To celebrate our 40th Wedding Anniversary, I booked the Silhouette for the 8/10 Holy Land cruise. What I didn't tell my wife was that I had booked a Royal Suite. The jig was up when we embarked in Civitavecchia and were escorted on board by the Assistant Purser to meet our butler. Here's my report on the ship and the cruise. These are my opinions and reflect our experience on board from the perspective of long time cruisers.
EMBARCATION - A little disconnected. We arrived at the embarkation tent around 10:45 AM and were handed a group number card. When our number was called at least 15 people with numbers after ours rushed the line and got to the head of the queue. Not a good start, X. Once we were at the counter, everything went smoothly . The Assistant Purser , Nicholas, escorted us to Michael's Club where our butler escorted us to our cabin. Based on comments on this forum we opted for Bistro On 5 for lunch and were not disappointed. A very nice, tasty lunch without the crowds in the buffet. Our suite was FANTASTIC! It was like a small apartment and I will have a hard time going back to a standard cabin after this.
THE SHIP - A real beauty. Great open spaces. You never felt crowded (except at lunch in the OceanView Cafe where playing bumper cars seemed to be the rule) despite a sold out ship with 2800 passengers and 1300 crew. Beautiful dEcor and venues.
DINING - A hit and miss affair. The first night we dined in the MDR and were sorely disappointed. My wife's fish was dry and overcooked and my medium steak was well done. The service was first rate and the desserts were awesome but the entrEe fell short. The last time we were on X was when Michel Roux ruled the kitchen and our expectation was that the cuisine would be at least as good. During the cruise we heard other passengers give varying opinions from not good to great. I am a restaurant owner and amateur chef so my opinion may be a little more nit picking than others. But I believe that you should get the dining experience you are paying for. Having said that, the following night we dined in Blu as we were in a suite and I must say the experience was night and day. Absolute perfection, outstanding service and great ambiance. On any future cruise on X, I will be booking in whatever category gets me into Blu.
The OceanView Cafe (buffet) was outstanding for breakfast. A very good variety and the whole stern of the ship is open to outside dining. Lunch provided a good salad bar, pizza, Indian, stir fry, etc. The Mast Grill one deck up served great made to order burgers, fries, and hot dogs. Trust me you will not starve!
SPECIALTY RESTAURANTS - Again, as a restaurant owner, I was eager to try the different venues. We dined at the Lawn Club Grill, Tuscan Grill, and twice at Qsine:
Lawn Club - Wow, a great addition! You can grill your own or have the chefs do it for you. Our son, who is autistic, made the flatbread pizzas for us and had a great time. The seafood and steaks were perfect and the ambiance outstanding. This is NOT your at home BBQ. I would do it again in a heart beat.
Tuscan Grill - Had a great meal here with excellent service. We stuck to the seafood but I heard others say the steaks were rather bland. Again, YMMV.
Qsine - We ate there twice. 'Nuff said J
ENTERTAINMENT - This was a very port intensive cruise and, for the first time, we did not attend any of the shows. Starting the first show at 8:30 PM was part of the problem since on previous cruises we have been used to shows starting around 8PM. None the less, we heard many positive reviews about the shows especially the Broadway review and the Cirque show.
CASINO - Usually my favorite venue on board. Staff were very friendly but Fortuna was not with me this trip L A nice venue with a good variety of games. Just be aware of the rules before you play.
SHOPS - Two venues, one standard with the usual collection of trinkets, t-shirts, etc . Booze was over priced compared to other X ships (different vendor). X would be well served to use the same vendor as on Eclipse, etc. The other venue was very high end but we did nothing more than casually pass through.
STAFF - Invariably friendly and helpful.
ITINERARY - A very nice mix of sea days and port days. Each port was great. See my port reviews for more detail. Bottom line was the interspersing of the sea days allowed good recuperation from the port days. Nice job, X.
THE SUITE - OK, you all want to know J. The suite was out of this world. The butler service from Nilesh was unbelievable. Every day at 4:30 PM, my wife would wait for the daily delivery of little treats and snacks (I waited for the Champaign!). We needed to move some specialty reservations around, arrange for early disembarkation, etc. and Nilesh handled it flawlessly. 590 square feet with a 155 sq. ft. veranda with a hot tub. What's not to like?
DISEMBARKATION - Absolutely flawless. We had a 10 AM flight out of Rome and needed to be off the ship by 7 AM. Our butler delivered breakfast to our suite at 6:15 AM as requested and we were off with our bags on time. Good job, X.
BOTTOM LINE - Would we sail on Silhouette again? Let's put it this way. We booked the 8/22/12 sailing while on board.