This cruise is perhaps the ultimate cruise experience...with some exceptions. Learn from our efforts and mistakes. Fair warning: This is a VERY port-intensive cruise!
The Silhouette stayed in Venice for two days prior to setting sail. This was wonderful but despite the fact that we arrived a day earlier, that was not enough time to enjoy this incredible city. Spend at least four days in Venice.
Sail away was incredible! Either get a cabin on the port side of the ship or secure a place on the port side top deck. There before you are all of the treasures of this city you've just become acquainted. (I will do ports later.)
While exploring the ship on sail away day we made it up to the Sunset Bar and found Ansel Williams, a very personable young man from Jamaica. After receiving the drink of the day we continued our tour forward and were immediately accosted by Maria from the lawn Club Grill. Maria can accost me anytime. She led us in and showed us all around this unique dining experience. When she offered 2 for 1 deal this night only, we couldn't resist! The entire staff of the Lawn Club Grill must be picked for their wonderful personalities. Make the Lawn Club Grill a top priority. After getting together with CC friends, 20 of us returned later in the cruise and many said it was a highlight! 5+ Stars for the Lawn Club Grill and their staff.
The ship is very well laid out and although full, we never felt the least bit crowded. Our cabin 7309 was the ultimate save for the pole positioned right next to my side of the bed. Located all the way aft on the port side, we couldn't have asked for anything better. The deck was a partial wrap-around giving almost a 270 degree view of everything. Located aft, motion sickness was never a problem even though my wife is prone to the malaise. The design of the ship appears to be the key with an aft-mounted, longitudinal stabilizer. I called it a swim platform but instead it serves a vital role in stabilizing the forward to aft pitching common in other ships. Sebastian our "butler" was exceptional as was Joaquim our room steward. I'd book the same or similar cabin in a heartbeat. When people ask where our cabin was located, we just told them we were the "left turn signal" for the ship. That says it all.
The entertainment was very good. The last stage production was the best which offset the boring stage production a few nights before. When Celebrity accommodated and produced their own version of the Cirque' shows, they bought a winner.
We did "select" dining which is the same as "anytime" dining. With 20 CC friends, reservations and waiting seemed to be fairly common. We were accommodated as rapidly as possible and the staff was accommodating and very pleasant. Over time, all 20 of us did our own thing which mainly involved specialty restaurants.
The Lawn Club Grill was our favorite and yet it wasn't something we would do on a nightly basis.
Blu was wonderful. We had friends that booked Aqua Class and they ate at Blu almost every night. We were fortunate enough to be invited to join them. As "Suite" passengers we could eat at Blu for a $5 cover charge. Aqua Class passengers use Blu as their dining venue. Blu deserves 5 Stars as well
The Tuscan Grill: Oh my! Come hungry and pace yourself. The food is phenomenal and plentiful. Located all the way aft on deck 5, the vista is something not to be missed. While dining we watched dolphins frolicking in the waves. The service was perfect in every way but there was way too much to sample before the main course arrived. I would give the Tuscan Grill 4+ Stars.
Murano: If you like your food to be "presented" then this is the place for you. Personally I don't like a production being made when the food is delivered but that is just me. The food was good but a little too high-class for my liking. I think the food needs to be the product and not the servers. I wouldn't return to Murano. I give it 3 High Class Stars.
Q-Sine: Over-rated and over-hyped. I was so looking forward to ordering my meal on an iPad! What fun! For a large group (we had 10), it is majority rules. You all order what you would like to see presented and eight dishes with the majority votes are what are brought to your table. If you do Q-Sine, do it with the one you love and no one else. The eclectic food was okay but nothing I would ever return to, even if the evening was free. Here's a very helpful hint: If you are seated on one of their black chairs, request a change immediately! Stick with the white high-back chairs. The black chairs could cause blood clots to form because of the structure on the back of your legs. Two of us could barely walk out of the restaurant because of the pain on the back of our legs. I'd close Q-Sine down or restructure the venue completely. I'd give this 1 Star only because I had to give it something.
Every contact we made with services on board the ship were beyond compare.
The iLounge: Whether you are a MAC or PC person, make friends with the folks at the iLounge. While they sell out of iPads within three hours of receiving their stock, if you already have an iPad, Richard Shillington is amazing with his knowledge and abilities. His classes are so worthwhile and yet the only one I could take, because of port tours was the one day at sea. If you have the opportunity, attend his classes.
The photo shop on board has some good deals on cameras, sometimes cheaper than you can find at some of the big-box stores in the States. I was trying to decide between two different cameras. After talking to one of the ship's photographers, on his own, lead me in the right direction and saved me a significant amount of money on a better camera.
My room key did get demagnetized once during the cruise. The process was painless and done efficiently.
EMBARKATION AND DISEMBARKATION:
Fast and efficient coming and going: Only one other cruise does it better and not by much.
VENICE: Spend four days at a minimum. Buy a 72-hour vaparetto pass and a few WC cards in advance! The vaparetto system is actually very good and so much fun, even when it is standing room only! The WC (water closet) tickets are essential. We bought way too many and ended up giving most of them away. We stayed at the Best Western Olimpia hotel just 300 feet from P. Roma, the major transport hub for Venice. The steps are a real killer for heavy bags but the close proximity to the ship and P. Roma makes it all worthwhile.
The only ships tour we took was to Murano and Burano, both worthwhile destinations.
