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Loong and very tardy report on Feb. Silhouette cruise; Comparisons to HAL

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<li class="b-linkbar-item ng-scope" lj-share="{ url: 'https://msteries.livejournal.com/9749.html', title: 'Silhouette%20Cruise%20Jan%2FFeb%202018', text: '', hashtags: 'cruise,silhouette,celebrity', alwaysBottom: true }" style="display: inline-block; padding: 0px; border: 0px; margin: 0px 2px; vertical-align: top; font-stretch: normal; line-height: 1; background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0);">Silhouette Cruise Jan/Feb 2018

Concierge Cabin 1002.

 

 

This was my first cruise on Celebrity in over 12 years, so will be comparing the Silhouette to my regular HAL ships, the Eurodam and Nieuw Amsterdam.

 

Flying Delta out of Dayton. Of course, because it was upgrade economy, I got crammed next to a very heavy woman. However, turned out that she is a skating judge for nationals. I teased her about being one of the mean Eastern European judges. She is from Slovakia, but judging in Duluth. Dayton to Atlanta then Mpls then Duluth.

 

Stewardess first dropped plastic glass on my head, then splashed me with flying ice cubes. Lots of free Dewars as an apology, so thank heavens there is real food by my gate…

 

Flights went smoothly and I was at my favorite Ft Lauderdale hotel, the Hilton Marina, around 5pm. So nice to be able to hit the outdoor restaurant before sunset and enjoy lifting a glass to the setting sun Florida-style. The ambiance there is so nice, what with all the neat fishing boats and yachts berthed right around the restaurant. A walk on the boardwalk in the morning is also fun, for further on the huge mega yachts are getting cleaned and readied.

 

Unfortunately bar patrons had a forewarning of what was to come…. The wind was very strong. And midway through my meal, many patrons left, and I moved over to the bar, which looked like it might be a bit more sheltered. Amusing to see that the only patrons left were hearty midwesterners! Wind got worse. My quinoa spinach salad (tastey!) kept blowing off my plate and down the bar. What do you tip a bartender who has to keep racing after your spinach leaves??!!

 

 

Rather glad I got to pier and checkin very early. Last year I had a ghastly experience at the hotel, where a bellhop never came, and I had to struggle luggage myself and then found a huge line for taxis. Had to stand (this was just before my second foot surgery) for almost half an hour. So called down extra early and was in taxi ten minutes later. Checked in by 10:15 and found a seat right away in the section designated concierge. Generally looks like not a lot of places to sit. When it was time to board (after suite guests) the concierge escorted us through the doors and onto the ship.

 

Delighted to meet Beth and other CC-ers while waiting to board. They wore beads to help us recognize them. On ship by 11 and awaiting concierge class luncheon - no mingling with germey hoi poloi in the crowded on deck buffet. Also had their company at the Concierge luncheon, which was a great perk. Not as many selections as at a regular seating, but plenty to choose from. Place set aside for carryon luggage, but some refused to let go of their rollons, so aisles were a bit hard for the servers to navigate..

 

Next went to a nearby the bar and no Dewars! Free drink. This is shaping up to be the trip of free drinks!

 

Cabins opened at 12:55. Few crossovers from port to starboard sides of this long ship! Trek to1002 was loong. Feet tired.

 

Cabin is bright and airey, and well laid out. Nice vanity and chair. I particularly appreciate the dim lighting that remained on in the bathroom all through the night. And shower plumbing that is obvious and easy to use. No alternating cold blast with scalding downpour. Alas, bed is by veranda, so it would be possible for bridge crew to see me by one side of the bed, if they so wished. Have to remember curtains. The mechanism to open and shut veranda door is easy to manipulate, with no fear of locking oneself outside. Something so simple as a large lever and a clear graphic on both sides of the door!

 

Ship delivery of luggage was very slow. Rumor has it that we departed almost an hour late because of luggage handling problems. So I had to go off to muster drill and CC gathering for sailaway without my bags. Had a difficult consequence for we are having WEATHER! Huge low depression, and if I heard the Captain correctly, this will result in two days of heavy winds. My cabin (1002) really rolls! So unpacking took forever because I had to struggle each time I crossed the floor. Other years on this route there was only one late night like this - usually going back north. (Found out later that the terminal Celebrity is using as their regular one is under renovation, has no bag scanners, so every piece of luggage had to be moved elsewhere!)

 

My first time going to a muster drill in a cushy theater. So much less hot and clausterphobic than those HAL drills, where everyone gets packed together like sardines and one seems to stand forever. But I wonder how well this system would work if there was a real emergency.

