Monday, September 24, 2012

Celebrity Silhouette 14-Day Caribbean from New York Trip Report

Day 1
Even though we had just cruised on Royal Caribbean over the holidays, when an opportunity arose to go again on the brand new Celebrity Silhouette we just could not say no. Chris and I had cruised on the Celebrity Equinox (sister ship to the Silhouette) a couple of years ago and absolutely fell in love with the stylish and modern Celebrity ships. We love staying in modern boutique-style hotels and these ships totally felt like a boutique hotel on the water.

This sailing was out of New York and that’s what we initially liked about it – no early morning flights, no packing light, no stress. We decided to drive to NY the night before and stayed at the Residence Inn Hotel in Bayonne. It is a 10 min drive to the port and despite being located in what appears to be an industrial part of town was a surprisingly new and modern hotel with great staff. There was a pull-out sofa for my brother and they brought in a trundle bed for my son so it all worked our great. Surprisingly, the morning of the cruise I found an email from Celebrity that the ship had been plagued by the Norovirus the week before so they were doing a full sanitation of the ship that day and boarding would not start until 2 pm. We got to the port at exactly 2 pm (the port of Bayonne is a bit hard to find but at least there is not a lot of traffic to get there) and were quickly checked in a given a bus number. 
We were in Concierge Class which meant that we were assigned to one of the first buses but we still had to wait together with the remaining 2000 people in a huge warehouse. This port had been a commercial port until recently and unfortunately is still not fully fitted for passengers. The waiting  area was short on chairs, you had to wait for a but to drive you from the waiting area to the ship and everything looked quite gray and industrial. We waited and waited and finally around 4 pm the ship was cleared and the buses started going.

The whole process was a bit daunting especially with all the elderly guests and those on wheelchairs who had to get on and off the buses but we were finally onboard around 5pm and as soon as we walked in we felt like home. Since we knew the ship we did not even try to get to the buffet, which we knew would be packed, but instead made a beeline for the Café Baccio on Deck 5 and parked ourselves there. 

Because the cabins were not yet ready, there were hundreds of people walking around and looking for a place to sit and all the available chairs, tables and loungers were pretty soon occupied. We got ourselves some coffee and a few desserts and just hung around until 6 pm when the rooms were finally ready.

Our cabin was Concierge Level on Deck 10 and my brother had an ocean-view on Deck 3. The Concierge Cabin was exactly the same as all balcony cabins except it came with the services of a butler and some extra little perks like champagne, luxury toiletries and fluffy robes (which we actually never wore). 
The cabin is very clean and modern and there is plenty of storage as well as space to walk around a bit. Victor’s bed was the sofa which was actually set up with linens and pillows already and he felt very comfortable there. The bathroom was also very well designed with plenty of room and a nice glassed-in shower. 
Before we even had a chance to unpack we were called for the Muster Drill (thank god it was conducted inside) and around 8 pm we finally left the port. I was a little disappointed that we actually missed seeing the ship leave New York and sail under the bridge but it was already dark and very cold outside and we have had a long day so just went to get dinner, registered Victor for the kids’ club and were in bed early.

Days 2-4
This being a cruise out of NYC, it included 3 sea day at the beginning and at the end of the cruise so I was a little concerned initially that we would be very bored for 6 days at sea. In reality however, this was the best cruise we have ever been on.

We slept in the next morning and then made our way to Deck 14, the buffet area. The buffet area on the Silhouette (and all the Solstice-class ships) is very bright and sleek decorated in glass and pale wood and bright colors. There is plenty of seating (actually most of the time there not many people there at all) and the food is divided in multiple stations so there is pretty much no line for any food. The only wait we ever encountered was for the egg station in the morning and even that was only a couple of minutes. Breakfast in the buffet suited us very well and found lots of great options – eggs, pastries, fruit, veggies, fish, cheeses, cold cuts, really everything, so we never tried the main dining room for breakfast or lunch.

The other option for breakfast which we discovered mid-cruise was Café Baccio, our favorite spot on the ship. Located in the middle of the ship, the café is decorated with beautiful wing chairs, glass tables and leather banquets and serves the most amazing pastries ever. We have always had our afternoon coffee there but on this cruise we discovered that they actually serve French pastries there in the morning as well as bite-sized sandwiches for lunch. So on port days we will just grab a few pastries and a juice for breakfast before we run to our activities.

After breakfast, we took Victor to tour the kids club which is located at the top of the ship and on the very front. It is pretty high and on some of the rough sea days that area felt like a roller coaster but the kids did not seem to mind. On that particular sailing, since it was during the school area, we were told there were only 50 kids.

There were only about 15 kids in the 3-5 age range and the counselors were just amazing. They learned Victor's name right away and made him feel so comfortable that he begged us to go to the club pretty much all day long on the sea days. They did a lot of activities with the kids that no other club has done before  - they would take them to the shows at night and sit on the front row and hand out popsicles, they would have pirate parades, take the kids for ice cream daily and even had a talent show on the last day. The club is very bright and airy and decorated in clean bright colors and Victor had a great time there. Which, of course, makes for a great vacation for mommy and daddy ;)

The first two sea days were rather cool and rough so we spent most of the time inside. The gorgeous covered pool was adults-only so unfortunately we could not take Victor there but there were plenty of other areas to go and lots of activities going on, from trivia to karaoke. Chris and I spent a ton of time at the casino (of course) but on the lazy afternoons our favorite spot was "the cubby" area in the center of the ship. This is an area that is unique to the Silhouette and is decorated with multiple cool and comfortable chairs. We would read there, nap there and have coffee there. There is also music coming from the atrium and light coming from the skylight so you could not find a more comfortable spot on the ship.

Evenings we usually spent in the buffet or Bistro on Five. Unfortunately on this cruise we were unable to get the early dining so we had to do the Celebrity Select. It would not be my first choice because you sit at a different table every night and the service is spotty and slow so we did not get to spend as many nights in the main dining room as we wanted to. But Bistro on Five was out new discovery - it is a casual crepe house where for $5 charge yo can eat as many crepes and salads as you want...and they are so yummy.

One night we decided to try the funky new restaurant called Qsine. I've heard that the food is really innovative and it lived up to expectations for sure. There is a $40 cover charge but everyone at the table gets to pick from a menu on an iPad. Then all the items are brought in and shared by everyone. Each item is pretty small but when you end up with 10-15 of them it's more than enough. The Sushi Popsicles and the Disco Shrimp were our favorites.

By the third sea day the weather was sunny and warm, the sea was calm and it was time for the pool. One thing I love about Celebrity is that you can always find a good spot by the pool. They have a lot of different seating areas, lots of clam-shell loungers and even a few four-poster swings. We were lucky enough to score one of those in the afternoon and it was the perfect spot to nap and just relax.

So we managed to keep pretty busy during the 3 sea days, and actually had the best and most relaxing time. The next day, we started 5 days of ports - first stop St. Thomas.

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