The Muse Reveals Silversea’s Improvement Obsession
Art Sbarsky Cruise Week
The penthouse of ocean cruising is a busy place these days. The luxury segment has perhaps never seen this much newbuilding, with Regent, Seabourn, Crystal and Silversea all making additions.
At Silversea, which debuted its largest ship, Silver Muse, earlier this year, the growth spurt includes:
A new sister ship for Silver Muse, to be named Silver Moon;
The just-completed enovation and conversion of one of the line's original ships, Silver Cloud, over to the company's expedition fleet, which will now comprise four ships;
Renovation, especially the lengthening, of Silver Spirit;
Significant renovation of Silver Wind and Silver Whisper.
But the changes Cruise Week noticed on a recent cruise aboard Silver Muse had more to do with the company's efforts to tweak aspects of the product in an ongoing effort to increase customer satisfaction. And that's as important as the changes in numbers.
The cruise seemed designed for adults who do not need an extensive range of energetic activities to keep them busy. Demographically, this was an older, upscale audience of widely experienced travellers. The average age of the 492 customers on board was said to be 60; but it seemed older.
They were travelling on the first part of a 66-night, four-segment circumnavigation around South America; 76 had signed on for the full voyage.
Tellingly, given this demographic, 95 got off the ship for a multi-night Peruvian land excursion to Cuzco and Machu Picchu. It was not only an interesting experience for those who journeyed, but a dynamic conversation point between travellers once back on board.
Three different lecturers during the cruise drew really good audiences. Topics included bios of stars like Gene Kelly and Judy Garland, port talks and historical information on Chilean mummies and the Incas.
Cooking classes, language classes, bridge lessons and matches, casino tournaments, spa classes, and more filled in sea-time; probably the most popular were the daily trivia contests. The nicely-sized and equipment-filled gym did not get overused, to be sure.
Efficient Staff Interaction
As expected on a luxury cruise like this one, service was a highlight. With the 1.5 guest/crew ratio there was plenty of very fast staff interaction. I heard one guest describe the definition of a ‘New York Minute’ being the time it took from when they sat down in the cafe until someone came to take their order.
The level of pampering was high: in the afternoon a staff member walked around open decks offering to clean one's sunglasses. More important by far was how frequently crew got to know individualized preferences when it came to beverage orders, menu selections, and names.
For such a relatively small ship, the number of dining options was extensive, and this represents a big-picture change for both Silversea and all the luxury lines. In all there were seven dining areas available for lunch and 10 for dinner (including room service).
Only two of the restaurants, Kaiseki for Teppanyaki-style meals and La Dame for Relais & Châteaux French dining, carried a surcharge ($60 per person). The consensus among the guests Cruise Week spoke with was that both were worth it. A nice feature is that Kaiseki was open daily for a sushi lunch with no surcharge.
One change in dining is that instead of having to make dinner reservations for all of the different restaurants, guests now get the advantage of open seating in the two larger restaurants, Atlantide and Indochine, with reservations required in the evening only for La Terrazza, Silver Note (the jazz cafe), and the surcharge spots.
The Muse has nice new features that distinguish it from Spirit. Among them is the Arts Café, a casual and very comfy snacking area. And there's Spaccanapoli, the custom-made pizza/gelato spot which is open-air above the pool deck.
Even though the ship has sailing for a little while, Silversea is still tweaking the product, fine-tuning the best approach to things like the dress code. As with any true luxury product, there is constant consideration about how to make the experience even better.