A Vacation Aboard Celebrity’s Silhouette

1 Silhouette

Celebrity Cruise Line continues to forge its reputation in the mass appeal luxury cruise category as a ‘notch above’ with the Silhouette.

Design and layout

“Inspired by a balance of light and shadows and the fluid lines of modern art and design.”

The Silhouette has the feel of modern luxury and sophistication, but she is not stuffy or pretentious. She sports contemporary color schemes and inviting tones throughout her interior – yet the overall sentiment is warm and relaxing.

As you can see from the photo gallery, this is elegant space designed with the most discerning cruise customer in mind.

There is much to discover on this ship that is not immediately obvious. There is attention to detail even in the most unlikely places. It was too hard to contain all the new and exciting features in a single article of reasonable length. There will be a Part II, so stay tuned.

Pedigree of the Silhouette

The Silhouette is the fourth of Celebrity’s Solstice Class fleet. The newest ship in this class is the Reflection, which is getting rave reviews.

Captain Nicholas Pagonis
Nicholas Pagonis, Master of the Silhouette on our cruise, and now Captain of the Reflection

The Silhouette is a big ship, but not the biggest. She is 122,210 tons with 15 decks above the waterline. She has 1,443 staterooms with a capacity of 2,886 passengers. She sails with a crew of 1250.

Big ship, but not crowded

Many prospective cruisers fear crowding on these very large ships, but they are so well designed for traffic-flow that there is rarely a jam-up or uncomfortable cluster of guests.

Even 2,000+ passengers tend to disappear when you spread them among seven decks of corridors with 1,443 staterooms, ten restaurants, a huge theatre, a casino, a library, art studio, photo gallery, a computer center, video arcade, fitness center, jogging track, spa, beauty salon, 14 lounges and bars, multiple swimming pools, sundry whirlpools, several sun decks, a dozen or so “quiet hideaways,” a vast real-grass lawn club, and a huge gallery of fine boutique shops. Whew! They should issue walkie-talkies to stay in touch with friends.

Even during port visits, the disembarkations are orderly and the process moves along quickly.

Nice “touches” in the staterooms

The stateroom designs on the Silhouette are sleek, open, and comfortable. Each standard stateroom has sizable modular closets and useful under-bed storage. The beds are luxurious with rounded bed corners. The bathrooms are roomy with sliding doors on a bigger than expected shower. There is a convenient footrest in the shower – sometimes it is the smallest things that make us smile.

Each stateroom has digital entertainment. That means a reasonable selection of free movies, and crystal-clear reception on a flat screen TV. Network TV channels are conveniently available at sea.

The staterooms are quiet – no rattles, squeaks, or passageway noise.

Eat your heart out

The pictured penthouse suite in the slideshow photo gallery is 1,291 square feet of floating luxury. All the suites aboard the Silhouette elegantly avoid being trendy and thematic. Each suite is lavishly decorated to be a fitting home for any duration. We wanted to stay after we took the photographs, but the lucky vacationing key-holders had arrived.

Speaking of eating

Food plays a role of cardinal importance on any cruise vacation and Celebrity prides itself in culinary leadership and innovation.

Plenty of dining choices and venues

With ten restaurants, and multiple dining-time choices, only those who favor open dining without a reservation face any delay in seating in the main dining room.

On Celebrity, passengers can enjoy the traditional early or late seating at the same table and with the same companions at every dinner. Conversely, they can reserve a different time for dinner every night – In which case they can dine alone or with others – a chance to make new friends. In either situation, seating comes quickly in the main Grand Cuvee’ restaurant.

For breakfast and lunch there is open seating in the main dining restaurant for the published hours that the room is open.

For those who don’t wish to ever shed their shorts and T-shirts

The Silhouette has one of the finest casual buffet dining rooms at sea. The Oceanview Café on Deck 14 has both indoor and outdoor seating. It serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner from a series of small food islands in the center of a circle of ocean view tables.

Each island features a cornucopia of different tasty selections at every meal, and the culinary offerings are reassuringly diverse. Care for Indian, Asian, Italian, Vegan – it’s all there to enjoy. It would be a rare guest indeed that could not find an interesting and delicious meal at the Oceanview Café.

The kitchen

Executive Chef Steve Van der Merwe

A very important personage on any cruise ship is the Executive Chef. In the case of the Silhouette, and on our cruise, his name is Steve Van der Merwe from South Africa. Chef Steve is a true master of balance and expediency as he orchestrates 13,000 meals per day among several dining venues. His staff also prepares between 100 and 700 room service trays per day.

