Our cruise was the 12 night Eastern Caribbean leaving from Bayonne N.J. on January 17th/2012.
We are avid cruisers having sailed since the seventies on some twenty plus cruises on Premium cruise ships. We are a couple in our early and mid fifties and have alternated between Celebrity,Cunard and occasionally Holland America.
Since traveling on the Solstice a year ago we looked forward and highly anticipated this new ship. We were not disappointed!
Travel to New Jersey was a short flight one day earlier to avoid any weather issues. We booked through Hot Wire and found a Hilton at Penn Station which was reasonably priced. Free shuttle from the airport. We took a limo from the hotel the next morning, 20 to 30 minute drive to the port for $47.00.
Embarkation- I don't know why so many people are hung up about this in past reviews. We arrived at just after 11 am, whipped through with no line up into the guest registration reception area. I will tell you though we had a dedicated entrance since we are Captain Club Elite members so this may be some of the reason why there was no delay. We were escorted to a lounge and before we could sit down the shuttle bus was at the door, we boarded and two minutes later we were the second people on the ship! I have never been on a ship this quickly before! It's obvious that Celebrity has responded and taken action to the constant complaints. As far as the port and pier... it is a bit of an eye sore but we are here to cruise so lets move on...
Welcomed on board with a glass of sparkling wine and we proceeded to Bistro on Five for a lunch based on Crepes. It was good, the dessert crepes were better. For a five dollar charge it was a nice retreat from the large crowds in the Ocean view Cafe.
We finished lunch and received the call at 2pm that the staterooms were ready.
Stateroom- We booked an Aqua Class stateroom which has some lovely amenities including a spa shower with massaging jets (men, be careful where the jets are pointed you may get a nasty surprise!) The biggest plus is the exclusive specialty restaurant Blu that all Aqua Class guests may eat breakfast and dinner in. Suite guests may also eat here but they have to pay a five dollar per person cover charge. Aqua Class accommodation also allows the guest to take advantage of the Persian Garden (heated ceramic loungers, steam bath, dry sauna and wonderful showers)You also may find refuge in the Relaxation lounge at the front of the ship which is a very quiet respite. The location of these staterooms are on deck eleven all within easy walking distance to the Aqua Spa.
Cyril and Arial were our room attendants and are amongst the best we have ever encountered. They did the little extras to make our stay that much more enjoyable.
Captains Club- Being Elite members we had our own venue- Michael's Club for continental breakfast if we wished as well in the evening the Sky Lounge for complimentary cocktails and light appetizers. We found Michael's club breakfast very nice but we enjoy a full breakfast so we ate in Blu for the majority of the cruise. (although you can order espresso and cappuccino free of charge here) We attended the Sky Lounge most evenings but the venue is far too large for this relatively small amount of cruisers. You don't really get to know anyone unless you sit at the bar which we don't like to do.
Luggage arrival- the only negative of the cruise was that we waited until 6:30pm to receive ours. This was quite disconcerting but we decided to eat dinner later so there was no panic.
Blu Restaurant- This is truly why you pay a little extra for Aqua Class accommodation. It's worth it! This is an intimate exclusive restaurant which strives for artistry in it's food presentation and service. The food was very good and the service was excellent. Different menu every night. A special thank you to Jesus DeSouza and Danny our servers, as well as a big thank you to Mohammed the Assistant Maitre D for looking after us. Our female wine steward was very efficient and gave a very in depth and colourful description of the wine we chose. It is also a pleasure to arrive for Breakfast and dinner at any time you wish within the specified hours of operation. There was never a wait and within a couple of days the restaurant staff knew our stateroom and names by heart. The attire throughout the cruise in this restaurant is "Country Club Casual" or "Casual elegant". Formal nights I wore a dark suit but I saw no one in the restaurant with a tuxedo or long elegant gowns for the ladies. I did see on one Formal evening though a man trying to get into Blu without a jacket and tie and the head Maitre D did tell the man he had to be dressed appropriately. The man made some phony excuse that he did not know the regulations...the Maitre D unfortunately in our eyes relented and allowed him in.
