My family’s March 24, 2013 cruise on the Celebrity Silhouette has been both a
testament to the things I love about Celebrity Cruises and what can happen when
you are sailing (a) in the Caribbean, (b) during Spring Break and (c) when the
weather has resulted in five consecutive days of clouds/rain/wind and few days
of 7-10 foot seas.
In short, this is not
the best cruise to measure the Celebrity product.
With that proviso, and with a lengthy travelogue/analysis to
follow, what are my main observations, comments and overall impressions?
I really like the Celebrity Silhouette with the
addition of Qsine and Lawn Club Grill, restaurants her older sisters lack, but
miss the larger, more open, Lawn (but something has to give somewhere).
She is one of the finest larger cruise ships
Celebrity’s Guest Relations is fantastic (and it
is no wonder some of their top staff have wound up working for Seabourn).
Murano remains one of my favorite restaurants at
sea for ambiance, cuisine and service.
The combination of the Premium Beverage Package,
Ultimate Dining Package and Pre-Paid Gratuities is both a fantastic way to put
together an upscale experience while also providing great value.
Other than by the pool, the buffet (at peak
hours) and outside the main dining room before dinner you really do not have a sense
of crowds or crowding.
The ship itself is beautiful and creative and
A beautiful library overlooking
the atrium (with its floating giant ficus tree) to the wicker lounges by the grass
bocce court to the ice-covered martini bar to Cellar Masters wine library den
feel, you can’t help but be impressed with the design.
Service outside of Murano, Lawn Club Grill, Guest
Relations and Shore Excursions was a bit below my expectations.
With a room steward that did the minimum at
best, service that was overall quite good, but with more inconsistency than on
any previous cruise.
Notably, overall the
bar staff overall seemed exhausted, disinterested and unengaged.
A big qualifier:
This was a rough sea, cloudy, rainy cruise
over Spring Break so the staff was required to be going full out full time, so
I won’t hold it against them (save two individuals!).
The cuisine very good to excellent with a truly wonderful
Murano stands on its own, but
the other specialty restaurants served very good to excellent cuisine and the buffet
has great diversity (blood pudding to frittatas to pickled herring to
made-to-order omelets at breakfast, for example), the pizza, hamburgers and hot
dogs were much improved from my last cruise and the ice cream varieties were
Our flights into Fort Lauderdale went without a hitch and
our luggage arrived (though one bag arrived before our flight…a/k/a the bag was
lost and then made it onto a sold out flight that had better timing then
ours). We then took a taxi to the
Candlewood Suites because I figured we were getting in at 11:00 p.m. and
departing at 11:00 a.m. so why waste money on an upscale hotel room. This
was a great concept, but a bad idea.
When my family of four entered our suite, my son said, “This doesn’t
look like the picture! Well, I kinda
guess it does.” My wife and I retired to
the bedroom and left the kids in the living room with a sofabed and recliner. I
awoke to my daughter asleep on a terribly sagging mattress and my son asleep on
the floor. I felt bad; especially when
my son said the floor was more comfortable than the sofabed or the recliner.
I knew it was best to arrive at the Port Everglades Cruise
Terminal no later than 11:30 a.m. in order to be ahead of the crowds, so after
grabbing a taxi (which now that Yellow Cab in Fort Lauderdale pretty much has a
taxi monopoly can be a real challenge), we arrived to a very efficient and
quick check-in and were aboard the Celebrity Silhouette before noon.
Upon arrival we immediately did two things: Purchased our Premium Beverage Packages for
the adults and Premium Non-Alcoholic Beverage Packages for the kids. (You can purchase these in advance, but we had
onboard credits I wanted to apply to them.) Then we purchased the Ultimate
Dining Package for the adults, which gives us unlimited access to all of the
specialty restaurants (Murano, Qsine, Tuscan Grille and The Lawn Club Grill) as
well as Bistro on Five and The Porch for breakfasts, lunches and dinner. (All dining packages except for the limited
availability Ultimate are available to purchase online prior to your cruise.) That
accomplished, and having already sailed on the sisterships Celebrity Solstice
and Celebrity Equinox, we decided to have lunch at Bistro on Five.
