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Silver Spirit

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The all-suite Silver Spirit made a splashy entry into the luxury cruise world when Silversea introduced the vessel as its flagship back in 2009. However, when Silversea introduced Silver Muse as its newest flagship in 2017, the Muse won greater praise from critics and passengers for its larger size, better suite layout, greater choice of amenities and chic modern style. Inspired by Muse's success, Silversea gave Silver Spirit a $70-million-plus redo, including adding a new midsection in March 2018, to better match Silver Muse's allure.

For the refurbishment, the ship was cut in half, and a 49-foot-long prebuilt midsection was inserted. The ship benefits from its greater length with a larger pool, additional outdoor space and seating by the pool and on the sun deck, and an increase of suites from 270 to 304.

Silver Spirit also elevated its dining experiences to echo Silver Muse. The ship scrapped its one primary restaurant for four new dining choices: Atlantide, Indochine, Spaccanapoli and Silver Note. Dining opportunities now total eight. In every dining venue, new and old, the quality of cuisine -- from ingredients to preparation -- soared dramatically in mid-2018.

You'll find many lounges onboard -- from Decks 5 to 11 -- including the newest additions, Dolce Vita and Arts Cafe. Passengers who enjoy reading or borrowing books will treasure Tor's Observation Library, which features an evening-only bar. Art and fashion books fill shelves in the Arts Cafe, a chill all-day hangout with outdoor seating.

With its 2018 renovation, Silver Spirit flaunts a modern Italian design with Art-Deco accents, vibing more like a high-priced boutique Milano hotel than a staid cruise ship. Cream and beige rule the colour scheme, and hints of red and blue pop beautifully against the neutral palate. Textural furnishings emphasize velvety and tweed fabrics and buttery leather. New, brighter lighting (particularly in suites) lends a cheeriness throughout the ship -- even on the rare gloomy day.

Silver Spirit's best calling card may well be its service. Passengers rarely receive a request denial; the staff -- from suite attendants and reception desk personnel to maitre d's -- are trained to satisfy every passenger whim, whenever possible.

A happy crew usually translates to happy passengers, and on this ship, the saying holds true. The camaraderie shared between officers and other staff is evident, and all crew -- from housekeeping and engineers up to the captain -- warmly smile and greet passing passengers. Over the length of a cruise (particularly a longer one), it's easy to feel as if you are family.

White-gloved and tux-clad butlers up the passenger pampering. Each is generally assigned about 10 to 12 suites per voyage, and every suite enjoys butler service. Butlers can act as if you're their sole passenger, fussing over your room service table and asking about your day when delivering canapes or laundry. A good butler quickly becomes indispensable and many passengers debark Silver Spirit wishing they could take theirs home. (Count this writer as one of them.)

Expect a high-energy vibe similar to Silver Muse -- no matter the age group -- unlike on the more low-key sister ships. The ship's enlargement doesn't diminish any sense of intimacy; it's subtle and makes Spirit feel more spacious, which passengers enjoy. That said, not every second of any luxury cruise is perfect. A butler may overlook something, a dish may be over-salted, a bartender can be slow -- flawless only exists in our imaginations. But close to flawless? Silver Spirit scores an emphatic yes.

Daytime attire is casual both onboard and ashore. Passengers usually wear jeans or slacks with a collared shirt or T-shirt. Sneakers, sandals and other comfortable flat or low-heeled shoes are typical daytime footwear.

In the evening, the dress code varies between casual, informal and formal. Your cruise documents include a dress code schedule, and a reminder is included in the Silversea Chronicles bulletin that's delivered nightly to suites for the following day.

Embarkation and debarkation nights are always casual dress, and although jeans and shorts are no-no's in the dining rooms in the evenings, many passengers wear both these two nights. On other casual nights, women wear sundresses or low-key pants outfits, and men wear slacks and open-neck collared shirts. "Informal" evenings translate to women wearing dresses or silk or linen tops and pants, and men wearing dressier slacks and a jacket (tie optional).

On formal nights, men are expected to don tuxedos or dark suits, while women wear evening gowns or cocktail dresses. That said, tuxedos and evening gowns are rarely seen. Generally, women wear cocktail dresses or dressy slacks outfits, and men wear dark suits with ties. (Americans tend to dress the most casual on all nights.)

If you want to skip the formal dress code, La Terrazza and Seishin both allow informal attire on formal nights. Dining at The Grill (aka Hot Rocks) is always casual. However, if you want to visit the bars and lounges later that evening, you must wear an outfit adhering to the night's dress code.

Expect one formal night for voyages of nine nights or less; 14-night cruises have three formal nights. (On seven-night sailings in the Baltic, Mediterranean and Alaska, formal night is always optional and passengers may instead dress according to the "informal" code.)

Silver Spirit Inclusions

Like all Silversea ships, Silver Spirit is all-inclusive, including complimentary wines and spirits, speciality coffees, bottled water, an in-suite bar stocked with passengers' favourite beverages, 24-hour room service, laundry room use, unlimited Wi-Fi and gratuities. All dining is included except for dinner in La Dame and Seishin. 

Shore excursions, cigars, high-end wines and liquors on a premium list, and spa and beauty treatments (prices includes gratuities) are the only additional costs you can incur. The onboard currency is the U.S. dollar.

