Here is my LONG review -- you might want to grab a cup of coffee!
Just back from a great cruise on the Silhouette. We sailed the Silhouette out of Bayonne/Cape Liberty January 17 -- 29.
Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived at the port about 11:00 a.m. -- no lines and no waiting. Check-in went smoothly, and we walked around the ship while waiting for the announcement that cabins were ready. At 1:30 p.m., cabins were ready, and we immediately found our Aqua Class cabin #1546. Our cabin attendant, Cyril, was there to introduce himself and provided outstanding service the entire cruise.
The ship is gorgeous -- clean, crisp, and well-staffed. I have read both good and bad reviews, and we truly found it to be all good. There was never a time that we met a staff member who was not helpful or smiling. The public areas are lovely, and the staff is always walking around, tucking in chairs, picking up dishes, and keeping the ship tidy.
We normally cruise Royal Caribbean and are Diamond Plus on RCL, but we thought the Celebrity Experience was just great. One of the best parts was the quiet unobtrusive aura of the ship -- not having the constant loud announcements during the day was a plus. Our captain made an announcement at noon that was always clearly understandable and informative. We didn't have the constant reminders about bingo or belly flop contests. It made it quite easy to relax.
The three days at sea heading to the Caribbean were a little rocky. On the first sea day, I was unable to complete my work-out in the gym because I was becoming queasy (if only I could have used this excuse the entire trip when I randomly skipped the gym!). After eating green apples and the crystallized ginger that I brought, I felt better, but not 100% until the evening. The rest of the cruise was fine, and I had no issues with seasickness after that. I love sleeping when the ship is gently rocking. Come to think of it, my chair right now seems to be moving, as I have not lost that motion of the ocean quite yet!
Random observations in no particular order....
Aqua Class -- loved this class of cabin; specifically the location of the cabin, the robes, toiletries, shower features, and of course Blu. We thought Blu was wonderful -- the service outstanding and the food delicious. The proximity to the solarium, gym, and Persian gardens was perfect. Being able to have breakfast without the buffet lines was really nice. And the orange juice there is the fresh squeezed that you have to pay extra for elsewhere. Because of our four early morning excursions, we had to skip Blu for breakfast on several days.....so we did Room Service (reviewed later)
Persian Gardens -- a very enjoyable quiet space....when it's quiet. It seems 95% of the people in there understand that it is a quiet space to zone out and relax. Others come in talking and being somewhat noisy. I found a good way to handle that was to bring my iPhone in with me and listen to spa type music -- it blocks out a lot of the disturbing sounds. I think the biggest design flaw is that the main door to the Persian Gardens slams shut if not held and closed quietly. When I entered and exited, I always held the door until it quietly clicked. The spa staff were the worst offenders of the slamming door as they were showing the area to new people or letting someone in. Loud voices and slamming doors are not conducive to the relaxation intention of this room. However, I loved this area and found it to be a place I loved to go and relax for a while. I think the simple fix to the noise would be to post a sign on the door to please close the door quietly and a reminder that this is a quiet space.
Relaxation Room -- I looked at it but did not use it -- however, I could see it was a perfect place to relax. It reminded me of the Whisper Lounge of a spa that I go to.
Fitness Center -- I'll admit that on every cruise, it's my intention to get there every day, and I don't fulfill this unrealistic fantasy of being fit while overindulging. My husband, however, never misses a day. I did get there about 1/3 of the time, and the fitness center is well equipped, clean, and very nice. They have an ample supply of gym towels and cool cloths, as well as plenty of antibacterial wipes on hand.
Pools -- All three pools were very nice, and I was partial to the solarium pool, which was warm while we were sailing in cooler weather. The pool area is very comfortable, and we honestly never had trouble finding a chair somewhere. It's easy for people to complain about the chair hogs, and yes, they are out in full force, but with a little bit of open mindedness, you can certainly find a chair somewhere, settle in, and enjoy yourself instead of letting it bother you that so many chairs are saved.
