Boarding was delayed by the cleanup and inspection of the virus outbreak from the previous sailing. We received an email asking that we not arrive prior to 2pm and that boarding would occur between 2 and 6pm. I asked about sail away and was told to expect sail away at 7pm. Expecting chaos at 2pm, my DH and I decided to change our car service pickup to 3pm with expected arrival at the port by 4pm. With absolutely no traffic at all, we arrived at 4pm and were on the ship by 4:30. The car dropped us off, driver unloaded bags which the porters took away. We proceeded to the first check; make sure your passports and license are out. Many people stopped up entry to security because they didn't have their documents available.
Next, carry-ons were placed on the conveyor and the nice talkative TSA officer scanned us through to the check-in area. We were directed right up to the counter and once we had filled out the proper forms, we were asked to follow the gentleman to an area to the left where he handed us our SeaPass cards. Another attendant led us to the AquaClass, Concierge boarding area and we walked right onto a waiting bus. The only wait was for unloading at the ship. Up the gangplank and into the ship, scanning our SeaPass cards.
We had no problem finding an elevator and in just a few minutes we were seated at the Aqua Spa Cafe. But not for long because our cabins were ready by 5pm and sail away was announced for 6pm; one hour earlier than expected. Kudos to Celebrity for getting everything ship shape for us.
Aqua Class 1525 Port Forward - Much better and bigger than anticipated with room for everything. We purposefully did not over pack and had one suitcase each. After unpacking, they fit under the bed. We used every inch of storage in the drawers, closet, over bed (I'm 5'5" and had no trouble) and in the bathroom. I cannot complain at all about the storage and we both found it more than adequate with plenty of hangers in the closet as well. We performed the unpacking dance as we claimed closet and drawer space.
My husband is a big guy and we actually found that the bathroom had enough room for both of us to be in it at the same time. This was a huge concern of mine and I was amazed at the roominess in it. Very efficient use of space. And the rain shower head!!! Awesome. When we redo our home shower, that's going in it!!! Just be careful with the wall jets as the water from last use cools. First shot will be cold water until the warmer water moves through. It can be a bit of a rude wake up call.
Our only complaint about the cabin was the couch. A big block of hard foam with two smaller blocks of foam at the back made for a very uncomfortable place to sit for a long period of time so we didn't. We watched a few movies in bed instead and ate room service while sitting on the couch a few times or ate on the balcony when the weather allowed.
The balcony seating was comfortable and my husband fit in the chair without a problem. We loved the glass balcony railing that allowed for clean viewing of the ocean and sky while sitting outside or lying in bed.
The interactive TV was fun with lots of viewing options; room service, Celebrity Life, Shore Excursions, On Demand Movies, Music.
AND! I can't forget to mention how well our cabin attendant took care of us. From the Valentine's day beach towel swans shaped into a heart with soft music playing from the TV to the towel serpent one night in great thanks that I was feeling better after a spell of GI virus to the towel puppy on the second to last night and everything in between. A quiet unassuming young man; somewhat shy until he insisted on taking me back to the cabin via wheelchair after a visit to the MF for said GI virus. Wonderful!
I'll start with Blu since we stayed in Aqua Class and we dined in Blu. We found a letter in our cabin that stated our dining time would be from 6:30-7pm. I asked the Maitre d about this and he asked that we use that time as our guide to dining each night. Some nights we made it and some nights we were a little late. The restaurant was never full and we always found a table. We preferred the section of the restaurant that you see when you first walk in and we found a table by the pillar that gave us privacy. Some nights when another couple occupied that table, we sat in the same or nearby section which provided us with the same wait staff. Often nobody sat on either side of us, but sometimes we had company and made friends with different couples who saw us elsewhere on the ship and said hello.
The food in Blu amazed and overwhelmed me. By the third night, I suddenly knew I had to slow down. Even when the waiter suggested another entree for the middle of the table to complement our main entrees, I had to finally say no. Let me just say that on the third night I learned my lesson the hard way. Once that overeating experience took care of itself, I felt much better.
I only had one bad meal in Blu and it was the easiest of meals but on the busiest of nights; the last formal night. Nothing appealed to me on the menu so I chose the baked "airline" chicken breast. It arrived covered with a small amount of chicken gravy and smelled wonderful. Unfortunately, after a few bites from the thinner end of the piece of meat, I noticed the texture had changed. Busy in conversation with my DH, I looked down and saw that the meat was pink. I mentioned this to the waiter and he brought another. Meanwhile, my DH wanted to know why I hadn't finished my salmon. I reminded him that I had ordered chicken which tells you how pink it was. I started eating the new chicken only to find that it too was pink. I stopped eating and the waiter wanted to know why I wasn't finishing my salmon!!!!! I said it was chicken and too pink.
