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Doesn't get much better than this......
Europe - Eastern Mediterranean
This is our third Med cruise with Celebrity, 11th cruise overall, and this was my personal favorite. Although I'm sure there are better cruise experiences to be had, I feel we could hardly do better for the money. We chose a balcony guarantee and ended up with a sixth floor cabin at the front of the ship, 6127. I was concerned that it might be more prone to motion, but although we had a few stormy days, it was never a problem. Our balcony had a 3 foot ledge that extended beyond the glass wall (which actually made it feel larger) but no obstruction whatsoever as we were in front of the lifeboats.
We have loved all the S class ships and the Silhouette is no exception. It is amazing to me that there are almost 3,000 passengers on board and yet you seem to run into the same people over and over again. I'm not sure if this cruise attracted a particularly interesting group of passengers due to the port-intensive itinerary, but we met the most amazing people. During the day we More
did port tours (or DIY) with people we met on cruisecritic, and at night we often shared tables with others in select dining. By the end of the cruise, we had made many new friends that I hope we will stay in touch with. The select dining staff was just wonderful as well. From the charming hostess and assistant Maitre D, to the wait staff and our favorite sommelier from Bulgaria (can't believe I forget his name)we often closed down the dining room conversing with the staff or our new dinner friends.
We absolutely loved each and every port on this cruise. I have detailed reviews of some of them although Ravenna and Koper, Slovenia aren't on the list. I'll leave those at the end. We had gorgeous weather in the highly scenic ports of Malta, Croatia, Venice and Montenegro was such a blessing. Most of my pictures look like postcards, the sky was that blue. Clearly you take a chance with rainy weather in October (I hear the cruise that followed ours wasn't as lucky)and we did have a washout in Corfu but it was so worth it to have moderate temperatures and smaller crowds than during peak season. I can imagine some of those ports would be miserable in the heat of the summer.A few observations related to dining....... Oceanview does get tiring. You need to take turns with a partner holding your seats and filling your plates or your items will be cleared away. We opted twice for room service (not bad). The warm food was warm, but sometimes the cold food (fruit or yogurt) was too. I guess it's hard to have it both ways with everything packed tightly together. We ended up eating breakfast in the dining room the last few days and found it much less stressful. I do love lunches in Oceanview, the salads are fresh and plentiful and we really enjoyed the curries but we didn't get too many of them as we were in port most days.
We ate in the main DR every night. I like the specialty restaurants, but the surcharge is just a bit too high IMO. I find the beef and slow cooked meats (braised short-ribs, lamb shank, osso bucco) to be outstanding. I've learned to stay away from fish as it is sadly, almost always overcooked. Quite a few fish entrees were sent back (or should have been) by our table mates. I've learned that salads, which are usually excellent, are on the small side so I always ask for a "double". Berries and cream can always be had for dessert, even though it isn't on the menu. Truly, I find the waitstaff will do whatever it takes to make diners happy if you ask nicely........
I do find the coffee to be a huge disappointment, not that Celebrity is alone in this shortcoming. You shouldn't have to go to a pay coffee bar (which many people I talked to also found to be sub-par) to get a decent cup of coffee. I predict the first cruise line to really understand how important good coffee is, at least to most American cruisers over 40, will win over a share of new cruisers, just like Celebrity did when it was one of the first to go with strict non-smoking policies.One other quibble. I wish there were more moderate and affordable wine offerings in the dining room. We aren't connoisseurs but do enjoy both red and white wine with dinner. There are very few offerings in the $25 to $30 dollar range and yet there are many fabulous wines available in U.S. stores for $9 to $13 a bottle and certainly inexpensive Italian and Spanish wine can be very nice.
I was sad to read that some don't feel Ravenna to be worth the stop. We followed the maps to the major mosaic sites in town, covered under the museum pass and thoroughly enjoyed it. The sites are absolutely stunning and the walk is pleasant and easily doable. Lots to see and do along the way. I recommend taking the ship shuttle for $14 pp. We priced taxis and they weren't any cheaper.
