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Great Time on the 14-Day Ultimate Caribbean
Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
Overall, we thought the shipboard experience was excellent. This was our first time on Eclipse although we had sailed on its sister ship, Equinox two years ago. We love the spaciousness of this class - it seems like there are far fewer people on board than there really are. The activities available and quality/variety of shows seem to be directly related to the number of guests over which to amortize the cost. Since much has already been said about the ship and the Solstice class, here are a few comments particular to the November 17, 2012 sailing:
- We agreed with many onboard that six port days in a row was rather busy, but when the islands are 100-150 nm apart it is understood. We toured and snorkeled with operators ranked at the top in TripAdvisor and CC. However, one could stay onboard and enjoy the many shipboard amenities.
- Even though departure was Saturday with eight ships and over 22,000 people boarding after 22,000 had already disembarked traffic was not More
too bad and the boarding process was outstanding. On board in less than 30 minutes (11:15 to 11:45). Ate in Bistro on Five which provided a nice respite from the usual mix of rollaboards and people waiting for cabins to be available at 1:30.
- Sailaway was scheduled for 4:30, but we still were firmly attached to pier as the Eurodam and a Princess ship squeezed by us. The captain announced the we would be delayed until 6:30 due to provisioning. Not sure if it had anything to do with the installation of a new Ku-band satellite system.
- Host Andy hosted the Cruise Critic gathering in the Sky Lounge. It was really great to meet face-to-face all the wonderful people who had been posting for a year. All the senior officers including the master, staff captain, hotel director, cruise director were present and spent time talking with the members. The captain pulled the numbers for the many CC goodies that Andy brought with him.
- At the Captains Club gathering, the communications officer said that they had finished syncing the new satellite system and bandwidth had increased almost ten-fold.
- Arrival in St. Thomas was delayed as the harbormaster had scheduled us to berth at a dock that couldn't support our draft. So at the last minute tendering was laid on. Needless to say, it was not ideal but better than missing the port. OK, it was St. Thomas so maybe a sea day would have been better than shopping. (My opinion, not wife's.)
- Food is always subjective, but we believe the best perk in Aqua class is eating in Blu. We thought the food was excellent and quickly settled on Rosebud as our favorite waiter. Never went wrong following his suggestions.
- Cabin (1560) was a standard AQ with a large overhang which was welcomed on hot sunny days in port and at sea. Absolutely no noise. Brian Fernandez was an excellent steward who kept the cabin immaculate and always raced ahead to get our door open.
- This was the last cruise for the current production cast and their replacements were onboard polishing their routines. The production shows will remain the same and at a cost in the millions and large set designs, I can see why.
- Review of the visiting performers is subjective, like the food, but we thought most were very good, e.g., Mark Preston (singer and former Letterman) and Gary Arbuthnot (Scottish flutist) while two were mediocre at best.
- Cruise Director (Jason Ward) was visible throughout the ship and at the gangway on many port days. The Hotel Director (Julian Brackenbury) was equally visible and accessible walking around the ship daily and participating in many of the Celebrity Life events.
- Disembarkation. We had an 8:10 slot and left the ship at 8:20. Lengthy wall to luggage and customs. Very few porters to assist, but they were still unloading luggage. Took a taxi to the airport rental car area and were driving home by 9:15.
Master: Dimitrios Manetas (Greece)
Staff Captain: Pierre Caruana (Malta)
Chief Engineer: Evangelis Saliaris (Greece)
Hotel Director: Julian Brackenbury (UK)
Cruise Director: Jason Ward (UK)
F & B Manager: Simon Coley (UK)
GRM: Cameron Robertson (UK)
Exec Chef: Lee Goble (UK) First voyage with Celebrity
Corporate Exec Chef was also on board. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
Antigua Paddles, St. John's, Antigua.
Great Way to Explore the Waters of Antigua
Although we docked 30 minutes late, our guide was at the point specified in the email. Upon arrival at the initial launch site, we were met by the owner and his parrot and introduced to our guides. (Restrooms were available for those who needed them.) Then it was on to the motorboats (about 12 passengers in each of two boats) and delivered to the kayak launch site where we were given a short lesson about boarding and paddling a kayak. We had never been in a kayak before and we learned quickly. It was not too strenuous and there were several breaks. One of the guides was in the water with us providing narration during rest breaks. (One person opted not to kayak and she followed behind on the safety boat.) We reboarded the motorboats for a fun run to Bird Island for a quick tour and then those interested in snorkeling loaded onto one boat for a quick trip to the reef. We then reboarded the motorboats for a ride back to the owners' home where we were offered rum punch, fruit punch and banana bread and an opportunity for pictures with the parrot. There was no push to leave tips or to buy additional merchandise. The trip was professionally delivered as advertised and exceeded all expectations and was great fun. The guides were great and the equipment was in good condition. (BTW, we are in our mid/late 60's in fair to good condition and had no problems participating in all the activities.)
