This was our seventh cruise and the fourth on Celebrity. We travelled by car (4 hours) from Northern Virginia to Newark, staying at the Marriott International at Newark Airport on Saturday night. The hotel is consistently good and had a nice package, including a full breakfast and dinner. Valet Parking was additional, but well worth it because we gave up hauling luggage a long time ago. Our room was clean and quiet, and had good bath amenities. Staffers at all levels were very accommodating and friendly.
Cape Liberty is about a 20 minute ride from the hotel. I would encourage you to use Celebrity's directions and not rely on GPS or the hotel's directions, the latter two of which have steered us wrong in the past. We arrived after 1, unloaded the luggage, parked the car, picked up the free shuttle (tip only); and walked into the check-in area. The main check in area was packed, but with AQ we got priority registration. No wait - We immediately boarded a bus for the ship. We were greeted by a cheerful and friendly staff offering sparkling wine and juice; however, the elevator area (two banks) was very congested with people waiting in wheelchairs and walkers and becoming increasingly frustrated with the sluggish system. We chose to walk up a few flights and followed CC reviewer advice to have a leisurely lunch at the Bistro on level 5. It was a delightful way to start our cruise and well worth the $5 pp charge.
It was great to have a fresh and new cabin, with a well appointed bathroom/shower. The room had a flat screened TV and an adequate closet with lots of hangers and floor space that accommodated only shoes. Luggage had to go under the bed, which is also where the life jackets were stored in a crate. Storage space in the bathroom was good, but that cannot be said for the cabin area. There are only three deep drawers and then two overhead bins over the bed. Vanity space was quite limited. The sofa was huge and very hard, uncomfortable and very impractical. Instead of night stands with drawers, we had small stands with two open shelves. Information in the room directory indicated that 5 women were involved in the planning and design of the cabins. Their input for the bathroom was great; however, not for the cabin storage space.
We enjoyed thick, fluffy and large bath sheets; a five jet glass enclosed shower; slippers and robes, and fresh fruit and flowers. Another AQ benefit is bottled water and herbal tea in a carafe each day. We had hors d'oeuvres delivered every evening at around 5. In the future, I plan to be more specific about our likes and dislike on this amenity. For instance, we should have told them we do not like cucumbers and caviar, which always made frequent appearances. Herbal teas are a nice touch, but perhaps better upon request which is the procedure for the hors d'oeuvres. The AQ perk that I enjoyed the most was free use of the Persian Garden. Relaxing on a heated tiled lounge and enjoying the aromatherapy and steam rooms was a treat that I tried to squeeze in our busy schedule. Our balcony chaise lounges and foot rests were very comfortable and although not very wide the balcony was deep. We had breakfast there several mornings. Chocolates were always there at turn down, but you needed a scissors to remove the wrappers.
Our cabin steward and assistant were always available and accommodating when asked. The problem was that we were not attentive to details. First day, there was no shampoo. Next day, the TP roll was removed and not replaced -- fortunately there was a spare. On the positive side they were happy to clean the room early, we had room service several times and it was on time and well prepared. No cute towel animals at turn down, but we survived!
This cruise was not about the ports, but more about our first time on a brand new ship and The Silhouette fully met our expectations. The library was well stocked and attractively designed. We also used the gym regularly and enjoyed the state of the art equipment and most of the time did not have a wait for our choice of equipment. All of the bars, restaurants, and lounges were beautiful. The art work was lovely and well placed and we got a kick out of the digital birds in their cages.
The Internet Lounge was well appointed and connections to the server were much faster than other ships that we have been on. I got a 90 minute package which was enough for 12 days of checking emails and minimal sending. One important tip for the internet users is to be sure to Log Off upon completing your session. I met one person who did not and had built up an $800 internet bill, which eventually was adjusted.
The theater was the typical Celebrity multi tiered design and seating was adequate; however, the drink holders were not well designed for holding anything other than a stemmed glass. The climate and lighting in the big theater were comfortable, but the small theater was stuffy and dark.
The casino was large and always drew big crowds and you could find me at a slot on most evenings after theater. I saw several large ($2,000 - $8,000) slot jackpots go. Table games were very active with lots of high rollers.
In AQ our dining was scheduled to be in Blu, which seats about 160 people. We were somewhat excited about it because after the first night, we could dine there without reservations and we thought it would be more intimate. Unfortunately, our first night was not a good experience. They did not have enough help, the cocktail and wait service were not attentive, the menu did not offer the diversity of the main dining room, and the food was disappointing. We did report our displeasure to the Maitre D, and he was apologetic, but did not offer us any incentive to return. We had breakfast there on a few mornings because dining in the MDR and buffet area became impossible due to the restrictions for the Norovirus (separate topic). Breakfast was much more acceptable in terms of service, but the selections were limited.
The next day, we were fortunate to get a good placement at a table for six in the MDR for the 8:30 seating, and were happy to be placed with very compatible table mates. Food in the MDR was not as good as in previous cruises. There was plenty of variety, but quality has diminished. The warm water lobster tails were filled with breadcrumbs stuffing, there was no offering of prime rib and NY Strip steaks were not up to par. We also missed the tableside bread service. Instead we had a basket of bread sticks and French bread slices. Service was adequate, but not personable.
Our most exciting dining experience was in Qsine. It is a very eccentric dining experience with diverse offerings (from building your own cocktails, kobe burgers, build your own cupcakes to exotic international taste treats or fish and chips.) Each course is created collectively based on Ipad menu selections by your whole table. There are multiple courses and you eat for at least three hours, not knowing what is coming out next. It was great fun, but something that you only need to do once per cruise. It is well worth the $40 pp extra cost.
We also had a great dinner at Murano. Service was impeccable.
Cocktail servers throughout the ship were excellent. They always remembered your choice of drinks and how you like it served.
The entire crew was very pleasant. Lisa, the Cruise Director, was engaging and quite a good vocalist. One assistant on the Activities staff organized a Choir of passengers and they performed for us on the last night. It was a very impressive undertaking.
Entertainment on the ship was fabulous. There was something for everyone. The Celebrity cast was amazing and there was a British pianist who brought life, amusement and great stories to the classical music he played. He was brought back for an encore the next day and packed the house. The Activities Crew went way out to make sure we did not miss the Super Bowl. Their effort to provide "stadium food" in the theater was a mild disaster as they were not prepared for the crowd there. Other venues apparently where the game was shown apparently went better. There also were several navigation type presentations by the Captain and other officers which were very interesting, especially in light of the Concordia incident.
We used the gym nearly every day. It was busy at times, but you could always adjust your routine based on what was available.
About mid-way in our itinerary, we started getting reports about people being very ill. A number of people had been treated in the medical unit and were quarantined. The Silhouette took extreme precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. Purell was forced on you everywhere. Everyplace you turned, crew members, with masks on, were wiping down elevators, counter tops, and any surface that people would touch. All books were removed from the library; news summaries, puzzles and port information were only available upon request at Guest Services. The buffet and dining room areas were severely restricted, not allowing anything to be self served. All tables had to be sanitized before you sat at them. The precautions were extraordinary and impressive; however, they really were not staffed to handle the high level of sterilization and sanitation that was required. Guests became frustrated over long waits for simple things like salt, pepper, butter, sugar, cream, and condiments. The only good thing that came out of it was that tableside bread service was returned in the MDR and restaurants.
Despite the inconveniences, we managed to enjoy the last half of the cruise, took extra precautions in washing our hands, and we did not get the virus. We would definitely cruise again on The Silhouette again. We will be taking her older sister, The Eclipse, to Scandinavia and Russia in June.
Antigua was our favorite island and we hope to return there someday for a more extended stay.