Silversea Caribbean Cruise Aboard the Silver Wind December 9-17, 2019
by Carol Farnworth
We love to get away to warm places in the winter. So my husband John and I selected an Eastern Caribbean voyage on Silversea Cruises' Silver Wind. The ship holds 274 passengers and 239 crew. However, since this was a sailing date right before Christmas, there were only about 200 on our sailing. I appreciated the slightly quieter atmosphere and extra public space.
HOW ABOUT SOME CARIBBEAN ATMOSPHERE BEFORE WE GO?
PRE-CRUISE We flew down to Puerto Rico one day early, which I always recommend for a cruise. Taxis from the San Juan airport to our hotel had a set rate of $23. We stayed the night at Courtyard by Marriott in San Juan. It was acceptable. No one at this type of hotel was available to help with bags. Last time we were in San Juan we stayed at the Sheraton, but hotel availability in San Juan always seems tight and there were no bargains. We had been assigned a 2:00pm check in time at the pier. I am so glad we decided to allow lots of extra time to get across the city to the waterfront. Three very large cruise ships were in port (at a different port than for Silversea), traffic getting through the city was unbelievable. One fellow passenger said it took an hour and a half for her taxi to reach the ship. And she said they were only about 5 miles away.
PORT THOUGHTS Our cruise started from San Juan, Puerto Rico, then we sailed onto St. Barts, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, St. John and finally ended in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. We had visited all these ports on prior cruises (except Samana)—so we didn’t take any of the organized ship excursions and just wandered around on our own.
We were supposed to also visit La Romana in the Dominican Republic, but there was a schedule problem and we visited Samana instead, also in the Dominican Republic.
Since our last St. Lucia visit a quite nice shopping area around the pier has developed. The ship also organized a complimentary late afternoon beach party on St. Lucia. While we were not able to attend, we heard it was very nice, with music from two steel bands.
There was similar development dockside in St. Maarten. We were stunned when three gigantic cruise ships were in port along with us. Over 16,000 cruise passengers suddenly descended on the port of Philipsburg!
SEA DAYS Maybe because this was a fairly port intensive cruise, there was not a great deal of organized activity on the two sea days. Golf putting and trivia seemed to be the best attended activities of the day. Most people seemed content to be out on deck. There were no photographers on board and no art auctions. Library was nicely stocked with comfortable tables and chairs, although we never saw anybody sitting in there. There are additional books in the Observation Lounge at the top of the ship. This deck is also where the fitness center and spa/beauty salon are located. Yoga and other classes are held in this lounge but I never saw anybody in it otherwise. It was a poor utilization of space.(MOBILTY NOTE: The Silver Wind was the perfect size ship for us, since my husband John needs a transport chair pushed most of the time. He can walk just short distances. It was odd that no regular elevator to reach Deck 9. You either have to take stairs from the outside deck, or from Deck 8 there is a wheelchair lift up to the higher deck.)
SHIP DECOR AND CONDITION The ship is scheduled for refurbishment to expedition status in 2020. I had read on-line reviews before boarding which made it sound like drydock was WAY overdue, so I was not expecting the ship to look great and I was pleasantly surprised. I found the carpeting, upholstery and general condition of the ship to be very good. There was lots of dark wood, marble and tile, which I understand will be updated to a more modern look with the refurbishment. UPGRADE NOTE: A major upgrade in December 2018 saw Silver Wind looking better than ever. A second refurbishment in November 2021 saw her benefitting from a strengthened to ice-class hull and made her one of the most adaptable ships in Silversea's fleet.
OUR STATEROOM We had a midship veranda suite which was very comfortable. It had a layout similar to mini-suites on Princess but just wider giving a bit more space. It also had a walk-in closet, a bathtub and shower. The bathroom size was okay, but not overly spacious and somewhat dark and it could use better lighting. The television in room had the regular assortment of news and other shows plus on-demand television shows and movies. The room service menu is 24/7 and very impressive - really the best I have seen on any ship. They also will serve the menu from the restaurant in your room if you wish, but that’s sort of in the fine print of information.
OUR BUTLER Each suite has butler service. In addition to a regular room steward, our butler was from India and he was movie star handsome! He helped us arrange for a minor repair to John's transport chair done and even helping tie John's tie for the formal night. Living in casual Oregon John had forgotten how to do this!
