Strictly judge Shirley Ballas gives refurbished Celebrity Silhouette top marks!

Celebrity Silhouette’s first sailing after 16 months wows new and loyal cruise passengers during a six-night UK sailing from Southampton – Lesley Bellew was on board.

Shirley Ballas and Daniel Taylor with NHS hero Melanna Smart and Brenda Smart When it comes to handing out points, Strictly Coming Dancing judge Shirley Ballas has to be seriously impressed to hand out top marks.

On Celebrity Silhouette’s first cruise after 16 months, Shirley gave the newly refurbished ship glowing praise: “This ship is not four, five, six or even seven-star – it’s more!”

Shirley, who was on board with her fiancée, actor Daniel Taylor, and mother Audrey, personally thanked the 100 NHS and key workers on board – all winners of a Celebrity Cruises’ competition to win a cabin on Celebrity Silhouette.

She told “It’s been really heart-warming for everyone to be together on this marvellous ship. Meeting the frontline workers has been a privilege. For many of them, this is their first break.”

Shirley, who has sailed on many cruises, said: “I love everything about the whole of the ship; the hospitality, the entertainment, the crew, our suite. It’s all fabulous. I have never known hospitality like this, so we have had the most incredible week.

“I also love the huge state-of-the-art gym; I’ve been going three times a day to keep in good shape. I’ve got lots of work coming up – and Strictly starts on 11 September.”

The Retreat Sundeck It wasn’t only Shirley who was raving about Celebrity Silhouette, which has received a £75m upgrade which includes designer Kelly Hoppen’s chic furnishings in The Retreat, Luminae Restaurant and Sky Lounge plus masses of stylish seating near the Sunset Bar and Lawn Club Grill on Deck 15, including cabanas for hire.

With only 1,000 UK passengers on board, Dominic and Vanessa Woods, who are both in their late 50s, enjoyed the space so much they didn’t bother disembarking for tours and chose to make the most of the ship to embrace wellness.

“Our favourite spot is on the pool deck,” said Dominic, a data analyst for Keech Hospice Care in Luton, Bedfordshire. “We find ourselves a couple of loungers beside the panoramic windows and whirlpool, so we can just enjoy looking out to sea. It’s our base for the day, and we wander over to the Spa Café for healthy meals and snacks for breakfast and lunch, I’ve even been to the gym a couple of times.

Sky Lounge “We paid £3,096 for both of us to stay in AquaClass, so we eat in Blu, a restaurant with healthy choices, and we have access to the Thermal Suite, a spa concierge and a fitness pass.

“We have sailed on many other cruise lines, but we really love the space on this ship; especially while it is sailing at a reduced capacity, we are making the most of it.”

Passengers who did join tours in Dover, Liverpool and Belfast were delighted to discover hidden gems and new attractions in their home country.

Sheila Honeywell, from Hampshire, said: “I had a fantastic day at Port Lympne Safari Park, which has far-reaching views over Romney Marsh. To be honest, I had never even heard of it before this cruise.

Whiskey on the rocks “Learning about conservation and seeing the endangered animals made it a great day out, while drinking Bushmills’ whiskey on the rocks at the Giant’s Causeway during our visit to Northern Ireland was another memorable day in the sunshine. Best of all, joining The Beatles walking tour in Liverpool opened my eyes to this incredible city with its grand buildings and history.”

Back on board, the generous, renovated outdoor and pool decks were clearly popular, and it was good to see passengers so relaxed; chilled out with a book, sitting with a drink, socialising or simply enjoying the views.

The Retreat, a quiet space for suite guests, has been extended by incorporating a former basketball court, and is now on two levels with more loungers, double sunbeds, a whirlpool and bar. Suite guests also have their own lounge and impressive restaurant, Luminae, with menus created by award-winning chef Daniel Boulud.

However, for new-to-cruise passengers Dee Forrest, 62, and Debbie Mynard, 55, from Hove, East Sussex, it was not just the sophisticated surroundings and fine dining that impressed them but the feeling of ‘being made to feel so special’.

Retreat Lounge Debbie said she was amazed by the friendliness of the crew and ease of the joining the ship: “We pulled up in the Port of Southampton and someone immediately came over to our car, checked the labels, and took our cases, which made check-in so easy. “

Dee was also impressed by the way she could dip in or out of activities. She said: “During the day you can listen to guest speakers, play mini-golf, swim, or simply curl up with a book on a lounger in a quiet corner of the library. We have been blown away by this cruise, it has been a real joy.”

Lawn Club Cabanas As restrictions begin to ease, Celebrity Silhouette’s capacity will rise to around 1,500 on the 2,886-passenger ship while maintaining an emphasis on the health and safety of all passengers and crew, but nobody was more happy to see everyone board this first sailing than Celebrity Cruises’ managing director, Jo Rzymowska.

“This cruise has been emotional, and we were in tears as passengers began to embark,” she said. “We are back, and we are even better.”

More information

Celebrity Silhouette sails on seven and nine day summer sailings around the British coast from Southampton until 18 September 2021. Destinations include Dover, Liverpool, Belfast, Portland, Kirkwall, Inverness and Glasgow.

Prices from £1,038 pp with the ‘Always Included’ package featuring free drinks, Wi-Fi and tips.

Visit or call 0330 057 3826

Silver Travel Advisor recommends Celebrity Cruises.

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Lesley Bellew

Cruise & travel journalist

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