Number of Cruises: Most were seasoned cruisers
Cruise Line: Silversea
Ship: Silver Shadow
Sailing Date: n/a
Itinerary: Europe and the Baltic
Please Note: This is a continuation of a review that started on the Silver Shadow on July 10th, 2002 in Stockholm, Sweden and terminated in Dover, England. To read about the ship and the first part of the itinerary, click here
Day Thirteen, Dover, England, July 22nd, 2002
After Joanie left for London I boarded the Silver Shadow and started preparing for the new group that was to board at 3 pm. This group was quite small so I was looking forward to some time relaxing and catching up on work during the coming week. I knew that some of the agents were arriving on the train from London’s Victoria Station and decided to help them with their luggage and negotiated a taxi to take me to the train station in Dover (about 5 Pounds, or US$8.00 one way) and picked their luggage up and dropped it off with the porters for the ship while they went to lunch in Dover. Back on board I finalized the group’s arrangements, printed flyers welcoming them aboard and advising them of the evening’s schedule. Once done, I took the afternoon to catch up on some work that I had fallen behind on.
I met the group in the Bar for cocktails at 7 pm and introduced myself to them before we headed off to dinner in the Terrace Restaurant for a special “Provence Café” dining experience. This was the first meal that got mixed reviews on the cruise as some liked the leg of lamb entrée and others did not. I enjoyed the diversity of the meal selections but would have preferred a fish alternate entrée. However, the whole idea behind the Terrace Café is to experience new and different types of gourmet dining and this meal was consistent with that effort. I always enter the Terrace Café with an open mind and exploratory attitude and don’t expect to dine on dishes that are familiar to me. My table was the last to leave the dining room after lots of conversation. A lady from Hawaii had spent a good deal of time in Indonesia and Thailand and was keenly interested in rare and exotic fruit so we had a great time talking about the various tastes of exotic fruits.
Day Fourteen, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, July 23rd, 2002
I have to be honest and tell you that Amsterdam is not my favorite port so I normally stay on the ship during calls to Amsterdam however the Floriade was taking place in Haarlem, The Netherlands and I was anxious to experience this once a decade horticulturist’s extravaganza and had signed up for the ship’s transfer and the second day of our visit. I had an early breakfast and decided to work the entire day and take advantage of the down time while in Amsterdam. I worked through lunch and then simply could not write any further so I decided to take a long walk for some exercise. I left the Silver Shadow and walked towards the main train station (about ½ mile away) and then enter the city through the station. I crossed the main street that encircles the old section of Amsterdam and entered the network pedestrian streets and canals. My first impression was that the city had not changed the years since I actually visited it.. I walked down street after street, through Chinatown an down the famous (or possibly infamous) Red Light district before starting to make my way back to the ship. As far as I could see, Amsterdam had not changed since the last time I visited the city. Back on board I continued to work and decided to simply have dinner in my cabin and continue working. I got lots done during the day and evening and also enjoyed a cheese plat, shrimp cocktail and some chardonnay for dinner. I slept like a baby after the exercise, work and dinner.
Day Fifteen, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, July 24th, 2002
I ordered room service so that I would be sure to be awaken in time to catch the motor coach to the Floriade. After a quick breakfast and a quick check of my e-mail I was off to meet the motor coach that took us to the Floriade. Located on 120 acres, the Floriade is an event for agriculturalist, horticulturists gardeners and just about anyone that likes plants, trees and nature. Over 35 countries from around the world participate and it is held in a different part of Holland only once every ten years. The event is broken into 3 separate areas the lake, by the hill and the roof. I was keenly interested in the water plant display as well as the fruit section as my hobbies include growing rare and unusual fruit and water lilies. Over the years I have collected some of the most interesting varieties of both fruit trees and water lilies and am quite interested in new and unusual plants.
It took about 45 minutes from the ship to the entrance to the Floriade and I wasted no time heading to the water lily display by the lake. The setting by the lake was spectacular but when I got to the water lilies they had not yet started open. I spent a good deal of time looking at the other plants and exhibits in the lake area before heading back to the water lily displays. Unfortunately, my own personal collection was superior to that of the Floriade and I suspect the water plant display was simply an afterthought for the promoters as I only saw one large pink lily that looked interesting and the balance were common varieties found in most water garden shops. I did get some great ideas for displaying and viewing water plants however and that made it worth the trip alone. Ditto for the fruit display. While interesting, it lacked anything unusual that I would have thought would have been on display. It left me with the impression that either the Floriade was not representative of the best in Holland or that rare fruit and water plants represents an opportunity for someone to introduce some exciting new products for those interested in them.
