Our first Cruise and our first impression for those of you thinking about it. Note this is the opinion of me and my partner. I'm 40 and my partner is a little younger.
Silhouette Cruise around Eastern Carribbean
Paid up front for:
3 Speciality restaraunts, Tuscan Grill, Murano, Quisine
Select Dining -- Spot on, never queued always sat us on a table by ourselves to our request on deck 4 overlooking the diners on deck 3. Much better than being on lower floor.
Tipping paid up front -- much better idea
We didn't do the Beverage Package and glad we didn't. They tend to do Happy Hour and if you want Lemonade, Coffees, Teas, Milk, Fruit Punch Cold Drinks you can go help yourself at Ocean Cafe. Don't get me wrong we certainly enjoyed the cocktails and beers etc everyday we just didn't feel we'd dink 'Â£80 of drinks everyday to warrant paying upfront. Glad we didn't.
Flights to New Jersey were with Virgin and were very good. Once at Newark New Jersey we headed to the Info desk who advised us to go on the internal free train service to another terminal to wait for a hotel shuttle to take us to the hotel...Wyndham. You could've got a taxi at the cost of $25 plus the obligatory tip. In all the process was surprisingly smooth. Immigration took around 40 minutes.
Wyndham Hotel is an Airport Hotel so as you would expect there's nothing to do here and faces a rather busy Freeway but it was comfortable and was a stop over. The Day of the Cruise we decided to go into NYC for a spot of shopping as the cruise wasn't departing til 1700hrs. We hopped on the Airport Shuttle and it dropped us at the Airport where we got the Internal Train Service to Newark Rail Station. 2 Return tickets $50 and took about 45 mins. We got off at Maddison Square Gardens and then shopped. Taxi back to the Hotel was $70 including Toll. Took this as the Trains were disrupted on route back.
Back at the Hotel we had to get a cab to the Cruise Port and this we paid $65. We got there at about 1530hrs and we literally walked straight through as I can only suspect that most had turned up earlier and queued all excitedly to be the first ones on board.
Ok so now we are at the ship which first impressions is WOW, its huge and very very impressive. We had Stateroom 8129 deluxe balcony on the port side we had the view of the NYC including Statue of Liberty etc, so thumbs up there.
Perfect Size, Nice comfortable big bed, Sofa, Table, Large Screen TV and plenty big enough ensuite with very nice shower. I read reviews from people before and they complained of not enough space to hold luggage. All I can say is that there was plenty. I took three Suits plus loads of shirts and enough clothes for both Winter and Summer and never wore the same clothes twice. My partner takes twice as much as me and we still had enough space including Snorkelling gear and shopping bags. Our luggage fitted perfectly under the bed next to the life jackets.
Mini Bar we never used other than to make room to replace with fruit, yoghurts etc we grabbed from the restaurants. Oh and don't forget you are allowed to take on 2 bottles of wine..
Balcony had 2 reclining chairs and a table and being on the port side we had the sun in the morning going out...so was very nice to wake up to. Breakfast ion the Balcony is a very nice too.
Stateroom attendant is first class, we had a guy called Matice...he could not do more. It was like having your own butler at times.
An itinary of activities is placed in your room each night for the following day.
Ship in General
The ship itself is first Class, spotlessly clean and to a very high standard, definitely 5 star cruising without a doubt.
You tend to spend most the time on floors 3, 4 and 5 as that's the floor with the shops, Casino, Theatre etc, There are many shops, Jewellery, Make-up, Liqueur, small Clothes collection but nothing you'd want to buy unless you want Celebrity Cruise on it. If you want an Apple Mac, IPOD etc buy it on the boat, it has its own Apple store in the IT Room and you cant find it cheaper anywhere else. Trust me. Even cheaper than NYC cos there you get stung with the mandatory 8% Tax. Note, they don't sell Ipads though so we had to fight the crowds for this in the Apple Store in NYC.
