Celebrity Silhouette – 9 Night Spain & France Cruise

My wife and I have recently returned from a 9 night Celebrity Silhouette cruise…

 

…sailing to France and Spain from Southampton. We chose this particular cruise purely for its itinerary as it offered three ports that we had not previously visited while on cruise ships: La Rochelle, Bilbao and La Coruna…

 

We have previously cruised with Celebrity on a number of occasions and were interested to discover what new features had been added to Silhouette following her recent refurbishment in 2020.

For this particular cruise we had booked a Prime Balcony Stateroom, No. 9235…

 

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Or more graphically illustrated, on the end of the ‘hump’……

Basically a nicely designed living space with a large bed…

…an ensuite with glass fronted shower…

…and a practical balcony…

Worth pointing out at this point that part of our booking package was all Inclusive drinks, gratuities and free Wifi. I mention that here because the Wifi was excellent, particularly in the stateroom: no doubt due to the fact that we had what appeared to be a personal Wifi Router in the stateroom….

Pre cruise administration was particularly good. We had both downloaded the Celebrity App onto our iPhones and found the majority of information and pre-booking facilities most adequate, including the electronic boarding pass. More about the App features later.

We were given a boarding time of 11.45 and duly booked a taxi from home at 11.00 am. We arrived at Southampton’s City Cruise Terminal around 11.30 and having dropped our luggage with the on-site porters and having our iPhone boarding passes scanned at the terminal entrance we were positively raced through the rest of the boarding procedures. Once onboard we found our stateroom was ready from where we collected our personal key cards and by midday we were sitting at the Martini Bar enjoying the first of many G&Ts…

Our take on Celebrity Silhouette.

We have always found Celebrity cruises to be very good on two things close to our hearts: food and entertainment and we were most keen to give their latest innovation, the ‘Silent Discos’, a try. But first lets see what was on offer around the ship.

Perhaps the first and most noticeable change onboard, certainly the two we particularly noticed from our ‘Eclipse’ days,  were the revamped Grand Foyer …

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…and the replacement of the old ‘Cellar Masters’  wine bar with the interestingly named ‘Craft & Social Bar’…

….which, we discovered,  catered mainly for the sports enthusiasts with very good Premiership and European Championship football coverage.

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Sport coverage was also high on the screens mounted in the Casino Bar…

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Other bars and entertainment venues we found  generally unchanged and were, as we remembered, including The Sky Lounge….

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The Ensemble Lounge…

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The Sunset Bar…

…and the renamed (it used to be called The Molecular Bar), The World Class Bar…

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For warmer climates the two old favourites were still there, on Deck 14 the Mast Bar…

…and on Deck 12, the Pool Bar…

The one other bar we did manage to make use of was the Entertainment Court Bar…

…though we never really got the significance of the name unless of course it was its proximity to the Theatre.

 

Central to most entertainment were the Grand Foyer, the Sky Lounge and of course the Theatre….

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Dining Onboard

 

As I have previously mentioned, Celebrity have an excellent reputation for their food quality and variety of dining venues.

Familiar to the majority of passengers will be the Ocean View Cafe….

Situated aft on Deck 14 this buffet style restaurant sets the standard amongst the larger cruise ships…

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For those who prefer the more sedate dining experience there is Silhouette’s main Restaurant, the Grand Cuvee…

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Opening for breakfasts and sea day lunches, evening dining is available over two sittings on the lower floor or ‘select’ freedom dining on the upper level.

There are a number of ‘speciality’ restaurants onboard Silhouette which either make a supplementary charge or are exclusively linked to the upper levels of accommodation.

The latter two are the Luminae for Suite guests and for Aqua class guests, Blu…

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…and a typical “Blu’ menu…

There are six ‘Speciality Restaurants’ with cover charges including Murano…

Specialising in Classic French dishes with a contemporary twist…..

 

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The Tuscan Grill….

…specialising in iconic Italian dishes featuring handmade pasta, artisanal salumi, fish, butcher cut meats, and USDA Prime dry aged steaks. 

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Le Petit Chef at Qsine….

RE-inventing dining is the claim. Experience the fusion of entertainment and global cuisine….

Sushi on 5….

The place for authentically prepared sushi and other Japanese specialties. A modern take on traditional Japanese fare.

There were two others, both on Deck 15, that the daily programme indicated were ‘open’ weather permitting. They are The Porch…

Basically a seafood and raw bar restaurant inspired by the rural seaside charm of the Hamptons while The Lawn Club…

…where one could enjoy one-on-one interaction with our chefs, receiving a lesson in proper grilling techniques, and learning other tricks of the trade. Choose from a gourmet salad bar, build your own pizza, and enjoy more than 12 grill specialties, including USDA Choice Beef; poultry; seafood; and vegetables.