Shore Excursions

You can find a wide variety of shore excursions in most ports, including private cars with drivers. Activity levels go from minimal (such as panoramic coach tours) to extensive (like hiking). Shore excursion details are clearly spelt out, making it easy to choose which activity best suits your interests and physical abilities. Shore excursion complaints are rare.

Cars, vans and coaches are always top-notch and local guides are highly qualified and usually, most personable. Tips for guides and drivers are not included in your cruise fare, so come prepared. A bus is rarely more than half-full, to ensure passengers' comfort.

A Silversea employee accompanies every tour to ensure all goes smoothly. Crew offers amenities, such as water, towels and umbrellas -- whatever is appropriate to the destination -- before passengers debark the ship. Onboard coaches and buses, passengers are usually given water and wet wipes. Upon arrival back to the ship, the crew stands ready, offering fruit punch or other cooling beverages, water and cooling towels.

You can make shore excursion reservations online from 120 days before a voyage until up to seven days before the cruise departure date. You can also reserve shore excursions onboard, but note that some popular excursions fill early. Once onboard, you can request to join a waitlist if a tour is full. Prerecorded shore excursion information appears on the ship's closed-circuit television. The shore concierge desk is helpful and patient.

In port, a local tourism representative comes onboard in the morning to answer additional questions. Maps are available, too. Silver Spirit offers free shuttle bus service from the cruise terminal to the town centre whenever possible.

Daytime and Evening Entertainment

Silver Spirit features a range of daytime activities, including bridge, language lessons, sudoku, bingo and team trivia. Many passengers sign up for bridge classes and tournaments and play daily. Special events, such as cooking demonstrations and a British pub lunch in Dolce Vita (replete with fish 'n' chips and sheet music for sing-alongs), also unfold throughout the voyage.

In the evening, gentlemen hosts hold get-togethers with single passengers. Passengers also enjoy live entertainment nightly in Dolce Vita and in the Panorama Lounge. A cool DJ hosts late-night dance parties and/or karaoke, also in the Panorama Lounge. Post-dinner, a jazz singer in Silver Note can knock your Ferragamos off. There doesn't seem to be one set buzzy spot -- passengers explore all the lounges, often making the rounds.

The Deck 5 Venetian Lounge can accommodate all passengers for welcome and farewell captain's parties and musical acts most evenings. All seats have good views of the stage.

The Voices of Silversea, a group of three women and three men, perform here together, and sometimes, individually. On our cruise, it was a tenor singing opera from this sextet who drew the best response. This singing group is enthusiastic and talented enough, although some costumes and dance routines can seem hokey to a younger crowd. Impressive guest entertainers, such as virtuoso concert pianist or violinist, lure the biggest audiences.

When the ship is out to sea, a small casino on Deck 7 is open. Passengers come to play blackjack, roulette and slots, or join tournaments.

Enrichment

There are usually two lecturers onboard with distinguished backgrounds. For instance, we sailed with one professor who graduated from Oxford and wrote six books. Speakers talk about topical subjects, or offer historical facts and stories relating to the region in which the ship is sailing. For example, when cruising Norway, one lecturer spoke about World War II events in the North Sea. The speakers who are good -- and word passes around quickly -- draw crowds.

Silver Spirit Bars and Lounges

With a variety of bars on multiple decks, you can always find a corner to belly up. With the cruise fare including wines, beers and spirits, you know that these lounges are social hubs. Some passengers pick a favourite, say Dolce Vita predinner and Panorama Lounge post, and make it a nightly routine.

During the day, the busy Pool Bar always ensures a schmooze-fest. Bartenders know the latest cocktails and offer many variations of martinis. Most premium brands are complimentary. You only pay extra for wine and spirits off an ultra-premium list.

Dolce Vita (Deck 5): This new central lobby lounge is quite large, although it doesn't feel cavernous as it gets rather busy as the day progresses. It's a beautiful space, with Art-Deco accents, a stunning crystal chandelier and crystal lamps. Expect many intimate seating areas with buttery-soft leather and velvety chairs, and couches that beckon. The inviting colour scheme is blue and brown.

During the day, a few passengers come to read books and relax. In the evening, Dolce Vita draws both a pre- and post-dinner crowd. On our cruise, a classically trained pianist played predinner, and many passengers gathered for cocktails. Later, a singer and guitarist performed American country-ish pop songs, with good renditions of John Legend, Sam Smith and Janis Joplin tunes, too. In this lounge, the Voices of Silversea often stop by to chat with passengers. Predinner canapes are served here.

Connoisseurs Corner (Deck 8): A smoker's haven, the Connoisseurs Corner lures cigar and pipe-smokers, along with those puffing on cigarettes. It's a handsome small space, with leather seating. You can order fine spirits or wines by the glass or one of several types of cigars. Post-bridge late-afternoon, or after-dinner, some passengers venture here to smoke and sip. Earlier in the day, it's rather empty.

Panorama Lounge (Deck 9): Remodeled in 2018, this lounge features a neutral-tone colour scheme with comfy couches, marble tables and sweeping ocean views. This lounge is a hangout both day and night. During daylight hours, passengers come to read and relax, both inside or on the expansive balcony outside. Canapes are served predinner. In the evening, passengers enjoy a post-dinner cocktail, slow-dancing to the Silver Spirit Trio and, later, rocking out with the DJ who spins your favourite tunes.