We arrived to a fairly quiet Bistro on Five which
specializes in crepes, soups and salads with a nicely paired list of wines by
the glass. I won’t bore you with
everything we ate, but the salads were fresh, the soup quite good and some of
the crepes were unique and enjoyable (some sounded a bit weird). Service was very friendly and polite, but a
bit slow…not that we had anywhere to rush off to. Before we finished an announcement was made
the rooms on Deck 11 were ready. My son
took a look at the jammed elevators and said it was better to wait. So we did and enjoyed the rest of our lunch. (I cannot fathom why people would jam into
the Oceanview Café buffet when for a mere $5.00 per person you can experience calm,
quiet, table service and unique fare.
But I guess I am focused on having a near luxury experience rather than
getting my money’s worth.)
When we found our staterooms, located overlooking the stern
of the ship on Deck 11, they were in great shape and with a fantastic view. The
bed was extremely comfortable and the upgraded bath towels, showerhead and
amenities were appreciated. While our
Captains Club amenities were missing (and did not appear until Day 3 – not good) we were not aware of
any of the special events, the steward for our children’s adjacent stateroom had
the divider between the two balconies opened so we had an extra-large balcony
and easy access between our staterooms.
(Curiously, we had different stateroom attendants.) Our luggage arrived well before sailing,
which was a plus. That done it was time
One of the differences on the Celebrity Silhouette and her
older sisters is The Lawn Club is less “lawn” and more “club”. The Corning Glass show has been replaced with
The Lawn Club Grill and much of the lawn has been overtaken with The Alcoves –
private cabanas you can rent by the day.
I am not a big fan as, at least for me, it is now a place to pass
through rather than linger. (Since we
have the great balcony The Alcoves is pretty worthless to us…noting you need to
price your entire cruise experience; not just the price of the stateroom! I also found it curious that the cabanas
faced the lawn and not the ocean.)
I stopped by the iLounge (a/k/a internet room) which
Celebrity has partnered with Apple offering Macs and lessons on iPads and
iPhones to the iDon’tknows to set up my wireless internet account. The pricing is a bit steep, but with my work
and two teenagers “needing” to be connected there is a $399 package for about 28
hours. This makes the Seabourn $399
package for “always on” internet for the length of your voyage a relative
bargain…I don’t think charging these amounts for internet access are
After a rather painless muster drill, it was time for dinner
in Qsine; which normally is an extra $20 or so per person charge). I understood
this to be a cool restaurant where you ordered your meal off of iPads, so I
figured it would be fun for the kids. I
was wrong…sort of. This restaurant (which replaces the Celebrity Solstice’s and
Celebrity Equinox’s Silk Road Asian-fusion restaurant) does have iPads for
menus and it is fun, but the thing that makes the restaurant cool is –
wait…wait…- the food! Qsine blends
cuisines of all sorts with very creative presentations such as sushi lollipops
to a sort of dollhouse filled with all kinds of Mediterranean mezes. It is great for one night of a seven day
cruise, but I am not sure it would be as much fun the second time. One negative:
The service was slow again. I
didn’t say anything, but the staff was keenly aware and offered us four coupons
to use at Bistro on Five. With my dining
package they were really not worth anything, but the proactive offer was
My wife made it an early evening so I had a bit of a
walk-around, checking out the preview of the shows (not good…but I don’t
generally like the shows) and eventually winding up at the Sunset Bar
overlooking the stern to enjoy a cigar.
Ironically three decks just above my stateroom no smoking balcony (which
remained private)…noting that Stateroom 1676 has a wider balcony then the
others on the stern. As I smoked my
cigar and enjoyed my Glenfiddich (served only one pour at a time, as it seems
that with the Premium Beverage Package you are not permitted to order a
“double”) I noticed the seas were getting a bit of a swell. It was a sign of things to come.
