Silversea or Seabourn? That's a tough question for cruisers waffling between the two lines for their next luxury voyage. Both offer fairly intimate ships that sail the globe, and both have new vessels -- Silver Muse and Seabourn Ovation -- with more new-builds in the works.
Both lines offer sophisticated and personalized service, as well as all-inclusive cruise fares that cover all beverages and gratuities. Silversea cruises -- with a butler catering to every cabin -- tend to be a bit more formal, while Seabourn ships offer a true sense of community via amenities such as Seabourn Square (a living-room style concierge area), a well-designed coffeehouse and an aft water sports platform.
So, in what ways do these lines actually differ? Let's compare Silversea vs. Seabourn.
Silversea has five luxury cruise ships: the 596-passenger Silver Muse (launched 2017), the 608-passenger Silver Spirit (launched in 2009, refurbished in 2018), 382-passenger Silver Whisper (2001), 382-passenger Silver Shadow (2000) and 298-passenger Silver Wind (1995).
It also has a fleet of expedition-style ships, including the 120-guest Silver Discoverer (launched 2014), the 100-guest Silver Galapagos (launched in 2013) and 132-passenger Silver Explorer (built in 1989 and refurbished for Silversea in 2008). Silver Cloud, formerly a cruise ship for the line, transferred to the expedition side of the business in August 2017, after some upgrades and retrofits. The maximum number of passengers on all of Silver Cloud's polar sailings will be 200. Silversea will retire Silver Galapagos in March 2020 when it launches the 100-passenger new-build, Silver Origin.
In addition, new parent company Royal Caribbean is investing heavily in the line. Part of the investment is Project Invictus, which will revitalize all ships in the fleet over the next few years. Silver Whisper will get an extensive refresh in December 2018 to give it a more "Silver Muse" modern look. Silver Wind will also receive a makeover.
Seabourn Cruise Line
Seabourn sails five ships total, including three sister ships: Seabourn Odyssey (2009), Seabourn Sojourn (2010) and Seabourn Quest (2011) that accommodate 458 passengers. Quest was refurbished in 2016 while Odyssey and Sojourn were refreshed in 2017. Two newer 600-passenger ships -- Seabourn Encore (2016) and Seabourn Ovation (2018) -- are also sisters.
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The big news for Seabourn is that it's branching into expedition cruising territory with two new-builds. One will launch in June 2021 and the second in May 2022. Each 264-passenger ship -- offering 132 balcony suites -- meets PC6 Polar Class standards for Antarctica and Arctic itineraries. Each sail with two submarines, two dozen Zodiacs and a kayak fleet.
This article will focus mainly on the lines' cruise ships, rather than the expedition ones.
Both lines include nonalcoholic and alcoholic beverages throughout the ship, plus gratuities and meals in most dining venues. When it comes to cruise fares, we compared voyages in Alaska, the Mediterranean and Asia. We did our best to compare apples to apples so that meant considering the ship's age, date of sailing and itinerary duration. In Alaska, pricing on both lines was comparable. Silversea cruises in the Med and Asia cost more.
Choose Silversea if you want free Wi-Fi.
Silversea offers complimentary Internet access to all passengers. On Seabourn, you still need to pay for Wi-Fi, and the fees can add up.
Choose Seabourn if you have a beef with paying out of pocket for specialty restaurants.
Keep cruise fare inclusions in mind when making your own price comparisons between Seabourn and Silversea. All restaurants aboard Seabourn ships -- including the Thomas Keller restaurant, The Grill -- are included in the cruise fare. Silversea, on the other hand, charges a $60-per-person fee to dine at La Dame and Kaiseki, and $40 per person for Silver Spirit's Seishin Japanese restaurant.
A note about itineraries from Silversea and Seabourn: While many luxury lines eschew shorter sailings in favor of longer voyages, both Silversea and Seabourn offer a plethora of seven-night routes. This makes both lines favorable to younger cruisers, professionals and retirees that have commitments at home and can't -- or don't want to -- be away for more than a week's time. Note that previously, Seabourn did not offer world cruises but it will do so starting in 2020. Silversea's Silver Whisper sails a world cruise every January.
Choose Silversea if you want to visit some of the world's more intimate and interesting ports.
Silversea's smallest ships can sail into remote ports and narrow waterways that Seabourn's slightly larger ships cannot. You can embark from some unique ports including London's Tower Bridge. (The sail-away along the Thames is something you'll never forget.) In the Caribbean, these ships call on some of the more remote islands such as Bequia (part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines) and Cayman Brac. On the other side of the world in the Indian Ocean, Silversea can take you to Nosy Be, an island off Madagascar, and Praslin in the Seychelles.
Choose Seabourn if you want an active adventure in some of the world's more rugged destinations.
