15 DAY TRANS-ATLANTIC
This cruise was advertised as “Boston, Broadway and Bermuda” which caught my eye immediately. This year DH and I were celebrating our 50th Anniversary and we wanted to do something unique for us. Never having been to London, NYC, or Bermuda, it was an opportunity to check these places off of our bucket list. Family issues held us back from booking early. When we finally called our trusty TA Donna in early July, we were concerned about where our cabin would be located. Thinking about booking a 2A, she was able to get us a one category upgrade for being Select members as well as a discount. Somehow we ended up with a 1-A, cabin 7264 on the hump with a larger balcony, my dream come true.
We decided to fly into London 2 days early so we would see the sights. United had a direct flight from Chicago to London and Donna was able to use Custom Air through Celebrity for a great price. We upgraded to Economy Plus for more leg room and a roomier seat. The plane was configured 2-3-2 and Donna reserved 2 seats with a window. Donna felt that leaving at 10 PM would make it easier to sleep on the plane. Arriving around 11 AM, she felt we might be able to check into our room earlier.
Booking late also impacted our departure flight from Fort Lauderdale with all the reasonable prices/times sold out. It didn’t help that we were arriving back in the USA on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Booking through Priceline, (more on that later) I found a hotel and a rental car that wouldn’t break the bank for an additional day.
Researching Cruise Critic’s London board, I discovered the National Express Bus that would take us from Heathrow to the Victoria Coach Station for 5 GBP/pp. Booking online for 2 nights at the Grosvenor Hotel, it was a mere 0.3 miles from the bus station. Taking the coach/bus would also work for our trip to Southampton to board the ship. This was the best option for us and each bus trip was direct. Our son and his wife wanted to treat us to a private car from airport to hotel. I knew this would cost >100 GBP and just couldn’t justify the cost when we could take the bus for such a bargain price. They surprised us with something else.
Online discovery of the London Day Pass which gives you access to all major attractions and several minor ones. Being optimistic, I purchased 2 passes for 2 days, thinking back to previous trips with a girlfriend, where we hit the ground running when we arrived. Going to London in November, we expected smaller crowds, especially since Hurricane Oscar was creating unpleasant weather at the time.
Preparing for this trip, I created a binder to hold all our travel documents, an idea I found on Cruise Critic. There was no need to book a tour for Boston. Our daughter and her family live in Cambridge and the plan was to spend the day with them and utilize their washer and dryer. We chose a private tour in NYC to visit the 9/11 Memorial, museum and the Freedom Tower. Joining our Roll Call, we connected with Tony and Jennie who had booked a private tour in Bermuda. After 15 cruises, we are converts to private tours versus the more expensive and crowded ship’s tours.
Packing for this trip was a dilemma as we needed clothing for cool weather as well as warm. Having packed his suitcase, DH decided to go shopping 2 hours before our ride to the airport. His choices were fine; skinny jeans, shirt and new shoes. All of which he decided to wear for the trip. I had suggested that we both wear compression hose to help prevent our legs from swelling on the long flight.
Checking in for our flight, we discovered our seats had been changed. After much discussion with the gate agents and our TA, we find that the aircraft has been changed and we are now in the middle of an aisle, three across in an exit row. Lots of leg room but horribly uncomfortable for an 8 hour trip. By the time we were settled, DH informed me that he had blisters on his heels and the compression hose had slid down to his ankles and he couldn’t pull them up due to the skinny jeans. Needless to say, he did not sleep at all and I managed a few hours only because of meds.
Arriving in London almost an hour early, we spent an hour in line to clear Customs. We walked aimlessly trying to find our luggage after asking different “helpers” before someone finally steered us correctly. Following the signs, it was quite the scavenger hunt to find the bus station. Walking right up to the ticket counter, the lady took my printout, slapped a little sticker on it, signed it and directed us to the correct door for our bus. Doing a quick turnaround, the seats were still warm when we boarded for our 40 minute ride to London.
Leaving Victoria Coach Station, I took a wrong turn on Buckingham Palace Road and we walked a few blocks before I asked someone for directions. (We don’t have smart phones.) Finally arriving at the Grosvenor, we had haul our heavy suitcases up the stairs to get in the front door. But that is the only complaint we have about this property. The lobby is opulent and I swear, perfumed. We were informed at check in that our room had been upgraded from a twin to a deluxe double. Explaining that I had ordered the twins because the double bed was too small and we had a King at home. The desk clerk was very sweet and said she would look into it but we wouldn’t have a room for about an hour. It was now about 2 PM and DH really wanted to get off his feet so we headed into the restaurant for some refreshment.