I woke up to gray skies and a constant swell. This,
unfortunately, would be the theme for the next five days. As it was a Sea Day we relaxed (not by the
pool!) and enjoyed the ship.
And then the problems – all minor, but irritating – started:
The internet package I purchased didn’t show in
the system, though my account had the $399 charge. The staff at the iLounge was iArrogant and
talked at me rather than listen to my issue and then told me I didn’t
buy a package, so I bought another; only to later see on my stateroom account
that there were now two $399 packages charged.
Got that fixed.
My kids’ SeaPass cards stopped allowing
charges. I authorized the charges when I
signed up online and again when we checked in.
Apparently with all the children onboard Celebrity decided to shut down
all of the kids’ cards and have Dad or Mom sign another form before charges
could continue. Done. But then it happened again. And I had it fixed again…interrupting
Our dinner reservations in the various specialty
restaurants were all messed up.
We got that sorted out.
Our Captains Club Elite coupons and schedule, as
previously noted, had not been delivered and that took another day to get
My room steward came up
with a lame excuse and only on the last day…when the Comment Cards were out…did
he decide to own up to his mistake. (That was a great way to make a minor issue
a major irritant.)
As a travel agent I get it, so these were all minor hassles,
but these sorts of things can really be upsetting to someone who isn’t as
knowledgeable as I am or who doesn’t cruise as often as I do, or has limited
credit on their cards or are very schedule orientated (so a later or earlier
dinner means missing the shows they really enjoy on their cruise) or whose kids
are concerned they did something wrong. While each was corrected, at the time
it seemed that a battery of errors and…just for a moment…really put me in an “Another
problem! Really?!” mode.
I should note that Guest Relations overall was excellent in
dealing with each issue and owning up to mistakes rather than making
excuses. They also made sure, after the
fact, that I remained satisfied and that their solutions were, in fact,
solutions. This is so important because
one cannot expect a perfect cruise, but one should expect a friendly and
efficient was to have any issues resolved.
Guest Relations Manager, Christina, and Guest Relations Officer Valeriya,
did a great job with this…even during a Spring Break cruise with lots of
children, heavy seas, clouds and rain. The second formal night evening they even delivered
to our stateroom a bottle of champagne for me and my wife and chocolate-covered
strawberries for the kids…just because.
A nice, though unnecessary, touch.
But I have digressed and it is now back to the
With the kids doing their thing, my wife and I toured the
ship, checked out the Bulgari and other shops and had a capuccino at Cafe de Bacio.
Then we had a nice light lunch at Bistro on Five. Then I, believe it or not, took a long nap.
fterwards it was off to the Persian Gardens,
which is an area of the spa where there is a steam room, aroma therapy room,
rain showers and heated lounges.
couple of minor irritations:
into the area is very noisy so every time someone walks in or out there is a
slam; and, the water fountain chillers are also very noisy.
I would think that in this quiet area those
things would have been attended to.
things of note:
People that are fully
clothed can tie up the lounges and some park themselves there for hours (not
the purpose of the lounges) and the sauna is a tiny affair located in the men’s
locker room so there is some disjointedness and no sea view (as exists on the Millennium
For dinner we headed to Murano on the first of two formal
nights. (Normally there is a $45.00 per
person extra charge to dine here.) While the restaurant has quite an elegant
fell, I was not feeling well, so part way through my daughter replaced me as my
wife’s dinner companion after I ordered Diver Scallops followed by Dover
Sole. I heard the food and service was
very good. I don’t know what it was, but
after a good night’s sleep, the next day I felt 100% better.
OK, so we arrive in Cozumel, Mexico only to be told our
family SCUBA diving lessons were cancelled due to heavy seas and wind. It was, in fact, so bad that the port and the
beaches were closed. The grey skies made
going to the beach a non-starter anyway.
So we took a taxi into town ($8.00) and walked around until we found a
restaurant we liked. It was not in the town center, but a block off of it. We sat in a nice garden-like area and had
some really good Mexican food and margaritas.
