Sailing on the Celebrity Silhouette was my fourth cruise on Celebrity Cruises, having previously sailed on the Mercury, Reflection, and the Constellation. Traveling Eastbound, it stopped at Ponta Delgada, Azores (an unscheduled stop due to a medical emergency), Lisbon, Portugal; Le Havre, France; Zeebrugge, Belgium; and Amsterdam, Netherlands.
In Fort Lauderdale there was no long line to check in, but unfortunately, there was a printer problem so we had to wait about 20 minutes before we could get our key card. Arriving on the ship, we went straight to the Oceanview Cafe for lunch with our luggage. It was about 11:30am so our stateroom wasn't ready yet.
I was previously booked in aft cabin 6240 on deck six (with a pilot boat in front of the veranda) but later changed to 9182 forward. I wanted to be higher up with nothing but the ocean as the view looking over the balcony and down. For a standard veranda stateroom Category 1B, it was quite roomy with a nice bathroom. I really liked the sliding doors to the shower as opposed to a curtain, as found on other lines. Like clockwork, it was ready by 1pm.
It was raining when we left and it was pretty much cloudy all the way across the Atlantic. We also lost about an hour each night with the time changes, but since there were 8 sea days, it didn't really bother me as this was my first transatlantic and a great opportunity to really just unwind and relax. The first day at sea was pretty rough, with 10-15 foot waves, so I was concerned at first that this would be the case for the whole crossing. But it eased up and was totally fine the rest of the way. It was really noticeable how relaxed and easy going the other passengers were. A lot of them had done transatlantics before and coming onboard meant decompressing right away. For us newbies, it maybe took a day or two to just ignore the early morning activities in the Celebrity Today and just go with the flow.
The Grand Cuvee Restaurant, the main complementary dining room, was bright, bubbly, and the consistently excellent for food. Never before on a cruise would I eat in the dining room during lunch, but I discovered that this was a cruise best-kept secret. While I used to enjoy the buffets upstairs, as in the Oceanview Cafe on this ship, seating was always at a premium and not fun dodging everyone as they sauntered from food island to food island. By the way, I loved the different sections of ethnic foods such as Indian, Mexican, Italian (pastas & pizzas), and highlights based on whichever port we would be in. When docked in Lisbon, they had the pasteis (little baked custard tarts). When, in Le Havre, they had French specialties like Burgundy stew. But unlike other cruise lines, the main dining room wasn't just a replica of the same dishes as the buffet. Every day there was a different menu with small plates like what you would find at dinnertime. I must have gained a few pounds just from the freshly baked onboard baguettes and breadsticks which arrived with a trio of butter/dips for spreading and dipping.
Another cruise tip: purchase a specialty dining package beforehand. I wish I had purchased more than 4 restaurants for the specialty dining package, which is a great deal compared to paying the full price per person onboard. Qsine was the first. This place was so much fun, not just laughing with other tables nearby, but by how inventive and fun the tapas or small plates were. The menu is HUGE and it would take 4-5 visits just to get one of each of the 20+ options to share for two, as 4-5 items were enough to be completely stuffed. The service in this restaurant was so friendly and attentive that we came back a second time, only for them to remember us, just like every other venue on the ship. Murano is their French restaurant, which we went to during the Evening Chic night. Wow, this place was so impressive, like a 5 star Michelin restaurant. Everyone was dressed elegantly. The decor and ambiance was dark and intimate. The food was indulgent but I didn't leave overstuffed. Tuscan Grill was probably the only so-so specialty restaurant: I don't know if was the okay service or just the "I had that before" Italian food that didn't impress like the others. The Porch was a restaurant we had to convince ourselves to try, even though it was on an upper deck, somewhat exposed to the outside even though there were glass panes. The overhead heat lamps helped big time, but they also give you blankets. This place was great for fresh seafood: think seafood towers, mussels, lobster rolls, ceviche...paired with a nice crisp Pinot Grigio, this place rocked it with all you eat. We had to try the Lawn Club Grill. It was freezing sailing along the coast of Spain on our way to France, and even the overhead heat lamps didn't make a difference. But the steaks here were the best ever, preceded by make your own flatbreads and salads. One restaurant that was a la carte that we didn't want to waste with the package was Sushi on 5. This was the old Bistro on 5 that I was previously impressed with on the Constellation. But I was drawn into this venue by the very enthusiastic staff and the fact that I adore sashimi. The first visit here was impressive, especially the freshly-grated authentic wasabi. The second time stemmed from one of the waiters selling us an all-you-can-price while we were having drinks at Crush. I'm so glad we were enticed back, because I really enjoyed trying their other menu options like gyozas, lobster bisque ramen, and very inventive sashimi such as yellowtail with avocado, radish, and ponzu sauce.
