For my wife and I, this was our fourth cruise with Celebrity. The last time was in February 2018 on the Solstice, in Australia/New Zealand. We have also been on the Solstice before and also the Eclipse, so being on the Silhouette, a sister ship, the layout was very familiar. However there are a few quirks with this ship in comparison to the others and this time a few niggles which we hope Celebrity take on board from all the feedback they receive!
The main highlight of this Baltic cruise was meant to be the visit to St Petersburg, but mother nature intervened and due to high winds for 2 days we were unable to dock in the port. The Master, Captain Peppas explained at 6.30am (ship due to dock at 7am on Sunday 1 July) over the ship’s PA system that because winds were gusting up to 53 knots (60 mph) the St Petersburg port authorities had refused a ship of our size to be allowed into port.
He explained at a later Q&A session that because there was a channel only 140 metres wide before the port and our ship was 319 metres in length with a beam of nearly 37 metres, we could have been caught by the gusting winds and slewed out of the narrow channel and run aground. There had recently been a “near miss” with another ship and he had also been unable to dock at St Petersburg 2 years ago because of high winds. He admitted that smaller ships were being allowed in. He did make two attempts to enter the port (the first time on the Sunday afternoon) and then again in in the early hours on the Monday but these were unsuccessful. We were at anchor about 3 hours journey time outside of St Petersburg. Whilst we must respect the Captain’s and port authorities decision not to enter port, Celebrity really ought to make it clear when they sell this particular cruise, that there is a risk of not being able to enter the port in the size of ship, that the Silhouette is. Celebrity have offered no compensation to any passengers for this missed port, although they did reimburse the port fees per person. Whilst Celebrity can’t be held responsible for the weather, there didn’t seem to be any Plan B and things were rushed together for daily activities on the Sunday and Monday. The Captain mentioned that Helsinki had been considered as an option but they had decided against this (there must have therefore been space available for us in the port) but we would wait at anchor and see if the winds dropped. They didn’t and we were anchored for about 30 hours in the end, under cloudy skies and with cold winds! We were therefore at sea much longer than expected.
What did cause some confusion and rumour, was that on the second evening at 9pm, P&O’s Britannia (a larger ship) came out of St Petersburg and passed us whilst we were still at anchor. It was rumoured that they had also gone into port and past us on the first day whilst we were at anchor, but reading a subsequent post on these forums, it has now been established that this ship went in the day before us and their captain had told their passengers that they ‘only got in by the skin of their teeth’! Apparently it is also easier to leave port in high winds, rather than enter it!
Because we booked the excursions for St Petersburg direct with Celebrity we have had those refunded. Fortunately we also had cruise cover on out travel insurance so we have managed to claim back 150 GBP, per person, for a “cancelled port.” However, all in all, it was a big disappointed for many to miss this particular port. Many felt that Celebrity could have made some ex-gratia gesture like a $100 pp. on board spend for any future cruise without a time limit. But they didn’t!
Now back to the start of the cruise. We left our home the day before (Friday) and stayed at the Holiday Inn at Fareham, that night. We arrived in Southampton (City Terminal) at about 10.30am on the Saturday, and parked up in AB Parking carpark, which was about 300 metres from the terminal building. Plenty of staff on hand to direct us to a parking bay and our luggage was then collected and put into vans which were moving along behind all the cars. We didn’t see our luggage again until we were in our stateroom. Because we were Concierge class, we were directed to the Priority Check in desk and then straight onto the ship and complimentary glass of champagne in hand, all within 25 minutes from parking!
We were told there was a complimentary lunch for Concierge class in the main dining room. The ship’s passengers for this cruise were predominantly Brits, Americans and Canadians. We were told on the public address that the staterooms opened at 1.15pm, so after lunch we went to our room. Our stateroom was 9370, Deck 9, Starboard, Aft (C3).