Pool Bar (Deck 9): Easily the most popular bar on balmy days, the Pool Bar always has the cheeriest bartenders, who are happy to prepare whatever you fancy. Expect popular beverages, such as Skyy vodka and Maker's Mark, to be complimentary. This convivial bar is a great spot to meet fellow passengers.

Tor's Observation Library (Deck 11): The Observation Lounge was renamed Tor's Observation Library. It's a great haunt to curl up with a book or just exhale and enjoy the sweeping views. It's a very quiet room; passengers seem intent on reading and glance at you if you talk or bang away at a laptop.

The design is pretty, mostly navy blue with pops of red. Chairs and sofas are particularly comfy. Many books are available to borrow, including assorted travel guides, Clive Cussler novels and the works of Shakespeare.

At 6 p.m., the bar opens for cocktails. Chatting starts then, but the room still stays fairly subdued. Note that some passengers bring in beer or wine from other lounges -- there are four other venues to find alcohol during the day -- to enjoy before the bartender shows up.

Silver Spirit Outside Recreation

With the expansion of the Deck 9 pool area and the sun deck on Deck 10 during the 2018 lengthening process, it's easy to find a chaise around, or overlooking, the large, rectangular pool with three hot tubs. Plexiglas partitions line the railing on both decks, buffering the wind. Servers often swing by for drink orders.

The jogging track on Deck 10 includes a trunk filled with cold water bottles and signage saying eight or 10 laps equal 1mile, depending upon whether you run the entire deck or cut short a portion. You may briefly jog through the pizza eatery, but passengers don't seem to mind.

There's also table tennis and shuffleboard for devotees.

Silver Spirit Services

Expect a 24-hour staffed reception desk, an excursion desk and a cruise consultant's office on Deck 5. There's also a card room that doubles as a conference room on the same deck.

Also on Deck 5, the Boutiques provide upscale retail therapy when the ship is at sea, with lots of fine jewellery, handbags and perfume on display. Sales personnel are gregarious, not pushy, and it's fun to browse here and chat them up. Sundries, such as aspirin or sunscreen, are kept in the stockroom, out of passenger sight. Ask your butler for a list or ask at the shops.

On Deck 9 port side, a craftsman awaits passengers who wish to have Preludio Capri sandals, handmade in Italy, custom-designed. You choose the style and size, and then pick from a variety of straps and embellishments.

The medical centre is on Deck 3 with clinic hours. Medical assistance is also available by appointment, or as needed, 24 hours.

Self-service launderettes are located on all passenger decks and feature complimentary Miele washing machines and dryers with soap, an iron, ironing board and laundry baskets. (You can also request laundry, pressing or wet cleaning via your butler for a fee.)

The Zagara Spa (standard fleetwide) on Deck 6 takes a New Age-y mind-body-spirit connection approach to treatments. Pick a treatment to suit your mood -- do you need to relax, restore, revitalize or rebalance?

The Deeper than Deep Hot Stone Massage, designed to relax and rebalance, definitely delivers. Other treatments include a warming bamboo muscle melt, nourishing coconut poultice massage and reflexology. There's even an amethyst crystal sound bath healing treatment.

And, yes, you can get polished, wrapped or detoxed, and even try acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine consultations. You can also undergo medi-spa procedures, such as Restylane dermal filler and DYSPORT wrinkle treatments.

Many facials are offered, from cellular-boosting treatments to BIOTEC Firm-a-Lift, meant to do exactly as it's titled. Therapists use Elemis products, which are also for sale. On busy port days or in the early mornings, the spa often offers special reduced pricing.

Adjacent to the spa, the small beauty salon, awash in marble, offers several services. The salon staff use some high-end products, such as Phyto, for hair conditioning treatments. Manis, pedis, nail shellac, waxing, teeth-whitening and mud foot therapy are among the multiple offerings. Treatments are not limited to women; gentlemen's grooming includes mini-facials and shaves and beard trims.

The next-door Fitness Centre is divided into three areas; two indoors and one out. The main moderate-sized gym features all-new Technogym equipment, from treadmills and bicycles, to lat and rowing machines. In the separate weight room, expect all new weights, both in kilos and pounds.

Complimentary classes in yoga, stretching and more are led by a fitness instructor who also offers private lessons. Fitness classes take place in the weight room; be sure to note the schedule as there's no weightlifting allowed if a class is in session. (You can use some weights in the treadmill area, however, but space is limited if the gym is crowded.)

The third workout area is outdoors, just outside the Fitness Centre. Here you find four spinning bikes and a wooden case that holds mats (both for yoga and stretching) and weighted balls. This small outdoor area is a lovely spot to stretch or spin during nice weather.

Silver Spirit passengers definitely work out -- no doubt, inspired by culinary indulgence. The busiest times are in the morning and late afternoon and all day on sea days. You may have to wait to use a treadmill or other cardio machine at the busiest times, depending upon the crowd onboard. Midday, and long tour days, are the best times to have the gym to yourself.