Even after a few cups of coffee DH was dead on his feet by the time 3 PM rolled around. Back to the desk where we were given a room number, a key card and informed that our luggage was already in our room. Walking into the room we were delighted to find that we had been upgraded to a deluxe King. Also in the room was a bowl of fruit, a bottle of sparkling wine and a small plate with some small cakes and strawberries. Written on the plate in chocolate was “50th Anniversary”. We had no idea where this had come from. It wasn’t until we were home that our daughter-in-law told us that she had arranged this lovely surprise for us.
The room was very nice with a small built-in coffee bar and an electric kettle on the desk. The bed was quite comfortable as we promptly discovered. It didn’t take much for us to fall asleep for 3 hours. Awake around 7 PM, DH did not want to walk around outside so we made some tea and coffee and partook of the fruit and cake. Watched some very bad English TV shows and some mediocre American shows and we asleep again by 10 PM.
Once we were up and showered we decided to try the hotel’s breakfast buffet. The choices were fine and quality pretty good. We had noticed the day before that the two major HOHO bus lines stopped just outside the front door. The London Day pass included one day of either one. Weather was sunny after about a week of rain from Hurricane Oscar. We walked out the front door and stood by the bus stop sign. A big red two decker bus arrived and we were able to get some seats.
Unfortunately for us, everyone else was out and about enjoying the nice weather. We spent more time stuck in traffic than moving from place to place. Not sure what we wanted to see, I took most of my photos through the bus window. Every place the bus stopped was overrun with crowds. Finally we decided to exit at Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament which was the one place the London Day Pass didn’t include. Big Ben was enclosed in scaffolding. Headed over to the Abbey and got into the easily block long line which snaked about the grounds. It was after 2 PM and it closed at 4:30. Deciding that this was a waste of our time, we left the Abbey and got back on the bus to try our luck at the Tower of London.
More crowds but we were able to go right to the entrance and our passes were scanned for entrance. Missed the beginning of the last yeoman warder tour but we did join one for a short time. I wanted to see the Crown Jewels and it was again a very long line. DH was very unhappy about this but I got in line anyway. Surprisingly, it moved faster than we anticipated and even DH was glad we were able to see these amazing jewels. There was still quite a few people inside so visited the other buildings as well.
It was dusk/rush hour as we made our way back to the bus line. Debated getting off at the London Eye for the hour ride but in the end decided dinner was next. Both of us were still feeling the effects of our jet lag and almost missed our stop at the hotel. Tried to get into the Bag O’ Nails pub but it and every other place were jammed on a Friday night. After a little souvenir shopping, we ended up back at the hotel restaurant where we had beer and fish and chips. Our bus reservation was for 10 AM so it was early to bed.
Our wake up call was at 7 AM so we could grab some breakfast and gather our belongings. I wanted to be out of the hotel by 9:15 for our short walk back to the Victoria Coach Station. DH was in much better shape for walking with different shoes. Remembering how I had to present my printed ticket at the desk at the airport, I headed to the ticket window. There I encountered a line of 25 people ahead of me and only 2 agents. I didn’t get to the window until 10:01 where the agent screamed at me for showing her the reservation and that the coach had already left.
Running back to where I had left DH, we went to the exit door to find a group waiting. I asked about the bus to Southampton and was told they were all waiting. It turned out the bus had been oversold. The company was bringing up a second bus and driver which happened in a few minutes. Once again, an unexpected problem was resolved. We boarded the bus for the 2 hour 10 minute trip to Southampton and the port.
Off the bus after a pleasant trip and those of us who had not scheduled an Uber lined up at the taxi stand. After about 15 minutes, the taxis started arriving in groups and we had no issue with the 5 minute drive to the ship which cost 5 GBP and 6 (?) pence except the taxi driver informed us that the cruise was cancelled! WHAT? He explained that due to Hurricane Oscar that Bermuda was cancelled. Seeing as the ship was there and everyone was entering, we assumed something was wrong with his info. Dropped our labeled bags with the attendants who did not require a tip and were very pleasant.
Rather bewildered, we joined the long line to go through security. Chatting with another couple we had met in the taxi line, they informed us that everyone (?) had received an email about the change in itinerary. It was Bahamas that was cancelled as they added a sea day to skirt the rough seas. Once again we missed out due to the lack of a smart phone. Unfortunately, that meant that all our plans were going to be a day later. Another problem to sort out.
Rooms were ready and DH and I made our way to deck 7 and our cabin on the hump where we could revel in our large balcony for the time being. Left the hand luggage and went up to the buffet for our first meal of the cruise. DH was new to the Silhouette where I had sailed on her in the Caribbean 4 years ago. He was very impressed with station-style layout although it took us a few days to figure out where everything was located.
