More energetic and with more extra-fee attractions than its three Solstice-class predecessors, the 122,400-ton, 2,886-passenger Celebrity Silhouette debuted in July 2011 as the fourth of five ships in the now-iconic series. The Solstice signatures -- a stable of themed dining venues, a public hub that smells of crepes and waffles, a strikingly green and grass-covered deck space, the use of glass and marble throughout -- are all there. But Silhouette also reflects a handful of significant modifications to the blueprint.
The most visible are found on the Lawn Club, a half-acre of spongy grass that tops every Solstice-class ship's stern sun deck area. On Silhouette, the public park has become something of a gated village green, and the space is much more exclusive -- and expensive -- to use than those planted on Solstice, Eclipse and Equinox. Gone is the (free) Corning Glass Show, replaced by the breezy Lawn Club Grill, where participants pay for a combination meatfest and cooking class under Caribbean or Mediterranean skies. The Porch, a fee-extra casual breakfast and lunch option modeled after a private deck in the Hamptons, has also been slotted into space previously free to occupy. But the most controversial additions to Silhouette's Lawn Club are the eight alcoves, private cabana rentals that occupy prime real estate in what was a common sunning area on previous lawns.
Inside, Michael's -- the clubby Celebrity staple, adored for its bawdy piano sing-alongs -- has been re-tuned. The piano-free bar now features a rotating lineup of more than 50 beers, with labels from Bud to Delirium Tremens, paired with televised sports and acoustic guitar work. Beer-lovers, long ignored at sea, are rejoicing.
Silhouette's custom-collated multimillion-dollar art collection is also a key differentiator. Two installments that draw the most shouting, laughing and exuberant pointing: caged birds on video screens and the enchanted forest with piped-in chirps, positioned in a vestibule through which hundreds of passengers walk en route to the ship's specialty restaurant hub. Intrigued? Check out our 7 Hits and Misses on Celebrity Silhouette.
Still, despite these distinctions (or perhaps in spite of them, considering the Lawn Club changes), Silhouette is nothing if not quintessential Solstice class. It's the most sophisticated experience you'll find on a nearly 3,000-passenger ship -- see the focus on wine, sleekly styled spaces and slightly upscale dining -- without being overly stuffy. Celebrity does a commendable job of keeping the pretentiousness quota in check by inserting playful touches, like an ice-topped martini bar that features juggling bartenders, the aforementioned cook-your-own steakhouse and another restaurant, Qsine, where passengers are encouraged to play with their food. Solstice-class stalwarts won't miss a beat, and for first-timers, Silhouette will showcase why the series has become one of the most acclaimed in modern cruising.
Silhouette's banquet hall is the Grand Cuvee Dining Room, a cavernous space that features flying buttresses, a room-filling chandelier resembling an iridescent jellyfish, and a shimmering metallic wine tower occupied by 1,800 bottles. (Cuvee means vat or tank in French wine-speak.) Credit designer Adam Tihany, the man behind New York City's Per Se and Vegas' Seablue, with creating one of the most striking main dining rooms afloat.
For dinner, passengers can opt for early (6 p.m.) or late (8:30 p.m.) set seating or go with "Celebrity Select Dining," which offers open dining between 6 and 9:30 p.m. Passengers choosing the flex-dining option can pre-reserve space (online up to four days before sail date or while onboard) or walk in at any time during the allotted hours.
Menus consist of appetizers, soups and salads, entrees, and desserts. Expect a combination of standard favorites like herb-crusted fish, pork chops and prime rib, and traditional cruise "luxury items" like beef tournedos, pate and Cornish game hen.
For vegetarians, there are always meat-free options like eggplant napoleon or veggie paella. Lower-calorie dishes, like baked fish and sugar-free cakes, are designated with a little heart. If nothing on the rotating menu suffices, "always available" choices, from soups to desserts, include escargot, lobster bisque, steak, chicken and creme brulee.
Passengers can bring their own wine onboard, but there's a $25-per-bottle corkage fee to drink it in the dining room -- one of the highest in cruise travel.