An example of the complexity and enormity of a cruise ship kitchen: A favorite dinner on any cruise is one that offers broiled lobster. Typically, passengers on a ship the size of the Silhouette will consume about one ton of lobsters at that single meal. Serving thousands of lobsters at just the right temperature, texture, and consistency is just short of a culinary miracle. Somehow, they get the steaks just right as well.

Kudos to Chef Steve and the other great Chefs of the Seas.

The specialty dining rooms

If you want more intimacy while dining, or wish to celebrate a special occasion, for an additional charge the Silhouette offers the answer. The specialty dining rooms offer food to inspire even the most discerning palates in a most enchanting dinner setting.

We sampled the cuisine at the “Murano,” one of the five specialty restaurants on board the Silhouette. Each of these restaurants has its own kitchen, and each table is replete with exquisite china and gorgeous crystal. Mr.Tudor Soacat, Maitre D’ Hotel of the Murano spares no effort to make certain his guest’s continental dinner is delicious and memorable.

Entertainment

The 1113 seat Silhouette Theatre is the first Theatre on a cruise ship designed to accommodate aerial acrobatics – this is an exciting addition to the traditional Broadway style reviews usually found at sea.

Like other progressive lines, Celebrity Cruises does not require their professional entertainers to do double duty as Bingo hosts or passenger group moderators. Consequently, they can attract a better class of performer. The quality of the “star attractions” on the Silhouette was quite good.

However, we were disappointed in the choreography, costumes, and the set designs of the revues on this Celebrity cruise. In our view, this was the only aspect of the entire cruise that failed to meet the high Celebrity standard. Crews constantly change, hopefully the production will be improved for your cruise.

Notwithstanding our disappointment with the production shows, we heartily recommend Celebrity Cruises and the Silhouette for a vacation at sea. In our fast-paced modern world, the chance to get away from it all can do wonders to recharge our batteries and re-energize our lives. There is nothing like a top-notch cruise to do the trick.

Be sure to see our complete photo gallery of the beautiful Silhouette by clicking *here*.

If you go

Passing the Eclipse in port

It is easy to book a cruise on the Silhouette or any one of the other Celebrity Cruise ships. Call your travel agent, or book directly with Celebrity by calling toll-free in the US: 1-800-647-2251 or by visiting their website at http://www.celebritycruises.com/

The Silhouette will be sailing an Eastern Caribbean itinerary from December 2013 to April 2014.

On this trip, we also discovered a great private-car service in GroundLink.com. They offer private car service throughout the United States (and many foreign countries) and all airports and cruise ports. More on them in the next article as well. You can check them out now at http://groundlink.com, or call toll free in the US: 1-877-227-7260.

Happy travels.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. www.maps.google.com

Uncompromising Service Aboard the Newest Celebrity Cruise Ship

In our first article about Celebrity Cruise’s newest ship the Silhouette, we intentionally did not write about the extraordinary level of crew service we experienced – because we wanted to give it special attention.

The service aboard the Silhouette was so exceptional that we decided to do a little research into the reasons. We started our inquiry with an interview with an important ship’s officer.

Sue Richardson – Hotel Director of the Silhouette

On Celebrity cruise ships, the Hotel Director is the ranking officer directly responsible for passenger comfort and satisfaction. On our Silhouette journey, the job was well fitted to Sue Richardson a veteran of 23-years of remarkable service to very discriminating guests.

During her career, Sue has been responsible for managing hotels, the hospitality function of several ships, and even a private island in the Bahamas.

Onboard the Silhouette, Sue has ten department heads reporting to her. Her departments make up the majority of the crew and all the folks responsible for making your sea voyage a vacation to remember.

Among her duties, Sue is responsible for the food, beverage, dining, entertainment, and cabin services – need we say more?

Cruise crew contracts

It is not obvious to passengers, but all members of a cruise ship’s company work under a time-definite contract of employment. For example, restaurant servers or room stewards might contract to work for six or eight months at sea with two months off.

Due to the nature of these maritime contracts, ship employees are coming and going all the time. We asked Sue how it was possible to keep the high team spirit that was so evident aboard the Silhouette.