We had noted that Celebrity offered a small discount on pre-booking speciality restaurants prior to embarkation. This facility was available both online and on the Celebrity App…

 

As can be seen, discounts also applied for ‘First Night’ bookings, and dining packages were also available.

Finally on the dining front, and included as complimentary,  was that old favourite, the burger bar. Situated high on Deck 15 and on Silhouette named The Mast Grill…

You just can’t beat it…

 

Life Onboard

 

As mentioned earlier, our all Inclusive package included the Celebrity ‘Classic’ drinks package – a facility we fully intended to make the best use of. What we soon noticed though was that the majority of passengers were also on a similar package and very often seating at a ‘chosen’ bar was not always immediately available. Similarly, our ‘Select’ Freedom dining option often meant that there was a wait time before a table for dinner became available: a subject I will address in my summary.

Over the nine days our two favourite pre-dinner venues proved to be The Ensemble Lounge…

…where we enjoyed the music of Thiago Balera…

…and Carib Sensation’s twist on Jazz….

…amongst other entertainers.

As always The Martini Bar, with its central position, was a great  place to kick off, especially on ‘Chic (Formal) nights…

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…though we did on occasion use the Entertainment Court Bar….

…pre attendance of the early evening theatre show.

Late afternoon and early evening sailaways generally found us utilising the Sunset Bar…

…while enjoying the music of Gemini Duo…

After dinner drinks usually found us around the Passport Bar on Deck 3…

…mainly due to its proximity to the Grand Foyer dance floor…..

Our other late night entertainment venue was the Sky Lounge where once again we thoroughly enjoyed the music, dancing and ‘Silent Disco’…

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With one evening exception our go-to dinner venue was The Grand Cuvee…

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On two occasions we were delighted to join four friends whom we had earlier met onboard, for two lively dinner dates…

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The Double Baked Blue Cheese Soufflé….

Beef Wellington…

that old favourite, Baked Alaska….

….and a plated selection of cheese to round off the dinner….

On both ‘sea-days’ we also took lunch in the Grand Cuvee…

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The Balinese Satay…

…and the Smoked Turkey Pesto Panini…

An altogether more sedate experience than the Ocean View Cafe.

On the two sea days we took advantage of the onboard cinema, Celebrity Central…

catching up with current movies.

We certainly enjoyed the theatre production shows and a couple of the visiting entertainers.

Shows included the outstanding ‘Euphoria’…

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…and the equally entertaining ‘Life’…

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Indeed, both my wife and I agreed that the singers in this particular production company were amongst the very best we have listened to in our cruising experience.

 

Itinerary

Our first port of call was La Rochelle…

…where we were to stay berthed overnight. We had planned to spend the first day travelling by train to the town of Saintes, which, amongst other attractions is the home of the French national stud….

Having boarded the first shuttle bus into La Rochelle we hot-footed it to the local ‘Gare’…

…only to find the French Railways ticket office opened on Sundays between 1.00 pm and 5.45 pm, and ticket machines would not play ball!

As the train journey was slightly over an hour we abandoned our plan. Fortunately I had brought with me my La Rochelle plan (albeit for the next day)…

All was not lost and we spent most of the day executing our plans, including The Globe….

….which maps world wide French speaking countries.

The Maritime Museum….

The Old Town Clock Gate….

…and a ride on the La Rochelle Ferris Wheel…

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….before scaling the heights of the Lantern Tower….

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The only medieval lighthouse on the Atlantic Coast that is still standing

Great views all around….

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The following day I was to be once again frustrated by French officialdom. We were berthed the far side of the docks and the previous day our shuttle bus passed close to the WWII German Submarine pens.

After breakfast I set off ashore in the hope of walking to the pens, using the footpath across the bridge I had noticed the previous day…

Sadly I was stopped having passed through the terminal building and informed that visitors were not allowed to walk through the working port. Grrrrr.

I did however manage, using my zoom lens, to get a reasonable image of the pens during our sailaway…

Not exactly what I’d hoped for but some consolation I guess.

 

The following day, Tuesday 4 October, we arrived at the port of Getxo, gateway to Bilbao…

Once again we were obliged to use shuttle buses to access the centre of Bilbao: on this occasion at a cost of €10.00 per person return.

As always we had a plan and as Bilbao was to be the highlight of this cruise visit we were determined to make the most of our day.