The dining room is open-seating for breakfast and lunch. Classic dishes like eggs Benedict and made-to-order omelets are served for breakfast. The lunch menu offers the typical soups (including a chilled soup), salads and hot entrees. Passengers can also order items like burgers and dogs from the grill.
Those looking for food without fanfare should head to Silhouette's top-ship 24-hour buffet, the Oceanview Cafe. The ovular space features various "action stations" positioned along the loop -- pizza, pasta and stir-fry bars; Asian (sushi) and British comfort food (fish 'n' chips, shepherd's pie); sandwiches; and a build-a-salad bar. Readers and editors agree: Celebrity's buffet, featuring an excellent range of International cuisine and standards, is one of the best in big-ship cruising.
For dinner with a view, head up and sternward to the top-ship Lawn Club Grill, a Silhouette/Reflection exclusive where passengers wear the aprons and flip the filets. The 58-seat venue is a $40-per-person concept that marries a cooking lesson, all-you-can-eat churrascaria and pizzeria. (That type of marriage is illegal in several states.) Here's how it works: Under the tutelage of a Celebrity chef, one member per party transforms into the "grill master," an everyman superhero who selects the cuts, applies the rubs and sears the meats. Choose your grill master carefully -- our filet came out pleading for its life. (It was returned to the grill, still screaming, and then eaten.) Appetizers come in the form of made-to-order pizza -- kneaded and topped by a passenger pizza-maker -- and selections from the salad bar.
Nearby is the Porch, a casual, new-to-Silhouette venue serving paninis, fruits and salads for breakfast and lunch. The Porch, whose design is inspired by a rich guy's porch in the Hamptons, carries a $5-per-person cover.
Lawn Clubgoers can also order picnic baskets from the line. These start at $50 and might include sandwiches, sides and desserts. A bottle of wine also comes standard.
Back inside, the standard cluster of Solstice-class alternative restaurants is located on Deck 5 (Entertainment Deck). These include Murano, serving rich French-Continental cuisine ($45); Tuscan Grille, a northern Italian steakhouse with lovely wake views ($35, try the ribeye); Blu, the Mediterranean restaurant focusing on ever-so-slightly lighter fare (ahi tuna, grilled chicken); and Qsine, a quirky venue where passengers order off iPads, and no dish is served on a standard plate. (A Middle Eastern sampler comes in what looks like an Ikea shelving unit, while spring rolls are served in actual metal springs). It's $45 per person to dine at Qsine. Two caveats: First, Blu is designated for passengers staying in Silhouette's AquaSpa cabins (who eat free), but the venue is available nightly to everyone else on a first-come, first-served basis and for a $5 fee. Second, Celebrity offers alternative dining packages, bookable in advance, that offer savings of some 20 to 30 percent over retail.
If you're not full yet, there are more dining options in Silhouette's indoor public hub, encompassing Decks 4 and 5. The two-deck space is airy -- which means the scent of cooking waffles from the gelateria and crepes from its creperie are free to waft. It's almost as if Celebrity is pumping the drool-inducing smell through the ventilation system. It's the type of scent that seeps in the subconscious ... and makes you want to pay $5 for crepes at Bistro on 5 or a few dollars for chocolate gelato in a waffle cup. The venue also sells specialty coffee drinks.
Finally, the room service menu, which includes sandwiches, salads and snacks, is offered 24 hours a day.
In addition to being elegant, Silhouette is effortlessly organized. Deck 3's marble-washed Grand Foyer is the ship's entry point. Passengers will find the guest relations and shore excursions desks there, along with the requisite lobby bar, a place to relax before or after registering a complaint or booking a tour.
Decks 4 and 5 make up the ship's main hub and are the location of Silhouette's entertainment venues, casino, shopping venues, art gallery, dining rooms and most alternative restaurants, as well as countless bars. Amidships are some 20 boutiques and shops. Running parallel to the casino on Deck 4 are the shops on the Boulevard, showcasing the standard mix of jewelry, clothing and duty-free goods. If that's not enough, the Galleria Boutiques, which include the first dedicated Bulgari boutique at sea, are just a flight of stairs away.
