Although my wife and I have cruised the Adriatic before, we chose this cruise for three main reasons
1. Celebrity and the fact that Silhouette was a new ship
2. There were a number of stops we had not been to
3. We wanted to catch the last of the summer sun
Despite the usual very minor disappointments we can honestly say that everything about the holiday was EXCELLENT. This started from our departure from Manchester by Jet2 in a new Boeing 737-300 which had excellent leg room [often a problem with low cost regional airlines], our seamless early arrival and hotel transfer in Rome [we could not get a flight on the day of departure of the cruise so opted to go a day earlier and see a bit of Rome], the very comfortable Crowne Plaza St. Peters hotel, and an excellent transfer the following morning to the ship in Civitavecchia. Check-in was first class and we were able to access our cabin immediately. First stop was food in the Oceanview Cafe. The variety and quality of the food was excellent. A feature of the cafe was the amount of space between food stations such that even at peak times you never felt crowded to such an extent that the experience could be distasteful. Eating out on the aft deck -- especially breakfast was perfect. In order to keep this report as brief and as informative as possible I will comment on the cruise in its relative sections.
The Ship's design.
As mentioned above there was a great sense of space whether it be on deck with the sunbeds lined up , the public rooms, theatre or our balcony cabin. The overall decor of the ship could only be described as elegant -- not as glitzy as you would find on say a Royal Caribbean ship [which we do like] but nevertheless relaxing.
Cabin design was good. The bathroom design in terms of the shower cubicle space and storage drawers/shelves was very good. What was poor however was access to the wardrobe which was somewhat difficult via sliding doors -- at least Celebrity provided removable hangers and not those horrible captive types. A much better design is to have an open hanging space as P&O ships have. This would entail a re-design of the cabin however. A 32in interactive TV was provided that gave access to a number of channels such as specialist dining options, your on-board account, DVDs, and internet access [for a fee] and a number of international TV channels including Sky News, BBC News etc. As usual the beds were firm, large and very comfortable. The balcony seats reclined and the space allocated was OK. We found our cabin, 7153, to be in an ideal position in the ship -- it was directly off the forward elevators [we were never disturbed either by the operation of the lifts or passengers using them]. The big advantages were that you did not have the walk along the narrow corridors, our cabin was central and low enough such that any ship movement was minimal, vibration and engine noise were non-existent, our balcony was not overshadowed by the deck overhangs on decks 10 and certainly 11, and finally we did not experience any noise that probably those passengers located on deck 11 directly under the pool deck and fitness centre may have
experienced. In fact we never once heard the ship dock and with very calm seas throughout the voyage it was the calmest and quietest we had ever experienced.
The layout of the various rooms and areas on the ship was excellent. Lounges and bars seemed to flow effortlessly from one area to another without the awkward bottle necks or dead and wasted spaces one sometimes experiences on other ships. The one area I think was wasted or at least underutilised was the Lawn Club on deck 15. The larger area of grass was reserved for those passengers renting a cabana and whereas the existence of grass on a ship is interesting, in my opinion it was largely a waste of premium deck space. The adjacent Sunset Bar was an excellent place to while away a few hours for those not wanting to get an all over tan. A key feature of any cruise ship is the atrium -- the hub of the ship and the place where you can meet friends , have your photo taken, listen to the various ships entertainers or dance the night away. This ship exploited its three deck levels which overlooked the central area very well and was utilised very effectively throughout the cruise. The theatre was very large with comfortable seats tiered such that everyone had a good view of the stage. The one exception was those seats located behind the supporting columns. Fortunately these were located towards the rear of the auditorium and did not present much of a problem. The other main entertainment area was the Sky Observation Lounge located on Deck 14 forward which was an excellent lounge for looking out to sea. However as an evening entertainment venue it did not quite work so well as only a limited number of seats could view the stage and dance floor [a tip is to get there a little early to bag a good seat!]. I think a re-design of this important venue would not go amiss. I did not use the casino, spa or gym which were up to the usual high standards. The pools and Jacuzzis were excellent, especially the one pool with a 4ft depth which my wife appreciated [she hates getting her head wet!]. Of particular note was the availability of an unlimited number of pool towels that were accessible at a number of conveniently located stations -- not like the majority of other cruise lines who often limit you to one towel and no chance to exchange a wet towel. Loungers were provided with comfortable sponge covers -- a real luxury. In addition to these loungers there were a number of double foam beds, hammocks enclosed with net curtains and in the in-door pool area double cabanas that faced out to sea.