Cruisers that want to really immerse themselves in a destination should take note of Ventures By Seabourn. Available on select voyages, this designation offers optional excursions and onboard enrichment that helps you truly unlock the secrets to a new place. These sailings bring aboard an expedition team that's comprised of naturalists, scholars and scientists. You'll learn about the destinations you visit through onboard presentations and informal conversational settings.
In port, excursions are guided by the expedition team -- often in inflatable Zodiac boats or in double sea kayaks. Depending on where you're sailing, you'll cruise past icebergs and fjords, or be on the lookout for seabirds and whales. Seabourn programs Ventures By Seabourn in Alaska and British Columbia, Antarctica and Patagonia, Northern Europe, Australia and the South Pacific, and the Amazon.
It's worth it to take a ship-sponsored shore excursion on either line. Both Silversea and Seabourn use the most knowledgeable tour companies around the world, operating top-notch transportation such as roomy air-conditioned coaches or luxury catamarans. Both companies also offer special concierge-style services that will create a private tour that meets your unique specifications.
Choose Silversea if you want the chance to score free shore excursions.
Over the past few years, Silversea has experimented with a few promotions that include complimentary shore excursions in the cruise fare. We've seen offers like this for Mediterranean voyages as well as some outstanding itineraries throughout Asia. Check Silversea's website or talk with your travel agent to see if the line is offering shore excursion promotions for any of the cruises on your wish list.
Choose Seabourn if you enjoy VIP events.
Some passengers are extremely loyal to Seabourn, and one reason is the free fetes and activities that are offered on some voyages. The line's Caviar in the Surf beach barbecues in the Caribbean are legendary and the line offers a similar experience in colder climates with its on-deck Caviar on Ice party. In Alaska, there is an exclusive Klemtu Cultural Experience, and in some ports, a small group of guests have the opportunity to shop in port with the chef (complimentary on a first-come, first-served basis).
When it comes to your selection of cabins on both lines, you'll have choices ranging from ocean view and veranda staterooms to a range of suites. Silversea's cabins are larger in nearly every category (with the exception of top suites on Seabourn's newest vessels), but both lines offer high-end amenities: Silversea's bath products are from Bvlgari and Ferragamo, while Seabourn opts for Therapies by Molton Brown.
You'll find stocked mini-bars and a complimentary bar setup on both lines, as well as your choice of pillow styles (down, therapeutic and hypoallergenic on Silversea, and down or hypoallergenic on Seabourn). Silversea dresses its beds with Italian Pratesi linens while Seabourn uses Egyptian cotton.
Choose Silversea if you want the services of a butler.
Every single passenger traveling aboard a Silversea ship gets the attention of a dedicated butler. It doesn't matter if you're booked in the lowest-level cabin, a butler is still there to help you achieve the cruise of your dreams.
Your Mr. Jeeves will welcome you aboard and get you settled in your suite. That means helping you select your pillows and bath products, and unpacking and hanging your clothing (if you wish). He'll ask about your beverage preferences and will make sure your suite's minibar is set up with everything you like best.
If you need assistance making onboard dinner reservations, he'll take care of that, too. He'll turn down your bed at night and serve you breakfast in the morning, if that's your style. Whatever you need, your butler is there to try to make you happy.
Choose Seabourn if you want to indulge in a spa suite.
Spa suites, which package various spa-related perks into the fare, are all the rage throughout the cruise industry. Seabourn offers the Penthouse Spa Suite. Ranging from 516 to 538 square feet each, these accommodations include complimentary full-day access to the Serene Area at The Spa at Seabourn, where you can enjoy indoor and outdoor lounge space plus a Kneipp hydrotherapy pool at the back of the ship. You also get the assistance of a spa concierge who can help you book appointments.
In your suite, there are extra perks such as two minibars: one is stocked with a complimentary bar setup, while the other is filled with waters, juices and healthy snacks. You can select bath and beauty products from Molton Brown (including Pure Pampering bath oils) and soaps by L'Occitane, Baudelaire and Ferragamo. If you like the L'Occitane scents infused in the spa, you can select one for your suite as well.
Fine dining is alive and well on both Silversea and Seabourn. The quality of provisions and the diversity of the menus across the lines is quite good. Silversea recently departed from the main dining room concept on Silver Muse and Spirit and instead has a series of restaurants onboard its ships that you can sample throughout your voyage. A hallmark is the indoor/outdoor, slow-food Italian option called La Terrazza. If you love Mediterranean flavors, this venue will wow you.
Seabourn ships still offer a main dining room, called The Restaurant, but also have The Grill by celebrity chef Thomas Keller, a sushi venue (on the biggest ships), The Colonnade (part buffet and part a la carte menu offerings), and The Patio Bar (which turns into Earth & Ocean in the evenings).
Choose Silversea if you want to dine at the only Relais & Chateaux restaurant at sea.
