Having previously cruised with P&O (Arcadia and Oceana) and RCI (IOTS), we decided to give Celebrity a try as we liked the itinery. I'm so glad we did! The Eclipse is by far the nicest ship we've travelled on, and we will be back.
Good points, and bad, are detailed below and don't let the initial negatives put you off as I'm just trying to give an honest and open review:-
We'd booked Aquaclass so had priority boarding. Having said that, we were still in a fairly lengthy queue although we were on board within approx 30 minutes, having arrived at the port at around 1.15pm. The Welcome was somewhat lacking though, as we were simply pointed at trays of drinks and advised to help ourselves.
The standard boarding queue was very long, and we heard later that Eclipse was being subjected to a lot of customs checks etc having just recently transferred to sailing from the UK. Therefore, although everyone should have been on board by 3pm passengers were still boarding at 4pm and we sailed slightly late. Delivery of bags/cases was also impacted, with ours not arriving until 7pm. I have to say that P&O do seem to be better organised ref baggage delivery, as bags were also late when we cruised on IOTS.
Anyway, once on board we were advised the cabins were ready so we made our way to deck 11 and our balcony cabin (1520). This was smaller than we'd become used to on Arcadia (albeit larger than Oceana), and storage space did seem somewhat limited. I could reach the storage above the beds, but my niece could not - and there is a distinct lack of drawer space. Celebrity could help themselves in this respect by replacing the awful black bedside shelf units with some narrow drawer units. The room was however very nicely decorated and comfortable overall, and the large flatscreen TV was a definite plus as it could be angled out to be watched from the beds or the sofa etc.
The bathroom was superb, with a fantastic shower with multi-directional jets in addition to the overhead shower and hot water was always plentiful. In contrast to the main room the bathroom also had plentiful storage, and good quality toiletries, bathrobes and over-sized towels were provided. The only issue for us in the bathroom was the stupid fixed tap over the sink, where "style" seemed to have been rather more important than usability.
Our room stewards were great - although the "pillow menu" seems to be a myth. I asked for this but the steward was very reluctant to produce anything and seemed to have been primed to dissuade passengers from requesting anything other than what was already present. As Aquaclass passengers we did get 2 small bottles of still water delivered daily, plus a carafe of iced tea. This was nice sometimes when the tea was of the flavoured variety, less so when it wasn't. We didn't bother with the daily canapes.
The beds were very comfortable, and the different flavours of pillow chocolates were a nice touch. I also loved the sliding doors to the balcony as these could be left open for fresh air. I wouldn't however recommend this cabin as we soon discovered it was under the treadmills in the gym - and the steady thumping noise (often from 7am in the morning) when the treadmill was in use was a nuisance. It does seem strange that Celebrity hasn't paid more attention to the location of what are deemed to be premium cabins.
Once we'd dropped our hand luggage off at the cabin we headed for the Bistro on 5 for crepes - delicious and well worth the $5 cover charge. We became frequent visitors to the Bistro - and can recommend the Breakfast Crepes, the Sweet & Sour crepes, and both the Italian and Spanish crepes. The panini's were also very nice - and I'm making myself hungry just writing this! The Bistro is spacious and comfortable, and the staff are excellent. We didn't have any problems at all ref the speed of service, and were surprised that it wasn't busier. Can only assume the small cover charge does put people off - but it is a small charge and it really is worth it.
Our evening meal was in Blu - and this restaurant is just fantastic. The Maitre'd, the Manager, the table waiters and the sommelier etc were just great - they simply could not do enough for you and the service was always speedy, friendly and efficient. We liked being able to choose what time to dine, and never had to wait for a table. We're not wine drinkers, but the sommelier quickly remembered our bar drinks and went to get these as soon as he saw us. The food was lovely, and always hot - although what we expected to get in terms of the menu description was not always what we received! Some of the descriptions were possibly a bit pretentious, and the presentation of the food was sometimes a bit unusual - but we always enjoyed it. Escargots, Frog Legs and Lobster Tail were all present, and I had a wonderful filet mignon one night. The steaks overall were great and always tasty, and we also liked having our own bread basket on the table each evening with a selection of breads, rather than just being offered one roll from a selection. The desserts were also fab, with crepes containing caramelised apple and apricot with a calvados sauce being particularly memorable.
