We are experienced cruisers, with Elite status at Celebrity. This time we were on Scandinavian and Russian capitals cruise on Celebrity Silhouette, sailing roundtrip from Southampton. The weather was, beyond expectations, sunny and in most ... Read More
We are experienced cruisers, with Elite status at Celebrity. This time we were on Scandinavian and Russian capitals cruise on Celebrity Silhouette, sailing roundtrip from Southampton. The weather was, beyond expectations, sunny and in most places warm enough to enjoy outdoors.
We stopped at Copenhagen (overnight), Tallinn, St Petersburg (overnight), Helsinki, Stockholm, and Warnemunde with five sea days. In all ports we were on our own. In Russia we hired a private guide for the two of us and did not regret it at all.
The insanity with ship excursion prices continues, and we just ignored the ship’s tours, including “attractive” offers from the excursion desk during the cruise. Europe, for one, is quite organized to travel on your own, which we did, and thus saved a ton, comparing to similar tours from Celebrity.
Five sea days were good to have, especially two back-to-back before disembarkation, which gave ample time to relax after impression-packed five day stretch of ports. I wish that St Pete would have been the last, because it was just unfair for Helsinki to be the next after St Pete to visit. Only Stockholm perhaps was able to compete with grandeur and glory of the former Russian capital. The passage to Stockholm, maneuvering through the narrow channels between islands, small and large, was an unexpected treat both early morning and late evening. The closer to the North, the shorter was the night, and this was also a fun part of the trip.
Copenhagen and Stockholm were au par, as were Tallinn and Rostock/Warnemunde; first pair reflecting splendor of old capitals, and the latter – rich history of medieval cities. I felt odd in Helsinki, to be honest. It did not impress me at all, and placing it after St Petersburg doomed our hopes to see a capital of Finland.
This is where I personally feel that things could have been far better. I love S-class ships, we sailed on all of them except Reflection, and multiple times. Second time on Silhouette wasn’t that good at all.
The ship is really in the need of refurbishing, and a serious one.
While public areas were updated for sure, the staterooms – based on the one we were staying at – definitely have to be fixed. “Soft” spot of all S-class ships is the wardrobe doors, which were misaligned from day one (they were fixed on our request in the next day after embarkation, but it required the balanced and gentle handling to keep them on the rails). I will attach a few photos of the stateroom bad appearance, and just do not take me wrong: these are not some single stateroom deficiencies, these are signs of tired and heavily exploited ship; we cruised well enough to differentiate a single accidental spill on the sofa cushion from soiled and stained fabric, which color is hard to recognize after so many fluid spots… We ended up covering the sofa with grey pool towels. The separating glass panel on the balcony got loose at one or two bolts, and its rattling sound at heavy winds overnight eventually become my lullaby. The list can be expanded, but I don’t want to create an impression of nitpicking, I have seen in my life hotel rooms of far worse conditions for higher pricing. I am just saying that there is a weird contrast between (either still good or redone) interior of public rooms and heavy wear and tear of private cabins. I may assume that the upper deck folks have their rooms already fixed, but in the case of our B2 balcony stateroom it was disappointing to see these signs.
One of the bright spots (with painful blemish, I will return to this later) of this cruise was a consistent and professional service on all levels, from the master of the ship to the last person we saw when leaving – the security officer at the checkpoint. One of the reasons why we continue returning to Celebrity ships is their people. I purposefully do not want to mention names, because we see these names a lot in our reviews (waiters, attendants, bartenders, chefs etc etc) and each and everyone of them deserves only heartfelt words of gratitude for their service.
Bad thing – which actually happened to me the second time on Celebrity ship – is related to the quality of drinks in the bars. We are holding Elite status, with one of the perks being free happy hour drinks from 5 to 7 pm at the Sky Lounge – a nice feature until this last cruise, where instead of having unlimited number of pours (although in the limited assortment of cocktails, wine and liquors) at one place, the Sky Lounge, Celebrity had decided to limit the number of drinks for Elite level folks to three only. You can enjoy them in any bar on the ship, but from 5 to 7 pm. I am unhappy with this cut, I am not binge-drinking during this happy hour, but every now and then I can have more than three, and of different variety. However, with my wife sipping only one drink before dinner, I can enjoy hers as well, so it is not a big of a deal. What was really frustrating is that I found the quality of drinks being bad, specifically, Courvoisier cognac. I drink almost exclusively cognac and have developed – being a chemist of over 40 years of professional experience – a precise and accurate sense of odor and taste of this type of liquors. One of the nights I was served a shot of cognac that reeked cheap brandy smell, as if the cognac was diluted on purpose with cheaper stuff. I went with the glass to the talk to the customer relations, and they sent to me an Assistant Chief Sommelier (or something of that level, can’t remember his badge). He was initially defensive and firm, but once I offered to perform the test – he brings a brand-new bottle of Courvoisier, and we compare the quality of the drink in my hand and the one from freshly opened bottle; if there is no difference in his opinion, I pay for the whole new bottle! – he agreed to do that. Naturally (I had no doubt), the drinks were different and not in the favor of the one I questioned. He promised to investigate this incident. His main theory at the time was that the person tending to me mixed up the bottles – but I told him that there is no other flavored liquor in the limited menu for happy hour, except Courvoisier…
In a couple of days, I had another shot of cognac, now at a different bar, at Sky Lounge, and the bartender poured it in front of me, from the right bottle. I sniffed it and instantly felt the same foul cheap booze odor. I was very upset. Luckily, the very same officer came to me when I was about to go again to the customer service! I gave him the glass to identify the drink; it took him almost 45 minutes and three different (!) bottles of cognac being brought from different bars to admit that indeed they are different – the one that I was served that evening at Sky Lounge was again a mix with something of lower end brandy or whiskey, and only a brand-new bottle, that he opened, was of good quality…
Look, I know that things like that happen often at the bars where the staff are taking advantage of the drank patrons, but this is a cruise ship, and the one that claims to be of higher end at the seas. Anyway, the officer had offered me a full new bottle of cognac for inconveniences, but I said that this is not a personal matter of me being fooled – if Celebrity strives to keep up to its reputation, this case has to be investigated thoroughly.