The sauna and steam rooms are coed, which is not beloved by passengers who prefer such areas remain gender-separate.

Eight dining choices (including room service) ensure great diversity. Don shorts and cook-your-own dinner over lava rocks by the pool, dress-up for a multicourse French gourmet extravaganza at La Dame, or choose a style in-between.

Silver Spirit's chefs use great ingredients. (Without primo ingredients, even a master chef can't create great cuisine.) Every day, passengers can indulge in lobster and three varieties of world-heralded beef. Even the cheeses are amazing; the daily multi-country list often includes Epoisses, a pricy French cheese. (One night we sat with savvy luxury cruisers on their first Silversea cruise, and they flipped that they could enjoy a big hunk daily; they said it wasn't typical to other posh lines.) D.O.C. 26-month aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, making every Italian dish a knockout, is lavishly used.

With an on-trend decor, the restaurants feel more like buzzy eateries ashore than traditional cruise ship dining rooms. Tables for two abound -- you never need dine with other passengers unless you choose. Many passengers take advantage of the two-tops, yet convivially converse with other duos dining nearby.

Passengers are happy with the multiple dining choices, many require no reservation and there's ease of obtaining reservations when necessary, providing you book online or join waitlists aboard. Waitlists for the smaller venues, like Silver Note and La Dame, often open up during a cruise.

A full-out afternoon tea is no longer offered, but you can find elements in the Arts Cafe, or your butler can bring tea, finger sandwiches and sweets to your suite. We never heard anyone grumble about the lack of a proper afternoon tea on our two-week sail.

Wines and Champagne poured match the quality of those served on other luxury lines. Usually one red and one white are offered each evening; pours are generous and refills abound. If you don't like the nightly selection, ask the sommelier to open another bottle. We've dined with passengers who have requested just that (sometimes up to three or four times for that perfect red), and sommeliers just smile and bring new wines until they're happy.

Atlantide (Deck 4): Atlantide (pronounced Atlanteed) is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, no reservations required. It's wildly popular. The upscale beef- and fish-heavy menu is consistently excellent, service is attentive and the elegantly designed room is stunning. Think gorgeous marble columns and floors and velvety burnt orange chairs. There's lots of Art Deco curvature in the decor, from chair handles and teak rails to chandeliers.

One side of the room offers lovely window views framed by thick drapery. The opposing wall is decorated with intricate mirrors and crystal sconces. You'll find a small eight-seat bar tucked inside Atlantide with a cool vibe and welcoming bartender. You may even find new dinner companions over drinks.

Tables are stylishly set with Villeroy & Boch china, Mepra flatware from Italy and Zassenhaus stainless steel salt and pepper grinders from Germany. In the morning, you'll find five kinds of delicious alain milliat preserves from France (don't miss the wild blueberry); by midday, they're replaced by extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar cruets.

The breakfast menu, similar to room service, stays constant. (The buckwheat pancakes and omelettes are excellent.) However, the menu changes daily for lunch and weekly for dinner (although we're sure they go into rotation; they're not brand-new each day or week).

Midday menu choices are lighter and more interesting than in Silver Spirit's former main dining room, including more salads (perhaps a spicy Asian beef) and seafood (such as shrimp in tamarind sauce).

At night, expect many fancy dishes such as foie gras (excellent), generous portions of primo lobster and meats. Steaks are definitely a thing here -- from Argentinean grass-fed beef and American prime Black Angus corn-fed to the world-heralded French Limousin. (We tried every one and couldn't pick a favourite, but be sure to order the veal jus as a sauce side.) The veal chop is enormous and fork-tender.

Entrees come with potatoes, such as a delicate gratin, and fresh al dente vegetables, like Brussels sprouts and carrots. Each seafood entree lists the fish's origin, such as turbot from Galicia, Spain, and are beautifully prepared. Vegetarians can choose between three starters and three entrees.

Wines poured can include a Chilean 2017 Morande Pionero sauvignon blanc and a 2017 Gouguenheim Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina. Desserts seem a lot better than in years past -- far more choice beyond gelato -- and are sophisticated and tastier.

Indochine (Deck 4): Indochine is open for dinner only, no reservations required. Its decor evokes an Asian slant. Woven fish sculptures are mounted on shimmery brown walls and contemporary takes on Japanese screens (think artsy metal “screens” with squares of light boxes) serve as both design elements and room dividers. The color scheme is a calming brown and robin-egg blue.

One wall is lined with windows, trimmed with fancy brown shades. Pearly black granite tables are set with beige woven placemats and teensy bonsai plants. The sleek bar offers both counter and table seating. The menu hopscotches Asia -- think Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean and Indian dishes, mostly -- with a modern twist. Onboard for two weeks, we noted two menus in rotation.

Servers bring out crispy papadum, mango chutney and pickled mango to nibble while you peruse the menu. A server also presents a mini cocktail of the day, perhaps passion fruit and rum. Asian-spiced short ribs are usually noteworthy, though on one evening, they lacked tenderness.

Soups, like pho, come in big bowls. Chinese egg drop soup is excellent, as is a fiery hot-and-sour soup. Lobster pad Thai is light on noodles (a good thing) but big on shellfish and flavour.

