Since Mom & I are both seniors now we decided we had better take this trip while we were both still able to ambulate. I was in charge of all plans and reservations. Initially we had booked the Celebrity Reflection to the Eastern Caribbean which left on a Saturday. A few days later, our trusty TA Donna called and advised us that if we changed to Celebrity Silhouette which would leave on a Sunday and go to the Western Caribbean there would be a substantial senior discount. Mom had no investment either way and since we are both retired there was no impediment to making the change. The savings more than compensated us for gratuities and travel insurance. I hadn't been on Celebrity since 2006 and was anxious to try a new S-class ship. Silhouette fit the bill.
Since I live in the Chicago area and Mom lives in western Florida, I decided to fly down four days prior to the cruise so we could spend some time together before the cruise. Chicago weather being exceptionally snowy this year, I was also concerned about flight delays and gave myself a big window to allow for any travel problems. Our plan was to drive from Mom's home in Clearwater to Port Everglades. It looked simple enough on the map and Google Maps quoted 208 miles and 4 hours. Well the drive went off without a hitch but it took us 6 hours to get there. We did make a breakfast stop for an hour but we left the house at 8 AM and didn't arrive at the port until 2 PM. The only bright spot was that the big rush to board was over and there were no lines. After we dropped our luggage with the porters and parked the car it was a very easy process to check in and get on the ship. Needless to say, we would not do this again and would find a cheap flight instead.
Our first impressions of the Silhouette were very positive with staff greeting us with smiles and hand sanitizer as we boarded . I think we were too late for Champagne or Mimosas. We headed up to deck six to drop our stuff in #6206, our home for the next week. There was a lovely bouquet of flowers, a bottle of champagne and 4 apples on the coffee table. We found out later that they were gifts from our TA, Donna. I noticed right away that there was a silver tray with 2 water glasses but no pitcher of water. I remembered having this on our previous Celebrity cruises. Heading out to the elevators to grab a snack in the Buffet, we saw our cabin steward, Joachim and introduced ourselves. We asked for extra hangers and I mentioned the lack of a water pitcher. Joachim informed me that this amenity is no longer standard as the Company wants you to purchase the water in the mini-bar. But he would provide one for us and he was as good as his word, keeping it filled with water and ice twice a day.
It was interesting seeing the Buffet in the new station arrangement. A few minutes to find the excellent salad bar and a place to sit and we were finally relaxing. Later in the week, I checked out the grill and found delicious grilled chicken or minute steaks to put on my salad. But for now it was just a relief to sit down and take in the atmosphere. I would have liked a cocktail or even a Diet Coke but the drink waiters were not visible. Because we had arrived later, the buffet wasn't jammed with people. This is the largest ship I have been on with the passenger total for this trip at 2900.
Normally at this time, I would take a self guided ship tour starting at the top and working my way through all the decks to see everything. Mom was not up for this so we went back to the room to look for our luggage and get ready for the lifeboat drill. Our station was in the photo gallery. After checking our names off a list, we were directed against the wall. The whole area filled up and became very close and stuffy. Mom & I are petite individuals so it was difficult to see or hear anything. Loud background music was playing while the Captain made his announcement. People were not attentive and talking most to the time. A video was shown on some screens in the middle of the throng but of course, we couldn't see or hear it. Someone finally shut off the music but it didn't help. I felt this was done very poorly. I was on Princess shortly after the Costa Concordia disaster and you could have heard a pin drop during the announcements. This was the only time that the ship felt very crowded with so many people milling around.
Back to our room to find our luggage had been delivered and we started unpacking. I had read many complaints about the lack of storage space but we found spots for everything. I didn't even remember or notice the overhead bins until much later. But being as short as we are, it would have not been very convenient for us to use that space on a daily basis. The room was set up well with the beds by the door with a couch by the balcony. Loved the bathroom with the curved shower doors and all the storage. We had plenty of space for all our stuff for a week.
Sail-away was commencing and it was time to wear my Mardi Gras beads and meet the Cruise Critic people at the Mast bar. Mom was not really interested in this but I dragged her up to deck 15 where she stood by the rail for a few minutes. By the time I had talked to a few people she was ready to go back to the room and rest. I made use of our balcony to watch our progression down the channel and out to sea.
