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September 18, 2015

Small Ship Cruise Line Review: Silversea Expeditions

Snapshot: Silversea Expeditions was launched in 2008 as high-end Silversea Cruises’ adventure arm, offering its loyal well-healed clients a chance to explore some really remote corners of the globe at a level of luxury close to what they had been enjoying on Silversea’s 5 ritzy 296- to 382-passenger ships. Silversea Expeditions started out with the SILVER EXPLORER (the former PRINCE ALBERT II), and then in 2012 added the SILVER GALAPAGOS (formerly GALAPAGOS EXPLORER), and most recently in 2014, the SILVER DISCOVERER (the former CLIPPER ODYSSEY). All of the ships were refurbished before joining Silversea Expeditions, with SILVER EXPLORER being the most elegant. Note, most officers and crew aboard SILVER GALAPAGOS are Ecuadorian as required by the government, and the crews on the other two ships are international. Another note: In August 2017, Silversea Cruises’ SILVER CLOUD will be refurbished and converted into an ice-class ship and then join Silversea Expeditions by year-end 2017 and offer a similar experience as her fleetmates. After the overhaul, SILVER CLOUD EXPEDITION will carry 260 passengers and sail on polar and non-polar regions; when sailing Arctic and Antarctic itineraries, the number of passengers booked on those cruises will be restricted to 200.  Stay tuned for more details.

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers: SILVER DISCOVERER (built 1989 & 120 passengers), SILVER EXPLORER (b. 1989 & 132 p); SILVER GALAPAGOS (b. 1990 & 100 p); SILVER CLOUD EXPEDITION (b. 1993 & 260 p; rebuilt 2017)

Passengers: Well-to-do couples 40s on up from North America, and handful from the UK, Europe and Australia. Many have cruised on Silversea’s posh cruise ships.

Passenger Decks: 5; and an elevator connects all of them.

Price: $$$

Included Features: All excursions, wine, spirits and all non-alcoholic drinks throughout cruise, plus gratuities.


  • Week-long, year-round cruises to the Galapagos are round-trip from Baltra aboard SILVER GALAPAGOS.
  • SILVER EXPLORER winters in the Antarctica and spends the rest of the year on one- to three-week-long journeys in the Arctic, Northern Europe and South America.
  • SILVER DISCOVERER spends the year doing one- to three-week cruises in Asia, Australia/New Zealand, Micronesia, Melanesia, Polynesia, and Alaska.
Silver Explorer in the icy poles. * Photo: Richard Sidey

Silver Explorer in the icy poles. * Photo: Richard Sidey

When to Go? The vessels cruise in different regions of the world at the best time to visit: Galapagos is year-round, Antarctica between November and February, Europe in the summer, Southeast and East Asia in the winter and the Pacific regions in the summer (winter in the Southern Hemisphere).

Cabins: Aboard the four, all rooms and suites have twin beds convertible to queens, sitting area and writing desk (some also have vanity tables), and marble bathroom with shower or tub; SILVER EXPLORER, DISCOVERER and CLOUD all have the choice of Ferragamo, Bulgari or hypoallergenic bath amenities (SILVER GALAPAGOS offers a local brand from Ecuador). Enjoy butler service, plush robe, slippers, choice of pillows, fine Pratesi bed linens (that Elizabeth Taylor apparently swore by), and a stocked mini-fridge. All accommodations come with expedition binoculars, hair dryer, personal safe, flat screen TVs, on-demand movies, direct-dial telephone, and Wifi access. All ships offer cellular service based on availability.  Complimentary parkas are offered on Antarctica and Arctic voyages as well as other select sailings.

SILVER DISCOVERER has 60 all ocean-view suites; most are View Suites measuring 181 sq. ft. with two windows. There are 8 larger suites with balconies and nine 186-square-foot suites with portholes. The one Medallion suite is 408 sq. ft., including a balcony.

Of SILVER EXPLORER’s 66 all ocean-view suites, 24 of them measure 230 sq. ft. with windows. Another 8 at that size also have French balconies (sliding doors with narrow ledge for standing); 14 rooms are 154 to 192 sq. ft.. There are two Owner’s suites at 626 sq. ft. and a pair of 675-sq.-ft. Grand Suites, all with balconies. Another 16 large suites measure 351 to 460 sq. ft..

SILVER GALAPAGOS has 50 all ocean-view suites, with 24 of them measuring 210 to 250 sq. ft.; a dozen are 268 sq. ft. including balconies. There are four 361-sq.-ft. Silver Suites and 8 Deluxe Veranda Suites measuring 303 sq. ft., both with balconies.

SILVER CLOUD EXPEDITION has 130 all ocean-view suites, with 24 of them with windows and measuring 240 sq. ft.; 32 are 295 sq. ft. including balconies; (1) 541 sq. ft. suite includes balcony; (2) 736 sq. ft 1-bedroom Royal Suites; (2) 736 sq. ft 1-bedroom Grand Suites on the deck above; and (1) 587 sq. ft 1-bedroom Owners Suite (the later four categories can be combined with neighbouring suites to become even larger). All have walk-in closets.

