We sailed on the April 2012 trans-atlantic aboard Celebrity Eclipse. Our planned ports of call: Porta Delgada (Azores), Cobh/Cork (Ireland), Le Havre (France). Nine sea days total.
I had sailed on Celebrity several times in the past, but had been 10 years since my last Celebrity Cruise (Millennium 2002). My last cruise was onboard Queen Mary 2 (review online) in November 2011. Had a Princess Grill Suite which had the same square footage (including balcony).
Booking experience: Ended up booking with an internet agency to receive onboard credit. Very difficult to communicate with agency regarding changes prior to sailing. Never received OBC. Will never book this way again. Much to Celebrity's credit, they tried to get this corrected while we were onboard. They too were frustrated and out of frustration or sympathy, gave us $100 OBC (agency was supposed to have given us $300). They really did not have to do this.
Embarkation: Wonderful meet and greet service at Miami International Airport. At the pier, one security line open for a ship boarding 2800. Silly. Once through that bottle neck it was a pleasant experience.
Ship: Everything has already been said about this ship. If you like minimalist and modern with excellent German build quality - this is for you. Looking for clubby, cozy, warm and fuzzy - this is not for you. I thought the ship was stunnung and impressive but I never got that "home" feeling - even after 13 days. You know that feeling, after a day on shore you see your ship and go, ahhhhh. Never felt that.
Accommodation: We had a Sky Suite (S2), cabin 2128. This is the long skinny room rather than the corner rooms (S1). Why a cruise line insists on putting suites directly under noisy venues, is beyond me. The noise from the Oceanview Cafe began early and ran late. The cabin was nicely outfitted with a 42" LCD TV, VERY comfortable bed, wonderful lines, and plenty of storage space. Bathroom was nice, sink is ridiculous - more style than usability. Water pressure was great and temperature remained steady. I couldn't seem to get the room cool enough (I like it cold when I sleep).
Suite Service: After 13 nights onboard, I still don't really understand the specific job duties of the butler versus the cabin attendant. Everyone was helpful and friendly, but many times the response was, "I will get with (insert other person's name here) and they will help you". The butler did provide afternoon tea each afternoon at our cabin door. The cabin was kept clean and we were always asked if we need anything (perhaps asked a bit too much).
Booking a suite gets you very little more than a regular room. You get some free visits to the speciality restaurants, the butler (see confusion above), but really all you are getting is more space in a noisy location. Never saw the much touted pillow menu and nobody seemed to have a clue what I was talking about. Other cruise lines have superior suite benefits. No free internet, no free laundry, no mini-bar set-up, no debarkation lounge, and the full menu room service could not be ordered via the TV. Book an Aqua Class and you get use of the spa facilities and get to dine in the small and intimate Blu. You also get water and tea delivered each day to your room. None of this is offered for suite guests (even though you pay a LOT more).
Overall Accommodation Rating 3.5 out of 5 (Noise is major negative).
Dining: Had room service breakfast 3 times. Each time something was missing or not correct. But the food was at the correct temperature and fresh. Had room service in the room one night. Excellent.
Main dining room: Loud, white, loud, heavy chairs, loud, frantic, loud, slow service, loud, food good, loud, right temperature for food (contrary to previous posters), and loud. Huge dust bunnies were hanging from the decorations around our table. I found this disturbing. When I mentioned this to the very sour and condescending officer overseeing the dining room, it was fixed. But WOW is this room loud. We were on second level (deck 4). The minimalist design is impressive but the acoustics are dreadful.
Oceanview Cafe (buffet). Huge space with the best design I have ever experienced. The food was at the right temps. Now, after 13 days it is easy to get bored with the food - oh I would say around day 8 or so. Make that about day 4 on this trip. Unfortunately, it seemed that the menu was on a 3 day cycle with some of the stations never changing. Never. They really should do something about having a few more days of change. As other posters have commented, seating at peak times is hard to find. Many tables left dirty and unattended for lengthy times. Believe it or night, due to the fantastic design of this venue, the noise level was much lower than the main dining room.
Burger - best at sea. Pizza good. Free ice cream offered with 6 to 8 flavors each day (here is where they did have a variety!).
Mexican area - not a tortilla chip in sight. Not a single chip.
Tuscan Grill: AMAZING. Great food, great service, fantastic views. First Rate!
Overall Food rating: 3.5 out of 5. Noise and cleanliness in main dining room and lack of variety in the buffet are major contributors. Noise - design issue and not an easy fix. The cleanliness issue - no excuse.
Entertainment. Wonderful variety with live music available all over the ship.
Casino - great choice of slot machines and nice bonus points time periods offered. Tight - money goes quickly.
Itinerary: Mother nature was not kind. We left Miami in pouring rain and had torrential rain for the two following days. Had one, nice, warm, sunny day and then it became chilly and windy.
Porta Delgada exceeded my expectations. Took excursion to Furnas Valley and Terra Nostra Gardens. I feel I received good value. This is a beautiful Island.
Cork/Cobh - never made it. After boarding and inching away from Porta Delgada, the captain announced we would not be going to Ireland due to "bad weather". Instead we were off to La Coruna in Spain, visiting on a National holiday with almost everything closed. While the cruise director was busy congratulating the Captain on his commitment to safety, not everyone bought the story. I think this was an attempt to conserve fuel (shaving off several hundred miles and sailing at much slower speed). Celebrity does a great job of self-promoting everything they do the conserve fuel (down to describing the light bulbs being used). I went to ask if we could see the weather forecasts and maps. I was told, no - go look it up on the internet (my expense).
Le Havre - icky day in a concrete city (World Heritage Site). Been there before and still not impressed.
Overall Itinerary 2 out of 5. Skipping Ireland pretty much ruined the trip. The poor customer service response to the change was appalling. The self congratulation on attention to safety seemed opportunistic. In these days of security and safety (post Concordia), people are suckers for authoritative figures telling them things are being done in the interest of their safety.
Debarkation: City Terminal in Southampton has been remodeled and is very impressive. Very fast and orderly process.
Embarkation/Debarkation 4 out of 5.
Captain's Club - benefits seem slim compared to other lines. Not once did someone say "welcome back" and nobody seemed to know what the silver card meant (suite).
Problem resolution: After the ridiculous "look it up on the internet" and then the ongoing problem with the travel agency, the Guest Relations Manager asked me to a meeting. It was nice he took the time and did a lot of smiling and nodding and spoke the great canned lines. I was told that it was not possible to offer service when you are dealing with 2800 people. Regarding the welcome back - the response was there are 1900 of "you" (Select & Elite members) onboard. We have a different approach - less in your face. I'll say.
Overall: Disappointed. Would I go on Celebrity again? Perhaps, but it would have to be a great deal. Granted, this is the first cruise following my flawless experience onboard Queen Mary 2. That is a tough act to follow and may have an impact on my awareness of some service issues. But, the skipping of Ireland in favor or a place nobody ever heard of (and that was closed up for a holiday), and the poor way this was handled combined with the disappointing dining experiences and I am not basking in a post-cruise happy place.