We did the Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Silhouette on March 3rd leaving from Port Everglades. I am 41 and my wife is 37. This was the first time we have sailed on Celebrity. We have been on 3 Princess cruises which we very much enjoyed, and a NCL cruise that was not our cup of tea. We had heard a lot of nice things about the S class ships, and with the free booze package Celebrity was offering, we figured we would give it a shot.
Getting there - We flew into PBI and rented a midsize car for $35 including taxes. We used it to get to Fort Lauderdale, where we stayed at the Embassy Suites, using some HHonors points that I had. Even though we were very early (11:30 AM) they had a room for us and we went upstairs to freshen up. The hotel is nice, maybe a little dated, but it seemed to be clean and we enjoyed the managers reception and the hot breakfast. Well, we enjoyed the idea of a free hot breakfast. It really wasn't very good, but it gave us enough fuel to get on the ship and start our over indulgence. The evening before the cruise we went to Duffy's (a sports bar within walking distance) and watched our beloved Penguins play a nail biter. They had a great selection of beer, good prices, and pretty decent bar food. The next morning we returned our car to the Budget office in the Quay on 17th and took the shuttle over to the terminal and waited for boarding to begin. We had to sit a little while in the holding pen before they started boarding everyone, but before you know it, we had a bite to eat in the buffet and were at the Sunset Bar enjoying the sunshine (and free booze). The cold wind, not so much enjoyed. Rooms were ready about 1:30 or 2. That was kind of different for us. On the Princess cruises, the cabins are ready when you get on board. We knew about this going in, so we just each had a small carryon with us, but it still was kind of a pain.
Cabin - We were in 7307 which is the last balcony Port side on 7. It was a little bit of a walk from the stairs and elevators, but we appreciated the little larger balcony, and no balcony to our left (looking at the water). The view directly below seems to be the roof of a restaurant, so you don't look right down on water, but it was very nice. We couldn't help but make some comparisons between Princess and Celebrity during the trip. The first thing we noticed was the differences in the cabins. Princess really does closets and storage right. Lots of drawers, and the closet by the bathroom with no doors provides easy access. Our cabin this trip was a little thin on storage. There is a lot over the bead, but that is inconvenient. The closet has doors, and with the couch right there, makes it difficult to get to half of it. We managed just fine though and although we were concerned it would be an issue, it never was. We did like the bathroom in this cabin better than Princess. The shelves had a door on them to protect from falling, and there were some drawers for storage. We also appreciated the shower doors instead of the very friendly shower curtain. There were only 2 "american" power outlets, and neither were close to the bed. I had pre-ordered an extension cord and a jug of distilled water for my CPAP machine and while they were there when we got to our cabin, they did make it eventually after a reminder call. My wife brings a little travel fan for air and noise, but without a plug by the bed, she couldn't use it. Bags were at our door when we got back from muster. Don;t know when they go there. We were enjoying the ship beforehand.
Food - We thought the food was very good. We did no specialty restaurants, but did the Dining Room 3 nights for dinner and ate at the buffet the other nights. I had grilled to order steaks and pork chops there, along with a stir-fry made to order with the veggies that I chose. There always had a carving station and lots of ethnic foods. I thought the quality was as good as any buffet I have had and we liked being able to have so many options. The dining room food was very good, but frankly, the service was mediocre at best. Slow refills on water and wine. Slow removal of plates. Nothing terrible, but certainly noticeable. I am sure that doing Select dining is going to affect service. Either they don't have their most seasoned servers there or because of the timing of tables getting seated. Or something. I just know it was lacking. But the company was good, and the food was tasty. My wife is a little less adventurous than I am with food, and she missed the "Comfort Food" section of the menu that Princess offers and resorted to the grilled chicken breast 2 of the 3 times. I missed Princess' Fettuccine Alfredo that was on their daily part of the menu. I often would have that in an appetizer portion to start the meal off. All of my meals I enjoyed. Beef was a tad overdone, but certainly not worth sending back. The only hot breakfast (and I use the term not loosely) for Room Service on Princess was a breakfast sandwich. We did the balcony breakfast once (a throw in from our TA) and enjoyed that, but the selections were so slim on Princess we really didn't use it. We had Room Service Breakfast 3 times on this cruise and really enjoyed eating on our balcony. It took us a couple times to realize that the number of toast is not orders of toast, but actual pieces (same goes for French Toast, btw) but it was great not to have to fight the crowds. They call before they deliver which is nice. But they call and it is there a minute later. No time to dilly dally. The food was good enough. Not great, but good enough for us to do it multiple times. That being said, the buffet breakfast was plentiful and had very nice choices, although the food wasn't very hot. We also enjoyed going up there in the late afternoon and grabbing some cheese and crackers, etc to take back to the room and sit on our balcony. Not that we needed it, but the late night feeding on Celebrity is pretty boring. Pizza and Pasta every night. That was it. Princess always had different items and lots of choices.
Pool Area - Very nice. We like to utilize the Adult Pools on ships and were a little concerned about the Adult pool on the Silhouette, but we loved it. We could always find a lounge chair, there was security, politely, getting kids out of hot tubs, etc, and I loved sitting inside. I felt like I was getting sun, but was protected from burning. I would get a little warm, and we would jump in the pool, but not having to worry about sunscreen while in there was great. I know that sounds stupid, but I was getting enough sun when we were in port. It was peaceful and we really enjoyed it. We loved the lack of announcements. On Princess, they always seemed to be hawking gold by the inch, or an art auction, or something equally not important to us over the loudspeaker. This cruise we seemed to get one announcement per day "From your Captain in the Navigational Bridge" updating us to our location and what not.