 

As soon as we left the Ft Lauderdale channel, we immediately hit rough seas and fierce winds. My annual gamble on a less expensive forward cabin fell through big time this year. My luggage came very late and it was difficult to unpack all those clothes while the cabin rocked. Up and down, and sometimes side to side. Had to clutch onto something at all times even in cabin, while walking the long corridors was exhausting. Usually I would spend hours hiking the ship, camera in hand. Not this time! So glad that I had a vanity area because I would never have been able to put on eye make-up standing up in the bathroom.

 

Cruise Critic folks had organized a meet-and-greet for the first morning. Locale was an elegant wine bar that was huge. I was fascinated by all the different wine glasses hanging inside fancy “wood” cabinets. The seas were so rough, and the rows of glasses swung back and forth, but never crashed into one another or broke. Several officers came, including the Captain. Announcement that the ship had just been awarded “Best in Fleet” was celebrated.

 

 

Captain gave a series of ever more discouraging weather alerts. By Saturday night the winds he had to sail into grew more and more fierce. Seas were at 16-18ft. I am not prone to mal de mer, but every step was a struggle, and it quickly became too exhausting to walk the long distance to shops, nice bar, or anything else aft. So no exploring. Pool decks were shut down, even the quite nice deck areas set aside for smokers and the partial promenade; even the Sanctuary pool covered. Saturday night things were so rough in my cabin that I didn’t get any sleep til about 3:am, and I awoke battered and sore. All I could think was at least we dock Monday and the damn ship will stop moving at last. About then the Captain came on to announce that Antigua was a no-go. Ship was struggling to make headway and would arrive in Antigua 5-6 hours late to a harbor still too dangerous to enter! A third day in such uncomfortable conditions. My heart sunk. Still a good sailor, so not ill like many, but my sense of balance not so good in these conditions... seas at 16-18 feet.

By Sunday (second sea day) all I wanted was for the #%*ship to stop. And no painting/arts excursion for me. I felt desperate about another day of struggle, too. So it was a tremendous relief to find that the seas had settled during late dinner, and the cabin was finally comfortable. Got back from bar-flying, late dinner, and a look into Motown night trivia to discover a nice gently rocking cabin. Was like getting out of jail. Slept like a baby at last. Love that part of cruising.

 

Morning brought rain but conditions still fine by me. Hoping veranda dries by early afternoon. The bridge wing does offer some protection from the wind, and I am looking forward to drinks and magazine out there. The little 4pm appetizers have been splendid, but the cabin was moving so wildly that anything placed on the table would likely have slid right off!

 

Sunday I felt like someone or something had beaten me all over (all that shoulder-tensing struggle to get out of bed during the night and hanging onto furniture to get to the bathroom...). Missing the Eurodam’s thalassotherapy pool, that’s for sure. Went to the super-expensive Canyon Ranch Spa for a massage. Therapist was very capable, and we had a great chat afterwards, but I didn’t think the surroundings were particularly beautiful, nor were the oils used all that unusual. So why the big bucks? The much touted Persian Garden was just like the steam rooms /heated loungers/ showers facility you get, along with that fantastic pool, on the HAL ships, but incredibly more expensive and no pool. HAL wins this one.

 

I always order incabin breakfasts when I cruise, and here Celebrity really was offering a very poor product! Coffee came lukewarm in a cardboard cup!!! And eggs and breakfast potatoes not even lukewarm. Compare to HAL, where there is a little hotwater warming salver under your food, and the coffee is in a thermal carafe. By day three I finally got a carafe, but only because our funloving table at dinner attracted the head of food management (or maybe just the dining room head?). I told him I wanted several cups of coffee in a thermos, and he took my name and cabin number. However, after several days I just gave up on getting a warm breakfast. Thank heavens a really good yougurt, fruit, and granola compote was on offer. Things had better be improved on the Edge this winter, where I will be splurging on a suite!

 

I enjoyed my table companions at dinner each night. Most were big readers, so we shared titles all week long. I thought the food was fine. I don’t expect gourmet food served by the thousands each evening, and was quite satisfied with choices and quality. One night there was a fried (crispy and not in a sauce) type of fish that was superb. New species (to me) and I sure wish I could remember the name. I ordered seconds. Throughout dinner, the wine steward circulated, refilling glasses and giving very helpful advice. She was really missed the one night she fell ill from mal de mer!!! A delightful woman. Here Celebrity really has it over usual HAL experience! As a solo traveller I always ask for a large table at late seating. But those who chose the Celebrity version of anytime dining reported that everything about the system was mismanaged. As far as I know, HAL and other cruise lines do this just fine.

 

Cannot help comparing the general atmosphere of this ship to my usual HAL experience. Things were more lively in the evenings. Seems like folks were always up for a good time, in spite of very poor weather. The bar and dance floor by the entrance to the dining room was always nearly full, and the music was not too loud, but almost continuous, so that everyone had a chance to dance, no matter what their evening schedule. The first formal night was made very enjoyable because many, many members of the crew, including the Captain and the First Officer, circulated in the public areas by the dance floor. I spotted two women officers, who looked a little like wallflowers at the prom, and so I went over and chatted. Delightful to hear about their positions. One was in charge of all housekeeping, and the other was a security officer. Other nights a bit of the theatre show was brought to the atrium stairway. Especially amusing was the cast’s musical survey of 60’s music. Heart in throat as dancers in go-go boots with heels gyrated their way down that rather steep circular stairway!

