There was lots more for me to think about before travel, ensuring the correct insurance was in place, obtaining proof of vaccination and then with Celebrity Cruises the arrangement of a PCR test, which was required for boarding.
Celebrity include the cost of a PCR test in the cruise cost and provide details of the booking procedure via email around two weeks before sailing. They have a partnership with Eurofins and offer a variety of testing locations around the UK. The locations available for me were convenient as I live near and work in London, however if you live in a more remote location then you may have to travel a couple of hours for your nearest test location. Celebrity do offer the option for guests to arrange and pay for a test independently and claim back up to the value of £100 per person, which solves the problem for many.
With my PCR test done within 72 hours of sailing, the wait for the result begins; should I dare to start packing and tempt fate? Just over 24 hours later, my result is negative and the excitement really kicks in - I am sailing again!
Cruising from Southampton is always a pleasure, withno dreaded weight or luggage restrictions to worry about. Embarkation was Covid friendly, with allocated boarding times to ease any long waiting times. Before I knew it I was on board, and it was time to relax!
There was no traditional muster drill in place; instead I watched the emergency procedure on a short video via the Celebrity app before travel. Then on boarding I went to my muster station and they registered my completion of the drill, and then I was free to go. If there is one thing I would welcome they keep in the future it would be this new procedure, very easy and convenient.
Sailing during the early days of cruising around the UK resuming had its differences. Masks had to be worn while moving around indoor spaces, and could be removed when seated in any public area. After wearing a mask for the previous 17 months, this actually felt almost normal, and all guests followed the guidelines willingly. The challenge with masks however was the staff had to wear them at all times, which could make conversation a little challenging, but I am sure it is harder for them than it was for us.
Celebrity Silhouette sailed with under 1,000 guests to comply with the current cruise operating guidelines. This of course had some benefits, including plenty of space in bars and restaurants, but it did mean the large three-tiered theatre never felt busy and at times lacked atmosphere, which must have been challenging for some of the amazing guest entertainment on board.
Guidelines on the ship also changed the way in which we the buffet restaurant operated. All food stations are set up as usual, but now the food is served to your plate by the attending staff. No real issue here for me, it was just something different, and helped to reduce the consumption of the amazing desserts available at lunch!
Our itinerary was 8 nights sailing around the UK, calling at Dover, Belfast, Liverpool and Portland in Dorset. Three full sea days enabled us to enjoy the ship and entertainment on board, a good daily schedule of entertainment kept us occupied and I have to say the entertainment team were great. They did not wear masks, which made their communication easier, and they worked so hard to ensure lots was going on. As the good old British weather was changeable, the indoor adult solarium pool was a favourite spot to relax with a good book, and as with the main outdoor pool there was a full drinks service with staff always on hand to keep you hydrated.
So did the current Covid restrictions affect the quality of my cruise? No, not really. I was so grateful to be sailing again that I was happy to oblige with what was required. For some, the restriction of no independent shore visits will be an issue, but for a shorter cruise I think this is an objection easily overcome.
After 17 months away, I felt very lucky to feel those sea legs again. Now, where to go next...?!