We could not have been more happy with our Celebrity Silhouette cruise over Spring Break with the kids from March 17th to March 31st.
I have so many detailed items about which to write that I plan to write a few separate articles over the coming days detailing some of the highlights and the few areas for improvement of the cruise but here are a few most important items.Food
We enjoyed some of the best food on Celebrity that I can remember in several cruises. They have tweaked their menu slightly over the last few years and offer many tradition preparations of classic dishes like braised lamb shank, spaghetti Bolognaise and French onions soup. They also had innovative newer style cuisine like sesame Ahi tuna and jerk chicken. Everything was flavorful, not overly filling, fresh and delicious. The sauces and preparations were flavorful but not overwhelming. The buffet food was equally as good in the Ocean View cafe where they rotated dishes about every three days and featured a great variety of food including salad, chicken, curries, Mexican, middle eastern and other varieties of food.
Celebrity has some of the most energetic, gracious and eager to please crew and staff on their ships. We did “Select Dining”, the flexible seating option, for both weeks. The first week we had dinner at 7:30 every night, as requested at the same table and with same waiter. For the second week, when we had 5 in our party with the addition of my Mother-in-law, we moved dining from a 4 top to a 5 top and switched waiters to one we had met on a previous cruise. More details to come on Select Dining and the wonderful staff my more extensive post to come. All around, Celebrity staff, from the activities staff, to the housekeeping staff to the officers and managers, everyone went out of their way to make our cruise special.
Activities and EntertainmentWe have always felt that with Celebrity we could do as little or as much as we wanted and with this cruise there was always something to do or a quiet place away from all the activity. They had wonderful music that ranged from a steel drum musician to a guitar player/vocalist, to a jazz ensemble, to a pop party cover band. The production shows included a Broadway review, celebration of international dance, and a cirque style show featuring juggling and acrobatics. The strengths in the production shows were definitely the strong vocalists and the amazing acrobatics, the weakness was is overly simple choreography that never challenged the talented dancers. Featured acts included a comedy musician the first week and a comedy juggler the second week. Both shows had strong voices male tenors who sang the obvious Broadway and Poperatic songs by artists like Josh Groban and Andrea Boccelli. If they didn’t sing these recognizable songs people would probably complain about that too, but I would like some variety as most of the tenors we’ve seen on Celebrity seem to sing the same 10 or so songs. Lisa, the cruise director also comes from an entertainment background, having played in a touring company of Mama Mia, and several nights, she treated us to her powerful vocals.
During the day there was plenty of free things to do on the schedule including ballroom dance lessons, pool Olympics, some fun trivia and brain teaser sessions, and at least two Zumba sessions, free of charge, every day. There was also a couple nights of lightly attended karaoke and generation Next Disco for 18-25 year-olds. Celebrity has also added comedy through a company called Sin City Comedy in association with the Hard Rock Cafe. The shows play in the smaller theater and the entertainers repeat the same show through out the cruise. Cruisers can go any time during the week that fits their schedule. We thought it might be the same performers for the second week, but they did have a new act for us to enjoy on the second week. In addition to the comedians, they also had a burlesque dancer who performed a traditional burlesque dance where she stripped to a bra and panties ensemble. Not really too risque at all, and the comedy included a few Lorena Bobbit and Viagra jokes which might not have been good for younger ones. The minimum age is 18 which is for the most part enforced by checking ID’s. The show was no more racy that what teens see on Comedy Central TV and YouTube, but I think that they wanted the adults to feel that it was a more mature entertainment option.
It had been over 30 years since I had visited Old San Juan on a cruise, and yet it felt like only last year. I was so excited to have my son along with me for a walking tour/afternoon exercise session in the beautiful port of San Juan. Though our ship didn’t arrive until mid-afternoon, it still afforded us plenty of time to explore the highlights of Old San Juan. I figured I’s just follow my nose and take my son so see some of the things I remember seeing as a teenager in the 1980?s when we cruised on the Stattendam. Our tour began on Paseo de Princesa, a recently restored pedestrian boulevard that heads from the down town port area to the bay entrance waterfront. Many sculptures and statues line the walk way. At the end passage, we found the beautiful Raices Fontana, a sculptural fountain depicting the Puerto Rico’s Taíno, Spanish, and African heritage. As we rounded the bend and headed up the hill we discovered a statue commemorating a religious procession of women and children with torches. It seems that a British captain sent to attack San Juan turned away when he saw the torch lights, mistaking the religious procession for military reinforcements. Further up the hill we encountered Castilo San Felipe del Morro, sometimes simply called El Morro. There was lots of opportunities for exercise as my son and I explored every level and corner of this immense fort. Along the way I photographed many of the echauguettes that are the trade mark of Puerto Rico. We headed back to the ship through the major shopping district where we did some window shopping and took in some of the ambiance of Old San Juan.
