Silver Cloud Expedition Svalbard Review

Becky Theriault reports back from her first expedition voyage

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Silver Cloud Expedition Svalbard Review

Read our consultant Becky Theriault's review of her expedition voyage from Longyearbyen to Tromsø on board Silversea Expeditions Silver Cloud.

Silversea Expedition aboard the Silver Cloud

Longyearbyen to Tromsø July 2018

17 July 2018

My journey began in Oslo; as our chartered flight was due to depart at 5.50am 18th July. I have been to Oslo before and so I went straight to the airport, arriving around 19.00, and stayed at an airport hotel: Nordic Choice’s Comfort Hotel Runway. I highly recommend it for anyone needing an Oslo airport hotel. The staff were lovely; it’s a 10 minute shuttle (70 NOK/ £7 each way) to the airport, which runs every 20 minutes.

The rooms were modern and bright, and the hotel had a very good dinner buffet (Norwegian prices – around £30 for dinner), an included breakfast with lots of choice, from 4am, and a great gym.

18 July 2018

Upon arrival at Oslo airport for our chartered flight (included in the cruise package) I checked in with SAS – a Silverseas representative was there for any questions. I noticed in the line that a few guests must have met on previous cruises and already knew each other. Already I could see that the clientele was very international and age range was from around late 30’s onwards (there were a few children on board as well). Our flight departed on time at 5.50am, and as it was a charter we were served a full meal and drinks. Upon arrival at Longyearbyen we collected our baggage and made our way to a coach waiting outside. We were greeted by a tour guide and we did a brief 30 minute coach tour of Longyearbyen and surrounds – ending in the (excellent) town museum. After this we were taken to board the Silver Cloud which was docked at the harbour.

The Silver Cloud was renovated last year and is on a larger side for an expedition ship – it takes 296 guests and in Silversea's style, the staff is almost 1 staff member to each guest; so the service is fantastic. I haven’t really cruised before (except for a brief 2 night Ensenada Carnival cruise with friends when I lived in San Diego and an MSC cruise for a conference) so, wasn’t sure what to expect. I was a little wary that the clientele would be rather sedentary and not the type of people who would really enjoy hiking, outdoor activities and all the best ways to explore Svalbard and Northern Norway. Also, I was expecting the staff to be very formal. As soon as we arrived on the ship we were given a glass of champagne (the first of many) and then checked in. At check in all my expectations of a very formal, sedentary cruise were blown away when I met some of the expedition team: all in their 30s and 40s, with experience ranging from leading Antarctic and mountaineering expeditions to being professional wildlife photographers and botanists. They were an international group – all really fun, knowledgeable and professional.

Silver Cloud Expedition Vista Suite

Silver Cloud Expedition Vista Suite

I checked into my Vista Suite which was beautiful: the only Suite category which doesn’t have a balcony – but it had a huge window, and these were all located on the 4th deck. I had a large seating area, which could be divided off from the bedroom with a curtain, flat screen TV, mini bar which could be filled with drinks of your choice, marble bathroom with Bulgari amenities and sit down shower, and a good sized walk in wardrobe with a safe. We each had a personal butler who looked after a few Suites. Mine was Sonal who was lovely – she showed me around the Suite and offered a choice of bath amenities. There was also a pillow menu on hand.

Part of the expedition cruise format is that there is a lecture theatre on board with daily lectures focussing on topics relating to the local area and wildlife. We had a quick meeting that evening with our expedition leader who briefed us on the voyage and also what we could expect each day. I learnt we would have between one and two expeditions a day – sometimes a hike, or walk in an area which was good to visit for wildlife or local history, and sometimes a cruise on the zodiacs. We had a quick introduction to the team and later on a welcome by the Captain with cocktails. We learnt that the itinerary was flexible as being in the Arctic everything is weather dependent and zodiacs can’t land if the wind speed is too high.

Silver Cloud Expedition Restaurant

Silver Cloud Expedition Restaurant

I dined that evening in “The Restaurant” - the food was excellent with lots of choices. (I dined with a new friend most of the cruise who was vegetarian and she was really happy with the choice). Also there were lots of healthy, lighter options to choose from and wines were always paired accordingly. A sommelier was on hand to recommend wines from the premium list (at a surcharge) for those who wanted them.

