We live in Jacksonville, Florida so we drove to Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday and spent the night at the Marriott North. Nice hotel, decent price and not far from the pier. We always use Park-n-Go at the pier - good service and reasonable price. After receiving the email about customs delays we did not arrive at the pier until about 12:30. We dropped our luggage, parked and took the shuttle back to the terminal. We were onboard and enjoying lunch at Bistro on Five by 1:30.
We sailed on Solstice last year and booked an S1 aft suite. After that experience, we had to book the same again this year. We booked a suite guarantee about a month before sailing. A week after I booked, I was assigned cabin 1668 on the Penthouse deck. It was worth the risk and we got a great price. Our butler Nelson was AMAZING and if you ever have him, you will be so lucky. We sailed with our 12 year old daughter - her 4th cruise and 3rd on Celebrity. Many people insist Celebrity isn't good for kids but she loves and always has a wonderful experience. The cabin was roomy and had plenty of room and storage for the three of us. I love the bathroom and full tub in an S1.
The ship is beautiful and well maintained. There were always people cleaning, wiping, sprucing up and every crew member seemed to be determined to make our vacation the best it could be. I can't say enough about how polite, attentive and engaging the staff were. The cruise director Lisa was great and the Captain was hilarious. So kind and friendly to the guests. My only complaint is that the pool area needs more chairs. By 10 AM on sea days you were hard-pressed to find a chair.
We did not eat in the main dining room at all. We ate several nights in Blu which was excellent. The food and service were top-notch. We also ate at the Lawn Club Grill. The food was good and my daughter had a great time making her pizza. The staff at the Lawn Club are AWESOME and really try to ensure that you have a good time. We ate many meals in Bistro on Five, we love it and the chipotle crab crepe is SO good as is the Nutella/banana crepe for dessert. We ate one lunch at the Porch. It was good and provided a nice view as we arrived San Juan. We dined at Tuscan Grille and Murano in the past so we skipped it this time. Oceanview was good for breakfast although we had breakfast on our balcony most days. Again, Nelson was great and always made sure we had what we wanted and needed. We had daily coffees and gelato at Cafe el Bacio which we loved.
My daughter used the Fun Factory in the past. This year she was old enough for the 12-17 X-Club. I didn't feel comfortable letting her hang out with the older crowd but she made several friends and they spent most of their time at the pool or in the Hideaway - which is an awesome place to read or hang out.
Since we did the same itinerary on Solstice last year, we knew what we wanted to do in port.
San Juan - we walked all over Old Town and toured the Fort. Walked into downtown and had dinner at La Fonda Del Jibarit. If you want authentic Puerto Rican food and a family atmosphere, go. Everything is delicious! We walked on our own and got lots of exercise.
St. Maarten - took a taxi to Le Galion Beach. It is a wonderful small beach with beautiful water. Great place for families and you can rent chairs, umbrellas and water sports equipment. Small restaurant on the beach with restrooms and where you can order drinks and food. We went last year and had to go back again this year. It was a wonderful day.
St. Thomas - took a taxi to Coki for snorkeling. We love the laid back vibe and Coki and the great snorkeling. Easy to get drinks and food and again, had a great day there. My husband and daughter said that it is their favorite place.
Last 2 days at sea we spent relaxing, reading and playing cards all over the ship. Spent a little time in the casino, did some on-board shopping and took in the cirque-de-soleil type show. It was good. Our family is very relaxed so we really just enjoy quiet time on the water and Celebrity is perfect for that.
The amazing experience came to a grinding halt when it came time to disembark. We arrived the MDR at 8:00 and did not leave the ship until 11:30. We then stood in line waiting to go into the customs hall for a little over another hour - in the rain. Once inside, we stood in huge line that wrapped through the hall. Once we FINALLY got to our luggage we realized one of our bags was missing. Thankfully my husband started walking around checking other passenger's bags while I was freaking out. He luckily found a gentleman in line about the exit that had our bag. Because of this we were the very last family to clear customs. The most frustrating part was the announcement being made every 10 minutes blaming the delays on the sequester. Very frustrating. After picking up the car we left Ft. Lauderdale at 2 PM unlike last year, when were off Solstice and on I-95 by 11:00. Lesson learned - we should've carried off our luggage like last year.
Regardless, it was an amazing vacations and I can't say enough about the Silhouette or the crew. I'm ready to book again next year!