I was really looking forward to Slovenia as I had read what a beautiful country it is. I booked a tour with Graeme at Four Seasons Travel which was excellent. My only disappointment had nothing to do with the tour, but with the fact that we had so much to try to see and do in such a short time. Graeme picked us up first thing (8:15) and we were off to Ljubljana. It is a beautiful city with a decidedly European (as opposed to Mediterranean)feel. We only had time for a quick walk through and a few photos, but not to shop or linger anywhere. Next was Lake Bled and the beautiful castle. Again, so worth a visit, but not much time to walk the lake or eat a meal. We only had about 45 minutes to grab a quick bite or shop or whatever, before it was time to head back to Koper. Graeme rightfully wanted to be sure we were back by 3:30 pm as the ship sailed at 5. The travel time is lengthy (an hour and a half)and you never know if something will come up to slow things down. It was a mostly scenic drive along a good highway with nice bathroom stops. Once in Koper, he gave us an optional tour of old town which was also very charming. There was a lively band playing on the docks as we boarded the ship with lots of tents set up for tasting local wines and salamis etc....The band continued to play until we set sail, with many locals lining up along the wall of the port to wave us off into the sunset.......magical!
Overall, a fabulous cruise experience that leaves me ready to start planning the next one! Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
Bari was one of my favorite ports. Some people who just wander into old town give this port mediocre ratings, although I met several cruisers who did just that and loved it. A group of us from roll call decided that we wanted to venture inland to Matera, and see the Sassi district, something I knew nothing about until I started checking out what to do on cruise critic. What a find! We had a little difficulty figuring out transportation, although I've heard it can be done by train and I heard of another group that managed to rent a car, I'm glad we found a driver. We used a company called Best Airport Transfers and they drove 8 of us there and back (leaving at 8:15, returning at 4:45) for 118 euro a couple. It was expensive but soooo worth it. I can't possibly describe the Sassi to do it justice, but it is unlike any other sight we have visited in Europe to date. We had a gorgeous day, and fun loving group, but the place itself is very unique and special. Do the research and if this appeals to you, go for it, you won't be sorry. It is still undiscovered and not at all touristy, but I predict it may not be long before all that changes.
Despite the rainy weather we had a fun day in Corfu. Rented a car (reserve in advance on-line)from Sunrise car rental, right outside the port. Only 42 Euro (cash) for an automatic, not even a credit card or deposit required.Amazing! Drove to Paleokastritsa, following the signs and it only took around 25 minutes. The place is gorgeous although we couldn't really enjoy it on this cold, windy day. We did snap some photos and toured the monastery at the end of the beach area, which was very pretty. Afterward we drove up to Lakones for the views and stopped to have lunch at a new restaurant called Veranda right outside Lakones on the road to the next town Makrades. It definitely felt like off season in Paleo and many places were closed. We were pleased to find this place open. The six of us were the only ones there, they treated us very well. We had a lovely, leisurely lunch and even enjoyed some amazing views between the clouds when the sun poked out. At the end of the meal, we were given yummy fruit plates for dessert and then offered a glass of local liquor but we had run out of time and needed to hit the road. Our biggest mistake was putting too much gas in the car (it was given to us only 1/4 full) which we didn't end up using due to the inclement weather. Had it been gorgeous, I'm sure we would have spent more time driving and less time at the monastery and in the restaurant. Either way, it was a wonderful day!
Everyone loves Dubrovnik, and for good reason, it's a phenomenal place to visit, even just for one day. I wanted to do the cable car ride first, to get some good photos in the morning light, and then do the wall after some of the hordes had already finished. For some reason, the taxis to the Plosje gate (closer to the cable car) were 15 euro instead of 12, as I had read on-line, so we ended up doing the ship shuttle to the Pile gate and then walking to the cable car outside the walls (it was only around 10 minutes up a slight hill, not too bad). I had heard you could walk part of the wall, exit for the cable car and then re-enter, but I'm not sure that's true anymore, the walls are pretty strictly policed. If you want to do the whole wall, do it all at once or you will most likely pay twice. The cable car ride itself is not a big deal but the views up top are spectacular. Be sure to leave the cable car station and even walk past the fort ruins (which house the war museum) and wander around the surrounding area a bit. We came across war trenches, a grave marked with a cross, a wild donkey and had even more spectacular views of the rest of the harbor including the other side of Dubrovnik where the ship docks. When we went to climb the wall at the Plosje gate, we had some trouble finding it. I expected the entrance to be outside or right at the wall. You actually have to go through the gate down a street or two to find the entrance, it isn't particularly well marked, it's just a set of stairs with a ticket taker at the top. Walking the wall is fabulous, unless you have extremely limited mobility, you should try to do some of it. Just wear good shoes and take your time. We also enjoyed the streets of old town, particularly those off the main drag. It's touristy for sure, but so charming.
