This is my first review on Cruise Critic! I've been cruising for many years and have enjoyed my various experiences. For this review, my family and I cruised on the month old Celebrity Silhouette. This was my second time on Celebrity, as well as my second Mediterranean cruise (first for both was on the Celebrity Summit). This was my first time in the Eastern Mediterranean. I've always been a fan of Celebrity with their excellent service and fine cuisine. However, this time, I had some concerns with the Celebrity service. Otherwise, I had a great time with the Silhouette.
Check-in was horrible. For some reason, Civitavecchia has not invested in a permanent terminal for cruisers. In fact, that day, there were at least five other cruise ships.
The first problem I had was that Celebrity did not automatically send me luggage tags beforehand. With previous cruise ships as well as Celebrity, I have always been sent tags ahead of time. I did not know that guests had to request them before hand. This was noticeable when many guests had to ask for tags at the port. However, when I did line up for tags, an elderly Italian woman decided it was okay to skip the whole line to get tags as she had a "note" from her doctor that she had a bad back. In fact, she was very aggressive and pushed her way through. I did not know that having a "bad back" allowed you to skip the line. In fact, if you have a "bad back," I suggest you not cruise! To me she looked fine and was clearly taking advantage. What was worse was that the person who handled the tags defended her and allowed her to skip. This angered most of the line.
After sending the bags, we entered the tent of hell. A dock worker handed me a health form to fill out. Since we were in a Concierge Class cabin, one person in my party asked where our priority line was. She did not know and in fact, I don't think she understood English. Anyway, once inside, it was chaos and hell. The "priority line" was just as long as the regular line. In fact, there were some that clearly were not allowed on the priority line on it. Also, the same woman with the "bad back" was able to skip the line again. In addition to Mrs. Back, There were numerous elderly Italians who ran right past the lines and ran to the nearest desk as soon as it opened up. Workers didn't enforce the blatant line cutting and some workers were chatting with each other. Once at a desk, the woman who checked us in was pleasant and efficient. However, the worker next to her did not know what he was doing and constantly asked her for help. Another thing I noticed during check-in was that there was someone from the ship was walking around the check-in area asking people if they wanted to make reservations at the specialty restaurants. Apparently Celebrity is more concerned about making dinner reservations rather than to help improve check-in or build a permanent building for cruise ships. However, check-in was pretty quick and we made our way to the ship.
Since the ship was under a month old when I went, it was very brand new. I could smell the new ship smell. This was my first time on a Solstice Class ship. The interior design was elegant yet modern. With my experience with the Summit, this was nicer and had a cleaner design.
I booked a Concierge Class Cabin on the deck 11. However, it seemed like a long walk each time since we were almost at the back of the ship. The cabin was roomy and had plenty of storage spaces for us. We were welcomed with fruit and a bottle of champagne, which were nice touches. The room had a large 32in. flat screen TV that was powered by Apple. Some of the features of the TV were on-demand movies, making dinner reservations, photo ordering, room service, and purchasing shore excursions. The bathroom was large as well. There were many storage space to put things. The best thing about the bathroom was the plush and oversized towels that were the speciality of the Concierge Class cabins.
Also, the balcony was great for which we spent much of our time there as the pool deck was crowded on sea days. However my biggest complaint was that since most of the guests on board were European, they ignored the "no smoking rule" for balconies. This was evident in which both of our neighbors used their balconies as smoking posts. This issue only happened early on the cruise and seemed to dissipate since there is a fine for those who break the rule.
I loved the bed but my friends did not like the curved design and thought it was not comfortable. I also loved the oversized pillows.
Our cabin steward (Bernadeth) was very nice and great with all our requests. There was one time where the toilet suddenly burst out water and she came out within seconds. She told me that this happened before on the charter cruise before us.
The one thing I come back to Celebrity for is the food. It is one of the best and innovative food for a mass market cruise. The breakfast options were good but were a little bit boring after a while. Plus, when we reached half way, I could tell that they were running out of food. When we reached Israel, the yogurt switched to an Israeli brand which I did not like. The lunch buffet was good but I noticed that they repeated options towards the end of the cruise. For lunch, I ate mostly at the Oceanview Cafe but ventured to the Grand Cuvee (the main dining room) twice on two sea days. Celebrity had an excellent brunch on the last sea day in the Grand Cuvee.
