By John and Sandra Nowlan
The first “wow” factor on our Silver Muse Caribbean cruise was, to our delight, the pepper grinder.
Every table in every restaurant on the 600-passenger ship had a pair of tall, stainless steel salt and pepper mills made by Zassenhaus of Germany. Elegant and expensive, the ceramic-based spice grinders are considered among the very best in the world.
One could also use that compliment for the whole vessel. Launched in April, 2017, Silver Muse is the flagship among the nine Italian-owned Silversea small cruise ships that continue to set new standards for comfort, cuisine and luxury.
First Impressions of the Silver Muse
First impressions when boarding the ship are of quiet elegance. Nothing garish, just muted shades of brown, tan, beige and cream.
All 298 suites (no interior cabins) are generous in size. We had one of the smallest at just under 400 square feet including a large balcony but there was a comfortable queen size bed with excellent reading lights, a walk in closet, a sofa and plenty of drawers for storage.
The flat screen TV was cleverly built into the main mirror. The bathroom, with both a shower (offering rain and traditional nozzles) and bath tub, was larger than on most cruise ships and presented a selection of top quality toiletries. We chose Bulgari.
Every suite on Silver Muse has the services of a butler. Ours was named Bhanu, from India. Always available with a genuine smile, he helped us with room service, restaurant reservations, canapés every afternoon and luxury touches like complementary shoe shines and laundry service.
All Inclusive Luxury
Silversea does cost more than traditional cruise ships but almost everything is included in the price – free wi-fi, many dining options, all wine and spirits plus all gratuities. Along with a staff-guest ratio of almost one to one, it represents a high-end value that’s hard to beat.
In the first few months after its launch, Silver Muse had different evening dress codes for each of its eight distinct dining venues. That proved to be confusing and now the ship has adopted a more traditional trio of casual nights, informal evenings (jackets for men) and formal nights (dark suits or tuxedos for men).
No matter the dress code, the culinary choices at the eight dining venues are remarkable for a ship of this size. At the design stage, the company decided there would be no main dining room in the evening, just a series of top quality specialty restaurants. Some require reservations; others are “come whenever you like”.
Delicious Dining Options
The closest to a traditional buffet is La Terrazza at the stern of deck 7. For breakfast and lunch, a wide variety of tempting choices are available. At breakfast we were intrigued by the vast number of seeds, nuts and grains available to enhance everything from eggs to oatmeal. The kitchen even included flax, chia seeds and macadamia nuts. Every evening, La Terrazza becomes an excellent Italian restaurant with appropriate wines and authentic dishes. The back deck is the ideal location for star-gazing.
Throughout the ship the beef is of very high quality. We particularly enjoyed Hot Rocks (open air, by the pool) where guests can grill their own beef, chicken or shrimp over a scalding slab of granite and Atlantide, a specialty steak house.
Indochine, an Asian specialty restaurant had a perfect mix of oriental dishes with spiciness from mild to searing hot. The complimentary Asian beer was a great fit.
Silver Muse also offers a very high end 30 seat French restaurant under the prestigious Relais & Chateaux banner. La Dame is extra cost ($60 each) but, as Food and Beverage Manager Philip Van Tonder told us, it’s very exclusive with the highest quality of cooking and ingredients. The food and presentation were both excellent – we enjoyed foie gras, escargot on a crusty French baguette, lobster bisque, Burgundy-raised Charolais beef and Dover sole carved at the table – but the wine service was a disappointment. Only the standard house wines were offered and the sommelier didn’t seem as knowledgeable as the wine experts in the other, complimentary restaurants.
Living by the sea, we’re always fussy about fish and were delighted by the quality of seafood served in all the Silver Muse restaurants. We were surprised to learn from the F&B manager that fresh fish was never picked up in various ports of call (health and quality control reasons) but came aboard as flash frozen. Clearly top quality. In fact, all the culinary offerings were high end and showcased the talents of the 68 chefs and cooks aboard.
Barbados to St. Thomas
Our cruise was short, just six days, but we packed a lot into that time. We began with an overnight in Barbados at the Canadian-owned Crane, the oldest continuously operating resort in the Caribbean. Its comfortable suites, ideal location beside one of the best open Atlantic beaches in the world and its excellent food (we ate at the Asian restaurant, Zen – the caterpillar sushi was a treasure) made a great pre-cruise stay.
The Silver Muse itinerary included a number of idyllic Caribbean islands. We particular enjoyed tours in Grenada (loved the spice farm, rum distillery and nutmeg warehouse), St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and St. Thomas. Snorkeling and beach time in the tropical heat were a special treat. When we returned from our tours (usually hot and sweaty) we were disappointed that the ship did not offer cold towels at the gangway, a standard procedure on other luxury cruise lines.
Shipboard evenings were often taken up with long, leisurely dining but there was outstanding entertainment every night in the comfortable, intimate main theatre. There was no house band (sadly) but the talented group of six resident singers and dancers provided lively and entertaining Broadway-style variety shows.
Our cruise ended in San Juan, Puerto Rico, one of several Caribbean islands still suffering from fall hurricane damage. But disembarkation of all the passengers was well organized and the smoothest we’ve had on any cruise. Another “wow” factor for Silversea.
All photos by the authors unless noted otherwise