Our dining choice was Select Dining and we were directed by our room information to Deck 4. Walking down 2 decks at 6:30 was easy enough and naturally headed to the right side where there was quite a line. One of the dining room staff came and got us and directed us to the other side where we were immediately seated. Coming off 2 cruises on Princess where we had Anytime Dining we were always seated with a group and met different people every night, I thought that X would work the same way. As it happened, Celebrity had a lot more tables for 2 on this level and Mom and I were always seated this way. There was another two-top very close to us so we did meet someone new every evening.
The food in the MDR has really declined since they changed from Michel Roux to a more "American" approach. I was very disappointed almost every evening. The desserts were poorly executed without any flavor. Not like before when there was a great tray of desserts brought around by your waiter, each one better than the last. The only good thing was the beef. You were asked how you liked it cooked and it came out that way. Salads and soup were just as good as I remembered.
The MDR itself was beautifully designed and the chairs quite comfortable although very heavy. Being vertically challenged, we probably sat a little lower than the average person but it wasn't uncomfortable. A big focal point was the "tower" of wine bottles. Being next to the rail, we could get a good look as the waiters walked around in it getting their wine orders. There were a lot of empty spots at cruise end.
At this time, I have to mention our terrific waiter, Jesse from the Philippines. It was serendipity that we were seated in his station and he made our evening meal special by his attention to detail and excellent service. We agreed that we wanted to be served by him every night and planned to make a reservation. The Maitre'd station was busy as we left so we thought we would just take care of it the next night (which was a big mistake) and headed off to the theater for the opening show.
The featured performer was Craig A. Meyer "Almost Elton John" as he billed himself. Now I consider Elton John to be more of a baby boomer entertainer but he had everyone on their feet and singing along. He did a great job but the volume was so high I had to put my fingers in my ears to tolerate it. And I'm hard of hearing! Mom rolled up some tissue and stuffed it in her ears. He was not her favorite but I thought he did a great job and had lots of energy. This show was where we were introduced to the Cruise Director, Patti Honacki, a nice Polish girl from Chicago. She was very accessible the whole cruise. I made it a point to introduce her to my mother who was also a nice Polish girl from Chicago with an almost identical last name!
Not yet ready to call it a night, we decided to check out Fortunes Casino. I like to play 3-card poker but Mom was skeptical, having never tried it. I should mention that she plays regular poker twice a week and almost always wins. She decided to try her luck on the slots while I sat at the table. Back in a few minutes, $20 poorer, she sat down and watched the action while I played. Since I was winning and tomorrow was a sea day, there was no reason for me to go back to the room. The long day had taken it's toll on Mom so she headed to bed. Lasting until almost midnight, the whole day caught up with me and it was time for bed.
Our first full day and a sea day. We slept too late to eat in the dining room so up the buffet we went for the first of many wonderful breakfasts. One thing they still had were these wonderful brioche buns. There was someone carving ham, all the usual breakfast items including made-to-order Eggs Benedict. Mom found the waffles and actually went back for seconds. It took a little wandering but we found a table soon enough before our food got cold.
Checking the Daily we saw there was going to be Bingo later so that was on the schedule but we decided to check out the ship. On deck 4 there was a demonstration of Taste of Silhouette featuring all the Specialty Restaurant. The ship videographer was taking shots of the whole thing and Mom & I made the ship video. We also attended our Meet and Greet with the Cruise Critic people on our roll call. Arriving a little late, I never did find out which officer was speaking but he was quite informative and answered all questions. There were also refreshments available for us.
The guy at the Tuscan Grill demo offered us 20% off to make a reservation but there was no way my mother was paying extra to eat. There was always someone posted outside the buffet trying to sign people up for these restaurants. Toward the end of the cruise there was an offer of 30% off for Qsine and one other. We spoke to several people who had dined in them and no one was really impressed. Is this the future of Celebrity? If you want really good food you have to pay a premium to get it?
It was time for Bingo and we got a surprise (which wouldn't have been had I actually read the Daily) in that the One game was played for the Penthouse Suite. It had not been sold so one lucky guy got it for the rest of the cruise. This one game cost us $44 for a six game sheet that we shared. Naturally we were put off by the cost. We played 4 games on Princess for $20.
Back to the room to change into our bathing suits and sit by the pool. Wandering into the Solarium area, I spied the Spa and went in to see if they were offering any specials. Chairs were set up for complimentary shoulder and neck massages and I plopped down immediately. There was a special called "Top to Toe" which was a facial, a full body massage and a foot massage for $139 + tip. I am ashamed to say that I abandoned Mom at the pool to take advantage of this 90 minute bit of luxury.
