Last impression: as we left our room to disembark three or four crew members were walking down the corridor and at least one was smoking. This reminded me of a few other experiences I had with inappropriate behavior on the part of a partially trained crew. The ship and crew are new and my previous experience with Celebrity convinces me that they will get a lot better. Both the Captain and Cruise Director rotated off the ship during our cruise so this may have contributed but I'd have to say that in the area of entertainment, we were shocked at how good it was, especially the ship's productions. Lots of folks will tell you that Celebrity isn't as good as other cruise lines in this area, if so; the other guys must have gotten a lot better.
Based upon some of the earlier reviews we expected problems with unruly children, smoking all over the ship and lousy food in Rome. Other than our unfortunate experience while leaving the ship, none of this was accurate. The food in Rome was different but quite enjoyable. The dollar is and has been weak for some time. Hotels and restaurants are roughly twice what they would be in the USA. Although not as pronounced as our experience living in Europe in the mid-80s, we have devalued our dollar to improve our balance of trade. In Rome, we did something we haven't done in years--ate fast foods. As a point of reference, two Whopper combo meals came to approximately USD 30.00. Some previous reviewers complained about Europeans. Not a good move in my opinion. Although I didn't feel all that welcome in Palermo, Sicily the Roman's were wonderful. That goes for Naples and the folks we encountered along the Amalfi Coast.
Last February on the Millennium, the ship was about half French Canadian and European. Simply a great bunch of people. We are heading to Disney World mid-December and expect to encounter many more wonderful Europeans and why not? Compared to the Euro zone, America is on sale.
Last February, the food knocked our socks off. Just prior to that cruise we had been on Holland America and Princess and felt their food was very good too but not comparable to the Millennium. Overall the food on the Silhouette just wasn't as good. Considering the diversity of the passengers, it is probably a challenge to satisfy everyone and the deserts especially were designed for European tastes. Neither of us really cared for the food in the Ocean Cafe but it did range from good to excellent in the Grand Curvee Restaurant (MDR). Don't miss out on the Lawn Club Grill. It may sound like work but fun would be a better description. If you are a fan of Reggae music, let the chefs know. Might even be a good idea to let them know that you are purists and not big Jimmy Buffet fans. They'll change the music and you'll experience a party that money simply can't buy. We recommend that you dine there the first night or two of the cruise before the word gets out.
Perhaps the best part of our cruise was the room. This cruise was a spur of the moment decision so we booked the cheapest balcony cabin we could find and didn't expect much. Simply the best designed cabin and bathroom we've experienced to date.
I had a really bad experience in their computer lounge. The lines were very long the first few days to sign up and I made the mistake of trying to do it myself by going to a vacant computer and swiping my card. It worked to get me on but I couldn't figure out how to log off. They had a card by each PC that explained how to log off but as a non-Apple user, it made no sense to me. The bottom line is that their internet service isn't user friendly otherwise there would not have been such long lines. I asked a couple of people in line if they could figure out how to log off and none of them could figure it out either. Not wanting to jump the line, especially in a situation where the place was crowded, service poor and passengers irate, I called the ship's customer service desk and explained my dilemma. Despite my gentlemanly behavior, that's when all hell broke loose. An assistant manager came flying towards me screaming, pulling the phone from my hand and yelling that there was no problem with their system and I just needed to follow the information on the card. The long line and number of irate passengers did appear to contradict his message but at least he logged me off. The good news is that I didn't yell back at him because there are generally better ways to deal with crazy people and this proved to be the case. From my room I called the service desk with my complaint and very shortly thereafter received a phone call from the internet manager. She admitted in her first sentence that there is a problem with the design of the ship's internet service and credited my account. As a retired business owner, I judge her customer complaint handling skills as about the best I've encountered. Her assistant however needs to be assigned other duties such as the boiler room or swabbing the deck.
Israel: We booked with Guided Tours Israel and saved big bucks and no doubt saw lots more in groups that averaged 12. Overall a great experience. Some guides were better than others and lots of ground was covered in four days. One piece of advice, if you can, don't eat with the group. If there are options, take advantage of them and eat elsewhere. You'll pay less and the food will probably be a lot better.
My wife and I were both a little disappointed in the Christian sites. For the most part, churches have been built over the places where specific events took place in the Bible. That Christ was crucified, body prepared for burial, buried and resurrected all in one church doesn't ring true and seemed kind of convenient. No doubt these events took place in the general area but we remain a tad skeptical.
East Jerusalem was a mad house. We were told that it was a holiday and over 70,000 people visited the Western Wall that day. The small cobblestone roads within the City were very uneven, three people from the cruise ship hurt themselves, requiring an ambulance. This was an itinerary where medical insurance was a good idea.
River Jordan: Perhaps the designated location is not exactly where John the Baptist baptized Jesus but it was a great experience. I observed a guide, not ours, hawking gold medallions to commemorate your visit to this sacred place. The price seemed steep, but he had silver ones that were less expensive and bronze that we cheaper yet. Had to ask myself how long this relationship with pilgrims had been going on. Truth is often stranger than fiction; there are river otters in the River Jordan.
Bethlehem: This is on the West Bank and controlled by the Palestinian Authority. The Israeli guide got off the van and stayed on their side of the security wall. On the other side we were met by our Palestinian guide, a member of the Christian minority in a predominately Muslim town. She was absolutely delightful as were all the Palestinians we encountered. I talked to some of the PA soldiers and was surprised how well they spoke English and how friendly they were. I felt completely safe in Bethlehem.
Naples: Don't miss Pompey or the Amalfi Coast.
Palermo, Sicily: Very unimpressed with the city itself. Those taking tours were impressed with the countryside and ruins.
Mykos, Greece: Interesting in its own way but mostly a tourist trap.
Would we sail on the Silhouette again? You bet we would because sometime soon, they'll be as good or better than other Celebrity ships.