It is probably important for you to know my family and I are seasoned cruisers. Over the past 15 years we've sailed a total of 24 times on Celebrity, Holland America, Cunard, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, NCL, and MSC. This was our first sailing on a Solstice Class Celebrity ship and our 8th cruise with Celebrity. We picked this cruise largely because of the ship and the stops in Croatia and Montenegro. Celebrity has become our favorite cruise line because of the food quality, but admittedly the last few cruises we did on competitors ships because the itinerary was more important.
The Celebrity Silhouette is an outstanding ship with an extraordinarily well-trained and pleasant crew, fantastic specialty dining, quiet state rooms, innovative entertainment, and excellent maintenance. It has everything and more as to what you would expect from an upscale cruise line with no significant weaknesses. Cruising on the Silhouette was such an outstanding experience that it will make sailing on any other ship except another Solstice Class Celebrity ship or the Queen Mary II difficult. You might say the Silhouette has ruined us!
Having attained Elite status on Celebrity certainly helps. The value of the Elite status in free drinks, discounts, free laundry, and Internet amounted for us to about $40 a day. This will likely be a factor in future bookings just as keeping a high frequent flier status has become important when booking airline tickets.
The stability of the ship is also notable. I would not hesitate doing a transatlantic or transpacific on this ship, even though I am prone to sea sickness.
The embarkation process was smooth and efficient since we arrived just in time for sailing due to a delayed flight and re-routing. Some of our baggage did not make the sailing nor catch up with us for the two weeks we were cruising. This was due to the very poor customer service of Air France. The concierge attempted to track our bags and get them returned to us. Jon was very helpful, concerned, and friendly.
The ship is new so you would expect it to be in great shape, but it was the details in the design that we marveled at over and over. Of the two elevator banks at either end of the ship, one major elevator bay is constructed in an atrium from Deck 3 to Deck 15. We found this extremely delightful and helpful in learning our way around the ship. This design has a spaciousness that eliminates the claustrophobic feel found on many other ships, and yet there are many nooks for those seeking quiet. All the public areas are modern and very functional. The traffic patterns avoid walking through the many lounges or casino, as on most ships. We especially liked the decor of many of the lounges and bars which were done in wood. They reminded us of a high-end English pub. However, we enjoyed the modern theme carried through the whole ship. Its decor is equal to and exceeds the Queen Mary II since we believe no one would find the ship stuffy. It is well done modern without the Las Vegas bright lights feel.
Even though we were on the ship for two weeks, there were still parts of it we rarely visited. There were 3,100 passengers on board, but we never felt it was any more crowded than ships with 1,000. Almost every pubic deck spans the length of the ship. This eliminates the need to negotiate around mid-ship interruptions requiring you to climb a few levels of stairs and then descend back down to continue on, which are ubiquitous on many other ships
If food is your thing, like it is mine, then you will be in culinary heaven on the Silhouette. You can choose from "anytime" seating or the traditional early or late seating. Or, just skip the main dining room altogether and spend your evenings in one of the three fantastic specialty restaurants. (You also have a private restaurant if you are part of the spa class. However we were not, so I cannot report on that experience.)
In the main dining room, the Grand Cuvee, the food quality was slightly above average for an upper end cruise line. The wait staff is very good and efficient. One of our few complaints was that the sommelier at our station was weak and relatively aloof and unhelpful.
The specialty restaurants are the Murano, Tuscan Grill, and Qusine. Both Murano and Qusine have a $40 additional charge while the Tuscan Grill is $30. These charges are among the highest of cruise lines, but the experience is well worth the charge.
Certainly the Murano has that Michelin star feel we've come to expect on Celebrity and Cunard. The food is the more French traditional gourmet and is on par with any great restaurant anywhere. The wait staff has worked hard to earn the privilege of being chosen to work in those restaurants. They typically are especially passionate about what they do. We found Ema especially engaging and named her our most outstanding service person of the cruise. She has competition with Ram, however, since he greeted us by name several times outside the restaurant.
The Tuscan Grill was also outstanding, serving wonderful, upscale Italian fare. It's the largest of the three specialty restaurants and has the lowest charge. It is well worth several visits.
The star of the show, however, was Qusine. This is one of the most unique restaurants we've ever dined at on land or sea. It's a mix of fusion Mediterranean and Asian served in a tapas / family style. Most of the dishes are designed only for this restaurant and could never be used anywhere else. If you have only one visit in your budget for a specially dining experience, we would highly recommend you make it Qusine. Our guide on this unique culinary journey was Suzerin (forgive the likely misspelling). Her sense of fun and joy with the dishes are infectious; meaning you will have a great time as well as a great meal.
