Mediterranean Adriatic Cruise on the Celebrity Silhouette
May 17 - 30, 2012
Due to the length of the review, it is in four parts to help with the download time. The links to the other pages are at the top and bottom of the page.
Page 1 - Pre-Cruise in Venice, Italy; Ship Information through Dining
Page 2 - Ship Entertainment/Activities; Ravenna, Italy; Split, Croatia; Valletta, Malta
Page 3 - Catania, Sicily; Naples, Italy; Civitavecchia, Italy; Kotor, Montenegro
Page 4 - Dubrovnik, Croatia; Venice, Italy; Post cruise in Bellagio, Italy
Having been on two previous Mediterranean cruises, we were pleased to find this itinerary that would take us to several ports we hadn’t explored before. We had also decided that we would travel to different or outlying cities while in the ports we had previously visited. This cruise had lots of potential to visit some really nice places. It was also appealing in that we would be able to sail on Celebrity Cruises’ newest ship, the Silhouette.
Although we were both excited about this cruise, we were concerned about how much Carol would be able to enjoy it, since she had just had major surgery the previous month. We decided that Carol would do as much as she could without over doing, and not worry about anything else. She could recoup and sail at the same time.
Pre-Cruise in Venice, Italy
We have always enjoyed Venice and were looking forward to being able to visit at both the beginning and end of the cruise. Our flight schedule to Venice was quite worrying in that we only had one and a half hours for the connecting flight at Heathrow Airport, plus we had to go to a different terminal. Having been to Heathrow before, we knew that Carol would not be able to walk the long distances within the limited time frame. Fortunately, Carol was able to arrange online for wheel chair assistance through British Airlines. It made a huge difference and sped us over the distance and through the long lines for immigration and security.
Upon boarding the flight to Venice, we met Judy and Michael, who we had been communicating with before the cruise. We planned to share a water taxi to our hotel. Our very active WWW.Cruisecritic.com roll call was very helpful in arranging for shared transfers and some wonderful private tours. But even more importantly, we met some really nice fun people to share our cruise experience with.
We had decided not to pre-book the water taxi and just went to the counter outside baggage claim. It was very quick and easy. We were very surprised that the airline employee that had greeted us with a wheel chair to take Carol through the Venice terminal, also took us down to the water taxi dock in a van. Carol really appreciated being spoiled.
The water taxi ride to the hotel was a lot of fun. We were surprised that we were able to see the Dolomite Mountains in the distance, which we had not seen on previous visits. The ride into Venice is so special due to the beautiful buildings and unique sights there.
Since this was Judy and Michael’s first trip to Europe, they were having a ball.
The water taxi took us to our hotel for the night, Hotel Palazzo Stern http://www.palazzostern.it/en/. The hotel reservations were arranged by Steph, who started our Cruisecritic.com roll call. It was a former palace on the Grand Canal and quite a nice, well appointed hotel.
The Terrace on the Grand Canal was particularly special.
Our room was decorated like a palace room should be. It was very comfortable and roomy for a Venetian hotel room.
The public rooms in the hotel were also in the opulent Venice look.
With the hotel being in an area of Venice that I hadn’t explored in the past, I took off to see what I could for the few hours I had before dinner. What I love about Venice is that there are so many old beautiful buildings to look at, especially the churches.
I went into several churches; but most of them didn’t allow photos to be taken; which did not make me happy.
The views of the canals and bridges are so lovely. But because there are so many bridges, it is quite good exercise to walk anywhere.
It is said that it is fun to get lost in Venice. Well it is much more fun when your hotel is near St. Mark’s Square or the Rialto Bridge, since there are signs all over town directing you to get to those famous places. Unfortunately, since our hotel was not near one of those landmarks, I got really lost and was getting quite tired of going over bridges to nowhere. I finally had to resort to using the GPS map app on my iPhone to get back. It was a life saver.
The hotel had made dinner reservations for our group at a local restaurant, Il Refolo (TripAdvisor review link). We thought that they would have picked one that was close to the hotel; but it was a half hour walk away. Carol was tired from the trip and knew that she couldn’t walk that far, so she stayed at the hotel. She wanted me to go to the dinner without her. It turned out to be a very enjoyable evening. The restaurant was in a quiet part of town and had very good pizzas. It turned out to be the best one I had for the whole trip. Not that the others were bad; but this one was really delicious.
