by Don Church and Tony Schillaci 22 November 2011
By Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Out and Travelin’™
With the coming of winter it’s comforting to know that fair weather is an easy drive from Connecticut and other northeast states along the interstate highways to Port Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, New Jersey.
We drove after the morning rush hour to Port Liberty and parked ($19 a day) in the secured lot, a short walk to a dock-side terminal. We boarded the gay-friendly Celebrity Cruises newest Solstice-class ship, Silhouette, one of the most technologically advanced, spacious and luxurious ships afloat today.
The ship offers seven-night cruises to the Eastern and Southern Caribbean from Port Liberty this winter. www.celebritycruises.com.
For a few extra dollars we recommend booking the AquaClass accommodations – you’ll have an upscale stateroom with a veranda. It includes unlimited access to the AquaSpa which works closely with Elemis®, one of the leading providers of health and beauty solutions. The spa offers a wealth of transformative treatments (acupuncture, yoga, beauty services, massage) that draw on cultures from around the world.
Another perk is being able to dine in AquaSpa’s hugely successful specialty restaurant, Blu. Executive chef Jacques Van Staden’s menus offer light, flavorful dishes prepared using natural reductions and sautéing methods. The high-quality and expertly prepared dishes have deservedly won raves from cruisers – and us. For those not in AquaClass a table can be booked at Blu, based on availability for an extra charge.
Sailing from Port Liberty to the Caribbean, it’s always fair weather in the gigantic solarium with its soaring crystal- clear roof. This area will be a welcome refuge during the first and last days of cruising between Port Liberty and the Caribbean. Once in warmer waters, some guests might just decide to forgo the use of the outdoor pool just to indulge in the style and luxurious feeling offered in the lush Solarium.
Everyday is a perfect day in this exotic and tranquil place that includes shaded and conversation areas, cabanas, pool, hot tub, and the covered AquaSpa Café, available to all passengers.
We heard waves of raves about AquaSpa Café. We quickly found a table, poured ourselves a chamomile iced tea, and discovered a multitude of light, flavorful, health-spa dishes in this most relaxing atmosphere. We lunched on skillfully roasted vegetables in a flavorful vinaigrette and lightly marinated grilled chicken breast on a bed of mixed greens in a creamy mustard sauce.
Another not-to-be-missed feature of the Silhouette is the dazzling and luxurious Lawn Club on deck 15 with its 22,927 square-foot manicured grass lawn overlooking the sweeping seascape.
The Lawn Club Grill is the first outdoor, interactive grill venue at sea, where guests can grill their own top-quality meat with the help of a Celebrity chef or have a luscious steak grilled to order. Everyone can participate in interactive cooking demonstrations and classes led by Celebrity’s chefs or guest chefs.
The Lawn Club also offers eight rentable private cabanas – or Alcoves – where two to four guests can settle under a très-chic white awning, order a picnic basket, and snooze or take advantage of the complimentary WiFi access in an atmosphere of lazy relaxation.
Another Lawn Club venue is an intimate casual-dining spot called The Porch, which, for a small cover charge guests can indulge in sandwiches, salads, fresh pastries and cool drinks in a low-key “Hampton-like” luxury.
At cocktail time, you have a choice of Michael’s Club on deck 5 to see the recently re-styled casually elegant bar that features anywhere from 50 to 70 international beers, including ales, lagers, lambics, wheat beers, plus seasonal beers and ciders.
Before heading off to dinner at Blu, it was time for a nap, shower, and a complimentary pre-dinner glass of champagne while sitting on our private AquaClass veranda. – 85% of the staterooms have one. And that’s just one of the seemingly endless features and amenities onboard, as outlined in the ship’s daily newsletter. Or you can chose to do nothing at all except breakfast, lunch and dinner in the lap of luxury, including genuine hospitality and unobtrusive service by the exceptionally well-trained international staff and crew.
Another memorable dining experience is the two-tier Grand Cuvee dining room. It is as dazzling as a diamond and exudes a casual elegant ambiance. The tables are well spaced for privacy, the food is Michelin-quality and the wines are expertly selected for top quality – even the less expensive vintages we tasted were highly drinkable.
The shops on the Silhouette include a Bulgari Boutique, a first on a cruise ship. The other shops are as appealing as the ones on 5th Avenue or Rodeo Drive . The corridors though this area are extra wide to allow plenty of space for window shopping.
Some of the many other outstanding features of the Silhouette deserve mention, including the deck plans that allow easy flow of passengers. A coordinated team of engineers, designers and decorators have created a distinctive ambience for each space and a pleasant and fluid transition from one area to another without a jarring note in the whole ship.
The Grand Foyer with its glass-walled atrium, sweeping and elegant staircase, glass elevators and spacious lobby has many conversation areas for relaxation and enjoying live performances. We were impressed with a quartet of male singers – Aquaudio – who brought down the house with perfect-pitch a cappella hit songs.
As you glance upward toward the top of the atrium, the two-story library and the quiet Hideaway with its tree-house escape area are just two of hundreds of wonderful spaces on this luxury liner. The library and Hideaway are open 24 hours.
For nightlife, a visit to the Silhouette Theatre provides cirque-style extravaganzas and Broadway song-and-dance spectaculars. And nearby is the state-of-the-art Quazar dance club, and Fortunes Casino and Bar.
We spotted many gay and lesbian couples and small groups onboard and being mainstream, as is our community these days, they were no doubt treated equally well as we were by the first-class staff, crew and the happy-go-lucky passengers.
The five-star Celebrity Silhouette experience can be described in just three little words – “This is living!”
© Copyright 1999 -2011. OUT&Travelin’™. All rights reserved.