In terms of Eating, the Main Dining Room is very nice and food to match. The Speciality Restaurants are "special" as you'd expect and could easily achieve stars even if it was just for the service.
The Ocean View Cafe was always frequented as it was casual in terms of attire and you can always get something to eat by just turning up. Also its by the back of the ship and you can sit outside. (Really nice spot actually, comfortable couches and never busy) Ocean View was always very popular even if it was for pre dinner snacks.
We only had our breakfasts in Ocean View, in our Room or in Blue. Oh actually once in the main dining room , light trousers and t-shirt with collar were required but there were people who obviously didn't bother taking note of dress code.
The only only fault I can say with restaurants is that of the cleaning tables quick enough in ocean view...it wasn't up to speed.
Oh by the way there were 3 Formal Nights. We took Cocktail dresses and Tuxedos as did many others. There were a few who thought they could get away with trousers and shirts, so I would say make that effort, its so much nicer. (I did find that people were getting dressed up rather early...my partner and I would walking about with our icecreams in shorts and t-shirts at 5 to watch the sunsetting (of sorts) when people would walk past in their finest...bit too keen maybe... )
Activities on ship
If you are in your late 50s then you may enjoy them. As for us we were bored. If it wasn't for the odd game of xbox in the disco or Table Tennis and the Casino being open, on sea days when the weather is rubbish we'd be pulling hair out. We even went to the kids gaming area and played on the arcade games a fair bit!!! And this isn't cheap. Oh we did get told off because we were over the prescribed time of Xbox gaming as we were told that Dancing was taking place next and the area was needed....I did reply that we would stop when people turned up.....they didn't. No surprise. Oh and again for playing Table Tennis because we may be upsetting those having their pictures taken? Like what!!!! So why set it up next to the Table Tennis Tables? (by the way there was only 2 of these) This reminds me, there are professional photographers on board and will sell you one picture at $19 or the complete Album on disk plus glossy prints for $290. If you are going to get the album...make sure every night you throw yourself in front of their cameras which we decided to do. They have photo points strategically placed around the ship each night and come in to the dining areas. We ended up with about 200 pictures plus 10 x8 glossy prints. Needless to say we bought the Album and made a killing... ? and they even wanted to use our Pictures for marketing but we declined. Can never get away from the paparazzi eh! ?
As for the disco Quaser , forget it, its never used, every night we went in and walked out as it was empty. Unfortunately the crew on board told us that this is geared up for the "older generation" those that wouldn't be able to make it to the lifeboats let alone get in!!!! ? The Royal Caribbean we were told is for the younger travellers. Was funny though as they always had a member of staff outside pretending to be a door man...Like he was going to turn away people for being under age or just to stop people from being run over by mobility scooters. Either way it didn't matter cos nobody was inside.
The weather unfortunately wasn't the best and seemed to follow us around. The sun loungers on the boat were too close to each other and it just wasn't our thing. Too many people, too close together fighting for the best spot away from the shadows. And yes there were still the annoying people who insist on trying to reserve their loungers. The pools were packed and small and tended to have volleyball going on all day with the same people everyday both in the hot tubs and pools... We didn't go in for Health and Safety reasons ?. They had a jogging track on 14 by the main lounge deck. WHY? The Jogging track is so so annoying. There is a perfectly and very big Gym to use. Which I hasten to add we used a lot and yes we are very keen on fitness. Can't understand it, get rid of the track, There is no way to avoid walking on it as it's the main thoroughfare and half the time you can walk faster than those attempting to jog on it apart from the odd one or two in their lycra shorts who seem to use it as a race track and get annoyed if people are in their way. I have news for them..Lycra shorts has never been a good look ...so stick to running in the gym so we don't have to keep seeing you. Its not pretty.
The Grass areas on top of the ship were lost and never used, WHY ? You even felt uncomfortable walking on it in case you weren't supposed to? I think the restaurant by the grass was Something Gril?l. Whatever We didn't use it,. Mainly because we never saw a way into it as you could only see it from the grassed area which was always roped off for the benefit of those who felt the need to pay for the privilege of sunning themselves on grass. Trust me there wasn't many of these or the sun for that matter.