Everyone had a really good time. So good that we didn’t leave until well after 10:00 PM. By the time I got back to the hotel, all the travel, walking and jet lag had taken its toll. The bed felt so good for the short time I was awake on it.
The next morning we had a wonderful breakfast in the lovely breakfast room/cocktail lounge. The hotel’s included breakfast was top notch. The staff was also very helpful and friendly.
My touring goal for the morning was to finally get to see the interior of the Santa Maria della Salute church. It is the large domed white church across the Grand Canal from St. Mark’s Square. To get there, I took the vaporetto that stopped right next to our hotel. It was so enjoyable to look at all the gorgeous buildings that line the canal.
When we were in Venice in 2007, I was so disappointed when there was scaffolding covering the dome while it was being renovated. This time the church showed in all its glory.
I was so grateful that non-flash photos were allowed inside the church. It was quite lovely with a geometric patterned floor.
It was unusual in that the church is an octagonal shape. This provides for eight separate chapels. The decorations and famous paintings are most impressive.
After leaving the church, I walked up to Punta della Dogana, the point at the end of the little peninsula. The building there is a modern art museum. The old street light that used to be on the point has been replaced by a stature of a naked boy holding a dead frog. Rather strange. So strange, in fact, that the people of Venice have protested about it. The whole area near the church was really pretty.
The easiest way to cross the canal to get to St. Mark’s Square was to take the Traghetto. For 2 €, you get a gondola ride across the canal. It is the best deal in Venice.
When I got to the other side of the canal, I couldn’t believe how crowded it was. The first time we visited Venice was in April 2000 and it was not crowded. In 2007, we visited about the same time in May as this time; but the crowds weren’t bad at all. This time, Venice was uncomfortably crowded. I was so glad we had previously visited the main tourist attractions, since the lines were incredibly long.
The one thing I wanted to see near St. Mark’s Square was the Bridge of Sighs. The last time we were in Venice, it was being renovated and the area around the bridge was covered with advertisements; which paid for the renovations. This time it looked great, other than the large crowd trying to get over the main bridge to see the Bridge of Sighs.
I decided to walk back to the hotel rather than take the vaporetto. I had enough of the crowds and thought I could avoid them by walking. It was better outside of the square; but still very crowded until I got close to where I had hoped to take the Traghetto over to our hotel. The gondola was there; but no drivers. I waited for a while to see if a driver showed up. Since it was getting close to the time when we were going to catch the water taxi, I was getting impatient. I waited a little while longer; but no one came, so I decided to walk down to the Academia Bridge to cross the canal. After getting lost while trying to find a shortcut (not a good idea in Venice) I finally found the bridge and the way back to the hotel. I will definitely get a hotel closer to St. Mark’s Square or Rialto Bridge next time.
By the time I got back to the hotel, Carol had been wondering what had happened to me. She wasn’t worried, since she is familiar with my wandering around longer than I should in tourist areas. Not long after I returned, the group loaded onto the water taxis and headed for the port.
As the water taxi approached the port, we were excited to see the Silhouette waiting for us. We had no idea what a mess was going on inside the terminal. After jockeying for position, the water taxi pulled up to the dock and dropped us and our luggage off. We had been told by Celebrity that wheel chairs would be available, but found out later that they meant at the terminal itself.
Even though it didn’t look like the ship was that far away, it was a pretty good walk to the terminal entrance. By the time we got there, we saw a very long disorganized group of people waiting to get into the terminal. There was no way that Carol could stand in that long line, so she asked for a wheel chair. Once it arrived we were able to get into the terminal and see that there was an even longer line there. We were so glad that we could bypass the line, since we heard later that it took over an hour for most people to be able to check in. This was absolutely the worst check in process that we had ever been involved in. Even though the agents were working quickly, the amount of time each person had to spend with the agent seemed to be much longer than we are used to.
After dropping off our carryon luggage in our cabin, we headed to the buffet for lunch. Since so many people were still waiting in the long lines at the terminal, there were plenty of tables available in the buffet. Quite unusual! However, before we finished eating, there was a line backed up at the door waiting to get in.
