Mediterranean Adriatic Cruise on the Celebrity Silhouette
May 17 - 30, 2012
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
We like to go to early seating dinner, so that we have time to go to shows in the evening. Celebrity normally does a good job in entertaining the passengers. They came through again for the most part. We were fortunate to have a very good cruise director, Paul Baya.
He was informative and entertaining during the shows; but didn’t waste too much time gabbing just to hear himself talk like some CD’s we have had. He was very friendly and approachable at all times and just a pleasant guy. I had read before the cruise that he was a good singer. One night I heard him singing with one of the groups in the Grand Foyer. He was very good and the audience loved him. During one of the shows he sang the male portion of the beautiful duet, The Prayer. He had an incredible voice. He could easily make a living as a professional singer.
We had two very good British singers performing during the cruise, Phillip Browne and Lindsay Hamilton. They were first class acts and the audience was very pleased with them.
One performer, Marc Paul, was a mentalist. This was a different type show for a cruise ship. He was able to play some amazing mind games. Very entertaining.
One night the show had what was called a multi-instrumentalist. It didn’t sound that interesting, so I passed on it. The next evening Marc Donoghue performed again with Philip Browne and I saw that performance. I was disappointed I didn’t see his full show. He was quite talented.
Another night we had an entertainer, David Deeble, who was a comedy juggler. He started off slow, throwing out funny statements while he was attempting to do various juggling stunts. At first it seemed as if he were messing up. Some people left early in the show; but as the show progressed and people started to relate to him and realized what he was doing, the show was just hilarious. He has a unique and entertaining act.
We also had a talented magician one night, Phillip Hitchcock. He performed some amazing tricks and was a hit with the audience.
I was very pleased with the variety of performers we had. There was something for everyone and all of them very good at what they do.
There were several different musical groups playing and singing around the ship most of the time. The a-cappella group was probably the most popular. They sang at the welcome aboard show the first night. I didn’t pay enough attention to know which groups were which, but I did enjoy them when I happened to come across them playing or singing.
Production Shows -
We had three production shows. The singers and dancers were as usual very good in all the shows. The cast was loaded with talent. The first show was called Velocity. It was primarily made up of current music with lots of dancing and singing.
The aerialists and gymnasts were just outstanding. Very impressive performances.
The next production show was Broadway Nights. Of course it focused on Broadway hits. For the most part it was good, but they did change up some of the classic songs; which didn’t work for me. The singers did an outstanding job with the arrangements they had; but they should have left well enough alone and kept the original scores.
The last production show was called the Show. Once again there were some awesome performances by the aerialists and gymnasts. The singers did a good job; but the music wasn’t my taste and the dancing was too repetitive. It actually got to the point of boring in some scenes.
In all three production shows, the costumes were very colorful. One thing that did surprise me was that the shows did not seem to utilize the capabilities of that wonderful theater. The Solstice shows had characters over, around and above the audience much more.
Even though I have some negative comments regarding the production shows, overall I was very pleased with the entertainment. People have different tastes and it is impossible to please everyone with every show.
Cruise Critic Connections Party (www.cruisecritic.com) - We always look forward to the Connections Party, where the people we have been communicating with for many months on our roll call get to meet each other. The party is normally held on the first sea day; but for some reason it was scheduled at the worst time possible, 8:00 PM on the first day, just three hours after our departure from Venice. Of the over 100 people that registered for the party, there were only about twenty in attendance. Not only were people either just finishing or getting ready for dinner, but many people were exhausted from their travels. In addition, with the show in the theater starting at 8:45 PM, people couldn’t stay long, since they needed to get down to the theater to get seats. There was just too much going on for most people to try to fit the party in. We were very disappointed that we didn’t get to meet many people we were looking forward to meeting; or to even have time to meet many of the people that did attend. Just horrible scheduling.
We arrived about five minutes late to the party, since dinner was running a bit late. The only officer attending was the Hotel Director. She was very nice and friendly; but normally the Cruise Director and sometimes even the Captain attends. There is also normally a little talk from the officers welcoming the group and answering questions; as well as everyone gets to introduce themselves so others will recognize who they have been conversing with. I would have to assume that like the passengers, the officers and people that coordinate these parties, had the same scheduling problems that we had.