This is how Celebrity defines affordable luxury. It is amazing to me that on such a large ship, I would still be remembered by the staff no matter where I went, accompanied by a smile and genuine interest. Cruise tip: always acknowledge the staff when the say hello to you. They really pay attention to those that say hi back and will become your best friends for the rest of the cruise. Our room steward always seemed to be around when we left the cabin or peek out from another cabin when we left ours, just to say hello and ask how our day was going. And wow, only after the first night, did the server in the Silhouette theatre not only remember us, but also what we each drank and he made a beeline to us every night we arrived for a show. This was probably the first cruise ever where I had met and was able to get to know personally the staff: servers, maitre d's, and sous chefs.
From the Celebrity Today, we really wanted to take advantage of the classes offered by the art studio. However, due the constant loss of an hour almost every day, we consistently missed the 10am watercolor class. But this was a transatlantic and the rule was to just relax and just ignore the schedule, well at least that is what we did. Every table in the card room was almost always occupied. And eating was the most popular activity, as the Oceanview Cafe was always packed and people would even camp out at tables between the breakfast and the opening of lunch reading books, playing cards, or surfing the Internet. Speaking of, the Xcelerate Unlimited Internet package is totally worth it ($287.10 purchased ahead of time) for such a long cruise, and it is fast! I am so happy to see the days of $/Megabyte pricing for excruciatingly slow internet finally gone.
Not to missed is when they do Silent Disco in the Sky Lounge. You wear headphones with 3 channels, each with different types of music: dance, pop, and latin. The saying that everyone dances to their own beat comes alive and it's very fun!
The comedian Derrick Cameron was pretty funny. I liked how his jokes didn't cater to or hold back against any demographic. The first show with the Production Cast Singers and Dancers was probably the best one. The cirque-du-soleil-esque couple that I believe they referred to as the Specialty Artists were amazing. Their chemistry was apparent and they are so fit and talented! There was also a comedian juggler, Thomas John, who was dorky and funny and very talented. Go figure, he was on America's Got Talent.
TOURS AND SHORE EXCURSIONS
If you are obsessed with cruising (among other forms of travel), then I strongly recommend the Inside Access Behind-the-Scenes Ship Tour. For $99 each, you get an indepth view and explanation of where and how the crew works behinds the scenes to deliver the best cruise experience for you. From the kitchen to the engine control room to the laundry, the amount of detail and control and utmost effort of everyone and everything involved is amazing. It was really cool to see to see where the crew eat, drink and relax for the few hours that they get in between their long working hours. And trust me, they really appreciate your kind and appreciative comments!
Lisbon is very colorful, crowded with tourists, and spread out lengthwise. We were very fortunate to meet a couple of ladies from our ship who were eager to do what we were going to do: just walk around the old district, Alfama. When out of nowhere, a young portuguese man came over and asked if we wanted a tour in a Tuk Tuk. While I don't normally like going on tours, this was a very fun and inexpensive to go all over Lisbon in a couple of hours for under 100 euros. Highly recommended!
A quick and easy shore excursion offered through Celebrity is Honfleur On Your Own. For $39.75/adult, you get transport to and from the colorful fishing port of Honfleur, about a 20 minute drive from the port of Le Havre. With a total time of 4 hours, you have just enough time to get a quick bite, stroll along the dock, and visit innumerable shops and boutiques. This is the place to get Normandy's famous Sel de Guerande (coarse grey sea salt) and salted caramels.
Similarly, you can take Celebrity's Bruges On Your Own for $49.75/adult from the port of Zeebrugge. While I think time was wasted escorting us to/from Walplein Square (I would have preferred just being dropped off and picked up where the coach stops), I wouldn't have found the best little chocolate boutique, Jean de Bruges. Their handmade chocolates shaped into seashells and filled with delicate flavors and homemade candies are to die for! Bruges is very touristy so it can be hard to decide on a place to eat. But we hit the jackpot again with Poule Moules right in Simon Stevinplein Square, a pleasant oasis, especially at a small table outside. The service was friendly and impeccable, probably the best I've ever had in Europe. And this is the place to get a big bowl of the famous mussels, not to mention their homemade bread and crispy "French" fries (pomme frites were invented in Belgium, just so you know).
Upon arrival in the port of Amsterdam, leaving the ship was easy. We walked off with our luggage, and down the escalators and to the left was the exit, no passport control or customs to deal with. Even though Celebrity tries to scare you into thinking that there will be a long wait to get a taxi and to buy a transfer instead, there was a long line of taxis instead waiting (no Uber here) with no people in line. It was a quick and very comfortable ride to the airport. Being that it was early Sunday morning, there was no traffic and it cost $71.64 with Taxicentrale Amsterdam.
This was probably the best cruise I have been on...ever. Celebrity really sets the bar and this one will be hard to beat.