A Memorable Holy Land Cruise: Celebrity Silhouette Cruise Review by dgraham

Celebrity Silhouette 5
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A Memorable Holy Land Cruise

Sail Date: September 2011
Destination: Europe - Eastern Mediterranean
Embarkation: Rome (Civitavecchia)
This is a review of our recent September 3 cruise on the Silhouette, which was very enjoyable and with a fine group of fellow passengers.

Couldn't have been smoother, we were on in just a few minutes and went immediately to Bistro on Five to enjoy their excellent crepes and the lovely quiet atmosphere.

We had a Concierge level accessible cabin which had excellent space for my wheelchair. The bed was a bit high for easy transfer, so we asked the steward to take off the pillow top. However this did make the bed very, very hard, so there was a tradeoff. We also enjoyed trying the complete pillow menu that comes with concierge cabins, including the body pillow. We had been planning to purchase new pillows when we returned home, so this was an excellent way to try some options.

The public rooms/areas were outstanding, as they are on all Celebrity S class ships, but we were disappointed by the dark forest painting on the More walls of the alcove leading to the specialty restaurant area, we felt the Equinox alcove with its bright metal and lights was much more dramatic. And we never heard the ambient sounds that were supposed to be a part of the Silhouette's alcove.

We enjoyed the Main Dining Room. In fact I would say the food, which has always been excellent, has actually improved since our first cruise with Celebrity on the Zenith in 1999. The sauces for example are less heavy and more nuanced, and the desserts, which I feel have never been Celebrity's strong point have improved greatly. For example, I especially enjoyed the Sacher Torte, even better than the one we had a few days earlier at the Hotel Sacher in Vienna, although it too was very fine. However I do miss the lobster tails and some of the other more expensive (to Celebrity) items they have deleted, and the lobster half tail in the substitute Lobster Melange was tasteless, which is hard to do with lobster, not sweet, not juicy, just no taste. But I must also admit it did taste good with the sauce which accompanied it.

We tried all the specialty restaurants and enjoyed them all. We visit Murano (or its equivalent) on each cruise we take, and found most of the offerings as good as ever, but I think our old Michel Roux favorites, the warm goat cheese souffle and the lobster bisque are no longer the same quality, in fact we sent them back. The lobster bisque did not contain the lobster chunks we used to enjoy, just thin tasteless slivers and the taste of the bisque itself was not what we fondly remembered. The goat cheese souffle which had already declined in taste on the departure of Michel Roux, was now even much drier and we missed the tomato coulis that used to enhance the dish. But the Maitre D graciously took them back and suggested a shellfish risotto, which was excellent.

We had fun at Qsine and also at the new Lawn Club Grill. At the Lawn Club Grill we especially enjoyed watching 3 young boys molding and twirling their flatbreads (under the helpful eye of one of the staff) along with their parents. I ordered a rib eye, which I had never sampled before, but was disappointed (perhaps rib eyes are just not for me), so the chef gave me two magnificent shish kabobs with huge squares of prime tenderloin, although even these were somewhat unevenly cooked, with some parts much rawer than medium rare. But the portions were so large I couldn't even finish the second skewer. I also had a shrimp kabob which was the best I have ever tasted. As far as I know, you can order as much as you wish and three of the cuts of beef are New York Strip, Filet Mignon and Rib Eye. We realized afterward that we could have chosen our steaks, etc. from the tray holding the meats in the cooler. And don't miss the warm chocolate chip cookie with ice cream! And I suggest the Mykonos day as an excellent day to book, as you can watch the neighboring islands go by as you enjoy your open air meal, with its marvelous view.

But the real surprise for us was the Tuscan Grill, which we had not tried previous to this cruise. It had the best (and largest) Filet Mignon we have ever had, and the Tuscan Onion Soup is a fascinating taste delight (different from the Onion Soup in the MDR, which is also a favorite of ours). The lump crab cake was a large portion and very flavourful. And of course there was the rich dark (Belgium) chocolate fondue. This is not to mention the excellent view of Naples receding into the night as seen from the floor to ceiling and wall to wall windows.

One aspect of the entertainment that I really enjoyed on our Sep 3 sailing of the Silhouette was the singers and the show band. The dancers and acrobatics were excellent but the show band was the best I have ever heard at sea and the equal of any of its size I have heard on land. The band was what we in jazz parlance call "tight," very together, and there was not a weak link in the group. In fact I was surprised by the power and drive they brought not only to the stage, but to their appearances in the ship's deck 3 atrium.

And just as the band was exceptional, so were the singers. They all had good voices and each brought their individual characteristics to the music they sang.

And this was largely because they were allowed to sing. What I mean here is that there is a lot of prerecording in music revue productions, especially on ships lately. What we are hearing from the soloists may have been recorded many months ago, with the singers singing along with it. And when this is done one doesn't have the immediacy of a "live" performance, which can make a huge difference. And when the vocal solo tracks are prerecorded they are often homogenized, so that the individual characteristics that each singer brings to a performance are equalized out.

I was told by those directly involved in the productions, that the company which produced the productions felt strongly about this, for which I was very grateful. They didn't even utilize prerecorded tracks for when the singers might be sick, but had the singers learn to cover the other's parts if such a situation rose.

So it was nice to hear a show that was actually happening (albeit with a few additional prerecorded instruments added, and thankfully for the most part these instruments were not just synthesized).

So kudos to the production company and to the fine performers that entertained us so well!!

As I found in our previous Equinox cruise, Celebrity's S class ships show a great, sensitive understanding of wheelchair users needs. One improvement we noted was that wheelchair signs were placed on the removable chairs at the backs of the two auditorium levels (and were understandably removed once the performance had started, so latecomers had more seats available to them). And on this cruise I realized that the automatic double doors to all outside areas were not just good for wheelchair users, but for all the cruisers. You just approach the doors and they immediately open.

My wife took ships tours to Caesarea, Jerusalem/Bethlehem, and Ultimate Ephesus and thoroughly enjoyed them and the excellent tour guides, including the Palestinian tour guide (Bethlehem). For our other two days in Galilee and Jerusalem we used the services and wheelchair van of Eli Meiri of Israel4All. He was marvelous and because most the people who us his services are wheelchair users, he knew the best venues and paths for us. This was especially helpful in Old Jerusalem. It was amazing how many sites I was able to access and his cost was no more than other agencies which us non-accessible vehicles.

A marvelous cruise with a fine crew and staff on an outstanding ship to areas that are so steeped in history and meaning. Less

Published 10/03/11

Cabin review: C21028 Concierge Class

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