For each shore excursion, expedition team members hold briefings the evening before in The Theatre on Deck 6. Briefings -- where servers offer cocktails of the day or a drink of passenger choice -- are well attended. The outing's degree of physical difficulty is elaborated so passengers can decide if they are up for the expedition. Occasionally, groups are divided by physical ability for hikes, which could be anything from a walk to a strenuous uphill climb. If motor coaches are involved, about 30 passengers travel together on the bus and split up into smaller groups for tours. On Zodiacs, passengers go out in groups of eight to 10. Passengers have primarily come on the cruise for these outings, so excursions are immensely popular. Everyone is accommodated, and all excursions are included.
Most excursions are done by Zodiac, and there is usually one each morning and afternoon. Sometimes, the outing is only by Zodiac, when passengers search for birds, whales, bears and other wildlife. If passengers go onshore, they know in advance if the landing is dry or wet (stepping into shallow water, with assistance). Onshore activities include hikes and walks, and coach drives to museums, waterfalls or other exotic sceneries and landmarks. Zodiac handlers are excellent in helping passengers in and out of the boats.
Excursions mostly fascinate and expedition team members offer compelling insight along the way. Local guides who speak fluent English often meet passengers at destinations.
Just remember, expeditions are subject to Mother Nature, so passengers should be prepared for Zodiac times to change or be postponed due to unsafe water or land conditions. Flexibility is vital to fully enjoy any expedition travel.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
Typical of small expedition ships, Silver Explorer does not offer much onboard entertainment, just a sole keyboardist who entertains at cocktail hours and in The Restaurant at lunch and dinnertime. There is an occasional complimentary wine tasting or chef demonstration cooking class, and daily trivia. One evening, a movie might be screened in The Theatre that showcases the region visited. On the last night, the onboard videographer and photographer show a film of voyage highlights shot during the cruise, and it's available for purchase. The DVD also includes many photographs taken by the professional photographer.
Informative, humorous and stimulating expedition team lectures are the primary enrichment offerings. They're held in The Theatre on Deck 6, usually in the afternoon. There is one big screen and mounted televisions for passengers sitting farther back. On our cruise, we didn't see even one passenger nodding off. In fact, indicative of an engrossed audience, many asked questions. An expedition team photographer sometimes offers photography lessons. Most lectures focused on what passengers will see the next day; expedition team members also recap the day's highlights. Sometimes, toward the voyage conclusion, a lecturer might offer a fun pop quiz, which passengers enjoy.
Bars and lounges are fairly popular pre-dinner, where passengers socialize and often choose their evening dinner companions. Generally speaking, the nightlife scene is very quiet onboard.
Panorama Lounge (Deck 5): Tucked away in a quiet corner with large picture window views is a cozy bar and comfortable lounge with soft leather couches. Late-risers coffee and pastries, bouillon, afternoon tea and cocktail-hour tapas are served here. The bar opens at 9:30 a.m. and stays open until "late," meaning when the last passenger leaves. With busy days ahead, most passengers retire early. During the day, the lounge is quiet, as most passengers are out on expeditions, or, when back onboard, relaxing or lunching before the next outing. Some passengers come for early cocktails before the pre-dinner cocktail briefing.
Connoisseur's Corner (Deck 5): This space is glass-enclosed; all the better to trap the pungent smells of cigars as aficionados puff away. With buttery leather couches and an array of fine cigars for purchase, this lounge attracts those who love to light up and pay extra for high-end Scotch and cognac. It's the only spot passengers are allowed to smoke onboard -- inside or out.
Observation Lounge (Deck 6): All the way forward with big glass windows, this lounge with comfy chairs and couches stars expansive, often breathtaking, scenery. Passengers often bring books (or select one from lounge shelves) and read quietly, peeking often at the view. Early-risers coffee and pastries begin at 6 a.m. The Observation Lounge tends to be a quiet refuge rather than a chatty hangout. Bar service is available.
The Grill Bar (Deck 6): This small bar is open from 10 a.m. until mid-evening, weather permitting. Most passengers enjoy this nook whenever possible for the ocean views and sea air.
There are two hot tubs on Deck 6 in the aft. In polar weather, only the brave hop in. They are open between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. On Deck 7, there is a small observation viewing area, without seating. Passengers can walk much of Deck 6. It's narrow, and not a flat walk -- occasionally, there are steps up and down and a few thresholds -- but this pathway allows for a little outdoor exercise, plus scenery and possible wildlife viewing.
There is a 24-hour staffed reception desk and expedition office (both on Deck 3) and a library with books (including destination guidebooks), magazines and board games like Scrabble on Deck 5. The 24-hour Internet Cafe inside the library has four stations with seven Wi-Fi packages listed, such as $30 for one day and seven-day packages for $140.
A spacious boutique on Deck 4 features perfume and jewelry, beyond the typical incidentals and practical cold or warm-weather clothing. There's also a medical center on Deck 3, and one self-service launderette with two washers and dryers and ironing facilities on Deck 4.
The Spa on Deck 6 consists of one small treatment room named Jasmine on one side of the hallway, and a sauna and steam room directly across from it. (No one under 18-years-old is allowed in.) The Steiner-trained-and-managed therapists are competent, and offer a wide array of services, including hot stone full-body and frangipani scalp massages. Elemis products are used. You can also try a 15-minute mini-treatment like shoulder massages or recharge facials at a most reasonable cost. Tipping is not required.
The spa does get busy. As most expedition cruises involve lengthy flights and sometimes excursions are long days of walking or hiking, passengers appreciate the pampering and getting sore muscles unknotted. Make reservations in advance. The spa is open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. The steam room is open from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m.
A small beauty salon on Deck 4 offers everything from haircuts to pedicures. We never noticed the salon particularly busy on an Arctic cruise, as most passengers are less concerned with appearances on an expedition ship than a traditional cruise. Besides, most of the day they are bundled up. However, on expeditions in warm climes where passengers wear less clothing and more sandals, the salon is busier. The salon is open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Reservations should be made in advance, particularly for welcome and farewell party nights, and on expeditions in hot climates.
Typical for an expedition ship, the Fitness Centre on Deck 4 is tiny and basic, with a treadmill, elliptical trainer, stationary bicycle, total-body workout machine and a bench. There are some free weights and two scales. Mats are provided, but there is nowhere to stretch out if the machines are busy. Towels, water and antiseptic wipe-down cloths are provided. The Fitness Centre is open from 6:30 a.m. until 8 p.m.
This ship is not family-oriented. There are no children's facilities, programs or babysitting services. However, older children, particularly teenagers, would enjoy the Zodiac explorations and photographic opportunities, but parents need to be mindful Silver Explorer draws an adult crowd. Children under 6 years old are not permitted on Zodiacs. Babies younger than 1 year old are not allowed to board the ship. A signed and notarized waiver issued by Silversea is required for passengers traveling with children under 6.