This, our first cruise, had been booked and eagerly anticipated since September 2010. What a magnificent ship,unbelievably huge, clean and white. We arrived at Hamburg dock to be shuffled with masses of people, through what seemed like a temporary storage shed-the only clue that this was a special Inaugural Cruise being a few pathetic blue balloons, an 'Oom-pah' band, and a foretaste of the money grabbing photographers, who in the midst of this melee, tried taking pictures of everyone against a false backdrop--not designed to keep you calm!
Eventually we managed to clamber aboard, only to be told to wait in a lower floor bar area, while the staff finished getting the rooms ready!!!! Eventually, an hour and a half later, we were directed to the lifts and found our room. Our room was somewhat narrow, bur long and opened out onto a good sized balcony at the back of the ship. The stateroom facilities were faultless, the bed extremely comfortable, and, when you worked out where it all was, plenty of storage room for all our belongings. Our stateroom attendant and her staff introduced themselves and were excellent throughout our cruise. We were quite overwhelmed by the size and magnificence of the ship, and by what was on offer.
We then went up on deck and watched for the next two hours as 'Silhouette' steamed up the Elbe and out to the North Sea, preceded by a fire-boat spraying fountains of water, and many people in Hamburg who lined the banks for many miles to see such a magnificent and somewhat awe inspiring sight. But that was IT--oh, apart from a row of bunting that was strung along the ship from stem to stern!! Where were the bands on the quayside, maybe the odd firework, but there was nothing. The Silhouette left Hamburg with a whimper and not the magnificent 'bang' that I had expected!
The Dining Room, the Grand Cuvee, served excellent food, and depending on where you sat, the service too was excellent, so much so that we cancelled a 'Speciality Dining' reservation that we had made. The theatre was quite magnificent, the envy of many a town hall, as were the shows, especially the final night. We attended many talks and lectures in the smaller theatre, and I especially enjoyed the History of Art lectures given by Armando. I also attended the art classes, and was delighted with the progress I made during the week. I had a manicure at the spa, a lovely experience, and the fitness room, adjacent to that, was very well equipped, although the 7.30 yoga classes were too early for me ( I was on holiday!). The pools and hot tubs looked very inviting and were well used in the calmer waters of the Med. There were other delights that we didn't really have time to explore, the Hideaway, the Library. the Casino, and the 'high-end shopping. For the price of a Bvlgari watch, I could take another cruise! We spent much time in 'El Bacio' for coffee and light snacks, and some of the top deck bars for cocktails. And of course, we loved our Captain Demetrius's daily position updates and quips--of course to us he is 'Captain...Out'!!
So what was wrong about this cruise. I tried booking packages and excursions and spa treatments online. It was very, very difficult although I ultimately succeeded in ordering a beverage package, a spa treatment and two tours online. Never succeeded with the dining packages! Eventually, after much badgering and expensive phone calls on my part,I managed to get online acknowledgement that I had paid for these, (despite the money having been taken from my account, several days earlier!). On the first rough night at sea, I woke to a bad smell that seemed to emanate from the AC. It did not dissipate, but did not get worse, so I reported it next day. Something must have been done, because it did not happen again. I was asked if there was anything they could do for me--actually I would have preferred it if a compensatory offer had been forthcoming--I am not used to demanding this kind of thing, but I know that 'speciality dinners' were offered to another couple who had a 'gripe'!
But our main problem was with Customer Relations and Shore Excursions. Due to a misunderstanding we were charged $4.50 for a bottle of water standing by the TV in our room. Having replaced it,(We had a Premium Beverage Package that include bottled water!) we wanted the money refunded, and it took them 4 days and repeated visits and phone calls, to get them to take it off our bill. Finally by about 10.00 pm on our last night, that item had been removed.
As for Shore Excursion-my advice is don't book through Celebrity-do some personal research and do-it-yourself. They cancelled, very belatedly, the tour that I had arranged and paid for, to Barcelona.Despite being refunded the money, we were hugely disappointed, but having paid 13 Euros each, just to catch a shuttle bus from one side of the port to the other, we bought Hop-on Hop-off bus tickets and had two tours around Barcelona in an open topped bus. I also organised that we would take an organised trip and transfer to Rome, as we were staying there for a couple of days. The guide was a very nice, but disorganised lady, who, by the time we arrived outside St Peters Basilica, first of all had us all trudging into St Peters Square for a 'loo-break' and then trudging back to where the coach had dropped us, to pick up audio sets and a male guide whose english was difficult to comprehend, and then back again into the square-, where, because we did NOT have 'Skip the Line' tickets, we had to stand for half an hour in temperatures of 30+ degrees, queueing to get into the Basilica. Then straight onto the Colosseum, where there was still much hanging about, and very steep stairs to climb that I could not manage due to an operation on a knee. The lady guide took me to the exit where I waited for the rest to finish the tour. We had paid nearly £100.00 each for this tour, and the least I expected was no waiting in lines to get in--that is WHY you are willing to pay premium prices--so I do wonder who has pocketed our money--Celebrity or the Tour company in Rome.
The following day we had already arranged a limited group tour of the Colosseum and the Forum through Viatours for £34.00 each. We had an excellent guide, no waiting in any lines, group of 10, were privileged to see the underground area, and the third floor, for those who could climb!! And her descriptions of the history in the Forum brought the whole thing to life. Now that was value for money!
So all in all would we cruise again--yes, I think so. We are looking at another Celebrity Cruise, and we, much like the company, have learnt lessons that we would apply to future cruises. It would pay the company to learn how to say 'Sorry' occasionally--it takes the sting out of difficult situations. Our stateroom attendant was mortified that I had not woken her at 3.00am when I smelt a bad smell-she was sorry -on behalf of the ship!!But maybe that is an american 'thing'-possibly for them, saying sorry admits liability and someone will sue!!
I wouldn't suggest that anyone builds up the idea of going on an inaugural cruise--in our experience you'll be mightily disappointed. But you will love the ship, and you will miss her when you leave her.