The iLounge Internet cafe, "Hideaway" lounge, card room and library are stacked midship on Decks 6 through 10. Each venue abuts a towering vertical corridor in which a massive potted tree appears suspended in mid-air. Cool. The iLounge, Silhouette's trademarked computer lab, is populated by Apple products. The venue also holds classes on subjects like photo and video editing, rents out the latest iPads and sells iPods and notebook computers at legit prices. Using the Web, either in the cafe or via bow-to-stern Wi-Fi, starts at 65 cents if you're paying by the minute. Purchasing a package can bring the cost down to 42 cents a minute.
Exclusive to Silhouette is the aforementioned Hideaway, a two-deck venue punctuated by a pair of overhanging second-floor seating arrangements that look like dangling wicker cages. The venue, which is basically a place to relax (there are coffee machines nearby), replaces Team Earth, an interactive environmental exhibit that has elicited shrugs even from Prius drivers.
The ship does not feature self-service laundry facilities.
Silhouette has 1,443 cabins in 11 main categories, ranging from the two 1,291-square-foot Penthouse Suites -- which each feature floor-to-ceiling glass doors, a master bedroom, a separate living room, a bar and a piano -- to comfortably sized insides (183 to 200 square feet).
Standard insides, balconies (194 square feet with 54-square-foot balconies) and oceanviews (176 square feet) feature gently undulating light-brown walls; hotel-style white bedding with red and cream trim; sitting areas and desks; safes; shower-only bathrooms; and framed pieces of modern something-or-other for some color. Wardrobes are filled with wooden hangers, and there are plenty of drawers, shelves and cubbies. Flat-screen televisions are interactive -- you can make restaurant and shore excursion reservations, check onboard accounts and watch movies. Channels include a range of news, sports and cruise-line advertising. Each cabin has a hair dryer -- but you may want to bring your own if you require something with a little pep.
The 283 ConciergeClass cabins are identical to regular balcony cabins, but they're distinguished by location -- higher up, aft-facing, etc. -- and perks like priority check-in and debarkation, welcome bubbly, fresh fruits and flowers, Frette bathrobes, a pillow menu, massaging showerhead and expanded room service breakfast menu. In 2012, Celebrity expanded the ConciergeClass services to include an exclusive pre-departure lounge with free coffee and juices.
The 130 AquaClass cabins (also the same size as standard balconies, with the same configuration) give passengers access to the AquaSpa relaxation room, the Persian Garden (DIY spa suite) and Blu restaurant. Special perks include (fluffier) bathrobes and towels, as well as AquaSpa amenity kits. During each cruise, you also get fresh iced tea, water and canapes on a daily basis, as well as an upgraded (and healthier) room service menu. The bathroom has spa products (foot spray, lip balm, relaxation mist), and the shower has a five-head Hansgrohe setup.
Silhouette has four categories of suites. The 44 entry-level Sky Suites are each 300 square feet with a 79-square-foot balcony. In addition to the added space inside and out, the Sky Suites feature larger TV's, mini-fridges and shower-tub combos. Twelve 394-square-foot Celebrity Suites (105-square-foot balconies) add yet more space, a distinct separation between bedroom and living room and two TV's -- one in the sleeping quarters and a second 52-inch display that's part of a surround-sound entertainment setup in the living area. There are eight 590-square-foot Royal Suites with 158-square-foot balconies. Added amenities include wet bars, dining room tables, walk-in closets in the bedrooms and whirlpools on the balconies. Silhouette's top accommodations are its two 1,291-square-foot Penthouse Suites, each with a full bar, baby grand piano and marble master bath (with 26-inch TV). The 389-square-foot balconies feature plenty of lounge seating and a whirlpool each.
All suite passengers have access to a butler, in-room lunch and dinner service, evening hors d'oeuvres, and complimentary espressos and cappuccinos, among other perks.