Bags arrived quickly and we set about making 7264 our home for the next 15 days. There was an electric kettle on the desk with the makings for coffee and tea. The Hideaway was a few steps from our door and the coffee station in there was so welcome every morning. DH isn’t fond of instant coffee so every morning I threw on some clothes and fetched him a cup of the real thing. Milk and cream were placed there at 7AM but by the time we woke up, I was lucky to score some milk. There was small cups of flavored artificial creamers
Safety drill was at 4 PM where we assembled in the dining room and watched a “James Bond” type video. It was rather entertaining and you didn’t hear a lot of chatting while it was running. Once we were underway, DH and I went down to deck 5 to check in with maitre’d about our Select dinner time. She was very rude and insisted that there was no reservation for us. When I reiterated that I had made a reservation online, she became more insistent and if possible, even ruder. DH and I walked away flabbergasted.
Wandering around the ship while getting our bearings, we encountered dining/bar staff everywhere trying to sell us specialty dining and drink packages. Unfortunately, they were relentless for most of the cruise. I think they finally stopped when we hit Bermuda. I’m sure there is some kind of incentive for the staff but this was not the elegant Celebrity we remembered.
Back in 2014, my mother and I had taken a 7 day Western Caribbean cruise on Silhouette and I have to say the ship looked just as good now as it did back then. Bistro on 5 was now Sushi on 5. At no time did I ever see anyone in either place. Cafe Al Bacio was always hopping and the seating there always full. Qsine still had the name but was now Le Petit Chef. Tuscan and Murano remained the same.
I wanted to show hubby the Sky Observation Lounge on Deck 15-forward. Remembering this space as a very elegant bar with entertainment, I thought he would really enjoy it. We scored some loungers in the front to enjoy a drink. It was here that he surprised me by telling me he had purchased a dining package before we left. Going through our TA Donna, she found that X was offering a 2 dinner, one lunch package for $200. Naturally, I was thrilled and was looking forward to trying the specialty restaurants.
Soon enough it was time to visit the MDR on Deck 5 at our reserved time. We went to the other side to avoid the rude person and found a delightful woman who confirmed our daily dining reservation. For the most part, we had the same table and waiters for the entire trip. Noticed that either the plates were bigger or the portions were smaller than remembered. But since we always order several courses we never went away hungry. The cuisine has most definitely declined since Michel Roux and Celebrity ended their partnership but it was still better than Princess or Royal Caribbean.
DH has not been on Celebrity since 2006 and he missed the presentation of the wonderful desserts at the end of the meal. I felt the desserts in the buffet were more interesting and delectable the those in the MDR. Most of the time I skipped dessert or only took a bite or two as I felt they were very bland and disappointing. I missed the wonderful soufflés offered on Princess.
Entertainment was, for the most part, pretty good for a cruise ship. Cruise Director Sue Denning was very visible, chatty and a very comfortable presence on the stage and personality plus. The late show was at 9 PM and was well attended. That night was a “taste” with Al Ducharme (comedian) and Juliette Primrose (violinist). He was hilarious and she was very talented but her stage movements were rather odd. She had a front slit dress and her jumping around perhaps showed more skin than she planned. After the show, we made our first of many daily visits to the casino and all those who frequented it.
By the time we went to bed, the ship was at sea and our “rock and roll” cruise had begun.
Sunday~November 4~At Sea
Before we left Southampton, there was an announcement that all veranda furniture would be “removed”. Don’t know about the other rooms, but our table and chairs were folded up and left in a corner. We did have a larger than average balcony so it was possible to do this. We still had access and did walk out and take a look at the sea and weather. The ship was actively rolling from side to side and everyone was walking like drunken sailors. I had brought along Dramamine but we never needed it. Certainly never put us off our feed!
The fact that the outside doors were locked the first few days certainly limited the activities you would normally expect on a cruise. The outside pools were drained but the Solarium pool had water but a net over it. Later in the cruise that pool was splashing all over. Taking the Centrum glass elevators up to the Oceanview Cafe every day for a late breakfast gave us a birds-eye view of the Hideaway, Game Room and Library to see every chair filled with (mostly) snoozing passengers.
DH and I perused the library (I had a Kindle) and came up with a book someone had left and did not belong to the ship. He was happy that he could take his time with it and it made it all the way to Fort Lauderdale with us.
We were certainly disappointed by the lack of variety of daytime activities. For the first 7 sea days, we went to one movie, one Bingo, two lectures. The supposed CLA (Celebrity Life Activities) were laughable and did not attract many people. We went though areas where Trivia was being played but it was like a funeral. Mostly it was “activities” that involved vendors selling jewelry, perfume, liquor and “Art”. We spent more time in the casino than any other cruise. At least it was more lively in there. It helped that I was winning on Blackjack even though DH was losing on the slots.
