This Cruise now, 2 weeks later, feels like it was a dream which I suppose means it was a really good holiday!
We drove to Southampton and parked the car just across the road from the Terminal. Security and Check In was fast as we appeared to be given priority as Elite members. Once on board we did the usual of exploring the ship. The staterooms were closed off so we had to carry our carry on bags with us. We were restrained for lunch in the Buffet during which it was announced that the staterooms were ready. After the safety drill we made our way to the Sunset Bar on the Lawn Club for sail away drinks with some of the Cruise Critic Roll Call. We managed to meet up with the other two couples we were doing a trip in the Azores with.
For Dinner we were on second sitting and it is always intriguing to find out who your dining companions are. We had a table of 8 which dwindled to 4 as two sisters switched to Select Dining as second sitting was too late fro them and another couple managed to re-arrange to sit with friends they had cruised with before. I was a little anxious about the food as Jacques Van Staden, Celebrity's Signature Chef, had left in the summer. However, the food was excellent throughout and the portions were quite generous. We ate very well and came home about 5 pounds heavier.We also bought a speciality dining package with a meal in each of the speciality restaurants. We started with QSine and it really wasn't our cup of tea. That said, Tuscan Grille and Murano's were really excellent.
This was our first cruise as Elite and we very much enjoyed all the perks. The evening cocktail lounge got our evenings off to a pleasant start. Occassionally service was a little slow but that was probably because we arrived during the second hour. We made use of the laundry token, which meant a little less to d on arriving home and made use of all our wine discount tokens.
In the morning of the first sea day we had the Cruise Critic gathering and it was commendable that both the Captain and the Hotel Director put in an appearance as well as the Cruise Director. It was a very pleasant hour or so.
After 2 and a half days at sea we arrived at Ponta Delgada in the Azores. As Elite members another perk was being invited on to the foredeck, with sparkling wine, for the sail in! Once ashore we soon found our driver guide. Just the six of us in a people carrier. We had booked a four hour tour but got almost 5 hours. The Azores are very green and touristically relatively under developed. A very beautiful island.
Then another day at sea and we arrived in Madeira. I had booked a full day tour with a local operator. We were met at the Cruise terminal by our lady driver/guide. We then picked up three other couples from Hotels in Funchal. Made a nice change to get away from other cruise passengers! We had a super day including a very nice lunch at a little fishing village. We were returned to the ship in sufficient time. There was then another sea day as we cruised south to the Canary Islands.
First port of call was Tenerife. I had pre-booked car hire. Very cheap 31 Euros for the day. We drove across the island to Mount Teide where we went up the Cable Car although it doesn't take you to the actual summit. A very nice day and lovely warm weather.
The next day was Gran Canaria where we used the Hop-on Hop Off bus. We got away to the older part of the City which was slightly less busy. We caught the bus back to the City Beach where we found a little place for a bit of lunch. It was very hot weather here.
The next two days were Lanzarote and Fuertaventura where again we had pre-booked car hire and with the aid of the Guide Book did our own thing. We think this was a good way to see these islands at our own pace and seeing and doing the things we wanted to do.
Then another sea day as we sailed to Lisbon. Yet again this turned out to be quite a warm day and we used public transport and shanks's pony to see the Cathedral (not the most pretty cathedral) and the Castle. We took a tram ride back down from the castle on an old traditional tram - talk about bone-shaker! Time for some lunch in the main shopping street although out in the open and back to the ship.
Then two sea days back to Southampton and sadly the end of our trip.
One activity they had on the Eclipse, which I don't think Celebrity do on any other ship, is a Choir. We both went along to this and on the last sea day performed the two songs we had learnt in the Atrium before the Hot Glass Auction. There was quite a crowd watching us! It wasn't brilliant but not bad and the whole thing was a bit of a laugh and gave us something to do on Sea Days.
Celebrity have done a deal with Apple and we bought ourselves an I Pad at a cheaper price than we would have got it at home although we had to smuggle it through customs and it was slightly over our allowance!
It was nice to be able to drive home although a bit of time in the disembarkation port and a flight home does seem to extend the holiday and make it less of a sudden end. We have been home almost two weeks and are both wondering whether the holiday ever happened! We do have an awful lot of photographs between us though so it must have done!
Celebrity still delivers for us. We were apprehensive about being on a bigger ship but apart from the occasional lack of seats in the Buffet and the fact that there were a lot of people around the pool it was very comfortable. We did always find a seat and a sunbed when we needed them! The Buffet situation couldn't have been that bad as we never found time to visit Bistro on 5, the 5$ a head creperie, which we really like. The Cafe Al Bacio also got very crowded but the staff were very good and helped you find a seat and spread their service to a neighbouring bar area which wasn't open in the day. There was lots of places to find a quiet spot if you wanted to even on Sea Days and we found a place for a couple of games of scrabble!
As always Celebrity staff came up to the mark. Unfortunately we saw very little of our cabin steward but that said our room was always immaculately kept and we lacked for nothing. Our waiter and his assistant in the Dining Room were excellent and we were very well looked after. As this was our fifth cruise with Celebrity we are probably getting a bit picky. We were a little disappointed with the CD as we thought his programme schedule could have been improved. Nearly all the shows were after Dinner so on a night when there was a poolside theme party we missed out on most of that. If the show had been before Dinner we could have enjoyed both activities. That said it really was a minor issue and didn't impair our overall cruise experience.
So now it's time to plan the next Cruise - Alaska or the Norwegian Fjords probably!