Check in at Southampton was a shambles. Although Elite members we were not directed to the 'Select' queue for security having been missed by the one member of Port staff who apparently had the duty of issuing stickers to identify this and the mistake not being picked up when our documents were scrutinised. We were faced with a huge queue for one scanner with three scanners being used for 'Select'. When we queried this with the keeper of the 'Select' gate we were spurned, yet when we arrived at our scanner some 35 minutes later we were told that we in fact should have been 'Select'. This is a new system for which we were unprepared, some kind of notice should have been displayed.
The ship was as spick and span as ever and the staff friendly and welcoming. I was delighted to recognise many crew members from our three previous Eclipse cruises. Our cabin was kept clean to an impressive level, including the balcony. I brought the usual half dozen plastic hangers to help speedy dressing and avoid the layering that can get tedious. The immaculate Lawn area was much enjoyed for Boce, Golf and Croquet. The Captain's Party buffet lunch was at 1pm for main and 3pm for late diners. It should be at 12pm and 2pm we suggested.
The food was very enjoyable with plenty of choice. The breads and pastries are a always a delight. The chocolate cake was historic. A few times the only cooked 'green' available at lunchtime in the Ocean View Cafe was mushy peas, I took a helping of salad with fresh frozen peas or spinach but missed broccoli or beans which were not always available. Fruit was always of the first quality. The Moonlight Sonata Restaurant was a wonderful experience with the best service and food I think we have had yet on a cruise. We had a meal in the Murano and were very pleased with the modern french menu, quiet surroundings and service. The friendly wine waiter there introduced us to some exceptional wines which have become our favourites.
The film choice was good and we had excellent speakers. The Theatre entertainment was very good, singer Sam Kane was a big hit as were the A Cappella Quartet who had a deserved standing ovation. The musicians on board are one of the things that make cruising so special. The interactive 'happenings' in the Grand Foyer were very successful and we enjoyed the singer and dancer led entertainments very much. The Crew Talent Show and Ship Company farewell was well attended with standing ovations for the talented performers.
We were delighted that there is a new 'No smoking' policy in the Sky Lounge and this transformed our experience for sailaways, cocktails and dancing. The only major problem, as has been noted in several reviews is the THUMP per second of a 'Techno Beat' which seems to be on a continual loop everywhere. One evening it was impossible to talk in the Sky Lounge and it certainly marred the enjoyment of the scenery so we complained and some 'Standards' were eventually put on to everyone's relief. The THUMP was playing on the morning we left in the Tuscan Grille, not conducive to relaxation before travel. The Disc Jockey seems to like 'thump' as he put on 'thump' type disco for Latin Night and Motown which cleared the floor after a good start with the classic versions. Like lighting, music affects the ambiance of a cruise ship so I hope that more thought is given to this aspect.
A major topic of conversation amongst the Elite members was the pre-cruise price drop. As early bookers it was a shock to see these discounts. We were given the opportunity on board to purchase an open ended price guarantee package for future cruises. I note that Cunard are offering similar guarantees as it will surely lead to very many people playing the waiting game if this happens again. We are looking forward to the next three cruises we have booked with Celebrity, booking the two for 2013 when it opened.