All in all, the activities were very shallow and didn't cater for those looking for excitement, Unless you like Bingo, Shopping Tips, Cooking Tips or how to make a complete fool of yourself in front of fellow passengers. Sorry Celebrity, but there needs to be more sustained entertainment for the younger group.
The route was too much in the Atlantic and this water is very unpredictable and rocky at times . The ships stabilisers were continuously in use. Next time id avoid and fly directly to the Caribbean. I don't care about high seas in fact I think it makes it more fun but there were many that were feeling uncomfortable including staff.
First island stop off...Labadee. Well what a load of rubbish...like being corralled, on a tiny part of the island but still using your sea passes to buy drinks at the beach bars...? No Snorkelling...totally pants. Very disappointing first stop. Like being on a static ship with trees.
To be honest, of all the ports of call we thought Antigua and Puerto Rica were the best. Whenever we got off the ship we went away from the crowds and grabbed a taxi driver to take us somewhere different. All islands to me were disappointing, beaches were poor, weather didn't help, snorkelling was pants and the ports were just there to take your money off you. Here are another 100 jewellery shops!!. Obviously geared for those who cant walk far from the ship or for when the battery on their mobility scooter runs out.
Ok barter is the name of the game, never buy in the first shop, the prices range ridiculously. If you buy Alcohol on shore it will be taken from you at security point when getting back on board although a few times they missed ours? Never be late as the boat doesn't wait. Wait until you get to the Duty Free Area Islands also. Oh and just be careful as the duty free prices in some shops are hiked up to make you think it's a good offer. When getting on and off the ship at ports always take your sea pass and passports with you, You always go through Security and get screened.
The Journey back to New Jersey was slow and laborious and rough again with no sunshine to boot.
You are given a time to depart the ship and group number when back in New Jersey and its not that a bad process. We got a 0900hrs time to go and wait on Deck 4 in the theatre, only to be called at about 1000hrs to say we can now leave (as we were given group 27). You get on a bus and it takes you to the prefab terminal where you go through the US Immigration point so in all we got past immigration at 1100hrs.
Plenty of taxis outside. We were staying in the Paramount in Times Square and got a cab. $92 including tolls...Hmmm rip off.
The Paramount Hotel is ideal for Location, cant knock it . It's trying to be a cool hip Hotel, very dark. Hmm does it work...sort of. The Hotel rooms are a joke. They are tiny and I mean tiny. The double bed is really fit for one person and there is absolutely nowhere to store your luggage. Considering the size of Americans you would only get one person it.
As for NEW York and in particular over Christmas Day, well we've seen it done it and wouldn't rush back. London is so much better and cheaper to eat and drink. Even the clothes shops we found disappointing in terms of prices and trust me did a lot of shopping. On our last day we bought tickets to go to the Retail Outlet...Woodbury Village I think but then quickly asked for a refund. When we looked at the queue for the bus it must've been 300 strong and growing. Another time maybe. I was told its like this every day... A Cab there would've been over $120 one way. The Greyhound was $42 return.
This is our review of our first cruise. It may sound very negative, its not supposed to be but wanted to be honest. All in all we had a very nice time. The Ship was First Class just wasn't for us due to the facilities on Board and age profiles. Ok so we were sold it as being a younger crowd with lots to do, but at least we've done it and have some very nice memories and 100's of pictures ? If you asked us to rate it out of 5 ...we'd say Ship 5, Facilities on Board 3+, Age profile 60 avg, Entertainment on Board 3+, Staff/Crew...5+, Islands visited 3. Would we do that cruise again....No. Would we do another cruise...Yes.
Well my Partner and I did get engaged on the Ship. We had rose petals being dropped from the balconies whilst being serenaded by a quartet in the grand foyer dance area. We were well looked after so many thanks go out to them.