While Carol unpacked, I went around the ship taking photos. It was almost 2:00 PM and with the muster drill scheduled for 4:15 PM, I didn’t have too much time. It was going to be a very rushed afternoon. We were scheduled to leave at 5:00 PM and planned to go to a sail-a-way party with our new Cruise Critic friends to enjoy the splendor of sailing through Venice. Leaving at 5:00 would work out particularly well, since the early seating dinner was at 6:15 PM.
After the muster drill our plans were messed up when an announcement informed us that our departure was going to be delayed. We finally left at 6:15 PM, when dinner was supposed to start. I watched for a little while; but since the ride down the canal was very slow, I didn’t get to see much since I didn’t want to be more than 15 minutes late to dinner. It was disappointing; but since we would return to Venice at the end of the cruise, I planned on seeing it then. Although there had been some frustrations, what would be one of our best cruises had begun.
We had sailed on the Celebrity Solstice twice before and were looking forward to experiencing the newest ship in the Solstice class. As expected, both ships were very similar; but there were many changes, most of them for the better. I really like this class ship; but Carol still prefers the Millennium class. With only two sea days on this very port intensive twelve day cruise, we didn’t get to spend much time in most of the venues. Therefore I don’t have comments on many of them. The numerous public rooms are shown below by category.
Dining Rooms -
Grand Cuvee Restaurant – This is the main dining room in the ship where we ate all our dinners on this cruise.
Oceanview Café - The buffet is very well arranged and seemed to flow quite smoothly. Even at prime time, we were able to find a table without much trouble. At the back of the buffet is a very large outside area that is partially covered.
Mast Grill – The grill was by the pool on deck 14 and served great burgers and other snack foods. A soft serve ice cream machine was right next to it.
Bistro on Five – We enjoyed this restaurant on the Solstice, but never got to try this one.
Specialty Restaurant Area - The area outside the specialty restaurants is quite pretty, so I wanted to put it in this section, even though it isn't a restuarant.
Blu – The restaurant is reserved for passengers who have booked Aqua Class cabins.
Qsine - It is described as a “Uniquely Unordinary” restaurant. Those people we talked to that ate here enjoyed the experience; but would not do it a second time.
Murano - This is the French restaurant. We thoroughly enjoyed it on the Solstice, but didn’t try it on this cruise. The wine cellar room is quite popular and needs to be booked in advance.
Tuscan Grille - We enjoyed this steak house on the Solstice, but didn’t try it this time.
Lawn Club Grill – It is the outdoor grill on the upper deck lawn club. It looked like the few people we saw eating there were having a good time; but I couldn’t justify spending $40 each for a meal that we would have to assist them in cooking. Kind of a strange concept to me and apparently most of the other cruises felt the same way.
The Porch – I had been given a free meal coupon for this restaurant. The location was very good on the top deck on the back side of the Lawn Club Grill. The menu selection was very limited, mainly Panini’s for lunch. They also serve breakfast for a $5 per person fee. I was told that they could not customize the Panini’s, so what they had was what you could order. I wasn’t particularly hungry the afternoon I came to the Porch, since I had already eaten something in port earlier; but I had to try this restaurant and I wouldn’t have another chance.
The first course I had was some cold peach soup. It was so good. I had more of it than I should, but I had the waitress put most of it in a go cup so Carol could try it. Next I had a Caesar Salad. It was the best one I had the whole cruise. I shouldn’t have, but did eat almost all of it. For the main course I had chosen a Philly Panini. It was pretty good, but I could only eat a few bites of it. I will never know if the dessert was any good, since I didn’t even want to know what they had.
AquaSpa Cafe -
Cellar Masters – This is the wine bar. Since we aren’t wine drinkers, we had no reason to try it.
Martini Bar – I love the martini bars on Celebrity ships. Since we are Elite status with Celebrity, we attended the nightly free cocktails offered in the Sky Observation Lounge instead of coming to the Martini Bar before dinner. I only had one martini there the whole week.
Quasar – This is the contemporary nightclub. It looked like a great place; but we were never up late enough to check it out. The Wii games they had set up seemed to be popular.