One experience we missed that you find on other cruise lines is a Chef's dinner. However, the specialty restaurants were so good, that this wasn't terribly disappointing to us. But it would be a nice event for Celebrity to add.
We were basically pleased with the coffee on the ship. That may sound like a little thing unless you are a coffee drinker. One of my perennial complaints on Celebrity is how weak the coffee is. We did enjoy the specialty coffee drinks (espresso, cappuccino, etc.) however I found the cappuccino incredibly inconsistent in the temperature. I never knew if my cappuccino would be bordering on cold, lukewarm, or piping hot. It's a bit of a mystery to me how they accomplished such inconsistencies.
One thing we appreciate about Celebrity is the fact that juice is available anytime during the day at no charge. Some lines make free juice is available only in the morning.
We were especially pleased with how the Silhouette caters to wine lovers. It has the largest wine bar of any of the 20+ ships we have sailed. Also, there is a large assortment of wine available in 1oz, 2.5oz, and 5oz pours, which allows you to inexpensively sample a broad variety of wines you might not otherwise have the courage to try. One of my perennial complaints on Celebrity is the high price of their onboard wines, which are priced 3 to 4x's retail and the highest corkage fee of any line at $25 a bottle. Other lines, like Princess, are much more wine friendly with reasonable charges of 2 to 3x's retail well and corkage fee of just $15 a bottle.
While Celebrity had a few wine events, we were basically unimpressed with the sommeliers and the wine experience in general. Other cruise lines, namely Princess and Holland American, have had passionate and knowledgeable sommeliers and wine events that we've remembered and talked about for years after our cruise. This leaves me questioning whether we will keep our booking with Celebrity in November for a wine themed tour of France.
We had two staterooms for our family, one on Deck 6 and one on Deck 7. They were among the more quiet staterooms we've ever had, especially considering our Deck 6 cabin's location next to the central elevator area. There is a wall separating the rooms from the elevators, and we could hear late night music from below in the atrium, but it didn't prove to be a big problem. Our veranda cabin's layout was fairly standard, if not a tad bit smaller than most other ships we've sailed. Our interior room was considerably larger.
Fitness and Spa
This is an area in which the Silhouette generally excels with one major weakness. While the fitness area is one of the largest we've seen, it doesn't contain much more equipment than smaller ships. This means long waits to use the cardio equipment on most sea days and mornings/evenings on port days. And waiting to use a machine can be relatively chaotic and annoying as there is no orderliness or system. You just hang around and when a machine becomes available you bolt for it!
I would recommend they implement some type of sign-up system for cardio machines that I've seen used successfully on other lines. I estimated the Silhouette could increase the number of their cardio machines by 50% given the amount of floor area that is available. They also have a good set of barbells and a reasonable variety of weight machines. They appear to keep their equipment in good repair; all but one of their cardio machines and televisions were in working order during the cruise.
The men's locker room and saunas were the best I've encountered. The ship has both a public and private dry and steam sauna. On many other cruise lines the sauna's just don't get hot enough to break much of a sweat, but this is not the case on the Silhouette. The temperature was just fine and the sauna was in perfect working order for the cruise. There were a sufficient number of lockers which were all keyed, large enough to hold your clothing, and they were all working. These are things we never take for granted having sailed on so many other ships. For example, the worst ship in this area is the Diamond Princess lockers, which are the smallest of any ship we've ever sailed and don't have enough depth for a pair of shoes.
The Silhouette doesn't have a spa bar featuring a lighter, healthier fare and a selection of fruit juices and smoothies. This would be a wonderful addition to their fitness area.
We thought the entertainment was among the best we've seen. The shows were innovative and not the normal musical reviews on most cruise lines. The guest comedians and vocal artists were also very good. The theater is similar to most modern ships, which has two levels and spacious seating.
We were also pleased with the onboard entertainment found in the lounges. There wasn't a weak one in the group, which is a bit unusual!
I run a small business and being connected to my staff is imperative, even on vacation. I depend on having a functioning Internet while on board any ship. The Internet on the ship was among the more consistent of those I've experienced. It was simple to establish an account and I had little need to interact with the iLounge staff; which was a good thing. My two interactions with them left me cold as I found them short, bordering on rude, and unhelpful.
The shopping experience is on par with most every other cruise line. There is nothing exceptional to highlight here unless a BVulgari and Michael Kors shop excites you.
Port Talks and Shore Excursions
The port talks on the Silhouette were mostly pitches to buy their shore excursions. We had to work hard to get information on doing ports by ourselves, which isn't unusual since shore excursions are such a huge profit center for the cruise lines.
We did each port by ourselves for this itinerary since we wanted to keep things low key. We did buy tickets to the Vatican Museum online by booking sixty days out directly with the Vatican.