DH was able to watch some football games so he was happy most of the day. The ship temperature was on the cool side. One item I brought that got the most wear was my long sweater. We were so cold hubby actually went “shopping” for a sweatshirt which he didn’t find. You would look stupid walking around with a coat on so we made do with what we had packed.
Adam Heppenstall, a magician, was the entertainer that night and although he started out slow, he finished well. Interestingly, we would often see the Captain at the late show and he was a good egg when the comedians made jokes at his expense. Getting to know the usual Blackjack players made for much cross-table conversation and it enhanced the experience.
The Bridge Staff had altered the route so we were actually going South to avoid the dregs of Hurricane Oscar but the ship still had mucho motion. I didn’t sleep well the first two nights because I felt like I was falling out of bed. Setting our clocks back just gave us another hour of sleep as well as gradually resetting our body clocks to Eastern Standard Time.
Monday~November 5~At Sea
Heading up to the buffet for late breakfast, DH & I were commenting how much better we enjoyed this arrangement from when breakfast shut down @ 10 AM and you were lucky to get some scrambled eggs. This way there is still everything offered and we could linger over our coffee and sweets. Everything shut down from 11:30-12:00 to prepare for lunch. More than once we were leaving when the lunch crowd was arriving.
This was the day of our Cruise Critic gathering and there was more than 100 of us there. One lady spoke as to our Bermuda tours for those who had booked with Ricky’s Island tours. She had contacted him and he was ready for us on the alternate day. I was anxious to find Jennie Ortiz, whose group we had joined. As it happened, she was talking to the first lady and we were happy to connect. She had also contacted Tony and we were confirmed for a day later with a private van for our group of 8. That took one worry off my mind.
The Customer service desk gave everyone a free phone call and I left a message for my daughter in Boston, but there was no way to find out if she received it. DH and I decided that we would have to purchase the smallest Wi-Fi package to contact our daughter and our NYC tour provider. I could not believe that people would pay up to $600 to have 2 devices online for the entire cruise. What ever happened to unplugging and enjoying the peace and quiet? One hour of continuous computer use cost me $68!
Luckily for me, our daughter was able to respond immediately to my frantic email. There was no impediment for us to arrive on Sunday instead of Saturday. I then tried to change our New York tour but was unable to do so even after several attempts. Another email to DD with all the info as well as the phone number requesting her help. With that, my hour was up and I had no way to know if everything was successful. DD and I had arranged for me to call her at 8 AM when we arrived in Boston. At least I had my flip phone. This vacation certainly had its share of anxiety producing events!
There were activities listed in the daily paper, but none that interested us. We decided to explore more of the ship and ended up in the Spa where I was able to schedule a massage for later in the day. Canyon Ranch now runs the Spa rather than Steiner. I didn’t notice any difference in the prices. The Casino was offering free well drinks to all active players but we honestly didn’t even register this until a few days later.
It was the first Smart Chic night and I broke out one of the nicer outfits I had packed. Hubby did not bring a sport coat or tie. He wore a dress shirt and nice slacks and looked good. He certainly liked this new dress code. We were starting to become familiar with our waiter and especially Dejan, the sommelier who was 6’5” tall. He recommended a wine that we enjoyed so we purchased a bottle for dinner every other day.
There was an Officers Soiree in the Centrum that evening scheduled at 7:45. Since we were at dinner, we did miss this meet and greet. At the late show, Sue Denning spoke to the schedule of shows every evening. Since the ship’s movement was still quite active, she was postponing the production shows as a safety issue for the dancers and aerialists. Elyse Branch was the vocalist and she was very good. We always enjoy the ship’s “orchestra” as one of the best at sea.
Finished up the evening at the Blackjack table where I was able to finally convince DH to give up on the slots and join me. We always previously enjoyed playing 3 card poker when on a cruise. But, the minimum bets were $10 each making for $30/game. Needless to say, that table was empty 99% of the time. How short-sighted the big-shots are! DH was happy to watch Monday Night Football on the satellite feed.
Tuesday~November 6~At Sea
At last there is sunshine and the seas are calmer. The doors are unlocked and people are walking the decks for exercise even with the very brisk wind. We decided we had to get out of the room and do something. I suggested taking our books to the Solarium and relaxing on the loungers.
There was a Captain’s Club “Celebration Party” that afternoon, but we knew it would be very crowded so we opted out. There was going to be a Select+ party later in the cruise and we would attend that. Having eaten a late breakfast, we had no need for lunch but DH fondly remembered Celebrity’s afternoon tea. Thereafter, afternoon tea became part of every day. Seeing as dinner was at 6:30, we had to pace ourselves. It became a standing joke whenever we got on the elevator with other guests. “Is it time to eat again?”
