Venetian Society Guest Tony Hanks Puts Silversea in Facebook’s Spotlight
Tony Hanks knows a thing or two about vision. And that’s not just because he spent his professional career as a Doctor of Optometry in his native Australia and the United States. The 71-year-old retiree who first sailed with Silversea onboard Silver Muse in 2017, saw a need upon returning from his 12-day Mediterranean voyage.
“I looked for somewhere to share experiences and learn from other Silversea passengers,” said Hanks, who today has amassed 500 Venetian Days and counting. “When I realized that there was no dedicated group filling that need, I decided to create it myself.”
Instead of resting in his retirement, Hanks launched the Silversea Passengers Group on Facebook in 2019. He describes the group as a place for Silversea passengers to share experiences and helpful information, and is open to guests and crewmembers alike. The group has grown rapidly and consistently, and today boasts more than 17,000 members, with an average growth rate of nearly 50 percent per year.
For his contribution, Tony and his wife and co-Admin Vicki were honored onboard Silver Moon in 2022. It happened to be the Hanks’ first Silversea voyage since 2020 – a 90-day Grand European voyage that was also a first for the luxury cruise line. The couple was presented with a personalized Silver Dawn ship model and video messages from Silversea’s President and CEO Roberto Martinoli and Chief Commercial Officer Barbara Muckermann (editor’s note: Martinoli has recently retired and Muckermann is now Silversea’s president and CEO).
Ever the visionary, Tony seized the opportunity to invite his fellow guests to join the group. “We say that we are happy place on Facebook, where you can get great information,” the affable Aussie said during the ceremony held in the ship’s Venetian Lounge. “And what I like about it is that you get information very quickly. People ask a question and within 5 or 10 minutes get an answer.”
In 2023 Tony expanded Silversea Passengers to include a specialty website. This is used for hosting Roll Calls, where passengers on a future cruise can connect to share information and make plans. These Roll Calls also feature a unique summary of information for each cruise – listing specific features, booking dates, packing lists and relevant travel advice. Another area has the group’s FAQ’s and downloads, as well as an online form for members to contribute more information.
We caught up with Tony to gather his thoughts about the success of the Silversea Passengers Facebook Group and how his vision has led to the creation of a helpful forum made by Silversea guests for Silversea guests.
Is there anything that has surprised you about the Group’s community
The group is wonderful at supporting one another with helpful advice. I now see that we actually provide a resource that is not available elsewhere. People could always ask their travel agent and the agent could ask Silversea; but the Facebook group gives almost immediate real-time advice from other people who are relating their own personal experiences.
What has been the most rewarding aspect about managing the Group?
The group has grown consistently over its three year lifetime. As of spring 2023, we have over 17,000 members and we are growing at a rate of four percent per month, or almost 50 percent per year. I was also surprised and pleased to learn from Facebook that 7,504 of these members were “Active” in the last 30 days. That’s 82 percent who made a comment, like or post. That is really satisfying for me and I enjoy the interest of being the Administrator.
And what has been the most challenging aspect?
My biggest challenge is the challenge of all social media: Occasionally people will write things online that they would never say in person. I’ve found that the only solution is to apply our Group Rules strictly, consistently and fearlessly! As a result, I’m pleased that we have a happy Facebook group that is “Safe, Respectful & Positive”, as we say in the text on the group photo.
How much time do you spend on average every week moderating the Group?
I spend about three hours each day administering the group, including weekends. Essentially, you can’t leave the group for too long because there is a need for the Admin to not be far away. People ask questions, report things, want clarifications, etc. The amount of time also varies depending on what is happening. For example, when events impact cruises, then things become much busier. I could divide the work with others, but there’s a consistency advantage for the group with having just one Admin.
What is your long term goal for the Group?
I’d like to see the group continue to grow and to be of value to fellow passengers. I have really recognized that we are filling a gap that was not previously covered by the website or even the call center. I’m convinced that the group’s purpose will see it continuing beyond any one person.
How would you describe the Silversea community and being a member of it?
The Silversea community is generally like-minded in appreciating the quality provided by the Silversea product – the ships, itineraries, food, management and especially the crew and their level of service. When members of Silversea Passengers respond to a question on Facebook, you can see that there is a sincere desire to help others. That is really impressive to see.
What do you like most about sailing with Silversea?
We like many things about sailing with Silversea: We like that the management is directly involved in achieving the highest standards. We like the new range of suites planned for the Silver Nova and the innovations like the S.A.L.T. program. When we travel, we like to try local foods and drink local wines, so bringing these experiences onboard is wonderful. We also like the smallness of the ships, the opportunity to dress up for a special night – or the alternative to be casual. Of course the food onboard is an absolute stand-out for its quality, and the crew are just so willing in their service. We also love that we see them again on the next cruise and that some are multi-generational families of crew.
Do you have a favorite ship and/or destination?
We really like the size of the Silver Whisper and Silver Shadow. It’s a good balance of shared facilities. On the other hand, we also like the multiple restaurants of the larger ships. So we enjoy different things at different times. Destinations? We especially enjoy places with a different culture to our own. We loved Myanmar when that was possible; always enjoy Vietnam; and of course the food and culture of Italy.
What do you enjoy most about World Cruises?
We love the feeling of “this is where we live”, at least for those 5 months. The management crewmembers onboard are outstanding, so much so that it is hard to explain without experiencing their commitment to the success of these cruises. Then there are our fellow passengers: many have done multiple World Cruises, so they know one another as old friends when they get onboard. However, when we joined our first World Cruise they made us feel welcome and we soon felt like we belonged. Even off the ship, we watch out for one another – how did Silversea achieve that? Maybe we are all inspired by the crew!