This was followed by some shopping (the only sport available with the
bad weather) and we purchased two sinks for our master bathroom at home. (We had been sink shopping and when the
opportunity strikes sometimes you have to go for it. And for $200 total for two sinks…what the
heck?! Note: Sadly, only one made it
Back on the ship, I actually took another nap and then a
jaunt to the Persian Gardens, before heading to the Molecular Bar for
pre-dinner drinks. I had sampled a
couple of the nitrogen topped, strange combination, drinks at a Celebrity
Cruise Pop-Up Restaurant event in New York City and knew my wife would enjoy
them. She did. It was then dining at Murano again and I can
say that I enjoyed the food (I had a quail salad and duck confit) and service,
both of which were top notch. We were
surprised by our children stopping by and they joined us for dessert. Both went
for the chocolate soufflé over my suggestion of the Grand Marnier soufflé. No complaints from either, but I think they
will listen to Dad when we are back dining as a family later in the cruise.
Grand Cayman is our next port. After unsuccessfully trying to find a dive
lesson for us prior to our arrival, I decided to bite-the-bullet and purchase a
similar, but shorter and more expensive, tour from Celebrity. The Shore Excursion Desk was excellent in
letting me know it probably would be cancelled when I booked it…and it eventually
was. So I tried to find jet-skiing for
my son, to no avail. With this I figured
Grand Cayman would be cancelled as it is a tender port and the seas were rough,
the clouds were ominous and there was little to do once we got there. Celebrity found an available anchorage in
Spots Bay so it was a 15 minute ride into George Town after the tender to
shore. Celebrity did a very nice thing
by arranging complimentary shuttles into town.
The downside was the line to get to the complimentary shuttle, so I
spent $20 to get there faster. (Again,
for a small sum you can eliminate lines…so why not do it?)
After a bit of walking around we headed to Paradise, a
favorite rustic restaurant right on the water where excellent conch chowder, awesome
conch fritters, fried plantains, etc. and, for me, a turtle burger (not very
good) were on the menu along with a drink I remember from my younger days,
“Hurricane from Hell”. That was just
enough to bring smiles to everyone’s faces and then we did a bit of
shopping. (My guilt for the lousy
weather and seas was getting the best of me!)
It was then back to the ship for a much needed rest and visit to the
Persian Gardens. I mean with
temperatures in the 70s, grey skies, no physical activities, it gets tiring!
We had dinner at Tuscan Grille; a third extra charge restaurant
(I believe $25.00 per person.) The
Maître de was not good and pretty much ignored me until I said something. When I told him my name he asked for my
stateroom number. Yes, I forgot that
little touch. Anyway, not being terribly
impressed, I was not really looking forward to a good dining experience. Fortunately, a really good one was delivered
with cheerful service (Selma, our assistant waitress from Turkey was
exceptional). I had a very good cioppino
and a pretty good seafood risotto. (I am
very picky when it comes to risotto, so there is no shame there.) My wife’s fillet mignon was quite good, but
she felt it had been sitting under a warming lamp for a few minutes…probably
waiting for the risotto.
Our next rainy day was Falmouth, Jamaica. This was, for the Goldring family, a “sea
day” as there is not much I find in Jamaica that is worth venturing out into
the country for. The fact that the
weather was lousy made it a good decision.
We did take a bit of time to walk around the Disney-esque village that
Royal Caribbean has essentially created.
I noticed over a dozen jewelry stores servicing the Liberty
of the Seas and the Celebrity Silhouette and wondered, “Why do so many cruise passengers
demand the absolute lowest price for their cruise (with many demanding
discounts, rebates, etc.) and then spend $1,000 for a piece of jewelry that is
probably worth only $200?” Could
it possibly be all of the in-your-face marketing in the daily program, on the ship’s
television and the ship’s shopping expert?
But I digress…as I do.
