Celebrity Eclipse Cruises 9th and 17th November Eastern and Southern Caribbean
These were our first Celebrity Cruises having previously done 6 with Princess, 1 with RCCL and 1 with Thomson. Our decision to try Celebrity was driven more by price than a genuine desire to change -- we did a 20 night cruise with Princess last year and the price in 2012 for the same cabin at the same time was 40% higher. You will have to excuse a certain amount of comparison between Celebrity and Princess but generally, Celerity fared well.
We had an aqua class cabin (1633) aft and were slightly apprehensive as our previous Princess and RCCL cabins had been Suites or Mini Suites so we wondered how we would cope with less space available. Our fears were unfounded with one crucial exception. We found the cabin of a decent size with a god sized balcony and a much better sized and shaped bathroom. Where it did fall done was in storage space. In comparison to the Princess Mini Suites the storage accommodation was much smaller. Our problem was made worse due to the fat that we were on the ship for 22 nights and had a night around Heathrow and one in Fort Lauderdale before the cruise and had a few days in Miami after the cruise. We had clothes for a month and not enough room for them. The overhead compartments were totally filled and all the drawers space.
I will admit that we took far too many clothes with us and will not make that mistake again but the larger bathroom does come at a cost in terms of wardrobe space.
Apart from, that we had no cabin issues.
Food and Service
Generally we found the food better on Celebrity although that may have been due to the fact that we were in Blu most of the time but the speciality restaurants were much better than what we had experienced before. There were some service issues on the second cruise where the speciality restaurants seemed under staffed. That may have been due to the change in passenger from the first to the second cruise. The second cruise had many more Europeans including a large party form Germany and I suspect that this shifted the eating times towards later in the evening which coincided with when we like to eat.
We had a bad experience in Qsine on our second visit where the service was dreadful. We were only there as Blu had offered to pay half the cost (trying to move some of their problem elsewhere) but we and a few other couple who took up the offer really regretted doing so. So much so that the Maitre of Qsine pleaded with us to go back the following evening to experience it in a quitter experience at no cost. We went and the food was fine but, having done it 3 times in 22 days we probably won't repeat it next cruise. Murano and Tuscan Grill were both excellent as was Blu.
We liked the food, presentation and layout of the buffet and felt that this was a significant improvement on what we had before and you could get a seat any time we went. The Aqua Spa cafe was also very good as was Cafe Al Bacio- especially as we had the premium alcohol package so it didn't cost anything. Trying to get a waiter in the Oceanview to get a drink is link waiting on a bus, never see one until you have gone to the bar yourself, then 3 arrive at the one time.
Cannot comment of the mast grill, although it was always busy nor the main dining room.
All the speciality restaurants were busier on the second cruise but none seemed to have any more staff on.
I don't think that the deck areas were busier than we had experienced on previous cruises but we did notice that the pool butlers were more active in clearing seats then we have seen with other companies, particularly in the first cruise. That may have been due to them just starting their contracts as the ship returned to the US or it may be a general Celebrity policy. We did enjoy the sunbeds, the cushions made them much more comfortable than the Princess ones. A big improvement and the balcony furniture was much better to sit on.
The Lawn area is a nice idea but I always look at the amount of space it takes up and wonder if it wouldn't be better being open deck. I presume that this area will be altered when the ship has its first refit to introduce the Lawn Club concept and the cabanas from the latest ships. The lawn itself showed a serious deterioration from when we boarded the ship the first time to when we left on 1st December. I suspect that it does not do the grass any good having summer sun in Europe and Winter Sun in the Caribbean -- grass is supposed to have a rest period each year.
We enjoyed most of it but found that the same entertainers tended to play in the same place all the time. The steel drum duo played almost every day on deck -- like 20 out of 22 days. The dance band, who were actually very good made an appearance once (presumably as it was the other group's day off). Then other than short appearances in the atrium, they were despatched up to the Sky Lounge. The Ensemble lounge had a mix of the string trio or the jazz group every night bar one when the piano man played there. The guitarist made fleeting visits about the ship but got stuck up at the back of the ship each night and the piano guy Peter was in Michael's 21 out of 22 nights. A bit more movement may have been nice.
We particularly disliked the jazz group as we don't like that style of music and had to listen to them to go into Michael's, to go to Blu or any other speciality restaurant. It just seemed that we couldn't avoid them.
The Piano player left the ship when we did, having started when we arrived on the ship, so there is now a new one on board.
We didn't visit the theatre much but what we saw was good.
I don't intend doing a port by port as I am sure most have visited many of the islands before and have much more experience than I have there. There was an issue in St Thomas on the first run of the 14 night cruise where the ship apparently could not berth at its assigned berth due to its draft. The ship had no issues at all the previous week but we ended up tendering which was not at all fun due to quite rough seas.
I don't know if it is typical of Celebrity but we were always the last to leave any port throughout the whole 2 cruises. Both times at Fort Lauderdale we were very late in leaving. The tendering at St Thomas made us late again and it seemed destined that we were always the last to leave and very rarely at the published time.
Premium Beverage Package
We had pre-purchased this before the cruise and generally it worked well although there was a marked difference in the 2 sommeliers in Blu if you were on this package. One was only interested in selling bottles of wine and almost ignored those on the package, the other was wonderful and we never had an empty glass with him -- unless that was what we wanted. The waiters do not get the 15% that we paid when we purchased it, I don't know what they get but it is a fair bit less and that can only lead to more of these sort of issues. It wasn't over apparent in the other areas of the ship but it must lead to a bit of resentment in the waiting or bar staff. To be fair we always felt this with waiters and bar staff on Princess when we had purchased the Soda package. They all want to sell it but not serve it.
We return to the Eclipse in around 10 weeks - 23 February. I know that many of the staff we dealt with on this cruise will have moved on, their contracts expiring in the interval and it will be interesting doing the same cruise with a different bunch of staff.
We enjoyed the cruise and we both agree that Celebrity was an excellent product. We will go back with Princess in the future, but probably not until we get the other 2 credits we need to reach Elite in Celebrity. I do find it strange how we started, at the beginning of November, with no Captain' Club experience. On the second cruise we had moved to Classic, and having completed that are now Select. It seems way to fast to me but I certainly don't want it to change until we get there.