We are a 40-something couple who like cruising and have done about ten cruises, mostly on Celebrity but have also done a couple of RCCL cruises. This was our first cruise on a Solstice Class ship. The Holy Land was on our 'to-do' list and we decided to do it this year as it was cheaper this year than in previous years.
Travel To Port of Embarkation
We booked flights through Celebrity and flew from Manchester to Rome on Jet2. Jet2 is better than EasyJet and Ryanair but is certainly no-frills. Celebrity 'meet and greet' at Rome airport was OK and within 15 minutes or so we were on a coach to Civitevechia.
Very quick and easy; being a combination of Captain's Club Select members and being booked in Concierge Class seemed to help and we were directed the a very short queue. We boarded the ship at 12:45pm to find staterooms ready.
We booked a Concierge Class cabin and selected 1075 on the port hump. This has a much deeper balcony than most cabins with the slight disadvantage that it faces aft; a small price to pay for the extra space. First impressions were good and the design seemed to offer a little more space than previous balcony staterooms we've had. Lots of storage space and enough space under the bed to store suitcases. Bathroom is a bit of a mixed bag; lots of storage places and a really well-designed shower with curved doors and lots of space, but a sink that is more style than function. The sink plug mechanism is hard to reach and operate and the sink design leads to water splashing out of the sink.
On boarding, the stateroom interior was clean but the balcony had gunk and hair in a corner. It had not been cleaned before we boarded because the stateroom attendant'was busy' on changeover day. Not the end of the world but not a good first impression either.
Silhouette is obviously a brand new ship and still had the 'new ship smell' in places. It certainly has Celebrity DNA and we liked the understated decor and muted colours. Lack of a dedicated dance floor seems a but odd but it seemed to work OK. Like many cruise ships today it certainly it doesn't have a pretty exterior and looks rather like someone has placed a hotel on a ship's hull. The ship seems well designed with one exception; the Ensemble Lounge seems a gloomy place even during the daytime. I heard one passenger refer to it as 'the cave' - it would be hard to disagree.
Having always done traditional dining in the past on big tables we decided to do something different this cruise and have a table for two with Select Dining. This was a mistake we will not be repeating. The first night was the worst experience we have had in a MDR on any cruise. We were seated at what was technically a table for two but the tables were so close together we could hear every word uttered by our neighbours on both sides; in effect this was an involuntary table for six. Service was poor - my wife wasn't given a napkin, we had dirty plates in front of us for 10 minutes at one point (a pet dislike) the waiter brought the main course (steak, which wasn't cooked properly) and then abandoned us again. At this point I gave up and went to leave the dining room. I did speak to an Assistant Maitre'd on the way out and we identified a better table for two; she said she would see what she could do to help us get that table.
The second night started out not much better. I was half-expecting to be directed to the table discussed with the Assistant Maitre'd the previous evening. However we were escorted to another table and we sat down. The waiter was not there; he returned and acknowledged us a few minutes later and promptly gave my wife a german language menu, which was rectified. As we were looking at the menu my wife tried some of the bread and made a face; I thought she'd tried a different type of bread and didn't like it but it was the normal french bread which was past its best. The dining experience was not going well. At this point another of the Assistant Maitre'ds appeared and asked if everything was all right. Well it wasn't and I told her about the problems; she disappeared and returned with the Assistant Maitre'd I had spoken with the previous evening - she said 'what are you doing over here, we have your preferred table ready for you' - seemed to be a lack of communication.
We transferred to our new table and what a difference; it was like getting on a different ship! A proper table for two set slightly away from other tables and great wait staff - thanks go out to Art and Bhye! We then had that table for the rest of the cruise and we were well looked after by all.
A couple of notable service 'above and beyonds' here. At breakfast one morning one of the Assistant Maitre'd's noticed I was alone and asked where my wife was; quick as a flash he had his phone out at asked if he could have some food sent up to the cabin. On another occasion we had an early start but wanted breakfast in the MDR - the Assistant Maitre'd offered to get the MDR open 5 minutes early to accommodate us; truly above and beyond.
Food in the MDR was good but not memorable; a couple of weeks later I cannot really remember a single dish that stood out.
We dined one night at Tuscan Grille. We were on Constellation last year and had a superb experience (both food and service) in Tuscan Grille so were keen to repeat the experience on Silhouette. We spoke to the Maitre'd of the night before to try and ensure we got a table for two and that aspect wasn't a problem. I related our experience on Constellation and he promised it would be better on Silhouette. Unfortunately this turned out not to be the case. Food at Tuscan Grille was very good but service wasn't wonderful. The waiter was OK but nothing special and the drinks service was poor; water glasses were filled initially and the drinks server returned to refill one glass only and my wife was left without any liquid for 10 minutes. We also had to ask for champagne glasses to be refilled. The Maitre'd wandered by once and didn't even ask if everything was OK. Overall we were disappointed; we were so looking forward to Tuscan Grille; we just weren't made to feel special and we felt a bit let down. We did speak with the Maitre'd afterwards; he apologised and offered us the opportunity to return but we declined; they shouldn't need a second chance to get some of the basics right. I raised this with Fabio the restaurant manager and he kindly refunded the charge for Tuscan Grille.
We enjoy the trivia on cruises and attended a fair few on this cruise. The quizzes were varied with individual quizzes, a progressive competition and a 'battle of the sexes' quiz, although they didn't call it that. Trivia wasn't particularly well-attended on this cruise, but some people do take it way too seriously. We managed to win a few trivias and enjoyed the competition with the few regular teams that turned up.
I also attended the Celebrity Life lectures on astronomy. The speaker, David Hughes, was excellent; passionate and extremely knowledgeable about his subject and a nice man to boot. It was clear that these were lectures though and not discussions - questions at the end please, not during the lecture.
Silhouette seems to have a happy crew. We got almost 100% acknowledgment from crew as we encountered them about the ship. Service in general was good but it could be a bit patchy; Cafe Al Bacio was consistently excellent, Bistro on 5 we tried once and waited for 10 minutes with menus in front of us before someone came to take our order. MDR service was excellent once we sorted out our table issue but service in Tuscan Grille had issues.
We had a service issue with our stateroom, above and beyond the dirty balcony mentioned earlier. We returned to the cabin late one morning to find the room cleaned but we only had two hand towels instead of the usual four; this was rectified quickly by the attendant. However she failed to notice that there was also no shower mat, and no facecloths. It took six hours and a conversation with an Assistant Chief Housekeeper to resolve, and still the stateroom attendant was asking for an 'Excellent' rating on the comment card. Er, no'
We tend not to go to many shows on cruise ships these days, but we did see Clair Maidin, a british pianist/singer. She is a good pianist but only a reasonable singer. We also saw a british comedian who was quite funny and a show that reminded us of Cirque du Soleil which was, well, a bit like Cirque du Soleil.
Port & Shore Excursions
We did a number of shore excursions organised through Celebrity. We did Leisurely Galilee, a trip to Jaffa/Tel Aviv, a trip to Jerusalem and Bethlehem and the disembarkation day tour of Rome. All were expensive (as expected) but pretty good quality. Each tour guide seemed to know their stuff; no complaints here.
Disembarkation was remarkably easy. As we had the disembarkation day tour of Rome we were asked to meet at Celebrity Central. There were two coaches of people there. We waited for around 10 minute for everyone to turn up and then walked off the ship at around 7.30am; easy.
Looking back we enjoyed the cruise. Brand new ship, what seemed to be a happy crew and a good itinerary. A few too many niggles on the ship though to rate it higher than good.