She actually didn't last long sitting out there and went up to the room to rest. We agreed that we were both still worn out from the day before so I joined her for a short nap. That night was the first formal night and the only time we had a glitch in the dining room. As it happened, we arrived a little later for dinner and found a line and people being informed that there was a 30 minute wait for a table. Mom was upset over this but I steered her to the Martini Bar where we found a couple of nice chairs and ordered some wine. The dance band was playing in the Atrium one deck down and people were dancing.
Back to the Maitre'd station, we observed an interesting conversation in French where the gentleman was being informed that he had to wear a jacket. There were even a few jackets available. They also had to wait and left the area so I never did see if the guy came back with a jacket. This was only the first formal night. On the second formal night I saw several gentleman without any jackets. I actually felt overdressed on these nights. There were very few fancy dress outfits on the ladies. Ten years ago the ladies room would have looked like an explosion in a sequin factory. Today a simple dress would have sufficed.
We requested to be placed at Jesse's station but he was serving the Captain's Table that night. Placed at another two-top, there was no one around us so Mom & I had a quiet dinner by ourselves. Stopping at the Maitre'd station and speaking to Rodnina, we requested a reservation for 6:30 in Jesse's station for the rest of the cruise. I could see on her monitor that the schedule was full and she said she could offer us 5:15 or 5:45. We put on our sad faces and asked about 6:30, maybe? She told us to come at 6:15 and she would take care of us. After that, we had the same table at the same time and at no time was that station full while we were there.
I decided to play a few hands of 3 card poker while Mom watched before heading into the theater. Big mistake on our part as the theater was standing room only. Giving up on finding a seat, we headed back to the casino where Mom finally decided to try her luck playing 3-card poker. We were both winning when it was time for the 10:30 show so we reluctantly left to attend the Captain's Welcome and the show Broadway Nights. This time the theater was only half full. The show was excellent and we really enjoyed it. Since we had an early excursion the next day, we decided to call it a night.
TUESDAY was our stop in Cozumel where we had booked an 8 hour Mayan ruins tour with lunch. I had waited to book our excursions online until I saw Mom at Christmas. We found 2 that we liked but this one was sold out online. Once we were onboard we were able to book this at the excursions desk without any problem.
We met our group on the pier and there were 2 Mexican ladies (officials?) collecting any fruit that anyone had taken off the ship. They were filling 2 large garbage bags with it. There had been a notice in the Daily informing passengers about this rule. Too bad people didn't take notice of it and it was a shame to see all the waste.
The ferry to take us to the mainland was at the dock and we boarded for our 30-40 minute rather bouncy ride. Plastic bags were passed around in case of motion sickness. Mom wasn't too happy with the rough ride but she weathered it ok. Once off, we were separated into our groups and walked a short distance to our bus where we were offered bottles of water and energy bars. The bus ride was at least an hour to the ruins. I had done this same trip 20 years earlier with my husband and was curious to see how much of it had improved. One new thing was the small store with refreshments and souvenirs for sale.
There was a very wide shaded path to walk with our guide who was informative and entertaining. The trail was packed dirt over many broken building stones which made it a very uneven surface to walk upon. We saw many sites and finished at the large pyramid. Braver souls than I climbed up to the top. I noticed that there was now a rope "hand rail" running down the center for a form of safety. Well, I didn't climb that puppy 20 years ago when I was in my 40's and I wasn't about to do it now. Mom & I were rather pooped from the walk so we elected to take a pedicab back to the meeting space. This was $4/p.p. and so worth it. That poor guy was sweating buckets by the time we got back so I made sure I tipped him.
Once we were all gathered together again, it was back on the lovely air-conditioned bus with our bottled water. The next stop was a surprise as we were going to have lunch in a cave! The menu was grilled chicken, excellent rice, salad and beans. There were small votive candles on the tables but you couldn't see much. We were taken on a tour of the cave where they hold parties and a disco. It was quite an experience.
The bus dropped us a few blocks from the ferry dock and we had to move quickly to make the schedule. The ride back was a bit smoother and we sure were pooped! It was close to boarding time so there was no chance to explore the shops on the dock. The Constellation was docked next to us and it was a surprise to me to see the size difference to Silhouette. We were ready to sit on the balcony and relax until dinner.
I should mention here that when we left the ship we only took our room cards forgetting that we were also supposed to take a picture I.D. Since my last cruise was to Alaska, it had totally slipped my mind. This came up later when we were in Jamaica.