For families, there are 121 interconnecting cabins and four oceanview family suites, which are 575 square feet each. They feature two bedrooms and one shared bathroom.
There are a total of 30 wheelchair-accessible cabins, insides to Sky Suites, for disabled travelers.
Celebrity Cruises is increasing its suggested gratuity by 50 cents per passenger/per day beginning on all bookings made on or after April 29 for all cruises that begin on or after the same day. The new suggested gratuity will be $12.00 per person/per day, if you're in a standard cabin; $12.50 per person/per day, if you're in a Concierge Class or AquaClass; and $15.50 per person/per day, for passengers in suites.
|Fitness and Recreation|
Elemis, Ltd. (part of the omnipresent Steiner) operates Silhouette's spa, which offers a slew of treatments, from all manner of massages to teeth whitening and acupuncture. The Persian Garden, a large suite of centrally located rooms for DIY spa enthusiasts, includes a coed sauna and steam room, tropical rain shower and heated oceanview relaxation chairs. The facility is available for free to AquaClass passengers and for $100 to all other passengers (based on a one-week cruise.)
The glass-and-steel-covered Solarium, a fixture on every Celebrity ship but Century, battles the Lawn Club for most eye-catching space aboard. The adults-only greenhouse features a pool, two hot tubs, loungers with extra-thick cushions and a small "cafe" serving up salad, chilled soups and pre-plated dishes of grilled chicken and fish.
Silhouette's main outdoor pool area, midship, has a shallow family pool, a "Sports Pool" and the "Wet Zone," a rectangular rubber deck space that offers randomly firing water jets. There are four hot tubs mixed in.
Silhouette's well-outfitted gym features the expected ellipticals, StairMasters, treadmills, bikes, weight machines and free weights. Fitness classes (mostly for a fee) include yoga, Pilates and cycling. The jogging track (eight laps to the mile) is one deck up from the gym. Silhouette's Lawn Club also hosts a few sporting activities, including bocce ball and golf putting. At the forward end of the ship, on Deck 15, is a basketball court.
At the top of the ship, Silhouette's rectangular Lawn Club is less a public space than previous iterations. There's simply much more that's private or for-fee there, including two up-charge restaurants not found on the first three Solstice-class ships and a set of eight private cabanas called "alcoves." The alcoves, which line the port and starboard sides of the Lawn Club, four to a side, certainly are photogenic: white wicker chairs and chaises with thick, striped cushions, potted shrubbery and a canvas roof that stretches sail-like over occupants, all set atop a soft carpet of grass. But while evocative imagery is one thing, will people actually pay $99 (port day) or $145 (sea day), a cost that includes bottled water, fruit and use of a loaded iPad 2? But location is our main concern. Alcoves occupy real estate open to book-and-towel-toting passengers on Solstice, Equinox and Eclipse, who can plop down (surcharge-free) on sunny days. Moreover, while the alcoves are "private," they're situated on Silhouette's open-access lawn and face inward. Will the riff-raff be jockeying for space at the foot of the Cabana-dwellers? It could be muddy.
There is still some space for non-Alcove passengers in between the cabanas and along two grassy strips that stretch sternward on either side of the rear funnel. Also, opposite of the Lawn Club Club are eight free-to-use hammocks and a novelty-sized Adirondack lounge that's a favorite of many a photographer.
While Celebrity isn't in the same league as Royal Caribbean, Carnival or Disney when it comes to kids' programming, the line generally does a decent job of catering to families, who cruise in much larger numbers during summer holidays.
Deck 15 forward is the epicenter for Silhouette's kids' programming. Two dedicated kids' areas, X-Club (ages 13 to 17) and Fun Factory (ages 3 to 12), are each outfitted with age-appropriate gear (toys for the youngest tots, video games as they get older). The teen space also features a soft drink "bar" with a popcorn machine. The ship's video arcade is located nearby.
