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Because of the nature of this cruise (transatlantic crossing) and because of the weather, we did little but relax and enjoy the ship. After several strenuous days of aerobic fork-lifting in the dining rooms, eye-hand coordination exercises with the remote control in our suite, and "Active Listening" protocols with Bazz Norton in the Observation Lounge, I decided I needed a massage.
The Mandara Spa on the Silversea ships are oases of Zen calm, as befits an Asian-Indonesian-styled enterprise. In July, 2000, Steiner Leisure Ltd. purchased a controlling interest in Mandara, which is now run by the ubiquitous cruise ship Steiner of London concession. "The Steiner Ladies" are well known for their sales pitches prior to, during, and after a client's massage, facial, manicure or hair cut, offering scary-sounding "prescriptions" for pricey balms, creams, salves and other items with pseudo phamaceutical names. "The first time you try to hustle our guests," Steiner was apparently told by Silversea after the purchase, "You'll be off our ships." Steiner must have listened.
Mandara Spa Waiting Area
The woman who gave me my hands-feet-face-scalp massage (mmmmmmmmmmmm) is Norwegian born and England raised. She had worked at the tony Blakes Hotel and the sedately elegant Brown's hotel for years before she decided on a career change. My cruise was her first assignment out of Steiner's London training school, which I found surprising since she fits so perfectly with the quality and ambiance of everything Silversea. She was wonderfully efficient, charming, soothing... and she declined a tip. The "no tipping" policy applies to the spa personnel employed by Mandara Spa as well as to the ship personnel. Prices were extremely reasonable, many treatments costing less than similar services on other ships or in resort spas around the globe.
The Silver Shadow has a tiny casino with just a few slot machines and a couple of table games. During sea days and at night there were always a few dedicated regulars playing slots or trying roulette or blackjack. The concession is owned by a British company that provides casinos for most cruise lines.
The Internet center was really surprising to us. Most cruise lines, even the "Premium" lines, use a system that mercilessly gouges their passengers in a cynical ploy to tap into our demand for e-mail and our need to be "wired" at all times. Silversea saw the necessity for the computers, set up a quiet space with several sets and --when demand reached critical mass-- added a couple more in The Library. The difference with Silversea is that there are no exhorbitant fees. It isn't free, but the charges are so reasonable that it could almost be considered a gift.
I think the most I spent during any one session was $5.00 and that was for a period of 45 minutes, reading and responding to seven e-mails, and downloading pages of information about our next stop. Compare that to the $27+ I spent trying to send ONE e-mail on a mass-market cruise ship, with a $3.95 start-up charge and .75 cents per minute... and an Internet Center manager who apologised that the satellite wasn't working very well and was very, very slow.
Although I am not a golfer I had every intention of visiting and working with the resident golf pro on The Silver Shadow. The upper level beneath the stack has a golf cage that allows a guest to "play golf" every day, to practice putting and swings, with a pro on board for instruction. The lousy weather and pitching seas kept me from taking advantage of this additional perq, and indeed, the pro seems to have had an easy week since it was nearly impossible for anyone to enjoy his services. There is also a V1 personal training session offered for an additional (and reasonable) fee with private instruction and advice from the on-board pro.
YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR:
A Silversea cruise vacation isn't for everyone, that's an honest fact. People who enjoy all-night activity, lots of games and the ubiquitous art-auctions on the mass-market cruises, those who live for the midnight buffet and the Belly Flop contests, the ice-skating rinks, mountain-climbing walls, mini-golf courses and 3,000 fellow passengers, probably won't enjoy a Silversea cruise.
I happen to really like Carnival Cruise Lines, and Norwegian, and Holland America. They each do a great job in their respective niches. On the surface, they are each less expensive than Silversea, too.
BUT... even without Value Pricing, Silverseas' advance purchase discounts, when you factor in quality and extras, the difference isn't so great. There are tips, drinks, (even soft drinks on the mass-market cruise lines cost extra) and little things like the cost of Internet service. If you use one of the "alternative dining" restaurants on another cruise line you are paying $15 per person per meal, plus tip.
In fact, I compared itineraries on other cruise lines and found the prices (for cruise-only) to be very little different from Silverseas' for similar accommodation.
OUR CRUISE HAD TO END SOMETIME...
After two weeks of unbelievable pampering, incomparable luxury, new friends and gourmet dining, we slid into New York Harbor at dawn. Almost every guest on board was up on deck to watch our arrival. One of the officers "narrated" our entry with some historical data about what we were seeing, but coming up and around Lower Manhattan with the ghosts of the two World Trade Center towers on one side and the Statue of Liberty directly in front of us brought many to tears. We had just passed the first anniversary of the 9-11 attacks... even the non-USA citizens on board were quite emotional at our arrival.
Leaving The Shadow to return to our mundane lives was difficult. Saying goodbye to the wonderful people with whom we had shared time was equally difficult. We promised to keep in touch, and promised to meet again on a Silversea cruise.
It's no secret that most of the guests who find Silversea once will become repeat passengers. I certainly will.
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Interview with Cecila Bartoli
Silver Whisper by Durant and Cheryl Imboden
Silver Shadow by the Cruise Diva
Silver Shadow by Anita Dunham-Potter
Silver Whisper Photo Album by Bart de Boer
Silver Cloud by Bart de Boer