The problem I had was in the Oceanview cafe, there were crowds. Since most of the ship had European guests, they decided to take their time eating. At sometimes, they were just sitting there for a good hour. Furthermore, there were some couples (again, European) that took up a large table.
We enjoyed the Grand Cuvee. Most of the time the food was great. However, some people at my table sometimes said that their food was too dry. I loved the presentation of the dishes. The service was excellent and exceptional. We sat next to a window so we always had the best view. Our waiter and assistant waitress (Jorge, a.k.a. George, and Adelina) were great.
We also enjoyed eating at the speciality restaurants. Celebrity has a dining packages for which you can eat at three of the restaurants for a fixed price. Therefore, we ate at the Murano, Tuscan Grill, and QSine. My favorites were Murano and QSine. I thought Tuscan was okay but not great. Murano had great and excellent service. QSine was very innovative and we were full by the end of the night. There is another option, the Lawn Club Grill but we did not try it. The head of the F&B department said to book early since one night they were full but I saw one night that they were half full.
On one sea day, we ate at the Bistro on Five. We loved the food at the Bistro and thought it was the most value for your money. However, the unusual thing was that our waiter at Bistro disappeared mid meal and was replaced by someone else.
Here is where Celebrity is lacking. The entertainment on Celebrity is not as great as entertainment on NCL. In my opinion, NCL has the best entertainment. The three main shows, Broadway Nights, Velocity, and Silhouette (the signature show on the ship) lacked a cohesive theme and seemed amateurish. There was also entertainment from a Capella group, a trio of cellists, and a guy (Dave Myers or something) for which he played a xylosynth (a cross between a xylophone and a synthesizer). I personally did not like it and I noticed that many people walked out of his show. I also noticed that shows did not start on time (about 5 or 10 minutes late).
I did not venture into the casino but noticed that it was empty at most times.
Activities on board
Here is the good thing about Celebrity: they know how to keep you busy everyday. We did a lot of trivia and learned new things. Celebrity experimented with our cruise with interactive trivia sponsored by Jack Daniels and the "Eat This, Not That" book series. My friend won the Jack Daniels one and walked away with a T-Shirt.
I went to many of the cooking demonstrations and enjoyed it. However, there was a demonstration for crepes at Bistro on Five that was chaotic. First of all, it was free so many people assumed that they were getting free crepes. Second, all of the Europeans that went to it left their manners at the door. They were aggressive and pushy. I noticed that the chef at the Bistro was a little bit frustrated. I saw that one Italian girl made at least 10 crepes for herself. I wondered if she was applying for a job. I felt bad for the South African chef who was constantly bombarded with demands to refill the crepe batter after the same Europeans spilled most of it to make a few crepes.
On most sea days, I explored the shops. The Silhouette has the first Bulgari and Michael Kors stores at sea. Also on sea days, I usually went to the Celebrity iLounge. However, there were some classes held at the iLounge for which the place was closed during the class times. I know that there was Wi-Fi throughout the ship and I had my tablet but I wanted to use a computer. I also noticed that guests had to pay for classes for which I thought was a waste of money. Why would someone pay to learn how to use iTunes? Just ask a young person for free! Furthermore, I thought the staff at the iLounge were a little bit rude. I overheard someone complaining about how slow the Internet was and one worker said that it's not her problem and the guest should deal with it.
Since we cruise with Celebrity before, we were invited to the Captain's Club reception which was great.
For the Silhouette, they added cabana's called the Alcoves. I thought it was a waste of money ($99 for port days $149 for sea days) but saw some people forking over the money for it. However, I did enjoy the free part of the lawn club.
The staff on the ship were generally nice, friendly, and helpful. We give big points to our cabin stewardess and assistant steward for being on call and quick to solve our issues. I heard "hello's" and "good mornings" everyday. The only complaint I had was with the staff of the iLounge but I'm pretty sure they work for Apple rather than Celebrity. The cruise director, Nick Weir, had good presentation but I seemed to never see him outside the theater. His staff was friendly and approachable.