Other dining choices were La Terrazza (an Italian restaurant where breakfast could also be taken each day); reservations were needed; Hot Rocks restaurant - this was on the pool deck and guests would cook their steak, fish or vegetables themselves. La Dame is the Relais & Chateau restaurant and had a supplement of $60 USD per guest (apparently it was fantastic and worth it).

Most evenings were dress code: casual. There were just a couple where it was “casually elegant”. This worked well with the nature of the trip as guests were there to see wildlife and nature, and were not so worried about what they were wearing!

Silver Cloud in Northern Svalbard

Silver Cloud in Northern Svalbard

19 July 2018

Most of this morning was filled with tasks needed to get ready for the cruise: Included in the cruise was a Parka which was brilliant for the Arctic weather: there was time to swap these for a different size if you wish. It was then time to get our all-weather boots which were borrowed complimentary for the cruise. I had time to attend a Pilates class which was excellent (use of the gym and classes was included). We also had a mandatory Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators meeting about what to do and what not to during our trip, in order to be as environmentally responsible as possible. This made me happy, as my Masters is in Responsible Tourism Management, so it was great to see that guests must attend this briefing before they touch land.

Lunch at La Terrazza was an excellent buffet – again a lot of choices and many healthy options too. It was great to see the expedition team would also dine in the restaurants. You could invite them to eat with you also- one night my friend and I did this and dined with Nico – an expedition guide from Patagonia, and his wife Sarah, a professional ski instructor and expedition leader from the U.S: it was fascinating to talk to them and find out more about their experiences. They both related to us that it’s important to make sure guests have the right expectations: as the Silver Cloud is on the larger size for an expedition ship, it offers an unrivaled sense of luxury, but it does mean if for example a Polar Bear is spotted suddenly, there are too many people on board to get everybody out at the same time on zodiacs to go and see it. That being said, we did see a Polar Bear on the first day - however it was from very far away so not possible to see properly unless you had a huge zoom lens on your camera. All of the expedition team I spoke to relayed to me they didn’t think this should be marketed as a Polar Bear cruise due to the ship size - more of an Arctic wildlife and birdlife cruise.

This afternoon was our first excursion – we took zodiacs into Worsley Hamna in Northern Svalbard. For all excursions the departures were split into 3 or 2, so there weren’t too many people on land at once. When we landed ( a wet landing so the waterproof boots provided were essential) we could see (Polar) bear guards with guns stationed far away and expedition leaders were on hand to take us on a hike and tell us about the local area, ecosystem, history and wildlife.

Silver Cloud and Zodiacs

Silver Cloud and Zodiacs

I found the ship to be really friendly – because it’s a smaller size you could meet people really easily. I dined with different people each night which was fantastic. I did come to realise that probably about 60-70 % of the guests were repeat guests of Silversea.

20th July 2018

Today we had 2 excursions – the first to Crozierpynten and the second (in the afternoon) was to Eolusneset. On both expedition leaders were present and we were able to explore the area and hike around, speaking to the expedition crew to get a better understanding of the area. Many guests had excellent cameras – there was a photography studio on board and a professional photographer on hand to give guidance and help. I was able to attend an evening stretch class and the gym today. The gym was fairly small but well equipped and because guests tended to use it at all different times I never had to wait for a machine.

Each evening there was a recap with the expedition team – they spoke about what we had seen each day and gave us information on the next day’s excursions.

Each afternoon there was an afternoon tea offered in the panorama lounge – this was a proper English style afternoon tea with a pianist accompanying. In the evenings there was live music in the Dolce Vita bar and also in the Panorama lounge (this was usually a pianist and singer).

21 July 2018

Today was the highlight of the trip for me – in the morning we took zodiacs to Smeerenburg where there was a walrus haul out of around 10 walrus. We were given quiet vox each (these are an audio system where the expedition leader could speak to us while we looked at the walrus, without making any noise). It was a once in a lifetime experience to see these beautiful creatures up close – a real highlight. In the early afternoon I attended a lecture by one of the expedition crew on the impact of the Gulf Stream on climate and the oceans. We had an afternoon briefing with the team, and then anchored off Bjornfjorden, Spitsbergen. We took zodiacs out to an incredible glacier with ice bergs floating past us in the fjord – again a real highlight. We were lucky enough to see a huge part of the glacier break off in to the sea as we sat there – one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen!

