We disembarked from the Star Princess in Rome on Aug 10 and took the shuttle bus to the other side of the port to join the Silhouette on the same day. We checked in early and found it disorganized and chaotic, and think it is high time Civitavecchia invested in a permanent terminal on Celebrity's side of the port, instead of the temporary tent style structure they have there.
We boarded at lunch time and went for lunch as the cabins were not ready. We had adjoining balcony cabins on deck 6. The ship is as gorgeous as we expected it to be and the Oceanview Cafe is one of the best buffets on the seas. We found our cabins to be beautifully appointed, well insulated for noise and very comfortable. We usually have three in a cabin, so found plenty of space for our things for two of us, although there is a lack of places to put personal items and the counter under the TV was permanently cluttered for lack of a better place to put everything. The pillows were all foam and quite high, so not terribly comfortable. We asked for feather pillows after a couple of nights of less than perfect sleep, but weren't in Aqua Class so got more foam ones delivered instead. Our Captain's Club benefits did not arrive and neither did our invite for the CC M&G the following morning. We only found out about it by accident and had to go and hunt down the information we needed from Guest Relations. Several roll callers missed the meeting altogether as they never got their invites either, and we never got to meet them at all.
Lifeboat Drill was interesting, as the brand new video system in Michaels Club failed to work and instead of the video we were supposed to watch, the safety drill was summed up in a few words by a crew member and we were advised to watch the video in our cabins instead.
My husband was not at all pleased to find one of his bags in the "naughty room" and to have his single golf club confiscated because it was considered to be a potential weapon. He found that quite humiliating and upsetting. After appealing to officers at the roll call M&G, his club was returned to the cabin a few days later, which mollified him to a large degree. What next, plastic knives in the dining rooms?!
We found the ship to be stunning in design, but when design takes over function, there are issues and this ship has the same problems as the other Solstice Class vessels. The pool area remains far too small and congested and was a total nightmare on this voyage due to the heavy usage. One of the two pools was reserved for over 16's, leaving one small pool on the ship for all the families, which was just ridiculous. My 10 year old water rat didn't bother going to the pool on this voyage, because it was literally standing room only in the water. Completely inadequate. The casual visitor didn't stand a chance up against the professional sun worshippers, of whom there were hundreds on board, judging by the deep leathery color of their skins. The cabanas eat into space at the Lawn Club but seemed to be used a lot and as long as people are willing to hand over $149 to use them on a sea day, Celebrity will continue to provide them and find new ways of charging fees for services. This is a creeping trend on the newer ships and I see no end in sight. As a shade seeker who doesn't do well in heat, I was happy to leave the masses to fight it out over the sunny spaces and was more comfortable inside or in the shade. The fountain area by the pool is gone (safety issue), the Lawn Club continues to plague the crew because of maintenance issues on the grass, and the Hot Glass Show has been replaced by yet another fee based restaurant. The fitness center is superb. The entire ship is gorgeous, it just doesn't seem to look as good or work as well when you pack it with almost 3000 people, all fighting for their share of it... We hoped the photographers would take advantage of the stunning atrium staircase for a photo location, but were told they had been stopped from doing it because of congestion in the area and lack of space for the tiny dance floor. As ours was only the third voyage of the ship, it didn't take long for that to happen. The photographers weren't thrilled either, but again, design trumps function.
We had fabulous waiters and enjoyed the dinners, but the food was often dry and lacking in flavor, although it was beautifully presented. First Sitting was half empty, Second Sitting was completely packed. At least the theater was also lightly attended for the first show of the evening, which was a plus. We went to Qsine once and ate far too much, but the price increase to $40pp as of next month may well hold us back from doing it again next time. I think Celebrity is on the verge of overdoing it with the fees and price increases, for a large mass market cruise line.
Our daughter loved the Fun Factory and seeing many of her favorite counselors again from other ships.