She explained, “We start with an initial core of highly motivated people on every new ship. Our global recruiters are charged with finding individuals who understand and appreciate what excellent service is all about – and are eager to provide it. We then train them in the Celebrity culture.”

She went on, “We select people from forty different countries (always being careful to keep a balance on each ship), and we hand pick individuals who have a positive work attitude.”

Sue said that when nurtured, the ship’s company gels and things start to hum. Over time, each new employee enters the crew and senses the already existing can-do attitude of his or her peer group. They blend in quickly and service remains excellent.

“Celebrity does everything in its power to keep its employees happy, and they in turn keep our customers happy.”

It is obviously a winning formula, Sue!

Toward a happy crew

We wondered what was involved in keeping sea-going employees “happy.” We were invited to tour the crew’s quarters on the Silhouette, and came away most impressed.

We were not able to photograph individual living spaces, but can report that they are quite comfortable. The old days of crowded and impersonal sleeping rooms are gone. One or two people to a cabin is the norm, not the exception.

We were delighted to learn that the crew eats the same food as the passengers and in their own private dining room. They relax in comfortable staff lounges, and exercise in well-equipped gyms.

Being a member of the crew of a contemporary cruise ship is still hard work, but the living conditions are more than adequate – and very different from the stories of old.

More about crew changes

We have found many cruise vacationers to be under the impression that the Captain responsible for their specific cruise and safety is like Captain Merrill Stubing of the Love Boat. They expect to find him at the helm the next time they decide to sail on the same ship.

The reality is that Masters move from ship to ship on a routine basis. A captain’s contract is likely to include three or four months at sea, with equal time-off. By default, that requires an ongoing change of Captains.

Contract times vary, but this practice of rotation is also true of the other ship’s officers and crew. In order to make such an inherently mobile system work effectively, standards, practices, rules, and protocols, must be stringently adhered to throughout the industry.

Service quality starts at the top

Captain Nicholas PagonisMaster of the Silhouette

We have interviewed many ship’s captains. The master of the Silhouette was one of those that immediately makes you feel comfortable and leaves you with the certainty that you are in the hands of an extremely professional and capable veteran of the sea.

Like many of his peers, Captain Pagonis has a maritime family history, which led to his interest in applying for the Marine Academy in Athens in 1981. After graduating in 1984, he spent two years in the Greek Special Forces before returning to the sea. He received his Master’s License in 1998 and his first command in 2003. Married with three children, the captain resides in Belgium and Greece. He has intellectual interests in European and Roman history, and gardening – especially gardening!

What Cruise Ship Captains like most about their job

We always ask each Captain what is his favorite aspect of being a Master of a cruise ship. The answers are often similar. In addition to their primary duty to provide a safe and enjoyable vacation to all passengers, most Captains relish the hands on stimulation of maneuvering and docking these colossal leviathans. These are obviously congenial men of vision with a keen appreciation for the enormous.

Captain Pagonis is an individual you would enjoy having as a neighbor. His enthusiasm for his work and the sea is contagious. We could have listened to him talk all day, but he is indeed a busy man.

A final word – about safety

We noted in our first article about the Silhouette that the unfortunate accident involving the Costa Concordia has dampened the enthusiasm of some prospective cruise vacationers. Please don’t be put off by this isolated mishap. Cruising is one of the safest family holidays available.

The Wall Street Journal quoted G.P. Wild, an industry consultant, “Over the six-year period from 2005 to 2010, the [cruise] industry carried nearly 100 million passengers, but only had 16 fatalities and 518 injuries from maritime accidents.”

Remember – you are infinitely safer on a cruise ship than you are in your family car.

Be sure to read our opening article about the Silhouette at http://is.gd/wgvfVi and see our photo gallery of the ship *here*.

If you go

It is easy to book a cruise on the Silhouette or any one of the ten other Celebrity Cruise ships. Call your travel agent, or book directly with Celebrity by calling toll-free in the US: 1-800-647-2251 or by visiting their website at http://www.celebritycruises.com/

As of this writing, the Silhouette is sailing to the Caribbean from Cape Liberty, New Jersey. Click here to read our review of the Cape Liberty cruise ship port and its environs.

Happy travels.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff – Photo of Sue Richardson compliments of the Silhouette

You can see the world with Google Maps. www.maps.google.com

A Great One-Day Catamaran Cruise in Antigua

Antigua is a beautiful tropical island in the West Indies situated east-southeast of Puerto Rico. This is an isle with an assortment of extraordinary leisure pursuits for vacationers of all ages.

