We have cruised 15+ times on various lines and usually go for the itinerary. We’ve always wanted to do Norway and this cruise popped up on Vacations To Go and away we were. We did book it rather late, probably a couple ... Read More
We have cruised 15+ times on various lines and usually go for the itinerary. We’ve always wanted to do Norway and this cruise popped up on Vacations To Go and away we were. We did book it rather late, probably a couple months prior. We had gone on Celebrity once before so we knew we had a good cruise line with a great itinerary. Little did we know just how great both would be.
Traveling to the Port
We flew two days earlier from the States so we would arrive a day early to get a night’s rest before embarkation. We used Celebrity for booking the flights, primarily American Airlines since we collect their miles, but the major flight over, from Philadelphia to Heathrow, was British Airways which was quite good.
Upon our arrival at Heathrow, Passport Control was quite simple and we collected our luggage, albeit waiting a while for it, and met our driver just outside of baggage collection. We had arranged for a car from Smith’s for Airports and he was great.
Since I’ve been collecting points at Best Western, we had decided to see if our points would pay off and booked the Best Western at Chillworth Manor. We thought that, in worst case, we’d have a bed and a shower and off we would go to embarkation.
Were we pleasantly surprised! The hotel is, indeed, a former Manor. Not Downton Abbey, but quite nice and interesting. The grounds were lovely to walk about and we had a wonderful stay. The staff was excellent. We had dinner in the restaurant (highly recommend) and the breakfast, in the restaurant, was probably the best “free” breakfast we had ever had. Room was nice and comfy and we were very happy we selected the Manor.
We left the hotel via a hotel-arranged taxi at 10:00 AM and arrived less than thirty minutes later. We went through check-in quite quickly and easily and had a seat in the waiting lounge for no more than 5-6 minutes before our “number” was called to board. All-in-all, a great embarkation experience all around!!
Our stateroom was a balcony, 9109, quite far forward (about 5 rooms back from the front, but we found it to be great and quiet. There was a bit of a walk to the elevators, but that’s okay with us! Our cabin steward kept the room exceptionally neat and we had not a complaint. My wife has a CPAP machine and, having arranged it ahead of time, we had a gallon of distilled water and, much to our surprise, an extension cord awaiting us in the room. The room also had a water heater and we had tea out on our deck most days. As far as standard ship balcony rooms go, this was a good one.
We had been on the Equinox and knew the general layout of the Silhouette. I have to admit that, when we found out after booking that she would be in drydock soon after our trip, I was a bit concerned that we were going on an “old” ship. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, many of us on board commented to each other that we didn’t really know why it was even being refurbished! It was a beautiful ship from stem to stern.
Getting around the ship was easy. There were three decks of inside “evening” areas, including dining, shops, lounges, etc. Deck 5 had an outdoor walking area but did not entirely circumvent the ship, which is disappointing but appears to be the way with these ships nowadays. I long for the “Promenade deck” of old!
The pool area got some use though this was a cooler itinerary. The indoor solarium pool was more the place to be if swimming is what you looked for. Given the itinerary, we didn’t even pack bathing suits!
We usually opt for freestyle dining as Norwegian calls it but, having booked so late, we were forced to have 6:00PM dining. It was okay but we would prefer not to eat that early again. Our wait staff was excellent and we had two other couples, one from the UK and one from Israel, at our table and we became fast friends. Food selection was very good as was the food itself.
We availed ourselves to one of the 3-night specialty packages and, though we probably wouldn’t do the package again, we were not disappointed with the experience. I think we’d stay in the MDR and just take one arbitrary night to do a specialty restaurant, if at all.
Our first experience was the Lawn Club Grille, an “outside” venue – though it was fairly enclosed with the plastic walls. This is the place for steaks as they cook them right there on the grille and they were fantastic!
Second experience was the Tuscan Grille. Here’s a tip – if you ever do the Norwegian Fjords itinerary, and you plan on eating here at all during the cruise, do so on the day you sail away from Flam. The restaurant is the aft-most one can be with large viewing windows and sailing away down the fjord is just magnificent. This is an Italian steakhouse and, once again, the food and staff were excellent.
Our last experience, our last dinner on this cruise, was at Qsine. The “Les Petits Chefs’ experience is a once-in-a-lifetime thing that must be experienced. The table top animation is just tremendous, but that doesn’t take away from the great food and excellent service they provide. If you only do one specialty restaurant, make this one your choice.
There are activities every day and we admittedly did not participate much. The few we did – Question of the Day, Riddle of the Day, Movie/TV music themes – were fun and well-done and we probably did ourselves a disservice not participating more but there are only so many hours in a day. Suffice it to say that if Activities are your thing, there are plenty and seem to be well done.
We went to every one of the 7 theater shows and we were very impressed with all. The production team did three shows, all of them spectacular. The aerialists and acrobats were outstanding, as were the singers and dancers. One show was a local UK singer/pianist who did a very good job, especially on the piano. Another night was a comedian who was quite good and funny. The Flyboys were on board and they are a quartet of singers who transform “modern” songs into swing era style. The Overtures, the best 60’s band in the world according to Elton John, performed one night to rousing ovations and applause and did a quick set the last night in the Foyer area.
The live music throughout the ship was top-notch. Two bands, once of which played a lot of 60s – 80s rock and roll, a solo guitarist/vocalist, a string duo (violin and cello) doing modern tunes with strings, were all great.
We went to one of the “game shows”, Liars Club or some such thing, which was hilarious and I’m certain other shows were equally well done.
On the final day, Captain George gave a talk about the ship and navigation and had a lengthy Q&A which was all very interesting.
The itinerary consisted of four fabulous ports. We used Celebrity for all tour excursions.
We arrived in Bergen, Norway, at noon. Our tour was a little later and was simply a panorama tour of Bergen and the surrounding hills. Our guide was excellent and the tour was good. Also at Bergen is the ability to take a funicular up the hillside for views of the city. We did not do so but others on board did and report that it was great.
Our second stop was at Alesund, Norway. Two things of note: If you go do Alesund and don’t do the Path of the Trolls tour, you have not been to Norway! And, though I know lots of cruise critics eschew ship tours, I heartily recommend you do the ship tour for this one or be prepared to fly yourself out to the next port. This is a LONG tour and is subject to so many possibilities of delays. Anyhow, the tour is excellent. You get to go well into the interior of Norway with its tremendous views.
The third stop is the reason for taking a cruise to Norway, this cruise into and out of Flam. This town of only 400 is nestled at the end of an arm of Norway’s longest fjord. The cruise in and out is spectacular, with waterfalls almost within reach of the ship. We took the Flam railway up to the end, climbing up through the mountains with outstanding views of the Flam River valley and the various waterfalls. Flam is also a great town to walk about and get some souvenirs.
The final stop was Stavanger which is a pretty good sized city at the southern end of Norway. From the ship, we took the cruise of the Lysefjord fjord. This was a great trip, despite the only real serious rain of the whole cruise. We had views of the great waterfalls and the famous Pulpit Rock. An interesting stop for waffles and coffee was also made and much appreciated.
We elected to have our luggage taken off the ship and meeting it on shore, though a leisurely walk-off is also available. Getting off the ship was a breeze. We found our luggage quickly as that is well-organized. Customs was nothing since we had nothing to declare.
We, again, had a ride organized with Smith’s for Airports and he collected us on time and had us to Heathrow with time to spare.
All in all, this was one of the best cruises we have ever taken. Admittedly, much of that credit goes to the itinerary, but the ship, staff, service, food and everything about the Silhouette was top-notch. Well done, Celebrity! Read Less