I am not sure where to start or how much I should write about my first cruise on Celebrity Eclipse.
First off Eclipse is a large ship and really very beautifully appointed, with a great deal of interesting art located throughout, it's also spotlessly clean and all passenger areas inside and out maintained to a very high standard. Somehow Eclipse also manages to conceal the mass of passengers on board, to the point that I enquired on day 2, if there were many passengers cruising, turns out the ship was full! But yet it never felt crowded, which is pretty clever considering there was over 4,000 people on board including crew.
Embarkation in Southampton was easy and well organised, concierge class was neat in that respect - no queuing - which was good, as I arrived on Eclipse utterly exhausted. By the time I'd found my stateroom my luggage was already inside, together with champagne and a basket of fruit. The stateroom was smartly decorated, very classy and with plenty of storage space, it's a ship after all so I wasn't expecting lots of clothes space. However there was plenty of room for hanging clothes and space under the bed to store luggage. The bathroom was perfect, compact but with lots of storage and ample room to move about, great shower too and throughout the cruise it never felt like the water was desalinated.
The balcony was brilliant with an unconstructed view, though cruising solo it was easily big enough for two and the reclining chairs and table were perfect. I ate breakfast outside several mornings and spent numerous very happy hours reading beside the ocean - heaven!
There is a 32" flat screen tv in the room with Apple interactive menus. Very easy to order room service or book a shore excursion and of course catch up with Cruise Director Jason and his assistant Maria on channel 2. Celebrity also showed looped re-runs of on board activities, which was a good way to catch up on an activity or theatre show missed, while getting ready to head out. My stateroom attendant Jack from India was so kind and helpful, taking time to look out for me especially in the beginning and every night we had a review of my day in the corridor nearby, where he was preparing rooms, as I was heading out to dinner.
My stateroom was located close to the forward lift lobby and stairs, so getting about was very easy. I used the stairs a lot, except the first few days and when in heels. It's a good way to justify those extra deserts and ice cream! Sometimes there were queues for lifts in the main lift lobby, but I guess considering the older profile of passengers that was to be expected. I often saw people use the lift to go down one flight of stairs, which of course leads to delays waiting for an elevator.
On board I used the swimming pools and whirlpools inside and out, all excellent with a very good level of service, cleanliness and towel replacement. Though the attendants rarely smiled around the pool, in contrast to the rest of the ship. Maybe they don't like water!
The gym deserves special mention, located near the spa at the front of the ship it is really, really good, truly 5 star, with excellent equipment, amazing ocean views and very a good atmosphere with huge quantities of clean towels. The sauna was also very good, though a charge for the steam room seemed a little unfair. It's in the Persian Garden, which is an extra charge facility, however Celebrity might consider installing a second steam room for the masses, outside of the Persian Garden.
On this first cruise, I didn't use the spa or any of the beauty treatments. However from what I saw, the facilities are of a very high standard and I will book at least one treatment on my next Celebrity cruise. Price wise the costs are similar or better than good quality spa's in Europe, probably much better value compared to the US.
Entertainment in the Eclipse Theatre was very good and with lots of variety. Two acts really stand out, the amazing Mike Doyle and the so, very talented Sebastian Sidi. There were other memorable shows from Neil Lockwood and Rich Purpura, however all the entertainment was very, very good and the production quality of a very high standard in the theatre.
I dined very night except the first two in the Moonlight Sonata Dining Room and was very satisfied with the food and service. Though I did hear people complain about the service I can only compare it to some very good restaurants and hotels on land and in that sense, the dining room service was of a high standard. Food quality was very good, perhaps some portions were small, potatoes and vegetables I noticed. However it was no trouble to ask for extra, either before or during meals and the meat portions were always very generous. Both Renato and Nena looked after us very well. There was a varied choice of options and of course the Celebrity favourites each night, meant there was always something familiar to order if not certain about some dishes.
The Oceanview cafe is another good place to eat. It's very different from the dining room with a smart casual atmosphere. I though it a little disorganised the first couple of days, especially around the beverage stations, however it improved after that and the food at all times was very good. Breakfast was an experience with so much choice and afternoon tea at 4pm a special treat, I will never forget the warm baby croissants and chocolate cookies! Also being able to eat outside Oceanview on the aft deck, once the weather picked up on day 4 or 5 was so cool.
Throughout the ship the level of attentiveness, courtesy, downright friendliness and professionalism displayed by the crew was seriously impressive. I've managed teams in the past and I know how difficult it is to motivate, train and retain people. Travelling solo is a good way to pick up on genuine friendliness and quality service, there are just so many little things one doesn't see in a couple or in a group. By the time I disembarked in Florida I had a full social diary on board with many new and wonderful friends. However in those early days on board while on my own, the crew of Eclipse were truly kind and friendly. I am not talking about polite hostess style nodding and smiling, rather warm and friendly conversations. The staff of Celebrity Eclipse really know how to deliver service of the highest level.
Disembarkation in Fort Lauderdale was not fun, but there wasn't much Celebrity could have done to speed up Homeland Security. I read else where that its a 1/2 mile walk off the ship, not true more like 200 metres and about another 100 metres to the taxi rank outside the Cruise Terminal (shed). Welcome to the USA!
It's only upon arrival in Fort Lauderdale and starting again to experience, paying for food and receiving often poor and inconsistent service in so called quality establishments, that one truly appreciates the value and five star quality of Celebrity Eclipse.