We are a family of four with twin 8 year old girls. Hubby & I sailed on Celebrity in Alaska 10+ years ago, and we did a 22-person multi-generational family cruise on Royal Caribbean a couple years ago before this Spring Break excursion on the Eclipse. This one was a (very generous) gift from my father-in-law, who cruises a lot. To give some perspective on our travel experience, we usually stay in luxury resorts for our vacations (think Ritz Carlton type places) and travel internationally as we like to experience different cultures, etc.
In no particular order:
Ship: Nice, modern decor -- far less glaring than some ships seem to be. Super clean -- hand-sanitizers everywhere plus humans offering squirts of sanitizer at several points (yet still we saw many people skip it -- why?!). The lack of pool space was a challenge. Much competition for seats -- 1/2 of them seem to be under the covered decks. While it was nice to have an adult pool and a kids' pool, they are literally separated by a couple feet, so the concept of the adult pool wasn't quite achieved. The amount of bodies in both tiny pools was overwhelming, yet every time we walked through the indoor solarium pool area, it was virtually empty -- I can see the appeal in a colder climate but it was wasted space on a Caribbean cruise. Double the pool deck space would've been better.
Cabin: Surprisingly comfy bed, and the kids liked the bunks (the top pull-out bunk has a rail for safety). When the bunk was down, mobility in the cabin was tough with four of us, but our steward was great about putting it up while we were at breakfast and lowering it late at night before we got back. Storage for four suitcases' worth of stuff was of course a challenge, but we managed. Good sized closet, but tiny drawers, and the overhead cupboards above the beds resulted mainly in repeated "get your shoes off the bed!" to our children. The bathroom was surprisingly nice -- shower was great, good storage space, etc.
Food: plentiful! We felt the food was not as high quality overall as what we remembered from our Alaskan cruise on Celebrity 10 years ago (fresh salmon on that ship was some of the best I've ever had), but it was better than what we remember on Royal Caribbean. Murano food was excellent. The crepes place was indeed fab - best crepes I've had outside of France for sure. The Italian coffee bar had great lattes (coffee in the dining rooms was not great) and Tea Forte teas, and the gelatos were a hit with everyone on the cruise and much-discussed. I also enjoyed the wine bar -- nice selection and surprisingly reasonable prices (though we live in LA, so my version of "reasonable" may be skewed!).
Beverage packages: we had a LOT of debate about this. Kids and I got the non-alcoholic premium package which was great for all the sodas, smoothies, lattes, teas, etc. Definitely recommend that. I also got a wine package with dinner which was perfect for me, and then just bought extra drinks as needed. Hubby got the classic alcohol package as he prefers vodka drinks and beers. Close call on whether it was worth it. At least one day he definitely got his money's worth, but then the next day (as he recovered) he had zero alcohol, and most days did not max out his "value" of the card. But the lack of stress about charging for drinks was a definite perk.
Service: In general, the folks we got to know (dining staff, hostess, cabin steward, wine bar staff, etc.) were awesome. My kids wrote lovely thank you letters to the dining staff who provided amazing magic tricks and origami and games each night as the dining room quieted down towards the end. They were wonderful, and the hostess knew us by night two (we were on select dining so reserved different times, but wound up at the same table with the same staff we liked). The other staff were fine -- no complaints. Except one weird interaction with the captain, who came around the dining room one night -- when one of my 8 year old daughters said she'd like to be a captain, then I asked if there were many women captains in Celebrity, he basically proceeded to make derogatory/sexist remarks about women as ship officers! He said there is one woman captain in Celebrity and a few officers, but explained they can't really do the job as well. We were so stunned we didn't have an appropriate response, and he was quickly escorted away by his sidekick. I get that he's an old school Greek guy, but still, its 2012 and one would assume he's had some corporate training at least....
Excursions: Since we'd been to all the stops before, we just did one official excursion -- the Bones ship on St. Thomas. It was excellent. Kids snorkeled for the first time and we saw sea turtles and got to hold a cool sea urchin. The crew was the perfect blend of festive and funny but not obnoxious and annoying. Lunch on the beautiful Water Island beach was surprisingly good. Highly recommended.
Kids Club: this was the weakest link on this cruise. We knew going in that Celebrity clearly doesn't focus on the kids -- there wasn't even a question about the Kids' Club on the exit questionnaire!! -- but it was nonetheless disappointing. My girls said the "teachers" didn't seem to be in charge, and that was evident when we saw a group in the buffet one time. We signed up for the VIP club, but then never used any of the perks as our girls didn't like all the screaming kids and lack of organization on the first afternoon. They did go back one evening and had a better time -- smaller group, and the fellow seemed more capable with the kids. Given that there were almost 600 kids on the boat for spring break, we had hoped for more/better. Some activities geared to kids would've been nice too -- instead it seemed to just be the usual grown-up fare.
Entertainment: My children now understand what the American Idol/X-Factor judges mean when they criticize a performer as seeming like they belong on a cruise ship! One of the singers (female blonde) in the Broadway Review was quite good, but the costumes and choreography were like a bad high school production. In today's era of reality contests, Glee, etc. you'd think they would get a bit more sophisticated. The guitar player in the smaller bars was great, as was the string trio and steel band. The acapella guys (who are NOT acapella half the time but instead with a band) were harmless, but they seemed to be everywhere and singing the same songs again and again. The cruise director & her side kicks were typical caricatures of cruise directors.
Miscellaneous: Embarkation/Disembarkation were both pretty smooth for us -- some waiting, but to be expected with that many people. The announcements over the PA systems were astoundingly loud. I get that some folks on the ships are hard of hearing, but at the rate they blast them, all their poor staff are going to BE hard of hearing soon. Like all cruises, some things are insanely overpriced -- $20 for an 8x10 picture that you already printed out for mere pennies?! (Hello, environmental friendliness -- how about screens to view pics and just print the ones folks actually order, like at the amusement parks?)
All in all, we had a swell time and would definitely recommend it.