We flew from London Heathrow, and the new Terminal 5 is so much easier, on British Airways. We upgraded our flights to World Traveller Plus instead of upgrading our stateroom, and it was well worth the small extra cost. The actual flights were excellent and on time and very smooth both ways.
After 9 1/2 long hours Miami Airport once again did it's best to spoil things, three hours from landing until we actually reached the doors and found the Celebrity Reps. The immigration process was once more horrendous, intermable queues and the usual gimlet stare from immigration officials. Miami, this is not "welcome to the USA". I appreciate that this was a Friday night and also the start of Thanksgiving week but this is just not acceptable.
Finally we were transported to the Sheraton on Seabreeze Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. By this time it was 3.00am our time. The hotel was fine, clean and comfortable and we had a good breakfast the following morning.
We never take the transfer buses to the port. I'm not happy leaving my luggage outside the hotel and hoping I will see it later. We took a taxi around 12.30 pm and the embarkation was swift and painless. There was a separate line to avoid the photographers which was nice as we were still a little bug eyed from all the travel. Also on board and during the cruise the photographers were never "in your face" as before which was nice.
At check in I was presented with a single white rose and stickers for the two of us. On boarding the ship we were met by the charming Captains Club hostess, Gabriella, and taken to Michaels Club for our glass of champagne. Very much appreciated.
It was not long before the staterooms were available and luggage came very swiftly. We were on Continental deck in a 2C stateroom which has "part obstructed views". Absolutely no problem, a clear view out to sea. We had the bed near the balcony which was nice and there was more than enough closet space and drawer space for the two of us if we also used the overbed cupboards. I have to say I found the beds a little hard and the pillows were small and square shaped. But then I have a water bed at home. We had the stateroom bar set up and our steward Lazuro was good, a little shy maybe but he fulfilled every request. Also I found the air conditioning a little faulty, I love a cool room and it never seemed cool enough for me, but fair to say, my dear one did leave the balcony door open a little too many times, and Lazuro must have thought he was cold as he provided an extra blanket!!!
This was our second time on Eclipse, the first being in cool weather out of Southampton two years back. At that time I hoped I would love her better in warm weather. So yes, she was beautiful, yes she was classy, but I still love Millenium Class the most. There seems to be no rhyme or reason with Solstice Class, there is not the flow, the bars seem to be on walkways and we missed the Rendez-Vous lounge. We missed a lot on Eclipse too, through our own fault. We did not use Bistro on Five, Cellar Masters, Martini Bar or the Molecular Bar, there never seemed to be the time. We loved the Lawn Club and the Sunset Bar and renewed our acquaintance with Eduardo. We also enjoyed the Sky Lounge and the Captains Club Elite Cocktail hour, I am annoyed I did not get the name of our bar server there because he was charming, came from India.
We always love Michaels Club but it was like a morgue. Most nights the doors were shut and no one there. I have to say I was not impressed with the pianist. As for the other entertainers, the two on the steel drums were good, I think they were called Pan Exstacy? They played most days on sailaway where I would have expected to see the party band "Twist of Eight". The A Capella group were OK but only ever played about four numbers before vanishing. As we dined most nights around 7.30pm we missed lots of the shows so it would not be fair to comment.
I was not too impressed with the activities. Trivia and bingo is not my thing. I am one of those awful people who actually used to enjoy the pool games, King of the Ship, the greasy pole and the belly flop!!
There were never any shortage of deck chairs or tables in the buffet.
I don't know where we can find a happy medium on dining. To me 6.00pm is too early and to him 8.30pm is too late which is why we opted to go at 7.15pm every night. This was on the upper level. We booked ahead for a table for two and although those tables are close together this is what we got. Most nights the service was very swift so we were in and out in about 90 minutes which was nice. The last night the service was so bad we almost walked out. The food however was as good as you would find anywhere where they have to serve 2700 pax. The portions are slightly smaller which was good and the cheese tray was excellent. There were no official sommeliers. The buffet in the Ocean View for breakfast was excellent and not too much waiting for eggs/toast/omelettes. Lunchtime was also very good. I just wish they still had the nachos on the pool deck. Each morning we had room service coffee and juice and our server was a gem, I just wish I had got her name, she was also serving appetisers at Captains Cocktail Hour. I also here want to give a big shout to RENATO the tea and coffee server on the port side of the Ocean View Buffet. He made every day a joy with his infectios smile and songs. Celebrity, you have a gem there waiting to be polished.