 

The ship’s design with open balconies, with seating on each level looking over the central bar and dance floor, made for great people watching. Several days dance lessons were held inside the central atrium (maybe on account of the weather?). Fun to sit above and watch the swing dance lesson. Great music! And people danced each evening. Atmosphere lively but not because of drunken party types. Average age a bit younger than HAL’s demographic, but still adult and somewhat sophisticated. Almost everyone made an effort for dinner and dancing each evening, and dressed for chic nights as well.

 

Throughout my cruise I was happy that I had gone with concierge class. Loved the earlier boarding, and the perks like a free gelato and lovely appetizers served between 4 and 5 every evening. Perhaps the quantity would shock those with big American appetites, but as a solo, the servings were great. Heard men on the nearby veranda complaining about too much weird stuff - seafood and fancy mini canapés too strange for them, I guess. The concierge kept quite long hours at her desk, which was located in the beautiful library on deck 10. I was concerned about getting signed up for Luggage Direct, and she got me the forms days early and confirmed that they went to the correct desk. Enjoyed the embarkation lunch, and the dining area set aside for concierge passengers on debarkation day. Very nice selection of juices, pastries, fruit, etc. I found a concierge cabin that was less than a veranda, and I recommend taking advantage of any such sale! Another rather odd perk was a footstool out on the balcony. This amenity missing on HAL ships, and apparently also missing on regular verandas on the Silhouette. Don’t they realize how important it is to be able to put up your feet after a long day of sightseeing?!!

 

Finally was able to get off the ship at Bridgetown Barbados for an island bus tour and stop at Harrisons Cave. Drive was informative about island history and culture. Oddest thing we saw was a truly weird national cricket stadium, that looked like a giant alien spacecraft had crash landed on its side! As always I enjoyed the tropical plants and trees. Sugarcane production is way down, in spite of all the rum distilleries, but I did get to see some sugarcane fields. However, the nice driver could not fix the fact that the roads were horrendous. A very long series of rides over rough roadbed, and sometimes slopes were a bit steep. By day’s end we all felt battered - when we had already been banged up by those days of heavy seas!

 

Harrisons Cave was very unusual. You ride a tall elevator down from the parking lot to the entrance to the cave. The upper and lower buildings were beautifully designed with tall timbered ceilings. Lovely gardens and walkways on the lower level, too. Love those huge fan palms! We rode a comfortable tram and so avoided any need to walk on slippery paths. Three times, where the more intimate galleries opened up into larger areas, you could get out if you wished to take photographs. However, the tram got you up close and personal to the stone formations and I did get some very good shots from my seat, although a constant tiny drizzle meant that you had to watch out for your cell or camera. A lot of the pillar stalactites/mites were formed of white crystal - something I had not seen before. Just don’t expect the huge rooms and formations typical of Carlsbad or other US cave sites. I knew this ahead of time, so no disappointment there, and I thoroughly enjoyed our guide’s commentary about how recently the caves had been discovered, and the engineering that went into cutting through those tramways without destroying much in the way of interesting formations.

 

I had rented an Alcove on the Lawn for one day. Very expensive, even on a port day. Compared very poorly to the Cabanas on the Eurodam! Way more expensive, and the area had no staff assigned to serve you. No early morning coffee, fruit, etc, no one circulating to sell drinks. You had to pick up a phone and call, then wait for someone to take your order. No afternoon ice-cream treat or chocolate strawberries and cheap champagne at four either!!! As a solo, I have always enjoyed chatting with the HAL cabana servers, and felt someone went the extra mile to please an older lady traveling alone. Granted it was a port day and the weather had been poor, but I saw no-one in the other cabanas while I was there, not did the area seem very utilized on other days.

 

I arranged to have dinner under the stars served that evening in my Alcove. My waiter was lovely and the food was fine, although I cannot vouch for the grilled meats and “cook-it-yourself” stickt of the restaurant. I had the seafood tower and the lobster mac.

 

As usual, some spectacular sunsets, especially on January 31st, when the huge full supermoon rose early. Blues, purples, greys illuminating massive stripes of cloud formation. Ah, but the next morning, sunrise was blood orange and angry red. “Red skies at night, sailors delight; red skies at dawning, sailors take warning”? I am getting off the ship for a newly booked beach morning. I lost my painting at the beach excursion and I just couldn’t see a trip to the Caribbean without some water time. Ah well, what's more $$$…..?