Indian plates -- such as a spicy lamb curry, and a potato and cauliflower medley -- are uniformly outstanding. A Goan chef delivers the most authentically flavoured Indian dishes we've tried at sea. (We asked if he could prepare us a special Indian menu of his choice and he did, with 48-hour notice.) Desserts include a must-order coconut rice pudding and lovely caramelized bananas.

Passengers are more tentative about trying Indochine than Atlantide with its more universally appealing menu; but once they do, most are hooked.

Seishin (Deck 4); $40 per person for dinner: Seishin is a small, softly lit sushi restaurant, open for lunch and dinner. Daytime dining is open seating and complimentary, but at night, there's a $40 charge per passenger and reservations are required. You'll marvel over the knife skills of the Asian chef. He stands at a sushi counter in the room's centre, deftly slicing fish before your eyes.

The lunchtime menu is less inspired than the dinner version, limited to a variety of sushi and sashimi similar to options on the La Terrazza midday buffet, such as avocado or shrimp rolls.

In the evening, the menu is more elaborate and tastier. You can order the Chef's Omakase, a six-course feast including tuna tartare with Calvisius caviar, and Maine lobster tail with wagyu beef for a posh surf and turf. If ordering a la carte, temptations include king crab tempura, Asian seafood consomme with lobster, miso-glazed black cod and passion fruit brulee.

Passengers like trying Seishin, but unless they're hooked on Japanese cuisine, dining at Indochine is more convenient; plus, there are no reservations needed and no extra fee.

La Dame (Deck 4); $60 per person: La Dame, open only for dinner by reservation, stays busy despite the $60 per passenger charge. Book as far in advance as possible. With but 11 tables, this restaurant is romantic and intimate in a way no other venue onboard can be. Service is extremely attentive and personalized.

The wines presented are a notch above the complimentary wines poured in other dining rooms. Meals begin with Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top Champagne Brut and may include 2016 Domaine du Petit Clocher Anjou and 2016 Joseph Drouhin Macon-Bussieres Les Clos, all from France.

Dinner unfolds in five courses that you choose from a menu. The stellar lobster bisque, with its intense shellfish stock, is swoon-worthy. A generous portion of caviar with blinis -- not offered in any complimentary restaurant -- proves most popular. (Good choice; caviar begins at $40 on the room service menu.)

Also, you can indulge in generous portions of foie gras more intricately prepared than where it's offered complimentarily. Savour it chilled as pate, or warm and seared. La Dame's lamb chops are thicker and meatier than those served in Atlantide. The chef comes out around dessert time (Grand Marnier souffle is a must) for a meet-and-greet at each table.

If you consider yourself a foodie, don't miss this dining experience.

La Terrazza (Deck 7): La Terrazza is open for a buffet breakfast and lunch, and sit-down dinner by reservation only. The lovely decor includes beautiful racks of serious wine bottles from the premium list, from Super Tuscans like Sassicaia to boutique Napa vintners such as Far Niente and 1st Cru French Sauternes from Chateau Climens. Complimentary wines may include 2017 Vigneti del Vulture Greco-Fiano Basilicata Pipoli from Italy. Etched glass, brown and beige columns and marble tables and banquettes complete the sleek look. Dining is inside and out, with gorgeous ocean views.

Other than at dinner, La Terrazza features three stations, although servers stand ready to retrieve anything from the buffet. They also insist on carrying your plate to your table -- even if you're only holding a tiny dessert plate. Awkward and pampering, at once.

One station offers omelettes in the morning and switches to pasta and stir-fries midday. (For this station, all orders are placed through a server, so there's no line.) Another counter offers smoothies and fruit and vegetable juices blended to order in the a.m.; choose from all the fresh ingredients on display. (Tell the cook to blend the juices a little longer for a smoother beverage.) At lunchtime, this station becomes a dessert mecca, with cakes, tarts and fruit salad behind a glass counter. Gluten-free and sugar-free desserts are clearly labelled. Servers hand you what you want; it's tidy and sanitary.

The largest buffet area beautifully presents international cheeses, breads, smoked fish and gravlax, fruit and fruit salads, Danishes and much more at breakfast. At lunchtime, gorgeous meats, such as strip sirloin of beef or a whole suckling pig, are carved to order. Expect an outstanding assortment of quality salads, sushi, breads (including four gluten-free) and some hot items such as curries (always excellent), sauteed vegetables, grilled fish and potato gratins.

At dinnertime, La Terrazza ups the dining ante. Different, fancier table settings appear, and the lighting is dimmed. Service becomes more personalized and attentive. Many passengers order four courses -- at least, early on in the cruise -- such as a salad, pasta, entree and dessert.

Each table receives an antipasto platter, with several items such as olive tapenade, mozzarella and eggplant. Pastas include a cutting-edge potato gnocchi with lardo, which tastes oily. But then again, if you're ordering a dish made with what's essentially pork fat (cured fatback), we suppose you should expect that. The pappardelle with braised duck ragout remains a signature dish; good thing, as it's a standout.

All pastas are perfectly cooked al dente and sauce use is restrained, as in Italy. The osso buco can vary in tenderness. The chocolate torte, a holdover signature dessert, still tastes divine.