On the way out, I mentioned this turn of events to the Maitre 'd and commented that the easiest dish appeared to be the most difficult to get right. He just said he'd tell the chef. Maybe they were rushed because of the busyness of the restaurant, I don't know. I never ordered chicken again.
I had the NY strip the next night and I had a difficult time cutting it. The knives weren't very sharp? The steak was riddled with gristle.
Other than that, the meals in BLU will not disappoint. Amazing Amazing. I'd book Aqua Class just for that perk alone. I looked forward to dinner time every single night of the 12 night cruise. And I waited with great anticipation for the dessert menu.
Other dining options: We never set foot in the MDR and my DH had no idea where it was. We went to the buffet twice. Both times I was sick later so I stayed away. Mast Grill - Burgers twice, they're ok. Tuscan Grill? What a waste of a beautiful restaurant. The food was ok, the music annoying, the view-fleeting as the sun set too quickly and the windows became nothing more than mirrors.
Lawn Club Grill - For dinner our last port day, my DH honored our reservation the night I ended up quarantined in the cabin due to GI virus (more on this later). He had a blast but ate way too much. Stay away from the pizza appetizer if you want to enjoy the rest of your meal. He insisted that we go for lunch (tip alert: LCG open for lunch on the shoulder days at $30/person) the next day. I enjoyed the location, but this is not available for dinner 4 of the six sea days. I didn't like the salad bar, thought it was not a good idea. I'd prefer a nicely designed salad brought to my table. The food options are plentiful and between skewers of meat, vegetables and fish and steaks and seafood, one can definitely get ones money's worth here. Another tip; save room for dessert. The chocolate chip cookie is to die for; I mentioned that it needs a different name because it's much more than a chocolate chip cookie. It is freshly baked in a dish the size of a crÃ¨me brulee container and topped with ice cream. Ask for the ice cream on the side so it doesn't turn the 'cookie' into a sopping mess. Or not, if you like chocolate chip sopping mess. Delicious either way. My only complaint here is that when we ate at lunch many passengers were confused as to how to navigate the area and walked right through the restaurant in a daze. Also, during lunch Alcove users ate in the restaurant in their bathing suits with a cover-up.
Qsine: What can I say and where do I start? Big Tip: Go with a group because each item gives a taste to 4-6 people. We did a table of 10. 6-8 would do fine. I felt like they brought out way too much food. I felt like we weren't given enough time to enjoy each offering before it was wisked away to be replaced by the next item. We just wanted to sit and talk and share stories about our cruise so far. We were constantly interrupted by the waiter with another plate of food and a description, story, presentation, explanation. I'm not saying this is a bad thing , just that it was definitely an experience I will never forget. Lava Crab, which was widely recommended, was boring and blech. The lambchops looked amazing but I don't eat lamb. Everybody enjoyed the sushi. This is definitely not something I'd do more than once during a cruise. We had 8:30 reservations and left at midnight. Maybe that's why we felt rushed. But they kept bringing out more food!!!!! I felt like I was at Grandma's house and she was there telling me to eat more!!!:)
Molecular Bar - hands down our favorite place. Please give this a try. If you go to a show, it's on Deck 5 right outside the jewelry store. I think this is the most under-advertized spot on the ship and not easy to find. If you see the dancing hummingbirds you've found the right place. It's open from 5-midnight and sometimes has tastings at 8pm or 4pm (last sea day). Drinks are $12 and the tasting is $24 for 6, I think. The mixologists use flowers, herbs, fresh fruit extracts and interesting combinations of alchohols to blend amazing concoctions. The tanned Russian is like a pina colada but with a really good vodka too; hence the name.
Black Mamba, Ginger Mojito, Coming up Roses.
Bistro on 5:
These crepes are big. We thought they were a lot smaller and over-ordered. The steak salad is light and perfect for a light lunch. Soup offerings and salads are similar to The Porch but the Porch has Paninis.
Both have $5pp cover charge. Both are a delicious alternative to MDR or burgers from the Mast Grill. Both offer yummy desserts, of course.
Cafe il Bacio:
Our favorite daytime hangout which offered breakfast pastries, lunchtime small sandwiches and afternoon tea cakes and desserts until late along with your coffee or tea beverage. Take your selection out to the veranda and watch the waves roll by.
Lawn Club (Grass and Alcoves):
I am happy to report that the Alcoves were used contrary to other reviews. We walked up on the shoulder sea days; once to have lunch in the LCG and another time just to feel the warm breezes from the Sunset Bar and saw many being used. First sea day back, we saw 5 of the 8 alcoves occupied. However, for four of the sea days, the lawn was covered because the sea spray kills the grass-another reason to sail out of Fort Lauderdale in the winter months.
