We sailed on the Silhouette on March 10th-17th. This was our 13th Celebrity cruise and our second on an S-class ship. We had a wonderful time, and we have three more S-class cruises booked and are impatiently waiting for the Caribbean deployment to open up in April. There were a few things that were not quite at an exceptional level, but I am mentioning them as mere observations; they certainly did not detract from the overall cruise experience.
My story begins at 1:27 pm on Friday (two days before our Sunday departure), when I received an alert from an app (that I had just downloaded that morning) advising me that Southwest had canceled our Saturday flight from Denver to Ft. Lauderdale. I was able to book a later flight on Saturday, but (rightly) had concerns about the weather. I wasn't able to get another flight on Friday night, but I went ahead and booked a fully-refundable (and very expensive) flight to Ft. Lauderdale on Sunday morning on a different airline. Interestingly, the original price of the Sunday morning flight increased $100 per person between the time I checked on line and the time I was able to get hold of an agent. My DH and I drove down to the airport the night before, just in case the projected blizzard actually arrived. I spent most of the night checking cancellations, and I thought we were going to be okay until mid-morning when the second Southwest cancellation was received. After an hour on hold, I was told the earliest they could get me to Ft. Lauderdale was Tuesday. Thankfully, I was able to get credit for the cancelled flights and keep my return flight for the 17th. We were able to keep the same hotel room for another night (for a mere $50 dollars more than we had paid the night before, without parking). There was a lot of blowing snow, but very little accumulations. The majority of the flights made it out on Saturday; just not ours.
Without daylight savings time, we were up and on our way to the airport by 3:00 am. The weather was beautiful and we left on time. The flight was relatively smooth, and we landed around 12:30 pm. We had no problem getting a taxi to the port, and I could finally start to breathe again.
It the lesson learned category, I will be more proactive about rescheduling a potentially doomed flight at the earliest possible opportunity. I thought coming in a day ahead would give me enough cushion, but that may not always be the case. We had travel insurance, but I am very glad I didn't have to use it. I also am very grateful to my fellow roll call members who were virtually cheering me on the entire way.
Coming in late has some advantages. Luggage drop off was clear, and there were no lines at the terminal. We got checked in right away and were on the ship within 20 minutes of the time the taxi arrived.
When we boarded, there was no sparkling wine waiting by the door. Instead, it looked like they were having a free "champagne" toast at sailaway. We didn't go, but I wonder if that was the case. Is this something new?
The Silhouette is beautiful. I loved almost everything about her. I am not a big fan of the Alcoves on the Lawn -- the Lawn on the Equinox was so much better, both in looks and in the quality of the grass. Large portions of the Lawn were roped off for repairs. As a result, we really didn't spend as much time up there. I also missed having a regular bar in Cellar Masters. Again, on the Equinox, it was very nice to be able to go in and get a class of wine and talk to the sommeliers without having to use the machines. I did love the Hideway on the Silhouette. What a fun place just to hang out.
I did not notice the music on the ship being overly loud. When the party band played in the Grand Foyer, it got a little noisy, but it wasn't unpleasant. The Martini Bar could also be hopping at night, but again, not obnoxiously so (at least to me).
We had an A2 cabin right above the last lifeboat aft on the port side. We definitely had enough room, even with a standard-size balcony (we have been spoiled by the C-class aft balconies and everything pales in comparison). My only pet peeve was the lack of storage space. There is enough of it, but you have to mix everything together (except in the bathroom, which has as much space as the rest of the cabin put together [slight exaggeration]). I loved the shower and the enhanced product. A good case of enhanced body, Caribbean hair is almost worth the cruise alone.
As others have reported, our room steward was less than stellar. He did an okay job with the basics, but there was always something that was lacking. We didn't get our Elite coupons or our priority tender tickets for Coco Cay (we did get them for Grand Cayman). Wine glasses from the night before were not removed for a day or so. Our bottle of sparkling wine was removed before we finished it. We had to ask for more soap. It got to be a game to see what little thing would not be done. Guest Services was also extremely helpful in straightening things out (i.e., the Elite coupons).
We generally received what we had called the "nasty hors d'oeuvres". I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the quality on most days. They seemed to have kicked them up a notch (although there were a couple of really bad exceptions). We were not always in the room, but as long as we filled out the card, they were there for us when we got back.
