This was our first experience with Celebrity cruises. My wife and I, both seniors, had been on seventeen cruises since 2001; Holland America (2), Norwegian (11), Princess (1) and Royal Caribbean (3), all fine experiences. However, after sailing the Silhouette, Celebrity will be our standard for future cruise comparison.
We arrived by limo at Cape Liberty, Bayonne, NJ at 11:00 on February 10th. Check-in was smooth and we headed for the waiting room. Celebrity had advised us by email the day before that due to a Norovirus outbreak on the previous cruise, not to arrive at the terminal until 2:00 at the earliest since a complete sanitization of the ship was ordered by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Knowing that, and also knowing the heavy traffic that can be encountered traveling from Long Island through lower Manhattan to Cape Liberty, we decided to arrive early and wait. Celebrity provided a complimentary snack and bottled water for the wait. By 2:00, the waiting room was full so most decided to do as we did.
We boarded at 2:00. The staterooms were not available until 5:00. In the meantime, lunch was being served in The Oceanview Cafe and guided tours of the ship's highlights were being conducted.
We sailed at 6:00, only an hour's delay from the scheduled departure time.
The Silhouette is new, entering into service in 2011. The ship is magnificent in size and architecture. Sailing is extremely smooth. Art and sculpture abound. It was spotless. Two banks of elevators provided ease of access to all ship locations. You have to see the architecture to appreciate it.
As mentioned, there had been a Norovirus outbreak on the previous cruise. Because of that, the ship was in a sanitary mode. Self-service at the Oceanview Cafe was discontinued, condiments were removed from tables and served by the waiters and the library books were removed. Passengers were advised to wash their hands frequently and thoroughly.
The sanitary mode ended a few days into the cruise and self-service returned to normal. We were told the ship had received high marks from the CDC for the sanitization effort.
Our stateroom was typical in size to those experienced on previous cruises, small! Storage space was limited for a twelve day cruise. The veranda was also typical in size. The bathroom however, was more generous in size than we've been accustomed to.
As Concierge Class passengers, we were afforded some amenities; luxurious bathrobes, complimentary champagne, flowers, fresh fruit and canapes daily, and token gifts.
The room stewards were friendly, courteous and efficient. Gone were the indicators on the door for "do not disturb", "make up room", etc. The stewards seemed to quickly learn our schedule and worked around it.
There were public areas all over the ship in which you could relax, read, sleep or do whatever you wanted to do.
Meals were served in the two-story main dining room, the Grand Cuvee which seats 1,400. The Oceanview Cafe provided buffet style breakfast, lunch and dinner and was open on a limited twenty-four hour basis (at times, beverages only). There were also several "additional cost" dining rooms which we thought were a bit pricey, and did not try.
Meals in the Grand Cuvee were adequate in size, generally tasty and well presented. The room was surprisingly quiet during dinner time. We did not see need to order additional entrees. There was sufficient variety daily. The wait staff was friendly, courteous and capable. We had most of our breakfasts and all of our dinners there. Our "select dining" plan allowed us to have dinners at our leisure and we never had difficulty getting a table for two. We normally lunched in the Oceanview Cafe. There was a wide variety of foods available there; a carving table, sandwich, grill, Indian, Asian, pasta, pizza, salad, ice cream and dessert sections. The food there was quite good. There were other locations where a light breakfast and lunch were available and an outdoor location where a burger, hot dog and fries could be had.
The ship was commanded by Captain Dimitrios Kafetzis, a veteran master. He was the most unique captain we have sailed with, very open and available to the passengers. His introduction of his staff and daily noon reports were informative and filled with his dry deprecating humor. He was constantly seen around the ship and even conducted a slide presentation on how the Silhouette was navigated. This might have been done to assure the passengers of the safety of the ship considering recent events.
His demeanor and sense of humor seemed to have spread down through the ranks of the ship's staff.
The Cruise Director, Lisa Richard, also a talented singer, was one of the best we've sailed with, both informative and friendly.
Great live music for listening and dancing everywhere.
Evening shows were held in the Silhouette Theater. The solo performances of pianist Brooks Aehron, violinist Craig Halliday, singer Lindsay Hamilton and singer/comedian Judy Kolba all received standing ovations. Cruise Director, Lisa Richard also performed.
Two stand-up comedians, the Silhouette band, and song-and-dance/aerialist troupe also provided entertainment at the shows.
Also featured were soloists and musical groups which performed throughout the day and evening in the public areas throughout the ship.
We booked excursions at only St. Thomas and St. Kitts. The St. Thomas excursion, a snorkeling/beach combination on a catamaran, was great with a friendly crew, good drinks and nice beach. The St. Kitts excursion, "A Beach Extravaganza" was anything but. Nearly forty minutes of driving on rutted and pot-holed roads to a beach we did not consider an "extravaganza". The complimentary drink was fruit juice.
There was plenty to do, if you wanted to. Two outdoor pools, a solarium indoor pool and hot-tubs were available. Pool and parlor games, cooking demonstrations and other activities, typical for cruises were held throughout the day and evening.
A well stocked library, with loans on the honor system, was open at all times.
Celebrity's plan was to allow passengers to request when they wanted to disembark depending upon their travel arrangements. A mailing was issued to all passengers with gathering times and locations to suit their requests. This almost worked if not for a hold-up by INS. In any event, we disembarked close our requested time, retrieved our luggage and moved through customs with ease.
However, that's where the ease of disembarkation ended. The situation at the pick-up location was in a word, CHAOTIC! Our limo driver spent nearly an hour trying to locate and pick us up. The combination of people departing and arriving for the next cruise on the same road added to the chaos. If Cape Liberty is to be a viable terminal for our future cruises, the location has to be upgraded. There certainly appears to be enough room at the site to do it. We've had similar experiences previously at the Cape. Otherwise, it's back to Manhattan or Brooklyn.
All in all, a great cruise.
What we liked were a beautiful and smooth sailing ship, good food, great entertainment and a friendly, courteous and capable staff.
However, we did not consider this a good cruise for families with small or teen-age children. There was no giant water slide or rock climbing wall and we didn't notice a video game room. If not for the pools on good days, we had the feeling that children might be bored. We guessed that seventy-five to eighty percent of the passengers were senior citizens.
What we didn't like was minimal; the St. Kitts excursion, disembarkation. We understood that the sanitization mode was a necessary inconvenience. No matter what ship you sail, lounge chair reserving, especially pool-side, is a problem. Passengers mark their chairs never to return. Again, with the number of lounges available, this was only a minor nuisance.