Cruising with Silversea - Value for Money or Just Over Priced?

I love travelling – particularly in luxury. I really love the independence of designing my own trips too though, so a cruise is definitely out of my comfort zone. So, I am intrigued to discover: Silversea – is it value for money – or just over priced?

This is the story of how I found myself booked on my first cruise with Silversea and my conclusions about whether it represents good value for money – or not. 

"Cruising is not for Me"

You often hear travellers – particularly those who prefer independent travel (like me) – say “Cruising is not for Me”.  Often, they are people who have never actually BEEN on a cruise – so how do they really KNOW what it is like?

All the negative sentiments are familiar:

  1. Everyone who goes cursing is overweight – and elderly.

  2. Cruising is claustrophobic.  I’ll be surrounded by people all day with no space to myself.

  3. Cruising makes you sea sick.

  4. If there are days at sea, I’ll get bored with nothing to do.

  5. Germs spread like wildfire on a cruise ship.  If Covid or Noravirus strikes, I’ll have to stay in my cabin for the whole holiday.

"Cruising is Not for Me!"

Cruising - Let's Think About the Good Stuff ...

I’m not entirely new to cruising, but it hasn’t featured high on my travel wish list up to now either.  My experience to date consists of:

  1. A week long Thomson cruise with my daughter to the Canary Islands – 20 years ago.
  2. A week sailing with P & O through the Norwegian Fiords – 13 years ago.
  3. A week cruising in Alaska with Princess – the first holiday that features in this travel blog – 10 years ago.

The fact is that some of the places on my growing travel wish list can only be visited by ship/boat.  I also have to acknowledge that some of the places I dream of travelling to may well be best enjoyed on a “dip your toes in the water” basis rather than the full scale immersion of a long haul trip.

So, I found myself reflecting on the few cruises I had done before, focussing on all the  positives and wondering what place cruising – particularly at the luxury end of the market – might have in my future travel plans …

Let’s think about all the good stuff a cruise has to offer:

  1. A different place to see every day
  2. No packing/unpacking
  3. Great food
  4. Good company
  5. A relaxing holiday from end to end – no hassle
  6. Some good evening entertainment

So – I have to conclude that maybe cruising does have some potential and is worth exploring further …

Silversea - Silver Wind

Why Silversea?

If you are travelling on a budget, and luxury travel is not an option for you, then this post will hold no interest.  I retired (early) 6 years ago now and am fortunate to have reached the stage of life where I can now enjoy luxury travel,  So, when I consider the potential of cruising, I’m going to confine myself to the luxury end of the market.  If you are in the same market, then I hope you will find this post of some value as you construct your own future travel plans.

These days, it seems that 5 stars are no longer good enough.  Top end ultra luxury cruise companies now describe themselves as 6 star.  There are a few contenders:  Seabourn, Viking, Regent Seven Seas, Azamara all spring to mind.  I looked at all their websites and found Silversea’s one of the easiest to navigate.  Their overall style and approach appealed to me and some of their itineraries looked really exciting too.

I worked long and saved hard before I retired and I never spend money lightly.   So, before I could pick a trip to test out the potential of cruising, I needed to convince myself that it represented good value for money.

I’m an accountant, by profession, but evaluating whether a cruise offers value for money is nothing like assessing a business investment.  Holidays for me are about having a great experience – a mixture of fun and personal growth – in equal measure.  To be good value for money, a trip has to offer plenty of both for each £ spent.  I don’t much like being uncomfortable or bored either, so if a trip subjects me to too much of that, then its value is definitely reduced.  The evaluation process is therefore inevitably somewhat subjective, but let’s start with some hard numbers and facts.

Is Silversea Value for Money?

The first important thing to be aware of is that headline prices for cruises are very misleading.  You have to be sure that you are comparing like with like.  Silversea pride themselves on offering an all inclusive price, so you have to be sure to add in all the extras if you want to make an informed comparison with other companies. 

Factors to Consider

  1. All Inclusive – Silversea’s fares are always all inclusive, so be sure to include everything in any comparison you make:
    • Door to Door Transport
    • Excursions
    • Drinks
    • Entertainment
    • Laundry
    • Restaurants
    • Tips
  2. Cabin choice.  Silversea offers “All Suite” accommodation.  There are no inferior/inside cabins.  All their suites are spacious and with floor to ceiling ocean views.
  3. Ship Size Small ships offer a more intimate on board experience.  Also, while big ships may have reasonable space allowances on board, when everyone gets off,  a small port can quickly become swamped.  With fewer passengers and well organised, staggered start times for small group excursions, disembarkation from a small ship never feels claustrophobic.  
  4. Expedition Cruises – Small ships can get into the ports that larger ships simply cannot reach.  Zodiacs can take you further and explore areas out of bounds to even the smallest of ships.  Silversea offers a choice of Classic and Expedition Cruises.
  5. Space ratio. A ship’s space ratio is the cubic volume divided by the number of passengers.  51 and above is very spacious, 31 – 50 is spacious, 21-30 is not so spacious.    This really matters! Very spacious means:  there is never any need to queue, for anything, ever;  there is always a table available whenever you want it; a sun lounger is always in the right place when you need it and there is plenty of quiet space to relax in, away from other people.   Silver Wind’s space ratio is 58.
  6. Crew to Guest Ratio. Ultra luxury cruise ships have ratios approaching one crew member for every passenger, whereas mainstream lines are closer to two to three passengers for every crew member. Silver Wind’s Crew to Guest Ratio is 1 to 1.15.