 

St Kitts/Nevis short beach break was very enjoyable. Enough chairs and great beach bar and restaurant. Staff seemed very bemused that I was knocking back Dewars. Large menu and that menu was circulated on the beach for those who wanted to stay out in the sun the whole time. As for me - I want to eat and drink in the shade of a bar!

 

High winds and that ever present record tropical depression meant for a hard climb out of the water. Usually I just flop down and body surf as I come in, if the drop-off is a bit steep. Alas that ridge was covered by sharp shells so I had try to stand up and get out. Balance and confidence not up to it. I couldn’t get out of the damn ocean! Another middle aged lady ventured up to haul me out. I was so worried that she would hurt her back. Didn’t help that we were both giggling uproariously!

The roads were impeccable and the views spectacular! As we climbed up to the spine of the island, on one side the Caribbean, on the other the rougher Atlantic.

 

One of the reasons I picked this particular cruise, even though it came a week or two earlier than usual, was the fact that a large contingent of motorcycle riders had booked a special program. At each port rides were arranged for them, and a special hold with extra fire protection and braces for their bikes was also provided. I counted on the probability that they would be great company in the evening, and they most certainly were. One evening I joined a large group of them up at the Sunset Bar (a very popular location, not just at sunset, but also in the evening under the stars) and heard about their rides and how the bikes are put to bed each afternoon. If I heard correctly, fuel drained each day and replaced by an inert substance. Quite a production. One day I got to see the Harleys roll up to the ship after circling the port entrance. If I leaned out over my high, high veranda, I could sorta get photos of the whole event. Not really worried about falling over the railing, but a bit shakey, worried I might drop my iPhone!

 

I am never really ready to leave the ship and go back to “regular” life. Never have been able to afford a 28-day cruise, but maybe that would be my limit? Of course, I also love days at sea. I don’t need to be entertained. Just give me a shady seat on deck, a good book, and the pretty blue seas, and I am content. However this time was a bit different. Had been having sinus trouble and what I thought was just a postnasal drip sort of cough for days, but on the last day I got suddenly very sick. In the cab to the airport I really crashed, and if there had been a medical center at the Ft Lauderdale airport, I would have gone there. Long, long day to get back to Dayton, and I got more and more sick as the hours wore on. I had to be taken off the plane in Dayton in a wheelchair. Husband Gary had ventured over during an ice storm and the drive home was done at 35 mph even on I-675! Luckily I was almost (but not quite) too sick to care. Weekend so no doctor, then another subzero day with more ice. When I finally got into the doctor, I could hardly stand. Turned out I had pneumonia. I didn’t recognize what was going on, probably since I had not had pneumonia in almost 30 years. Guess I will have to get the shot this year. Prior to my trip I was anxious about the severe flu outbreak in Ohio, but pneumonia never crossed my mind.

 

Overall I guess I enjoyed my Celebrity cruise more than my recent HAL cruises because of the design of the ship, the wonderfully lively atmosphere, and the Concierge perks. But breakfast in cabin, cabana, and spa situation on Celebrity was subpar. I do hope the brand new Edge can at least furnish a better breakfast and spa!!!

 

 

 

Mary Frost-Piersonmsteries.livejournal.com

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Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences! It sounds like you felt it was almost a “draw” between Celebrity and HAL.

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Thanks for taking the time to provide a well thought out review. I really appreciate reviews that cover both the things that went well, as well as he areas that need improvement. I think this provides perspective and balance. Tough luck with the pneumonia and hope you're over it and feeling better.

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Posted (edited)

I always find ways to enjoy my cruises, and have gotten so much excellent help from CC-ers over the years. I think it is foolish to let some disappointing things overwhelm the great experience of getting to sail on the beautiful seas, meet new people, and see new places. And I am most appreciative that anyone was willing to READ my long post!

Recovery from pneumonia took a number of weeks, but excellent doctoring got me well a bit earlier than prdicted. Getting the shot before next winter!

Edited by msteries
left out a letter

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Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences! It sounds like you felt it was almost a “draw” between Celebrity and HAL.

 

Perhaps I would tilt it a wee bit to Celebrity, based on the atmosphere and very nice public places. Going to see just how much of the envelope gets pushed on the Edge next winter. Will the design and customer experience be that radically different? Fun to contemplate how the staff and crew will manage. I talked to one experienced waiter who admitted they are worried that the systems, layouts, and facilities will be awfully hard to adapt to. He said everything will be different.

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I LOVED your review. Your writing style is so pleasant and "classic" that I felt I knew you. Thank you so very very much for sharing. I adore that you went because of the "bikers" How very great of you to want to learn of other people's interest.

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If it wasn't for HAL's smoking policy, we would definitely cruise them more. We are 3 star and Elite + with Celebrity. Love HAL but smoking in Casino a definite turnoff. Until that changes we are out. Newest ship Niew Statendam also has same smoking policy.

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