Sunday, May 26, 2013

Goldring Travel's Silversea Silver Shadow Alaska Cruise Review - Part I

On May 30, 2013 I am boarding the Silversea Silver Shadow for a one week Alaska cruise from Vancouver to Seward and then onto Anchorage via the included Alaska Railroad domed wildlife viewing train. 


I know that this may not be the perfect time to visit Alaska and a mere week on a cruise seems all to short, but with a busy schedule this cruise was the best fit for my purposes.  My purposes, you ask?  I am doing my job here! 


Silversea has been working hard to improve the consistency of its luxury cruise product and the time has come for me to see first-hand how things are going.  Having been to Alaska on pretty much the same itinerary in reverse on Regent Seven Seas Mariner a few years ago, cruised on the Crystal Symphony on the West Coast  even more recently and having an intimate knowledge of the Seabourn ships, there are going to be a lot of comparisons.  But there is also going to be a focus on what Silversea delivers that is unique; what distinguishes Silversea from the pack.

The Silver Shadow was built in 2000 and sails with 382 guests and 302 crew.  The ship is all-suite with the majority of the suites having private balconies (there are a few Oceanview Suites and even fewer Terrace Suites that share a large balcony).  I will be sailing in a Veranda 3 Suite on Deck 6.


Note:  While there will be some differences, I did a ship inspection of the Silver Whisper, the Shadow's sister ship, two years ago and am providing some photos of her here for context. During my cruise the photos will only be from the Silver Shadow.

The ship has a number of dining venues ranging from The Restaurant to the more casual La Terrazza to the truly luxurious Le Champagne (including its $200 per person tasting menu)



to the Pool Grill (and its popular Black Rock Gill "hot rocks" concept).  My goal is to dine in each venue (though, honestly, the Black Rock Grill - if it is warm enough to be offered - may be given a miss...just a personal choice).

The public areas on the Silver Shadow are more traditional as is her styling as the ship is thirteen years old.  That is not necessarily a bad thing, as I do enjoy the warmth of wood as well as the recognition of the fact that you are actually on a ship with a bit of maritime heritage.


One area that I wish all luxury cruise ships had is a dedicated smoking room (which I will use to smoke an occasional cigar).  While having a puff outdoors is truly enjoyed, I understand that the vast majority of people no longer wish to share the experience out on deck...or in other public venues.  So for me I am interested to see how the Connoisseur's Corner functions (as a refined space or a smoking closet).
 
As Alaska is rich in natural history I am also very interested to see how Silversea's enrichment program pans out.  Silversea let's you know who the scheduled enrichment lecturers are well in advance.  There are two on this cruise, but neither appear to be specialists on Alaska...but you never know how close the "blurb" about them reflects their knowledge or passion.
 
OK, so what is the itinerary and what do I have planned?
 
May 30 2013ThuVancouver, Canada 



May 31 2013FriCruising the Inside Passage



Jun 01 2013SatKetchikan, Alaska, USA  



Jun 02 2013SunCruising Tracyarm/Sawyer Glacier  



Jun 02 2013SunJuneau, Alaska, USA  



Jun 03 2013MonSkagway, Alaska, USA  



Jun 04 2013TueSitka, Alaska, USA  



Jun 05 2013WedCruising the Hubbard Glacier  



Jun 06 2013ThuSeward, Alaska, USA 
 
Having been on a similar cruise once before, and my primary purpose of this cruise is to "use the heck out of the ship", I have not planned too many shoreside activities.  That said, Silversea has a very impressive list of shore excursion offerings in each port (especially for the number of guests) and the prices are extremely reasonable. 
 
Also, having just been in Iceland this past February and been up close and personal with glaciers and ice walls, I don't feel compelled to engage in the same sort of activities here.
 
Instead I am doing three things that get me off-the-beaten-path and into the forest!  In Ketchikan we are taking the Rainforest Wildlife Sanctuary Tour, in Skagway we are taking the Grizzly Falls Ziplining Expedition (11 ziplines and 4 suspension bridges!) and in Sitka we are taking the Tongass Rainforest Hike.  In early June I expect to get wet and muddy in my ventures into as close to the Alaskan backwoods as one can easily get to on a cruise, but I am very much looking forward to it.  You see luxury is not necessarily flying onto a glacier for a 15 minute walkaround, but finding ways to enrich one's soul.  [Note:  my 11 zipline experience costs $159 which is not much more than the $93 single zipline ride on my Celebrity cruise in March.]
  
So let's see how all this goes.  I am, most certainly, looking forward to this experience.  And you should look forward to my honest and candid comments!
 
And if it inspires you to try Silversea, whether sailing in Alaska or somewhere else in the world, give me a call at (877) 2GO-LUXURY or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com.