My wife and I like to think of ourselves as battle tested, experienced cruisers. With over 20 cruise vacations under our belts we had never started a cruise without having to fly to some port. So we took a chance on the Christmas-New years cruise offered by Celebrity on the Silhouette, leaving from Port Liberty (Bayonne) N.J. We decided fairly late to do this and booked about 2 months before the 12/24/11, embarkation. The prospect of 2 full days at sea, sailing south along the eastern seaboard in cold, stormy seas, as well the 2 days again sailing north to return to Bayonne, was not enough to disuade us from the 8 days we would have in the warm sun of the caribbean. The ship was heading to San Juan, St. Thomas, Antigua, St. Martaan and the Bahamas, and we were looking foward to sampling what Celebrity had done with their brand new Mega ship. We had been on 5 previous Celebrity cruises. The cruise line had always delivered on its promise to be a cut about the mass market lines like NCL, Princess, and Royal.
The process of driving from my home near Philly to the ship's terminal in Bayonne and having a valet unload my luggage, then park my car 50 yards away, was the easiest, most stressfree experience we ever had getting on a ship. Celebrity did a great job with the embarkcation process and we were nothing but smiles when we entered our cabin 2 hours after we had left our house.
The Silhouette is beautiful. The public rooms, hallways, dining rooms and lounges are the most tastfully, user friendly spaces of any ship that we have ever been on. We had a wonderful time in the ports as we had no tendering to deal with and merely walked off and on the ship at our leisure. The cruise staff really went out of their way to accomodate and smooth any issues that arose and they couldn't have done anything more to make us feel welcomed and relaxed. The praise however stops there.
It seemed to us that there was a disconnect regarding the food. In general the Cafe(buffet) food was fine and the selection of items was better than you would find on other mass market ships. The dining room food, and especially the dinners however were very disappointing. Some nights the entries were awful. There was a concerted effort on the ship to get the passengers to eat in the "pricey" specialty restaurants, of which there were five. We did eat in one..called "Q suine" and it was fabulous. Maybe the best meal we ever had on a ship, but we had to pay $80 dollars to eat there. And it raised the question as to way they could not do even half as well in the dining room.
The cabin, a standard balcony room, was the most poorly designed of any ship that we had ever been on. The bathroom was fine and the marketing people are quick to tell you that the shower is the largest of comparable balcony cabins on the seas...but there is virtually no storage space in the room. There is a closet to hang clothes but only three drawers and two bins over the bed. Not even usable night stands next to the bed with drawers, and a sofa that is as hard as a rock with no storage underneath. The cabin size was adequate and I still can't understand the lack of drawers or shelves. When we peaked into other cabins on our way down the halls there were a lot of suitcases sitting on the floors and the sofas.
Lastly, the entertainment started off good, but quickly went downhill with some of the worst "headliners" that we had ever seen or heard. It's a shame that the booking office for Celebrity is clueless about name entertainers because the ship's dancing and singing troupe was not bad and really gave us energetic and polished routines. However, they only performed several nights and on the other nights my wife and I never made to the end of the performance because they were not in the least entertaining.
As for the the other activities, the casino was very nice and generally smoke free, althought we never heard any jackpot bells ringing. And the dance bands were decent and gave a good show. The disco was a multi use room. I've seen much better designs on other ships, and the disc jockey seemed to have a very limited collection of songs to play. I thought that the cruise staff missed the mark on many nights with the schedule of bands in the various lounges. For some reason the cruise director liked to put the high energy dance band in the main atrium on most nights, where there was not enough room to accommodate a lot of people. While there was a good list of daytime activities, there was again a push to get people to sign up for extra cost classes or seminars. On our comment card I wrote that I was insulted by the constant push to spend money on board for "extras", that I felt should have or were included by Celebrity on our previous cruises. Our general feeling at departure was that we had great fun in the sun and loved the cleanliness and beauty of the ship, but that Celebrity was now just another mass market cruise line and had lost the privilege of calling themselves "premium".
Don't avoid the Silhouette, but don't expect great food unless you want to pay for the upgraded meals, and don't bring a lot of clothes unless your fine with living out of a suitcase for 10 or 12 days.