My biggest complaint was that most of the guests on the ship were from Europe. I theorize that the airfare from the US/North America was too high, Celebrity decided to sell to Europeans at a discounted price. I don't want to paint all Europeans with the same brush, but the ones we encountered were the rude ones. They expected people to speak their native language and in return did not understand any English at all. There was pushing and aggressive behavior. On sea days, the pool area was crowded in the early of the morning. I noticed that they just put one thing on the chair and leave to eat a meal or go off somewhere else. When it came to leaving the ship on port days, it was total chaos. One day, I was shoved and pushed my an elderly Italian man. In response, I said 'excuse me' and he then proceeded to call me out for pushing him. I don't know how the staff puts up with these rude and vile people. Whoever said that Europeans are elegant and polite did not see these folks. Furthermore, they had no volume control and decided to shout in elevators, theaters, and more. I would have had a better cruise if there were less rude Europeans on board.
Ports of Call
We chose this cruise because we have never been to Israel before and always wanted to go. Also, this was my first time to Turkey as well. I've been to Greece and Naples before so I knew what I was up to. For shore excisions, I did research and I decided not to go with the ship since I found better value tours on my own.
In Santorini, we arrived in the early afternoon. The tendering process was a nightmare. It took longer than expected since there were high winds. However, once on the island, we were relaxed. We only explored the part where the gondola drops you off. Santorini was great for the short time we were there.
This was my first time in Turkey. We used a company called Ephesus Deluxe. The total price for a van for 9 people including a guide, entrance fees, and lunch came up to be $560. The guide we had was very nice and provided good information. However, it seemed like she was pushing us to buy things we did not want. We went to a carpet place, a leather store, and jewelry store that so happened to be her friends. We had a good time in Kusadasi.
Ashdod (Jerusalem/Tel Aviv)
Another first for us was Israel. We had two days in Ashdod so we went to Jerusalem first. We used G.U.Y. Tours. Our guide, Morty, was originally from America and spoke fluent American English. We loved Jerusalem the most and wished we had more time to see it.
Our second day was in Tel Aviv. This time, we used Gold Carpet Tours. The downside with going with Gold Carpet was that the driver and guide were the same person. This problem was evident when he had to look for parking. However, he was great. Also, entrance fees were not included as well as lunch. However, we had a lovely meal in Tel Aviv that our driver/guide helped book for us.
In Haifa, we again used G.U.Y. Tours. Our guide was friendly as well and our driver was the best, beating most of the cruise shorex buses to the sites. We saw the Sea of Galilee and the area around it.
Since my group has been to Athens before, we decided to go on our own. We used a taxi to get to the main area. However, I might have been cheated as my taxi paid 20 Euros where as the second taxi paid 13 Euros. Furthermore, our assistant waitress (from the ship) said that it should cost 15 Euros. We went to a couple of museums and ate Greek food. Be warned that at the port in Piraeus, there are people trying to sell you fake goods. Someone came up to me and tried to sell me a fake iPhone 4.
In Naples, we used APT Tours. APT was good but not great value, as it was one of the most expensive tours ($1000 for 9 people) but did not include anything beyond the driver and guide. However, they were both professional and great, and it was the first time I've seen a female driver. In fact, we planned to go to Pompeii, which was closed due to strikes, but instead went to a lesser known place, Herculaneum. in fact, we beat the crowds since we were the first people there. We spent the rest of the day in Sorrento and Positano.
On a final note, the one thing that I notice throughout the cruise was that they were constantly pushing guests to buy things. One night when we ordered wine, the sommelier gave us a pamphlet describing the wine events. During most of the cooking demonstrations, they suggested for guest to buy their cookbook. These were just some examples of pushing of products. I understand that they need to make money but they should not push it in your face.
Overall, I had a great cruise with the Celebrity Silhouette. However, it seems as if they have some teething problems. Rude European guests need to learn some manners. I understand that Celebrity has no control for their behavior but they should at least say something. I also want Celebrity to fix the check-in process. Even though they probably outsource the people who do check-in, it reflects badly for Celebrity when staff don't know what they are doing and don't do their job properly and with professionalism.
We liked our room but however, we would probably not book a Concierge Class cabin again because we feel like we did not get much value. However, I will continue to sail with Celebrity in the future.