Activities and Shows:
I tried a lecture the first day at sea and it was too historical for me but well attended. Many activities to choose from so I don't understand how anybody could be bored. We enjoyed entertainment throughout the ship as we passed through but never sat for any of it. We didn't go to any of the shows and a good thing too. After dinner on the last formal night, the roughest sea day, we stopped by the Molecular Bar and met a couple we had been sitting next to at dinner. The gentleman went to the men's room and came back to report that the show had just let out and there were people losing it all over the place. HazMat suited workers swooped in to clean up the mess by the forward elevators. Apparently the swaying curtains on the stage did them in; that and the heavy dinner before hand probably. Yuck!
Library, Hideaway, etc.
This is an interesting area. I sat here once to read but preferred to have a view while I read especially on sea days. The noise is not an issue because there is not a constant stream of performers playing music all day and night. The music is only played at specific times and only for 30-45 minutes.
This is one activity that really interested me. The first sea day, signups are open for classes taking place during the rest of the cruise. Complementary classes fill up fast but don't be shy about signing up for a pay-to-attend class because it's only $10 for the hour class and you can follow up with time in the studio on port days from 4-6pm unlimited to finish projects or start new ones. Also the last sea day, we had open studio from 4-6 as well. I participated in Watercolor 101 and Acrylic Abstract. Very casual, not a lot of instruction but lots of different types of people participating. Definitely recommend this.
This is one of the things that sold me on booking this cruise; indoor Solarium pool for adults only (although, come to think of it, someone had a baby in one of the big chairs but not in the pool). My DH and I loved this area. Serene and beautifully lit. I also loved that there wasn't a lot of noise from pool bands. I loved that the outdoor pool area was not overly loud with lots of music either. I was shocked to find it quiet one port day when we arrived to find a chair and then again on our first sea day back. Unfortunately, the rain came and washed all the loungers back in doors. The pool butlers scurried around our second to last day, trying to tie up chairs to keep them from blowing away as the winds started to pick up. Some people were not happy about being ousted from their last minute sun bathing.
My DH enjoyed his 50 minute deep tissue with bamboo sticks followed by a double-shave and facial. He was gone for 3 Â½ hours and arrived back at the cabin $400 poorer. The masseuse said she now had stronger arm muscles because of him. She definitely got a workout. He felt it was worth it and went back on the roughest sea day for another deep tissue massage. The proximity to spa, pool and the relaxation room were more features that sold us on the Aqua Class Cabin.
Medical Facility and Norovirus:
Unfortunately, I had to find out where this place was and what it was like to visit one. The morning we docked in St. Maarten, I developed abdominal cramping, aches and chills. After several bouts of diarrhea, I decided to report my symptoms to the MF. I took my own Immodium but reported it none-the-less because I felt it was the responsible and right thing to do. I was asked to report to the facility even though they were technically closed. I had to fill out 5 forms but finally was able to see the "doctor?" for a free evaluation. She told me to take the pills she would give me and she wanted to quarantine me for 24 hours. She never said 24 hours from then or from when I started symptoms. I went to the facility at 11:30. My last episode was at 11am and my first 6am. She called our cabin steward who insisted on whisking me back via wheelchair (good thing, as I felt woozy). There I stayed while my DH enjoyed the beautiful weather of St. Maarten. I slept all day and ate a piece of toast. Later that evening, Guest Relations called to see how I was feeling and to suggest that I order something to eat. I did and felt a bit better and slept some more. I ordered some broth and rice for dinner and felt fine after a great night's sleep, headed to Blu for breakfast. Sometime in the late afternoon the MF called and another doctor talked to me. He asked when my last episode was and I told him so he said he would release me from quarantine, huh? Oh, ok.
I know I wasn't the only one because the original doctor said, "so you're feeling sick too?" By the way, I didn't need to take any of the medicine she gave me. The one Immodium I took on my own did the trick. It did take me a few days to feel 100% and I did feel a little more tired than usual and more prone to feel sick from the movement of the ship but overall, better within 24 hours.
On that note, I came down with this a few days after the ban was lifted on a things touched. I touched the button on the drink dispenser to dispense juice and touched the lever on the ice cream dispenser both at the Mast Grill; two high traffic areas. And even though I washed and sanitized myself many many many times a day and always before eating, I still came down with it. On my return home, I found out that my son's roommate and family had it too. But my son did not. So it's not just a sea thing but a land thing as well.