Silver Note (Deck 8): This restaurant, tweaked from the previous Stars Supper Club, switched locales with the casino and was renamed Silver Note. Although dining here is complimentary, you do need reservations, which can be hard to score as the venue is small and popular. Silver Note is only open for dinner.

Expect a softly lit room with low ceilings and pin lighting. The colour scheme comprises soft shades of brown, beige, cream, blue and gold. Gorgeous china bowls, set in lit glass cabinets, decorate walls. Chairs and banquettes combine leather and fabric, such as leather seats with tweed fabric backs. Three burnt orange round chandeliers are stunners, more like art than lighting.

The menu is quirky. For starters, tables are set with “test tubes” filled with three types of hot sauces, ranging from jalapeno to habanero. Servers inform passengers that many dishes are quite spicy. If so, why do we need more heat from three pepper sauces? But some dishes aren't spicy at all, nor call for hot sauce -- a head-scratcher. We didn't see anyone reach for the hot sauce during our dinner at Silver Note.

First courses are divided into Raw and Cooked categories. Among Raw dishes, find tuna and green quinoa (delicious) or thinly sliced sea bass with red onion and ginger. Cooked includes tender grilled octopus, served warm with caramelized pumpkin puree and olives. Cereal is the unappealing name of one starter; it's actually a fine medley of ancient grains -- such as farro and quinoa -- with habaneros and forest mushrooms.

Entrees are split between Oceans and Earth. The night we dined here, we saw lobster tail with mashed potatoes, rich and creamy with butter and sour cream, fly from the kitchen. Same for Salt from the Fields, the unusual name for seared lamb loin with a delicious risotto, caramelized onions and chanterelles. Both are very good and not spicy -- which may be why they are ordered so frequently.

The two desserts are excellent; artsy takes on fudgy chocolate cake and strawberry soup with blackberry sorbet, meringue and blueberry jelly. The soup sounds weird, we know, but its flavours come together beautifully. Wines poured include 2016 Cono Sur Bicicleta Carmenere from Chile.

Plating is most contemporary, including wavy bowls and dinner plates with wildly bumpy edges, making it hard to rest your silverware without a knife tumbling off onto the tablecloth. We also quibble over the strange dish names, which are followed on the menu by a laundry list of ingredients. We get that Silver Note seeks to stand out from other restaurants; however, we're not sure the concept is cohesive.

The evening highlight is perhaps not the food and certainly not the confusing menu, but the jazz singer accompanied by a gifted pianist. The singer is a captivating performer, with a sultry voice and style that makes you want to linger for all three sets. Her repertoire is vast -- including Nat King Cole, Doris Day and show tunes from "Evita" -- and she even throws in some scat. She happily takes requests, too. During breaks, she visits with tables, exhibiting an easy warmth.

If this restaurant is booked for dinner, just come later in the evening and enjoy a set or two and a drink. A server is only too happy to bring you a cocktail or cognac. Some passengers even get up and whirl around the little dance floor. The last set, luring nightly fans, begins at 11 p.m.

Arts Cafe (Deck 8): Think of the Arts Cafe as a cool cafe -- less whimsically designed than on Silver Muse -- but still filled with colourful nooks for sitting, sipping and schmoozing. The outdoor seating area is large and comfy, with canopy-topped thick-cushioned rattan-like chairs. Shelves filled with art books separate the seating areas.

Arts Cafe is easily one of the busiest -- and buzziest -- spots onboard. The barista makes an excellent cappuccino, and you can also choose from a variety of fine Ronnefeldt teas. This cafe also doubles as a bar, with shelves showcasing brand name liquor such as Bombay Sapphire.

All sorts of gastronomic goodies are on display, depending upon the time of day. You can order freshly flavoured waters, such as a glass filled with fresh strawberries and mint, or cucumber, as well as freshly made smoothies. Glass mason-like jars hold yoghurt and fruit -- an ideal light breakfast, lunch or snack. Or, drop in for a sandwich, like fresh mozzarella on panini bread.

Late afternoon is teatime; expect scones, pastries and finger sandwiches. Later In the evening, passengers select mini glass jars filled with housemade white, dark and milk chocolate truffles. And yes, they're yummy.

The Grill (Deck 9): For this alfresco poolside eatery, the 2018 remodel added more tables, better protective covering for cool or rainy nights and new heat lamps. The daytime menu, usually served from noon until 3:30 p.m., mixes lighter fare such as a fine mezze (Middle Eastern tapas) plate and a less exciting grilled portobello sandwich on nine-grain bread, to popular choices like a classic Reuben. Hamburgers and hotdogs are on the menu, of course, as is grilled fish of the day and desserts like a sundae and New York cheesecake.

At night, The Grill morphs into Hot Rocks, a cook-your-own dinner over lava rocks that requires reservations. Passengers love Hot Rocks; there's no need to dress up, the food's a break from fancy fare and passengers enjoy showing off their prowess with grilling prime steaks, Berkshire pork chop, tiger prawns or fresh fish of the day to new friends. (A chef will cook your entree if you prefer.)

Entrees come with a choice of sides, including baked potatoes and toppings and marinated vegetable skewers. Dinner unfolds with a choice of four salads, including the ever-popular Caesar, and four desserts such as lime and vanilla cheesecake. Wines poured may include a 2017 Gouguenheim malbec from Argentina, and a 2015 Principe Pallavicini Amarasco Cesanese from Italy.

