As experienced cruisers we were looking for something a little different and more energetic so we tried Silver Cloud Expedition. What we got was the same old, same old only on a smaller ship. Embarkation was so-so as we were uncomfortable leaving our bags in the middle of the platform unattended.
After a beautiful transit through the Canal we anticipated a variety of interesting expeditions. The first day our rain forest tour at Parida Island was a 40 minute walk of which 20 minutes was spent waiting for members to catch up. The highlights were the two termite nests we saw. If we had seen any termites they would have been the only wildlife encountered. We did have to step over two muddy little streams. When we got back to the beach we found out that we had the best excursion as those who wanted to snorkel met their boat only to find out the boat had no snorkel gear. That expedition became a whale and dolphin watching ride without the whales and dolphins.
Because of bad weather our next two stops were changed and we spent two days at Puntarenas. While they handled the change of schedule well there was no effort to replace the expeditions with something similar. For each of the two days we spent over four hours on buses. The first destination was a horse demonstration which was mediocre. The next was "a walk in the clouds" which was a rain forest at 5000 feet. Very interesting, lots of birds and flora. Because there was construction en route and our bus broke down on the way up we were late getting back to the ship and in danger of not making it on time. Swiss Travel, the tour operator called the police. They closed an oncoming lane for over a mile and allowed us to pass stalled traffic and make the ship on time. Everyone on the bus cheered madly. Sadly this was one of the highlights of the cruise. Very surprised that Silversea was unable (or unwilling) to come up with expedition type of options while at Puntarenas.
After a nice day at sea our next stop at Isla de la Plata was a true expedition experience with zodiacs to shore and then an extensive walk on the island seeing thousands of birds including the lovable blue footed boobies. What was totally surprising was that both the Silversea expedition person and the local guide totally ignored the rules and regulations they had laid out which were similar to those in the Galapagos: don't leave the paths, no interacting with the fauna, keep a good distance between groups etc. One woman in our group approached boobies three different times with the birds responding aggressively twice and squirting excrement the third time with nothing said by the guide or expedition member. Our group of 8 spread out and ultimately we ended up with several other groups totaling about 40 people.
Machala was our next destination with one of the tours through a petrified forest with over a 130 different types of birds per the brochure. Again two hours in a bus each way. In our two hour walk we saw one bird eating a snail and one squirrel so high in a tree that the only way to verify he was there was to greatly enhance the resolution of the picture I took. We fully understand that fauna come and go but to only see two living things? Seems like either Silversea didn't do their homework or the Machala tourism bureau wrote the trip description. Very unsatisfying waste of a day.
Isla Lobos was another highlight of the trip as the expedition team spotted numerous whales and the Captain did a great job of positioning the ship and literally turning it in circles so that we could fully enjoy a spectacular display of humpbacks frolicking and two blue whales with their magnificent flukes.
Salaverry Peru was our last stop with a short bus ride to the temples of the Moon and Sun. The latter wasn't open but the former was fascinating and an enjoyable half day but not what I'd consider an expedition experience.
This turned out to be a classic cruise on a small ship. Service was uniformly excellent throughout. However, on Regent, Seabourn and Oceania their service has also been excellent so it was not a differentiator.
The cabin was very cluttered and would have been far more usable if one of the chairs was removed. Everything was in very good shape and kept immaculate by our service team. The wifi was better than on any other cruise we've been on.
As you can tell this cruise wasn't what we thought we were getting. The crew and senior officers were all outstanding. Silversea should not have marketed this as an expedition cruise even though Silver Cloud is an expedition ship. There was a Finnish travel agent on board with 14 of his clients who said this was the worst Silversea cruise (out of 10) that he had been on. Numerous other passengers who were more experienced than we concurred. Another passenger said Silversea is really good at the Arctic and Antarctic expeditions but hasn't figured the rest out. We'd consider sailing on Silversea again with the right itinerary but not on an expedition ship.
It will be interesting to see how Silversea handles our complaint. The expedition team acknowledged the shortcomings as did the senior officers with both saying they reported this to Silversea corporate.. When we went on Seabourn sponsored tours that were awful they promptly refunded the costs. All-inclusive doesn't remove the obligation to provide the service advertised.