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Instead of writing a really long story about Celebrity's newest ship, Silhouette, I've decided to give a bit of back story, list my favorite additions, and do a photo montage/video with the ton of photos/video snippets I took. The ship is so beautiful, it's best to see rather than read about it.
Natalie and I arrived to Hamburg, Germany, in late July to go on a special two-day preview/naming cruise of Silhouette. This was the fourth in Celebrity's Solstice class of ships, and we had been fortunate to also go on the first two. Here's my 2008 story of Celebrity Solstice and 2009 story of Celebrity Equinox. Their third ship, Celebrity Eclipse, debuted in 2010, but I didn't make that preview cruise because the Iceland volcano prevented me from reaching South Hampton, England. FYI: There is one more Solstice-class ship on its way. The 3,030-passenger Celebrity Reflection is scheduled for delivery in the fall of 2012.
Each of these ships is the same length and dimensions as its sisters, and as you will see, they are the world's most stylish megaships. Celebrity's Solstice raised the bar on luxury cruises when it launched in 2008, and Silhouette, the newest addition to their fleet, is basically the same ship except for some minor interior design tweaks. This ship holds up to 2,886 passengers and 1,250 crew from all over the world.
We boarded the ship in the morning, even though we weren't going to depart until early evening. TIP: If you're traveling from out of town, it's always a good idea to arrive to the departure city at least a day before your ship sails, just in case there are flight delays, cancellations, or anything else that might hold you up.
Since this was a special two-day cruise, there weren't any porters around curbside, but checking in was still easy since we had roller bags. To get into the massive check-in hall, we had to show our IDs and cruise documents before going through the airport-like security. Although the line was slow, the actual check-in didn't take long since they had an army of agents working. They gave us our room keys, which also acted as our ID and charge card.
There was one more document check. It was similar to getting on a plane, but instead of walking down a dark ramp, it was the complete opposite: To get on the ship required a long walk up a beautiful glass-enclosed ramp. The whole time, my eyes were fixed on this $750 million, 122,000-ton mammoth ship, which will make anyone's heart begin to flutter. The moment I stepped onto one of the 13 guest decks, I realized that whatever amount of time anyone books on this cruise ship, it won't be enough! It's the same feeling as when you get a new car.
My favorites of Silhouette's new additions:
As on all of the Solstice-class ships, there's a Lawn Club with a half-acre of real grass growing on the top deck. It was originally designed to provide a relaxing lawn-party type of experience, and they had a glassblowing show by artisans from the Corning Museum of Glass. Now there are eight exclusive alcoves, which are cabana-style settings each designed for two to four guests. There are also eight hammocks and two whimsical oversize Adirondack chairs.
Lawn Club Grill
The big difference on the top deck is they replaced the Glass Studio with an Art Studio (a small room for arts and crafts lessons) and the Lawn Club Grill. The latter is a fun, interactive dining experience where guests can cook their own barbecue or make their own pizzas with the help of a personal grill master or flatbread maker. The $30 per person surcharge is worth the experience, and I won't be surprised if they add the Lawn Club Grill to all their other Solstice-class ships.
QSine Silhouette has 10 dining options, and my favorite besides the Ocean View Café is QSine (it debuted on Celebrity Eclipse). QSine is the brainchild of Jacques Van Staden, Celebrity's vice president of culinary operations. When they sit down, each of the 82 guests gets an interactive iPad as the menu. If that wasn't enough of a wow factor for you, then the "tapas-like" experience will be. They serve fun, unique dishes like Disco Shrimp, where the bowl comes with a flickering blue light. Then there's the sushi lollipops, mezze served in a box with multiple windows, and a dessert menu that is on a Rubik's-like cube. There's also a $30 per person surcharge for this restaurant. For more details see this CruiseMates.com review.
One of Silhouette's differences from its sisters that you will definitely notice is the art work. All the ships have great contemporary artwork, but the stuff on this ship is fantastic. A few of the standouts are Anish Kapoor's Mirror, James Aldridge's mural Superstition, and Troy Abbott's Immortal, which is a series of elaborate bird cages holding tiny LCD screens showing video of birds in cages. For more details see this Frommers.com review.
When I was first being whisked up the fast, sleek glass elevators over the atrium, I couldn't help but say "cool" when we went by the The Hideaway floor. It's basically a high-tech escape for vacationers relaxing with their iPads or a low-tech retreat for reading a good book. Inspired by the live trees suspended within the Grand Foyer of every Solstice-class ship, the design of The Hideaway reflects that of an upscale, avant-garde tree house, with cozy, intimate lounging "nests," or niches.