They did provide name tags, but they only had our real names on them and not the “handles” we use on Cruise Critic, so no one knew who was who. Very disappointing.
Beyond the Podium presentations -
My favorite was Bob McElwee, who is a well known former NFL referee. He was a wealth of information and told some outstanding stories about celebrities, players, games and various situations that occurred during his career. He spoke at several sessions, but I only got to attend two of them due to scheduling conflicts.
I also went to a seminar by Dr. Paul Freedman titled “Visitors to Capri”. When I went to the seminar, I thought it was going to be about what too see in Capri. Instead he told about many Roman historical figures. It was a good presentation, but not what I was expecting. I should have read the description of the talk more thoroughly. My mistake.
Oceans Ahead series - Capt. Nicholas Pagonis appeared at several events during the cruise. For The Oceans Ahead series, that focuses on navigation and technical ship topics, he had a session called Secrets of Navigation. Much of it was a bit detailed about how the crew navigates; but then he told about some personal experiences that were interesting. Near the end of the talk he apologized that he wouldn’t be able to answer questions, since he had been sick and was on antibiotics. He said he could have had someone else give the talk, but he really wanted to do it. The crowd appreciated it.
Ports of Call
We awoke to a clear day with an expected temperature of 72. It was perfect weather for touring Ravenna; which is a new port for cruise lines since a large new dock was built two years ago. It is only about 50 miles South of Venice. This town, although small in size, has been blessed with eight buildings that have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These buildings are 1,500 years old and contain incredibly beautiful mosaics. Celebrity provided an all day shuttle bus service to the center of town and back to the port for $14 per person. It was a fair price considering that the taxis were around 10€ each way.
From where the shuttle bus dropped us off, it was a short walk through town to where the historic buildings were. I had copied a map of Ravenna with the sites onto my iPhone before the cruise to help me find where to go, since this is a port that is easy to do on your own. My route took me first to the location of the best mosaic laden building, the Basilica di San Vitale. There we were able to by our 11.5€ combination tickets to see the five most important and accessible UNESCO buildings. There are other places on the walk through the city that sold tickets to some of the buildings; but the only place to get the tickets to main sites is at the sites themselves.
Both the Basilica and the second best site, Mausoleo di Galla Placidia, are at the same location. We first came to the basilica, which had a very high ceiling. It was just covered with beautiful mosaic art. To me, the appeal of mosaics is that colors maintain their brilliance over the centuries, unlike many paintings. I have seen some beautiful mosaics in our travels; but these were by far the best ever.
The building had such vivid artwork all over the various arches, walls and dome. It was truly an amazing display of artwork. Because of the height of the building, it did tend to strain neck muscles after awhile. But it was worth the strain to enjoy the beauty.
In addition to the mosaics, the floors were also quite a sight with various patterns covering them. They were easily missed, since most people were staring up rather than down.
After leaving the basilica, we walked across the yard to the mausoleum. From the yard we could get a good view of the back side of the basilica and the mausoleum. The mausoleum was a much smaller building from the outside, and it seemed even smaller on the inside with all the people that were visiting.
Unlike the basilica, this ceiling was quite low. As a result the mosaics were much closer and easier to appreciate. Everything over eight feet high was covered with mosaics. It was just gorgeous.
The lighting was very low in the mausoleum, making it difficult to get photos; especially since flash photos weren’t allowed. I was lucky to be able to get as many decent photos as I did. Every side of the building had different mosaic scenes that I wanted to remember.
Since Carol had been doing a lot of walking, she decided that while I did more sightseeing, she would take a leisurely stroll back through town stopping at the various shops before taking the shuttle bus back to the ship.
My first stop was at the Duomo. Before going in I had to go over to the column across the street with the statue of the Virgin Mary on top.
The outside of the church was not particularly impressive, nor was the view upon entering; but the chapels at the front of the church were something to behold. They were very ornate and quite beautiful.
