Silver Explorer Arctic Cruise Review
Cruising Svalbard on Silver Explorer

Silver Explorer Arctic Cruise Review

Silver Explorer:  Onboard Impressions and Experiences

Silver Explorer in Arctic
Silver Explorer in Svalbard

The Silversea Experience

Silversea Cruises’ buzz words are: Italian warmth. European sophistication. All-inclusive lifestyle. Exquisite cuisine.

Guests are invited to enjoy the brand standards and to treat the ship like a home away from home.

Whether enjoying my spacious suite under the watchful care of Romeo, my experienced butler, or enjoying a special curry dinner in the dining room to celebrate my birthday, everything on Silver Explorer has been exceptional.

The Arctic Expedition Itinerary

A lot of thought and expertise goes into the daily planning of our flexible itinerary. As you can see from the photo below, there are numerous options available for Silver Explorer to visit.

Exploration cruising tools on bridge
Exploration cruising tools on bridge

 

Most guests are expecting to encounter Svalbard’s Wildlife

Curious bearded seal stops by to say hi.
Curious bearded seal stops by to say hi.
Guilemot birds at Bear Island via Silver Explorer
Guilemot birds at Bear Island via Silver Explorer
Silver Explorer in the Arctic
Silver Explorer in the Arctic
Polar bear sighting on Silver Explorer
Polar bear sighting on Silver Explorer

We were always on the lookout for: Polar Bears, Arctic foxes, Svaalbard reindeer, seals, walruses, and whales and birds. Naturalists onboard are standing by to narrate the Arctic Theater’s flora and fauna as well as the unique adaptions that have allowed the area to thrive.

If you asked me where Svalbard was a couple months ago, I really don’t think I could have answered. But when I got a chance to sail on Silver Explorer – I jumped at the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. After I committed to the voyage, I wanted to learn as much as possible about the Svalbard archipelago that lies halfway between Scandinavia and the North Pole.

The funny thing was that there is not a lot of information available about the hundreds of islands that are comprised of rugged mountains, deep fjords, and numerous glaciers.

Just look at the Silversea published itinerary. Besides the embarkation and debarkation ports, there is a big chunk of time designated as “Cruise/Explore Svalbard, Norway.” I wondered exactly what that meant…

What it meant is that to truly understand Svalbard one would need to embrace the Arctic region. And the best way to do that is to let the Expedition staff and master of the vessel chart the best course. Everyday, we would update our voyage map with little stickers indicating where we had cruise the day before. Once I looked at the map I realized what a maze Svalbard actually is.

Voyage map showing where Silver Explorer cruised
Voyage map showing where Silver Explorer cruised

 

We began our journey in Longyearbyen, which is the largest settlement in Svalbard. It was a former coal-mining community and is now a self-contained town with a population of approximately 2,000 people. Most of the inhabitants are very keen on learning about Arctic Studies.

Svalbard
Extreme, exotic, unique: Longyearbyen, Svalbard.

 

Fellow passengers

My fellow guests are an international collection of world travelers. We are cruising in the Arctic and a lot of the passengers have already been to Antarctica making them truly bi-polar.

There is no need to pack formal clothes, this is expedition cruising. Think Smart Casual and your evening wear will be perfect. There were a couple of special events at night (Venetian Society evening, Captain’s Welcome and Captain’s Farewell) but honestly, guests left their fanciest clothes at home and opted for relaxed attire, which was perfect after a full day of expedition clothing.

Crew and Staff 

It’s my opinion that the epicenter of a successful cruise revolves around the crew and staff. My theory has been proved right once again and I can only sing the praises of the hotel department and expedition staff.

Going above and beyond

Hotel director Marcelo and his team surprise guests with Champagne and treats while scenic cruising on Zodiaks.
Hotel director Marcelo (blue hoodie)  and his team surprise guests with Champagne and treats while scenic cruising on Zodiaks.

Marcelo Affonso hotel director on Silver Explorer has a genuine smile with a twinkle in his eye. He told me one evening that he was a Reiki Master: one who has studied the Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation. It made total sense, because as a senior member of the leadership team on the ship, he set the tone for what I would experience as a ship vibe that is one of quiet calm and serenity.

Expedition Team

Expedition leader Jose always standing by to make sure everything goes as planed.
Expedition leader Juan always standing by to make sure everything goes as planed.

While Marcelo set the tone for a harmonious ship, the expedition staff poured their hearts and souls into the daily program. Juan Carlos Restrepo, the expedition leader, was assisted by 12 colleagues who represented marine biologists, naturalists, a historian, a geologist, an ornithologist, bear guards, and a photographer.

The expedition team gave lectures, took guests on Zodiac tours and helped with many of the logistical details to help us experience a unique itinerary.  I am beyond impressed with the quality and professionalism of the expedition staff.

Zodiac cruise
Zodiac cruise with experienced Expedition Staff

The Butler Did It

Romeo (our fab Silversea butler - with guitar) and his friends sing me Happy Bday.
Romeo (our fab Silversea butler – with guitar) and his friends sing me Happy Bday.

One of the best ways to experience Silversea Cruises’ hospitality is to get to know your butler and let them help you customize your cruise experience. Butlers and their suite attendants are available to assist guests create trips of a lifetime. Our butler helped us organize many things: he made reservations for us for dinner, help coordinate special meals (Adobe Chicken night and Special Curry Night), they help passengers stock their stateroom with all their favorite amenities – the list can go on and on.

Dining

Dining is a huge component of the shipboard experience.

Dinner is served on Silver Explorer - view of The Restaurant.
Dinner is served on Silver Explorer – view of The Restaurant.

