Making changes to a tried-and-tested, well-loved ship could lead to uproar if loyal customers didn’t like it, but such worries are dispelled onboard Silversea’s renovated Silver Shadow.
“It’s all about the laundry”, I keep hearing onboard Silver Shadow. And as my Veranda Suite is next to a new mini launderette, I think: “I’ve lucked out; I’m with the in-crowd.”
But a few days into this Caribbean cruise, I start to realise what guests really mean is complimentary, someone-does-it-for-you laundry.
Washed, pressed and speedily returned to your walk-in closet ready to wear, or take home with you.
It’s just one example of an ultra-luxury flourish by Silversea. So how do you get this hallowed perk?
I have to confess: I get it as a journalist privilege during my cruise, so clients could either become an editor, or you could encourage them to sail more than 100 nights to qualify.
Passengers onboard who talk of their “free laundry” are therefore obviously dyed-in-the-wool Silversea patriots, and exactly the kind of guests to appreciate a multi-million dollar, top-to-toe redesign of Silver Shadow.
As part of a move aimed at getting all ships in line with the new-build, contemporary Silver Muse, Shadow is the last in the fleet to undergo renovation.
One of the biggest changes on Shadow is on deck five, an area I’m instantly wowed by when I join the ship in Saint Lucia for a preview cruise.
The sailing is hosted by the line’s managing directors Peter Shanks (UK & Ireland, Middle East and Africa) and Mark Conroy (Americas), who are always on hand to listen to feedback.
As Shanks proudly explains: “[It’s] like a brand-new ship. Every carpet, curtain, TV and element of the suites has been updated, all doors are in a lighter finish making the corridors look much brighter, and all public areas have been refreshed. Customers seem to be loving it.”
Deck five has been transformed into the Atrium and Arts Cafe, a light, vibrant place.
There’s plenty of plush teal, blue and rich brown seating; interactive staff desks; big TVs mapping out the ship’s progress; brightly lit boutiques; and a new bespoke cruise sales area. Central to it all is the new cafe with a changing array of light bites, Illy coffee and a 24-hour bar service.
The cruise line may now have sold a 67% stake to Royal Caribbean Cruises, but its roots are still very much Italian – as are all its captains – and many products have Italian roots, such as the Bulgari bathroom amenities and sumptuous Etro bathrobes.
“The Grill on deck eight has been transformed into an alfresco evening spot where the focus is on ‘grill your own’”
One of the restaurants onboard, La Terrazza, also channels Italian flair while championing culinary traditions – it uses buffalo mozzarella from Naples, Umbrian organic balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and air-dried ham from Parma, with pasta made daily onboard.
A standout dining experience was at The Grill on deck eight, which has been transformed into an alfresco evening spot where the focus is on “grill your own” main courses.
After a great Caesar salad and plenty of Pouilly-Fume, I wait with trepidation for stage two: my salmon fillet arrives raw on a square slab of lava stone heated to 400 degrees.
It needs no more than 10 minutes and voila, served with onion rings and jacket potato, it makes a gorgeous evening meal.
Having to wear an apron to avoid any sizzles and spits from the cooking adds to the relaxed, fun experience.
Despite the all-inclusive nature of a Silversea cruise, some things come with an extra cost, such as excursions, spa treatments at the upgraded Zagara Spa, and French-themed fine dining experience, La Dame, which charges a $60pp supplement.
Options at La Dame include a five-course tasting menu, and the ambience is one of chic elegance, with crisp white table linen and an array of fine wines.
“Our lively guide jokes that drivers in Antigua need a PhD – ‘pothole deviation’, she quips”
In a first for the line, decorative handmade crystal Lalique artworks have been installed in the restaurant, which has been enlarged to accommodate 40 diners.
While the ship is beautiful, there is a whole world waiting outside, and my port calls include Antigua and the US Virgin Islands (USVIs).
Our lively guide jokes that drivers in Antigua need a PhD – “pothole deviation”, she quips – and she’s not wrong.
On a bone-shaking Amazing Antigua minibus tour we visit island highlights including Nelson’s Dockyard, lined with yachts and peppered with little cafes and boutiques.
Next day, it’s the beautiful island of St John in the USVIs, where we are the only ship in town.
St John has 60% of its land mass protected by Virgin Islands national park, so not only is it lush and wild, it also has incredible tropical beaches, such as Trunk Bay and Maho Bay.
I toured on an open-sided bus, but ever keen to try the more immersive experiences, Shanks tells me later he opted for the eco-hike and snorkel.
No doubt he too made the most of that free laundry service back onboard after such an active tour.
What’s included: Dining; premium wines and spirits, tea and coffee, bottled water, soft drinks; in-suite bar with guests’ preferences; in-suite 24-hour dining; and Wi-Fi. Gratuities also covered.
Tech check: British passengers will need adapters for three-pin plug devices and electronics. Wi-Fi is complimentary but can be on the slow side.
Where now: Silver Shadow has a sold-out South American season ahead, and then starts a series of Mediterranean cruises from 9 April (Durres in Albania is a maiden call for this year), before returning to the Caribbean in November 2020.
A 10-night cruise from San Juan to Fort Lauderdale on Silver Shadow (8-18 January 2021) costs from £3,690pp, based on two sharing and including economy flights, one-night pre-cruise hotel and transfers in destination.
Since becoming the world's first luxury cruise line to launch a range of expedition voyages in 2008, it's paved the way with pioneering itineraries, expert expedition teams and a fleet of deluxe, intimate ships.