This was my 13th cruise, my 6th with Celebrity, my 4th transatlantic, and my FIRST while enjoying “Elite” status. There really isn’t much to argue about, I guess I’m pretty much a dyed-in-the wool Celebrity fan! The absolutely INCREDIBLE deals ($630pp) offered by X, that allow me to enjoy a fabulous 15 night cruise for only $42 per night, will most likely, continue to keep me coming back for more. The $250 OBC and free “Elite” drinks every night, on top of the unbelievable prices, make these trips simply irresistible. (As a matter of fact, I just booked Reflection for yet ANOTHER transatlantic this fall, at a similar price, with even MORE OBC!)
This was also the first time that I booked directly through Celebrity. After reading all of the horror stories here on Cruise Critic about the terrible customer service and long hold times when calling, I was more than a little apprehensive. To my surprise, I found the experience not just “painless,” but quite fast, and very efficient. I really do NOT understand all of the complaints. Am I REALLY just THAT lucky, or are my expectations so low, that I am almost never disappointed? Or are so many others just impossible to please? After dialing, I was on hold for LESS than 3 minutes, and the booking process, (including full payment by credit card) handled very professionally by an extremely friendly Celebrity agent, was completed in another 6 or 7 minutes. I had absolutely no reason to make ANY follow up calls.
I booked a regularly scheduled Delta flight for the return from Rome through Choice Air using my AMEX card that allows for free checked bags. It was also fast and efficient, with absolutely NO problems, complaints, or issues with the flights. I have found that I can book the domestic flights to a stateside embark, or back from a stateside debark, for even less than if using Choice Air for BOTH ends.
We drove from the thriving megalopolis of Fargo, ND to Minneapolis, and flew American to Fort Lauderdale, with a stop in Chicago. We were delayed 20 minutes prior to takeoff from O’Hare due to a runway closure in FLL, but otherwise had no problems. We arrived in Florida a day before the cruise, and spent the night at the Ramada Inn Airport/Cruiseport, a rather dated facility that is fast approaching marginal acceptability. The next day, friends from a previous Celebrity cruise, picked us up for lunch, and provided our transportation to the port.
From drop off in the Port Terminal parking lot, to stepping on board took a grand total 14 minutes. Two minutes to tag and drop bags and one minute to walk to security. Two minutes to clear security, two minutes in line, and 4 minutes to check in. One minute for the embark photo, and two minutes to take the escalator and walk up the boarding ramp. It just can’t GET any better or easier than THAT.
Silhouette was just as sparklingly beautiful as it was the previous year, simply GORGEOUS, clean white paint, with an almost science-fiction-spaceship sleekness to her looks. A cheerful greeting and champagne flutes in hand as soon as you step on board, followed by a leisurely stroll around the upper decks before meeting up with friends just aft of the buffet. Then an efficiently run lifeboat drill, followed by a GREAT Cruise Critic sail away party at the Sunset Bar under clear sunny skies.
Life is *G*O*O*D*
Eating breakfast in the MDR seems like such a ridiculous over indulgence and waste to me, and I find the made to order omelets at the buffet all that I need, as well as completely satisfying when enjoyed on deck just aft of the buffet. I never bothered with the MDR for lunch either, as I absolutely LOVE sampling the many varieties of Indian curries at the buffet. The ever changing offerings of home-made ice cream every day, always sends me off to the very nicely equipped, and spotlessly clean gym every afternoon. I usually finish my work out just in time to head back to the buffet for the tuna sashimi, which I take up to the sunset bar at 5PM, to enjoy with the free “Elite” drinks for happy hour.
We only do Select dining, as “set times” and dinner “PLANS” are terms that are almost always considered to be incompatible with “vacation.” We usually end up going to dinner around 7:30, and quite often request to share a table for six, as we enjoy meeting lots of different people. We did have TWO meals that were just kind of lackluster and uninspiring, but every other experience in the MDR was GREAT, especially the lamb and prime rib.
We dined once each in Tuscan, Qsine and the Lawn Club. The lamb chops at both Qsine and the Lawn Club were the absolute high points of the food part of the cruise, WOW, the best EVER. My only real complaint concerns the meal in Tuscan. The cut backs on the menu, and in the quality and variety of appetizers and main entrees, is VERY noticeable and quite sad. The steak tartare and chocolate fondue are still AMAZING, but although my filet was properly prepared and very tender, it was completely devoid of ANY flavor what so ever. VERY disappointing.
Entertainment in the theatre was standard celebrity fare, a little hit or miss. The high point was female vocalist Jayne Curry, a PHENOMINAL performer, who was brought back for several extra shows. We even bought her CD. I thought the “Cirque” type show was MUCH improved over last year, with some incredible aerial stunts, but it still can’t match the big show on Reflection. THAT is AWESOME.
And YES, Once AGAIN, my ONLY real complaint, is about THE MUSIC.
The party band was thoroughly enjoyable when they played, which unfortunately was never often enough, or long enough. They played a fair variety of music at volume levels appropriate for the guest demographics. Notably absent was an acapella group. Not a big thing in itself, but another sad indicator of cutbacks and RIDICULOUSLY POOR decisions by the suits at Corporate. Suits who want SO BADLY to project an appealing image for their apparently DESIRED demographic, that is in DIRECT conflict with ACTUAL demographic of the guests that are actually on board.
FOR CRIPES SAKE CELEBRITY, PROGRAM YOUR MUSIC FOR YOUR actual current *G*U*E*S*T*S* !!!
The REALLY big draw for THIS PARTICULAR itinerary, was the Mediterranean ports enroute to Rome. Along with a return to Madeira, Portugal, we did first time visits to Gibraltar, Cagliari Sardinia, Messina Sicily, and Naples, with all shore tours organized by fellow Cruise Critic members.
Being a military history buff, the comprehensive full day tour of Gibraltar was THOROUGLY enjoyable. We opted for just a 3 hour guided walking tour of Cagliari, which ended with a really great two hour luncheon/feast consisting of several HUGE platters of breads and antipasti along with several different wines. On the other hand, the “Godfather Tour” in Sicily, (which I was “talked into”) was somewhat disappointing. I didn’t travel a quarter of the way around the world, to some of the most historic areas of Western Civilization to see sights relating to an inane and dated pop culture movie. The tour guide WAS WONDERFUL, but next time I will opt for some history. The full day guided tour of both Pompeii and Herculaneum was totally, completely and utterly MINDBOGGLING.
Debark in Civitavecchia was as fast, smooth, easy and efficient as was the embark in Florida!
Like I said at the beginning, I am hooked, and doing it all again in October on the Reflection!