That night’s performer was Al Ducharme who was very funny. But 45 minutes is too long for a comedian. You could tell he was straining for the laughs toward the end. Sue Denning came back on to remind us that tomorrow was another sea day. We re-joined our friends in the Casino where we both made some money and finished the evening on a high note.
Wednesday~November 7~At Sea
We were invited to a Backstage tour but it was at 10:30 AM and we missed it because we were at breakfast. Maybe next time we will schedule our time better. There was a Clearance Sale for all the leftover Baltic merchandise and it was a mob scene. We attended the matinee performance of Juliet Primrose which we enjoyed immensely. She played some popular music, talked more about her career and limited her on-stage gymnastics. Bingo was on the schedule so we decided to try it once and of course did not win. It also conflicted with afternoon tea.
The sea was still bouncy and the entertainment was being rescheduled. That night was “A Taste of Broadway” featuring the production cast members. Well, the guys were quite good, especially the one from Chicago ( A little home town pride there) but the girls were all trying to out-sing each other. Those sopranos were so screechy that it was a good thing we were in the middle of the ocean and no dogs could hear them. I actually shut off my hearing aid to limit the feedback. At least the guys could harmonize with each other. Finished the evening as usual, in the Casino.
Thursday~November 8~At Sea
If this is getting repetitive, guess how we felt. We found the ping-pong table on deck 15 once and couldn’t find it again later. The highlight of the day was the movie in the theater which was “Solo”, the last Star Wars movie. We had missed this at home so really enjoyed it. Afternoon tea and a nap before dinner completed our day’s activities. Dinner was becoming the mainstay of our days. We did not have a drink package as neither of us drinks that much alcohol to make it worth our while.
At least the show that night was very good. Raegar was a boy/girl rock/country duo who put on an energetic performance and gained a standing ovation. We never saw any of the performers around the ship but what was there for them to do? Obviously they were all as trapped as we were. None of the pools were open and it was too cool to sit outside but for a few hearty souls with their cozy lap robes.
There were lots of for-fee activities as well as “seminars” for the shops. And there was always the Casino and free drinks. By now, they were no longer limiting us to the well liquor especially our Blackjack group who were regulars during the day as well as evening. I am only good for one drink and another lady and I opted for a Pina Colada. I think over the whole cruise I maybe had 5 drinks in the casino.
Friday~November 9~At Sea
We went to a presentation of Bermuda Highlights which was actually interesting even though it was a thinly veiled sales presentation for shore excursions. The number of people these “activities” drew was a real testament to the level of boredom that was present throughout. A tour of deck 4 to read the menus on the specialty restaurants ended with us making our first reservation of our dinner/lunch package at Tuscan for the next day.
Using the Internet, we had both seen the presentation of the Le Petite Chef now in the Qsine spot and were not enchanted. Tuscan lunch offered large gourmet hamburgers and Murano did not do lunch. Still too cold and windy to try The Porch or The Lawn Club Grill, we elected to postpone that meal until the end of the trip when the weather would be nicer.
The day was sunny with calmer seas and walking was more in a straight line than wall to wall. I noticed people sitting outside the buffet on the back of the ship and hustled back to find DH to inform him we could actually sit outside. We found a couple of couches against the back wall of the buffet that blocked the wind. Some cozy blankets, two cups of coffee, our books and we were in cruise heaven! I actually dozed off for an hour as it was so refreshing to be outdoors.
I did not keep track of each meal as I thought it was a bit too OCD, even for me. Suffice it to say, I only sent back two items. One was some fish and the other some pork dish. It was replaced without any problem by our waiter, Rodolpho with something else which was perfectly good. One thing we discovered was that each restaurant has it’s own galley so your food gets to you much faster and hotter. The food is definitely not as good as when we first started cruising with them 25 years ago but you can say that about the entire industry.
Sue Denning had scheduled the first production show “Cosmopolitan” for tonight. It was quite entertaining w/singers, dancers and aerialists performing. Following that show was the Liar’s Club featuring Sue, her assistant and one of the officers. It was hilarious. They really did a good job in making us laugh. I was surprised that with all these sea days that there was no passenger talent show or the Love and Marriage game.
Saturday~November 10~At Sea
Today would have been our stop in Boston on the original schedule. At least it was sunny but quite cold. We did step out onto our veranda every day for some fresh air but definitely did not linger that day. There was a Remembrance and Memorial day presentation in the Theater @ 10:45 AM. Throughout the trip, we had seen several British ladies sporting small artificial poppies in remembrance of the 100 year anniversary of the end of WW I. DH did not want to attend this. Several people told me it was done very well and was quite moving.
