Silhouette in Southampton

We leapt out of bed at five o’clock this morning because, once again, we are going on a cruise!!  We are certainly making up for our cruise-less year in 2020 by going on our third voyage this year.  😊  Today, we had the long drive down to Southampton to contend with before joining the Celebrity Silhouette this afternoon, only 22 days after disembarking the Borealis.  😊

We left the house at 6.00am as it is at least a six-hour drive from Durham to Southampton, and we knew there would be a lot of big ships in Southampton today: as well as the Silhouette, we could expect to see the Iona, the MSC Virtuosa, the Sky Princess and the Regal Princess.  Even at only 50% capacity, that still meant an awful lot of people would be converging on the famous south-coast port, and we didn’t want to be stuck in a traffic bottle-neck for hours.

As we made good progress down the M1 the weather didn’t look too bad; at least it wasn’t raining.  We passed many lorries and spotted an Eavesway coach on the way, and wondered if it too was going to Southampton, and which ship it was bringing its load of happy passengers to.

We stopped for a leg-stretch, coffee and bite to eat at Trowell services, near Nottingham, before continuing on our way.  We had intended to go via the A43 around Silverstone, but signs placed at intervals along the M1 informed us that because the GP Moto racing would be taking place this weekend, the A43 was a no-through road to traffic, so instead we looked on Google maps to take an alternative route, along part of the M25.

As we progressed further south, the traffic increased as our miles-per-hour decreased.  It was start, stop, start, stop for a good few miles along the M25, and at one point the vehicle in front of us braked sharply, which caused us to brake sharply, as did the vehicle behind.  The car behind that, however, didn’t and after hearing a grinding and rending crunch of metal we noticed it had collided with the central reservation, as one of the front wheels detached itself and rolled lazily across the motorway lanes.  If the occupants of that car were going on a cruise, I think there was a good chance they would miss their ship; they certainly weren’t going anywhere soon.

Anyway… we continued our journey and felt a surge of excitement when we started seeing the motorway signs counting down the miles to Southampton.  The satnav told us our ETA was around 12.30pm, and indeed it wasn’t long after this that we started to see the directions for the different dock gates (our parking instructions told us to make for Gate 8 or Gate 10).  However, our check-in time was not until 2.30pm and we’d been told not to park up more than 30 minutes before this, so we looked around for somewhere to park to kill some time.

Spotting the ubiquitous golden arches signifying a Maccy Dee, we decided to pull in there and enjoy a milkshake or perhaps a cold drink (we didn’t want to eat anything and spoil our dinner later on). We paid for a parking spot for an hour, and went in and ordered ourselves a McFlurry each.  While we were standing in the queue, a lady at a table behind me exclaimed “I just love your trainers!”.  Of course, I was wearing some Irregular Choice shoes; these ones are called “Shoo and Me” and have a wedge heel that is split and contains a little Care Bear figurine holding up the top half of the heel.  They look fantastic and are amazingly comfortable.  I am used to people stopping me and commenting on my footwear, ha ha.  😊

Irregular Choice “Shoo and Me” trainers

From our viewpoint we could look across the road and see the two navy blue funnels, one with the large white “X” on it belonging to the Celebrity Silhouette. How exciting!  We couldn’t wait to board.  😊

We set off again and found our way to Dock Gate 8, where there were plenty of men in orange hi-vis waistcoats to direct us to our parking space.  As soon as we opened the boot of the car and removed our suitcases, a guy came over to whisk them away: “the next time you see them, they will be in your cabin” he told us with a bright smile.

The Celebrity Silhouette waiting for us at the cruise terminal in Southampton

We picked up our carry-on bags and hurried over to the cruise terminal building.  Another bloke was standing at the entrance and asked us to have our negative PCR Covid test certificates ready, as well as our vaccination record.  The wi-fi in the building wasn’t very good (and the 4G signal wasn’t much better) so the documents took quite a while to load on our phones, while I hopped from one foot to the other with impatience. Finally an official was able to verify that we were fully jabbed and tested negative for Covid, and we were next directed the check-in desk where our Express Passes were scanned and the lady said “Enjoy your cruise!”  Then we were allowed to board.  Yes!!  😊

As we walked along the glass-sided walkway the Celebrity Silhouette looked huge, with her blue hull and her name painted in large white letters.  This is our 53rd cruise but the excitement was just the same as it was for our first one back in 1988.  It’s a fabulous feeling.

We went up the gangplank and into the Silhouette’s plush interior.  Even though we’d never been on this ship before, she felt very familiar; this is because we had sailed on her sister ship Eclipse in 2019, and the two vessels are almost identical.

