Join us as we set sail for Alaska with Silversea!

Silversea's magnificent Silver Shadow. Photo courtesy of Silversea

Silversea’s magnificent Silver Shadow will be our home for the next 11 days in Alaska. Photo courtesy of Silversea

Four years ago this month, I stood on the pier at Vancouver’s Canada Place and watched as guests disembarked Silversea’s Silver Shadow. I’d be stepping onboard – however briefly – for a ship tour. I still worked in animation at the time, and I remember having to awkwardly change into my suit in my car before driving down to the pier. Ship tours aren’t the sort of things you get a few hours off for in the middle of the day, and visiting the doctor in a jacket and tie probably would have set off a few alarm bells.

One thing that has always stuck with me about that tour is when the first guests came onboard: one of them burst into tears when she saw the butlers standing at the gangway. She addressed them by name. Other guests came up and gave crew members big hugs, and I remember asking the receptionist if this was some kind of group cruise reunion. “No,” she replied. “They’re our guests.”

Silversea's new documentation package includes a personalized travel journal, filled with itinerary information, ports of call, excursions, and even a map and deck plan to your suite. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Silversea’s new documentation package includes a personalized travel journal, filled with itinerary information, ports of call, excursions, and even a map and deck plan to your suite. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Four years later, I get to step onboard again – and stay onboard for 11 wonderful days. Having sailed several times with Silversea since that first tour, I now understand the reaction of those guests: I am always thrilled to see crew members that I have come to know well, and none are more personable (so it seems) than those on Silversea.

Click here to read our interview with Kristian C. Anderson, Silversea’s Senior Vice President of the Americas

Although cruise ships began to use the Port of Seattle back in 1999, Vancouver has been the de-facto home of Alaskan cruising for generations. Even at the turn of the last century, Vancouver was a hub for steamships headed to Alaska, California, and the Orient, with Canadian Pacific maintaining a huge coastal and transpacific fleet that homeported here.

It's not going to win any awards, but Silver Shadow is shown here departing Vancouver bound for Alaska on July 7, 2011. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

It’s not going to win any awards, but Silver Shadow is shown here departing Vancouver bound for Alaska on July 7, 2011. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

The advent of the jet-age changed the way people travel, and what were originally designed as transportation networks gradually became focused on tourism in Alaska and British Columbia. At one time, cruise ships in Vancouver were so plentiful that all of the berths at Canada Place and nearby Ballantyne Pier were in active use. The Great Recession and the Alaskan Head Tax initiative in 2006 absolutely clobbered the Alaskan cruise market for a few years, but it has since bounced back, with Port Metro Vancouver enjoying one of its best years in a long time in 2014.

While many lines split their fleet between Seattle and Vancouver, luxury lines like Silversea all but universally call Vancouver home. I love sailing from Seattle – it’s a gorgeous city with wonderful people – but nothing compares to sailing past Stanley Park, under the emerald hues of the Lions Gate Bridge, and out into the scenic Inside Passage.

Sailing the magnificent Inside Passage: one of the prime reasons to take an Alaskan cruise. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Sailing the magnificent Inside Passage: one of the prime reasons to take an Alaskan cruise. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

My voyage onboard the elegant Silver Shadow is a unique one: it’s one of only three Alaskan voyages this year that depart roundtrip from Vancouver, and one of only three that are longer than a week. Silversea’s typical Alaskan programme – which has been hugely successful, if overall bookings are any indication – is mainly comprised of seven-day sailings between Vancouver and Seward.

In addition to the mainstay ports of Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan, this itinerary also visits several ports of call that just don’t make it on to many Alaskan sailings. Sitka, Wrangell, Prince Rupert and Victoria are some of the added bonuses on this Silversea voyage. Despite the fact this is my sixth voyage to Alaska, I’ve never been to Sitka or Prince Rupert before, and am very much looking forward to seeing what they have to offer Silversea’s guests.

The railroad was a critical lifeline for the Gold Rush town of Skagway, Alaska. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

In addition to Skagway (shown here), our voyage aboard Silver Shadow will take us to Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Wrangell, Tracy Arm, Prince Rupert and Victoria. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

The full itinerary, both here and onboard:

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Having just disembarked Silver Discoverer in Indonesia last month, this Silver Shadow sailing is also the perfect way to showcase Silversea’s Expedition offerings alongside the classic luxury product that they’ve been perfecting over the last two decades. I’ve also never sailed aboard the Silver Shadow before, and many guests have told me that she and sister-ship Silver Whisper are their favorite ships in the entire fleet.

Personally, my affinity is half-split between the small Silver Wind (296 guests) and the much larger Silver Spirit (540 guests), so I’m looking forward to discovering for myself why this particular ship is so well-loved.

The Bar aboard Silver Shadow in 2011, Spirit-ized. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

The Bar aboard Silver Shadow in 2011, Spirit-ized. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Silver Shadow holds just 382 guests when totally sold out, but at 610 feet in length, she’s far from small. Like a large ship scaled down, she has an attractive two-story show lounge that can be accessed from the cozy and intimate Bar on Deck 5, or from above on Deck 6. Her midship staircase atrium spans five decks in height, and she has a full-featured Spa at Silversea high atop Deck 10. With three different lounges, four separate dining venues, and miles of open deck space, boredom isn’t really an option – and you’ll never have to fight for a deck chair again!

Silversea also recently introduced a new documentation package and revamped their online website, meaning excursions and dining reservations can now be booked online using My Silversea. This was my first chance to test this feature out, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well it functioned. All excursions, dining and spa reservations can be viewed on a daily schedule that shows the entire voyage on a single page.

MySilversea lets guests view their entire itinerary at a glance. Once booked, shore excursions and dining reservations show up on the chart.

MySilversea lets guests view their entire itinerary at a glance. Once booked, shore excursions and dining reservations show up on the chart.

When booking excursions, waitlisted shore tours are highlighted in red, while available ones are marked in green. Clicking on the excursion allows you to either book or join the wait list directly.

Dinner and spa reservations work in much the same fashion. Payment for excursions and Spa appointments is collected onboard, and even if you book online, you still have until the typically onboard cut-off time to change your mind or book something different.

All available shore excursions for a particular port of call are listed in this handy chart format.

All available shore excursions for a particular port of call are listed in this handy chart format.

Excursions can be booked with the click of a button...

Excursions can be booked with the click of a button…

...or reserved if they are wait-listed.

…or reserved if they are wait-listed. Yes, the $649.00 per person Heli-flight and Glacier Dog Sledding is wait-listed!

While navigating back from the shore excursions page is a bit tricky (I accidentally landed back at the main voyages page more than once), once you get the hang of it the system is actually very straightforward.

I particularly liked the “Ports” feature that allows you to see every single port of call you’ve ever visited aboard a Silversea ship, and even tracks repeat visits. I’d love to be able to export it to Microsoft Excel in the same way that some airlines let you track your frequent-flier mileage, but that’s a very nit-picky wish-list item on my part.

We’re taking tomorrow off, but our live coverage will begin in earnest on Thursday as we embark Silver Shadow in Vancouver and sail out under the Lions Gate Bridge, bound for Alaska aboard one of my favorite cruise lines.

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Voyage Report onboard Silversea’s luxurious Silver Shadow begins on Thursday as we embark our ship at Vancouver’s iconic Canada Place cruise terminal! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

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