It has been a long time (17 yrs) since the DW and I have cruised, and we won't be waiting that along again. The Celebrity Eclipse was wonderful! Thoroughly enjoyed the entire cruise. No vacation is ever perfect, and a few minor issues occurred, but nothing serious to take away any of the fantastic memories of the time aboard the ship and on the excursions.
Flew in to Miami from JFK on the morning of the 14th. Booked the transfer with Celebrity, and everything was handled smoothly. Landed in Miami at 12:20pm and was walking onto the boat receiving Champagne, Mimosas or OJ by 2:00pm. Very easy process. We had checked in on-line for our X-Press Pass and that made everything smooth. The worst part of this day was airport parking at the Parking Spot at JFK as they were overwhelmed with cars at 7:00am. The 30 minute wait to park was the longest wait of the day, including airport security at American Airlines.
Really can't say enough about the ship. It is well laid out and thought out. Everything is right where you would expect it to be. Dining is mostly in the back on decks 3-5, Shopping and Casino in the middle on decks 4 and 5, Theater in the front on decks 4 and 5, and pools, saunas and lawn deck up top.
The ship was sold out, and it did not feel crowded at all, which is similar to what others say about the Solstice Class ships from Celebrity.
We sailed as a family of four, with two boys aged 14 and 12, and we booked adjoining rooms in 8110 and 8112 Category 1C. These were the last adjoining rooms available when we booked and are in the front starboard (right) side of the ship, directly under the wing bridge. Rooms were great! Adjoining is the way to go if you have teens, as we all had our own space and Celebrity's design of the doorways to facilitate this is fantastic. You just close a set of outer doors and leave your inner doors open, using the alcove as the space between the two rooms. Then you can still close the inner doors if you want privacy.
Rooms were spacious, as we had 4 large suitcases, 1 garment bag, 2 backpacks and 2 smaller carry-on suitcases and had no problems hanging everything up and using the storage over the bed to put additional folded clothes in. Anyone who says they need more space is crazy as we did not pack lightly and still had plenty of space for our clothes. All suitcases fit easily under the bed.
Ambert, our room steward, was fantastic. He had already arranged the rooms with 1 bed together and the other with the 2 beds separate, and had opened our balcony divider. Anything we needed, which wasn't much, was taken care of quickly and efficiently.
My one complaint was related to the daily washing of the ship, both alongside the ships as well as the wing bridge. Several times we couldn't use the balcony because they were washing the ship every day, especially in port, and therefore we got caught outside on the balcony a couple of times when the washing started. It didn't last for very long, but made everything on the balcony wet.
Dining was good to fantastic, depending on where you ate. The Oceanview Cafe we ate at for 1 breakfast and a couple of lunches. Breakfast was similar food to the Main Dining Room, but served buffet. Omelets, eggs and waffles were cooked to order, which is best if you wanted your food hot. The Cafe was a typical buffet. Some things hot, some cold. Overall it was good, but nothing spectacular; about what you would expect from a buffet. At there at midnight on the first night for a snack, and never went that late again, including the two boys, as the food that late at night was cold and hard.
Main Dining Room was overall very good to excellent. This location seems to be getting a lot of talk on recent postings. There seemed to be a pasta, fish, vegetarian, chicken and then red meat on most nights. We ate in the MDR 5 of the 7 nights for dinner and 2 breakfasts. Never for lunch, though the boys ate there for lunch 1 day. Dinners were very good. Over the 5 days, we had prime rib, rack of lamb, fish, lamb shank, pasta primavera, turkey parmesan and sirloin steak. Portions were good sized, and many different appetizers and salads as well. On the second formal night (Thursday), they had lobster tails, beef wellington, veal chops and quail. I am not sure what people have to complain about, as there was easily something to find on the menu every night for all of us. They also had a vegetarian dish each night. However, there was no escargot, not even in the specialty restaurants.
Service in the MDR from Iwayan, our head waiter, and team, along with Sheldon, our Sommelier, was excellent. We booked Celebrity Select dining, with reservations either at 6:30 or 6:45. If you wanted reservations between 7-8, you needed to book those before the cruise, as those times were not available once we boarded the ship, unless you wanted to wait for a table. We requested Iwayan's section each night, and ended up at the same table right next to a window overlooking the water every night but one, where we were located one table over from our usual. Table # was 568, in the back corner, which was fine with us.
Had one breakfast at Bistro on Five crepe restaurant. Excellent service from Julian (who also was our waiter at Tuscan Grille) and the food was great. Very good fresh made crepes fore breakfast (or lunch since one son had the hot and spicy crepe.
Ate at Murano on Monday while docked in San Juan. This was by far the best meal of the week. You would not have known you were on a cruise ship. The entire experience was amazing, from the starter scallops to the flavorful appetizers to the table-side preparation of the Lobster Murano to the properly cooked medium rare Venison and the great desserts, this restaurant was a treat. And since I booked using my American Express Platinum card with American Express Travel, this meal was covered by my Platinum card perks, so it didn't cost me anything. Well almost anything, as I did tip extra for the fantastic service. And the wine was not covered by our beverage package.
