The recently launched Princess Cruises Golden Princess and Silversea Cruises Silver Whisper offer cruise passengers alternative styles in experiencing the ultimate cruise vacation. The elegant, suites-only Silver Whisper caters to every whim of 382 up-scale vacationers. This line has won the Number One, Small Ship Cruise Line award and bills itself as, "The best the world has to offer," offering 6-star service. Silversea fare is among the highest in the industry, but it is an all inclusive fare. All beverages, including wines, spirits, and champagne are complimentary. No gratuities are expected. Roundtrip airfare with transfers, porterage, and a comfortable night in a deluxe hotel before embarkation are included in the fare. Some cruises feature a complimentary shoreside event. Italian officers, European staff, and an international crew, form a passenger-to-crew ratio of 1.31 to 1. This 28,258-ton liner offers more space per passenger than any other ship sailing the seas.
As we boarded the ship, subdued colors and rich materials suggested sophisticated refinement, rather than "look at me, I'm expensive." Adding to the posh atmosphere, we passed the only Bvlgari boutique at sea. World-class shoppers can drop big bucks there. A petite casino awaits discreetly in an alcove off the main passenger area.
The all-suite life seduces. The Vista Suite is the smallest at 287 square feet. This compares to the 150 to 185 square foot standard cabin on other ships. The 1408 square foot Owner's Suite includes a large veranda, covered by a roof to insure privacy. Numerous amenities include refrigerators, safes, hair dryers, walk-in closets, twin bathroom sinks in marble counters, separate stall showers and tubs, guest powder rooms, flat screen plasma TVs, CD stereo systems, and dining tables.
The Balinese-style Mandara Spa appeared meager on space, and we yearned for the floor to ceiling windows surrounding gymnasiums on larger ships. Some passengers on treadmills face walls. Hot rock massages, and the latest in spa treatments await passengers who stay in shape utilizing a jogging track, pool and two Jacuzzi spas.
The new Poolside Grille, Humidor cigar club, a computer center, and Le Champagne wine and champagne bar by Moet & Chandon, the ship's champagne, provide cruise amusements. Stadium seating in the burgundy, blue and beige showroom is free of sight-line obstacles. Three revues are presented. Individual performers, and local entertainment at port destinations are brought aboard.
Although there are no nursery or child facilities, the ship's representative claims that the occasional child brought on board is cosseted and spoiled with attention. Mike Love, of the legendary Beach Boys, had a suite for his child and nanny, as well as one for himself.
We noted the lack of a virtual reality area of machines binging and twinging which has become a stable on the behemoth ships, such as the Carnival Triumph. The cozy library operates on the honor system. The card room is designed for bridge and other civilized pursuits of the affluent.
Guests paying the tariff of a luxury ship expect the finest gourmet food and drink, and they get it on the Silver Whisper. The burgundy and beige dining room avoids the huge chandeliers seen on other ships. Guests arrive when they wish, and sit wherever and with whom they choose. Discreet granite and inlaid wood floors accent the splendor. Appointments of German china, Schott crystal, and silver bud vases compliment the ambiance.
Following caviar and champagne, our luncheon was an exquisite medley in taste. An artistically presented creation of blini, crab, and caviar stack was the starter, followed by risotto with scallops and duck, tender-as-butter filet of beef on polenta surrounded by baby vegetables, and the big finish individual chocolate soufflé. This is a typical meal that may be served, course-by-course, in a passenger's suite, if desired. Every whim of the passenger is anticipated and masterfully satisfied on this luxury liner. When cost is not a consideration, the Silversea Silver Whisper is an excellent choice.
For a more moderate fare, the Golden Princess, offers "personal choice cruising," in an opulent setting. A breathtaking atrium flanked by ornate, glass elevators decorated in gold metal-leaf designs, and luxurious appointments of rich wood, marble and granite create stunning public rooms. Staterooms are available from an affordable 160-square-foot, inside cabin to suites of 800 square feet, including a balcony. Many have tubs, handy for traveling tots. This ship has 28 wheelchair accessible cabins ranging in size from 240 to 385 square feet. A total of 1,301 cabins accommodates 2,600 passengers at full capacity. 1,114 in crew are on board.
Some servers are surprisingly dour, but competent, and the cuisine is above average. Alternative dining venues, such as Sabatini serving an extravagant two-hour dinner, the popular up-scale Southwest Desert Rose, and the casual Lido deck restaurant provide passengers with the line's "personal choice cruise options." "Personal choice cruising" has some detractors who prefer the former cruise routine. They don't like making reservations, occasionally standing in line for dining, and not having the same servers to make them feel special by anticipating their needs attentively. Younger cruisers don't want the restrictions of formal evening clothes and dining hours etched in bronze. They insist on freedom of choice on a vacation.
We were surprised by the youthful passenger make-up on this sailing. To lure younger markets, the ship offers virtual-reality golf at $20.00 per half hour, free miniature golf, ping pong, shuffleboard, a gigantic chess board on deck, an enormous Voyager Discovery area of virtual-reality games, a cyber café for the computer literate, a camp for youngsters where movies are also shown, and an outside play area and pool. There is a charge for Hagen Dàz frozen treats, to the annoyance of some. Adults avail themselves of bridge classes and game play in the Aces card room and wile away time in the inviting library. Both of these rooms are attractively decorated and surrounded by panoramic windows.
Productions in the showroom are "very happening. We don't copy anyone else," says Jami, the young stage manager. The Grand Class ships have three show venues, and innovatively produce a murder mystery show. Passengers are now offered a backstage tour, since present security prohibits tours of the bridge. Seeing how huge headdresses and costumes on pulleys are dropped on performers is fascinating. We were surprised to learn that the performers did their own hair and make-up with some assistance.
Both the Silver Whisper and Golden Princess will provide cruise prospectors with a lifetime of memories of visits to interesting ports and cruise adventures. Your budget - your choice.
Photos courtesy of Silversea Cruises & Princess Cruises.
For lots more SeaLetter photos and information on Silver Whisper, click HERE.
For lots more SeaLetter photos and information on Golden Princess, click HERE.
Jack and Toni White of Rancho Mirage, California have, for many years, been freelance travel writers specializing in cruise travel. Their articles have appeared in newspapers throughout the United States and Canada, including the Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, and Vancouver Sun. Prestigious Palm Springs Life magazine published their article on filming the movie "Out to Sea" on the Holland America Line Westerdam. They also write regularly for Mature Living and Plus, formerly Senior Life.
Jack graduated from USC as an architect. His background in architecture allows him to review, write, and produce photographs from a unique perspective. Toni attended UCLA after graduating from Hollywood High School where she had been the Feature Editor of the Hollywood High School News, where one of the writers was comedienne Carole Burnett. Toni lived abroad for many years in South America and in the UK and has a familiarity with different cultures that influences her writing. The Whites love to travel and especially want to share their passion for cruising with you.
Toni & Jack White may be reached at: JACNTONI@aol.com.
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