We did try Q'Sine one night - great fun and great food. Certainly worth the cover charge for the experience. Don't eat much during the day you're going though - as you do emerge feeling rather "stuffed"
We had room service breakfast on our balcony a couple of times - aquaclass meant an extended menu which included hot breakfast items, and the food was always delivered on time and on piping hot plates for the hot items. The only minor issue was the fact that the correct jam was not received with any order.
Cafe al Bacio was great for speciality teas and coffees (and cookies), and was also a nice place to sit and watch the world go by. There's a good view of the Martini Bar on Deck 4 from some of the seats here, and the entertainment in the Grand Foyer on Deck 3.
We thought the entertainment was good overall, and the Cruise Director Lisa was great. We particularly enjoyed the Threatre company shows, although we were surprised there were only 3 of these. The party band was good, and we also liked the classical guitarist and the trio playing in the Ensemble lounge on Deck 5. The Hot Glass Show was amazing - and Lisa did an excellent fund raising job when some pieces from the Hot Glass Show were auctioned off at the end of the cruise.
We didn't think we'd be impressed with the lawn on deck 15 - we expected it to just have novelty value, but it was so relaxing up there we are now converts to this idea. There were always plenty of very comfortable sun loungers available on decks 14 and 12 etc, and the provision of tartan blankets on the cooler days was a nice touch. We didn't notice any problems ref chair hogging, but the cruise was early in the season and I don't think the ship was full. The pools were a bit small for a ship of this size though, and I imagine they'd be pretty crowded in peak season.
We used the OceanView Cafe buffet restaurant a few times - the island design does seem to reduce queues overall although there always seemed to be one at the ice-cream counter. There's a good selection available with a carvery and fish and chips etc every day plus various other dishes such as beef strogonoff etc and sections for Pizza, Pasta, Mexican, Indian and Salad dishes etc. The lack of trays is a bit of a nuisance as you do then have to go for drinks separately, but for a buffet restaurant it's good.
Anyway - dragging myself away from reviewing the food(!) - we found the Eclipse to be spacious and well designed with really great staff. One of the tour escorts (Viktor from the Ukraine) did say Celebrity were great to work for and really looked after their staff as their ethos was that happy staff would deliver much better customer service. Makes sense to me! The staff did indeed seem to enjoy their jobs, and always spoke and smiled when passing by.
The posher shops on Deck 5 had some fantastic stock - although a lot of it was out of our price range the perfumes and cosmetics were good value. The deck 4 shops carried a more reasonably priced range of products and the alcohol and cigarettes also seemed to be good value. The library was nice, and we loved the huge living tree in the middle of the ship.
Shore excursions were generally well organised, and we only had problems with one tour from Genoa. This was a combined tour to St Margarita and Portofino, with the transfer from St Margarita to Portofino being by motor boat. The weather on the day concerned was poor, and a scenic boat trip directly to Portofino had to be amended due to bad sea conditions with everyone on this trip being advised they would instead travel by coach to St Margarita and take a boat to Portofino from there. Unfortunately this resulted in the tours to Portofino and the tours to St Margarita/Portofino all being in St Margarita at the same time and all trying to get onto the same boat (with a couple of groups from an MSC ship adding to the crush). By this time it was raining, and no-one was prepared to go up to the top deck on the boat for the seats there (the stairs were slippery and the seats wet anyway) - and there was only limited seating downstairs. Some people refused to get on the boat as it was so packed, and some got off. I and lots of others ended up having to hang on to a plastic curtain to keep our balance when the boat set off in rough seas, and I had my niece braced against me. Frankly, it was dangerous. We expected to find the passenger groups had been phased across various boats or times for the return journey, but this proved not to be the case and we had the same issues of lack of seats again. I complained to the Shore Excursions Team after we got back - only to find about 250 people had already done the same. The Shore Excursions Team were very apologetic, said they'd already reported it to their HQ in Miami, and would get back to me asap once they'd investigated further. All credit to Celebrity - the next day I and everyone else received a very apologetic letter and a full refund for the cost of the excursion. Well Done Celebrity.
Disembarcation was very smooth and well organised - we were given our preferred time without issue, and on the day everything was running about 15 minutes early anyway. We were outside the terminal within 15 minutes of the go ahead to proceed to the gangway.
We loved the Eclipse - and my next booking will be with Celebrity!