We were dropped off at the Plaza Euskadi, a 5 minute walk from the Guggenheim Museum…

…which was conveniently on our planned route to Artxanda Funicular. This allowed us to walk past the Louise Bourgeois bronze Maman statue….

…and the equally interesting Las Sirgueras statues further along the river bank….

Crossing the river at the Zubizuri Bridge….

….two blocks away we found the Artxanda Funicular…

…where for two return tickets we paid the exorbitant price of €8.60….

The views over Bilbao are well worth the journey….

…including a good overview of the Guggenheim…

….and our next area of interest, Casco Viejo (The Old Town)…

Having descended on the Funicular we now followed the Nervion River, stopping to photograph the very grand City Hall and the Jorge Oteioza Ovoid Variant statue…

before admiring the amazing stained glass window in the Abando Railway Station…

Casco Viejo forms the medieval old quarter, a lively riverside district of narrow alleys lined with modern shops and traditional taverns.Viewed from across the river the stand out building is the  La Ribera market…

…with San Anton church to its rear. The Mercado de la Ribera is recognized as the most comprehensive food market in the world by the Guinness Book of Records.

Once across the river we entered the Casco Viejo, the medieval historic quarter of Bilbao and home to its famous seven streets, all of which we easily found and explored…

These are narrow streets filled with bars, tapas restaurants and chic shops….

…and they all lead to the central attractions of the old town like the Stairs at Plaza Unamuno…

The neoclassical Plaza Nueva….

…home of the  Euskaltzaindia Palace seen central in the above photograph and elsewhere within, the Bilboko Catholic Cathedral….

The toughest place of interest to find on our list was the baroque Yohn Palace…

 

…known locally as ‘The Bourse’.  It has a beautiful carved lintel around the door, which is extremely rare in urban architecture in Basque Bizkaia…

 

Our visit to Casco Viejo was outstanding, so much so that I have decided that I must write a review in my ‘One Way to do…’ series.

However, no visit would be complete without a photo stop outside the magnificent Teatro Arriaga…

 

…built in Neo-baroque style in 1890 by architect Joaquín Rucoba, the same architect that built the City Hall photographed earlier, nor at least some mention of tapas.

For our Bilbao experience of tapas we chose one of the multitude of choices  on the ground floor of the Mercado de la Ribera to sample the more traditional Basque variety of tapas…

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…including the famous Bacalao…

salted cod prepared with garlic and olive oil ….Yummy…

We didn’t come away empty handed either. Who could’ve  resisted the chance of adding a certain flag to the home collection…

By the time we returned to Silhouette, and had taken stock of our day, who’d have thought my wife’s fitbit would have registered…

 

Our next port of call, on Wednesday 5 October was La Coruna…

The town of La Coruna was new to us and we had done a degree of homework in order to maximise our time here. Our main target was to visit the ‘Torre de Hércules’ with a few other historical sites on the way…

Our plan needed a slight change when our berth turned out to be not the regular cruise ship one: and we once again had to rely on shuttle buses.

Once out of the port gate we circumnavigated the port through the park area and past the yachting marina before cutting into the town to take a look at the Plaza de Maria Pita…

Judging by the number of tour groups either there or just arriving, this was an important place…

Next we headed back to the marina and continued our earlier circumnavigation until we arrived at Saint Anton Castle…

Sadly the lady in the ticket office recognised my age and I gratefully accepted her offer of a €1 senior’s admission ticket….

That time of the morning I almost had the castle to myself…

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….and had to rely on my camera’s self timer for my obligatory selfie…

Visit complete it was just a short walk to the next historic landmark, Porta de San Miguel…

Dating back to the 14th century, there were originally three of these ports (gates) this one being the ‘sea gate’ to the fortified old city…

Moving on we passed both the La Coruna Military Hospital…

…and the Military Museum….

 

…before heading along the ‘Rua Orillamar’ taking in some interesting wall murals…

before eventually coming into view of the ‘Torre de Hércules’…

For those who wish to enter the tower there is a ticket system which we made full use of…

Tickets are timed and we were pretty delighted to know that we had a slot just 35 minutes to go: which gave us ample time to explore the outside areas…

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At our allotted time we entered the tower and passed through an area designed to illustrate the original Roman foundations of the tower…

Renovation of the original tower began in 1788 and in 2009 the tower became a World Heritage Site. The tower stands at a height of 55 metres and both of us climbed the 234 steps ahead of our group…

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From our lofty position I even managed to spot our ship…

…which also indicated the distance we had walked that morning. We chose a different route for our walk back to the ship, basically circumnavigating around the opposite side of the peninsular…

…only stopping to take in a final photograph of a particular statue to be found in the Méndez Núñez Gardens  a short walk from the port gates…

 

The next day, and the next port up, Thursday 6th October was Vigo…

 

…a port of call not unfamiliar to ourselves.