RAVENNA, ITALY: We walked of a mile off the ship, found a gentleman with poor command of the English language to sell us tickets across the canal and onto a public bus right next to the docking area. The bus ride was long and never less than over-full. We were dropped off in the city center and left to our devices to find the sites. After an hour of finding our way around we found our destination, saw the mosaics and then needed to find our way back to the bus terminal. The mosaics in Ravenna are fascinating when you consider the intricate detail and when these were created. It was our fault for not knowing how to ask for directions in Italian. Lesson learned. It wasn't the best port and perhaps a ship's tour would have been better.
KOPER, SLOVENIA: The real attraction here is Lake Bled and Ljubljana over 90 minutes away but well worth the effort. We did a private tour and were treated to a wonderful Brit who married a Slovak and set up permanent residence in this beautiful country. Unfortunately it rained about 90% of the time we were off the ship and the Alps were not seen.
SPLIT, CROATIA: Split and Dubrovnik were the reason we took this cruise. Split was okay with a major emphasis on cruise ship passengers, hence tourist stalls. I really wanted to see inside Diocletian's Palace right on the quay where the tenders dock; they only accept Croatian Kuna. While Euros are accepted everywhere else, plan on getting Kuna prior to cruising or on board at guest services. I failed to do that and thus missed a tremendous opportunity. The walk around the port was like many other ports visited with vendors blocking the view of history. I'm sure there is much more to see. We just didn't do this port the right way.
DUBROVNIK, CORATIA: Wow! Take the shuttle into the old town as it drops you right at the main entrance to the walled city. Once through the thick wall, make an immediate right and then about 30 feet turn right to a small alcove to buy tickets for the right to walk along the wall. It seems that no matter the entrance to the wall, the steps are significant and narrow.
HINTS: Go first thing in the morning. The heat can be significant later in the day. Plan on about 2 Â½ to 3 hours for walking the entire length of the wall. Take water with you and don't forget your camera. This is so worthwhile.
Upon returning to ground level we hired cabs for a private tour to the top of the hill overlooking the city. (The cable car is okay but more expensive and we would have missed out on a lot of the recent history of the city.) The cab drivers didn't speak much English but we got the point. If you have time, they will offer you a side-trip to Cavtat. If you have more than an hour free time, do it, otherwise the time is way too short to truly enjoy this peaceful seaside resort town.
KOPER, SLOVENIA: We were supposed to take a sailing trip on the Monty B. but that got cancelled due to forecasted thunderstorms (it never rained). Instead we walked the walled city but didn't see anything spectacular. There were however some quaint churches and decent shops with decent vendors. Our friends did walk the 1347 steps up to the fort above the city and said that was well worthwhile. The pictures they brought back attest to that. It is however a strenuous hike and not many make it all the way to the top. Another couple took a cab from the port along the northwest coast of the bay and saw several sights worthy of a repeat visit. The cruise in and out on the ship is very nice as well. This is southern most fjord in Europe and well worth being on deck or an aft facing cabin.
BARI, ITALY: We hired a cab to take us to the Truilli homes in Alberello. From what we could understand from our driver, he also has a pilot's license. Now I know why. We literally flew about 90 miles out to this location. At one point I tried to put on my seatbelt and he said, "no, no, no. Not necessary." Now I see why; if we were involved in a crash at the speeds he was driving, seatbelts, airbags, or a paramedic on scene would do you no good. It was best to just close my eyes and pray. The buildings were still fascinating and the vendors not at all pushy.
CORFU, GREECE: We rented cars along with several other couples. If you don't have a GPS, make sure you take a good map and navigator. We drove to the west side of the island, took a grotto tour, drove up the side of a mountain and ate on top before returning to the ship. There remains a lot of history on the island that we missed but we still had a good time with many friends.
VALLETA, MALTA: Before going to Malta read, The Siege of Malta and in the Bible, about Paul's shipwreck on the island of Malta. Both will be very helpful in understanding the history of this incredible island-nation. One bit of warning; one day is not enough! This is an island worth visiting for probably a minimum of four days. We hired a driver and a tour guide to take us to specific sites on Malta and we were not disappointed. There is a HOHO bus (Hop On Hop Off) that has three different routes you can take around portions of the island. Perhaps the best is a private tour or a ship's tour with constant narration.
MESSINA, SICILY: Our tour to Taormina and Castlemola were done independent of the ship. We could have done better. Keep in mind that if you intend to see Castlemola a smaller vehicle is required. Taormina is an old walled city with multiple shops and a few historic sites from the Greek occupation era. Castlemola is a town perched high on a hill with good views of Mt. Etna and many good restaurants. We should have done something different but I'm not sure what if any. Just two blocks west of the cruise terminal was perhaps the best tourist attraction we saw in the form of the "World Clock Tower".
NAPLES, ITALY: We booked a private tour for six via AP Tours. This is the only way to go! We were in a smaller vehicle, able to navigate the narrow roads along the Amalfi Coast. The ship's busses can only go one way while the smaller vehicles tend to go the opposite way to avoid the crowds and inevitable traffic jams caused by the larger busses. Our driver even drove us to the ferry terminal in Sorrento and walked with us to the ferry which docked next to the ship. The day was wonderful.
ROME, ITALY: Despite what most people told us about Rome, it is not possible to walk to all of the major attractions without putting much stress and strain on your legs and feet. Granted there are some sites clustered together such as the Coliseum, The Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill are a reasonable walk. The Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish steps are also reasonably close to one another. Make sure you have a means of getting from one cluster of sites to another which has four wheels. The cabbies were "okay", although do not ask for directions to a site if you are walking. One cabbie lied to us and sent us off in the wrong direction. We knew it within a few feet and got proper directions from a local.
We would do this cruise again minus one of the ports.