Café al Bacio – The premium coffee bar was quite popular. Since we were quite happy with the coffee in other venues, we never tried it. At the opposite end of the coffee counter was the gellateria.
Ensemble Lounge – This is a lovely bar and one of the largest on the ship. I really enjoyed the entrance with the bird sounds.
Michael’s Club – It is a very nice bar with a great selection of beer and whiskies.
Molecular Bar – This is an interesting bar with some outstanding drinks. I had a couple of delicious drinks there; but both times I was by myself. It just didn’t seem to be that popular. Probably because the drinks were almost twice the price of the other bars. Additionally, the unusual music that was blaring loudly in the area actually made it uncomfortable to sit there. I heard from many people.
Pool Bar –
Mast Bar –
Sky Observation Lounge – My favorite bar due to its location high up in the front of the ship. The views from the lounge were the best of any venue on the ship. It’s where the Elite cocktail hour was held, so I got to enjoy it most days. The unusual sculpture helped me to identify which door to go in each evening, when I got off the elevator.
Sunset Bar - The bar is on deck 15 on the back of the ship. It was a great meeting place after a busy day in port.
Silhouette Theater – It is a very large and comfortable theater. Like most of the newer ships, the sound system and lighting were first class. The seats had plenty of leg room. The only minor negative was that there were several seats in the back part of the theater that had obstructed views. People would sit down until they realized there was a column in front of them. Then they would have to find another seat. Since we sat close to that area most nights, for a while we tried to warn people before they sat down; but soon stopped since it was easier for them to find out for themselves than to understand what we were telling them before they sat down.
Celebrity Central – This is a smaller venue used for some of the guest speakers. It allowed for a more personalized presentation.
Fortunes Casino –
Celebrity iLounge – This is an internet café with a focus on Apple products. They had the most technology savvy attendants that I have ever had on a cruise. They were very helpful and patient with many of the people who were technology challenged.
The Hideaway – This area is a sitting area on deck 7 mid-ship. The open area and some seating extend up to deck 8. It was very popular all day for people wanting to read, but especially for those that wanted the coffee that was always available. It must have been really good coffee, since sometimes people were waiting in line to get it. With our cabin on deck 8 right next to the Hideaway, Carol took advantage of what she thought was the most comfortable seating on the ship. Unfortunately she wasn’t the only person that felt that way, since it was occupied much of the time.
Library – It’s a large two story library. It is nice; but the problem with all of the mid-ship areas for reading or playing cards on the ship was that they are exposed to the noise and music from the Grand Foyer. This was an issue for the Library, Card Room and Hideaway.
Card Room – As mentioned, the card room was exposed to a lot of noise. A couple of people said that it was difficult to communicate with the other players over the music coming from the foyer.
Art Studio – They were supposed to have all sorts of arts and crafts, as well as seminars in the studio. It was always closed when I went by it, except for one time when I was able to get these photos. There didn’t seem to be much going on in the studio at that time either.
The Lawn Club – This is a really pleasant area. The bocce ball court seemed to be used a lot; but due to the Alcoves taking up so much space, it didn’t seem to be as popular as when there was a glass blowing show in the area that was replaced by the Lawn Grill. I do hope that Celebrity finds a way to make the lawns more functional for the passengers, as well as profitable for themselves, with something that the customers really want.
The Alcoves – This is the biggest waste of space on the ship. Each alcove can be rented for the day for your personal use. The charge is $99 per port day and $149 per sea day. I never saw or heard of anyone using them during the entire cruise.
Solstice Deck - This is a great place at the front of the ship on deck 16 to obtain a suntan or just take a nap. The chaise lounges are very comfortable and the area is quiet.
Video Arcade -
Shops on Blvd – These are the shops on Deck 4. They are right across from the casino.
Art Gallery – The best part about the art gallery was that there were no art auctions being held anywhere on the ship. This was such a pleasant change. It didn't look like an art gallery to me and was normally used for small presentations.
Galleria Boutiques – These shops are on Deck 5
Photo Gallery – Going to the photo gallery after dinner and searching for the photos taken the previous day has been a tradition for us. On the Silhouette, we could see our photos on our cabin TV, so we rarely had to visit the photo gallery. It worked great for us.