Kids? Very few and no problem except for the parents who thought it was amusing to let their kids strip off and run around naked on the grass. Their Grandma was soon on to this however. The innocence of children is great but this was not really the time or place for "Frie Korpur Kulture!
Fellow Passengers: Hmmmmmmmm....we love North Americans and were surprised that there were around 1400 plus Europeans on board, apparently 800 from the UK alone. The Danish and Norwegians were a delight, the Germans overbearing and the Scots were "well refreshed" every day.
So now, if you have had the patience to read this far I will do a short resume of the ports.
St. Thomas: What happened? We got there on time and sailed up and down. Then the official explanation was that our draught was too much to dock so we had to tender in. We had booked a tour to St. John and were informed the day before that we were now docking at Crown Bay and the tour was brought forward an hour. Hmmmm..........in the end people were running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Eventually the Captain brought the ship in near Havensight and we tendered into the town centre. Many tours were cancelled but the people who had booked tours were directed to the theatre where we got priority tendering. Our tour was cancelled but we made lemonade out of lemons so to speak and renewed our friendship with Coconuts Bar. We got a letter from the Captain that evening. My own personal take on this is that Celebrity booked the berth months ago thinking Constellation would be on this run. Some rumours went round that the Captain did not discharge enough ballast before coming into port. It is interesting to see that on the next cruise the ship went to Sint Maarten before St.Thomas as scheduled.
Sint Maarten took a load of my credit card. Enough said? We just love this place!!!
Antigua...some say we nearly hit bottom! Was a little surprised not to dock at Heritage Quay. We took a great taxi island tour with two lovely American ladies and our driver was Colin. $20.00 great value.
St. Lucia....we docked at Pointe Seraphine and took a tour for $65 each on a speedboat down to Marigot, the Pitons, the volcano, Terraile Falls and the Jade Mountain resort with JnLouis from the pier. Great value for money.
Barbados, not a favourite. We went to the Boatyard beach which is always great value for money but it started getting a bit wild after 1.00pm.
Grenada.........drizzle so our plans for Grand Anse Beach were scuppered but it cleared up later so we wish we had gone. As it was we just spent time in town and at the shoppers area.
Bonaire.....so small. Third time there and we took the ships excursion on the glass bottom boat which was amazing, well worth the money, so much life under the sea, turtles and all.
Aruba.....took a bus tour round the island and then wandered through the waterside market and sank a few drinks.
Two days back at sea was too much. Why could we not have at least a half day at Key West?
So, digressing from the ports.....what could have made it better? Nothing much! We had a charming Captains Club Hostess in Gabriella who invited us to the Captains Table one night on a smart casual night. I was dressed OK but my dear one was casual. We did dine on the Captains Table last year so I'm not too upset but it was very short notice this time.
As it was then, we never did see the Captain. I am pretty sure that in St. Thomas and Antigua there was a lot of cursing on the bridge! Guest Relations Manager Cameron Robertson was a real gentleman, we were invited to the helipad sailing out of Antigua and he was very personable. Hotel Director Julian Brackenbury was also a delight, I believe he is now on Reflection. We also met Simon Coley the Food and Beverage Manager and the new Executive Chef Lee Goble when we dined wonderfully in Muranos. Never did see much of Jason the Cruise Director but his announcements were clear and concise.
Disembarkation was slow, long lines waiting for the baggage hall. Once you get there, grab a porter and he will whiz you through Customs. We had a day room at the Sheraton Miami Airport which was a lovely place on the Miami River.
To summarise: 14 nights at sea was too long for us and the first week was jam packed with ports but the second week not so. Celebrity is still our line of choice. Who knows about next year? I have a very sick mother so we can't make any plans just yet, but when we do it will either be Europe or a 7 night plus a land stay out of St. Juan. We would love to do the east coast of Mexico again as we did one time on Mercury and maybe revisit Las Vegas.
I apologise for the lenghth of this review. I would like to say hi to Beth (gimletgal) and all my other happy smokers on decks 5 and 12!!!! Also sorry I missed my friend Karen, and also hope the crazy scots got home OK!!!
Yes, God Willing we will be back, and hopefully with Celebrity. Millenium Class still holds my heart but I would never dismiss Solstice Class. Thanks Celebrity.
And finally, for the two poor souls who embarked in Fort Lauderdale but never made it home, may you rest in peace.
Excuse me now, I have to check out next year!!!!!