We booked aft balcony cabins on the 22 August 2011 departure for the holy land cruise. We are a couple in the mid thirties from Finland.
Arrival: We stayed at Best Western Santina pre/post cruise. Located next to Roma Termini, it provided a very good connection to Civitavecchia by taking a straight train between Termin and Civitavecchia. Upon arrival in Civitavecchia, it is about a 10-15 minutes easy walk to the shuttle buss station. It is not clearly marked but you can just follow fellow passengers walking in the same direction. The shuttle buss service was OK.
Check in: Compared to Fort Lauderdale and Miami, this was a mess. It was very confusing where to delivery your suitcases. There were rows and crowds everywhere (later we found out that this behaviour was mainly due to fellow cruise ship passenger). After delivering your bags, you had to go into a tent and a large crowd was trying to push itself through one door. People really did their best to go in front of you. Once in the check in line, it went smoothly. But the unclear marking, pushing of other passenger in the Italian heat was not a pleasant experience.
Room: We had an aft balcony room on the 8th floor. It was a very clean and nice room. We were a bit disappointed by the balcony as it was smaller than expected (e.g. RCI Jewel has great spacious aft balconies). The bathroom was really nice and clean. However, the shower was a "non moving" shower, so you could not take it off. That is a minus. The bed and pillows were just extraordinarily great. The tv is a flatscreen with free movies, ample tv channales, individual music selections, possibilities to order room service, etc. That reminds me of room services. We ordered breakfast room services 10 out of 12 nights and always delivered accordingly (time and food (food being quite standard, but it beats to have a coffee and porridge on the balcony instead of the buffet). Also once we ordered room service during the day and got delivered right on time (and was actually delicious).
Ship: Without a doubt, the Silhouette is the nicest cruise ship we have ever been on. A beauty. Everything is so new, elegant and so many places you can discover. The bars, clubs, lounges, cafe's, everything was really beautiful and well designed. What a nice and luxuruous ship. Btw: muster drill takes place via screens in allocated public areas, very convenient.
Entertainment: Compared to other cruises we have bee, the entertainment in the theatre was OK, but not outstanding.The bands in on the ship playing at different venues were really good and entertaining though (even when playing at the pool doing daytime, the sound was way too loud). The cruise director was mainly seen at the theatre events only. I do not mind if the cruise director does not pop up all the time at any event, but
he didn't really appear in public throughout the cruise.
MDR: As our view on holidays is to relax, and wearing suits, etc. at work most of the time, we prefer to keep those clothes at home. Therefore we usually do not attend the MDR dinners, including this cruise. We were there once for brunch, which was really nice. Even beware, they sell "champagne" during brunch, but what you get is sparkling wine. 15USD for 2 sparkling wines isn't a good deal. Commenting did not help.
Paid venues: We used the coffee bar once, which was really good.
Oceanview Cafe Breakfast: We used the breakfast buffet twice. Standard fare and busy. In addition we used the Spa cafe a few times for breakfast. At the end, certain items were sold out (Vitalinea yoghurt drinks e.g.). Spa cafe has nice dishes, but the prepared fruitplates did not contain a lot of fruit, so you had to take several plates in order to have a decent breakfast.
Oceanview Cafe Lunch: We used frequently. There was quite a selection of food. Including the all day/night long pizza and pasta buffet and the ice cream stand (which had really delicious icecream. Try to avoid the lines at certain times though). However, the variation of the food throughout the cruise was not very good. Very repetetive selection, always the same Indian, Mexican and slight variation at the Asian corner. Same with desserts. The food also didn't taste that great. Especially from Celebrity we would have expected different. Also the food was not hot/warm. Once you managed to find a table and sit and eat, most of the dishes were already cold. Royal Caribean definitely tops Celebrity on this item.
The salad buffet is really nice, but also here were items sold out (the guy at the salad bar was "hiding" the cherry tomatoes and only put them on your plate upon request. I find this very bad logistics from Celebrity.
Also note the Mast Grill at the pool serves really nice burgers. Recommended.
Oceanview Cafe Dinner: We used the dinner buffet every evening. Same comments as above for the lunch, with the exception that the selection during dinner was limited to 1/3 - 1/2 of the lunch buffet, which meant even less variation throughout the cruise. A real pity and disappointment. Again, Royal Caribean offers a lot better quality. The good thing was the dinner was relatively quiet from people point of view and you could have a really nice dinner outside.