It was the day before last of the cruise, and I haven’t heard from that gentleman anymore. I feel bad that things like that happen onboard of the Celebrity ship, we have been loyal to the company for many years, ad spent quite a bit of money buying these cruises from Celebrity, so one has the right to expect an adequate quality of not only of service (which we had t this cruise on high level), but also with the rest – the food, the drinks, the entertainment, the excursions etc.
Silhouette 2018 - shadow of Celebrity's past glory (part 2)
Here again, the quality of the food onboard Silhouette was worse than in the past, and worse than on Millie where we sailed with her a year back. We used main dining room, and the quality of the food there was sub-par to say the least. We usually take one meat-based and one fish-based entrée and share it. During this cruise, only one night out of 14 (!) the fish entrée was good. Meat entrees were better, but again, very inconsistent. Desserts were mostly good.
After one disappointing dinner we went up to deck 14 and checked the evening menu at buffet. It was actually not bad, if not better than in the main dining room…
What was quite nice – lunch buffets, especially when they served European-themed cuisine. We had a lot of Brits on this cruise, which is expected as the sailing was a roundtrip from So’ton, and breakfasts and lunches were clearly catering to their tastes (we even had an electric tea kettle in the stateroom this cruise; not sure if this was a gesture to please tea-drinking folks or would it be now in Celebrity ship staterooms all the time). A bit of a strange and unexpected feature, associated with the prevalence of Brits, was their tendency to stay after the breakfast quite longer (drinking tea, socializing, reading…) – it was hard to find a spot for eating breakfast, which normally is not an issue at S-class ships eateries.
Surcharge for the specialty restaurants has already gone to 50 USD pp, which I personally feel an outrage considering that the entrée quality there was definitely not worth 100 EXTRA dollars for two. I cannot understand how this continuous increase of specialty restaurants surcharge is rationalized by Celebrity. It escapes my mind.
This cruise, a new high-speed internet was offered by the ship, and I have seen people purchasing it. I can’t understand why the cruise companies continue ripping off the passengers when there, outside their ships, there is the XXI century in its prime and everywhere on the Earth the cost of communications goes down, while quality and speed do increase. It is almost as if they have a secret society, where no one is allowed to be modern, or has to pay a hefty price to be modern (with this new high-speed feature that again costs an arm and a leg and even a belly…). Yes, I may rationalize that when the ship is at sea, the satellite communication may go slow and may cost more, but when docked in ports, why on Earth would they not offer a locally driven service?? All it takes is a few steps off the ship, and you see their own crew members tucked in every corner of the terminal, using local FREE Internet, but not on the ship itself. This is plainly outrageous – particularly in Europe, where free wi-fi is literally everywhere.
I understand that there are very few positives reflected in this review. It is not because I was bamboozled with the (still) lack of reliable and cheap Internet, or upset with cheating on drinks, or disgusted seeing “bodily fluid” traces on the sofa or even on the curtain (! – check the photo!). I love Celebrity cruises. I am loyal to their high level of service, to their crew members, to their officers, who do their job at the best level. But it is time perhaps to take a look around. Other lines are catching up. With millennials not willing to travel much and far, what would be left for ever-increasing competition at the seas? Think…
Would we travel again with Celebrity? Probably. There still some perks left for the Elite level (we love breakfasts in the Tuscan Grille, for one). We would be curious to check the Edge, see if it lives to the hype around it. I personally not a bitter and grudgy dude, and I rarely write reviews or comments of negative type, but this time it all accumulated, and even if I sound that way, it’s because the total impression balance for this trip wasn’t sitting well with us. Read Less