The main reason I had visited the Duomo was because it was on the grounds where the Battistero Neoniano was located. The octagonal shaped baptistery was covered with mosaics like the other UNESCO sites.
Because the baptistery had lots of windows, this building was much brighter than the other sites I had seen. Each site visited was quite special.
I went to the museum close by that also contained the Cappella di S. Andrea mosaics. It was rather strange in that they were very small and photos of any kind weren’t allowed in the museum.
On the way to the last building on the combo ticket, I stopped at the tomb of Dante. Apparently the city of Florence has tried in vain to have Dante’s body returned there. I don’t think that Ravenna is going to give it up.
The last site to visit was Basilica di Sant Apolinare Nuovo. Now this was a different type of church than the others in town because it had both the Byzantine mosaics along with the traditional artwork and statues. I had been thoroughly impressed with the buildings I had visited and was glad that Ravenna had been included on our itinerary.
One of the things I read about Ravenna was that the city was known for its lasagna. Since it was close to 1:00 PM, I was getting quite hungry after all the sightseeing and was ready for lunch. I found a nice restaurant with outdoor seating and thoroughly enjoyed some awesome lasagna. Their reputation was well deserved. After lunch, I walked around town a bit before heading back to the ship.
The next morning while clearing out my email inbox, I saw a breaking news alert that there had been a 5.9 earthquake overnight in the city of Bologna, which was only about 50 miles from Ravenna. The people that had been on excursions to Bologna were shocked to hear the news. I can’t imagine what it would have been like had the earthquake hit while we were in the 1,500 year old buildings in Ravenna. I am sure they were shaking too, since it was so close. Timing is everything, and we had been lucky.
Once again we had a beautiful day ahead of us with clear skies and an expected high temperature in the 70’s. It looked like a lovely area. Split was one of two tender ports on the cruise and the only port where we had booked ship tours. I had booked a half day tour to the ruins of the ancient city of Salona and to the town of Trogir. Since the tour to Salona was to have lots of walking involved in it, Carol took a half day tour that just went to the town of Trogir.
The ship arrived in port before its expected 8:00 AM arrival time; but for some reason, the tenders were running very slowly. Normally when on a ship tour, you get on a tender at the designated time for the tour. Not so that day. Our 8:45 tour didn’t start until 10:00.
The bus ride to Salona didn’t take too long. Our tour guide, Tatania, did a very good job of explaining about the history of the area. The ruins were in two main areas. The first area had some nice ruins; with interesting shaped buildings. They were nicer ruins than many places I have been. The sarcophaguses lined outside the main structure were in very good shape.
The second area was a pretty good walk down the hill. It was mainly the ruins of the city wall. The walk back up the hill was not as enjoyable as the one going down.
I was glad that Carol had taken the other tour, since this one did have a lot of walking and it wasn’t that interesting of a site to me.
My main reason to take the ship tour was to visit the island city of Trogir. It is a medieval walled city that is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town is a real treat with massive rock walls and narrow streets, along with churches, towers and palaces. It is just a lovely place to visit.
The first stop Tatiana took us to was the Cathedral of St. Lawrence. I really liked the entrance.
The inside had many lovely statues and carvings.
After walking down some more lovely streets with many shops, we got to the other side of the island city.
This part of the city was a great combination of medieval buildings, large walls and Canary Palms. At the end of the island was the Kamerlengo Castle. Carol and I both really liked Trogir. It alone made the excursion worthwhile.
The tour ended at the gates to the old town of Split. As you enter the walled city, you pass through the substructure of the ancient Diocletian’s Palace. It was much different than I expected it to be. It was quite large and there were shops throughout it.
As we came back up to the surface into the Peristyle Square, I couldn’t believe how lovely this town was. Even the ruined parts were very complete and beautiful.
The bell tower really stands out from the rest of the buildings; Even from outside the walls.