We had been moving our clocks back gradually over the course of the crossing and were now on Eastern Standard Time. Raegar had a matinee performance which was very well attended and well received. DH is not one for group activities so we were really hard up for something to do. We observed some of the CLA activities but he would not participate.
This was our night for our dinner at Tuscan. We each ordered a salad and DH had soup also. I was craving the filet with a small pasta side dish. To my surprise, DH only ordered pasta for his entree. He didn’t want to get too stuffed but didn’t know to order the pasta as an entree. He finished up my pasta and the rest of my steak. It was delicious and I would have eaten there again. The evening’s entertainment was Mark O’Malley who was from the UK and put on a terrific show. He received a well-earned standing ovation. We were to bed early as we wanted to be off the ship as soon as possible.
This was the only time we ordered room service breakfast and I was dressed and ready at 8 AM. Called our daughter and she confirmed that she was able to change our NYC tour without any problem. The ship was docked and we had to wait for our number-27 to be called for Customs. By the time #12 rolled around, we were shocked at how slow the process was proceeding. There was a confusing announcement about “everyone else” following a request for UK citizens. I called the front desk and was informed that all Americans should proceed to the Sky Lounge for Customs. A long line moved rapidly as the officers barely glanced at our passports and welcomed us home. We ran back to the cabin and grabbed our coats as our DD was already on her way.
Only a 10 minute wait in the terminal building for our ride to arrive on a very chilly but sunny Boston Sunday. DH was happy to watch football with our SIL while I did laundry and DD made us a lovely dinner. Having a fun day with our granddaughter was a bonus. She loved the jacket from London and couldn’t wait to wear it to school. Too soon it was time to head back to the ship with clean clothes and shirts on hangers. Skipping dinner and the show for football completed the evening for hubby. Later on, I did slip up to the buffet for a light salad supper. The entertainment that evening was a production show “Pearl” which we did not attend.
There was also a Veteran/Remembrance Day gathering in the theater @ 8 PM which was done very well with full attendance. Leaving home on 10/31, I wasn’t aware of any ceremonies at home in observance of this 100th Anniversary of the end of WW I. It was obvious in London that they were gearing up for something significant. There was nary a dry eye at the end of the ceremony.
Monday~November 12~New York City
An announcement from the Captain informed us when we would be approaching NY harbor for our best views of Lady Liberty. DH & I went up to deck 16 and we quickly took turns running back to the cabin for jackets so we wouldn’t lose our spot by the rail. As we approached the Verazzano Narrows bridge, the Captain came back on the loudspeaker to reassure us that we would clear the bottom of the bridge by several meters. Needless to say, we were all looking up as we sailed under and the ship’s horn gave a long salute while all the passengers cheered.
Several members of the crew were allowed a few moments off to come out on deck for the viewing. It was my first time to see the Statue of Liberty. DH had seen it when he arrived in the USA as an 8 year old immigrant arriving from Germany. He had to admit it was just as thrilling the second time. I was able to take several photos as we were moving slowly.
Docking at Pier 88 was another experience. Two tug boats pushed the ship center and aft, acting as a fulcrum to turn this enormous ship in a small space. By 3:30 PM, we were docked next door to an exhibit of the USS Intrepid, a retired aircraft carrier. Celebrity offered an evening tour of NYC with a visit to the top of the Empire State Building. I tried to find a private tour for this but DH was not interested but there was 4 bus loads of passengers who did and had very positive things to say about it.
The dining room was rather empty this evening but the one show @ 10:15 was well attended. Ace Guillen was a rocker who combined comedy with his music for a great show that earned him a standing ovation. We actually got to bed before midnight since we had to meet our tour guide @ 9:30 AM.
Tuesday~November 13~New York City
Having to set a wake-up call was a unique experience on this cruise! Weather was cold, rainy and very windy. Assured by ship staff that the taxi line was just across the street, we got off the ship by 8:45. There was a shelter for a taxi stand where you could wait for a yellow taxi to come by. But we were so worried about arriving on time, we opted to take a private car and paid $75 for the ride! He did inform us before we left and I wanted to jump out but DH just said to stay. We did arrive at St. Paul’s Chapel at 9:15 to be the first of the group. After a few minutes, the rest of the group started trickling in with our guide arriving a few minutes later.
With all the information available on 9/11, we were surprised by how much we learned that day. The guide spoke as to her experiences that day making it personal. I was surprised to realize that St. Paul’s was just across the street from the devastation and survived unscathed. We walked the entire site taking in the new structures and their functions. The two pools with the names of all the victims was incredibly moving. Seeing white roses by some names, we learned that one gentleman’s job was to place them on each person’s birthday. White for civilians, red for first responders and blue for servicemen. This is done every day with no day off. Our guide stated that there have been 60+ more victims identified through DNA and their names will be added soon.