Glacier and Zodiacs on Silver Cloud Expeditions

Glacier and Zodiacs on Silver Cloud Expeditions

22 July 2018

We arrived at Fjortende Julibreen in Svalbard today – another amazing glacier. I had an early start so made the most of the room service and had breakfast in my suite. We hiked to the glacier and to some bird cliffs where thousands of birds (guillemots and kittiwakes) were flying around. I took advantage of another Pilates class today before watching the Polar plunge this afternoon: 40 guests and a few crew did a jump (wearing swimsuits only) into the freezing arctic sea! After another recap with the expedition crew, I had afternoon tea with some new friends. I spent the rest of the late afternoon in Tor’s observation lounge: right at the top of the ship with views over the ocean – two expedition crew were always there for any questions and you could order drinks from the pool bar. I was lucky enough to see a whale spurting water out of its blowhole.

Becky and Glaciers on Silver Cloud Expedition

Becky and Glaciers on Silver Cloud Expedition

23 July 2018

This morning we took zodiacs to Gashamna – we hiked here for 1.5 hours with expedition staff on hand. During the afternoon we set sail for Bear Island so there were various lectures to attend and fitness classes to attend if you wish. In the evening we had a briefing with the expedition team before dinner.

24 July 2018

Today we arrived at Bear Island – known for its bird cliffs. We took a zodiac tour around them – in the afternoon we set sail for Nordkapp, mainland Norway. So the afternoon comprised of lectures and deck time with expedition team members on hand, to look out for whales and other wildlife. In the evening we had a recap of the day’s excursion and a briefing for the next couple of days. Sailing from Bear Island to the mainland was the only time the sea got quite choppy and I felt a little seasick. Luckily the reception were on hand to give out seasickness tablets, and Sonal brought me ginger candies and ginger tea.

Zodiac landing on Silver Cloud Expeditions

Zodiac landing on Silver Cloud Expeditions

25th July 2018

We anchored off Skarsvag, Nordkapp. A pretty little village - from here we took a bus 15 minutes to the North Cape and visited the information centre. After being in Svalbard it seemed a little touristy but it is a well know marker as the North Cape is the northernmost point of Europe. On the way we saw lots of reindeer grazing and took some photos.

In the afternoon we sailed to the Gjesvaerstappan Islands: Gjesvaerstappan is one of the largest bird mountains in Norway and several species nest there. In very foggy conditions we took zodiacs to circumnavigate the islands - we saw white tailed sea eagles and Europe’s largest Atlantic puffin colony.

Lyngenfjord

Becky on her Lyngenfjord hike

26th July 2018

We set sail for Tromso today. We had more time on deck to spot wildlife and birds, and anchored off of Tromso in the late afternoon. With the sun shining I took a dip in the outdoor pool which was heated so it felt more of a Jacuzzi!

In the morning we docked in Lyngenfjord and did a hike up to a spectacular view - this was described in the chronicle as being “very challenging” it was a total of 2.5 miles each way and quite steep at times. I thoroughly enjoyed it, however some guests found it too steep and this was the only time I heard any guest complaints.

We docked in Tromso in the evening and I headed out around 8pm with a Swiss woman I met, to enjoy some of the midnight sun and have a drink.

27th July 2018

This morning after breakfast we did a very quick and easy disembarkation.

Silver Cloud Expedition Cruise Summary

The cruise was absolutely fantastic. I really enjoyed meeting people from all over the world. Around 50% of the guests were American with others coming from all over Europe, Costa Rica, Taiwan, among other countries.

I have stayed in touch with some of the people I met on board, and can absolutely see why Silversea guests are so loyal! The service was amazing (for example remembering I liked chamomile tea and having it ready for me in the Suite after a cold expedition) however it wasn’t stuffy at all, and a lot younger demographic than I expected.

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