For all those Apple lovers Silhouette has a Celebrity iLounge, which is a combination web café and onboard Apple computer store. Guests can take computer lessons while at sea or rent or buy an iPad. It's the cruise industry's first authorized Apple reseller. You can learn more by seeing this Celebrity iLounge video I made
FYI: The ship has Wi-Fi available for a charge.
The cabins on Silhouette are now 15 percent bigger (and they were never tiny with a little porthole to peek out of). These cabins are more than generous in size with not only a floor-to-ceiling window but also a sliding-glass door onto a private balcony. That's right--a balcony! And that's not out of the norm, either. In fact, 1,426 of the staterooms (that's 85 percent) have verandas, and 90 percent of all rooms have an ocean view! The decks have two chairs and a table, and the room was pretty much perfect. And what I really appreciated about the doors is that not only were they soundproof, but they slide, so you don't hear any doors slamming like you do on other ships. I really wish Seabourn would get these for their yachts. Also, the bathrooms on Silhouette are huge--they can easily fit two people, and they come with a fantastic shower with multiple heads and long soft towels.
-There's no 13th floor even though the ship has 15 decks.
-The tea served at Café al Bacio and Gelateria is really hot.
-Michaels Club has 65 international beers; prices range from $5 for a Budweiser to $49 for Deus.
-They did the muster drill 23 hours after we set sail.
-The Greek captain is funny. One announcement he made said that if he, the staff captain, or the next guy in command for some reason became unavailable in an emergency, it would be safe to say you were having a bad day. He also says "out" when he signs off.
-The captain sang the Greek national anthem with his colleagues during the naming ceremony.
-The naming ceremony for Celebrity Silhouette was broadcast live on Celebrity's Facebook page. You can see the full ceremony by clicking this link.
-The tradition of naming ships goes back hundreds or thousands of years. Ships' godmothers used to be men, and they used to use red wine instead of champagne.
-I called down to say the TV wasn't working and a repairman seriously showed up in 30 seconds. Not an exaggeration.
-Unfortunately, for our cruise down the River Elbe and into the North Sea the weather wasn't very nice--it was cold and rainy. But what was cool is that the pool staff replaced the towels with wool blankets for those who still wanted to lie outside and get some fresh air.
Don't just take my word about how incredible Celebrity Solstice-class ships are. Here are just a few of their recent awards:
– Celebrity Cruises was ranked among the top 10 World's Best Large-Ship Cruise Lines. Travel + Leisure World's Best Awards 2011
– The readers of Condé Nast Traveler voted Celebrity Equinox as having the Best Food & Dining and Celebrity Solstice as having the Best Staterooms. Within the mega-ship category, they voted Celebrity Solstice as number three overall and Celebrity Equinox as number four. Condé Nast Traveler's annual Best Cruise Ships readers' poll, February 2011
Why I Love to Cruise
What do I love about cruising? First of all, it's the best value out there. Not only is your lodging included, but so is all the food (including room service), non-alcoholic drinks, and entertainment. There's so much to do (and not to do, if you prefer), and you get to see a number of destinations without schlepping your bags all over the place. You pack and unpack just once.
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SOME OF LAST WEEK'S READER AIR-eMAIL
Adorable!! I just stumbled on your newsletter.....!! Catherine
A quick email to say I enjoyed reading your Hamburg travelogue. Since I write travel on Germany and Austria, I especially enjoy reading your experiences and adventures in this part of Europe. Great that you could share all that with your girlfriend. You've mentioned her in past writings but I don't recall you ever bringing her along. I'm sure you have, I just missed those entries.
Funny line, "vegetarians love salad." B.H.
Had a good stroll through your passport stamps. Great job. Have to say, compared to mine, yours are much more orderly - with most of the stamps properly placed in their quadrants. It seems the US and the UK are more likely to place them randomly than any other country. And on any non-sequential page. Had a good laugh once at Dublin. Had to ask for a passport stamp and the less-friendly-than-expected agent said: "These aren't souvenirs, you know." To which I was so tempted to respond: "Oh, yes they are!"
And was thrilled when I had to get extra pages added to my passport because I was running out of space.
I'm with you on being a stamp collector. Thanks. Ed F - American living in London
Was that really Johnny in Hamburg photo with life preserver around his neck? I see a new hair cut, a slimmed down Johnny with maybe a bit of botox, filler or a nip.good for him.We have all done a bit.
Maybe he is getting ready to pop"the" question to ms. Natalie. In the meantime my fav Travel agent and I are trying to decide which Seabourne Cruise in Asia to do this winter thanks to Johnny. I was also looking at Swan Hellenic.Acc. to a friend Voyages of Discoverys food is only mediocre and cabins are bare bones from the 50s with no comfortable chairs- who wants to spend a cruise sitting on edge of bed and everyone in bed by 10pm. Sounds like a cruise I once took on the Sagafjord.
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