Spaccanapoli (Deck 10): Spaccanapoli, an alfresco no-reservation pizza eatery, is open from late morning until 11 p.m. for casual meals or spur-of-the-moment indulgences. Tables are topped with a canopy, making dining easy no matter the weather. The three pizza ovens turn out pies in three to four minutes; it's fun to watch the chef at work, rolling and stretching dough.

The pizzas, which come with a variety of awesome toppings, including a purist's Margherita, and prosciutto with cow's milk mozzarella. The thin-crust, crispy-edged pizzas come in two sizes (personal and for two) and are cut into eight slices. We also like how the pies are presented -- on plates resembling pizza paddles. Pre-pizza, nibble on Parmesan chunks, olives and excellent marinated tomatoes -- so Italian.

The menu is all pizza -- no salads. We think it's more of a meal alternative if some greens were an option. In fact, we've seen passengers go down one deck to The Grill for a salad once they discovered that none are offered upstairs. However, the problem is easily solved: Ask your server and he will go down to The Grill and get you a salad to enjoy with your pizza. (And, if you are lunching at The Grill, you can ask your server to get you a pizza from upstairs.) 

For dessert, you can order gelato from your server or at the glass counter adjacent to the pizza ovens. All gelatos are housemade except for that ubiquitous zero-zero ice cream. Gelato textures are silky, and flavours, like coffee or chestnut, are delightfully intense and not sugary. A fig frozen yoghurt is spot-on. Sophisticated toppings, like homemade caramel sauce, candied fruit and freshly toasted almonds, impress.

Room Service: Complimentary room service via the All-Around Dining menu is available 24 hours. This menu is extensive, and you can request its dishes be served anywhere. You want a well-done burger delivered to the Panorama Lounge where you're engrossed in a book? It's on the way.

Speaking of burgers, the room service burger disappoints; it's thin and rather flavourless. This is the only item for which we noticed a decrease in quality; in the past, the beef was labelled Piedmontese, and the hamburger was delicious, plump and juicy. We're told it's the same beef but it's not listed as such on the menu.

Other lunchtime offerings include three types of pizza, a veggie burger with tofu and shiitakes, an excellent fresh tomato bisque and fine pastas such as a spicy penne with 26-month aged Parmigiano. In the mood for canapes? Order guacamole or a shrimp “martini.” For an evening in, order sirloin steak, filet mignon, grilled chicken or salmon, with an assortment of sauces. Your butler can serve you course by course, a must-try experience.

The breakfast menu is comprehensive -- all-American, plus British specialities such as English bacon and baked beans -- and includes most everything served at Atlantide. Omelettes are fluffy, cooked as requested. The brand of preserves, alain milliat from France, is superb. To preorder breakfast, fill out a room service menu left at evening turndown and place it in the suite mailbox by 2 a.m. (You can also handwrite in special requests.)

Alas, the bigger suites (Silver and up) no longer receive a special Gourmet Bites menu, which included baby blinis with caviar, pate de foie gras and other such extravagances. However, if you ask your butler, you may receive such canapes rather than the usual hors d'oeuvres served in bars. Every suite receives a Calvisius caviar menu. Four varieties from this excellent brand are offered, at a range of fees per 20 grams.

All accommodations on Silver Spirit are suites. The room layout, which some passengers don't like, didn't change during the remodel; Silver Spirit cabins have a narrower entryway and less room between the foot of the bed and the opposing wall than on Silver Muse. However, suites do feature a most spacious living area.

The new design is lighter and Italian modern sleek -- all creamy-beige furnishings with blue and silver accents. Expect plush leather headboards, thick carpeting and light cabinetry with contemporary metal pulls.

Each suite is furnished with a bed that can convert from twin to queen; beds are king-sized in big suites, beginning with Silver Suites on up. The luxe beds are made with silky Pratesi linens and duvets. Suitcases fit easily under all beds. Choose from nine pillow selections, including firm, down-alternative, body pillow and buckwheat. (Standard pillows are 25 to 30 percent down and 70 to 75 percent feather.)

Additional furniture includes a love seat with a small, dining-height table, easy chair and desk/vanity with a stool. Personalized stationery awaits on the desk. All televisions are Samsung flat-screen with live television such as CNN, and are interactive, with media libraries. Silversea keyrings/flashlights are placed bedside. Delicious turn-down Domori (Italian) chocolate squares are delivered nightly. Multiple outlets (110 and 220 volt) and USB ports are on desks and by bedside tables. iHome Radios double as charging stations.

Walk-in closets feature both padded and wooden hangers and a safe. Slippers, sewing kit, umbrella and a hair dryer are in all suites.

Bathrooms possess only one sink in all suites but the biggest (Silver Suites and up), but the room is awash in marble and granite and stocked with soft thick towels. Showers possess two heads (rain and handheld) and a clothesline. The bathroom door has robe hooks. Two plush Etro robes are provided, with slippers. Shelves, on both sides of the vanity mirror, include a jar of cotton swabs and cotton balls.

In the bigger suites (Silver Suites and up), bathrooms feature separate showers and tubs and two vanities.