Mom and I headed downstairs with some trepidation after the previous night's experience. The Maitre'd took our room number and printed out a ticket with our names on it and gave it to Jesse who escorted us to our table. We had this table for the rest of the cruise. The one large table behind us only had people sitting at it twice for the whole trip. Maybe it was just the time we arrived. It might have been busier later. With Jesse as our server every whim was taken care of immediately. We loved the attention.
The show schedule that night was 7:00 and 9:00 for Knight Magic. Finishing dinner too late for the early show, we headed to go where else but Fortunes Casino. We tried to maintain our winning streak but Mom was losing and not too happy about it. Going to the show we weren't too wild about it as we found it rather boring. Mom decided she wasn't feeling well and wanted to go back to the cabin. I stuck it out for a few more minutes and went back to gambling and was able to double my money before calling it a night.
We were in Grand Cayman and our plans were to go swimming with the stingrays. This trip was also one I had done before but was a first for Mom. The sea was fairly calm so our transfer to the shuttle was smooth. Celebrity didn't use their tenders for this, renting bigger boats to move passengers to the shore. Our group was directed to a small bus which took us to the marina for our 2 hour tour. Unfortunately we had forgotten sun block so we did get a mild sunburn. The crew on the boat was friendly and very helpful getting all the seniors off the boat and into the water. The stingrays were so affectionate and swarmed around us looking for food. One lady from England would not get in the water with them at all, she was so afraid. This was just long enough for us and we were happy to return to the ship for a light lunch.
Mom wanted to in the cabin to wash and set her hair so I went up to the pool to read and listen to the band. Soon enough it was time to get ready for dinner. I wondered how well it would work with two women getting ready at the same time but Mom found enough light in the bathroom to put on her makeup and I used the desk as my vanity. Our only complaint with the room was the obstructed balcony. I knew the lifeboat would be there but not how much it blocked our view. On Summit, DH & I were on deck 6 but the lifeboat was below the level of the veranda floor so did not interfere with our enjoyment of the balcony. Looking to minimize our cost and having never been on the S-class ships, I definitely miscalculated on this point.
The show that night was Velocity, an excellent singing/dancing production show which we thoroughly enjoyed. There was another show "Sin City" offered every night at the smaller venue, Celebrity Central which was next to the Theater. This was adults-only comedy and the same show each time. We never tried it and after talking to people, it got a mixed review.
Again, we tried our luck in Fortunes. One thing about playing the same table games in the casino, you get to know your fellow passengers who are just as addicted as you are. We often had great conversations with the dealers and players while gambling and passing time in the evenings. Mom worked out a betting strategy were she wasn't losing so much and found it more to her liking.
Falmouth, Jamaica was a new port stop for me having been to this island several times. Built by Royal Caribbean in conjunction with the Jamaican government, this closed port had only 2 ships docked; Silhouette and Liberty of the Seas. It was quite a contrast to the "real" Jamaica right outside the walls. Clean and uncrowded with flush toilets and a First Aid station met my requirements for a perfect port stop. There are several vendors selling the usual stuff but not pushy. Of course there are the ubiquitous jewelry shops which are fun for browsing. I wonder how much they really sell in those places? Mom and I were on the lookout for a couple of visors which they did not have on the ship.
Our excursion was later in the day so we went back on the ship for lunch before coming back and trying to find our loading area. Getting back to the ship was a source of anxiety as we had neglected to grab some picture ID but they just glanced at our cruise card before allowing us through. I mentioned to Mom that we had to grab our driver's licenses before we left on our tour but we forgot again.
The tour was called Rafting down the Martha Brae river. This was another trip I had attempted with DH on our first cruise but it had gotten rained out. This day was warm and partly cloudy as we walked to the far end of the enclosure by the parking lot. Our group was organized onto a bus and we went out the locked and guarded gates to our destination which was not far away. Once at the embarkation point, everyone was given a life vest and we walked a short distance to the river. The bamboo rafts were outfitted with a small bench seat that had pads placed upon them. Your "raft captain" poled the raft a few miles down the river and pointed out assorted flora and fauna as well as some historical content as well. They all tried to sell us some hand carved bowls and knick-knacks. Ours was a preacher and did a little mild proselytizing during the trip. We had difficulty understanding his accent and just smiled and nodded. Exiting the raft took a little agility on our part but no one dropped us so it was ok.