 

Executive chef Marcelino De la Cruz and restaurant manager Robert Matusewich worked in tandem accommodating the various palettes of the global audience they had to serve. The menus on Silver Explorer were indicative of those found on the larger ships like Silver Shadow or Silver Spirit: there was a daily offering of Relais & Chateaux inspired items by Grand Chef Jacques Thorel. Items like Beef Filet Mignon with Foie Gras-poached potatoes, Tiger prawns and exotic spices, Sea Bass, Dover Sole, and fillet of Greenland Turbot were popular.

Photo tours of my favorite bites:

Silver Explorer Hot Rocks Dining New York salad
Silver Explorer Hot Rocks Dining New York salad
Filet mignon
Grilled filet mignon – always available.

 

The Restaurant - hand rolls and assorted sushi on Silver Explorer.
The Restaurant – hand rolls and assorted sushi on Silver Explorer.
High Tea with Emilio
High Tea with Emilio

In addition, like on other Silversea ships, there was Hot Rocks Dining (under the Midnight Sun), High Tea, and the option to dine en-suite from an extensive room service menu. I had special ordered two dinners: Adobo Chicken and Curry one night and the kitchen was more than accommodating.

The dining room and bar staff, and Civan the Sommelier rounded out the dining experience to make this Arctic expedition a real trip of a lifetime.

Romeo our butler goes above and beyond

I was staying in Suite 701, which is one of the larger accommodations of the ship. Our butler Romeo and his attendant Roy were always standing by to help us feel at home. In fact, when Romeo discovered that it was my birthday he surprised me twice on the occasion by going above and beyond: arranging a special performance with his butler friends to sing me happy birthday and then later that night, Romeo and Roy decorated the suite to look like an Arctic dance club with assorted towel animals for extra fun.

Silver Explorer at-a-glance

  • The best service ratio in expedition cruising: we are sailing with 98 guests and there are over 120 staff and crew. According to the 2016 Silversea Expeditions brochure the official capacity of the ship is 132 passengers.
  • Length 354 feet
  • Width 52 feet
  • Speed 14 Knots
  • Refurbished in 2012
  • Butler service for every suit
  • Included gratuities
  • Open seating dining with freedom to dine when guests prefer. In-suite dining and room service are always available and don’t miss High Tea or Hot Rocks dining (even on the expedition boat).

Bonus:

 

  • Complimentary expedition gear (parka, waterproof backpack, water bottle, and use of waterproof boots)

Ideas for how to enhance your Silver Explorer Arctic Experience:

Below are some notes about topics that I have encountered regarding expedition cruising on Silver Explorer.

A note about binoculars: I was surprised to see that a vast majority of passengers did opt to bring binoculars from home. For those that do not, no worries because Silversea has ample supplies for guests.

A note about Internet:  During our first briefing, we were told not to expect Internet connectivity. In fact, it was very likely that we would lose Satellite signal during for about five days while cruising in the northern Svalbard and Polar Ice Cap region. If staying connected for business (or pleasure) is important to you, then this expedition in the Arctic region might not be a good choice. We are expecting better connectivity as we approach the Tromso region in Norway.

A note about expedition clothing:  Silversea recommendations for expedition clothing are a good guideline for what to bring on your cruise. You will be happy with wind pants, multiple layers, and the Bogs waterproof boots that are suggested. Although waterproof bots are available on the ship, if not getting your right size could be an issue, then bring your own. Don’t forget your bathing suit for the hot tubs (there are two available), it’s a real treat to soak amongst the Arctic landscape.

A note about the Midnight Sun: The sun never goes down below the horizon in the Arctic region during the summer. Bring eye shades to help darken the room for a fitful night’s rest.

A note about provisions: Unlike other Silversea vessels that dock in busy ports, the expedition vessel does not get frequent provisions delivered on a daily basis. Although I have not noticed any of my favorite amenities or ingredients missing from the menu, my butler did tell me that it could pose an issue for some passengers. Travel agents are encouraged to convey this message to their clients who might not understand the incredible remoteness of this region and how it could affect certain inventories (for example, there is caviar but not all the varieties available on let’s say Silver Spirit sailing in the Med).

Zodiac cruise
Zodiac cruise

For those worried about the Zodiac boats: There are plenty of Zodiac boats to accommodate all guests at the same time. However on most occasions we were split into two groups.

Guests were divided into Zodiac disembarkation groups and we disembarked on a rotating basis. For example, we had four groups and only had to wake up early a couple of times. The system is very fair and there should not be any complaining. The rotations are necessary because it helps to avoid congestion in the tight corridors and mud room – especially once all the warm weather clothes are on.

There are three scenarios for the Zodiac boats:

  1. Scenic cruising where no one gets off the Zodiac.
  2. A “Dry Landing,” which means you will disembark the Zodiac at a dock or other landing platform.
  3. A “Wet Landing” that means you will need to step into the water. Rubber boots are essential.

Voyage: At-A-Glance

  • 7 days of expedition cruising around Svalbard and Bear Island enroute to Tromso, Norway.
  • Day 1- Arrival from Oslo via chartered flight to Svalbard
  • Day 2 – 8 Expedition cruising and exploration of Svalbard
  • Day 9 Cruise & Explore Bear Island, Norway
  • Day 10 Tromso, Norway

Carrie Finley

Carrie is ready to explore, discover, and share the wonderful world of cruise travel. My goal is to report live from the ships sharing information about the overall experience under my Blogger-at-Large series. You will find information about cruise ships and places near the sea. Explore what’s buzzing at the cruise lines and gain insight into the world of cruising. Make sure to connect with Carrie via social media outlets including Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Tumblr.
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