The wife and I flew into Ft Lauderdale early in the morning the day of the cruise. We were hoping to get on the ship around noon, but were were informed a few days before the cruise that there was to be a Coast Guard inspection of the ship before they would let people board, and asked that nobody come to the terminal until after 1:30. We ended up taking a cab to the port, and gave our luggage to the porter around 10:00 am. The same cabbie then dropped us off at the Museum of Discovery and Science. We had a fun time there for a couple hours, and then strolled down the riverfront and Las Olas Boulevard for some shopping and a few drinks.
Embarkation was a bad surprise. We got to the terminal around 2:00 and there was a very long line to get to the check-in. We were surprised it only took us about 45-60 minutes, as the line seemed to be moving slower than that. Luckily there were about 40 stations of check in personnel. After getting on board, our luggage was already in our room, but we did not have more than 15 minutes before we had to be at muster. Muster was a long ordeal, in an overheated crowded area. We must have been told to move back some more at least 10-15 times. One lady that had too much to drink became sick and fainted during the procedure. After finally watching the short muster video, we were very hungry and went to the buffet. As it was between mealtimes, there was not much food to be had, and what there was became unreachable with scores of pointy elbows of the other late boarding passengers combatively crowding towards it.
At this point I was starting to get uncharacteristically cranky myself. I sat down, my wife brought me a drink, and then things began to turn around completely. After this point, the rest of the cruise was an unmitigated pleasure. We started touring the ship and we were very impressed with the overall look and decor of the vessel.
This was our first cruise with Celebrity. We booked this itinerary a year in advance because it was unique in that it was an 8 night that combined San Juan, St Thomas, St Kitts, and St Martin. Please read the port reviews for more details about them.
Some general observations about the ship and cruise.
We often go to adults only all-inclusives, with our favorite so far being Couples Sans Souci. This cruise was almost devoid of children, which was a pleasant surprise for us. We tried counting the number of child sightings, and we decided that we saw less than 20 unique children. Those that we saw were all perfectly well behaved. Since this cruise ended so close to Thanksgiving, I am guessing not many parents wanted to take their kids out of school.
Much discussion on the message boards always springs up regarding the beverage packages. We purchased the premium beverage package and were pleased. To continue the contrast with an all inclusive, we found the beverage package to be an improvement over the offerings at an AI. Most AIs will only offer a few beers, and lower quality wine included. With Celebrity, I could choose between 20 or more bottled beers (and a few drafts), and a great selection of quality wines by the glass. I most often drank Rutherford Ranch Merlot. I also tried several new beers that I might not have attempted otherwise, had I not been on the beverage package. The martini bar was fun too, with Grey Goose and Bombay Sapphire based drinks included in the package. A nice exclamation point is that bottled waters and specialty coffees are included as well. (think San Pellegrino sparkling water poured as you sit down to dinner, cappucinos afterward, and bottles of Evian for your bedside at night)
We went to each of the specialty restaurants, and probably liked the Tuscan Grill the best, although Qsine was certainly fun. If we cruised on the Eclipse again, we would probably not do so many, because we were very pleased with the main dining room food. The gourmet lunches on sea days in the MDR were especially delicious. Select Dining worked out well for us, and we always got a table for two. We often came in between 7 and 8 pm, and only had to wait once for 20 minutes. That was spent at the martini bar, with the hostess coming out to get us once a table for 2 was ready.
We were not very pleased with the buffet for breakfast, as it was always the same thing, and the quality was not as good as the other breakfast options. Late in the cruise we started eating at the Bistro on 5 for breakfast. Their crepes were excellent. Also, if you are tired of the traditional breakfast ingredients (eggs, bacon etc), you can order a lunch crepe at breakfast time. My wife must eat Gluten Free, and she had plenty of options as long as the next day's menu was discussed with the Maitre'D a day beforehand. GF crepes are also available at the Bistro if requested a day earlier. They also made a GF pizza at the buffet with 1 day notice, but that was quite unpleasant tasting.
We made an extra effort at fitness on this cruise. We ran in some ports,never took the elevators, and used the gym on the first sea day. The gym was perfectly fine. There were a handful of channels in the video screen of the elliptical machine which was nice. We ran some laps on the jogging track before sail out in St Kitts, but the design of the track is pretty awful for afternoon use, with it going between deck chairs on the deck above the pool. Many "excuse me" and "on your left"s were uttered. The track was soft and forgiving on the knees though. We were not Aqua class, but paid extra to have Persian Garden access for the length of the cruise. It cost about $200 total, and it was surprisingly uncrowded. It was a nice thing to relax on heated chairs, use a steam room, and an aromatherapy room before getting ready for dinner. I also liked using the more spacious showers in the spa.
We did not take part in many of the entertainment options. The comedians we sat in on for a couple minutes did not hold our attention. My wife did not want to sit through the Cirque style show called "Eclipse", although I found it well produced, considering it is at sea. I did enjoy attending a couple lectures offered in Celebrity Central concerning piracy. Normally I enjoy steel drum music, but the performer on board was always accompanied by a keyboard player, which I felt detracted from it.
The small amount of engaging entertainment on board should not be considered a negative in my case, because we usually prefer an interesting place to have a drink or a relaxing place to read, and the Eclipse has both of these vital points extremely well covered. We especially enjoyed lounging in the grass for relaxation. The Molecular Bar provided many unique drinks, unavailable unless you store liquid nitrogen at home.
We were very pleased with the service of all staff that we encountered. We did not seek out or have any particular desire to interact with any of the officers. The sommeliers always kept our glasses full, and one was even kind enough to give us a tour of the wine tower.
In summation, I would rate this as my favorite cruise to date, although with it only being my third, I have many more I need to try. Celebrity seems to offer exactly what I want in a cruise. I only wish they had more week long offerings in Europe, and more varied Caribbean itineraries.