Each suite enjoys butler service; white-gloved butlers wear morning suits in the daytime and tuxedos at night. They introduce themselves on embarkation day and offer Bvlgari toiletries, including soap (facial and shower), shampoo, conditioner and body lotion. Hypoallergenic Sebamed and Sicilian brand Ortigia are alternatives.

Butlers stock bars with preferred bottles of wine or spirits, sodas and filtered water. (If you want bubbly waiting in a chilled bucket on embarkation day, request in advance.) Butlers also fetch sundries for sale (request a list), including toothbrushes and aspirin.

Provide your butler with laundry by 9 a.m. for same-day service. Neatly folded undergarments are returned wrapped in tissue paper. Clothes on hangers come bundled in a plastic bag and are returned to your closet.

Beginning with Silver Suites, all big suites receive illy espresso makers, complimentary laundry, wet cleaning (which doesn't use dry cleaning chemical solvents) and pressing. They also receive predinner canapes, served by their butler, on request. (Feel free to ask for fancier complimentary hors d'oeuvres like baby blinis with caviar, if not offered.) All big suites can also be configured as a two-bedroom.

Vista Suite: Vista Suites are on Deck 4 and measure 312 square feet with a big picture window. The bed can be curtained off from the living area. There's one 46-inch flat-screen television.

Panorama Suite: The four ocean-view Panorama Suites are on Deck 8 and measure 334 square feet. They have one 42-inch flat-screen television and two chairs, instead of a sofa, in the living area. These suites sit on either side of the two Owner's Suites, and are often utilized as a second bedroom.

Veranda Suite: All Veranda Suites are identical to Vista Suites, except they include a 64-square-foot veranda with two rattan-like chairs and a small table. Classic Veranda Suites are on Deck 5 and 6, and are positioned forward. Superior Veranda Suites are on higher decks (7, 8 and 9), but are also forward. Deluxe Veranda Suites possess a more central location on Decks 6, 7 and 8.

Silver Suite: With 746 square feet, including a 129-square-foot veranda, the 32 Silver Suites come with additional amenities. There is a separate bedroom, divided from the living area with sliding wood doors. There are two televisions; one mounted in the living area and the other opposite the king-sized bed.

The bathroom has a double vanity and both a large shower and a tub. The toilet is separate from the main bathroom, has its own sink and can be entered via the bathroom or the hallway, doubling as a powder room. The dining area features a wood table with four leather chairs and a spacious bar setup with an illy espresso machine. Passengers also receive a beautiful box of divine chocolates from Belgian chocolatier Pierre Marcolini. There's a particularly roomy walk-in closet off the bedroom and lots of cabinets and shelves for storage. Verandas include two chairs, a table and a chaise lounge.

An evening dining with a ship officer, laundry service, wet cleaning and pressing are complimentary. Unlimited premium Wi-Fi (faster than the complimentary standard Wi-Fi passengers in smaller suites receive) begins at this suite level.

Royal Suite: The two Royal Suites are on Deck 7 and measure 990 square feet, including a 129-square-foot veranda. Since the veranda is smaller, and not a wraparound like in Grand and Owner's Suites, the furnishings are customized to the passengers' needs. Request a dining table with chairs, or two chaise lounges with a small table, as desired.

Royal Suites possess all the amenities of a Silver Suite but are all the way forward. Expect more of a posh apartment feel, with a big built-in credenza with shelving and a larger bar than in a Silver Suite. Everything is more spacious than a Silver Suite, including the longer entryway, bigger bathroom, larger living area plus a dining table that can seat up to six.

The separate bedroom offers a comfy chair and ottoman. The high-end mattress, with a horsehair topper, is handmade by Savoir. Royal Suite passengers receive all the amenities of the Silver Suites, plus dinner for two in La Dame (one evening per voyage), one evening dining with an officer and two hours of worldwide phone use from your suite, per voyage segment.

Grand Suite: The four Grand Suites are on Decks 8 and 9, and measure between 1,425 and 1,532 square feet, including a wraparound veranda measuring between 560 to 667 square feet. Expect three seating areas outdoors: Two chaise lounges and a small table, a dining table with two chairs; and two chairs with a small table.

Grand Suites feel even more like a luxury apartment, as every area is bigger than in a Royal Suite. The walk-in closet is particularly large, with much storage space, especially handy for long, multi-segment cruises. Passengers receive all the amenities of a Royal Suite.

Owner's Suite: The two Owner's Suites are on Deck 8 and measure 1,292 square feet, including a 190-square-foot veranda. (Add an adjacent second bedroom, and you wallow in 1,688 square feet of luxurious space.) The Owner's Suite veranda is smaller than that of a Grand Suite; passengers can customize furnishings, such as two chaises lounges and a small table, or a dining table with two chairs.

Owner's Suites are coveted for their central location and let's face it, the name's cachet. Expect a large, oval-shaped dining table with six chairs, a particularly spacious bathroom with additional shelving and a bidet and a living room featuring a couch, a marble table and two leather chairs. Off the living space, you'll find a little office area, with a desk, chair and floor-to-ceiling window views. Owner's Suite receive all the amenities of a Royal Suite and Grand Suite.

 

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