Speaking of land, we booked three tours through the ship and each one was an adventure from the we're-not-on-US-soil point of view. Even though St. Thomas is a US territory, it has its own laws and rules or lack thereof. We booked the Sapphire Beach tour which took us via Ford F350 truck/jitney up mountainous roads with no speed limits in open air conveyance jammed 5 adults per row. I was the one on the end in the last row whose husband got to ride up front with the driver and get the lets-count-the-whorehouses tour. All I could think about as we lurched along was that if this thing crashes or tips over, I'm dead. I found out a few days later that one did tip over a few months ago and injured 7 people. Not a tour to take little kids on. The beach was beautiful however and the accommodations (chairs) were sturdy. The power went out island-wide and put the bathroom facility in pitch blackness much to the concern of our fellow passengers who remarked, "how could this happen?" In other words, "not on my tour, how dare they!!!" Such is island life. I believe a taxi would be the better option next time.
On St. Kitts, we booked a tour to the Spice Mill Restaurant and beach at Cockleshell Beach. A beautiful drive which some complained took too long cutting into their beach time. However, I felt it prudent to tread carefully on the island roads as they were riddled with potholes and the area appeared very remote. Beautiful beautiful island. We will return one day. Lunch was not included in the tour but we were very glad we bought delicious lunch (spicey) because we returned later than I thought we would. We were the later tour so no chairs and very little shade so we camped out on the deck in the shade of the building overhang.
On Antigua we booked the Antiguan Experience. Very interesting tour. We went to the house of a British woman who collects lots of stuff. Not sure why we went there. Good for any hoarders who want to see how it's done, I guess. Then we went to a pineapple farm which I would have like to spend time at instead. However, we all chose to not get off the bus so we could get the good seats at the beach. We back tracked to get to the beach (Frye's Beach next to Valley Church Beach). This is a beautiful beach and not crowded at all. A group of school kids were playing cricket on the lawn. We witnessed a wedding on the beach (cruise ship passengers). It rained a little, we ate a little. We swam a little. A little of everything. My impression of the people of this island is that they are very proud of their home and yet there's litter everywhere. And boy can they sing. Beautiful music and some story telling. Then a return back to the ship. Unfortunately, I can't give this tour high marks because we were dropped off Â½ mile from our ship. We had no idea because we could see ships but they weren't ours. The guide said, don't worry, your ship is there. I would have preferred to be dropped off where we were picked up instead of at the head of an avenue of shops with the intention that we spend money. I didn't like that at all and reported it to the excursion desk. We were strangers in a strange land and expected to be returned to our starting point.
What did we love?
Captain's noon updates. He's a funny guy. And his crew is extremely happy. We were impressed with the number of activities planned for the crew; Valentine's Day Dance, Molecular Bar Tasting, Bingo.
Very few kids - I felt like I was in that scene in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang when the kids show up in the village with no kids and the adults freak out. Every time I saw a kid, I'd say, Oh look kids!
Music on deck only at specific times, not constant.
Food, we loved the food. Cafe il Bacio which we dubbed Sillybucks.
Aqua Class - awesome. DH loved the spa and relaxation room.
What did we not love?
The rough sea days and lack of sleep. That's me, my DH sleeps through anything. I found the rocking ship annoying because I couldn't walk straight or sleep well. Banging and shuddering. But I guess that's ship life. I knew the potential was there for rough seas given the area we sailed through and this was a test to see how I would cope. I was not seasick just wanted to sleep without being woken up. I'm a mom and mom's tend to sleep lightly. One crew member said that below decks was even worse. One time a crew member thought my DH had had too much to drink. My DH said, "I'm walking straight, it's the ship that's drunk." One crew member said Celebrity wants its passengers to have fun and not be sick in their cabins but to have full use of all that Silhouette has to offer and that's one of the reasons why it will be sailing out of Fort Lauderdale instead of Bayonne.
On night one, at guest relations, the fact that an annoying passenger vocally and verbally abused his partner and the response from a security or other officer took way too long, that was something not to love.
Other than that, there is just too much to love about this ship, I just think the itinerary had too many rough sea days for me. I think this is a once in a lifetime thing for us. I can't imagine doing this as a B2B; although we spoke to a couple who were on their second of two 12-days and they said the first 12-day was smooth and calm with no rough seas at all. Nice.
Even debarkation was not as bad as I thought it would be.
I requested 8:30, we waited in Passport Bar where all assistance-needing passengers waited. Our number, 9, was called around 9:15. We got an elevator right away and with no lines at the gangway, we were off the ship and the first ones on the bus. We waited until the bus was full and off we went to the terminal. At the terminal, we found our luggage quickly, and arranged it so we could continue on through customs without a porter; however, we both were nearly run down by one. Through customs to the curb and in the car by 9:40 and home by 10:15. Phew! Glad to be on dry land.