Traveling has always been one of my passions. I love the excitement of seeing new places and the thrill of experiencing different cultures.
Let me preface this review by stating that I am by no means an expert when it comes to cruising. I have been on exactly three cruises in my life and two of them were over thirty years ago. So, what you are getting here will be my take on our recent trip aboard the Celebrity Silhouette through the eastern Mediterranean. I’ll tell you what I liked and what I didn’t like. If I have any biased opinions here they come from the fact that I have always stated that I am not a cruising person. I would much rather have my feet on the ground exploring new places than sitting in my lounge chair with 3,000 of my new friends while staring into the abyss of the sea. But, I did end our cruise with a big smile on my face so something must have appealed to me.
The first thing I’ll say about the Silhouette is that it’s big. The ship is part of Celebrities Solstice-class and weighs in at a hefty 122,000 gross tons. It measures 315 meters in length, which is over 1,000 feet, and about 37 meters wide. The ship has the capacity to carry 2,886 passengers along with a crew of 1,500. All told the ship could have almost 4,400 people on it when you set sail. The Silhouette was completed in 2011 in Papenburg, Germany at the Meyer Werft shipyard and cost about $750 million to build. The other Celebrity ships in the Solstice Class include the Equinox, Eclipse, Solstice, and the Reflection.
The Silhouette sails in both the Mediterranean and the Caribbean depending on the season. During the summer and fall months, the Silhouette can be found patrolling the Mediterranean while in the winter it heads west to the warm waters of the Caribbean. Although Celebrity can change a ship's itinerary for a season the Silhouette has been fairly consistent since it launched. While in the Mediterranean it sails from Rome (Civitavecchia) and Venice. In the Caribbean, it sails from Fort Lauderdale.
For our trip we flew to Rome, sailed from Civitavecchia, and finished up in Venice. Our cruise was twelve nights and we stopped in Naples, Malta, Mykonos, Ephesus, Rhodes, Santorini, Athens, Crete, and then on to Venice. One of the things that really appealed to me about this particular cruise was that we were in an interesting port almost every day, and at most of our stops we were there all day.
Prior to this cruise I was always a little hesitant about cruising as I thought I would be bored out of my mind stuck on the ship. This fear was mostly offset by the fact that we only had two days at sea and one of them was at the end of the cruise as we headed to Venice. So, if you're looking for a cruise where you have the opportunity to explore some pretty neat destinations then you might consider a similar itinerary. The two days at sea was just right and gave us a chance to recharge before heading off to explore someplace new.
Life on board
Whether or not you enjoy living in a floating hotel will come down to your own personal preferences. Some people love this and others perhaps not. I was okay with the whole shipboard experience and while there were many things that I liked there were a few things that I did not care for.
Let’s start with some of the things that I liked. Having a place to call home for twelve nights was certainly something that I enjoyed. Our normal trips to Europe involve packing and unpacking and repeating the whole process over and over as we move from one location to the next. I have to say that I really enjoyed unpacking and leaving everything in one spot and not having to worry about it. While the size of rooms on-board cruise ships today will certainly vary we opted for a room with a view, or a veranda as they call it. The room was plenty big enough for the two of us and it was nice to have a small balcony to enjoy.
The amenities on these large cruise ships will vary but most of them nowadays will have a gym, plenty of pools, a spa, shopping, a casino for those wishing to gamble, a few theaters, numerous bars, and plenty of food courts, restaurants, and other places for one to indulge in what seems to be the number one activity on a cruise, eating.
As I like to run, having the gym and also a small outdoor track really came in handy. I was up early most mornings to get my exercise in before we headed off the ship and I liked having this option available. The gym was large, well equipped, and very clean. They really stress cleanliness on these ships today, or at least they do on the Silhouette, and with all of the negative press lately about people getting sick this is a good thing. It seemed to me that there was a steward around every corner with their disinfectant spray and hand gel and we had no issues with the norovirus or any other aliment.