Aqua Spa Cafe (in the Solarium) -- Loved this spot for both a quick morning coffee and breakfast and also for a nice, healthy lunch. The choices were always good and small portions that were just enough at lunchtime. Every day they have Muesli and oatmeal, plenty of dried fruits and nuts to add to these cereals. Also, they make omelets to order and are very accommodating.
Ocean View Cafe -- this was the biggest disappointment to us and was, quite frankly, a surprise to me that at dinner, the food was really substandard. We only went to this location once for dinner. The food selections were weak, nothing seemed fresh, and even the pasta station was not fresh or served hot. Really disappointing, and we did not return to the buffet for dinner.
Only one morning did we go to the Ocean View for breakfast, and the food was good. However, we much preferred the Aqua Spa cafÃ©, Blu, or room service for breakfast.
Qsine -- We were approached by a staff member of Qsine asking if we would like to dine there at a reduced price because they were not busy. The normal cost of $40 per person was reduced to $30 per person, so we decided to give it a try. There were four of us, and I agree 100% with those that say you need as many people as possible to go there to really experience this. It was excellent, fun, and very filling. We didn't try half of the items we wanted to try. It was such a great experience and something I would recommend everyone try. I disagree that you can get a buy one-get one free deal there, as we had asked on many times when they looked empty. The best deal we could get was 25% off.
Dining Room -- even though we had access to Blu, we mostly ate dinners in the dining room, as our traveling companions were not in AQ, and we preferred to spend our time with them. The food was good in the dining room (not exceptional, but good), but we were in Select Dining, and we had so-so service on two nights, which was disappointing after the outstanding attention we received in Blu. One note -- so many people booked their select dining reservation time on line that all that was available when we boarded was 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. every night. Then we were told that in AQ, the only way we could come to the dining room was if we didn't have select dining but had one of the set dining times. It was very confusing, but we just showed up at random times to the dining room and didn't have a problem getting seated. Blu, contrary to what others have indicated, is officially open seating at any time -- there is no set time you need to show up.
Blu -- Dinner and breakfast at Blu is wonderful. Nicely prepared and presented meals, portions that don't make you feel like you over-ate, but delicious and definitely satisfying. Breakfast at Blu is great -- personalized service without standing in line at the buffet, a beautiful room, and delicious choices. Here you get fresh-squeezed orange juice. My favorite there was the French toast and the fruit plate selections. They are extremely accommodating at Blu.
Room Service -- On our early morning excursion days, we preordered room service using the hang tag and putting it on our door before going to bed. I don't like room service on other mornings, because you never know what time you'll wake up. On these days, however, the service was promptly delivered at the time requested, brought by our cabin steward, and everything was just as ordered. The first day I ordered the fresh squeezed orange juice, and it was small. The second day I wrote "large please", and we received two very large glasses of juice. The hot food was hot, the fruits were fresh, and the service was perfect. We also had a standing order that our cabin attendant took care of for us -- a daily 4 pm delivery of shrimp cocktail that came up from room service. It was nice to come back to the room every day and have that shrimp waiting for us.
We didn't try any other specialty restaurants on this cruise, but others that we talked to seemed to really recommend them and enjoy them.
When we didn't have time for dessert or when we didn't like anything on the menu, we just stopped at Cafe Bacio for a quick sweet -- they were usually very good. That's a wonderful area on the ship that people use to congregate and meet -- really comfortable seating.
Casino -- The casino is very nice, easy to navigate, and a real breath of fresh air since they don't permit smoking there. If I had only stayed out of there, I would have come home with so much more money! But it was lots of fun playing both table games and slot machines, and we were in the casino every night. Most of the dealers were very personable and pleasant.
Lawn Club -- We enjoyed playing bocce on the lawn and seeing everyone just relaxing up on the upper deck and sitting in the comfortable chairs. There was always a crowd sitting there. Bocce was not crowded. It seemed to me that the alcoves are a true waste of space -- I saw people in one or two of them one day, but mostly, they seemed empty. I would imagine those are a feature that won't remain on the Solstice class ships.