So, you can see that there are just so many factors to consider before you even start thinking about voyage length and ports of call.  A price per day figure is always a useful way to make a comparison.  With the help of a very useful article on the Cruiseweb site, I worked my way through all the calculations and concluded that Silversea costs roughly 21% more – on a like for like basis – than a premium cruise line.

So – is that good value for money – or not?

Silversea - Zodiacs
Zodiacs on Expedition Cruises reach areas out of bound to even the smallest ships

The Silversea Difference

Silversea - Silver Wind Welcome Home

How do you decide – before you even get on board – whether it is worth paying 21% more for a cruise – or not?

Here are some of the things that weighed into my “Do I go ahead and book this?” decision:

  1. Drinks are all included, which means:   champagne, whenever you feel like it; a top quality restaurant wine list; a staggering menu of 43 cocktails; your suite mini bar permanently stocked with a never ending supply of all your favourite tipples.
  2. Tips are all included too.  You can make a crew member’s day – or even his/her career – by picking them out for a special mention in the feedback surveys. but no financial tip is ever expected.
  3. Restaurant/Dining Choices – There is complete flexibility with dining options.  You can eat when you like, where you like and with whoever you choose:
    1. In suite – there is a pop up table in every suite which can be converted into a dining table, covered with a crisp white table cloth and used to serve everything from breakfast in bed to an informal lunch or a full evening dinner.. There is an all day room service menu, but you can also opt to have the same menu as the main restaurant  – served course by course by your butler – as you watch a movie or just chat in the intimacy of your own suite.
    2. The main restaurant offers a wide selection of international cuisine.  Portions are small (though you can choose as many courses as you wish).  Healthy and vegetarian options are plentiful and imaginative.
    3. Included Specialty Restaurants – increase the choice further.  You do have to reserve a time, but there is never any difficulty getting a table.  On Silver Wind, there is an Italian restaurant and a Hot Rocks Grill, where you can cook your own steak or fish to your liking. On some ships, you can opt for the S.A.L.T (Sea and Land Taste Programme).
    4. Premium Specialty Restaurants enhance the choice of dining options even further.  On Silver Wind, you can book a table at La Dame, which  (for an additional charge) offers high end, specialty French cuisine.  
    5. Local Cuisine – A special effort is made to serve creative buffet options, featuring local delicacies/prime quality seafood.
    6. Special Menus – On request, you can also ask for special menus to be served to your table in the main restaurant.  The galley crew loves a challenge!
    7. Dine with the Crew – You can also invite any of the officers in the crew to dine with you.  Just invite them along and arrange a date – they will make any reservations required.
    8. Dine with Friends – Arrange dinner dates with new friends – just dial 7 from your in suite  ‘phone and reserve a table wherever you like together.
  4. On Board Entertainment – is more limited on an Expedition Cruise than a Classic Cruise, but with high profile visiting guest lecturers and an expert expedition team, you are unlikely to get bored – even on sea days – on an Expedition Cruise.
  5. Gym/Swim – There is always a gym on board and a swimming pool.  Pilates classes are offered for free.  Aerobics and Personal Trainers are available at extra cost.
  6. Laundry – A self service Laundrette is available on board and soap powder is provided.  After you have clocked up 100 days cruising, you can have you laundry done for free!
  7. Spa services are available – but chargeable.
  8. On Silver Wind, there is a fully equipped Photo Studio available all day, with a knowledgeable manager available to help you make the best of the facilities.
  9. Butler Service comes as standard on all Silversea Cruises.  More on this in a future post.
Silversea - Silver Spirit Cocktails

The bottom line was that – when I took everything into account – I was just too curious to find out what the ultra luxury cruise experience was really like to say no.  It was something I was just going to HAVE to do.

That was when I was a Silversea newbie and hadn’t realised all the intricacies of the discount structures that help to make your holiday so much more affordable.

Silversea - Let’s Talk Discounts

The number of discounts available are mind boggling.  I’m going to keep this brief, but I hope that it will point you the right direction and get best value for money if you do decide to go ahead and book a Silversea cruise yourself.

Here is a list of the discounts I have discovered that you can aim to secure:

  1. Referral discount – £350.  If you refer a friend who is “New to Silversea” , you and your friend will both receive £350 discount.

  2. Book on Board Discount – 5%.   If you book a cruise while you are on board, you can get 5% off.  This can be secured with just a deposit which is flexible/floating – i.e. it can be transferred to a different cruise later on when you are back home if you like.

  3. Venetian Society Discount – 5%.  This is the Silversea loyalty scheme.  Not every cruise is included, but a large number are.

  4. Combo Cruises Discount – Variable.  There are a number of really good value for money deals if you book two cruises back to back.  You can search specifically or these on the Silversea website.

  5. AmEx Reward – £350 + Dom Perignon Champagne – If you are an AmEx Platinum cardholder, you can receive £350 on board credit (OBC) and a complimentary bottle of Dom Perignon champagne (worth circa £225) if you pay for your cruise with your AmEx card.

  6. Agency Discount – Variable.  Last, but definitely not least, if you book your cruise through a travel agent, you are likely to receive a further discount on top of those listed above.  It depends on how much of the discount that Silversea offer to travel agents they choose to pass onto you, so you do need to shop around.  Up to an additional 5% discount is definitely possible.  UK agents that other passengers recommended when we were on board are listed below.  Good luck!

UK Travel Agents for Silversea Cruises

Having convinced myself that – so long as the luxury level is as top notch as the marketing material suggests and that the fun factor is also there in spades  – Silversea DOES have the potential to give good value for money, it was time to go and find out for myself whether they can actually deliver all they promise …

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