A Vista Suite on Silver Discoverer. * Photo: Silversea Cruises

A Vista Suite on Silver Discoverer. * Photo: Silversea Cruises

Public Rooms: Aboard SILVER DISCOVERER the largest space is the 120-seat Explorer Lounge with wraparound windows for scenery views; this is the ship’s hub and place where lectures are held and where passengers cluster to read and chat. It has a bar at one end and a station for coffee and tea all day long. There’s an outdoor bar on the Sun Deck and a pool as well as plenty of seating. Below decks is a small gym, massage room and beauty salon.

SILVER EXPLORER has two windowed lounges for scenery viewing — the smaller Observation Lounge forward on Deck 6 and one deck below the larger Panorama Lounge at the stern, which is also the best place for pre- and post-dinner cocktails. A pianist provides background music. Adjacent to the Panorama Lounge is the cozy Connoisseur’s Corner for cigars and cognac. The comfortable 110-seat Theatre is where lectures and slide shows take place. The ship has a small library/Internet Café, boutique, small gym, and a spa with one massage room, a sauna/steam room and a beauty salon. There are two hot tubs at the stern of Deck 6.

SILVER GALAPAGOS has a small ocean-view gym, massage room, beauty salon, and a combo boutique/library. The 100-seat Explorer Lounge is the hub of the ship and the place were lectures and briefings happen. It has a high-tech AV system and a photo station with an iMac where you can download and edit your photos. The Piano Bar, with a resident pianist on hand, is the spot for pre- and post-dinner drinks, as well as afternoon tea.

Silver Galapagos gets this close to shore. * Photo: Silversea Cruises

Silver Galapagos gets this close to shore. * Photo: Silversea Cruises

Dining: On all four ships, continental and regional specialties — Galapagos Lobster à la Galapaguera anyone? — are served in the open-seating no-jackets required dining venues; the food level and scope aboard SILVER DISCOVERER, SILVER EXPLORER and SILVER CLOUD are essentially the same as the rest of the fleet (SILVER GALAPAGOS, on the other hand, is bound by Ecuadorian laws and restrictions regarding food sourcing, so the menus can’t quite compete). In the main restaurants, it’s fine dining all the way on candle-lit tables set with crisp white linens and china. Each also has a more casual al fresco Grille restaurant that turns into a popular dinnertime spot for grilled fish and steaks and other goodies prepared tableside on a heated volcanic-rock plate; reservations are suggested. The larger SILVER CLOUD also has a Relais & Châteaux® restaurant and La Terrazza.

SILVER DISCOVERER has three dining venues including the main a la carte restaurant, and an indoor buffet-style venue for breakfast and lunch, and an outdoor grill venue for buffet-style breakfast and lunch, and a la carte dinners.

There are two restaurants on SILVER EXPLORER, the main one serves buffet-style breakfast and lunch, and a la carte dinners, while the smaller more casual Outdoor Grille seats up to 34 passengers for breakfast, lunch and bar service.

SILVER GALAPAGOS has two dining venues, the larger main Restaurant and the al-fresco Grille at the stern of Deck 6, which serves buffet-style breakfast and lunch. At dinner at the Grille, you can grill your own steaks and seafood or choose homemade pizza or lite fare.

SILVER CLOUD EXPEDITION has four dining venues: the larger more formal main restaurant; the al-fresco Grille on deck; a Relais & Châteaux® restaurant (for $40 extra per person); and La Terrazza, on the stern with wake-facing seating.

Activities & Entertainment: The destinations are the main event, with naturalist-led excursions at least once and often several times a day; about 10 expedition team members sail on every voyage. On board there are lectures and slide shows about the destination, and otherwise passengers read, chat with new friends and gaze out at the stunning landscapes. Evenings before and after dinner, it’s drinks and conversation.

They all carry inflatable zodiac landing craft (SILVER DISCOVERER has 12; SILVER EXPLORER 8; SILVER GALAPAGOS 5; and SILVER CLOUD 18) and SILVER DISCOVERER also has a glass bottom boat to launch in tropical locales.

Along the Same Lines: Closest would be the Celebrity XPEDITION and Ponant’s LE BOREAL/L’AUSTRAL/LE SOLEAL/LE LYRIAL.

Contact: Silverseas Expeditions, 110 East Broward Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301;, 800-722-9955


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Antarctica, Arctic, Arctic Canada, Argentina, Chilean Fjords, Cruise Regions, Ecuador, Europe, Expedition Ship & Line Reviews, Falkland Islands, French Polynesia, Galapagos, Greenland, Iceland, New Zealand, North & South Islands, North Pole, Northwest Passage, Norway, Pacific Ocean Islands, Russia, Ship & Line reviews, South America, South Georgia, Spitzbergen/Svalbard, Uncategorized

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