We had purchased the whole package of tour, museum and Freedom Tower observation deck so after our 90 minute walking tour we entered the museum. I hate to say it, but our first stop was the snack bar for some hot chocolate to warm up. The museum is organized very well taking you through the day as it happened. There is also a short film describing how the new building went up.
A large room with photos of every person who perished that day is heartrending. The families chose the pictures they wanted displayed and some were quite surprising. Several brides and grooms are seen and one of a little girl is surprising. Obviously, this is how her family wanted her remembered.
Our tickets for the observation deck were timed, so we walked across the street to the Freedom Tower. There was no worry about crowds that day. Lucky for us, the fog and rain had cleared so we had phenomenal views all around. We could even see our ship at the dock. After several circuits, DH spotted the Captain of our ship taking in the view. By now, we were all walked out and ready to go “home”. Back on ground level we found a busy cross street and a yellow taxi which delivered us in a timely manner back to Pier 88 for the bargain price of $25.
After entering the terminal building and going through Security which involved showing our room keys, there stood uniformed waiters with trays holding glasses of hot broth. What a nice welcome back onboard. Dropping off our wet coats and umbrella in the cabin, we headed up to the buffet to find the lunch service winding down. Some hot soup and a slice of pizza sure hit the spot. Returning to our cabin for a short rest, we found that we were on the right side of the ship to watch our departure. The city looked beautiful at night as did Lady Liberty as we sailed closer this time.
We had a fine dinner and played a little Blackjack until show time. Unique3 was the entertainment that evening. Three lovely ladies with terrific voices put on a another very good show. There was a Karaoke Party in the Quasar Lounge that night. We didn’t last too long after the show after that long and busy day. Hard to believe, but we were actually looking forward to the sea day tomorrow as we headed toward Bermuda.
Wednesday~November 14~At Sea
We slept in even later barely making late breakfast before it closed at 11:30. Lingering over coffee, we watched in amazement as people were standing with their plates at the ready for the barriers to come down. I took some great photos of the food placement at some of the stations before they were ravaged by the hungry. It was Edible Art. We agreed that Celebrity’s buffet was the best we had ever seen.
The Casino was offering $5 bets and free drinks on sea days so that’s where we headed. Lots of CLA activities like: Hole in One Golf,
Xbox Sports, Soccer Shootout, Table Tennis and Adult Coloring. None of these were very well attended as we passed by the locales.
That evening was the Select and Above Senior Officers Cocktail Party and the second Smart Chic night. If I thought we were doing well to arrive right at 6:30, I was sadly mistaken. We were able to greet the Captain as we entered and thanked him for the pleasant cruise. The Sky Observation Bar was packed by the time we arrived and we were shuttled into an attached conference room. There we made the acquaintance of a lovely lady and her service dog. We had seen them with the lady’s husband every evening as they arrived in the dining room so it was nice to talk to them. Unfortunately, the captain made his welcome speech in the other room so we heard nothing. Now we know to arrive early for a better seat.
The evening’s show featured John Bressler who was a great entertainer and multi-talented guy. He was well deserving of the standing ovation that he received. There was a CLA activity in Celebrity Central @ 10:30 which was a murder mystery. By the line we saw as we exited the theater, it was very well attended. There was also Karaoke in the Quasar Lounge. I should mention that the Quasar had a robot bartender. We never thought to go in there just to see it in operation.
Thursday~November 15~King’s Wharf, Bermuda
The plan was for our tour group to meet on Deck 3 at 9:30 but we arrived @ 9:15 to find Jennie trying to contact everyone. Apparently Ricky had the bus loaded and was waiting for us to leave. The four of us walked out on the dock to find that Ricky had sent the bus off without us. While waiting for the other two couples to arrive, Jennie firmly reminded Ricky that our reservation was for a private bus just for our group.
Since he didn’t have another bus, Ricky arranged for one of his friends to take us on his bus. Unfortunately, I can’t remember his name but he did a give us a great tour for 6 hours. We did see the entire island and learned quite a bit of history as well as the architecture and politics. It was a cloudy, windy but dry day. Our guide spoke of the drought and water shortage which was causing problems for Bermuda. I expected our guide to speak with a British accent but he spoke like an American. The nearest land is North Carolina!
