This was our second cruise ever, the previous being on Celebrity Century in the Mediterranean.
First, the things we liked:
- The crew was amazing. The cruise director and activities director really enjoy their jobs, and it shows. Their morning "activities today" TV show was great fun to watch, unlike our previous experiences (and that of what we've heard) from other cruises.
- I did both the sail-away "experience" and the full-blown behind-the-scenes tours, and they were both really really good. You might balk at the cost ($75pp and $150pp respectively) but you definitely get your money's worth.
- As others have said: Crew involvement on Silhouette is phenomenal. They are involved all over the place and they really do seem to be enjoying themselves.
- When my wife suffered a back injury on-board (nothing ship-related, just pulled her back out), the staff were great about getting our excursions refunded where necessary, selling our tickets to other passengers where it was too late to cancel without penalty (so we were made completely whole), etc. Very understanding as I kept going down to the Shore Excursions desk, trying to juggle and hoping that "tomorrow" we'd be able to do this, and then later in the day deciding 'nope, unlikely', and canceling, etc. Real troopers.
- The ship itself? Gorgeous. 'Nuff said.
- Oceanview Cafe (the buffet on 14) has the least-varying menu I've ever seen. Maybe we were just spoiled but on our Century cruise, there were a small number of "standbys" (pizza, pasta, etc.), but the rest of the buffet menu seemed to change nightly. Oceanview cafe's menu was, by and large, the same thing every night, with only a handful of buffet-spots in a limited rotation of stuff. Our speculation is that this is due to the larger number of specialty venues onboard Silhouette giving the crew a flexibility to reduce the Cafe options (since on Century, you were limited to MDR, Murano, and Cafe, essentially, whereas on Silhouette, there were a number of other options). And while I agree with the logic of that, the practice of it may not work out so well.
- I don't know who designed the elevators, but they need to go back to the drawing board. On a ship this size, you need to have three banks of elevators, not just two - AND - the midship bank should NOT be divided in half such that you can only call one-half of the elevators (because the atrium divides the mid-ship bank of elevators). Wait times in excess of 10 minutes - even at a non-peak time - were not at all uncommon.
- My wife really wanted to participate in some of the art classes, specifically some jewelry making classes they were offering. They offered, like, TWO classes, of a dozen people each, to do so, over the entire 12-night cruise, and they filled up in like the first 10 minutes of boarding, it seemed. The vast majority of "art studio" time seemed to be reserved for "working on existing projects" (according to the dailies). So, near as we could tell, the art studio exists solely to service the ongoing projects of the handful of people who manage to get into one of the limited number of classes in the first hours of boarding. When someone asked them about adding more classes due to demand, it was a firm "No."
- My personal pet peeve, not limited to Silhouette any more it seems from talking to other folks, is the replacing of "live" poker dealers with the electronic tables. I understand the reasons why Celebrity (and others) do it, but I frankly don't care - hire the dealers who are strong enough to run a poker table, and do it right.
- My wife and I - meaning no disrespect to my fellow CC members - felt like we were in some sort of mobility-impairment retirement home. We're in our early 40s, so we're not "kids", but the number of people we saw who needed scooters, wheelchairs, walkers, canes, you name it? It seemed at times like 25% of the passengers were mobility-impaired in some way. Now, in the end, I rationalized it as being the fact that it's leaving from a cold-weather clime, to a warm-weather, in January, and the "snowbird" population is going to be much higher on that sort of thing, and naturally with age starts to come all of those things none of us look forward to. And, truly, I'm happy that all these people are "getting out there and doing stuff", it just made us feel that much more out of place (and may have dampened my wife's spirits a little bit, when on the morning of our second port-day, SHE became one of the mobility-impaired folks herself from her aforementioned back injury).
- Silhouette cabins have NO room at all in them for storage compared to Century. It amazed us that our cabin on the relatively-ancient Century had more storage than Silhouette does. Two people, for a 12-night cruise, can NOT unpack comfortably in the space they provide you, it's as simple as that.
Overall, the cruise was a mixed-bag for us. We had a number of unrelated home issues going on while we were away that distracted us from relaxation a bit (failed septic, home-invasion by a squirrel), so we really didn't enjoy it as much as could or should have, but only some of that is related to the cruise itself, and some of it related to outside influences.
My wife spent the last four days of the cruise swearing off cruising ever again, but I know she'll come around, and so I booked and open-passage onboard for something we've been talking about doing in 2013. I know when we're outside "the heat of the moment", she'll come around and we'll give it another go.