Oceanview General comments: The most negative thing about the Oceanview cafe were the follow passenger and mainly the Europeans (read: Italians) (and not I am European myself). They were very loud, occupying a lot of space, pushing, getting in front of lines. It was extremely annoying. During lunch it was extremely busy. People did not adhere to the dress code (people walking only with swimming pants on!). Another issue was the people were filling up their water bottles at the drink station. They put the water bottles on the lid itself, which is extremely unhygienic. We went to guest relations 3 times, spoke with the manager of Oceanview cafe 2 times, but nothing was done (please note this behaviour can cause a virus outbreak).
Guest Relations: As mentione above, we addresses a certain issue to Guest Relations 3 times, but nothing was done. The 3rd time we went there, the person at the desk was very disinterested.
Pool: One negative aspect of Celebrity's wonderful lay out is that there is not enough space for the pool(s) and more important, sun lounging areas. A lot of space has been taken by restaurants/grassfield. This means, the pool/lounging areas were very crowded and simply not enough space. Add to this our wonderful fellow passengers reserving seats without using them, reserving seats for both shade and sun side, you have to be there quite early if you want to enjoy a full day of sun. We used our balcony and came to the sun lounging area around 4pm, then you were able to find some space.
Shops: As usual on cruise ships.
Smoking: There were certain allocated areas for smoking. I thought it was OK, but I can imagine people having a cabin on deck 6, right above the allocated smoking area on desk 5. What a smell and noice it would have been.
Crew: Everyone was friendly and polite. The captain was funny and charming and appeared quite often "in public". Everyone was very nicely dressed.
Fellow Passengers: This was one of the main negative issues on our cruise experience. I have read in the past some comments from people that they mentioned "beware, this cruise has a lot of Europeans". Whilst one cannot categorize a nation or a continent in one group, I can now understand the phrase "beware, this cruise has a lot of Europeans". During our cruise, we thought back often of our Caribean cruises, where the passenger were predominantly from North America and a lot more polite than on this cruise. We felt there were a lot of southern Europeans (read: Italians) and they have other manners then we are used to. Ignoring line ups during lunch/dinner, pushing, loud, occupying was too many seats for a too long time, going into the elevator without others letting out first, going out of the elevator but keep discussing with their family still in the elevator while all other guests had to wait for this. over occupying sun loungers. Please take into account this fact when travelling during European summer holidays on a European cruise.
Excursions: We almost always arrange our excursions ourselves. Only for Israel had an exception. We booked our trip through cruise.com and got a message from cruise.com shortly before our departure we were signed up for a vacations vignettes program and received a free excursion to Nazareth. Whilst this came to us as a surprise, rather than organizing this trip ourselves, we attended the excursion and thought it was really well organized and a very goog guide Telling a lot about Israel. As our port of call Ashdod got cancelled due to security measures, we made the last moment decision to go to Jerusalem/Bethlehem by a Celebrity Organised tour. It was 189USD pp. But a quick calculation showed the a cabs to Haifa-Palestinian border-Bethlehem-Israeli border-Haifa alone would cost more than the whole excursion. From organisational point we thought it was a good choice to take the Celebrity excursion. Negative points were, no water or anything provided during the tour. We left at 8am and our lunch stop was at 2pm and no possibility for any food/drinks during that time. The group was large (40-50 persons) and Jerusalems streets are narrow, so it was a challenge to stay with the group, follow the guide and listen to the information provided. Also the lunch at a hotel in Jerusalem was not spectacular. The Bethlehem part was really interesting, especially the border crossing and the "wall". At least 1/3 of the time was spent in a souvenirshop. Luckily it was right next to the "wall", so you could explore this instead a bit.
The was one tender port, Santorini. Please note that if you do not take any tickets to take an allocated tender departure, you have to wait 2-2.5 hours to get on the tender (and in addition stand in line for the cable car up to Fira, so not much time left in Santorini).
Overall: The ship itself was very nice, the intinary was very interesting. The stateroom was clean and nice. The staff was very polite. The aft balcony was a bit disappointing. The buffet food was diappointing and you have to beware of the issue of having a lot of southern European fellow passengers.
As mentioned above, in my review I try to make some observations for future passengers to take into account. They are critical, but wanted to assure everyone we had a great and wonderful cruise on a wonderful ship.