We made our way to our stateroom on Deck 7, number 7227.  It was a decent-sized balcony cabin, with a large settee, coffee table, dressing table the stool and drawers, and a double bed next to the balcony.  My side of the bed was closest to the floor to ceiling glass doors, which meant that the very first thing I would see each morning when I opened my eyes was the sea gliding past.  What an absolutely brilliant way to start each day.  😊

We dumped our bags and went out onto the balcony, which contained a table and a couple of deck chairs.  If the weather was fine then we’d be sure to spend quite some time out there!

As today it was fine, with only a slight breeze, we decided to go up to the Sunset Bar at the stern of the ship to enjoy a freezing cold beer.  Like her sister ship the Celebrity Eclipse, the Silhouette has the “Lawn Club”; yes, she has real grass growing on the topmost deck and, as we walked along, it was just like being back on the Eclipse.  The same, but different!  😊

We got ourselves a beer each and found a couple of rocking chairs to sit in, with a small table between them.  We were right next to the MSC Virtuosa, and we could look across at this ship and see her passengers looking across at us.  😊

After enjoying a second drink, we returned to cabin 7227 and saw that our cases were there, so we spent some time hanging everything up and folding it into drawers before settling down. A message on our TV told us to follow the safety briefing which we could do on the Celebrity app we had on our phones; you had to watch a video showing how to put on a life-jacket, and listen to the distress signal (seven short blasts of the ship’s whistle, followed by one long blast).  Finally, we had to make our way to our muster station and have our names checked off the list.

Although we were very excited to be on board a ship again, tiredness was also catching up with us after our early start and the long drive down.  We therefore enjoyed a 45 minute power nap before getting washed and changed and going out onto the balcony, where we could see that the Silhouette had started our voyage and was slowly pulling away from the dockside.

We usually dine early on cruises as we like to allow time for our dinner to “go down” before bedtime.  On the Silhouette, indeed on all Celebrity ships, there is no set dinner time or set table, you can go into the main dining room anytime from 5.30pm onwards.  We usually like to go between 6.00-6.30pm, so we went down to the Grand Cuvée restaurant on Deck 4, where we were shown to a table for two at the edge of the mezzanine floor.  Unlike our last cruise on the Borealis where we could share a table for six in a “dining bubble”, only those from the same household or same booking could share a table, so it was just mange à deux for Trevor and me.  😊

I enjoyed a delicious Caesar salad to start, followed by a homestyle pork chop served with mashed potato, gravy and fresh vegetables.  It was washed down with a crisp dry rosé wine and followed with a cheeseboard, coffee and a glass of amaretto.  A delicious meal and excellent service from our waiter and sommelier.

After dinner we went up to the Sky Lounge on the topmost deck, Deck 14, where a game show called “True or False” was in progress.  We sat on stools at the bar and I enjoyed an Aperol Spritz while participating in that most pleasant of pastimes, people-watching.  Even though the Silhouette (like other cruise ships in the current situation) is only allowed to sail with 50% capacity, it still meant she could carry 1400 passengers; in fact, for this cruise, there were only 854 passengers on board, less than a third capacity.  She’s a big ship however, at 122,000 tons, so lots of empty spaces around the ship were very much in evidence.

At nine o’clock we went into the theatre for tonight’s featured entertainment, a comedienne called Jo Little.  Lots of seats in the theatre had to remain empty to maintain social distancing, and because it is a big theatre the comedienne was playing to a room which was only about a quarter full.  Instead of uproarious laughter from wall to wall, all you could hear was the odd titter or snigger from various pockets around the theatre; it must have been excruciating for her performing up on that stage for 45 minutes, looking down at mostly-empty seats.

After the show we went along to the Quasar bar for the Trivia quiz, and once again felt a rush of nostalgia as it was just identical to the one on the Eclipse.  The only difference was that here the bar in there was closed, and there were only about a dozen or so people scattered about the room.

We spotted a bloke on his own sitting on a bar stool, and we asked him if he wanted another couple of team members.  He introduced himself as James, and said he was a solo traveller; he’d only booked this cruise 10 days ago, just to have a break.  We didn’t win the quiz, but it seemed we had a team for the future; teams of no more than four people are allowed, and James’ specialist knowledge was musicals (which we’re rubbish at) so we hoped we’d get questions on that topic.  😊

We finished the evening off by going to the Grand Foyer midships and listening to the resident musician there while enjoying a nightcap.  Then it was back to cabin 7227, where we opened the balcony door a couple of inches to let in the fresh sea air before settling down for the night.  We had a sea day to look forward to tomorrow, and we slept very well, lulled by the gorgeous sounds of the sea.

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