Food and Drink
An important element of any cruise is food and drink, both in terms of quality, availability and service. As far as the cost of drink is concerned it is quite expensive if you like a bottle of wine for dinner and opt to sign up to one of the drinks packages on offer. I am fortunate in that my wife does not drink so our drinks bill was somewhat limited -- especially as I took advantage of our Elite membership of the Captain's Club - free drinks in the Sky Lounge between 6.00 and 7.00pm so my pre-dinner drink was catered for! At dinner I opted to limit myself to a single glass of wine which was adequate as it constituted approximately to 1/3 bottle -- cost $6-9 + the usual 15% gratuity. Now to the main element- the food. The quality of food everywhere on the ship was excellent. We opted to go Select Dining as our past experience was that it gave you the flexibility to organise your dinner around your evening entertainment. Also you had the ability to meet a large number of fellow passengers if you agreed to share a table. However for this cruise things did not work out as we have experienced in the past. Firstly the Grand Cuvee restaurant on Deck 5 was dedicated to Select dining with Deck 4 allocated to Fixed dining. We heard however that on this cruise 400 more passengers had opted for Select than on previous cruises. This obviously put a strain on table availability at the popular time of 8.00pm. The dining room manager attempted to overcome the first few nights problems by opening the dining room 30min early at 5.30pm [on the second night of the cruise we had to wait nearly 1 hour to be seated. The maximum time we have had to wait on any previous cruise was 15 min]. The problem of table allocation was made worse by the fact that other cruise lines operated a bleeper system so that on obtaining your bleeper you could wait in a nearby lounge and not have to queue. Other factors that I could hazard a guess put a strain on matters were that fewer passengers made use of the specialist dining options due to their high cost [$40 /person supplement in Quisine for example], the high quality of the food in the Grand Cuvee made it largely unnecessary to get a much higher quality of food by eating in the specialist restaurants, there were hardly any children on board where their parents would tend to eat with them in the Oceanview Cafe ,the cooler weather in the evening probably put people off from using the Lawn Club Grill and as the sun was setting around 6.00pm there was no reason to linger on deck thereby delaying going for dinner. Despite saying that we would share a table we usually found ourselves on a table for two and therefore did not meet as many new people as we had on past cruises. The two redeeming features of dining in the Grand Cuvee was the high quality and variety of food on offer and the excellent service from all the dining room staff -- they all worked very hard and at the same time found time to have a joke with you or pass the time of day. Although I said that the specialist restaurants were expensive, we did eat in Quisine which was an experience not to be missed. Not only was the food interesting, the manner in which it was presented was pure theatre. A high level of hygiene was evident throughout the ship and non-more so than in the various eating venues. Attention to keeping the ship spotlessly clean was evident everywhere. Throughout the ship there were a number of casual dining places where you could purchase specialist coffee, eat a crepe, have an excellent burger for lunch etc. Coffee, tea, and fruit drinks were available throughout the day as well as 6 types of ice cream -- all at no extra charge.
As usual the entertainment was split between the ships resident team and guest acts. Overall we thought that that the ships team were very good. Sipra were the main "party" band who played most days either on deck at sail-a-way, in the atrium which is called Celebrity Central, or in the Sky Observation Lounge. Their lead singer was excellent. Other entertainers included Travis Johnson, a classical guitarist, Simon Belair who played the guitar and sang, Ray Brown Jr. Jazz Quartet and the Arabesque classical Trio. The most popular group was however The Neptunes , a Cappella group [4 boys who sang without an orchestra to back them]. The Silhouette Production Cast Dancers were very talented especially when they demonstrated some of their own specialist skills -- how that girl managed the splits well beyond the usual level was amazing! They performed 3 main production shows in the theatre as well as productions in the Observation Lounge, Celebrity Central and at a deck party. Of particular note was the Silhouette orchestra -- very professional. The guest acts were also good especially in their variety:- Violinist -- Vincenzo Gentile, Irish Comedian -- Adrian Walsh, Music and Comedy -- The Judy Kolba Show, Concert Pianist -- Brooks Aehron, Italian Singer -- Enrico Cifiello, Comedy Juggler -- Jonathan Stamp, Comedy Magic -- Chad Chesmark, and lastly our Cruise Director, Lisa Richard, sang a couple of songs -- having performed on the stage she has a great voice. In addition there was the usual amount of quizzes, dance sessions including my wife's favourite Zumba, films, pool volleyball, X Box games, table tennis, etc.