One fun activity worthy of consideration by every age group is an all-day catamaran cruise. Here’s what we experienced when we signed up with Antigua’s #1 tour operator, Tropical Adventures.

Selecting the activity

We had just arrived in Saint John’s, Antigua aboard the Celebrity cruise ship Silhouette. One of our shore excursion choices made available by Celebrity Cruises was a day sail on a 65-foot catamaran named the “Mystic.”

The offer

We wanted to get wet, and the promise of a remote sandy beach accessible only by boat was romantic and appealing. Picturing ourselves on the bow, with a gentle sea breeze wafting through our hair as we sailed to paradise was most alluring. The fact that a lobster lunch and beverages were included, and all we had to do was sit there and enjoy the experience – sealed the deal.

Welcome aboard

It was a short walk from where our cruise ship was docked to the Mystic’s small wooden pier.

The Mystic catamaran is quite roomy and can hold about 90 guests. There are two bathrooms aboard, and the center of the spacious deck is dedicated to a well-stocked open bar.

There were about 70 passengers aboard our excursion. Our fellow sailors hailed from a mixed bag of island accommodations including vacation rentals, hotels, and several cruise ships. Ages ranged from the low 20s to the mid-80s. We wondered how the mix would influence the outing.

A quiet start

We did not know any of the other passengers and that appeared to be true of most of the guests. On our outbound sail, people kept to themselves as they enjoyed the warm tropical sun and sea.

A remote beach

After about an hour of passing small islands with flowing palms, we approached a charming cove with a white sandy beach and the absolutely clearest turquoise water. Our captain pulled the Mystic close to the sand and we all waded ashore.

The passengers stayed with their familiar groups and took off in all directions to enjoy beachcombing and swimming in the warm and inviting ocean. For those interested in snorkeling, the equipment was available aboard the Mystic at no extra charge.

Just when we started to get a little hungry, the Mystic crew enticed us back to the boat with the promise of grilled lobster and champagne.

One by one, the passengers returned from their swimming and shore explorations. Once aboard they selected places to sit and have lunch.

The crew did a marvelous job of passing out the lobsters and corn – and champagne. Within the hour, everyone had their fill of food, but apparently not – champagne.

Heading home

As the Mystic pulled away from the beach, a metamorphosis overcome the guests. The heretofore-soothing island music seemed to grow in dimension and volume, and there was a definite repositioning of people on the deck of the boat.

Dancing ensued

Energized by champagne and a delicious rum punch, some of the younger folks began to strut their limber stuff on the makeshift dance floor in front of the now busy bar.

This was followed by somewhat older passengers and the merry Mystic crew engaging in a limbo contest upon the bouncing sea.

Beverages for all

Beer began appearing alongside the rum punch cups that covered the bar, tables, seats, hatch covers, and deck. Water, fruit punch, and soft drinks were also available – but not in great demand.

Some elders found a loose case of champagne among the empties, and were happy to share their bounty with their juniors.

A gathering of spirits

Smiles turned into laughter, and quite miraculously, everyone seemed to find long lost friends across generational lines. All over the boat, new entrants to ongoing conversations were greeted with handshakes, hugs and hearty slaps on the back.

Good things do end

Before long, we were back at the Mystic dock. The roughly 6-hour day sail had ended all too soon for everyone on board. As the passengers carefully disembarked the boat, they all gave high-fives and tips to the wonderful Mystic crew.

Memories

On our slow and cautious walk back to the Silhouette, we could hear our fellow Mystic passengers singing the now familiar tunes that we shared all day. In fact, we could hear them singing in the passageways of our cruise ship throughout much of the early evening. We just smiled – along with the other 50 or so new best friends that we met on the Mystic.

If you go

Information about the fabulous “Mystic” sailing catamaran and other excursions and tours run by Tropical Adventures in Antigua can be found *here*

This tour is definitely worth the price of admission. Be sure to bring a swimsuit and camera.

Happy travels!

Here is a list of other Caribbean stories written by the authors. Click on the title to read the article.

Fun at Labadee on the Island of Haiti

A vacation aboard the Celebrity Silhouette

The most exciting vacation starts in the Bahamas

Service aboard the newest Celebrity cruise ship

Best of the Sans Souci Resort  in Jamaica

A submarine adventure in Grand Cayman, BWI

Couples only Tower Isle Resort in Jamaica

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/