The flowers and other displays were very impressive though (especially the Dahlia exhibit) The middle section comprised more of rides and exhibits with the highlight being a large pyramid made from imported sand. I couldn’t figure out what all the excitement was about until I realized that the Netherlands really doesn’t have many hills or high points so climbing this structure gave its visitors a view that many have never experienced I suspect. The Roof section was made up of thousands of sun panels making the world’s largest green house. In it were displays of sub tropical and tropical flowers and other oddities. There seemed to be an extensive collection of orchids but being a novice couldn’t tell if they were unique or not. There were thousands of people enjoying the Floriade and a good number of stores were selling seeds, bulbs and such to the customers. All in all, I would recommend the Floriade as a day well spent as the area and scenery in the lake area is wonderful. Be aware though that only flowers that happen to be blooming when you go is what you will see. Tulips and other bulbs are done for the year and were available for viewing only during May and June. Someone asked me how I would rate the Floriade to Buchart Gardens in Victoria, Canada and I would have to say that I would give Buchart Gardens a 10 and the Floriade I experienced a 6 or a 7. We left the Floriade around 2 pm and made our way back to the ship in time to enjoy a salad and sandwich by the pool with some of the members of our group. After a long Jacuzzi I made my way to my cabin to prepare for dinner with some of our group members. We met in the bar at 7 pm and then continued into the Restaurant for another excellent dinner. Following dinner I called it a night and returned to my cabin for a good night’s rest.
Day Sixteen, Cruising the North Sea, July 25th, 2002
I awoke to moderate seas as we cruised towards Norway and the ship was both pitching and rolling at the same time. After my usual breakfast I spent an hour or so in the Internet Café before going by the pool area to see that the sun was out and while quite windy, it appeared to be sunny enough to enjoy the Jacuzzi and pool. Getting my notebook to work on a project I situated myself on a lounge with a great view of the pool area and settled in for what turned out to be a great day by the pool. We were following a storm front that had moved through ahead of us and were in the turbulence behind the front that was moving it along. There were periods of extreme sunshine followed by periods of clouds. The wind continued all day but was subsiding as the afternoon continued. I had a quick lunch of some steamed vegetables passing on the galley lunch that was taking place in the main restaurant in favor of a light meal instead. As the afternoon wore on it became a bit chilly as the cloud cover increased a bit so I decided to continue my day in my cabin doing some work. As this evening was the Captain’s Welcome Aboard cocktail party, I was ready by 6:30 and wandered the ship before attending the event in the main showroom. I was amazed at the light turnout of only 75 passengers or so and figured that the moderate movement of the ship had taken its toll on passengers prone to seasickness. I met a couple of the group for the formal dinner in the restaurant and dined on the caviar and lobster dinner with complete enjoyment. Some of us continued on to the Panorama Lounge for nightcaps before turning in completely satisfied and ready for a good night’s sleep.
Day Seventeen, Oslo, Norway, July 26th, 2002
I got up early to enjoy the approach up the fjord into Oslo and wasn’t disappointed. The day offered ample sunshine and seemed more like a San Diego morning than one in the far north. I enjoyed a cup of coffee as we approached Oslo and maneuvered our way into the tricky berth right next to the fort close to downtown. Once berthed I continued my morning meal on the aft deck of the Terrace Café. Oslo is a wonderful city with excellent shopping and beautiful people and I had decided to take a long walk through Olso’s shopping areas and city center to enjoy both. While the ship docks close to the main quay one must go to the quay and enter the city by penetrating several blocks inland to one of the main streets and then head to the right as the city unfolds. The main streets become pedestrian in the older section of the city and I believe that I saw every brand known to man featured in one store or another. There is a large designer area of the shopping area with all of the major designer labels represented in their own stores. It always makes me wonder how Oslo got so much attention from such a large number of retailers and manufactures. I stopped for a latte in one of the sidewalk cafes and just watched as the day passed in front of me. What an enjoyable city! I had done most of Oslo’s sights before and would recommend the tour boats that go to the fjords from the main quay area and also the ferry that takes you across the bay to the maritime museums, both are excellent if you are interested in these types of things.