Just a simple day enjoying the ship and doing a little port shopping. The views of the bay are so pretty, that unless you really want to visit a specific bay or beach to do snorkeling or water activities, the ship is a great place from which to enjoy the beautiful scenery.
With a little shopping and a chill-out day at the beach, what could be better than Sint Maarten. I use the Dutch spelling because we have never ventured further than the port town of Phillipsburg when enjoying this quaint island. While there are plenty of snorkeling, sailing, sand and surf activities available for cruisers to enjoy, we like the simplicity of taking the water taxi into town and having a day of fun in the quaint town. Other beaches are more famous for either their airplanes landing or nudists, but very little beats the sheer relaxation of sitting on the little beach in Phillipsburg with a bucket of beer and an occasional swim to cool off.
Cozumel should have been the highlight of our cruise. Since this was the Presidents Cruise with Michael Bayley, all captain’s club members had been invited to join him at Playa Mia Beach Break in Cozumel for a day of food, fun, sun, open bar, beach activities and a water park. Unfortunately the weather systems had other plans. It was cool and windy and certainly not beach weather. Not a big deal for us since we cruise more for the ship than the destinations, but we were looking forward to this nice treat from the president of Celebrity. We ended up just picking up a few t-shirts in the port shopping area and having some great fajitas and beer in the little restaurant down the street.
The adverse weather didn’t affect our plans for the island of Grand Cayman. That’s because we had only planned to tender in and do a little shopping in Georgetown. So when the Cruise Director announced that we would be tendering in a different location and that most water related activities were cancelled, we thought we might just miss out on a little shopping. As it turned out, Celebrity, probably because it is the sister company of Royal Caribbean, was able to arrange free transport into Georgetown from the alternative tendering location. This meant that unlike the two other ships tendering to this location, MSC Poesia and Disney Wonder, we could make our way to Georgetown and back for free.
In Falmouth we enjoyed a little Jamaican culture mostly at the Royal Caribbean port area where we shopped for T-shirts, enjoyed a savory Jamaican pastry called a Patty, listened to Reggae music, and enjoyed a Coconut drink. We bought a few Usain Bolt and other Jamaican t-shirts and even picked up some jerk sauce for a delicious jerk chicken when we get back home. Labadee, Haiti
Haiti was a frequent stop of most major cruise lines during the 1970’s. Sadly with all the political, economic, and environmental turmoil in this very poor country, Royal Caribbean and her sister line, Celebrity, are the only major cruise lines that still visit Haiti. Royal Caribbean has developed the private peninsula not far from Cap Hatien, where we visited in the late 1970’s. The resort area provides a wonderful day for visitors in a safe environment. According to Wikipedia, Royal Caribbean International has contributed the largest proportion of tourist revenue to Haiti since 1986, employing 300 locals, allowing another 200 to sell their wares on the premises for a fee, and paying the Haitian government US$6 per tourist. This day was one of our favorites as we could enjoy the beaches, swim in the ocean, do a a little stand up paddle boarding, and enjoy the food and facilities on the peninsula.
For the most party Celebrity attracts a very nice set of passengers, we enjoyed meeting many other couples and families. Usually, when we have cruised Celebrity there are very, very few kids, but with both of these weeks falling during Spring Break there were lots of kids and families to be found. The large amount of kids did not diminish the enjoyment of the cruise in any way. I think there were 250 kids on board the first week, and over 500 the second week. For the most part the kids were with their families are involved in a planned activity at the Fun Factory or X Club. The teens did hang out a bit on their own, but were not loud or in the way. They only time I ever noticed the ship feeling crowded was the very first sea day of the second cruise when it started raining around noon and nearly everyone filed into the Ocean View cafe for a bite. Other than that day, and the final sea day by the pool when there was actual sun, the ship did not feel crowded to me. If you are not into crowds there are plenty of places on the ship where you can relax and enjoy the quiet. I cruise with my kids all the time because I have a set of rules by which they must abide if they want a future cruise, and one of those rules is no running, ever on a cruise ship, unless you are jogging on the jogging track. Several of the kids who had rooms near us did not follow that rule, and you could hear them running down the hall ways. Running is a normal thing for kids, but it is the one thing that creates a noise loud enough to carry into the other staterooms. The rooms are sound proof enough that your don’t generally hear talking or even laughing, but the running, because it vibrates the whole floor really does carry noticeably into the rooms.
Overall, I feel that Celebrity still has one of the strongest cruise products on the market. With lots of activities, but not an over the top party atmosphere, it creates a nice vacation option for those looking for an affordable luxury experience. The food and service was outstanding. We’ll be back again on the Silhouette for our wine tasting group cruise with Wilhelm Family Vineyards next year, Feb 16th. We are also booked for a trip to Norway on the Celebrity Eclipse for either May or August on next year.
Please see our Silhouette Gallery Page for More Photos.