DRESS CODE Speaking of dress code, the Silversea website says: Shipboard attire ranges from casual to formal. Casual wear is appropriate for daytime aboard ship or ashore and consists of standard sports outfits as worn at five-star resorts. Shoes should be flat or low heeled for deck activities. Evening attire falls into three categories: casual, informal and formal. On casual evenings, pants, blouses, skirts and casual dresses for ladies; open-neck shirts and slacks for gentlemen are appropriate. On informal evenings, ladies usually wear dresses or pantsuits; gentlemen wear jackets (tie optional). Appropriate formal evening wear for ladies is an evening gown or cocktail dress; gentlemen wear tuxedos, dinner jackets or dark suits. Tie is required. On formal nights, guests may dine in La Terrazza and choose to dress informal; dresses or pantsuits for ladies, jackets for gentlemen (tie optional). Dining at The Grill is optional casual attire all nights. Following dinner on the formal night, all guests are free to take advantage of any or all public spaces, however, jacket is required. Sailings of 9 days or less typically feature 1 formal night, while longer voyages usually have 2-3 formal nights. However, despite the code and the brochure photos, we found the dress code to be far less formal. On the formal night men are supposed to wear a jacket to dinner. Many did not, and there was no fuss about that.
LOUNGES AND ENTERTAINMENT People gathered for cocktails either in The Bar or in the Panorama Lounge. There was comfortable seating in both areas, with live music before and after dinner but tiny dance floors. Entertainment and shows were in the ship’s Show Lounge. For a small size ship, it seemed unusual how large the the lounge tiered seating and a good size stage. There were no extravagant shows like on the big ships. There were six young people called the Voices of Silversea who performed in various shows, but these were sadly rather poorly attended. The cruise director was Colin Barbierre-Brown, who was a real class act and a trained concert pianist. He did three classical oriented programs that were excellent.
DINING The Restaurant is open for full service breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was pretty sparely attended except for dinner. The room itself is just one large space. It could really use being somehow broken up so you don’t feel you are in a convention-type dining room. There was not even candles on the table or ambient lighting at night. Dinner menus were were three pages. The top page changed nightly and the second two pages of choices changed every three or four days.
There were always choices of a lobster dish, beef tenderloin, NY steak, etc. It was quite good except I found I needed to season food more than I would normally. The portion side was perfect.
Just off The Restaurant is a small space called La Dame. It is a specialty restaurant with concentration of pairing wines with the menu. It has a $60 cover charge. It did not seem super popular, but I spoke to a couple of people who dined there and thought it was excellent.
La Terraza is another venue for meals. Has outdoor dining space as well at back of ship. Very popular breakfast and lunch, buffet. Waiters would take special orders for breakfast, like omelets, eggs Benedict, etc. I thought it could also use a daily breakfast special, like some kind of crepe or quiche. Lunch was pretty much the same daily with salads, meats, and pizza made to order. John is more a fan of pizza than I am but he said it was nothing special. However they did always have sushi and sashimi (which I love) so I was a happy camper. A daily pasta special at lunch would have been nice. On the last day they had a fabulous cold shellfish buffet. It was so impressive, people were taking photos of it. At night La Terraza turns into a Italian restaurant with waiter service, homemade pasta and a number of other choices. It was very nice with lovely atmosphere and we ate here twice. If you are sailing with Silversea, definitely book ahead for dinner reservations. We were on a waitlist for our last dinner. It is always easier to cancel than to get on board and be disappointed not to be able to dine here.
The Grill is one of the most inviting poolside casual restaurants I have seen on any ship. Instead of buffet style, there are menus and orders taken at your table for lunch. There were excellent appetizer platters, wraps, hotdogs, hamburgers and desserts. John figures we drank at least $100 worth of champagne (the real stuff) one day at lunch. On occasional nights they also have a casual Hot Rocks dinner option where they heat flat stones super hot and you cook your own dinner at your table – shrimp, salmon, steaks.
Afternoon tea is also served in La Terraza, or you can opt for it to be served in your room. It was a lovely presentation with a choice of perhaps eight loose teas and a three-story tower of pastries, sandwiches, cakes, cookies and scones. There was lovely live music.
THE CREW The crew could not have been nicer or more helpful. They really go out of their way to be friendly and made sure we were happy. The wait staff, a mix of European and Indonesian and Filippino people, were excellent.
This cruise was the perfect, warm, luxurious escape that we needed!