AquaSpa – The ship spas are always nice facilities; but we don’t take advantage of them.
Fitness Center – This was a very well equipped fitness center. Had there been more sea days I would have been able to take advantage of it, but I was getting more than enough exercise on our full day tours. I did pass through the fitness center regularly when I would go to the viewing area in front of the center. It was the best place to take photos from the front of the ship. I guess that the people that were crowded together on the deck 14 viewing areas just didn’t realize this was available or how to get there.
Solarium – The Silhouette has a lovely solarium; but we just didn’t have the time to use it on this cruise with only two sea days; which were also pretty busy.
Swimming Pools – Since we live in South Florida, sitting by a swimming pool isn’t that special to us. The pools area was pretty crowded on the two sea days; but to me, it was too cool to be swimming with the temperature in the low 70’s and lots of wind.
Guest Relations –
Shore Excursions –
Future Cruises – I always have to visit this office every cruise to buy another open booking. It makes booking our next cruise less expensive. The people that work in these facilities always seem to be so knowledgeable and pleasant.
Sky Conference – These conference rooms were on deck 14 forward near the Sky Lounge.
Upper deck - In addition to the tennis court, there are lots of lounge chairs for laying out in the sun. One evening the brilliant sunset reflected on to the solarium windows.
Atrium - The atrium was a lovely area, especially the area above the main floor with the live tree. The statue was kind of strange; but grew on me as we got further into the cruise.
When we were on the Solstice, we booked an aft cabin because we had enjoyed the extra large aft balconies on the Millennium class ships. Since we booked the Solstice before the construction was completed, we didn’t realize that the aft cabins weren’t that special on this class ship. We were very disappointed with the Solstice aft cabin, since the balcony was the same size as a normal balcony and the walk to the elevator banks was very long due to there not being any aft elevators or stairs.
We decided for the Silhouette we would get a mid-ship balcony cabin on the hump. Doing so would reduce how far we would need to walk when we went anywhere. Additionally, our cabin number 8257, had a balcony that was about three times the size of the standard balcony. The position of the balcony provided a great view in front of the ship as well as down to the water. We have already booked the same cabin one deck up for next year’s Baltic cruise on the Eclipse.
The cabin was an average size but well arranged. We were pleased that the safe that took up a lot of room in the closet on the Solstice was moved to the desk area on the Silhouette. We had complained about the bad safe location on the customer satisfaction survey after our Solstice cruise; so I guess we weren’t the only ones that complained. Our suitcases were easily able to be stashed under the beds.
The bathroom was of an adequate size; although the countertop space is limited. The design of the shower with the glass doors works very well.
There were plenty of plugs at the desk area for charging our various electronic gadgets.
One storage area that passengers might overlook is located above the bed. We used it in part to put the large wooden hangers that were in the closet. They are nice, but Carol always brings wire hangers to replace them, since wire ones take up less room and more clothes can be hung in the closet.
We had a very good cabin attendant, Palton from India; and his assistant Billy from Haiti.
Palton had to leave very early in the cruise due to a family emergency. Billy was promoted to acting cabin attendant and did a stellar job. We couldn’t have been happier with them.
One of the reasons we enjoy cruising with Celebrity, is that we believe their food is better than most of the other lines we have traveled on. The Silhouette was no exception. We usually eat a couple of nights in the specialty restaurants, but this time we ate every dinner in the dining room. With the food in the Grand Cuvee restaurant being so good, we didn’t feel that it was worth spending the extra $40 per person charge to try any of the specialty restaurants for dinner. Plus we didn’t want to miss one of the Cuvee’s delicious dinners. The food was well presented and tasty. The menus and photos of our meals are on this page of the review. The food selection was good; but if we couldn’t find something we wanted, the items that were available on the Classic Dinner Favorites side of the menu were always worth having.
We were disappointed that escargot had been taken off the menu, apparently due to an escargot shortage. It’s a wonder this didn’t make the national news! One night Carol ordered the crab stuffed mushroom caps from the classic side of the menu for an appetizer. It was served in the escargot dishes and had a lot of butter on it; so it was kind of an escargot substitute. Actually, it was quite good!
