship’s onboard personality has evolved; I felt Silver Cloud definitely “looked the part” for its new expeditionary role.
Ultra-Luxury Service “Lives”: Ultra-luxury is alive and well on this vessel, despite its conversion to expedition cruising. Service was professional but both friendly and nicely anticipatory. Silver Cloud has 223 crew members, including butlers for every suite. Butlers will help guests pack or unpack, make spa or dining reservations, set up al fresco dining on the balcony, or arrange an in-suite cocktail party with friends who are traveling onboard.
On embarkation day, my butler promptly introduced himself. He offered to help me unpack, stocked my minibar with favorite beverages and asked how he could assist; his service was consistently good throughout the cruise. I noticed that waiters, bartenders and restaurant managers were also professional, friendly and eager to please — offering to get refills without being asked or going to La Terrazza’s buffet for “this” and “that,” upon request. Dining service in The Restaurant was well-orchestrated.
While I didn’t have time to experience the Zagara Spa, I was greeted pleasantly when I visited to look around and a spa staffer promptly showed me a treatment room when I asked — and without any “hard sell” for bookings. Even at debarkation, the security crew member at the gangway was proactive in his desire to assist guests.
Pampering Accommodations: Silver Cloud has opulent, large Owner’s and Grand Suites, but also many other sizes — from 240 to 1,314 square feet. Since 80 percent have private verandas, it’s easy for many guests to just step outside their suite to watch whales, penguins or other wildlife. My 295-square-foot Verandah Suite, #624, was a pampering enclave of luxury, and it was just a short walk to guest services and the expedition desk. Silver Cloud’s suites all feature such creature comforts as luxurious queen-sized beds (convertible to two twins) with high-thread count sheets, down duvets and pillow choices.
My adjacent sitting area had a couch, two chairs, a coffee table, plus a long credenza with a writing desk, mini-fridge, shelves and a large flat-screen HDTV with high-tech entertainment system. The walk-in closet housed fluffy robes, slippers, drawers and a personal safe. The marble bathroom had one sink on a marble vanity, a toilet and shower, and guests can choose either Bvlgari or Ferragamo toiletries. All suites have free Wi-Fi.
A Superb Theater: This ship’s large, multi-tiered Explorer Lounge is the hot spot for lectures, presentations and movie / video showings. I attended two “live” programs here and observed that the theater had a good sound system, large video screens and very good sight lines. Guests who wish to sleep in and still catch a lecture can do so via the in-suite video system.
On select voyages, speakers from the UK’s Royal Geographical Society will share insights, research and archive materials with guests in the theater. During our presentation, the Society brought a sextant used by Charles Darwin and guests could come down front to closely look at it.
Cuisine and Wine: On embarkation day, I dined at the Pool Bar & Grill for lunch; it offered tasty salads, burgers and other light fare. In the evening, this venue becomes The Grill with lava stone cooking (meat, fish or vegetables) directly at the guest’s table. La Terrazza proved a lovely casual venue with an upscale buffet approach for breakfast and lunch. Guests can choose from fresh berries, exotic fruits, multiple fresh salads, hot entrees, carved meats, sushi, fresh pasta, freshly baked breads, soups, yummy desserts and more. During dinner, La Terrazza transforms into an intimate Italian eatery with table service.
The Restaurant serves up contemporary, international cuisine, plus regional specialties (based on the itinerary). We felt both the cuisine and wine selections were very good. Given our limited time onboard, we couldn’t experience La Dame by Relais & Chateaux, offering a six-course tasting menu with fine wines ($60 per person). I did order room service — complimentary and available 24-7 — for breakfast. It was timely, tasty and elegantly presented by my butler.
Silver Cloud has introduced My Photo Academy, using the ship’s new Photo Studio as a hub for photography-based workshops.
Other Perks: Photography of wildlife / marine life and stunning scenery is a top pursuit of expedition guests, so Silver Cloud has introduced My Photo Academy, using the ship’s new Photo Studio as a hub for photography-based workshops. In private or group lessons, beginners can learn how to take and edit photos and pros can improve their techniques.
At the fitness center, guests can work out with elliptical trainers, free weights, treadmills and exercise bikes. Circuit training and Pilates, yoga and aerobics classes are available onboard as well. There’s also a pool and two whirlpools. Silver Cloud’s modern boutiques have been re-designed recently and offer such brands as Le Vian, Buccellati, Damiani, Tag Heuer, Bulgari, Gucci, Paul & Shark, Sisley and Swarovski.
This ship never felt crowded, and there were always little nooks or lounges for reading throughout the ship. The Panorama Lounge or Dolce Vita are good spots for cocktails with friends or a hot cup of Earl Grey. Cigar lovers can head for Connoisseur’s Corner. We particularly liked relaxing in Tor’s Observation Library/Lounge; the venue’s name is a tip of the hat from Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio to Torstein Hagen, the chairman of Viking Cruises, who opened Manfredi’s as an alternative dining venue on Viking’s ocean ships.
Good to Know: Silver Cloud carries an expedition team of 20-22 experts. Depending on the itinerary, these could include biologists, geologists, ornithologists and wildlife / marine experts; they lecture, run workshops, lead Zodiac and kayak trips and guide nature walks, all complimentary. Shore excursions are conducted in groups of 14 or fewer guests. The ship carries 16 Zodiacs and 10 kayaks, and all guests on polar expeditions receive a complimentary parka.
Among its sailings are special “Explorer’s Collection” voyages, a partnership between Silversea Expeditions and the Royal Geographical Society. These retrace (in part at least) the routes taken by early explorers. For example, Silver Cloud departs August 26, 2019, on a 16-day roundtrip Explorer’s Collection voyage from Kangerlussuaq to Canadian Arctic and Greenland destinations and locales. It’s just one of the line’s voyages taking ultra-luxury into the adventure zone.