I enjoyed the entertainment very much but felt there was heavy emphasis on singing and dancing and not a lot of variety offered, probably due to the passenger mix. One show, Velocity, introduced some of the acrobats and at one point two men were hoisted up on ropes to spin in unison above the audience. Unfortunately, one of them completely failed to do his bit and hung there looking like he had no idea how to even begin, let alone work in sync with his partner. It was mortifying to watch, knowing how badly messed up it was. New Celebrity cruisers may not have noticed. The CD was Nick Weir, and while he had great stage presence, he was barely visible outside of the theater. We felt his staff did a great job with all the Trivia sessions, sparsely attended as they were. Everyone was at the pool!
The captain was young, handsome again (where does Celebrity find them?!) and very entertaining. We thoroughly enjoyed his daily briefings and his speech at the welcome party was fabulous.
One of the biggest issues, based on our experience and the many people we talked with, was the cultural mix of passengers on board. There were 2990 people on the ship, including 400 children of varying ages. Half the passengers were non-English speaking and there were almost 500 Italians on board, and almost as many French. The Italians seems to arouse the most ire on a regular basis, with some of the most obnoxious and rude behavior we've ever seen. Rules were only suggestions. We heard of them arriving for First Sitting dinner 90 minutes late and expecting to be served, and staying till midnight on Second Seating. Second Seating was 8.45 and the late show started at 11PM to accommodate them. We saw the dress code being completely ignored and unenforced. We heard of people refusing to sit at their assigned table and sitting wherever they wanted. We heard of one waiter who was so distressed by how he was treated by his table that he talked of quitting his job. Our next door table mates (Slovenian) came to Formal Dinner in jeans and open necked shirts and brought their cell phones with them. The Oceanview Cafe was often the scene of large groups commandeering chairs from under people and acting as if they were the only people on the ship. We grew very tired of the rude behavior we witnessed on a regular basis and everyone we met had a horror story of their own. I think the crew had a very hard time on this voyage and didn't enjoy it that much either.
Some people complained about the brazen European kids on the ship, but for me, the adults were the true villains. I heard that a Frenchman got into a fight with a woman up at the Lawn Club one evening and dragged her across the floor by her hair while everyone sat and watched and did nothing. The following night, he threw a fit and tossed his shoe into the pool, hitting a child on the head in front of security officers, who initially declined to do anything, until a friend of ours, who had seen both incidents, insisted they intervene. When they saw TV footage of how this man had behaved on the ship he was finally taken away. I began to understand why Security confiscated my husband's golf club at the start of the cruise... I was told the reason all the deck chairs were strapped down every night was not because of wind or pool closure, but to prevent passengers from throwing them overboard... I could hardly believe I was on Celebrity. It was like a bad experience on Carnival or Costa, from some of the behavioral issues going on. On my first and only visit to the pool deck on the second day, an American woman marched up to me and asked if I was using the lounger I was sitting on. She was obviously looking for a place to sit and didn't feel I was making full use of my lounger and should vacate it to her. When I confirmed I was using it, she hurled insults my way. Never had THAT happen before on a ship! My mother spent a lot of time at Smoker's Corner on Deck 5 and picked up all kinds of stories to share... I only wish I had the space to write about them all. I believed every one of them.
I think the Silhouette will work out just fine, once the teething troubles are sorted out. They are off to a relatively good start, but the crew needs to gain their confidence and learn how to handle things a lot better, and to regain control of the ship from the unruly passengers, especially the southern European ones. The maitre'd needs to start enforcing the dress code, and the 30 minute window to enter for dinner. The pool butlers needs to be far more aggressive in dealing with the chair hogs, who got out there at 8AM to bag their loungers for the day and then disappeared for a leisurely breakfast. Security staff need to step in when there's an obvious problem, without being told to by passengers. It is an extremely civilized ship, but it was not a terribly civilized experience and it should have been different. The staff were too afraid of causing offence or confronting poor behavior, and I put much of this down to inexperience.
This was our 8th cruise with Celebrity and we have now been on three of the Solstice Class vessels. We waited a year for this voyage, and we did have a lovely time for the most part, but there was also some relief at being able to disembark and get away from the madness and the masses. 3000 people is too much for these ships and the cultural mix on board simply didn't work. So overall, not a bad start for a brand new ship but definite room for improvement.