We drove to Ft. Lauderdale the day before the cruise and stayed in Dania Beach at the Wyndham Garden Inn on Federal Highway ($212 per night). The hotel was very nice and was five minutes from the port. The hotel also had several good ... Read More
We drove to Ft. Lauderdale the day before the cruise and stayed in Dania Beach at the Wyndham Garden Inn on Federal Highway ($212 per night). The hotel was very nice and was five minutes from the port. The hotel also had several good restaurants within walking distance and we had a very good casual dinner at the Moonlite Dinner ( .75 miles ).
Embarkation - We drove to the port at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday morning . It took about 10 minutes to clear the port security gate because there were eight ships in port and 26,900 passengers going through embarkation. The Silhouette was docked at Pier 21, directly across from the Edge at Pier 25. Dropping the luggage was utter chaos, as traffic was very heavy on both piers and more than 500 departing people were still outside Pier 21 trying to get transportation away from the port. After considerable delay we were able to drop the luggage and parked in the adjacent midpoint garage ($15/day).
Following a short delay in security screening, we were greeted by an agent upstairs that asked a few health questions and scanned our check-in documents. They began boarding around 11:20 a.m. by cruise priority levels. Overall, the check-in process was very smooth and well organized in a terminal that was not designed for a ship this size. Upon boarding, we were instructed to go to your room to drop your carryon luggage; your sea pass card would be outside your room door - it was nice being able to access your room at the time of boarding - nice job! The ship was two hours late leaving due to the congestion and difficulty in getting the provisions loaded onto the ship.
After two great sea days, this cruise visited the following islands: St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands; Antigua, St. Johns; Castries, St. Lucia; St. George, Grenada; Bridgetown, Barbados; Kingston, St. Vincent; and, Basseterre, St. Kitts. On this cruise a large number of the passengers were from Canada or the northern U.S. (escaping the cold), including two unique groups of about 40 motorcycles riders with their bikes and a group of roughly 80 crocheters from around the world. The bikers told us they rode on five of the islands we visited.
Silhouette Dry Dock - This was the second sailing for the Silhouette after a lengthy dry dock in Spain. The ship looked like new as all of the carpets, bedding, and fabrics had been replaced. We noticed the following changes: addition of a cool sports bar on deck 4 called the Craft Social; removed some of the grass on deck 14 aft and created additional outdoor seating; added a big screen on the lawn area; relocated the I Lounge to deck 5; removed the game room on deck; replaced the locks on all passenger cabins with touch locks; and, created a new Retreat sun area on deck 15 and a Retreat Lounge on deck 5 for Suite guests. We were also told that all the electronics and software on the Bridge were replaced ($27 million), as well as heavy maintenance done to all mechanical and propulsion systems. Overall, the refurbishment gave the Silhouette a much needed facelift, addressed needed maintenance and upgrades, and gave her a new dark blue paint job - Great Job!
Issues and Comments - Overall, we enjoyed the cruise, but we did have two issues that added to the aggravation and stress level during the cruise. The first was in the Main Dinning room as we had requested and were assigned a table for two in the early dinning (6:00 p.m.) in the Deck 3 dinning room. After doing speciality dinning on the third night of the cruise, we returned to the main dinning room on the fourth night to find someone else seated at our assigned table. We did not say anything and went to the buffet. On night five, we arrived at our table and found the table had been set up for someone else with their drinks on the table. On night six they were again at our assigned table at 6:05 pm. We complained and after numerous calls and visits by various managers, the people were finally moved to another table. After talking to other guests, it appears that the “Select Dinning Coordinator” on Deck 4 was reassigning tables in the fixed time dinning room that the waiters thought were vacant. We observed this happing at a number of tables around us every night of the cruise. Bottom line, many guests were very unhappy with their experience in the Main Dinning Room.
Our second issue involved the version of Diet Coke that was being served. Apparently, the ship had stocked the European version of Diet Coke (Savor Lite) while in dry dock and they were trying to use up their inventory. While this is not a big issue for most people, for a non coffee drinker, this is a big issue as the European version uses different sweeteners, and in my opinion, does not taste as good as the American version. It was just aggravating that you always had to refuse the European version and have a discussion with the bar staff to get a regular Diet Coke as part of our beverage package. After reporting this to Guest Services, we were eventually notified both versions would be available at the bars and cafes, so we thought the issue had been resolved. If fact, they brought us several cans to our room. Unfortunately, this issue was repeated on a few more days and we reported it again. Finally, near the end of the cruise, you could get a regular Diet Coke at any bar.
Officer Visibility - We noticed that the Senior Officers were very visible and available in the public areas on decks 4 and 5 between the dinner hours. We enjoyed talking to a number of the officers.
Speciality Dinning - Once again on this cruise we elected to purchase the 4-night speciality dinning package. We ate once at the Tuscan Grill, once at Murano, and twice at the Lawn Club Grill. All were amazing with excellent service.
All Access Ship Tour - During the next-to-last sea day, we chose to purchase and participate in the Behind the Scenes ship tour. The tour was excellent. After clearing security, the tour began on the Ship’s Bridge where an officer explained the operations and navigation responsibilities of the bridge. We were fortunate that Captain Peppas was on the Bridge during our tour as he talked to the group and provided a photo opportunity.
Our next stop on the tour was the Main Dinning Room where an Asst. Maitre d provided an overview of the operation of the dinning room and shared that the design theme for the dinning room was a champaign bottle, pointing out the bubbles in the lights and the stairwell design. As we moved to the kitchen, an Asst. Chef explained to the group the kitchen operations and food prep from ordering to serving, including the required traffic flow where the waiters enter the door on the right and exit the door on the left when bringing out food. We also visited the store rooms and freezers where all the food provisions are stored. We were told that all of the ice cream, sherbet, and gelato are prepared on board, whereas the sugar-free ice cream is prepackaged. The kitchen was very busy preparing tor the day’s lunch - Wow!
Our next stop was in the ship’s laundry where a manager explained the operations and challenges of doing laundry for such a large ship. It was amazing how many items are washed, dried and folded each day - on a sea day, 1,000 towels per hour can be laundered. The washers, dryers and pressers were definitely heavy duty commercial versions.
Our last stop was the Engine Control Room. Once again, we had to go through security screening before entering the room. One of the ships engineers explained the operations and staffing of the Engine Room. The Engine Room was very impressive as it contained many monitoring systems, controls, and video surveillance of all the system operations on board, including the engines, generators, azipods, water production system, and sewage system, just to name a few.
Overall, we were impressed with the cleanliness and organization of the ship’s working areas, the strong focus on safety in these areas, and the impressive amount of work is required to run the ship and provide an enjoyable cruising experience.
Debarkation - We elected to do Express Departure (carry your own luggage) and had a quick breakfast in the Oceanview Cafe prior to lining up on Deck 5. It was estimated that we would begin the debarkation process around 7:30 a.m. The Officer responsible for Guest Services did a great job explaining to and keeping us updated on how the process was advancing. We left the ship around 7:35 a.m. and were leaving the port by 8:00 a.m. The process to clear customs and immigration was the best we have ever experienced in that if you had nothing to declare, it was done through facial recognition; if the system recognized your picture, you were out the door with no further documentation or inspection needed. Read Less