We booked this cruise last April 2010 and had been looking forward to what we hoped would be an amazing cruise experience having only cruised before on Louis Cruise line, Ocean Village 2 and P&O's Oceana last year. We expected Celebrity and her new ship to be a superior cruise line and have come away with mixed feelings.
On the whole we had a great holiday on Silhouette and have come home feeling very sad that we have had to leave her behind! She is a beautiful ship and never having sailed on a Solstice ship before we were blown away by the stylish, modern interior, amazing choice re bars and dining venues and sheer size. The Hideaway (which we believe is new) is a great new area. The cabin was fabulous and we were more than happy with our SV view and layout of the cabin (with the bed near the balcony). The cabin became our 'sanctuary' on sea days when the pool areas were really noisy and most sunbeds 'taken'. The benefit of a SV meant that we had the sun nearly all day, every day and most days there was also an area of shade (which suited hubby and I as he prefers the shade, while I am more of a greenhouse flower!)We found the cabin to be extremely quiet and never heard a thing from those around us! We also found that the balcony was very private and we could only be seen from above if we were right by the rails. Despite what we had read on previous reviews we were pleased to find that we had got more than enough cupboard & storage space. We chose to keep the mini bar and this was really useful. We didn't use it alot but we found that it very convenient and we had enough space to store our own wine bottles inside. We did not find the walk to the lifts too bad, and failed to see why other passengers have complained. Similarly, we did not experience an issue with soot on the balcony as some passengers had and found that the cabin staff hosed it down each day to remove any tiny particles of soot that may be there. Our cabin steward was delightful. The only criticism of the cabin was that we were unable to lower the temperature below 21 degrees and we found that it was really hot at night. All in all though we would give the cabin 10 / 10
We chose Select Dining and found that we had different experiences depending where we were placed. If you get a choice ask for table 409 - a nice table for 2 beside the balcony area where the service from the 'team' in that area is first class. Our wine steward, waiter and assistant waiter were fabulous and we could not fault them at all. Unfortunately, across the other side of the dining room things tended to be less efficient and not as friendly - some of the staff were ok, but the majority needed a course re people management!
We found that the food in the main dining area was generally not of a standard we had expected from Celebrity, it definitely was not as good as the food we had received on Oceana last year and were generally disappointed. It wasn't inedible, but sometimes rather bland. The best part of the meals was definitely the deserts, so well done to whoever is responsible for them!
We ate at Qsine and Muranos as well and found that the quality of the food at Muranos was the best we had experienced on the ship - but at £100 extra it should be! Service in both of these restaurants was generally good, though at Qsine we did feel that the staff tried too hard and sometimes we just wanted to be left alone to eat and enjoy our meals without someone asking us if everything was ok about every 3 minutes. We would give food in the main dining room a 7 / 10 and the other 2 restaurants a 9 / 10. Service in the dining room has to vary from 10 / 10 to the team near table 409 and 3 / 10 for some of the others on the other side of the dining room.
The food at lunchtime in the Oceanview Restaurant was excellent, with a huge variety of choice. After a few days we found that the most peaceful spot for breakfast was right at the back outside. Very relaxing. We had room service a number of times for breakfast and it became a bit of a joke that they never (out of 5 times) got it right ! Not sure if we were doing something wrong with the cards or there was a problem at their end! We laughed it off, but can imagine that it could have annoyed other guests. We ate in the buffet restaurant on one occasion and did not find the choice that good and service from the staff particularly friendly. Strange, as it was so good during the day.
We did not watch any of the shows etc so can not comment on them. We were, however, very impressed with the band Sipra who performed most days / evenings. There was generally a good range of entertainment around the ship during the day and around the pool and it was of a generally high standard. We'd give 9 / 10 for that.
The Solarium was a fantastic escape from the heat and also the noise around the pool area. The pool was very cool though, but a great place to chill out and enjoy a child free swim. Unfortunately, we can not say the same about the pool area which seemed pretty chaotic most of the time and on sea days we chose to stay on our balcony and have room service. By 10 am it was impossible to find a decent sunbed (or any empty sunbed) and it was really frustrating to find most sunbeds empty but covered by blue towels. I got the feeling that someone had been up early and reserved their whole family a sunbed at the expense of any other passenger. The pool rules were generally ignored by a huge chunk of the passengers and it was almost impossible to use the adults only outdoor pool without children and teenagers diving in, messing about etc etc. The Celebrity staff did nothing at all to ensure that the rules were enforced which was disappointing and caused a lot of antagonism between guests.
For the outdoor pool areas we'd give about 3 / 10 as it just was not for us and was far too 'chaotic'. Not a fault of the design of the ship but because no one bothered to enforce the rules.
We loved trying out the different bars each evening - our favourites became the Passport Bar and the Martini Bar. The staff here were very professional and friendly and we can't fault them at all. 10 / 10 there and thank you!
I know that on some reviews people have had an issue with smoking areas. I am pleased to say that we did not have this problem or see anyone breaking the rules.
Formal nights were a little disappointing. Though we are not 'dressy' people we found that the formal nights lacked atmosphere, not just because many people totally disregarded the dress codes, but because they seemed to lack the 'buzz' / atmosphere we had experienced last year on P&O. It was annoying to see a lot of people ignoring the dress code and get away with it --- why?
One thing that we thought was lacking was that the Captain and senior staff were almost invisible! We knew that there would be no announcements on Celebrity but we came home having missed just the odd announcement from the Captain at sail-aways or when passing a sister cruise ship. One announcement at noon lacked 'oomph' and just did not create the atmosphere and excitement we had expected.
The excursions we took with Celebrity were excellent and could not be faulted. The trip to Massada and the Dead Sea was an incredible experience and would go on the cruise again just to repeat this day. We were more than happy that the ship had not gone to Egypt and enjoyed our visits to Ephesus and Galilee. We have come away with some amazing memories of the places we have visited and found that Celebrity organised the daily 'mass evacuation' of the ship to our tour buses really well. 10 / 10 for the ports of call and excursions.
We had cancelled out premium drinks package and were glad that we did as we only spent £600 on drinks rather than the £880 it would have cost us. Thanks to anyone on Cruise Critic for the advise given re drinking water - we stocked up with bottles at each port and saved a lot of money not having to use Celebrity's rather expensive bottled water ! We had expected drinks on the ship to be very expensive, but were pleasantly surprised that they were generally of a typical 4 star price (UK) and the measures more than large enough! On one occasion we happened to mention that we could not taste one of the cocktails and the waiter appeared with another large shot 'on the house'!Going that extra mile to make passengers happy is what we had expected.
Reading this back it seems a little negative. We did have a great holiday and if Celebrity put right the things that we felt were not up to our expectations we would be booking Silhouette for August 2012 rather than looking through a P&O brochure. We are really fond of The Silhouette as we have watched it develop from a lump of metal in March 2010 into a simply stunning ship. Though we had a good holiday we feel that she now deserves better.