After checking out the main square area, I walked through some of the back streets. I just loved the narrow medieval passageways
Because the tour ran late, I didn’t get to spend as much time as I would have liked in the old town. I would certainly enjoy coming back to explore some more. As we left the port, I was impressed with the large mountains behind the city. Croatia is certainly a great place for tourists.
Entering the port of Valletta is a highlight of a visit to Malta. We had experienced it on our first Med cruise and looked forward to a repeat performance. After a day at sea, most of the ship’s passengers were out on the decks to watch our entrance at around 7:00 AM. The sky was cloudy, but the sun was shining on the port making for a beautiful entrance.
Valletta appears to be in a constant state of renovation. We could see a major change from our visit nine years earlier. It is a unique and beautiful port area. The Silhouette looked very out of place.
This would be the first of four full day tours in a row. Our friend, Steph, had arranged a tour through www.touringmalta.com for a large group that had met on our roll call. She did this at several of the ports, which made everyone’s life so much easier, except for hers. She really did a great job finding outstanding tours. For this tour we were in a group of ten in a comfortable large van. The guide for our van was Flora.
The guide for our van was Flora. Our first destination would be to tour Valletta, with our first stop at the Upper Barrakka Gardens. The gardens are lovely on their own, but the main appeal why so many tourists visit them is the view.
We walked back to the van for the drive to drop us off close to the main tourist attraction in the city, St. John’s Co-Cathedral. It was a pleasure to walk through the city passing by the beautifully decorated buildings on the way to the cathedral.
There was a line at the rather plain entrance to the cathedral. That was where plain ended. Walking through the entrance, we were greeted by a view of one very ornate church. It was much more beautiful than I remembered.
The first time we were there the focus was on the unusual engraved marble tombstones on the floor. They were fascinating on their own. This time many of them were covered by carpeting and chairs all over the church. But plenty of them were still showing.
We left the cathedral and took a little walking tour of Valletta. It was a busy town; but quite lovely. There were lots of statues around. I was particularly impressed by the one of Queen Victoria in one of the squares. Carol and I both marveled at the lacework.
We were picked up by the van, which took us to a nice restaurant next to a marina. The food was very good and our group had a most enjoyable lunch.
After lunch we headed to a very special site in Malta, the Hypogeum. It is the only prehistoric underground temple in the world. It is believed to be 6,000 years old. With something this old, we were expecting to drive out into the countryside. When we stopped in the middle of town and Flora took us to a nondescript building, we thought there had been a mistake. This did not look like the doorway to a world famous UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The reason that this historical site was in a plain building was because the temple was discovered while an apartment house was under construction in 1902. No one mentioned the discovery, because they didn’t want the construction to be halted. After the owners reported the discovery, the building couldn’t be torn down.
We felt very lucky to be able to visit the Hypogeum, since only 80 people a day get to tour it. They only allow ten people to enter the temple at a time; and only once every hour. The inside of the building wasn’t much to look at either. The first part of the tour was a short video telling us about the history of the Hypogeum. We then moved to a display area that had some of relics found in the temple.
I had been disappointed that we couldn’t take any photos on the tour. Once we entered and walked down to the temple area, I didn’t feel that bad about not being able to take photos. It was very dark and very dim with automatic lights that were turned on as we moved to different sections of the temple. Cameras would not have been very effective. In addition, the tour should only have had about five people on it rather than ten, since it was very crowded. It made it difficult to see parts of the structure before the lights went off. I was glad that I got to see this historic site; but since we didn’t get to see more of it, I was a bit disappointed.
Next we drove to the medieval walled city of Mdina. It is on the top of a hill. We had to cross over a large dry moat to enter through the wall.
We enjoyed walking through the narrow streets of the city admiring the architecture of this old city.
At the end of the street we got to see the beautiful panoramic view looking back toward Valletta and the other side of the wall.
We walked through a different part of town appreciating the architecture while returning to the van for the drive back to the ship. We had enjoyed our day in Malta. As we left Valletta, I once again enjoyed the views. Seeing the Maltese Cross flag on the back of the ship had a more special meaning. Since Celebrity ships are registered in Malta, I will think of our day there whenever we see the flag on one of their ships.
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