A lot of people like to cruise simply for the entertainment and night life. While the reviews of cruise ship entertainment can range from pretty darn good to downright awful I wasn’t expecting this to be very important to me. I will say that I was pleasantly surprised by the entertainment that we did see.
While we did not attend a show every night, as we wanted to be up early on certain days, the shows that we did see were pretty good and very entertaining. We saw dancers, musicians, a comedian and a few lectures on our ports of call. The cruise director, Lisa Richard, was actually very talented herself and I thought she did a great job with the entertainment. Even the captain of the ship, Dimitris Kafetzis, was extremely funny and could easily have a career as a comedian when he gives up sailing cruise ships. I think he was actually funnier than the comedian. Seriously, this guy does a great job as the captain but definitely has a humorous side to him, he is very personable.
Dinner in the Grand Cuvee dining room every evening was great. The food was wonderful and we happened to latch onto a very entertaining crew of waiters who worked very hard and were very personable. We did not eat in the dining room every evening but we enjoyed our dining room staff so much that by the end of the cruise we very much looked forward to seeing them and having dinner there.
The cruise ship offered three dining time options; early, late, or a flexible option that we selected. Because we were never sure of exactly what time we would be returning to the ship each day we wanted to have some flexibility as to when we ate. This worked out well.
Overall I thought the quality of the food, especially at dinner was very good. Each evening the dinner menu had a few items that were available every evening along with a handful of new and unique options. The dessert choices were always delightful and tasty.
Some Interesting Food Statistics
|Food served during an average 10-day cruise on the Silhouette||lbs, dz, gal|
Rack of Lamb
Meals served in the Grand Cuvée Dining Room
The Not so Good
Now onto a few areas that rubbed me the wrong way. So let’s get back to the food. While my overall impression of the food was very good, there were a few things that I did not like. In addition to the Grand Cuvee Dining Room and the Oceanview Cafe there are a number of alternative dining options available on board but these are not part of the "included food" options and you will have to pay for your dining experience in these restaurants. I am much too cheap to pass up a pretty good "included" meal for a "dining experience" and thought this was pretty petty of the cruise line to charge extra for this.
On days when we ate in the Oceanview Café, aka the cafeteria, the experience was mixed. The Oceanview Cafe is akin to a large cafeteria with multiple buffet serving stations and a lot of guests used this option for breakfast, lunch and dinner so it was often crowded. If we happened to be there at an off hour it was fine. But during lunch or dinner time it felt like a feeding frenzy. There were just too many people going in every which direction that it made my head spin. And because there are a number of different serving stations you kind of have to mosey around a bit to see what is being served. Between bumping into people and then having to wait for them while they seemed hell bent on touching everything was sort of a turnoff. The more I ate in the Oceanview Café the more I told myself I would not eat there again during peak hours. As the cruise wore on we did learn to avoid the crazy feeding rush and the experience is certainly much improved when you are not competing with hundreds of hungry people.
So other than my personal problems with the Oceanview Café the food overall was pretty good. I can certainly see how people can go on a cruise and come home a few sizes bigger. Eating does seem to be the number one activity for most people along with drinking. Perhaps they feel like they're getting their money’s worth if they eat themselves into oblivion?
Can you really experience a destination in a day?
While we did have the opportunity to visit a lot of very interesting places one of the things that has always turned me off about cruising is that you really can’t experience a place in one day or less. For instance, we spent a day in Malta and there were so many things that I wanted to see and do, but we just did not have enough time. So, while we certainly got a taste for how great Malta is we’ll have to return someday to really explore and see all that this wonderful island has to offer. The same can be said about many of our stops and I suppose that if you really want to spend some significant time on a particular island then a cruise might not be the best way to do it. On the other hand, if you want a taste of numerous interesting places to help you determine which ones you might want to return to someday then this is exactly where a cruise such as this becomes the perfect venue.