You'll find La Dame on five Silversea ships: Muse, Spirit, Wind, Shadow and Whisper. With just a handful of tables, this prime dining spot is a tough reservation to get. That's because it's not every day you can dine at a Relais & Chateaux establishment; the designation is only given to the world's ritziest gourmet restaurants, boutique hotels, classy resorts and over-the-top villas. Be sure to reserve a table online via the My Silversea portal as soon as possible.
Menus change with the season and voyage destination, and are designed to use fresh artisanal products. The six courses can be paired with fine wines from around the globe. Menu items range from seared scallops to grilled lamb chops to venison with raspberry coulis. The dessert menu often includes a Grand Marnier souffle, which needs to be ordered early in your meal but is absolutely scrumptious. There is a $60 per person surcharge for a meal at La Dame.
Choose Seabourn if you'd like to sample dishes from celebrity chef Thomas Keller.
Since 2016, chef Thomas Keller has had his own restaurant, The Grill, aboard Seabourn's fleet -- starting with Seabourn Quest. Keller hones in on the steakhouse concept here and offers Caesar salad made tableside and entrees including New York strip steak and lobster thermidor. (Leave room for an ice cream sundae for dessert!) In addition to the new restaurant and menu, Keller has also introduced his purveyors to Seabourn. The line is now sourcing ingredients for The Grill from vendors including Elysian Fields Farms, Sonoma Poultry, Marshall Farms Honey and Cowgirl Creamery.
Because both lines offer complimentary alcoholic beverages in their cruise fares, you'll find that nighttime finds most people out of their cabin and enjoying the ship's facilities. The ships' lounges fill before and after dinner, with live music and dancing on offer. Silversea and Seabourn both feature Broadway-style theater performances and limited casino games.
Choose Silversea if love jazz.
Silver Muse and Silver Spirit are home to a dining/entertainment venue called Silver Note. This intimate showplace is designed to harken back to the famed supper clubs of the 1930s, like New York City's Rainbow Room. Most people arrive early to enjoy a cocktail or two while listening to music -- usually a cabaret singer or jazz band -- before ordering a meal of small plates. The fun nightclub setting works whether you're a couple or a group traveling together. Make reservations because this place is popular, and tables book up routinely on every cruise.
Choose Seabourn if you enjoy Broadway-style shows.
While Silversea employs skilled musicians to entertain in its lounges, its evening theater performances aren't as showstopping as the ones on Seabourn -- especially the line's new "Evening with Tim Rice." A cast of very talented singers perform on stage as counterpoint to prerecorded anecdotes from Mr. Rice himself, where he talks about writing songs including "Hakuna Matata" and "Don't Cry for Me Argentina." The free show gets rave reviews, even from cruisers who normally aren't Broadway fans.
Or if you want to watch a movie under the stars.
Seabourn offers movies and popcorn on deck under the stars. It's a fun way to decompress after a busy day of enjoying shore excursions, the water sports platform, the pools and hot tubs.
Neither Silversea nor Seabourn have a children's program or kids club. Neither line is right for you if you're traveling with toddlers or young children. It's rare to find families with little ones on either line, though it does happen from time to time.
Choose Silversea if you're traveling with teens or adult children and want to take an expedition cruise together.
While expedition voyages to exotic destinations aren't a good fit for families with little kids, they are ideal if you've got inquisitive teenagers or if you're traveling with adult children. From Alaska sojourns to African safaris to exploring the Great Barrier Reef, the Galapagos Islands or the rainforests of Borneo, Silversea has an amazingly deep catalog of expedition voyages from which to choose. Expedition cruises are more active than traditional luxury sailings so everyone in your party should feel comfortable -- and be mobile enough -- to board a Zodiac and to go hiking and swimming.
Choose Seabourn if you're sailing with kids or teens who will enjoy the ship's water sports platform.
Seabourn can be a solid choice for families with well-behaved teenagers. Look for destination-intensive itineraries where you know your family will find plenty to do in port. Then be sure to take advantage of a Marina Day when it's offered -- usually once per cruise in warm-weather destinations such as the Caribbean or Greek Isles.
Head to the aft marina with its retractable in-sea pool and water sports platform; from here, you can go swimming or borrow a personal watercraft such as a kayak or pedal boat. You can also try out water-skiing or take a turn on a banana boat. (Note that Seabourn Quest is the only ship without a marina.)
Also, on sailings with lots of children, the line does bring on counselors and offers daily activities. It's not a formal program akin to what you'd find onboard a Royal Caribbean ship, but the kids attending Seabourn's programming enjoy it just the same.
Choose Silversea if you want a personal butler, don't want to pay for Wi-Fi and are excited to visit ports where only the smallest ships can sail.
Choose Seabourn if you want to enjoy cuisine by Thomas Keller (and don't want to pay extra for specialty restaurants), enjoy Broadway musicals and live music, and want to explore by kayak and Zodiac.