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Cruise Views

Good Looks, Lacks Personality


The 296-passenger Silver Cloud from Silversea Cruises, the newest cruise line to enter the ultra-luxury sweepstakes, made its debut last month in the Mediterranean with some of the best "hardware" we've seen since the Crystal Harmony.

Unfortunately, the fledgling line's "software"--the food, service and entertainment--has yet to develop a personal stamp or style, unlike other new cruise lines that have debuted in recent years. We think in particular of Crystal Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line and Celebrity Cruises, all of which sailed from the moment they were christened with a clear and fixed image they want to impress on a passenger.

Silversea doesn't seem to know whether it wants to be a bigger version of the little superdeluxe ships or a smaller version of traditional classic cruise vessels like Crystal Harmony and Royal Viking Sun. That's a pity, since the ship itself has more to offer for the money than most of its competitors in the $600-plus-a-day bracket--an incredibly smooth ride, even in seas so rough the vessel couldn't anchor and tender off the Greek island of Chios during our cruise; a tiered two-deck show lounge with big stage and excellent sight lines; a full-service spa with sea-water therepy tub, a first on a ship of this size.

Cabins are big and comfortable, with the 38 lowest-priced passenger cabins, those without verandas, measuring 240 square feet each, while the 102 cabins with verandas measure 294 square feet.

For comparison shoppers in the deluxe market, this means standard cabins are slightly larger than standard accommodations aboard Cunard Sea Goddess and most cabins aboard Seven Seas' Song of Flower. They're comparable in size to Seabourn's standard suites, which are 277 square feet but don't offer verandas, and Radisson Diamond's standard suites, which are 250 square feet with or without verandas. The handsome marble bathrooms, however, offer less counter and storage space than Seabourn or Royal Viking Queen.

Brochure prices on the Silver Cloud's cabins without verandas are $599 a day per person, double occupancy, in the Mediterranean, $469 in North America, while veranda cabins run $685 a day per person, double occupancy, in the Mediterranean, $549 in North America. Those prices include round-trip air fare, transfers, travel insurance with some trip cancellation coverage, some land hotel stays before and/or after the cruise, port taxes, tips and beverages aboard, including wine, cocktails and soft drinks.


For comparison, here's a rundown on brochure prices for similar Mediterranean cruises this year aboard Silversea's major rivals:

* Seabourn--$1,032 a day per person, double occupancy, including round-trip air fare, tips, complimentary in-cabin bar; lounge drinks and wine with meals are extra.

* Royal Viking Queen--$942 a day per person, double occupancy, with air fare from the West Coast and tips but not beverages included.

* Sea Goddess--$785 a day per person, double occupancy, without air fare but with tips and all beverages included.

* Radisson Diamond--$783 a day per person, double occupancy, including air fare from the West Coast, tips and house wine with meals included; 120 cabins with private verandas.

* Song of Flower--from $427 to $728 a day per person, double occupancy, with tips and all beverages included, air fare extra; latter price is for cabins with private veranda.

Each stateroom on Silver Cloud has a walk-in closet with generous hanging and drawer space, personal safe, terry cloth robes and slippers. Cabins have sitting area with full-sized sofa and two chairs, a small marble table that can be converted into a larger table for en suite dinning, plus a dressing table with hair dryer, TV with VCR, a stocked mini-refrigerator, twin beds convertible to queen-size bed, bedside tables and good reading lights. A bottle of champagne in a silver ice bucket, fresh fruit and a vase of fresh flowers (orchids when we were aboard) is in every cabin at embarkation. The marble bathrooms all have tubs and extra-large sizes of Caswell-Massey toiletries.

Besides the 140 vista and veranda cabins, there are eight suites--four grand suites with private verandas that sleep four in two bedrooms and two baths measuring 1,085 square feet, three Silver Suites with separate bedroom, big living room with dining table and bathroom with spa tub measuring 528 square feet, and one owner's suite with two bedrooms and veranda that measures 887 square feet.


On our sailing, the fourth week the ship was in service, the service staff was still tentative and lacked polish and teamwork, in part because most of them were recruited relatively close to sailing. Service did, however, seem to improve somewhat as the voyage went on.

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