Vacation 2016: Eastern Caribbean

22 February 2016

Synopsis

Notes and impressions from our January 31 – February 07, 2016 Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Celebrity Silhouette.


We signed up for this cruise during spring of last year after one of our friends in The Villages had told us about their plans to take this cruise. This trip was advertised as a line dance cruise coordinated through a local travel agent in The Villages. Although we weren’t interested in the line dance angle, we decided to sign up anyway since we haven’t been to two of the three ports of call on the itinerary and also since we’ve never cruised on Celebrity.

Our travel arrangements were made by:

Travel By Ellie
947 Glencoe Ct.
The Villages, FL 32162
352.751.2612
Tripitup12@gmail.com / kjt1441@gmail.com

This was our first cruise where our cabin was outside—a balcony on Deck 6 Aft. The room was very nice, much larger than the interior rooms we had on our last two Norwegian cruises.

The layout of the ship is pretty much what you would expect, although there were some differences from the two Norwegian ships that we had sailed on previously. First of all, nothing beats the “The Waterfront” Deck 8 open-air quarter-mile oceanfront promenade on the Norwegian Getaway. I believe this is a unique feature of the Getaway, Breakaway, and Escape in the Norwegian fleet.

On the Silhouette, the Oceanview Café buffet restaurant is located on the Deck 14 Aft whereas on the Epic, the Garden Café buffet is located on Deck 15 Fwd.

I think the Grand Foyer on the Silhouette left a lot to be desired. First of all, the seating in that area was sparse and located around the sides whereas the band was playing in a recessed area in the center. The result being that you couldn’t really see the band while you were seated. If you weren’t dancing you probably were standing one or two decks above in order to see the band (check out the photos in my Photo Gallery). In comparison, the Atriums on the Getaway and Epic are large, bright, inviting, and designed so that you can see the performers while seated.

On the Norwegian ships, you had to make a reservation for the shows. On the Silhouette, there were two shows each night, one at 6:00pm and one a 9:00pm, no reservations necessary but you had to arrive early to get the seats you wanted. I think the shows were better on the Celebrity cruise. They had a nice variety of comedians, musicals and acrobatics—Cirque du Soleil style.

On this cruise, we chose 6:00pm seating dining in the Grand Curvée dining room. The staff was excellent and the menu had decent choices, some which varied each night and some that were fixed. You could order anything you wanted from the menu. Overall, the food quality in the main dining room was good, but portions were small.

Where the Celebrity cruise excelled was in their buffet. The variety and quality of the food in the Oceanview Café on the Silhouette was much better than the buffet food on the Norwegian ships we cruised on. On Celebrity, there was a carving board during each meal time: breakfast, lunch and dinner. One night they even had a whole roast pig on the carving board. Pizza was served every day and it was pretty good. Also, surprisingly, the curry selections were excellent. On the negative side, the pre-made scrambled eggs were horrible; when I wanted eggs, I had them made to order at the omelet station. Another aspect of the buffet that I didn’t like was that burgers were not regularly served; it wasn’t just me, during the rare instances when they were served they would disappear in an instant.

The specialty restaurants on the Silhouette were very expensive. Again, Norwegian has it all over Celebrity in this area. On Norwegian free-style cruises, you can buy a Specialty Dining Package for about $200/person for a 7-night cruise where you can eat at any specialty restaurant you want on any given night, with a reservation of course.

Unless you’re one of those rare individuals who’ve been everywhere on every cruise line, shore excursions are important. The Celebrity Cruises’ shore excursions seemed to be very expensive compared to Norwegian Cruise Line shore excursions. Nevertheless, we signed up for the following excursions anyway:

Old San Juan Walking Tour, $49.75/adult
St. Maarten Butterfly Farm & Marigot, ~$50.00/adult
St. Kitts Beach Extravaganza $49.00/adult

The Old San Juan Walking Tour was definitely a rip-off. We could have walked from the boat ourselves, which is what many others did. Our tour guide was well-meaning but he spent way too much time at fort El Morro. He also went into way more detail about the place than anyone would care to hear or even remember. I’m curious to learn things, but enough is enough; I’m on vacation. If I’m interested in learning the details about a place, I can look it up myself on the web.

The St. Maarten Butterfly Farm & Marigot excursion was cancelled due to lack of interest. I was disappointed and a little angry but we decided to go it on our own and good thing we did. At the port in Philipsburg there are taxis and tour operators that are more than happy to take your money and to take you wherever you want to go. We decided to try a whole island tour that included Orient Beach, Marigot and Maho which included a stop near the airport runway. We shared the tour van with a few others so our fair was about $40.00. This was by and far the best excursion of the cruise.

The best part of the St. Kitts Beach Extravaganza was the ride from the port to the beach. Our driver took us on a scenic ride through the mountains including a perfect stop for some photos (check out my Photo Gallery). Seeing all the beautiful scenery, resorts and neighborhoods made us want to make plans to return (I guess that was their intention). And yes, the beach was nice but we didn’t have reserved beach chairs as promised.

In the future, instead of just signing up with the cruise line’s excursions straightaway, I plan to research all the ports of call on the cruise ship’s itinerary and then compare the available activities and points of interest that I find with what the cruise line is providing. I believe, in many cases, you can do just as well on your own with a little planning. That being said, I would not want to try a snorkeling/scuba adventure on my own because I think it would be safer to go with a cruise line sponsored provider.

For the most part, the weather during the cruise was perfect. Seas were fairly calm on the way out but by 9:00pm the evening we left St. Kitts, we were in 8 foot swells that caused some noticeable ship movement that lasted all night. However, by morning things started calming down again but ship movement was still noticeable, especially on the upper decks. For some reason during this cruise, I never regained my sea legs, I always found myself a little off balance which seemed strange to me because on our last cruise on the Norwegian Epic I hardly noticed any ship movement at all. When questioned about the noticeable ship movement, one of the crew said “it’s not the ship but the ocean that’s moving.” I guess that’s one way of looking at it.

As we were approaching Port Everglades, I could hear the wind howling outside our cabin since we normally sleep with our balcony door slightly open at night. When I stepped out onto the balcony the wind and cold nearly took my breath away. Seas were rough as I watched the harbor pilot approach the ship.

Needless to say, the worst part of the trip was walking to the terminal in the brutally cold wind after disembarking the ship. To make matters worse, the Port Everglades terminal was currently under construction which made the walk longer, and colder. It was so cold I couldn’t believe I was back in South Florida.

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Copyright 2016 Gerard Sczepura