Since Carol and I were trying to limit what we ate on this cruise to some extent, the somewhat disappointing dessert selection on some nights wasn’t as big a deal. It helped with our diet, but I did hear comments about the dessert selection going downhill.
On the first day of a cruise we always go down to the dining room to see where our table is located. We had requested a table for six, since we enjoy meeting and getting to know fellow cruisers. For some reason we had been assigned a table for two. Tables for two are normally very difficult to get, since there aren’t that many of them. So we requested to be moved to a large table. The Maitre d was thrilled to have a table for two to give to the many people who had requested them.
When we went to dinner the first night we had been given a table for eight, which was fine, but only two other people showed up. Nicky and Linda were from Great Britain. The next night an Indian couple from San Francisco, Garshon and Rupa also joined us. The other couple assigned to our table never showed up. Garshon and Rupa decided to eat most dinners at the buffet due to the wider selection of Indian food there, so our table for eight ended up being just the four of us for the rest of the cruise.
Our assistant maitre de was Marian Dinca from Romania. He was excellent. He is only 25 years old, but he is probably the most “on the ball” maitre de' (head or assistant) that we’ve ever had. He not only greeted us at the door, he constantly circulated through his area every night during the entire time. He went to each table during the beginning of the meal to see if anyone needed anything, and he visited each table after to see if we had enjoyed the experience. He frustrated me repeatedly by not smiling for his photo. He would smile and when I put the camera up, he would make a face.
We had good service from our waiter Jorge from Honduras. Around the third or fourth night, Carol asked Jorge if she could just have a bowl of fresh blueberries for dessert the following night. Celebrity always tries to be accommodating if you request ahead. Carol’s intention was to totally resist even looking at the dessert menu. The blueberries were outstanding, and did the trick for two nights. Then she added a scoop of vanilla ice cream to the fruit. Yummy. By the second week she gave up on the idea. However, Jorge still brought the blueberries and ice cream every night, no matter what.
Jorge really tried hard to go that extra step each night and make our dining experience memorable. His service was very, very good.
Unfortunately, we only received adequate service from his assistant Roa from the Philippines. I wouldn’t say that we had any problems with Roa; it was more of an aggravation. Carol and I both drink a lot of iced tea with our meals and the ice tea glasses used by Celebrity are small. We asked Roa to please bring each of us two glasses of tea at the beginning of the meal each evening, so we wouldn’t have to bother him during the meal to get us another glass. This method has always worked on our previous cruises. Well, even though we asked several times, he just wouldn’t do it that way. Additionally, he was always distracted, and it was very hard to get his attention for another glass. Then it would take a long time for him to return with the tea. At first I thought maybe he had too many tables, but when I asked him, he said he only had four tables. Two of the tables only had two people, one had four, and ours only had four most nights. That’s only twelve people for our seating, so no excuse.
Another problem was that in the past, the assistant waiters have always cleaned off any sweetener packets or paper from straws from the table very quickly. They also clean off bread crumbs after the meal with a little tool they all carry. For most of the cruise Roa never did either of those things. On the last couple of days he finally started to; but our opinion of him was not changed. He needed more training if he was going to be up to Celebrity’s standard.
On the second sea day, a brunch was served in the dining room. The main floor was covered with different food stations serving breakfast and lunch items. The area was decorated with numerous ice sculptures.
We only ate lunch in the buffet a few times, since we were in port at lunch time most days. The food selection was very good and for the most part the food was well prepared. The selection of ethnic foods was good, particularly the Mexican and Indian food, which we are fond of. It wasn’t great ethnic food, but was certainly adequate and nice for a change.
We ate breakfast in the buffet every day. The selection was too large and tempting, but after a few days we settled on a standard meal and stuck with it. I did like that they had an eggs Benedict station at the food bar. It was never crowded either. Unlike many breakfast buffets, the scrambled eggs weren’t dried out; which I thought was a major accomplishment. Since I was trying to limit how much I ate at breakfast, particularly sweets, I never got to try the waffles, pancakes or other sweet treats. It killed me; but I am glad I was able to control myself.
During the cruise I had one hamburger and one hotdog at the Mast Grill. They were really good and had there been more sea days, I am sure I would have been tempted and visited there many times.
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