Shops and stores- I was amazed to see such high end stores which rivaled Rodeo Drive! Chopard, Bvlgari, Omega, Tag Heuer to name a few. Please take note to check pricing on board ship before hitting any of the islands as they are the same or cheaper in price.
Entertainment- singers and dancers try very hard but are not as polished as the shows on Cunard. The individual acts we saw were excellent and very entertaining.
Celebrity Life entertainment and lectures were excellent.
Officers vs. guests pool volleyball was a hit! Our team almost beat but fell short by one point to defeat the unbeaten Hotel management team. The crowds around the pool were cheering so loud it was like being at the Super Bowl, what fun!
Officers and Staff- The officers and hotel staff were always engaging and were totally integrated with the guests. I have never seen a Captain like Mr. Pagonis seem so visible and approachable. Paul the cruise director should be on radio or television with his voice. What a set of tubes he has singing opera and other compositions. A very slick and professional entertainer.
Shore Excursions- We took advantage of two through Celebrity and were both excellent. Scuba diving in St. Thomas and a seven hour tour of St. Lucia. Both were professionally run and were great value for the money. The other islands we went to the beach or arranged a private excursion. I played golf at Royal St. Kitts in St. Kitts which is a wonderful course for the avid golfer. I booked this on line rather than through the ship saving $125.00!
Ports- We had been to all of these except St. Kitts. We were very fortunate that the weather on this cruise was beautiful every day except for the first day at sea which was a little stormy.
Disembarkation- no rush to get off the ship, full breakfast in Blu and the Elite Captain Club members had the Tuscan Grill as their disembarkation lounge. A little slower process getting off the ship and waiting for a shuttle to the airport but overall a smooth transition.
Summary- I must mention that we received three days into our cruise a guest feedback form in our cabin.(this form asks for your feedback regarding any improvements or things that need to be rectified.) I made a few remarks regarding the rushed and rapid fire approach from our server "Uni" in Blu the first two nights and the fact that the wine stewards were run off their feet and we had a difficult time getting their attention. (they really need three wine stewards at dinner time here.) The hotel management ask that you go in person to the guest relations desk which I did, the lady read back to me what I had wrote so there was no miscommunication. After leaving I figured it would probably fall on deaf ears...boy was I wrong!!! Within twenty-four hours the head Maitre D, Assistant, servers and wine steward had all addressed our feedback. We asked the Maitre D to move us to another section and for the remainder of the cruise we received excellent service as well became familiar with our table mates. The whole staff and management in Blu were exceptional! Kudos to Celebrity management for taking our concerns seriously and making the necessary adjustments.
The Silhouette is a big beautiful ship which is modern luxury in design, the public rooms and open decks are beautiful. The lawn club grass area was under repair because of torrential rain fall on our first sea day, the Alcoves which look great were seldom occupied and are really a waste of space.
Specialty Restaurants- We found no need to visit them other than Bistro on Five and The Porch. Bistro was good, The Porch was poor. (service good, food poor)
We had dined in Murano on the Solstice and enjoyed our experience but you must go very hungry as it is a marathon event. Elegant service and surroundings. We talked to a lot of people that had gone to the specialty restaurants and they said the food and service was no better than Blu. Go once though and enjoy the experience but they are not worth $40.00 per person extra. Other cruise lines charge $25.00 and $30.00 and are as good. Please do your self a favor and do not pre-book these before your cruise. Once on board it was quite common to receive 20% discount on the cover charge. Even at that discount they are still overpriced. I really believe that if Celebrity lowered the pricing on these restaurants they would be filled each night. We always passed the specialty restaurants on our way to dinner as Blu is located in the same area and most nights they were relatively empty.
Service- this is where Celebrity really shines, almost everyone you encountered whether they be from housekeeping, maintenance, hotel staff, officers, you name it, you are greeted and acknowledged cheerfully. This ship is definitely five star in all ways and for a large ship this is hard to attain.
In closing we had booked a Regent Seven Seas cruise this fall for Europe to find out and truly experience the "six star" treatment but at three times the price of this cruise...can it be three times better? We just cancelled it this week and will be booking another Celebrity cruise...thanks for helping to change our minds Celebrity! Value for the dollar don't look any further, a wonderful time for all is waiting for you!