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Comparison of Royal Plantation and Silver WhisperAuthor: Host DebbieH103 (More Trip Reviews by Host DebbieH103)
Date of Trip: June 2001
This is a comparison of our recent experience on Silversea Silver Whisper with our overall experiences at Royal Plantation. We've stayed at Royal Plantation 8 times and went another time on a day pass and have stayed in every category except the villa since 2001 when they opened as Royal Plantation. We plan a July, 2006 return. On Silversea, we stayed in a midship veranda suite. We plan a February, 2007 return to Silversea, this time sailing on Silver Wind. This is going to be difficult to write since not everything is apples to apples, but bear with me.
Royal Plantation is a Leading Small Hotel of the World and also a member of the Leading Spas of the World, the only hotel in Jamaica to receive such an award, and they are also 5-star Diamond AHSS recipients. They are now members of Elegant Resorts as well. The hotel is a boutique property with 77 suites situation near Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Staff to guest ratio is quite high, and personal attention is at a high level at almost all times. While the hotel has a lot of continental features, there is also Jamaican charm evident. Royal Plantation began as an all-inclusive property (I am, for this review ignoring all the years the property existed as the popular Plantation Inn). It now offers a choice of all-inclusive vs. European Plan. We stick with the all-inclusive (Royal) plan.
Silver Whisper is a small luxury ship that holds 382 passengers. The roots are Italian, and staff members were European and Asian, for the most part. Service was slanted toward European customs. Silversea scores very high in a number of surveys, notably Conde Naste. You will see higher scores in surveys for service (and also for other luxury lines) than you will for resorts with similar class and perhaps better service. It is just the way it is.
What is included
The Royal Plan at Royal Plantation includes transfers by private car. An in-room bar with a number of liquors, beers, wine and champagne, along with mixers is provided in every room category. Spa treatments are extra, but the steam rooms are complimentary.
The included liquor is premium brands. For beer, they have Red Stripe or Heinekin. The sparkling wine is either a local or a decent tasting French. They have several house wines -- 4 to 6 white and 4 to 6 reds. They do have premium wines available, and at dinner, a wine list is usually provided. Vueve Cliquot, Mumms, etc. are not included in the cost. Caviar is available at the C bar in an elaborate setup or anywhere you choose, but this is not included. Also, a real pet peeve of mine is that they charge a $10 room service delivery charge per room meal. This really is my only thing I do not like about the property at all.
Tipping is included in the Royal Plan. You sign for items but never pay extra for them. You can add additional gratuities at that time or leave envelopes for staff at the end of your stay.
Silversea does not include the transfers. On our trip, they offered a transfer in private car for $55 per person with baggage handling and then $19.50 pp for van transfer on the return, plus additional cost per bags. They also offer options like shipping your bags from your house to the ship at a reasonable cost. We chose to do our own transfers and did pay $19.50 each way plus $2.50 for our bags, then we tipped driver and also tipped a guy at the pier to bring bags to the ship. It still did not add up to $110 but likely wasn't the same level of service. Tipping is included. Champagne such as Mumms and Vueve Cliquot are included, as is caviar, though it is now from the Mississippi River due to some new import laws. Some people do tip, but it is suggested that you give to the staff fund instead, if you desire. There are never any room service charges on Silversea.
Check-in and Check-out Policies
I covered the transfers, so I will start with check-in.
At Royal Plantation, the official check-in is at 3 p.m. Your room may or may not be ready before that time. However, vacation at Royal starts the moment you step off the curb and are welcomed home, so you are free to dine or enjoy any other public areas of the property as soon as you arrive. There is no extra charge to arrive early. Upon departure, you will often need to vacate your room at the regular checkout time (11 or 12) but can sometimes extend an hour with a phone call if the resort is not too full. You can vacate your room and stay until your bus departure time (about 4 hours before your flight, at least) without an extra charge.
When you arrive, you are greeted by staff and whisked a few steps to the lobby where house champagne or any other cocktail is offered, along with an ice cold towel. Check-in is always personal and relaxing, and it is at this point I always get the feeling I am at home ready to just melt into my surroundings.
On Silver Whisper, the suggested arrival time for embarkation was 3-5 p.m. on most cruises. Sometimes, they offer early embarkation or late debarkation (no late debarkation in U.S. ports) for $100 pp. We arrived at 11:25 and were allowed to pay $100 pp to board. This allowed us the opportunity to use public areas, get our suite before noon and have a 5 course lunch, along with cocktails or soft drinks.
We had to vacate our suite by 8:30 and debark the ship at 9:50 when our color was called.
This is a very difficult one. There is no doubt that dollar for dollar, the suites at RP would beat those on Silversea for size and features, but comparing Silversea to its competitors, it is the best in class. So, let's talk more about features and amenities.
Every suite at Royal Plantation has either a French or "regular" balcony. The regular balconies start in the 4th category. All suites have a sitting area. They all have a stocked fridge that is much larger than those on Silversea. All have a table of some sort for in-room dining.
All suites at Royal Plantation have electronic safes. The closets are all different sizes, depending on the suite. They are never huge. The premiums do have a decent sized closet. The 3rd category and higher rooms have jet tubs and separate showers. The first two categories have a combo shower and tub. The beds are Sealy king (or you can get a luxury with two large twins) and are VERY comfortable, and they include very nice duvets. They also have a lovely pillow menu available in all rooms.
The rooms all have satellite television with a number of channels. They offer room service 24 hours with a variety of nice choices. They come with lovely, thick robes to use during the stay and slippers. Toiletries include shampoo and conditioner with a tropical scent and lemongrass body lotion, along with aloe vera gel. They also include French milled soap. All of these are the resort's brand. Last stay, we were in the top suite and had bath salts. I don't know if all rooms have this now or not. Rooms get larger and larger, and when they have a sale, these upper rooms are a very good value Like on Silversea, they book up way in advance.
Silversea has two class of ships -- the 382 passenger Shadow and Whisper and the 295 passenger Wind and Cloud. On Whisper and Shadow, all suites have a separate shower and double marble sink. There is a separate sitting area with a coffee table that can be converted to a dining table easily, small stocked fridge, liquor cabinet, TV/VCR plus DVD player, daily fruit. The TV only gets news and ship channels, but they offer 4 channels with late run movies (free) and also a library of movies.
The bed can be queen or twin. They have nice duvets and also a pillow menu. They offer the Acqua di Palma toiletries from Milan. We were given shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, glycerin soap and milled soap. The former toiletries were Bvulgari, and our stewardess brought us a full set of these, as well.
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