I had, however, during my pre-cruise research, discovered a site of interest in Vigo that we had not yet visited. The challenge was on to visit the 83 metre high Castro Fortress…

A hilltop fortress  built in 1665 during the Portuguese Restoration War in order to protect the city from the continuous raids by the British Royal Navy, allies of Portugal….

Using my trusted Google map plan…

…we zigzagged through Vigo’s streets until we arrived at one of the stepped entrances to the Mount de Castro Park…

and continued upwards through the park past various interesting monuments…

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…and fountains….

…to within touching distance of the fortress…

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The climb was well worth it and we were presented with some excellent photo opportunities….

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…while enjoying the glorious views over Vigo

Well on course for our day’s plan we now commenced our descent back into Vigo, past the Teatro García Barbónin…

…and in the direction of the Alameda da Praza…

…a garden promenade featuring paved walkways, statues, fountains and flower beds…

…and the odd tree sculpture….

…and just a short distance from the seafront marina…

As part of our plan we had programmed in lunch and from the waterfront we were now well versed in finding our favoured dining option, Calle de las Ostras (Oysters Street)…

By the time we arrived, it was heaving….

As luck would have it we spotted a couple about to vacate a table and we dived in. No messing, immediately staking our claim with a bottle of wine after assisting the waiter in clearing the previous customers debris…

We had a prime position with excellent view of the oyster shuckers…

…who, incidentally, operate independently of the restaurant one is sitting in…

We placed separate orders with both the shucker and the restaurant waiter and our lunch commenced.

Ox Crab…

…a whole kilo’s worth followed by the largest oysters available…

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…and rounded off with a platter of Sardinas….

Our idea of heaven on a plate…

AFTER THE LORD MAYOR’S SHOW….

As I stated earlier, the oyster shuckers actually operate independently of the restaurant so also need paying separately. Not a problem…

…and the restaurant bill, excellent value…

Before returning to Silhouette we took advantage of the excellent duty free offer on Gordon’s Gin in the terminal’s duty free shop. Timely visit really as Silhouette had no gin whatsoever for sale onboard.

 

The next day was a sea day as we sailed northwards towards our final port of call, Le Havre….

 

We have cruised into Le Havre on numerous occasions, most recently last December on Iona, when we took a local bus service to Honfleur. Inspired by that excellent day out we now planned a trip in the opposite direction and headed for the coastal town of Etretat…

We were well versed on the 25 minute walk to the bus station which is situated adjacent the main railway station. Tickets needed to be purchased from the station ticket office…

…and the rest was easy peasey…

The journey time was just over an hour at a cost of return tickets for the both of us of €7.20.

On arrival at Etretat the bus conveniently stops at the ‘Mairie’ …

…which again conveniently houses the local ‘tourist office’.

Armed with a superior local street map we headed left along Rue Monge…

…past some interesting buildings…

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…until we eventually came to the beach promenade….

 

Etretat sits on what is known as the Côte d’Albâtre or ‘Alabaster Coast’ – 140 km of chalky cliffs between the estuary of the Seine and  that of the Somme.

 

We decided to first head left in the direction of the cliffs above rock formation that is known as la Porte d’Aval…

…immortalised on canvas by none other than that chap Claude…

There are a number of interesting historical insights along the promenade including this rather splendid old fashioned portable Diving Board…

with a graphic illustration of its use…

…and a reminder of darker times when, during WWII, Etretat became an extension of Hitler’s ‘Atlantic Wall’ defensive system…

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The climb to the clifftop above la Porte d’eval, while often steep, is well laid out…

…and the views once there are well worth the effort….

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…and a bit of fun….

Indeed, a little bit of camera zoom revealed a later challenge we had planned on the opposite side of Etretat…

But there was more to see this side first. The next ‘porte’ was  Falaise La Manneport…

at the far end of Jambourg Beach…

Needless to say, that’s where we headed next and the view back to la Porte d’eval was well worth it…

…if only for the inclusion of the Aiguille rock pinnacle.

We headed back to the promenade descending along a rather easier footpath…

…and headed for the northern cliff face…

before commencing our climb to the Notre-Dame de la Garde Chapel…

Again a pretty steep climb but we made it in good time…

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The pointed monument behind the chapel has an interesting story. It is part of a memorial linked to an adjacent museum…

…which celebrates the achievements of two French aviators…

…who attempted the first flight between Paris and New York. Their plane, called the L’Oiseau Blanc (the White Bird) was last seen flying low over Étretat later that morning. They never made it to New York, and neither they nor their airplane were ever found.