Another great snorkeling adventure in the Southern Caribbean
We had never heard of power assisted snorkeling before but were fascinated by the idea and booked with Aruba Bob based on TA and Cruise Critic reports. The process was straightforward and Stuart Finch arrived early to pick us up near the cruise terminal. He drove us to a resort near the site where he fitted us with excellent gear. Then it was off to the entry point for a great time snorkeling. Stuart carefully explained what we were going to do and some safety rules before we entered the water. Throughout the trip, Stu was checking on us, pointing out things of interest and taking pictures. We snorkeled for about two hours and covered almost a mile. After finishing, we were given the option to go back to the resort to shower, swim in the pool, and have a few drinks or head back to the port. We opted for the later. Can't say enough good things about Stuart and Aruba Bob - a professional organization with top quality equipment and great customer service. Cruise ship passengers are required to pay a 50% deposit through PayPal due to a history of excessive no-shows from shipboard passengers. (BTW, we are in our mid/late 60's in fair to good condition and had no problems participating in all the activities.)
Outstanding Ship-Based Snorkeling Adventure with Calabaza
Pick-up driver arrived a few minutes before schedule and after rounding up another couple, we were off to the port for what was a great day of sailing and snorkeling. We had be forewarned that shoes were not permitted on the boat and planned accordingly. The shoes were stored on the boat and returned to us on arrival. We were met by an enthusiastic three person crew which included the owner, Gina. We were immediately offered banana bread and drinks of choice as the crew got ready to get underway. We snorkeled at two locations - one with the turtles and another on a reef with fish. The hostess, Gina, her crew, the boat, the food, the drinks we truly OUTSTANDING. Had we been there for another day, we would have sailed with them the next day. As it was, we decided to book this same cruise next year and will be sailing with Calabaza again. (BTW, we are in our mid/late 60's in fair to good condition and had no problems participating in all the activities.)
A Fantastic Trip with Dee and the Woodwind Crew
We booked this particular cruise to visit Bonaire again so that we could sail with Woodwind. They did not disappoint. This trip was even better than last year's. Stopped at two locations where we were divided into groups of 8 or less depending on ability. Each group had a crew member leading them while the boat followed should anyone want to get back on board. We were in the beginner group and Dee's patience and help ensured that everyone had a good time. Be sure to reserve early as both the morning and afternoon trips were fully booked with only one ship (Celebrity Eclipse) in port. A professional photographer was onboard who took pictures of the divers and sights seen - over 130 shots. While they were for sale, there was no push. We would recommend Woodwind without hesitation and are trying to plan a repeat trip next year. (BTW, we are in our mid/late 60's in fair to good condition and had no problems participating in all the activities.)
JnJ Tours, Grenada
Good Tour with Flexible Owner/Guide
Stan Grainger (owner/operator) met us on time in the port shopping area. Although the day was rainy at the beginning, Stan did everything he could to make us as comfortable as possible and we had a great time exploring his island. Several of us indicated to him that while we wanted to see the beach, we really did not want to spend a lot of time there. Stan suggested touring Clarke's Rum Factory which we all thought sounded like a good idea. As advertised, he covered the cost of all admission fees, even this additional one. We got back to the port about 1:30 and those who wanted to sample the local cuisine continued on with Stan to his favorite restaurant and then went to see the local market.
Cosol Tours, St. Lucia
Great Tour with Cosol and Yellow Bird
We were met as described just outside the secure area by Cosol who introduced us to his brother, Yellow Bird, and were on the road shortly after. The tour gave us a great impression of the island, the foods of the island and the people. We saw everything described on the website and more. Our transport was a nearly new Toyota van with plenty of room. Yellow Bird kept close track of the time to ensure that we were back on board the ship with time to spare. All fees, including the water taxi, were included. Additionally, it seemed that the food, snacks, and drinks were limitless. The only thing better was the hospitality displayed by Cosol and Yellow Bird.
Bernard met us at the appointed time where we paid him for the tour and shortly afterwards he matched us up with four others to do the scenic tour with stops at the most popular beaches. He then took us to the loading area where we met our driver/guide, David Taylor, who provided us an excellent tour of the island. There were Coke products, ice water, beer and rum punch available whenever we wanted them. (Two of the people on the tour had done this same tour four times before and loved it so much, they were back again.) Bernard has been doing tours for many years and his driver guides are excellent as is his response to emails. He also offers a more beach-intensive tour.
Due to confusion with the harbormaster, we tendered at the last minute. St. Thomas seems to be too crowded to enjoy. Not sure what the draw is other than shopping.