Silversea has been making waves in the luxury cruising market since 1994, when it became the world’s first all-inclusive, ultra-luxury cruise line. Fast forward to the present day and the company is now part of the Royal Caribbean Group, where it continues to push the boundaries of what people expect from luxury cruising – and delivering those little extra-special experiences they will never forget.
We spoke to Silversea’s Managing Director in UK and Ireland Peter Shanks to get his reflections on cruising over the past couple of years, and take a look at what the future has in store.
What has guests’ experience of cruising been like since the onset of the pandemic? Have their attitudes towards holidays changed at all?
Guests’ experience of both their ships and cruise as a whole is everything that it used to be, and we’re still doing all those magical things we used to do. In the short term, people will notice all the protocols we have in place, but it doesn’t get in the way of people having a really good experience. I’ve been on a couple of our ships and felt very safe; cruising is coming back as one of the safest forms of travel. but all the cruise lines have all seen record levels of customer satisfaction in the last six months. The crew are happy to be back, the guests are happy to be back and that really shows.
We’re finding that guests more than ever like the safety of knowing that every single aspect of their holiday is taken care of from start to finish, and they’re working out the value of everything they receive when they book a cruise. This is why we offer an all-inclusive experience, or the door-to-door service as we call it. This starts with an executive limo pick-up service from home, as well as the flight, hotel and transfer. It’s all included, as is absolutely everything on board from the fine wines to the fine dining, all the shore excursions in every port. The experience doesn’t stop when guests disembark, as they’ll also be transported back home in an executive limo. Guests now want this extra level of security and assurance.
Do you think guests are becoming more adventurous in their choice of holiday destinations?
Many British guests will sail with us two or three times a year and they like to go back to their favourite places – like for example the Mediterranean or the Caribbean before committing to something a bit more extreme, be it an expedition voyage or perhaps venture to a destination like Asia or Australia. I always say we go to places people didn’t know were places! We cover over a thousand destinations around the world, which means we can accommodate guests who want to travel to the big hitters, but also the far-flung corners of the world.
What we’ve seen over the past year, despite the environment, is that over 50% of our bookings have been from people booking with Silversea for the first time. I think those are the people who have done lots of cruising to the usual destinations and now want something further afield. Because we offer that incredible destination experience, and because we operate smaller ships, if you’re going to go somewhere like Asia, you will be able to get into some of the most incredible places that bigger ships won’t go.
Do you think that expedition cruising is an extension of people’s desire to travel to more unusual destinations?
Bucket list travel has always been a big thing. As people have been cooped up for the past couple of years, the demand and interest in getting some of these bucket lists done is bigger than ever. People are yearning to escape reality and explore the incredible world we all live in. There’s a bit of a ‘get away from it all’ theme going on and expeditions are a growing interest because they’re just a wonderful experience of really getting into the heart of a destination through its wildlife, nature and so much more.
There are three iconic expedition destinations: Antarctica, the Arctic and Galapagos. This summer is a great opportunity to try the Arctic. We have two ships, the Silver Cloud and the Silver Wind, cruising the Arctic and Greenland throughout the summer, which we’re expecting to be really popular, especially as you only need to take a three or four-hour flight to join them.
Galapagos is a year-round expedition destination and one that really appeals to families. The real magic of the Galapagos is the wildlife and it is truly a trip of a lifetime. Imagine a family with children or youngsters in their early teens – the experience of being with that wildlife as a family would just be unforgettable.
And for the real explorers, you can’t beat Antarctica. It’s just an extremely emotional experience. We say it’s the closest thing to being on another planet while still being on this one!
We have the most incredible expedition crews on the ship, so not only do you have the destination itself, but you’re also surrounded by a team of 20 on each ship who do lectures, accompany guests and teach them about everything from photography to the environment. It’s just a really wonderful all-round experience.
Silversea have been doing this for 15 years and not only are our expeditions great, but you also get all the luxuries you’d expect from us. When you’ve been out on your Zodiac circling icebergs and you come back on the ship, it’s still the butler who welcomes you back to your suite, there’s still chilled champagne if you would like. It’s a unique, ultra luxury experience that goes hand in hand with the expedition.