Shows -- We didn't see too many shows. The impressionist/comedian (sorry I don't remember any of their names) was hilarious and very talented. The mind reader/magician, in our opinion, was not good at all, and had we not been sitting in the center of a row, we would have left the show. The next comedian was very funny.
Cruise Director -- Paul Baya -- very personable, fun, great speaking voice, and an overall good sport. We talked to him a couple times on board and in the Elite lounge before dinner. I liked him a lot as a cruise director. Watching him jump in the pool in a tuxedo for the crew volleyball game was hilarious.
Crew Overall -- I didn't encounter one crew member that wasn't friendly, helpful, and doing their best to make sure our vacation was wonderful. It's uncanny how they can remember who you are, what you like, your preferences, and make it seem as though they are all about pleasing you. Our cabin staff was outstanding. The public restroom attendants were always polite and staying on top of things. We seriously encountered only wonderful crew members.
Now onto the excursions.....
St. Thomas Christmas/Honeymoon snorkel and sail (booked through Celebrity) -- what a fun and fantastic day. The crew of our schooner was so informative and fun, especially the high-energy Jason who was knowledgeable, funny, and really made the day great. To be fair, I have to mention the only negative that several people on this excursion talked about, which was the very high pressure for a big tip. I think most of us know that tipping is expected and appreciated after an excursion, and although usually, a tip container is evident at the end of a tour, the outright request and suggestion that we should tip 20% of the cost of our excursion was not really well received by many of us. Again, the service of our crew was absolutely worth a tip; they made the day so much fun, and I highly recommend this tour, which was $99 per person....but to shut down the fun party music to tell us how much we should tip was a real turn off. I would do this tour again.
St. Kitts -- Fan-Ta-Sea (booked through Celebrity) -- an absolutely wonderful excursion with a great crew. This is a catamaran sail and snorkel trip. The cat was designed to hold 80 people, but there were only about 35 of us, so it was very roomy. What a great and fun group of people on this excursion. The day was perfect with snorkeling, lunch on the beach, and plenty of beach time. We had an exhilarating fast sail on the catamaran, and everyone seemed to have a great time. We had a large crew that couldn't do enough to serve us, and they never asked for a tip, but at the end of the day, there was a small can for those that wanted to tip. I highly recommend this excursion, which was $104 per person.
St. Lucia (private tour booked through Mystic Man) -- We had 18 people that we met and lined up through cruise critic -- a wonderful group of people, and we had all met at the beginning of the cruise, so by the time we were on our St. Lucia excursion, we had seen each other plenty of times on board. This was a wonderful day of snorkeling and sailing to the Pitons. The views were incredible, and the boat was comfortable, and our crew was great. I high recommend this excursion, which was specially priced by Mystic Man and is dependent upon the number of people. If you have the time and energy to coordinate your own group through cruise critic, you can create a really nice tour at a reasonable price.
Antigua -- My brother found a tour with Adventure Antigua -- Xtreme Circumnavigation on a high-speed power boat. So much fun, exhilarating -- very fast. We had snorkel spots and great tour guides to show us many of the beautiful sights in Antigua, including a swim with the stingrays. This was a wonderful excursion. We stopped and picked up people at a beach resort too. This was a wonderful day, and I highly recommend this tour.
St. Maarten -- After four all-day excursions over the prior four day period, we were happy not to have a wake-up call and a commitment. We were, quite frankly, exhausted from the prior four days. Although it was our plan to go to Maho Beach or Orient Beach, we decided to just stay on the ship and relax. It was a wonderful day of doing just that.
A summary of the ports offered on this cruise is, in a word....perfect. We had incredible weather every day, every port. Truly paradise and we couldn't have asked for better weather.
The journey home on the seas was uneventful. The waters were calm, and the warmth remained right up until the last night of sailing. In January....really? It was the best. If this cruise would remain in Bayonne, I would book it every year. Looks like next January we'll have to fly to Florida to get on a Solstice Class ship.
Thanks for reading my review. I hope you enjoyed it!