I was very skeptical when I first heard about Blu, and I actually thought it was a pretty stupid idea. Boy, was I wrong. We had book Aqua Class because we were able to get a good deal, and my husband didn't want to dress up for formal night. I am now officially hooked.
Almost every dinner we had was incredibly, clean your plate good. What sealed it for me was when I realized that I had never touched the salt and pepper shakers once for dinner -- the flavor was just that perfect. The only exception was the lobster with mandarin oranges on the second formal night. Overall, I thought the choices that night were the weakest. For future cruises, this would be the one night we would consider a specialty restaurant. Otherwise, staying in Blu works just fine.
We had the same waiter, Damar, 5 nights out of 7 nights. He was phenomenal. We went with his recommendations and he almost never steered us wrong (see lobster story above). The maitre d' was very good about always trying to seat us in the same section. We had several different assistant waiters, and they were all wonderful as well. Everyone took care of us.
I have to give a special shout-out to our sommelier, Ferhat. We talked with him the first night about pairings (we each had the premium package), and we never had a problem. We usually started with a glass of white, and it was kept filled until we were ready to switch to red. We must have tried almost every wine by the glass they had, including some dessert wines. He took such incredible care of us; it really made dining a special event.
We also ate breakfast in Blu most mornings. I loved the French toast, and my DH was a huge fan of the Bluberry pancakes. I did think the emphasis on blue breakfast foods was a little over the top.
Because Blu was so good, we never made it to any of the specialty restaurants. (We did try to use the 50% off coupon for the first night at Tuscan Grille, but they were already fully booked). We never even made it to the MDR once. We had one lunch at Bistro on Five, which was very good. I also love the hamburgers at the Mast Grille.
The thing I found most interesting is that there seemed to be a reduced number of bar servers than on previous cruises. We went out by the pool on the first sea day, and it was probably an hour or so before I saw anyone come by taking drink orders. Many of the servers were polite, but noticeable distant -- no smiles or how are you doings. I was unable to find that one bar with the one bartender that I always fall in love with. Both the Mast Bar and the Sunset Bar were inconsistent. We visited the Martini Bar (often), but didn't see much Flair (not like Hector on the Equinox). The Passport Bar on 3 was probably my favorite. I also tried the Molecular Bar (several times), but I really just can't into those drinks (as hard as I try). I'd much rather have one of the special martinis.
Overall, I thought the bar service was very good, just a slightly different dynamic.
Officers/Cruise Director/Captain's Club Hostess
The officers were very visible (and very easy on the eyes). The Captain, in particular, participated both in an hour-long Q&A and a very silly game show. I enjoyed listening to him talk. He was humorous and philosophical.
Lisa, the cruise director, was amazing. She was a Vice President at Toshiba before going to Broadway and starring in Mamma Mia as Donna. She was not as smooth as some cruise directors, but she was very genuine. She also had one heck of a voice. I would love to be able to sail with her again.
The Captain's Club Hostess was very sweet, but not as outgoing as some. We went to the Elite Happy Hour a couple of times, but not every night, so we really didn't have much contact with her. We never made it to the Elite breakfast (we couldn't go by Blu and not stop). She did say that there were only 200 Elites on board.
I thought the entertainment was generally very good as well. The performer on the steel drums was great (although I was a little disconcerted to hear him playing the Theme from the Love Boat in the middle of the Grand Foyer). The jazz group was also excellent. There was also the party band, two guitarist/singers, and the acapella group, The High C's. There definitely seemed to be more choices and very good quality.
We went to the Broadway show and the Cirque-style show and found them both very enjoyable. We also really enjoyed singer Chris Riggins, who we had seen before on another Celebrity cruise. We missed the opening show, the magician and the other production show. The Farewell Show included highlights from the other performances, including the comedian from the Sin City late night comedy show (he cleaned up his act for the main stage). He was hysterical; I wish we had stayed up late enough to see his show).
We missed the old standbys (Not-So-Newlywed and Dancing with the Stripes), more by accident than design. We did see Liar's Club, which new to us. It was a little strange. [SPOILER ALERT] It also seems fixed, since I think they accidently posted the results before the audience had the chance to vote. I would be surprised if they continue with this one long term.
Our Cruise Critic Connections party was on the first sea day. It was really nice to meet everybody. Lisa and several of the officers attended, but they had to leave soon after to get ready for the table tennis competition.