As we were caught in the rain, we went into one of the
eleven Caribbean Margaritaville Restaurant locations for a light lunch and some
time out of the rain…while they played disco music. Huh? (Note:
If you buy a soda for only $7.95 you have your choice of a souvenir
glass or a bong! Only in Jamaica.) It was then back on the ship.
It was here that I actually was able to get into one of the
whirlpools in the AquaSpa solarium area for a bit of a soak. Remembering I chose to cruise during Spring
Break I can’t complain that the whirlpools and pools have been overtaken by
kids in age ranging from two to twenty-two, but it is something you should
consider if you are looking at a late March Caribbean cruise on almost any
non-luxury cruise line. (And it is a
reason I enjoy the refuge of the Persian Gardens.)
Before dinner we were back at the Molecular Bar. I would have preferred sitting in Cellar
Masters, which has an excellent variety of wines and a number of Enomatic
Machines which let you choose the size of your pour of dozens of extraordinary
wines. The problem: The Music/Noise.
Celebrity has been experimenting with what can only be
described as various levels of upbeat and generally loud drum beats with some
sort of melody (maybe) in the background.
I am assuming it is supposed to be “Modern”, but it most certainly is
not “Luxury”…as Celebrity pushes its “Modern Luxury” branding. I could hear the beat in the Persian Gardens,
in Tuscan Grille, in the bathrooms, etc.
Mindboggling…but the coupe de gras was the music played in the Molecular
Bar that evening. The words to the
“music” were about a guy being slipped psychedelic mushrooms by a girl he
met. Seriously!? I would note that finally on the second to last night “normal” music
returned to the main lobby/atrium so we could enjoy the venues, like Cellar
Masters, we had been chased out of.
Our second try of Tuscan Grille wound up with more issues
than the first, which was very disappointing since the servers were very good
and the food was too. Our 8:00p.m. reservation
wasn’t ready, allegedly because someone was just finishing up their dessert, so
it would be 10 minutes…which became 20 minutes when they were signing their check…and
then our table was ready…BUT nobody had left the restaurant. I hate being played for a fool and this was
the second bad event with the maître de at this venue. As the service was quite slow, our servers
were very honest with us and said the restaurant was overbooked so the kitchen
was backed up. Hence, we were being
stalled up front and our meals would be delayed even more once we were seated. This presented a problem for our children so
they had to rush through their main course and dessert as the “critical” 10:00
p.m. social clock was chiming.
It is a shame when an enjoyable evening of good service and
food is overshadowed by such things. For
me this was a serious service flaw! I
did not pay a premium so that I could be ignored, lied to, delayed, etc…just so
the Tuscan Grilles Maître de could show better numbers in “his” restaurant.
We decided to check out the Sin City Adult Comedy Show. It was OK, though some in the crowd really
liked it. There were a couple of one-woman
burlesque-light performances, a short warm-up act and the headliner. Obviously there are limits on what can be
seen and said, but a little bit of naughty and adult humor was provided.
Now for our final chance at doing something on land: Labadee, Haiti – Royal Caribbean’s private
resort. The good news is that the seas
were now only a nice swells. The bad
news was the swells were large enough that they almost prevented us from docking. The good news is that we docked. The bad news is that the rain was strong as
we arrived and the sun never appeared.
Oh, and my son’s day of jet-skiing was cancelled due to the swells. However, my wife and kids did do zip-lining
and that was fun for them.
Labadee has, to me, a Disney feel with pristine faux shacks
and neat plantings with for rent cabanas, a water park and crafts market (sold
at cruise ship prices by local Haitians…no matter where the stuff was made). A
faux barbecue lunch of hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken legs, ribs and salads is
provided. Drinks are charged to your
SeaPass card…if they didn’t run out of beverages (which I found to be the case
for both beer and soda). Lunch on the
ship would have been better, but we were trying to make somewhat of a day out
of it. My wife likes the place (having
been there on a sunny day when hosting a Royal Caribbean cruise a few months
ago) and I must say that if I had a beautiful day and I had rented a cabana I
probably would have a better feeling about Labadee. It is highly rated…just not on a cold, rainy,
day with no watersports available.