Again, we were blessed with a gorgeous day. It would be a real shame to be here in the rain as everything is so scenic. We started the day with the hike to the fortress. I had read that it made sense to go up using the (harder to find and lesser known) mule path as it is not only free, but a long yet easier climb to the top, so that's what we did. Fantastic advice! To find the path, walk through the front walls of the town and head straight to the back, left corner (old town is compact). Exit out the gate (it's called the North Gate) and cross the small bridge. Continue walking across a second small bridge and then turn immediately right and walk toward the mountain. The base of the path starts there and is marked the entire way with red and white painted circles. It was such a pleasant climb and we had it all to ourselves. About 2/3 of the way up, we found the ancient chapel and then were able to see the "hole in the wall" where others climbed through from the traditional steep stairs route to the top. We joined up with the stairs and went to the top and then took the stairs back down for a change of scenery. The mule track was so much nicer and easier. The stairs were crowded and would have been treacherous in inclement weather. We passed people wearing flip flops, heels, wedges and all kinds of inappropriate footwear. I don't know how they did it. If you'd like to make the climb, don't hesitate to do the mule path and wear good walking shoes, you'll be fine. My DH had his favorite meal at a little restaurant called Scorpio's in one of the squares. He ordered fresh squid stuffed with ham and cheese and then grilled. It really was to die for. They had a guitarist that played American folk rock like the Eagles and Jimmy Buffet, hardly what I was expecting in Montenegro, too funny! We did not wake up early for the sail-in as we figured the sail-out would be just as beautiful..........and it was!
It was a Sunday and many sights, including St. Johns co-cathedral, which we have visited before (and loved) were closed. We pre-booked the Hypogeum and shared a taxi with some others from our roll call. It was very interesting and well done, although somewhat pricey. Afterwards we went to Tarxien Temples to round out our understanding of the very early settlers on the island. Then we caught another taxi to M'dina, which was just beautiful, a great place to take photos. I was amazed at how pristine it was. It felt as if it was recently built to look really old, kind of like Disneyworld. We were in town the day they were running a Grand Prix for antique cars and we could watch the race from the back walls of the town. We had lunch and cake at the nearby Fontanella Tea room where we thoroughly enjoyed the reasonably priced food and stunning views of the island. Our taxi driver brought us back to Valletta where he dropped us at Upper Barraka Gardens for some great photo ops before we wandered back down to the ship. Malta is supposed to be an easy place to catch the bus, but given that we had an ambitious agenda and were there on a Sunday, we didn't mind springing for a taxi, shared between four of us wasn't too bad. This is a fantastic, scenic port with lots to do. One that I have visited twice and wouldn't mind going to again..........
I was pleasantly surprised how much I liked Split. I know Dubrovnik is the shining star of Croatia, and it was, but we really enjoyed Split too. After quickly perusing old town, we decided to head out first, and then end the day there, hoping some crowds had returned to the ship. We walked along the Riva (waterfront) to the right as you face the harbor. We looked for signs to Marjan Hill and climbed our way up through the park for some outstanding views of Split, the harbor and the mountains behind. I mistakenly believed the Ivan Mestrovic sculpture gallery was on the hill, but in fact it is below it, on a street, named after the sculptor, which runs along the water.
The hill is definitely worth a climb on a pretty day, just for the views and photo ops, but if you want to see the gallery too, it's a lot of walking. We loved the gallery and enjoyed the walk there just as much. We wandered past stately homes and a very nice city park (with a few small public beaches). Both places were full of Croatians with very few tourists in sight, always a pleasure.........We ate lunch outside the walls on the way back to town in a place filled with locals. Old town Split is fun, lots of yummy pastry shops and cute places to buy souvenirs. The square near the cathedral is great for people watching...there was a Croatian bridal couple doing photos there, the brides wear pink in that country, so pretty! Popped down to Diocletian's basement and no one was manning the door, so I took a quick look around and snapped a few pics. From what I hear the city was pretty packed all day since there were quite a few ships in town but still seemed like a worthwhile visit.