Well here I am starting this review as we leave Oslo. One more Sea Day then back to sunny England.
This is my first review of a ship that we have cruised on before, the stunning Celebrity Eclipse. We first travelled on her back in May 2010 just after her mission to rescue those caught in the volcanic ash saga. That was only a short four night cruise and so Lesley and I still had some unexplored areas to visit that we never discovered first time round.
Whilst the thrill of touring a new ship never quiet goes away at least we knew what to expect and where to go. It certainly takes most people a few days to work their way around a ship as large as Eclipse.
I shall split my review down into the following areas:-
Embarkation, Celebrity Eclipse herself, Cabin, Service, Food, Entertainment, Ports, Celebrity Life and misc. Let my ramblings begin........
We live in north east Essex which is situated approx. 3 hours drive from Southampton. Of course many prefer to arrive the night before but 3 hours is no real issue and it saves packing an overnight bag. Parking was not included in the price and rather than pay the Â£80 for port parking, I decided to use the internet and a site called www.parkatmyhouse.com. Basically we payed the lovely 'Sian' Â£30 to park on her drive. She dropped us off at the docks and picked us up. No hassle and saved Â£50. We arrived about 1145hrs and were eating lunch on board by 1210hrs. I really prefer to depart from Uk port. No airports and quick start to holiday. Cabins were released at 1300hrs. What a great start!
Celebrity Eclipse, Service and Cabin
This was the first ship we had cruised on before and the familiar layout really helped in rediscovering our way round. The Solstice class vessels are simply stunning, well designed, spacious and very sea worthy. With occupancy on such a large ship at 2800 persons, Eclipse never felt crowded. Lesley and I were always able to secure a comfy chair in Cafe Bacio , our favourite venue. The staff and crew were amazing. I found service to be of the highest standards and safety was also taken very seriously. I have to say that I had complete faith in the Captain. The safety drill was commenced well before sailing and yet surprisingly some passengers were very reluctant to take part or pay attention. Do people never learn?
We experienced fair weather but due to the cool outside temperature the outdoor pool area was not well used. I really enjoyed sitting in a hot tub whilst travelling up the fjords feeling the cool air on my face and at all times pretty much had the whole tub to myself. The inside pool is a very comfortable area and gives a swimming option no matter the weather. I don't think I would like to travel on a ship without the inside pool option. It was a real shame that P & O did away with this on Azura in place of a cinema screen. Really consider this if travelling to cooler countries.
We ended up with an outside cabin on deck 3. Despite this being a scenery cruise, I never missed the balcony. The cabin was well appointed and spacious and in a superb location. Very near the Grand Foyer with easy access to all decks, restaurant and bars. I would book this again and with a saving of over Â£1000 on a balcony, this cabins means another cruise is possible sooner rather than later. Jose' our attendant was amazing. He was always around if required but never intrusive and kept everything immaculate. I just wish I could experience this level of service in the UK.
Eight nights later and I have put on 5lb. The food was exceptional. Nothing was to much trouble. Lesley and I tended to avoid the Ocean Cafe just because we don't enjoy the crowds. We ate in the Tuscan Grill on first evening which was superb. Bistro on Five is a bargain and a great spot for lunch after a shore visit. I am now sold on Celebrity Select dining and we always shared a table. Great fellow guests and interesting conversations. At 42yrs old, I was a younger passenger but the mix of ages worked well and the table sharing made for a great atmosphere. The longest we waited for a table was 5 minutes. The staple French onion soup was so tasty along with the many steaks. Lovely fresh bread and great breakfast omelettes. The food is always the highlight for us and did not disappoint. Really great service in Cafe Biaco. I won't tell you how many cookies I have consumed. We took out the Premium Non Alcohol package which at Â£108 each was good value.
Cruise Director Lisa was amazing. She leads a great team and I believe deserves a special mention. During the last week we have experienced every kind of musical genre. Classical, Musicals, Opera, Pop, Rock, Piano! Where do I begin? I loved every minute of the entertainment on board. At some points the performances were very moving. The crew talent show brought a tear to our eyes after a very powerful rendition of 'You raise me up'. Phillipa Healy sang soprano with her boyfriend and managed to produce another lump in our throats. Such variety from everyone that we were just blown away. The ability to watch and listen to things that I would never normally experience are one of the magical things about cruising.
A fantastic program of events which included Jim Kennedy talking about his life with NASA as the Director of Kennedy Space Centre. Brilliant speaker and yet also very humble and interested in everyone else's life stories. Lesley and I had the pleasure of dinner with him one evening along with his charming wife. Lesley would now like to do floral demonstrations on board (I wish!)
Norway was very beautiful and travelling inland via the fjords was an amazing experience. We did our own thing at all the ports. This is really a trip that can be enjoyed whilst remaining on board and soaking up the scenery and is therefore ideal for any disabled passengers. Norway is very expensive so plan to have daytime meals onboard. We managed to see 'The Scream' in Oslo. Very topical!
The last eight days have been an amazing experience and I have really felt privileged to have experienced such a beautiful ship, country and crew. Cruising I feel still represents fantastic value for money. Unless you have very specific needs then hold off booking till the last possible minute. Fantastic deals are available and booking very early is not currently good value. We would travel again with Celebrity and if luck and finances permit would like to try Infinity out of Harwich in 2013. Of course cruising may not be for everyone but it is definitely our holiday of choice. Thank you Celebrity for a great week and Lesley for sharing it with me.