Back on the bus to a small outdoor venue for our Jamaican jerk lunch which I had forgotten was included in the tour. Mom was not too enthralled with this as she is not a fan of picking up chicken with her fingers. I had tipped the servers so maybe that was why I got more meat than bones! It was ok, but not as good as Scotchie's where DH & I had previously eaten.
When we returned to the port area, a security guard got on and asked for everyone to hold up their cruise card and picture ID's. Uh-oh, caught out again. We just held up our cruise cards and were glad we were near the back of the bus! Walking through the shopping area there was a long, long line to board Liberty and none at all for Silhouette. There were a couple of guys playing music as we got off the ship and they were still there when we came back. It made me wonder what happened to the steel drum bands we used to see on the Caribbean docks.
We were glad to be back on the ship to rest a bit before showering for dinner. The show that night was a repeat of "Almost Elton John" and while I would have liked to see it, Mom was not a fan. As a Select Captain's Club member, we had received an invitation to the Senior Officers Cocktail party which started at 7:45 in the Sky Lounge. After dinner we went up there and found a couple of seats with a lovely Senior couple who were celebrating their engagement. This was the only time we were up there in the evening so I don't know if they had a combo playing every night for dancing. It was very nice. One thing I had noticed when we were there for the Captain's Club repeat cruiser party on Monday was that you were limited to the type of cocktail or wine you could request. We both took a glass of wine and I didn't try to ask for an off-record cocktail. The captain was supposed to be there but we never saw him. Back to the casino to finish our evening.
Labadee, Haiti was almost a repeat of Falmouth in that there was a great port area available that was exclusively for the cruise ship passengers. We were docked so it was easy to walk off/on the ship at your leisure. Mom & I ate breakfast at the outdoor space on the back of the buffet so we had a birds-eye view of the staff bringing off all the supplies needed for the barbecue lunch. The captain came on the PA to announce that the temp was going to be 94 degrees that day and to take appropriate precautions. Since we had gotten sunburned in Grand Cayman, neither of us was eager to do a beach day so we walked off the ship just to do a quick tour of the area.
Royal Caribbean has done a great job with this area. Lots of beach with loungers, clam shells, little bungalows and assorted water sports. There were a few excursions offered but we had decide in advance that this was going to be a lazy day. Again, a clean, uncluttered area with flush toilets and First aid "hut". My kind of place. A nice children's play and splash area. Some ladies we talked to were going zip-lining. We did a little shopping and headed right back to the ship. Once back we changed into our bathing suits and went to the pool. Lunch was hot dogs at the Mast Grill where we saw our waiter, Jesse! Once again he took very good care of us.
Mom decided she wanted to rest so I decided that this was the perfect time to get some pictures of the ship. After 5 days onboard, I was shocked to see how much I had missed. The only thing we had found was the library so Mom could borrow a book. I found the area on deck 5 where all the specialty restaurants were with a really great lounge. I was surprised to see that the casino was open! The idea was that we weren't really in another country. Go figure.
It was the last Formal night and we missed out on Jesse again as he was requested to serve the Captain's Table.
The show that night was Silhouette-The Show, A Cirque du Soleil-type show. I enjoyed the acts but never a fan of the music. There was a Captain's Court that evening in the Atrium where all the officers were available for conversation, including the the Captain.
I'm not sure what we did this day as we skipped several things that were available including the Back Stage tour for Captain's club members. We did go to the Newlywed-Not so Newlywed Game which was very cute and funny and hosted by Patti, the Cruise Director. We did some packing and went to the pool one last time. Dinner was bittersweet for our last night. We made sure we tipped Jesse extra and took some farewell photos. The show that night was a reprise to Knight Magic. This time we stayed for the whole show and enjoyed it. One last visit to the Casino to make a few dollars before bed.
Since we didn't have a plane to catch we could choose our disembarkation time. Knowing we had a long drive the next day, I opted to sleep in a bit and chose 9AM. The Ensemble Lounge was our place to gather to wait for our number to be called. We chatted with some people from Ohio about the cruise and agreed that we had all had a great time.
Unfortunately, disembarkation was rather unpleasant. We waited at least an hour in various lines after finding our luggage. It was too much of a walk to the parking garage for Mom while dragging luggage so I left her outside under an awning. This turned out to be a staging area for boarding buses and became very crowded. There was police directing traffic and two were kind enough to allow me to park in a no parking zone so I could get Mom and all the suitcases into the car. Our parking bill for the week was $105 and I was able to pay with a credit card. Leaving the port was easy and we were on our way back to Clearwater.