I have not long returned from this cruise and am already looking to book my next Celebrity cruise... that should give an indication of where this review is going.
Embarkation - We arrived to Southampton a day early as we were worried about traffic jams and crashes. It meant that in the morning we were up bright and early to board the beautiful Celebrity Eclipse. She is not as stunning externally as her relations in Royal Caribbean. There was a great viewing park next to the dock allowing us to take some fantastic pictures prior to boarding. We were fortunate to have priority boarding. From dropping off the suitcases, to parking up, going through book-in and boarding, no more than 30 minutes passed - Fantastic! The glass of bubbly was also very welcome and a lovely touch.
The ship - A completely different experience to Royal Caribbean (the only other company we have cruised with). Rather than one large open promenade there are lots of different intimate venues to meet with family and friends for phenomenal coffees (Cafe al Bacio) or pre-dinner drinks (Martini Crush Bar). It took a while to get used to this, but it meant that nowhere ever felt crowded. The shopping on board was fantastic as were the shop staff. We actually made friends with the ladies in the perfume/handbag shop - they were great!
The staterooms - The best we have encountered. Lovely modern furnishings and a great large bathroom. Lots of storage space. We were concierge class - We personally did not feel that the extra cost was value for money. The evening hors d'oeuvres were dismal. The complimentary bubbly was bitter. Personally, we did not find the added value.
The ports of call - This cruise is fantastic for any culture lover. We were not disappointed with any of the ports. We took Celebrity excursions in Helsinki, Saint Petersburg and Stockholm. All tour leaders spoke near perfect English and enriched our time in the said ports. We had pre-booked a Danish Architecture and Design tour for Copenhagen. This was unfortunately cancelled a couple of days before the visit due to lack of interest?!?!!?! (This still baffles me). We were very disappointed; however, the money paid was immediately refunded to the stateroom account. We decided to just walk into Copenhagen to see the sights. Lots to see and easy to walk into the centre from the ship.
The hot glass show - What a selling feature. We were lucky to have Bob, Tom and Ryan on our cruise as glass blowers. They were so talented. Some days we found ourselves outside for 4 hours completely in awe watching them work. Anyone travelling on a ship with the hot glass show MUST watch at least one show. By the end of the cruise there were around 15 of us 'groupies' that were hooked.
Entertainment - Mike the cruise director was great. Very friendly and always talking to guests. Justin the activity manager and his team worked their socks off keeping all guests entertained with the 'Celebrity Life' activities. There was a wide range of activities available. You could never be bored (even in bad weather!). The entertainment team were a credit to Celebrity Cruises.
Dining - This is unfortunately the only so-so aspect of the cruise. Oceanview cafe was very repetitive, MDR had very few options. We try to eat fairly healthily at home and found this a near impossibility on board. Everything appeared to be coated with oils or butter. In addition, flavours were bland. Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed. We did not try any of the speciality restaurants so cannot comment.
All in all a fantastic holiday and cruise itinerary that I would recommend. With a few tweaks with the dining, this ship (forgetting the ports of call) could in itself be an ultimate holiday destination.
We will definitely cruise with Celebrity again.