After several hours of walking just about every street Oslo has to offer I made my way back to the ship to enjoy the afternoon by the Silver Shadow’s pool area. The storm front was long gone as was the wind and we were treated to a fabulous day of sunshine and hot temperatures. I worked on some notes for a new seminar I am preparing and spent the balance of my time between the pool and the Jacuzzi. I was still by the pool during the ship’s departure and made my way above the wing where the Captain was piloting the ship away from the dock. Music was playing by the pool and bar b ques had been preparing shrimp, steak and chicken appetizers that were offered as well as spring roll and other delights. The shrimp was simply excellent! Some people from our group had made reservations in the Terrace Café for Italian night and had invited me to join them so I set off for my cabin to get ready for dinner. We met in the Bar for cocktails before going up to the seventh deck and our ocean view table to enjoy another completely fantastic dining experience. After dinner we made our way to the theater to see the magician who did an excellent job entertaining the group of folks gathered there for his performance.
Day Eighteen, Gothenburg, Sweden, July 27th, 2002
I awoke to another stellar day with bright sunshine and a warm sun. I had decided to spend the afternoon by the pool to work on my new seminar so took my normal breakfast and then boarded the shuttle into the old town area of Gothenburg. I departed the bus in the town square area that was to be our pick up point as well and started exploring the downtown area. Gothenburg is an excellent port for shopping with a huge indoor mall and extensive pedestrian streets loaded with shops and stores. I was surprised to see many or the same stores that reside in the malls in and around the San Diego area. Since I wasn’t really interested in shopping I struck out into what appeared to be the residential areas with more markets, pharmacies and small boutiques to serve the local community rather than a downtown area. I finally came upon the main canal that identified the street that our shuttle operated from so I headed back towards the shuttle. I was amazed to see water lilies growing wild in the canal as I would have thought the water too polluted to sustain such fragile water plants. It certainly speaks well for the eco systems of Gothenburg.
Back on the ship I enjoyed a quick plate of steamed vegetables in the Terrace Café (the Galley lunch was taking place in the galley/Restaurant but I just didn’t want much food) and then changed to spend the afternoon by the pool. It was one of the best days of the cruise with perfect temperatures and humidity. I stayed until the last possible moment before heading down to my cabin to dress for the formal night. I had been invited to the Venetian Society cocktail party and thoroughly enjoyed Silversea’s hospitality. I sat with some folks who had a substantial number of days on Silversea but the award for the person with the most days cruising Silversea went to a lady who had logged a whopping 385 days. While I had planned to meet some folks from our group for cocktails and dinner in the Restaurant at 7:30 pm the Venetian Society meeting lasted until almost 8:00 pm. I rushed to the Bar and the group had waited for me. We entered the Restaurant and had a wonderful dinner of swordfish, caviar and other treats too good to explain. The Jean Ann Ryan Company was performing “Ombra” which was a musical production with lots of unique dancing and acrobatics. We sat right in the front row and enjoyed the entertainers close up and personal. After the show we then went to the Panorama Lounge for a nightcap before turning in for the evening.
Day Nineteen, Copenhagen, Denmark, July 28th, 2002
The weather was almost to good to be true.. It continued hot and sunny and promised to be another wonderful day as we slipped past the outer breakwater entering Copenhagen. There was little wind and the ocean was oil slick calm. I hurried through breakfast and tried to catch the first shuttle into the city. I love Copenhagen and always look forward to visiting its unique sights and sounds. The shuttle bus dropped its passengers at the top of the pedestrian shopping street right across from the square that fronts Tivoli Gardens (said to be the place Walt Disney got the idea for Disneyland) As it was Sunday most of the store would be closed all day but the area promised to be full of the people of Copenhagen who would be out enjoying the warm sunshine and ample sidewalk cafes and coffee shops. I decided to take a lengthy walk and set out down the world’s longest pedestrian shopping street towards the restaurant area adjoining the canals. I walked and walked and finally stopped for a latte in a sidewalk café. I settled in to watch the morning unfold before me and wasn’t disappointed with the process. I walked back up to Tivoli and then decided to walk back to the ship. On my last visit to Copenhagen I discovered a wonderful walk that one can enjoy either from the ship to Tivoli or returning from Tivoli. The walk takes about and hour and a half and passes most of the sights of Copenhagen and is most enjoyable. Of course, if one wanted to stop along the way the walk would take substantially longer.
From Tivoli Gardens, cross the large square and enter the pedestrian shopping street (look for the 7-11 on the corner) stroll the entire length of the street until it terminates at another square. Cross the square and head into the street with the canal and all of the sidewalk restaurants on it. Continue down the street until the last signal and turn left for a block. You will then see that you can go right (towards the ocean) and pick up the boardwalk that fronts the harbor. Head towards the ship (or left towards the open ocean) You will pass the palace and museum on your left and several other sights before you arrive at the end of the boardwalk and the entrance to the old fort. Here you can explore the fort or simply enter the fort and take the trail that goes over the bridge spanning the lake. This will deliver you to an ocean front walk that takes you past several of Copenhagen’s more famous statues and art work. You will finally come upon the “Little Mermaid” sculpture on one of the rocks in the ocean. From here continue on towards the marina and then take the trail around the marina to the ocean front walk that will lead you back to the ship past several restaurants and shops as you go. To walk from the ship just reverse the directions.
