I don’t belong to a country club; I don’t own a private yacht; and
I don’t spend my winters skiing in Aspen. But a Barcelona to London
sailing on Silversea’s Silver Cloud gave me a taste of the
Yes, in some ways, the Silver Cloud resembles a compact version of
the big ships on the mainstream lines. It boasts a theater, lounges
and bars, casino, library, Internet cafe, a few upscale shops,
dining room, specialty restaurants and poolside bar/grille. It has
a spa, walking track and small gym. By day, bridge tournaments,
movie matinees, Scrabble, Spanish lessons, cooking demos, lectures
on world affairs and afternoon tea kept guests busy; at night,
there were variety shows,
piano bars and dancing.
Still, the ship was more like a country club at sea than a
commercial liner. With accommodations for just 269 privileged
passengers, the Silver Cloud has an exclusive ambiance. Ease and
sophistication reigned, whether I was enjoying a meal, taking an
excursion, sipping afternoon tea or savoring a glass of wine.
The first point of difference was the hassle-free embarking. I
arrived in port; my luggage was whisked away; and I was escorted to
the onboard reception area, where I received my card key. No one
flashed a camera in my face; no one tried to sell me a gigantic
soda cup. When I entered my stateroom, my suitcases were awaiting
me. It all felt so civilized, with none of the confusion and crowds
that mark the beginning of most cruises.
The ship’s relatively small size meant disembarking at ports was
simple and swift with no lines at the shore excursion desk, no mad
rush at the gangway. Another plus: We visited ports not commonly
visited by bigger ships, such as Bordeaux in France, which required
navigating the sometimes-shallow Garonne River. In London, the
Tower Bridge opened for us as we sailed down the River Thames,
sipping champagne and waving at onlookers.
The Silver Cloud struts her best stuff at mealtimes, with
innovative menu selections, ultra-professional waiters and elegant
dining rooms. Even in the buffet-style Terrace Cafe, smartly
dressed, observant waiters hovered about to assist with my tray,
find me a seat, refill my mug or glass and offer to bring me
whatever I wanted from the luscious buffet. For an especially
marvelous dinner, guests can head to the exclusive Saletta, where
each of the six themed courses are paired with a rare wine from a
particular region ($150 per person).
I loved that I could eat when, where and with whom I chose there
were neither assigned tables nor “early/late seatings.” But that
flexibility didn’t extend to the nightly dress code, which crew and
guests took very seriously. Gents who showed up without a jacket on
“informal night” were sent back to their room. Dressing up for
dinner was de rigueur for this stylish crowd.
As part of Silversea’s all-inclusive policy, there’s no charge for
beverages, whether it’s mimosas for breakfast or after-dinner
cognac. That meant I didn’t have the hassle of signing my room
number every time I ordered a Coke, cappuccino, cocktail or
cabernet. The all-inclusive policy eliminates the question of who
will buy a round of drinks or how much to tip. And for aficionados
who prefer a particular vintage, a “connoisseur’s list” is
available for an extra charge.
Staterooms on the 12-year-old Silver Cloud are not particularly
large or lavish. Televisions are small and chunky; there’s no
sophisticated in-room A/V equipment or entertainment system; the
marble bathrooms are quite compact. Still, the rooms are luxurious,
with full-sized tubs, walk-in closet and draped arched doorways
dividing the sitting area/bedroom.
Continually stocked beverage cabinets, fresh flowers, fruit
plates, a pillow menu, Bulgari and Aqua di Parma toiletries and
extra-plush towels were among the other luxe details. Just about
everything is included in the price of the cruise, even tips.
I marveled at the Silver Cloud’s ability to transform itself when
the sun set. The Panorama Lounge, a sun-drenched space that serves
up coffee, cappuccino and croissants to early risers, became a
romantic piano lounge after dark. The bar, a friendly meeting spot
for pre-dinner cocktails, turned into a late-night disco. Terrace
Cafe, where breakfast and lunch buffets were served, metamorphosed
into La Terraza, a fine Italian restaurant where waiters and
sommeliers hover about and the chef from Milan personally greets
every diner. And I’m 99 percent sure that the young woman who
assisted me in the Internet cafe was a dancer at the nighttime
I must confess, I blinked a few times when a hallway on the 5th
deck doubled as a putting green one afternoon. Then again, what
else might one expect from a country club, albeit one at sea?