This was our first cruise on Celebrity Eclipse and our second Solstice Class ship though we have sailed Century and Millennium Class ships before. We have been cruising for over 24 years and we have cruised the Baltic, Caribbean, South America, Asia, Alaska, Mediterranean and the Panama Canal sailing on assorted cruise lines and ships, 27 cruises in total.
This was our first cruise to almost all the ports. Weather in all the ports was sunny and warm except Reykjavik. The Reykjavik weather was overcast on the first day but dry so it did not affect our Golden Circle tour and the second day it drizzled but we did not care as we were in the Blue Lagoon Spa so we were wet anyway. Sea days were mostly cool, misty or foggy except the last sea day.
On this cruise we were told that the ship was sold out so based on the ship's website that would mean between 2850 -- 3145 passengers depending how many of the upper berths were occupied. Ship seemed busy but other than gangways when tour buses were leaving or returning, the ship still seemed spacious. The passengers were predominately British and a mixture of ages due to the school holidays in the UK.
Embarkation -- Southampton
Our first sail out of Southampton in eight years and everything was smooth. We drove and parked in the car park in front of the ship terminal. We arrived at the port between 11:00 and 11:30 and were in the Oceanview Cafe before 12:00. Our biggest delay was queuing for the luggage drop off. Really loved being able to bring as much of our clothes, shoes, gadgets, and bottled water as we wanted.
Celebrity Eclipse - Ship Information
We were in a veranda stateroom on deck 8 aft on the starboard side. The cabin was beautiful with an unobstructed veranda. The bathroom was very large and the rest of the cabin was very nicely decorated. The stateroom was very quiet. Our only complaint was that the storage was less than on the Millennium Class ships. Our cabin steward and his assistant were excellent and stateroom was immaculate. We would advise two things on selecting a veranda cabin, higher deck cabins in the forward and aft part of the ship have a large overhang from the Navigator Deck that can cut out your sunlight. Also the forward cabins' verandahs are visible from the bridge. On the positive side you can see the officers when they are navigating in and out of port.
Officers and Crew
The crew, hotel, food and beverage staff were all very nice and smiled whenever you spoke to them. We felt for the large group of Filipinos on board, as the news was full of the flooding in Manila.
Before we sailed from Southampton we had the lifeboat drill. In the presentation later in the cruise on navigating the ship the officer fielded a lot disguised questions about the Costa Concordia. He did a great job reassuring people without getting dragged into speculation about what may have gone wrong.
Dining and Beverages
Main Dining Room (MDR)
We chose to stick with the second seating rather than the flexible dining option. We really like having the same waiter and his assistant each night as they get to know you and your likes and dislikes. The waiter and assistant were great. Our wine waiter ended up being great as well. The quality of the main courses in the MDR seemed to have improved since our last cruise on Celebrity in 2010, still not the Albert Roux level but much better. I was very happy to see on about half the nights escargot was on the Classic Choices Menu.
There were three formal nights with the remainder of the nights being smart casual. There was a lot more formal dress on this ship than most of the other cruises we have been on which we liked. The only thing that caught me off guard was the smart causal nights tended to be more formal for both the men and women probably because of the large number of UK passengers but like on cruise ships everywhere some people were casual all the time.
We ate in three of the restaurants using one of the discounted packages. We booked online one of the restaurants at full charge but the Matre 'd was able to refund the original cost when he charged us for the three restaurant package.
In all three of the specialty restaurants we had problems with either the food, wine or service. The Tuscan Grill did a nice job of correcting their mistake.
It is nice to try the specialty restaurants once but unless we have something special to celebrate we will stick to the MDR on future cruises.
Very nice venue with lots of variety but always busy at breakfast and lunch peak periods. Food was very nice and the staff were excellent. Only disappointments were having to find an empty table, lots of people camping out and going to the buffet in turns tying up tables even longer. A disappointment for me was that Celebrity was no longer making pancakes and waffles to order. Would be great if they use the Egg Station model and take your name and order for waffles and then you could collect them in a few minutes.
Masthead Grill -- still our favourite for burgers and French fries (not British chips which were in the Oceanview Cafe next to the fish).
Bars and Lounges
Lots of interesting lounges around the ship and most with live music. The Martini Bar is fun with the frozen bar. We would recommend the Martini Flight, we ordered a Martini Flight for two that turned out to be quite a show. We found ourselves in Michael's Club most nights before dinner because we enjoy the den feel with the wood paneling and over stuffed chairs and sofas. We are sorry to hear that on the last two Solstice Class ships they have turned Michael's Club into a Beer Tasting Sports Bar.
If the weather is good we really enjoyed the Lawn Club bar on the aft top of the ship enjoying the views of the sea and the real grass lawns.
Two, Classic and Premium 3, 5, or 7 bottle wine packages were offered. We thought they were a good deal if you are going to buy wine by the bottle. Bottles do not have to be finished in one sitting. The wine waiter can cork it and serve it the next night in whichever restaurant you are dining. We were able to upgrade from the 5 to 7 bottle package without a problem. Two cautions, popular wines sold out on our cruise and you cannot use the wine package in the bars and lounges.
One last food related point. Sailing from the UK, Celebrity has changed some of its cuisine to more closely match British tastes, which is only fair as the US based ships cater to the US tastes. Beside the menus they have added lots of British condiments and beers and all the staterooms have a kettle with coffee and tea bags.
