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Aug. 21st, 2009

Silversea Posh Alaskan Cruises

One notable offering we loved were the wellness options routinely featured on all of the menus. Who said you have to gain weight on a cruise ship? The room-service breakfast menus all featured healthy options, such as delicious bran muffins weighing in at about 100 calories each (We ate them with guilt-free gusto every day). A dinner menu might feature an iced beet root soup for 31 calories; antipasti salad for 94 calories; and a grilled filet of halibut with shallot cream, all for just 187 calories. There are even separate vegetarian menus.

No matter what you want, the staff is there to serve you. Chef Emslie told us that one guest wanted the specific blackened cod dish that is routinely served at Nobu, one of the world's most high-end restaurants. Chef Emslie looked up the recipe on the internet, and served the miso-marinated delicacy to the delighted guest. The most unusual request- Another guest insisted that his food be served piping hot, and in that case, "We served his meals with a thermometer, so that his meal was almost boiling," said Chef Emslie. And on world cruises, there's even a dedicated Special-Request Chef on board, to handle all of the inimitable dietary requests.

Take some advice from us - one of the greatest advantages of dining on a cruise ship is that if you can't decide which entrée to choose, you can simply request both - and even order two desserts, even if you're just going to nibble. (We expected to see a Baked Alaska on this itinerary, so it was probably a good thing that it wasn't offered, because we would have been tempted to have a portion the size of Fairbanks.)

Delectable Dining Options
The Silver Shadow offered several dining options: there's room service in your suite, the Dining Room offering a wealth of creative selections, La Terrazza featuring Italian specialties, and Le Champagne, a deluxe Relais & Chateaux dining experience in a cozy bistro. Le Champagne is the only venue that requires an additional charge - for $200pp you can enjoy numerous courses accented and complemented by superb wines. For example, "Under The Spanish Sun" featured tapas served with Colet Assemblage Cava NV, Catalunia; breast of duck with Tinto Pesquero, Ribera del Duero 203; and dessert of chocolate brownie served with La Rioja Alta Rioja Vina Ardanza Reserva 2000. If you don't wish to partake of the wine, you can, for $30pp, still enjoy the gourmet dining experience without the pre-set wine pairings.

Let us put it this way - your taste buds will never be bored and on Silversea, an Italian line, your taste buds just might even do the tarantella. We met a woman on board, taking her first Silversea cruise, and she was one thoroughly contented passenger. "I love Silversea," she told us. "I love how you can order the dining room menu through room service in your suite, and how there are no set times for dinner seatings." We actually couldn't agree more. There are no set seatings at 6:30 and 8:30, so you can eat dinner whenever you want - and with whomever you want, all adding to an all the more enjoyable experience.

Sensational Spirits Are Included
One of the advantages of cruising on Silversea is that unlike mass-market cruise ships (you know, those massive behemoths that even include cliched midnight buffets), Silversea will never "nickel-and-dime" you for drinks because it's an all-inclusive cruise line with no tipping necessary. And believe us, most cruise lines do not provide complimentary alcohol - in fact, they charge anywhere from $3.75 to $10 for a single beer, anywhere from $7.50 to $18 for a single cocktail, and anywhere from $4.50 to $20 for a single glass of wine - that's for one person, plus tax, plus gratuity. For two people to have two cocktails each over one dinner or lunch, can easily cost $30 or more.

Remember, that's for drinks at just one meal - that doesn't include the lounge, bar or disco every night: By the time even a short cruise of seven days ends, on a mass-market cruise line, two people can rack up several hundred dollars in alcohol charges (and you'll have to "sign for it," as they say, each and every time.) Complimentary wines and spirits are included in the price of your Silversea ticket, which means that at each and every lunch and dinner, wines and cocktails are included.

For example, enroute to Ketchikan, Alaska, the wines served included a Conundrum California white wine (with a powerful aroma of green apple and tangerine) and a Santa Alicia Carmenere from Chile (with flavors of rich plum and black cherry). Of course, if you wish something from the Connoisseur's Wine List, for an added fee you can indulge in, for example, a Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc ($80) or an Opus One from Robert Mondavi ($280).

All cocktails are made with top-shelf liqueurs; there's even a daily cocktail recommendation such as the "Bon Voyage" made with Mount Gay rum, crème de banana, plus pineapple and orange juice. A complimentary selection of dessert wines is also available, such as a Moscato d'Asti. The same holds true for soft drinks and coffee outside the restaurants: Everything is completely covered on Silversea. Cheers!
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