Once back on the ship I spent the late afternoon by the pool before heading to my cabin to begin packing to depart the ship early in the morning. I always find the last evening of the cruise difficult as everyone is so sad to be leaving so I decided to simply have a light dinner in my cabin, finish packing and try to get an early night’s sleep as I had a 3:00 am wake up call to get to the airport for a 6:45 am flight to Amsterdam to connect to my KLM flight to Los Angeles.
Day Twenty, Copenhagen, Denmark, July 29th, 2002
My wake up call came right on time at 3:00 am followed by orange juice, coffee, cantaloupe and rolls delivered to my cabin at 3:15 am. At 3:20 am I received my back up wake up call from the registration desk just in case I slept through the first one. I was completely packed so I stopped at the reception desk, obtained my passport and made my way off the ship that had been my home for the last 20 days and was sad to depart the Silver Shadow’s wonderful experience. My taxi pulled up right on time and I was wandering what other cruise line would give you a back-up wake up call, offer full room service at 3:00 am in the morning (I could have just as easily ordered caviar and shrimp) and have a taxi cab waiting for me to carry me to the airport at any time I wanted 24 hours a day. The receptionist at the registration desk on the ship that handed me my passport even recognized me by name even though I had never met nor seen her before. Silversea certainly has it together and deserves its many awards and fine reputation. The experience is just one of complete satisfaction. There is no one thing or person you can point to that stands out as being exceptional. It is the complete experience that makes it quite exceptional. I was going to miss it.
I arrived at the airport (about 20 minutes away) before it opened and sat outside in the dawning skies simply enjoying Copenhagen’s balmy weather and unique culture.. Once my check-in counter was posted I checked my bag, obtained my boarding passes and made my way through immigration to the gate where I stopped for a latte while eating for the flight’s departure. The KLM flight departed for Amsterdam on time and arrived in Amsterdam on time as well. I had a two-hour layover in Amsterdam so I found the Internet Café and did some much needed work catching up on e-mail and such and then made my way to the gate for my 11 hour flight back to Los Angeles where Joanie picked me up as son as I cleared customs
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the deal on Russian visas? Do I need to get one or not?
OK, this one is pretty straight forward. In order to explore St. Petersburg on your own you will need to have a current Russian visa to enter the country. If you do not have a visa the only way you can get off the ship is by taking one of Silversea’s shore excursions. Silversea also offers the opportunity to use one of their private drivers and guides to explore St. Petersburg (which is the option we chose) at a rate of about $120 per hour for up to four people. Most of the sites are within walking distance of the ship so getting around is easy (if you know where you are going) Here is my perspective. First, Russian visas are expensive. It is a hassle to get one and then they require a substantial investment (especially if you are getting one on short notice) For an equivalent price you could take one of the shore excursions and simply use the ship’s group visa. Second (and more important) is the fact that unless you pre arrange for an English speaking guide (or you speak fluent Russian) you will have a difficult time trying to find anyone that can take you where you want to go or even understand your request for directions if you are walking. Thirdly, St. Petersburg is not necessarily user friendly. During the day we had our private driver in our Mercedes van we turned at a corner near the hermitage and were pulled over by a uniformed policeman and shaken down for around $20.00.
What are the Other Passengers Like on the Silver Shadow?
On both cruises I found the other passengers to be delightful. Joanie and I made friends with two different groups from Mexico City that I wish were closer to home as they were such wonderful people. Everyone is there to have a wonderful vacation and the pretenses are left at home for most folks. There was one guy that was accompanied by two body guards the entire time and I overheard a story about another famous passenger (not on these cruises) that had his jet follow the ship from port to port so he could take off when he wanted. This same passenger paid the ship $10,000 to make an unscheduled port call so he could say hello to a friend that was visiting the port. The Silver Shadow gets the most interesting people as passengers but everyone takes it into stride.
What About the Gratuities and Other Miscellaneous Charges?
All gratuities, beverages, wine and champagne (as well as mixed drinks too) are included in your initial fare. While Silversea seems more expensive you have to add in what you are going to pay for all of the inclusions on Silversea. About the only things you will pay for are the shore excursions, laundry and dry cleaning (included with suites) and the small Internet access fees. The Silver Shadow offers a wine list beyond what is included in your fare.