Gym and Spa
We have given up on cruise ship spa treatments due to the quality and cost but my wife does try to run when time permits. When she was not able to run on deck due to weather or crowds my wife used the treadmills in the gym. While she was able to get a treadmill when she needed one there was no extra ventilation or cooling near the treadmills which is ok for weight lifting but not running.
We did not do a lot of the activities on board but we always seemed busy. We did the Beyond the Podium series a number of times that were very informative. We also did the galley tour. There were bridge tours but you must ask Guest Relations if they have availability. There were several talks on running the ship and we attended the two talks about navigation and engineering both were very interesting.
The hot glass blowing was wonderful as usual, stay to the end as they often raffle off one of the pieces.
Captain's Club (CC)
We attended the CC Elegant Tea, which was very nice, and both the CC Event and the CC Elite Captain & Senior Officers event. We were very disappointed that the CC Elite Captain & Senior Officers event was scheduled for a time when the captain and most of the other senior officers were needed to navigate out of a fjord.
CC Elite Breakfast and Cocktails were very nice. Some people we met and complained about the CC Elite taking over the Sky Observation Lounge for cocktails on sail away did not realize that the Sky Conference Centre on the other side of the Sky Observation Lounge was open for relaxing and viewing while the CC Elite Cocktail party was going on.
We saw all of the Broadway style shows in the theatre and some of the guest entertainers. The Broadway shows were all good. We had mixed success with
the guest entertainers. We had the reverse problem to the US based ships; the guest entertainers were all British so the comedy material was not familiar to the American passengers. I guess it is only fair.
What did impress us was how much live music and the quality of the performers from the bands, orchestras, A Capella group and the pianist / vocalists. Our favourite were the A Capella group. Unlike other ships we have been on, Solstice Class ships have performances in the foyers and common areas, which was really nice.
Loved the iLounge. Internet while not great was much better than on previous cruises. Buy packages to save money but be ware when you reach the end of you prepaid minutes there is no warning and you get charged for each additional minute. Good news is that they charge you at the equivalent per minute rate of the package you bought.
Ports of Call and Excursions
Reykjavik , Iceland -- Golden Circle -- we did a excursion organized by a fellow cruise critic member using IG Tours which was excellent. We seemed to be able to stop at more sites and for longer than the large tour buses. Very dramatic scenery with lots of water and mountains. Do remember that this is your only opportunity to see geysers.
Reykjavik , Iceland -- Relaxing in the Blue Lagoon Spa -- ship's excursion which was well organized and enjoyable. Water was about 40C and everything was clean and modern. Look for the extra warm spots around the edges. When we were there, signs we posted that everyone needed to shower without swimsuits before entering the lagoon. Saying that no one was there enforcing that we saw.
Akureyri, Iceland -- Jewels of the North -- ship's excursion that covers a lot of area. Very scenic and we would recommend it. We still had time to walk into Akureyri afterwards and explore.
Klaksvik, Faroe Islands -- Torhavn the Capital -- ship's excursion that again covers a lot of territory by bus and walking. Like most cruise ship warnings they over emphasized the walking, about 30 minutes which most of it was standing while the guide explained what we are seeing. We recommend using the free shuttle to and from the port, while it is walkable there was nothing to see and not a short distance
Geiranger, Norway -- no tours so we walked into the town and up the hill to the waterfall above it. The day started out cloudy so people we talked to who went up the mountain for the view looked down into a cloud, which was pity as you could not see the fjord or ship. There is a bus you can book next to the pier that appears to do the same route as the ship's tour.
Olden, Norway -- no tours so again we walked about 10km into the countryside and enjoyed the views. It was an easy level walk with scenic churches and river.
Flam, Norway -- Flam Railway and Hike -- as many said we are glad we booked the ship's train tour as there were a lot of disappointed people who didn't. We overheard the crew referring the docking at Flam as the 100m Flam Railroad Ticket Office Sprint, better than the Olympics. The train is well worth doing. We walked down from the nearly the top end to a station about halfway done, 9km almost all down hill. Not really a bad walk, we recommend a trekking pole and good shoes and socks. Lots of rivers and waterfalls as you walk down the trail used to build and maintain the railroad. Everyone in our groups was down in 135-145mins. From there we returned to town by train and had time for the train museum and walking around town.
Bergen, Norway -- no tours but you have to take the port provided shuttle as the ship is docked in a working dock area. The sites and shops are all easy walk from the shuttle drop off point. Lots of preserved buildings along the waterfront and a fortress. We did not visit the fish market but many people commented on how clean and nice it we also chose to miss the vehicular railroad up the mountain. The vehicular station looked quiet in spite of lots of warnings about getting there early. We suspect it had a lot to do with us being the only ship in port.
Very smooth as promised. We took our time as we only had an hours drive home and our car was outside the cruise terminal. We had a full breakfast in the MDR and then picked up our carry on bags from the stateroom (you can use it until 9AM) and stayed in the CC Elite Disembarkation area until we decided it was time to leave so others could board and enjoy their cruise. We waited in a short queue to leave the ship and our luggage was waiting for us with plenty of free trolleys nearby.
We really enjoyed the ship and the itinerary and the ship. This itinerary while better if you have full mobility it still can be enjoyed from a verandah with all of the fjords, mountains, waterfalls and rivers. The crew worked very hard to ensure our safety and enjoyment. We greatly appreciate that Celebrity is making the effort to regain their reputation for wonderful food.