Silver Nova will be the latest ship to join the fleet when she launches in summer 2023 and boasts a number of firsts for Silversea. How important is it for you to continue to innovate and offer guests something they haven’t seen before?
We’re calling Silver Nova the game changer in ultra luxury cruising. We haven’t released all the details and designs yet, but it’s a very radically different ship. There’s a lot more use of space and of glass – it will be breathtaking when we give out the details. Silver Nova will still have everything you’d expect from us in terms of our S.A.L.T programme, Otium Spa, all of our wonderful restaurants, but the design of the ship will just be so different.
We now have the backing of the Royal Caribbean Group which is famous for ship innovation. We’ve been part of the Group for the past three years and this is the first ship that we have designed and built together – we’re combining the innovation of the Royal Caribbean Group with the luxury of Silversea.
The other big story for Silver Nova is the environment. We recognise it’s becoming increasingly important for all of us to show how responsible we are going forward on not only protecting the marine environment, but the environment as a whole. Silver Nova will be the first ship to run on her fuel cell batteries when she comes into port, so there will be absolutely no emissions when she’s docked. We also have a mix of different fuels so we can burn the most environmentally-efficient fuels and we’re excited by that. She’s a game changer.
Silversea offers hundreds of itineraries covering all seven continents, which would you say is your favourite and why?
The destination I dream of is Antarctica – which I haven’t managed to visit yet – but my favourite is the Greek Islands. Now this might not sound terribly ambitious, but the smaller ships mean we can visit the more unspoilt islands of the Mediterranean. You can go ashore and find a relaxing time, which when matched with the spacious, luxurious ships, just makes for the most incredibly relaxing holiday. The Eastern Mediterranean lends itself to a smaller ship and is proving to be our most popular destination for this summer, not least because it’s easy to get to and is close to home.
I think our newer ships, Silver Muse, Silver Moon and Silver Dawn are ideally suited to first-time cruisers. They each have around 600 guests, and although they’re smaller, there are still 10 different dining options on board, as well as a really good-sized spa and gym.
Can you tell us more about the S.A.L.T experience that’s available on board?
S.A.L.T – Sea And Land Taste – is proving to be hugely successful on Silver Moon, and we’re excited to introduce the concept to Silver Nova when she launches.
Wherever a ship is in the world, through S.A.L.T we try to give people a taste of that destination. The first thing we have on board is our S.A.L.T Kitchen, which is one of our main restaurants. We’d have a whole beautiful selection of local food and wines, so guests can experience all the food from the region in which the ship is sailing.
The second aspect is the S.A.L.T Bar, a cocktail bar where we recreate all the cool cocktails and drinks from the part of the world we’re in. Then we have the S.A.L.T Lab, which is a bit like being on Masterchef. There’s a beautiful little room where there are 12 cooking stations, and our chefs will teach people how to cook a local delicacy. When I was on the Silver Moon in Greece, we were all taught how to cook moussaka.
Lastly, we have the S.A.L.T Excursions where we take people ashore. We immerse them in the local food culture; for example, we’ll take guests to a farm where we show them how local produce is grown, and the farmer will get them to taste some of that food. We then go to a local restaurant where again the chefs there will prepare a beautiful meal which they will eat on the beach under the trees with the locals. It’s all about immersing people in their destination – it has a real wow factor and is proving really popular.
What in your mind is it about Silversea that encourages your guests to return time and time again?
The most incredible thing is our crew. We have the most amazing people welcoming guests onboard our ships and they are the ones who deliver the magic of Silversea. There’s a great reunion when guests come back to the ships again and again, they meet up not only with other guests but also the crew.
We’re a European business that was originally started by an Italian family, so there’s a very cosmopolitan feel onboard our ships. They’re not American or British, so we attract people who love to meet the other guests, where they can chat and talk about life. There’s people from the UK, North America, Australia and Europe who find the experience very relaxing with lots of great conversation. If you mix the real luxury, incredible service from the crew, the destinations and then the fact you’re travelling with like-minded interesting people, it just comes together as a brilliant experience. That’s what drives us to have a high level of loyalty.
Browse the range of six-star cruises from Silversea by clicking here.