The memorial itself is impressive and takes the shape of an aircraft flatly configured with a shard pointing to the sky symbolising the flight…

This was a difficult picture to take. I actually had to stand on the tail of the plane and use my widest angled lens.

During my research i found an aerial photograph of the memorial accredited to Stephane Dubost.  I have been given permission to include it in the blog….

 

Maybe of interest to those visitors not as  mobile as my wife and me,  while at the memorial I  noticed a  ‘small train’ which does local tours.  It departs from outside the ‘Mairie’ and calls at the monument…

…which is also within close walking distance of the Jardins d’Etretat….

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Our decent into Etretat was uneventful bar for the odd photo call…

During our walk from the Mairie to the promenade we had spotted one or two restaurants and it was retracing those steps that we came across the Salamander Restaurant…

…where we settled for that old favourite of ours and French coastal towns, Moules Frites…

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Our day was complete. Luck was with us on the way home. We had noted on our outbound journey that the bus had passed very close to the port entrance where Silhouette was berthed. We took advantage of this and alighted the bus some 15 minutes shorter than the walk back from the station would have taken.

We sailed from Le Havre later that evening and the following day arrived home in Southampton .

 

SUMMARY

 

This was yet another successful cruise experience from both a ship and itinerary aspect which proved very good value for money. We thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment, food quality and general service throughout the ship with the exception of the ‘Select’ Freedom dining experience.

We were aware that on this package we could have booked dining times in advance of embarkation however, without knowledge of the entertainment programme, this would have proved pot luck / relatively futile. Towards the end of the cruise we discovered, by chance,  that we could have reduced waiting waiting times had we indicated that we were willing to share a table with other guests, but this was not explained/offered to us.  Nor were we told that the pagers issued could not be contacted in certain areas of the ship.. This was never explained to us at the dinner booking desk.

Celebrity has a great entertainment and music philosophy and that showed by the popularity of the venues. We thoroughly enjoyed the ‘Silent Discos’ and were thrilled that they were regularly repeated.

Would we cruise with Celebrity again?

We are very itinerary driven cruisers and if one came along that suited we would be more than happy to return to Celebrity.

If you have enjoyed this review of Celebrity Silhouette , and would like to be amongst the first to hear of new reviews including the maiden cruise onboard P&O’s latest ship Arvia and Cunard’s new Queen Anne, plus  Solent Richard’s next guide to the Spanish port of Bilbao in his ‘One way to do…’ series,  why not join over 600  followers by clicking on the ‘Follow’ link on the front page.

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©2020 – 23 * Solent Richard’s Cruise Blog * All Rights Reserved

Duplication in part or whole without prior written consent is prohibited by international laws.

 

Disclosure to potential conflict of interest:

It is common throughout the travel industry for travel journalists and many cruise bloggers to be provided with complimentary cruises for the purpose of their reviews.

Solent Richard has no ‘conflict of interest’ as he is not an accredited journalist, he pays for his cruises, and is happy to confirm that all his reviews are his own given without fear or favour.

5 responses to “Celebrity Silhouette – 9 Night Spain & France Cruise

  1. Hi,
    A great review and very informative. We were on the same cruise and it was very enjoyable.
    A sensitive topic but do you know what is Celebrity’s policy on seating severely disabled with other guests for dinner.
    We changed tables on the 3rd night of the cruise and were shown to a table of 6 where there was only one couple seated. It turned out that the lady guest was very disabled and had to be fed by the husband throughout. They were a nice couple but conversations were understandably stilted and limited especially as we could hardly hear her. It was not a comfortable situation for everyone. Although we felt very sad for this couple, we didn’t wish to watch her being fed for the rest of the cruise. We asked to change table again. Our waiter confided that the 2 other couples who were seated with them on the first night, didn’t come back at all. The couple dined on their own for the rest of the cruise.
    Our view is that we as well as other guests, shouldn’t be put on to such a table without being appraised or asked first.
    Celebrity has not replied to our comments.
    A difficult and very sensitive to raise but what is your view?

    • Thank you for your kind comment. With regard to your question on a sensitive topic I’m afraid I don’t have the answer. What i would say ie that it’s a sensitive subject and, while feeling sorry for the couple, I would probably have behaved in the same manner as you did. However, I do wonder why, given the circumstances as explained, the couple hadn’t opted for a somewhat more appropriate table for two. Thanks again for your comments.

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