Back on board for a rest, a visit to the Persian Gardens and
another fabulous dinner at Murano. Goat
cheese soufflé, lobster prepared tableside, cheese trolley and the Murano
sharing dessert with exceptional service by the staff on the other side of this
petit restaurant made for a wonderful evening; the second formal night of the
cruise. As I mentioned earlier, the
music has become more Celebrity-like so starting off at Cellar Masters really
made the evening a wonderful one ending up with a walk about the Lawn Club and
a chat by the Sunset Bar overseen by a full moon dancing through the clouds.
Sun. Yes, the
sun! I awoke early for our last day, a
sea day. The sun was shining, the sea
are fairly calm and there is a cool breeze (rather than gale force winds). It is a perfect day. I walk the almost empty
decks and see that about 80% of the lounges by the pool have been claimed by
towels, books and shoes…but not many bodies!
Not good. A take a quiet
whirlpool by myself and then walk some more with a cup of coffee. I am finally on my Caribbean cruise!
I came back to my stateroom to finally truly enjoy my
balcony and there is a knock on the door.
The room steward is delivering receipts for my American Express Platinum
Card Specialty Dining credits.
Really? The last day of the
cruise? They should be confirmed at the
beginning of the cruise. Another “Dunno”. Not a biggie for me, but it would be a hassle
for someone who didn’t take the specialty dining package and wondered if the
credits were applied to his/her account.
We finally got to try the Lawn Club Grill for lunch, which
was only open for dinner except on this last sea day. I didn’t know what to expect, but I really
liked the place. You dine in essentially
a conservatory with an open grill/pizza oven to one side. You are offered flatbread starters, a small salad
bar and a main course of seafood, meats, and kebobs along with sides like
Lobster Mac n’ Cheese. As we were
squeezed in, we were not offered the chance, but normally you can make your own
flatbreads (including dough tossing lessons).
Children and adults did it and it was done in a way that did not
interfere with your own dining experience. (The staff was great catering differently to
the children than the adults.) Our waiter, Mehmet (there are lots of Turkish
waiters on this cruise), was excellent, charming and fun. Our flatbreads were great, my shrimp and
scallop kebob and filet mignon was excellent (and way too much food). For dessert:
Listen to them. Seriously. Order the Chocolate Chip Cookie and Ice
Cream. It could be the best comfort dessert
I have ever eaten. (It is not fancy, but
it really is that good!)
Having just eaten a much larger lunch than anticipated, we
thought we best push our last dinner – at Murano, of course – to 8:00 p.m.
rather than the earlier 6:30 p.m. we had reserved. Stateroom 1676? No problem.
I am OK with being Mr. 1676 rather than Mr. Goldring as it gets the job
A lazy afternoon catching a few rays, taking a nap and
writing and then, of course, my last visit to the Persian Gardens before a
final drink enjoying the view from my balcony before packing. A final family dinner at Murano (again
excellent) brought our cruise to a close.
But in Murano they spoiled the children and even made them strawberry
crepes with ice cream tableside…over and above their desserts and the petit
With the forced reduction in Customs and Immigration
staffing and our 10:15 a.m. flight home we decided to carry off our own
luggage. It was a very good idea. There was a bit of an issue just getting an
elevator with room for us, so our 7:30 a.m. start didn’t get us off the ship until
8:10 a.m. and through Customs and Immigrations to our private transfer until
9:00 a.m. For those that disembarked
normally, I could easily see them waiting in long lines well past 10:00 a.m. There has to be a better way, but until there
is: Keep this ordeal in mind.
So did I have a near luxury experience? Honestly, it is something I am still contemplating. I have to finish balancing the misses I
encountered against what I probably would have encountered on a luxury cruise
line during Spring Break with lousy weather.
Did our Celebrity Silhouette cruise provide a sufficiently
excellent experience to want to do it again?
We booked a family cruise for next summer visiting Iceland, The Faroe
Islands, UK and Norway on the Celebrity Eclipse.