I went to the World of Wine wine tasting (one of my favorite events). I thought they had upgraded the wines from past cruises. A group of us ended up staying in a corner through the end of the event. Toward closing, our nearest sommelier was pouring pretty generous tastings of a very nice pinot noir. He even opened his last bottle so we could have another "sample". [The other wine event that we went to -- wine, cheese and music -- was not very good. First, it was at 7:30, not during sailaway, so it was dark. There were only 6 blankets set up on one of the side lawns near the smoking section. Also, the music wasn't that good. We had gone to a similarly-styled event on the Equinox and just loved it, so this was a definite disappointment.]
Our second sea day was the second-to-last full day of the cruise (rather than the last day). We went to the presentation/Q&A given by the Captain -- very interesting and informative. We also went to Celebrity Chefs -- next time, I want to be a judge for that one. We also spent some time in the Persian Gardens before the Captain's Club party. In recognizing the most-cruised couple, I notice that the selection was based on cruise credits, not actual cruises. Is that typical? For some reason, I thought previous honorees were based on the number of cruises taken.
Our first stop was Cozumel. We had reservations at Nachi Cocum. At first, the sky was overcast, but non-threatening. Then the heavens opened up and it began to pour. The temperature had to have dropped at least 10 degrees. We all huddled under the one protected area, then we decided to call it quits. The walk back to the ship was miserable -- wet, cold and windy. We were so glad to get back on board. Afterwards, we went to the solarium to try to warm up in the hot tub. There were several children in the area, including in the hot tubs. They must have let them in because it was so unpleasant outside.
We arrived in Grand Cayman midmorning the next day. We had a ship's shore excursion scheduled for 1:30, so we didn't have to worry about trying to get off the ship. I had wanted to do a private excursion, but I was concerned about the tenders and the time changes. We took the catamaran to Stingray City. It is not an excursion that I would really recommend unless, like me, you didn't want to take a chance on a non-ship excursion. There was a 20 minute bus ride to and from the catamaran, a 30 minute sail to and from Stingray City, and maybe 30 minutes at Stingray City itself. The boat was pretty crowded, 50+ people. What really turned me off is that the crew only seemed to be interested in taking pictures to sell. They didn't really spend much time showing you how to feed the stingrays, and the amount of squid was limited. It was all about the photo opportunity. To top it off, when we got back to the dock, there was no bus to take us back to the ship. We had to wait 10-15 minutes before someone finally showed up.
Our next stop was Jamaica, which quickly became my second favorite (after Coco Cay). My DH went golfing at White Witch and I went on the Dreamer catamaran. The shore excursion meeting place was organized chaos, but it eventually worked itself out -- people, signs and buses everywhere! The excursion was great! It was a 25 minute ride to the catamaran, but it was scenic and the bus driver was a hoot. The boat was full, but not overly crowded. The snorkeling wasn't great, but the water was crystal clear. At the lagoon stop, we got to see a starfish, a sea cucumber and a moon jellyfish. They also opened up the bar on the way back -- good rum punch with Jamaican rum. The crew was friendly and helpful and fun to be around. They also played some great music (I must note, however, that Gangnam Style has become the new Macarena -- they played it everywhere).
We were lucky to have priority tender tickets, because the lines were pretty long to get off the ship (at least when we went). We found a very nice spot by the snorkel beach and pretty much stayed there all day. The water was cool at first, but beautiful. I spent a lot of time just paddling around. As a helpful hint, if you think you want a beach umbrella get it early as they run out. In fact, they ran out of poles before they ran of umbrellas. We were able to get a top without charge -- it worked, but it looked rather funny. Bar service was limited and ran out of ingredients early. By 2:30, the bars were pretty much shut down, even though the last tender wasn't until 4:30. The barbeque lunch was standard (chicken, ribs, burgers). We left a little before 3:00, which just beat the main rush back. Unfortunately, we had to end the day by having to pack -- quite a letdown.
We had a very late flight out, so we decided to take the ship's excursion to the Everglades. It turned out to be a smart move because we were the first ones off the ship who didn't take their luggage -- even so, there was already long lines through Customs (we were warned about this by Celebrity). We had to wait a bit for everyone to get loaded on to the bus, but it was a relatively smooth departure. The tour itself was good. It was my first trip on an airboat. We got to see a couple of alligators and we didn't have to wait for hours in the Ft. Lauderdale airport. I would definitely consider doing the tour again in similar circumstances.