What a pleasure to be on the brand new Celebrity Silhouette. The ship was beautiful and everything as befitting a new ship was in pristine condition. Celebrity did a wonderful job of designing the public spaces on the ship. Despite its size the ship never felt crowded unless you were at the pool. We booked the Holyland cruise as we really liked the fact that the itinerary gave us 4 days in Israel and an opportunity to see a number of important sites. Although we didn't get to see as much as we hoped as due to security concerns, the ship did not move from Haifa to Ashdod as originally planned. We never really knew why the decision was made as a Royal Caribbean and Princess ship did move to Ashdod at the same time. Maybe because the Silhouette was a brand new ship, Celebrity was reluctant to take any chances. I have to respect their judgment, but it did mean that we could not get to Masada and the Dead Sea. While our private tour company would have been willing to take us, our group decided that 3+ hours in a bus each way was not how we wanted to spend our time. Plus it would have meant we would have arrived in Masada when the lines for the cable car were the longest. We decided rather than be disappointed, we would use it as a reason to visit again. In the category of disappointment, it appears that Celebrity sold a large number of cabins to another cruise line. What that meant for us was that we had a large number of first time cruisers who had no idea as to proper behavior on board a ship. It got to the point where we avoided the buffet at peak hours as you would have thought these people were worried that Celebrity would run out of food. The whole ambiance of the ship was changed and I felt like I was on a Carnival cruise. I understand that there were also something like 300 children on board. While I endorse broadening a child's horizon with travel, clearly a large number of parents felt that they could abdicate any responsibility for their children. There were children who had nothing better to do than push every button in an elevator or run up and down the halls at all hours of the day. There were so many complaints about misbehaving children that Celebrity made sure that there was security in the Solarium because children were running all over that area and using the adults only facilities. On my comment card, I said that if I had not cruised with Celebrity before and had to judge them based on the current cruise, chances are I wouldn't be back. So what I have learned is never again cruise in the summer. I will be back on the Silhouette in April and am hopeful that the experience will be much more like the usual Celebrity experience. There were definitely some high points on the cruise and I will talk more about them in the port section of the review. We were very pleased with the meals in the main dining room - Grand Cru. The food overall was top notch and the noise level in the restaurant seemed better than on other Celebrity ships. The buffet was well designed and provided an ample choice for breakfast. lunch and dinner. The only specialty restaurant we used on this trip was The Tuscan Grille and the meal was exceptional. I like the location of the restaurant and the menu was great. We did have lunch at The Porch which for $5 provided a quiet area with a menu that focused on paninis and salads. We tried to dine at Bistro on Five, but ended up with a less than satisfactory experience. As we dined in the Bistro on other ships and enjoyed the experience, I will chalk this up to still working out the kinks. When we went to the Bistro, only 3 tables were filled. After ordering and waiting 35 minutes with no food we decided to leave. Other tables around us were receiving their orders, but we were ignored. We definitely didn't order anything special, just regular items from the menu. We'll give it another try in April with hopefully better results.
As Santorini is a tendered port, we were glad for our Elite Status in terms of priority disembarkation. We were able to get to the line for the tram early on so we didn't have a long wait. Santorini is very warm in August so we walked around for a bit, took pictures and then headed back to the ship. It is a pretty port, but with at least 3 others cruise ships there at the same, it did feel very crowded.
We walked from the ship to the train station and hoped on the metro for a trip into the city. We visited the Acropolis and did some sightseeing in the city. The 1.30 Euro charge for the metro each way was far better than anything being offered by the cruiseline. The metro system is easy to use and despite about a 30 minute walk from the cruiseport, it was a great way to maximize our time in Athens and see those things that were of interest to us.
We were able to put together a small Cruise Critic tour group for our 4 days in Israel. We used Guided Tours Israel and our guide, Mickey, was exceptional. We did the Jewish themed tour and spent 4 pretty intensive days touring Israel. Being in a small mini-bus proved to be the right decision as we could get into places the big tour buses could not. While we were not able to get to Masada or the Dead Sea because of the decision to keep the ship in Haifa, the other sites were memorable. We visited Tel Aviv, Sefad, Jerusalem, Galilee, the Western Wall, the Mount of Olives, Caesaria and the Golan Heights. We stood at a point where we could easily see the border crossing with Jordan and Syria.
Yes, Naples is dirty, crowded and the drivers are crazy, but what an interesting place to visit. There is a vibrancy to the city that is amazing. We left the ship and walked around the city for about 4 hours just taking in the interesting sites along the way. I think Naples may have more churches per square mile than anywhere I've ever been and we enjoyed stopping in a few to look at the very beautiful interiors. Even growing up in NY, I had no idea that pizza in Naples could be a revelation. I would go back again just for the pizza. Friends said we needed to try the pizza fritto and although a bit sceptical, we decided to give it a go. What an amazing meal. If you go, we would highly recommend Di Matteo Via dei Tribunali, 94