Because we had signed up for the Cruise critics meet and greet party, this was on the first full sea day in the Cellar Masters bar (3rd day). The captain, Cruise Director Sue Denning, along with other senior staff attended briefly. It was nice to put faces to other guests who were only known by “user names” on the forum. We had met Sue Denning before, as she was CD on our cruise on the Eclipse in September 2016.
Compared to our trip on the Solstice last year (and other Celebrity cruises), we found the evening entertainment and day time activities to be rather mediocre this time. Sue Denning was excellent, but we found the daily activities to be very a bit repetitive and not particularly enthralling. Celebrity need to think up some new activities. Kate, the Activity manager didn’t seem to be as professional as Sue and she seemed to fumble her way through the CD’s daily tv channel show and regularly said “tomorrow” rather than “today”, to be constantly corrected by Sue (it is recorded the night before).
Musical entertainment was usually taking place at various locations all over the ship and in the late evenings, we usually ended in the Sky Lounge. We thought the house band Accents, were not as good as others we have seen and the lead singer had a weak singing voice. The Abba evening in the Sky lounge was very enjoyable. Ray Brown jnr and band, (jazz singer) was very entertaining and he is someone we saw earlier in the year on the Solstice. Because it was the World Cup, the atmosphere in the main theatre for the England games was great (especially as England were generally winning games at the group stages and quarter final). It was well led by Sue, encouraging us to sing the national anthem. A good food spread was laid on in the theatre for each game.
We ate in the main Grand Cuvee restaurant, at the early 6pm sitting. We found all the food to be, good to excellent quality. The portions in the Main restaurant for evening meal are not large but they are adequate.
We found ALL the staff to be very friendly and hard working. Our Room Steward “Buzz” Aldrin, was excellent, as were our main restaurant waiters; Alvin and Krupesh. We also found our Sommelier, Rosa very attentive. She always remembered what wines we were drinking. The Sky lounge bar staff were great, led by Victoria, and as were Benji, Filip and Lito.
We usually had breakfast in the main restaurant rather than going up to the Oceanview Cafe. We found the quality of food was better there, and it was nice to be served. The Oceanview Café at lunchtime was very busy and usually there were few tables available inside. Because the weather was not good at times, the staff did bring some of the outside deck tables and chairs into the main area which made it a bit easier but it was still crowded.
We booked all our shore excursions via Celebrity and the trips were well organised. We usually had to meet in the theatre for priority disembarkation.
The ship is generally well maintained (a few peeling paint patches in awkward places) and constant maintenance is being undertaken but the door and frame on our bathroom door was showing signs of wear and tear and ground it, dirty marks. The ship is constantly being cleaned, along with all the rest rooms and toilets. We never found any dirt. A credit to all the hard working housekeeping staff.
Apart from the cancelled port, and the few another slight niggles (it is for this reason that I have only marked for 4 stars); overall this cruise in the end was very good and we saw lots of new Baltic ports we have never been to before. A lovely ship, very friendly staff, fairly good night time entertainment and very good excursions. We took advantage of all the on board offers and have booked on the Silhouette again in 2019, going to the Norwegian fjords!
Now for the slight niggles;
On checking in at Southampton we were given our sea pass cards and immediately noticed the Premium drinks package (PALL) wording was very feint on both of our cards. When we pointed this out to the check in lady, we were told, don’t worry they can see the drinks package when they swipe the card. Wrong! When we asked the bar staff on board they said they have to look at the card wording because they have no idea what drinks package passengers are on when it is swiped on the terminal. Within a few days Victoria in the Sky lounge bar put a paper sticker on our cards as she couldn’t read it. We noticed a number of other passengers had to have this as well. Also our passenger number on the sea pass wore out quickly and made it difficult to read. This is needed by the bar staff who have no terminals nearby and need to write down the card number. Celebrity, please improve the print quality!
Flannels and small towels – we found most of the flannels and small towels to be extremely thin and needed replacing.
