Review of Celebrity Silhouette 5/18 Italy and Croatia Cruise
Our trip originally started as a plan to rent a car and drive around Europe for a couple of weeks, but those pesky emails from Celebrity and their last minute deals got the best of us. My wife and I just did a Eastern Caribbean on the Solstice in March, but this was just too good of a deal. We decided to go on this cruise instead, and booked a Veranda Guarantee cabin. This worked out well for us as we were assigned cabin 6315, a Sunset Veranda on deck 6.
We arrived in Venice early and spent 2 nights in a B&B in the San Giacomo neighborhood of Venice. It's quiet and has no sign of the tourist-choked areas like San Marco, and is across the Grand Canal from the train station area, On the 18th, we went to the ship around 1200. We walked to P. Roma, then took the People Mover to the cruise port. It's a very short ride, and leaves you with a 10 minute easy walk. We packed light, only a 22" rolling bag and daypack each, and had no trouble. The embarkation process was good overall. A few of the staff outside the terminal were a bit misinformed, telling us we could not carry our bags aboard and we must give them to a porter. We just kept walking and had no trouble. Upstairs there were 2 check in lines, one for Aqua, Concierge, Suites, and Elites and one line for everyone else. This worked well, as both lines seemed to be balanced and move well. We were onboard by 1330, enjoying a tea at Cafe al Bacio.
We had just sailed on the Solstice so there were constant comparisons between the ships. They are largely identical, but different in subtle ways-color schemes, the Hideaway, Lawn Club Grill, etc. The Silhouette is beautiful and is spotlessly clean like her older sister.
Demographics-about half American, half European. Very few children. We are in our mid-30's and while most other Americans were older, the Europeans were a broad age range.
Our cabin 6315 was very nice, and our steward was perhaps the best we've had on a cruise. The Sunset Veranda cabins are identical to other cabins in layout. We really enjoyed the view from the veranda, especially leaving port. However, I do not recommend these cabins for two specific reasons: One, soot. I have read about this issue and now that I've experienced it, I don't want to again. I realize the soot level depends on many factors, but despite our stewards efforts soot was a huge problem. It's on the deck, it's on the railing, the seats, the table. It's worse when it rains. At first this wasn't a problem but as time went by it was very annoying. I must give credit that the steward and deck washing crew were out there washing it down very frequently, in most ports. The second issue is vibration, and this is the killer. When these ships are moving slowly, the entire stern feels vibration. We had several nights when we were almost unable to sleep-the whole room vibrates, and earplugs don't help since it's a vibration not noise. The first night was one of these, Venice to Ravenna is a very short distance and I don't think we exceeded 8 knots or so. At full speed it's quiet, but beware when going slow. For our next cruise we're going back to a forward cabin. Our Solstice cruise in the Caribbean was forward and was amazingly quiet, even moving slowly between islands.
The food was good, the usual hits and misses but it was fine overall. The Oceanview Cafe buffet is better on Silhouette I think. We found Tuscan Grille to be excellent as always, but miss Silk Harvest from Solstice. Room service was great as always. We frequented the Porch and Bistro on Five, but don't like how they split up the menu to accommodate the Porch-it's Paninis, salads and soups at the Porch, with Crepes, soups and salads and the Bistro. But the food is excellent at these places and well worth the $5. We ate in the main dining room a few times, but are usually tired from a day in port and we don't like the long delays between courses-one night dinner was a 2 hour affair. We also didn't do formal nights (there were 3) as we had only carry-on luggage and had no room for formal clothes. We spent these nights at the Tuscan Grille, the excellent Lawn Club Grille, and the buffet. There always seemed to be 50% off deals on the specialty restaurants-it was a good deal! The much-ballyhooed brunch was OK-food was good, but it's a disorganized mess of people. We missed it on our last cruise, but will probably plan to miss it in the future. It would be excellent if they devised some scheme for crowd control. The Cafe al Bacio was our haunt, and the staff there is excellent and friendly. With a beverage package it's so easy to just sit down for an excellent, fresh brewed iced tea.
This was a very port-intensive cruise, and while my wife stayed onboard to enjoy the ship some days I did explore every port. Ravenna was beautiful and easy, although we made our own way into town. Split was nice, a bit crowded. This was a tender port and open tendering wasn't announced until nearly noon. Malta was a favorite, and I took the city bus out to Mdina and back, visiting St Johns Co-Cathedral afterwards. Very nice place, and plan to come back. In Naples I went to Pompei, and in Civitavecchia we went into Rome. We reserved entry to the Vatican Museums and then did a nice walk through Rome down to P. Navonna, The Pantheon, and the Coliseum. Kotor was pretty, but terrible weather so our trip ashore was very brief. Our plans to hike up the hill to the fortress were foiled by rather large amounts of mud and water flowing down the hill. Dubrovnik is truly the "Pearl of the Adriatic"-it's magnificent. In retrospect, we could have done without Split or Catania. We would have preferred a Greece port or better yet Livorno or La Spezia for the Cinque Terre and all that area has to offer. We didn't use any Celebrity excursions, yet we ran into them in many ports. Most of these places just aren't that hard to get around on your own. Get a guidebook (Rick Steves or Frommers) and just relax. Some of the excursions were reasonably priced, while others were excessively expensive, like Rome. It seemed to be grouped by location-in Catania they all seemed reasonable while all of the Rome excursions were all very expensive. Even the "Rome on your own" excursion, which is just a round trip bus to St Peters, was $90 per person. This was interesting since the from-the-bus tour around Rome was $10 less. Back into Venice, we had a great day walking around and used the People Mover as before. Celebrity was selling a shuttle boat for $22 per person to San Marco, which wasn't bad. It was a contracted Alilaguna boat, and considering a one-way vaporetto ticket is now â‚¬7 this isn't bad at all. Running back to the ship that night in a thunderstorm was a memory we'll never forget!
My wife discovered the Persian Gardens, and spent a good deal of time here. A day pass is $20 if you're not in Aqua Class. And as a guy, I can say It's worth it-the steam room an hot room are incredible. My wife has asked me to try to build one of the loungers in the Persian Gardens! We are considering AQ for the next cruise for this benefit, as well as eating in Blu.
Another observation that made me happy was the pools and Solarium were open until 11:00pm every night. For some reason Solstice on our Caribbean Cruise closed these down at 8:00pm.
I must say that the sail away out of Venice was both dramatic and incredible-I have been to Venice several times and never thought I would see San Marco from such a huge ship, so close.
We had a good time, and We'll see Silhouette again in January when we go back to the Caribbean.