Entertainment - we don't really go to shows. We tried the Sin City Comedy show the first night they had it. We were fairly lubed up and it was a standing room only crowd, but we didn't find him that funny and ended up leaving before it was over. The "house" band was pretty good and we caught them at the pool or in the atrium or something just by chance a few times. The steel drum guy did a nice job as well. There were 2 guys that played acoustic guitar and sang (different acts, not together) and we really liked them. Especially one of them. His music was right in our wheelhouse for relaxing. We loved being at the Sunset Bar and listening to him. That was one of the few things we actually planned around. Another wonderful thing...no MUTS. If you don't know what that is, it is Princess' Movies Under the Stars. Essentially is it a HUGE TV screen outside at one of the pools and the have movies and concerts BLARING during the day and night. Frankly, it makes the one pool not usable for us. It is so loud, there is no way you could try to relax and read or listen to your headphones if you were there. When I am on vacation, I want to get away from TV, not be bombarded by it. To each their own, I guess. All I know is we were so happy to not have to deal with it!
Bars and Drink Package - We booked with the 1,2,3 promotion and got a free classic booze package and free gratuities. Since we did select dining, we had to pre-pay our gratuities when we booked our cabin, so there was a OBC waiting for us from the TA when we got on the ship. Technically it took a few days for it to show up, but we were confident it would, so when we walked on the ship, we went to the first bar we found and upgraded us to the Premium Package. There is absolutely no need to do that. So many liquors and beers ARE included, but we wanted to sample some of the craft beers at Michael's and some of the drinks at The Molecular Bar and some fancy martinis at Crush. We were really glad we did it. HUGE bottles of Evian multiple times a day, fresh squeezed OJ with breakfast, double espresso in the AM, Bailey's on the rocks after dinner, nice wine with dinner, and beer, beer and some more beer day and night. And I drank the heck out of a drink called a smoked ginger. It is their take on a Dark and Stormy. The Smoked Ginger has Chivas Regal (scotch), a ginger liquor and ginger beer. What a perfect drink for being on a boat. The bartenders and servers at the Sunset Bar were top notch. Joking with us, without being too familiar (if you know what I mean). They were great. And the bartenders all around were good, but I guess we spent most of our time when we were drinking up there. And we utilized Michaels a good bit too. We loved the selection of craft beers and the 2 people that worked their were very knowledgeable. The one guy was maybe a little snooty, but he wasn't rude, I guess that is just how he is. We liked him. And they always had some munchies out. A little bowl of chips, or nuts or something. I like that. A nice thing about having the drink package was trying different beers or drinks without fear that you would have wasted $8 if you didn't like it. We certainly expanded our horizons some. I am sure we drank more than we would normally, and certainly used more bottled water than we normally would. As much as anything, we loved never signing a slip. They take your card and swipe it, but you never sign anything. It is kind of fun to see how many times the swiped it at the end of the week when they have your statement at your cabin. It all shows up a $0.00, but it shows every time they swiped your card. It really is embarrassing to see how many times we used it. After a couple beers one night, I asked a bartender how gratuities worked for them when people on packages would get drinks. She said that they get a gratuity for each drink that they ring in. I was happy that they at least got something for the work that they do. Although at the end of the cruise we did give extra to the ones that really took care of us all week.
Smoking Policy - I smoke when I drink and my wife smokes regularly. Princess used to allow smoking on the balcony, but they did away with that. Frankly I was OK with them doing that. I was always looking around to see if I was bothering anyone and it made it less enjoyable for me. I had read about the strictness of the smoking policy on Celebrity and we were a little concerned. But there were certainly enough smoking areas. There are none in any inside venues, but we were OK with that. There were more than enough places to light up if you wanted to. It seems to be a good compromise in my opinion. I would warn people that are sensitive to smoke to not do a lower level balcony on the port side. Deck 5 port side is smoking, and I am sure if you are sensitive to smoke you might smell some.
Leaving - We were flying out of PBI and wanted to make sure we had enough time, so we booked a private car to pick us up at the pier. We decided to walk off on your own and it worked wonderfully. On Princess you can't use the elevators if you are doing walk off, but on Celebrity, the actually blocked off elevators for walk off passengers. I had read nightmares about Port Everglades disembarkation for Celebrity, but this was a breeze. We got to the Deck 3 dining room about 10 minutes early, waited 10 minutes, and then off we went. No waiting at customs either. We called our car service, he was there 10 minutes later, and we were off to PBI. I didn't want to waste time going to the rental car place to get a car and then running up to PBI, so we paid a little extra and got the private service. In hindsight, we had more than enough time to rent a car and do it. We were waiting for HOURS at the airport. We got there before 10 and our flight wasn't until 2. I would rather err on the side of caution though.
Final Thoughts - We really enjoyed our first Celebrity cruise. Enough that we are looking at booking another one. One issue I have with them is their lack of variety in ports. It seems like all of the S class ships do the same Eastern and Western itineraries with no variance. We are going to try the Summit for a Southern Caribbean cruise in February. I know the ship won't wow us like the Silhouette did, but it is very port intensive, so we will be on the ship less. The Silhouette really is stunning. The atrium that goes the whole way up and the glass elevators that go the whole way up are awesome. The ice topped bar is fun, the sunset bar, the Solarium all are wonderful. The people on the ship, both staff and fellow cruisers were so nice. We met a lot of nice people and just had a wonderful vacation.