Sky lounge entertainment – after four evenings we asked Senior Bar Attendant Victoria why there was very little entertainment in the Sky lounge at 10pm, only piped music. On previous cruises we have been on there always has been entertainment after 10 pm in the Sky lounge. She made a note of the feedback and things did get better by the Thursday evening until the end of the cruise. The Abba night and “The Voice” competition were good fun.
Lawn Deck – Celebrity for some reason have now put eight wooden alcoves for hire on the lawn deck 15. They have also done his on the Solstice. Out of the 28 days we have recently been on board both ships, we have only noticed the alcoves being used by one group. We understand they cost in the region of 249 USD to rent for sea days, and 99 USD for port days. In our view this a complete and utter waste of money and space. It would be interesting to know if they are making Celebrity any money! It has to be assumed that because of these alcoves on the lawn deck, there is no longer a cheese and wine and band event on Deck 15 when leaving any port (or at any other time). We have usually found these events on other ships to be very enjoyable.
Glass Blowing show – unlike the Eclipse and Solstice there is no glass blowing show area on Deck 15. It is now taken up by a fee entry restaurant!
Food portions – whilst the portions are not overly large in the main restaurant, they are sufficient. However some of the portions of baked beans for breakfast in the small dishes were ridiculously small with in many instances only half full. My wife had to ask for more on a number of occasions especially, as she doesn’t eat eggs!
Sun loungers - We often found it difficult to find a sun longer near the outside and the inside pools on Deck 12. Although it was a bit easier mid-afternoon. A lot of the loungers seemed to be reserved but no one sitting in them for hours! About 2 days before the cruise ended, a note appeared in the daily newsletter saying that loungers not occupied for 30 minutes would have all goods removed off them by pool staff. Why was this left until the last but one day? It should be standard policy that any articles left for 30 minutes will be removed as was the case on the Solstice in February. There are notes in the indoor pool area saying this on the Solstice. This should be standard policy with Celebrity and not left to each ship’s discretion.
Breakfast in the main restaurant – on other Celebrity ships the breakfast hours have generally been from 8am to 9.30am. On this ship they were 7.30am to 9pm. This meant a rush to get down to deck 3 before they closed at 9pm. No chance of a lie in!
Excursions (all booked via Celebrity)
Bruges Sightseeing – Coach journey from Zeebrugge to Bruges, then a walking tour of the town with guide who used microphone and we had ear pieces and then a canal trip. Some loss of sound from the guide on the walking tour due to the narrow lanes in Bruges, but generally interesting.
Copenhagen by land and sea – Coach tour of the city but delayed by about 30 minutes because the Police and city officials decided to pull over all coaches for routine checks of coaches and drivers! Visits to the little mermaid, the Royal residence and then a river cruise back to the ship.
Stockholm day 1 – Abba museum and city drive – coach trip to visit to Abba museum which was a bit chaotically set out and visit maybe too short time wise. City tour was fairly interesting.
Stockholm day 2 – Stockholm on land and water – another coach tour of the city but generally didn’t cover parts done on previous day. Interesting boat tour around the city waters.
Tallinn – Town and Country life – a really interesting tour which after driving through the city, then stopped at a town dweller’s home who showed us his house on the outskirts of the city. We then went out into the country to see a dairy farm producing yoghurt, cheese and other dairy products. Then returned to the old city and a walking tour.
Warnemunde – Molli Steam train and historic Mecklenburg tour – coach trip to an interesting church/monastery, then 45 minute ride of narrow gauge steam train and then pick up the coach again with trip to trip seaside resort of Kuhlungsborn.
We were on Deck 9, and the last but one stateroom from the starboard side at the stern. There was some noise from the balcony decks above especially during the night but generally the stateroom location was good.
There was a bottle of “Champagne”, some fresh fruit and a tray of canapés to greet us as we arrived into our stateroom which was a C3 Concierge Class. The room was a good size with plenty of storage space above the bed, under the bed, drawers and a large size wardrobe. The bathroom and shower were a good size. There was a wall mounted tv, and mini bar. However any drink taken from this bar (including water) will be charged to your account, even if you have the Classic or Premium drinks package!