Intimate Italian Cruising Defined

Riviera and Tuscany on Silver Shadow

By: Ana Figueroa

Anyone who’s cruised on Silversea knows that the line has been doing something right. The all-inclusive, ultra-luxury line launched just over a decade ago, and soon found a permanent home atop “best of” lists in the small ship category. But the dynamos running Silversea haven’t been content to rest on their laurels. The company instituted a re-branding campaign this year, built around a new slogan, “Intimate Italian Cruising.”

Sailing the silver seas under the helm of Italian officers is a natural move, considering that the line’s owners are Italian and its four ships (Silver Cloud, Silver Wind, Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper) were built in Italy. A new ad campaign running in upscale publications features Silversea’s new ambassador, Isabella Rossellini, a model of timeless Italian elegance if ever there was one.

When an invitation came this spring to experience the evolution of Intimate Italian Cruising on the 382-passenger Silver Shadow, how could I resist? Our Riviera and Tuscany cruise also happened to be the First Annual Awards Gala Cruise in which Silversea hosted a large group of its top agents. The early-in-the-season weather along the Mediterranean was the only aspect of the trip that didn’t run smoothly. Stormy seas and gale-force winds made for some last-minute changes in the itinerary. One day, my traveling companion (younger sister, Dina) and I were tempted to stay onboard.

The fact that we were booked in one of the Silver Shadow’s three Grand Suites made staying onboard an enticing option. The elegant accommodations included a large sitting room with a plasma-screen television, entertainment center, a beautiful mirrored bar, dining room table, marble powder room and a huge veranda. A separate bedroom featured a walk-in closet and a luxurious marble bathroom with a full-sized Jacuzzi tub, separate shower and water closet.

Upon arrival, our room attendant explained that if we needed additional spirits for the bar, we needed only to ask. On Silversea, “all-inclusive” encompasses wines and liquor. But we were less interested in restocking the bar than in replenishing the soaps and shampoos. Silversea has an exclusive agreement with Acqua di Parma, the artisanal toiletries company whose products are all the rage in Italy.

One of the service enhancements that Silversea was anxious to show off was the new butler service, standard in the top suite categories: the Grand, Rossellini, Royal and Owner’s suites. I’ve had butler service on other lines, but nothing like this. Our butler, Duminda, had a mellifluous voice and a brilliant smile. He had only recently completed his training and was a tad nervous. We explained that we were carefree travelers, not prone to formalities on the road. But he was so eager to be of service that we felt guilty turning down his offers to unpack our bags, book spa services, pick up videos, collect our laundry and deliver it back freshly washed on a silver platter. (Laundry service is complimentary in the Grand Suite.)

We never felt as spoiled by the butler service as we did at mealtimes, however. We could order off the restaurant menu and enjoy the meal course by course, courtesy of Duminda. One evening, Dina decided to forego a Silversea-sponsored night on the town in favor of dinner in the suite. She chose an entree, and then found another menu item that appealed to her. Embarrassed at ordering two entrees, she blurted out “two” when asked how many people would be dining en suite. To his credit, Duminda maintained his composure, serving Dina and her “imaginary” guest their dinner, pouring drinks and setting up a second place setting. Later on, he even returned with two desert menus.

Being an observant fellow, Duminda noticed early on that we had a proclivity for devouring any sweets left in the room. But who could blame us? Each evening, we awaited the delivery of a different chocolate delicacy like two kids at Christmas. One night, it was sherry truffles; on another, hand-dipped biscotti. My favorites were decadent medallions of dark chocolate, fruit and nuts, wrapped up in a fancy cellophane package. Thanks to Silversea, the generic pillow mints on other ships will forever seem second-rate.

Dining on Silversea is always top-notch with Relais & Chateau-trained chefs providing an array of continental specialties in the main dining room As part of the Intimate Italian Cruising initiative, Silversea is evolving some of its alternative dining venues. The Terrace Cafe, one of the most sumptuous buffets at sea, now transforms into La Terrazza, an a la carte Italian restaurant, for dinner. Marco Betti, of the Antica Posta restaurant in Florence, has created the menus. One Silversea trademark that is thankfully here to stay is the Galley Brunch, in which guests follow a red carpet into the galley, where the staff has laid out a feast fit for a king. It was a passenger favorite on the Silver Shadow.

Though our Mediterranean odyssey seemed close to perfection, Silversea still has some new initiatives in store. It will partner with FAI, the Italian National Tourism board, to create unique shore excursions that will show off the best of Italy’s cultural treasures. And Silversea ships will also feature works from the Italian Factory, a studio that showcases young, contemporary artists.

With its upscale clientele, Silversea doesn’t necessarily market itself as a line for children, but our cruise did have a few onboard. The liveliest were part of an extended British clan. One night, the tiniest of the bunch wandered into the library, clad in “feety”pajamas.

“Excuse me, could you help me find a ‘Stuart Little 2’ video?” he asked, in an adorable accent right out of “Mary Poppins.”

“Sure,” I replied, taking note that he was the same hellion who had almost knocked over a waiter serving hot tea that afternoon.

“Could you also recommend a good James Bond film?” he inquired, in a serious tone.

I had to suppress my laughter, as did everyone else in the room. Sometimes, Intimate Italian Cruising takes on a multi-national flair.


Silversea CEO Albert Peter told agents during the Gala Cruise that the line is serious about going after what he calls “jumpers.” By that, he means clients who book penthouse or other top suite categories on the mass-market lines. By the time they pay the bill for alcohol and other beverages, gratuities and other extras that are included in Silversea’s pricing, there’s not much of a differential, Peter noted.

Even the best suites on larger ships are hard-pressed to compete with Silversea’s amenities and “all-suite” accommodations. On Silver Shadow, the suites range from 287 to more than 1,400 square feet, all featuring marbled bathrooms with a double vanity, full-sized bathtub and separate shower.

Butler service and other Intimate Italian Cruising innovations make the line ideal for a well-traveled clientele who prefer an ultra-luxury product. But Silversea is also an aggressive trailblazer when it comes to new and imaginative itineraries and ports. So, Silversea passengers tend to be active as well as affluent.