Back on Silhouette, we headed to afternoon tea for a snack to hold us until dinner. Originally we were supposed to be docked in Bermuda until noon the next day but now departure was scheduled for 6 AM. This was the night we ate at Murano for the second dinner in our package. The cuisine is a combo nouvelle/French. The chef’s choice for amuse boche was “seared” tuna. Not a fan of raw fish, I told the waiter I would not eat it. So he brings me asparagus with balsamic vinegar and a piece of raw duck breast. Well, the asparagus was good. I will eat rare beef but at least it’s cooked! We both chose the lobster which was delicious but very rich. Don’t remember dessert but DH says we had it.
Frankly, I still remember every course of our meal in Summit’s Normandie restaurant 25 years ago. Murano left me underwhelmed. I would never pay $65/pp to eat here. We live in the greater Chicago area and frequently dine in the city so it’s not like we have no appreciation for fine dining, but Murano was just a disappointment. Unfortunately, we both woke up in the middle of the night with a stomach ache, undoubtedly due to the rich food.
Celebrity Showtime featured Darren Dowler who is a one man variety show. A full house gave him a well-deserved standing ovation. There was a Full Moon Party poolside that night at 10 PM. Something else we didn’t attend.
Friday~November 16~Departing Bermuda, Sea Day.
Finally, some nice weather! Our balcony furniture is unfolded and placed for sitting. Honestly don’t remember much about this day besides we were out on deck and relaxing. Evening entertainment was Johnny Loquasto, a comedian. We came to the conclusion that 45 minutes is too long for a comedian. None of them has that much material to sustain a performance that long. Credit to the audience for no one walking out.
Saturday~November 17~Sea Day
The closer we got to Florida, naturally the nicer the weather. The pools were open and people were out on the deck in the sunshine. There was a bocce ball tournament up on the Lawn, passengers vs the officers.
Skipping breakfast in favor of lunch, we decided that this day would be a good one to use our last meal in our dining package at The Porch. Since both of us like seafood, we felt this would be a good ending to our trip. There was only one other couple in there and yet, our service was terrible. The waiter took our order and brought our soup. The seafood “tower” was great, but certainly not what I expected in presentation. Almost an hour later, a waitress brought our entrees. Unfortunately, no one remembered our salads. The entrees were whisked away and salads soon appeared. Fresh entrees were served later. The food was very good and this was a place we would repeat.
It was only the weather that kept us from exploring the Lawn Club Grill. We decided that next time we had a dining package that this would be our choice, rather than Murano.
The evening show was the last production show, Life which we quite enjoyed. Of course, we had to finish up at the Blackjack table and say goodbye to all the players. Cashing out our black chips, we brought home most of what we brought with us. DH thought this was the best way to end a trip.
Sunday~November 18~Fort Lauderdale
Since we had no flight, we were off the ship later, but still around 9 AM. Passing through Customs was a breeze for me as I have a Global Entry card. DH went through the line but still was only 5 minutes behind me. I was rather flabbergasted by the number of people milling around trying to get rides. We were able to get to the taxi line and there were police officers making sure everything progressed in some semblance of order.
I had the address of the car rental company which I shared with our driver but just took off for the airport. Arriving there and not seeing the company we had to backtrack to what was a rather shabby industrial park. DH was asking me, “where did you find this place?” On Priceline. Dragged our luggage into the “lobby” to the counter and presented our reservation. The rep just asked us for proof of the fight we had arrived on and the one we were leaving on. DH said no flight, we’re off a ship. Too bad, the guy said, we won’t give you a car! Fine print said no flight, no car. At least they had a shuttle back to the airport where we went to Budget and were able to rent a car.
Now armed with a sketchy map we were going to try to find the hotel. No Smart Phone, no GPS. Packing for this trip, I was planning to bring my GPS and DH was adamant that we would not need it. Found the correct road but could not find a Ramada Inn. I called and the manager told me to use my phone and hung up. DH stopped at a 7/11 for directions and we finally arrived to find a large amount of people checking out, explaining the manager’s abrupt termination of our call.
We drove around the building and it appeared to be in very poor repair. DH did not want to check in and it was too early anyway, so we took off to find a place for lunch. Calling later to see if we could cancel but it was two days too late. With much trepidation, we headed back to check it.
Actually the lobby was quite nice with free computer use and a small restaurant area which we found out the next day to offer free breakfast. The facility was part of the Wyndam group and it was apparent that the rooms were clean and refurbished. The bed was very comfortable and the bathroom with plenty of fresh towels.
We stayed overnight and spent the next day exploring Fort Lauderdale in our rented car before we dropped it off at the airport. Our flight was at 10 PM on Jet Blue which was a very nice airline. If they didn’t charge $25/per bag, we might try them again. Arriving at O’Hare at 1 AM, we contacted our prearranged taxi and were home by 2 AM.
Having finally completed our long trip, we came to the conclusion that one TA was enough, but we would definitely return to London. Read Less