This was our third trip on Eclipse and we have booked again for next year. Nothing is perfect but, for us, she comes close.
Although we only live 3.5 hours from Southampton, we travelled up the night before and stayed over in the Novotel right outside the dock gates. This was the first time we have done this and we would definitely do this again. We had a relaxed breakfast, looked around Southampton's shops and strolled onto the ship at 11.00 am... majic.
Embarkation was swift and, as always, a glass of bubbly or juice was waiting for us as we stepped on. The buffet, bistro, cafe, burger grill and some bars were open. The staterooms opened at 1.15 pm but there was plenty to do until then.
Following the emergency drill, which has been tightened up since our previous cruise, we headed to the Sunset Bar to sailaway with our RC group, great fun on a lovely sunny day.
Prior to our cruise we were lucky enough to be upgraded from a Delux Veranda free of charge to AC, this was a luxury we would not have paid for, and although we got to eat in Blu, I don't think we would in future. The cabins are exactly the same although there is an enhanced shower head and body spray, plus some other goodies... we really did not think the benefits were worth the extra money if we had had to pay it.
The food on the ship was, on the whole, very, very good. We ate in Blu, Tuscan, in the MDR, at the Grill and in the Oceanview Buffet and enjoyed all. We loved Cafe Al Bacio and the fantastic coffees and pastries. We ate once in Bistro on 5 but this was the only food venue were we were slightly disappointed, we felt the quality was not as good as last time... may have been a bad day though.
Be aware that you will get the opportunity to try the speciality restaurants at a discounted price on several nights, especially on the first and second night they were offering 50% off. For this reason I would tend to wait and book onboard... this makes these venues good value for money.
We bought the Premium Non-alcoholic drinks package prior to sailing when it was available at 15% off. This proved to be great value only needing to have 2 speciality coffees, sparkling water with meals and a coke or alcohol free cocktail and we were quids in.
The comments about the discounts might make us seem a little tight when it comes to spending... this is not so, we just like value for money.
Talking money things, you don't really need to take any other currency than US dollars or the Euro as these are accepted everywhere... all items are priced up to show this. We went laidened down with Swedish and Danish Krona and Rubles but need not have bothered.
SPB was the only port, apart from Zeebrugge, where we took an organised tour... we took the Bruge on your own Celebrity trip because the ship was in port on a Sunday and because of the restriction in time in that port. Every other port is completely doable on your own with great public transport systems and HOHO buses or boats right by the port gate, or you can just walk off the ship in some places into the town.
In Russia everywhere we went took US dollars or the Euro, even street markets. We didn't come across any toilets where we had to pay at all, not even in Rubles, but can't speak for others experiences. The only place we went where they only took Rubles was in the gift shop in the Church on the Spilt Blood.
we took the Denrus Complete St Petersburgh tour which was very intense but well worth the money, it cost us the equivalent of Â£125 per person PER DAY. This included entry into Catherines Palace, the upper and lower Peterhof gardens, a Metro ride, Entry into the Peter and Paul fort, THE Hermitage, the Church on the Spilt Blood, a hour canal cruise on our private canal boat and a good quality 4 course meal on each day. We took this tour because we did not want to be herded around in a large group, there were only 8 of us... and true to their word Denrus got us into all venues without the need to queue, they rang ahead to ensure the tickets were ready on our arrival and we just walked to the front of the lines... absolute efficiency and professionalism in motion, we would highly reccommend.
We were utterly enchanted by all the ports of call, but be aware this is not a relaxing holiday... there is so much to see and do... but wow.
The only thing on our cruise we were disappointed with was the entertainment in the main theatre. It goes without saying that the 3 main Eclipse cast shows were identical as the ones on our previous cruises as these are only changed every 5 years. However, that aside we thought the overall quality of the guest acts were poor with the exception of Claire Maidin, Gary T Thomas and Craig Holloway. The Oompah Band brought on in Germany and the Russian Folk group who entertained us on the ship in SPB were very good. Some of the live music around the ship was very loud at times, but this was because I think they would have played on the lawn or by the pool if the weather had been warmer. Mike Gibbens the Cruise Director was very friendly, always around the ship and accessible and always said hello if he saw you ashore.
Disembarkation, wow, we walked off the Eclipse at 7.15 and were in the car and on the road at 7.25. We didn't ask for an early disembarkation but this was the smoothest disembarkation we have ever had and we would ask to leave early next time.
What a fantastic holiday, sad to leave the Eclipse, but looking forward to our next adventure on her.