A little background information first. My husband and I are both in our early 60's and live within a 40 minute drive of Southampton docks. We tried cruising for the very first time last year and loved it so much we booked this cruise whilst we were still on board the Eclipse in the Mediterranean.
Embarkation was just so easy, we arrived at the port at 11.15am and were on board drinking a glass of bubbly at 11.30am. We wandered around like a couple of excited kids and found the ship to be every bit as good as we remembered her to be. On our last sailing we didn't visit Bistro on 5 and decided to take the advice of many Cruise Critic posters and have our embarkation day lunch there. We arrived there at midday and were very quickly seated. The service and food were excellent and we can definitely recommend the cowboy crepe. For some inexplicable reason we didn't go back until the day before the end of our cruise. We went with 2 other couples from our roll call when the service and food was every bit as good as our first visit.
Our cabin was ready at 1pm and we were delighted to get in and explore it. This time our bed was by the bath, which we have decided we prefer as it seems to give the feeling of more space. Our balcony was larger than normal, it was the first one on the angle of the hump facing forward. It was lovely having the extra balcony space, although it was a bit too chilly to sit out there very often. We like the overhang as it shaded us from the sun and sheltered us from the rain, there was some sun near the rails though. Our luggage arrived at 2pm and we were able to unpack before going to muster drill at 3.30pm, which was very well organised and efficient.
We had 2 superb cabin attendants, nothing was too much trouble for them. They were very unobtrusive as we didn't see them often, but by magic everything necessary was done.
At 4pm we met up with members of our CC roll call at the Sunset bar for sailaway. It was lovely putting faces to those user names and Richard did a great job organising name tags for us all.
Blu was our designated dining room and we absolutely loved it, the food and service were excellent. We ate there most days for breakfast and dinner and never had to wait for a table. The food in the Oceanview cafe was very good, with a great variety of choice each day. This was very busy at peak times but we always managed to find somewhere to sit and someone to chat with.
Our favorite watering hole was the Martini bar, although the horrible, loud, thumping music played there was the cause of our only complaint! It was dreadful and often made conversation very difficult. Ocha, Garnet and Putu were great and very quickly knew the regulars by name and their cocktail preferences.
We decided not to have a drinks package this year so we could check out if it was cost effective or not and this proved to be the right decision for us.
The only escorted tour we took was in St Petersburg when we opted to go with SPB Tours, who were absolutely fantastic. We joined 4 other couples from our roll call to form a small group of 10 and spent a fabulous 2 days together with our wonderful guide, Kirill. All the other ports we enjoyed exploring on our own, using local transportation.
Disembarkation was incredibly easy. We were due to get off the ship at 9am but were ready to go at 8.15am. We made our way to the gangway and found no queues so off we went, collected our luggage and were home by 9.30am.
Our cruise was every bit as good as we were expecting. We are definitely hooked on cruising and looking forward to our next trip with Celebrity.