Ports and Ship's Tours
Tours from the ship were on the whole quite expensive and played on the fact of convenience. For those passengers who had mobility problems it did however provide a reliable and convenient service. However for those prepared to venture forth and do their own thing considerable savings could be made, and for myself and my wife who are not early risers we had the advantage of choosing when to go ashore. Many tours left the ship at between 8.15 and 9.00am -- much too early for us! As I mentioned in my introduction, we selected this cruise because it included a number of stops we had not been to. The first stop was Naples. We had planned to catch the ferry over to Capri, however we experienced a very heavy storm with thunder and lightning whilst having breakfast so that put paid to that. For those cruisers who do not know the port the ferry terminal is within 100m of the ship and fast ferries run approximately every half hour. Capri is a beautiful island and well worth a visit. Beware however not to try to catch the last ferry before the ship sails in case of unexpected delays. Trips to Pompii and Herculaneum can easily be achieved via a tram to the train station then catch the Sorrento train. The Pompeii site is very close to the relevant station and Herculaneum is a 300m walk down a main street . If you want to visit Sorrento I would advise doing it by taxi or better still a ferry as the train journey does not give you interesting sea views as you might expect -- only graffiti adorned blocks of flats. For the fitter cruiser Mount Vesuvius beckons.We have yet to do this trip as with the much fabled drive along the Amalfi coast. A tour from the ship along the coast to Positano lasting 8 hours and including lunch would set you back Â£208 each. I am sure you could do this yourself much cheaper by sharing a taxi with another couple. Naples itself is not particularly attractive unless you visit the various museums who exhibit many remains from Pompeii and Herculaneum. Beware however for the ever present pick pockets. Never take all your credit cards and cash with you, nor your passport. Put your money loose in deep pockets and ladies should not wear expensive jewellery, watches etc. Shoulder bags should be held at the front and not at the side. Never allow a stranger to get closely behind you. If they do get close to you stop and allow them to pass you by. The next stop was Catania in Scilly, an unattractive industrial port. Tours from the ship include visits to Mt Etna and Taormina which is an attractive village set high above the sea. We shared a taxi with another couple to visit Taormina for half the cost charged by the ship. Taormina is well worth a visit. Valletta, Malta was a new stop for us. As such we opted to take an island tour on an open top hop on hop off bus. At 10 Euros each the trip lasted almost 3 hours if you did not drop off at one of the stops -- a bargain. Next day was a sea day then Corfu, Greece. Unfortunately the weather was rather poor so we opted to stay on board. Bari, Italy was next. An attractive town split into the old town and the new. We wandered around the old town for 3 hours or so before catching the ships shuttle bus to arrive back in time for a late lunch. A highlight of the cruise was the stop at Dubrovnik, Croatia. Having been there before we opted to go to a local beach which is within walking distance of the town. Rubber shoes are essential as the beach is stony. For first timers there are a number of things to do -- walk the city walls, meander through the charming streets, take a sea cruise from the picturesque harbour, have a drink at one of the many bars especially the small ones clinging to the walls of the city facing the sea, or take the superb new cable car and appreciate the terrific views overlooking the city and don't forget to visit the museum located adjacent to the top cable car station which features the relatively recent war when Dubrovnik suffered severe damage when it came under siege. Kotor, Montenegro was next. It is accessed via waterways that are reminiscent of the Norwegian Fjords in that the journey from the open sea takes nearly an hour along a relatively narrow waterway surrounded by high hills [not as tall as the Norwegian fjords]. The city is similar to Dubrovnik in that it is a walled city with interesting narrow streets. A feature of the city is that the city walls extend up the mountain that backs onto the city --quite a climb that we did not attempt. Many did however. Split in Croatia was next and after tendering ashore we opted to take a tour of the city and its surroundings in an open top bus. The tour included a guided walking tour of the city with an informative guide. A feature of the city is its promenade with its palm trees and seats which look out onto the bay. Ravenna was next. You land at an industrial port some 20min bus ride to the town. Not a particular attractive town. We should have taken one of the ships tours. One tour of interest to F1 motor racing fans was a visit to the Ferrari museum. The final stop before arriving in Venice was Koper, Slovenia. You land adjacent to the town which is relatively small. We decided to go on a tour which took you to Piran, a small seaside town some 30min drive away. -- Very attractive and well worth a visit. Overall then the places we visited were both varied and interesting.
The Captain Dimitrios Kafetzis is Greek and has a very dry sense of humour! Our cabin steward provided a very efficient and friendly service having worked for Celebrity for 20 years. The waiters in all locations were also very efficient and not too pushy when offering a drinks service. As previously mentioned we particularly found the Grand Cuvee waiters to be very hard working whilst finding time to pass the time of day with you. Staff in the Oceanview cafe were also very efficient in clearing tables and most importantly keeping the tables spotlessly clean.
It was disappointing that we arrived in Venice in the early morning , although some did make the effort to get up early and experience one of the most beautiful port arrivals in the world. The departure from the ship was extremely easy with no long queues and a short walk to the bus transfer to the airport. Marco Polo airport departure is however a different story. The departure area is so small that as you are left some time before the check-in desks are open there is nowhere to sit down and the area is very congested. However once you are airside things do improve considerably. Once again the Jet2 plane was loaded on time and landed early in Manchester.
Would we cruise with Celebrity again -- most certainly. They may be slightly more expensive than other lines but well worth it.