Ate at Tuscan Grille on Friday (last night). Definitely a step down from Murano, but the view out the rear windows were amazing as the sun settled. Service was again exceptional, including the sommelier. The food was very good, and the Filet Mignon were cooked perfectly and the lobster linguine was great. The Rib Eye that my one son had was very fatty, so that was a negative mark. Desserts were excellent.
All in high, high marks for the Main Dining Room and Tuscan Grille, and off-the-chart marks for Murano.
San Juan is so-so. We got off the ship to walk around old San Juan and do some shopping. The CVS was great, as my son had a button fall off his Tux the night before, so we were able to buy a small sewing kit and attach the button for the second formal night.
St. Thomas we did the Caribbean Sea Safari and Snorkel adventure with the Virgin Breeze crew. This team was great. Met us right next to the ship, where we boarded their boat and motored to Turtle Cove, where we snorkeled with turtles and fish. The snorkeling was better on St. Maarten in my opinion. They then opened up the rum punch on the way to Honeymoon Beach, where we swam and relaxed for about an hour. Then back to the ship. Since the RCCL Explorer of the Seas was in port with us, this excursion had people from both ships on it.
St Maarten found us on the Kayak and Snorkel tour. A short bus ride to a sheltered resort area found us with Dom and Fred for 45 minutes of kayaking around the harbor, and then about an hour of snorkeling by some rock and through a reef. This snorkeling was great, with lots to see. Then 10 more minutes of kayaking and we were back to where we began for a drink.
Shopping is pretty similar across all three ports as they have a lot of the same stores. St. Thomas was overall the best for shipping, with St. Maarten a close second. The boardwalk on St. Maarten was nice for a bite to eat and the water taxis were great. We walked to St. Thomas in the morning as the Skyride didn't open until 9am and we left the ship at 8:30am.
My two sons had a great time all week, save for one small issue. They would leave us shortly after breakfast (they slept late) and head up the club to meet up with other teens, and we wouldn't see them until time to get ready for dinner. Then after dinner, they would head to the club again and then come back to the room between 11-12. They made their own friends and hung out all week with the same 5-10 kids that were regularly using the club. This was not a prime week, as only 45 teens compared to the 200+ they had the week before during the Easter cruise, but that didn't matter to my boys. Neither one wanted to leave the ship because they had been having fun with kids their own age and experiencing some level of freedom away from their parents. Eva and the X-Club staff had activities each day, and some times the kids did them and some times they didn't. Some of the 17-yrs old kids were kicked out early in the cruise for doing things there weren't supposed to be doing, so the staff does keep an eye out for incorrect behavior.
The one issue was the pool situation, which I read about from a review for the April 7-14 cruise. There are three main pools on the deck, 1 Solarium and 2 outdoors. The issue is that only the small pool can be used by those under 16. The other two are designated 16+ adult only. Needless to say my 5'11"" 14-yr old does not fit in a pool that only has 2 feet of water in it, where he can sit down in the pool and not be covered by water. I understand that Celebrity is more of an older crowd, but they need to let some of the teens be able to use the larger outdoor pool and change the age to 12+ instead of 16+. That would make it a better experience. They did have a teen club event in the Solarium one night at 10pm, so the kids were able to experience that pool. During the day, the Pool Butlers were asking kids to leave if they were in the adult pools.
This was where the last small issue came up. As I mentioned before, we had adjoining rooms. We our disembarkation materials arrived, they had us leaving the ship at two different times (7am and 9am) from two different locations with two different luggage tag numbers. Really?? Two rooms with the same names that are adjoining, and we were all leaving on the same flight which they knew from the disembarkation questionnaire they sent our earlier in the week. So, a short trip down to guest relations, which was cleared up promptly and immediately.
Overall, the shows are okay. The dancers and singers were generally good. The singers did better with the Broadway tunes then the pop music fare. The Cirque like show was okay. The highlight was Lindsay Hamilton, West End singer extraordinaire, who performed her show one night to a standing ovation.
The party band, Southside, as well as the a'capella group, were both excellent. The Jazz Trio was nice to relax to as well.
Bars were overall good. Didn't have any bad service. Waiters everywhere were attendant, even by the pools. We had the classic alcohol packages, which covered most everything except for the molecular bar and the martini bar (though the bartenders gave us our first martinis as part of the package). We drank at every bar other than the Sky Lounge.
We had very rough seas on the ride from Miami to San Juan, as it was windy with 16ft swells on Sunday night. Since we pulled into San Juan 1/2 hour late, the crew made it up to us by giving us an extra hour in St. Thomas. I would make that trade any day of the week. Gorgeous weather and sailing starting on Monday night and for the rest of the week. Two days at sea coming back to Miami were perfect.
The Hot Glass Show was great. We really learned a lot and watched them make 3 really nice pieces. As we saw the last show on Friday, they raffle off several pieces at the end and then auctioned off the best pieces later that afternoon.
As I have seen and learned from many vacations, they can be as fun or boring as you want them to be. If you sit around waiting to be entertained, you will be bored. If you follow along in the Celebrity Today daily updates and pick and choose what you want to do, you can have plenty of fun. We most certainly did.
It was a great vacations, and we will be back.