The youth program includes organized activities for four age groups, as follows:
Shipmates (ages 3 to 5) and Cadets (ages 6 to 8) participate in activities like cartoon trivia, face-painting and scavenger hunts. Ensigns (9 to 12) may enjoy pool games, talent shows, Wii and basketball. Those in the 13 to 17 sector participate in activities like pool Olympics, karaoke, an evening "dinner party" or hours of uninterrupted videogaming. During summer season sailings or cruises that have a large number of youngsters, teens may be divided into 12 to 14's and 15 to 17's. For-fee baby-sitting is available on a group basis ($6 per hour, per child, for an "afternoon party" on port days or late-night "slumber party") or individual ($19 per hour for up to three kids).
Celebrity draws a wide range of upper-middle-class couples and groups, with the average age of passengers being in the mid-50's. Especially on European cruises from Rome and Venice (the ship is a Caribbean-European dual passporter), expect a large contingent of Brits and Continentals -- and a more international feel. The ratio of families with kids to couples may increase during the Caribbean season, bringing the average age down.
The two levels of dress on Silhouette are smart-casual and formal. Four- to six-night cruises have one formal night; seven- to eleven-night cruises have two; and Twelve- to fifteen-night cruises feature three. Silhouette's passengers typically dress for the occasion, which means you'll see a fair share of suits and tuxedos on men, and cocktail dresses and gowns on women. T-shirts, swimsuits, robes, bare feet, tank tops, baseball caps and poolwear are not allowed in the main restaurant or specialty restaurants at any time. Shorts and flip-flops are not allowed in the evening hours.
Daytime entertainment, which falls under the auspices of the line's "sounds better than it is" CelebrityLife program, consists of the typical cooking demos, wine-tasting seminars, port shopping talks and bingo. There are a handful of twists, including self-taught language classes from Rosetta Stone (for a fee) and lectures sponsored by the Smithsonian (on select cruises).
Another new stroke for Silhouette: Two artists are stationed onboard to answer questions and teach classes (for a fee) in the ship's art studio at the portside entrance to the Lawn Club. The space replaced the Corning Museum of Glass' showcase room.
The Silhouette Theater is the place to see the ship's "cirque-lite" productions. A new offering, "Silhouette: The Show" stars an everyman type thrust into a bizarre and colorful world of flying acrobats, opera singers and hip-hop dancers. Other shows include "Broadway Nights," which features -- you guessed it -- popular song-and-dance numbers from New York's theater district, and "Velocity," another cirque-style show featuring lots of flashing lights, performers dangling from the ceiling and hit pop tunes (think U2).
Silhouette's casino is located on Deck 4 and features the standard smattering of losing propositions, including slots, craps, blackjack, roulette and three-card poker.
More than a dozen lounges, from the ice-topped Martini Bar to the steaming cocktail-producing Molecular Bar, are found throughout Silhouette. We have a special commendation for CellarMasters, one of cruising's only truly 24-hour bars. How do they pull it off? The wine on offer is dispensed via self-service "enomatic" machines. Passengers without two left feet should head to Quasar, the ship's mod-futuristic discotheque. Though we must warn you: The older the crowd (see longer, non-summer cruises), the less populated the club tends to be.
Michael's, Celebrity's staple piano bar, modeled after a world explorer's parlor room -- think globes, leather chairs and atlases -- has morphed into an uncluttered bastion for beer snobs. Celebrity is putting cache into the fledgling at-sea concept, which offers a rotating lineup of at least 50 bottled ales, stouts, ciders and lagers with names like Old Speckled Hen, Old Dead Guy Ale and Delirium Tremens (and also Bud and Guinness). Oddly, there are only two ho-hum options, Heineken and Amstel, on draught. Long the spot for sometimes bawdy piano sing-alongs, the venue now features acoustic guitar music. It's the end of an era -- but beer aficionados think the chance couldn't have come sooner.
Silhouette splits time between the Caribbean and Mediterranean, so shore excursions reflect the different deployments. In the Caribbean, options focus on snorkeling, beach days and island tours. Mediterranean cruises may concentrate on more cultural endeavors, with food, wine and city tours informing many of the offerings.
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