The wife had always wished to holiday somewhere in the Caribbean and as she likes a winter sun holiday I decided to book the Christmas Celebrity Eclipse cruise as we had such an enjoyable trip on the Celebrity Xpedition around the Galapagos Islands earlier in the year.
Having booked a Celebrity Suite we had a very fast priority boarding channel at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. There was also a separate desk for 'Speciality Dining' reservations at check-in so we were able to make reservations for both the 24th & 25th December, which was not allowed on-line. We did not manage to get an answer as to why bookings were not allowed on-line as I pointed out it was still a 'first come first served system' whether on-line or at the port. So if you wish to reserve 'Speciality Dining' for those dates at Christmas and for New Year's Day in the future make sure you arrive at the port early.
The cabin was on the Penthouse deck, deck 11, and consisted of a sitting area with an L-shaped sofa bed; a bedroom, balcony with table, chairs(2), sun bed and sun lounger; bathroom with bath, overhead shower, hand held shower. The sink was a bit shallow, so occasionaly there was some overspill. Our suite was adjacent to a Penthouse suite so we had extra balcony space due to the 'hump' as it is known.
The ship overall was well appointed and was kept to a very high standard. There were several areas where you could escape from the madding crowds. As we had booked a suite we were given Elite Captain's Club membership, which entitles you to use the Tuscan restaurant for a 'sort of' continental breakfast, other private functions and free cocktails in the Observation Lounge prior to dinner.
We like to counteract 'cruise weight gain' by energetic walking for 45 minutes minimum (at least 3 miles), however the narrow jogging track is on the sun deck and there are sun beds very close on both sides. So it is virtually impossible to use the track after breakfast until dusk. Admittedly there is a good enclosed gymnasium, but we like to exercise in the fresh air.
The Speciality Dining restaurants were superb. We ate in them on 12 nights and were delighted with the excellent meals, wine and service. The menus do not change but there were more than enough choices to select from. The Tuscan restaurant is at the stern and can be slightly noisy because you are above the engine room and propellers. The QSine restaurant menu is for sharing, 4 choices plus dessert for 2 and 6 courses plus dessert is suggested by the staff for 4. However as we have different tastes we had no problems being served 6 on our first visit as we were not aware of the system. Friends accompanied us on our second visit and the wife again was allowed a separate choice. The additional cost of $40 in the Murano & QSine and $30 in the Tuscan per person was acceptable to us. Having booked a suite we were entitled to 2 complimentary Speciality Dining meals; this applies to the first 2 meals booked, so be aware of this if you want to maximise your savings. We also ate one night in Blu and one in the MoonLight sonata restaurant and the food was of a good standard. The buffet lunch in the Oceanview cafe was also good.
There was plenty of entertainment, however, we personally did not attend the shows in the theatre.
There were plenty of shore excursions offered that catered for all. We can certainly recommend 'Swimming with Dolphins at Paradise Island in Nassau, but book early as there was only 30 places available.
Overall the cruise, ship, staff and shore excursions were excellent and we would recommend this cruise to all.
My only complaint is that you are constantly bombarded with leaflets about sales, art auctions, casino activities, spa treatments etc. We realise the company wants to make as much money as possible, but personally we would prefer it not to be constantly 'in your face'.
Port 7 was Celebrity's private beach area on Haiti. Suite guests use the excellent sheltered BareFoot Beach. The main beach does get a bit crowded. Food and drinks are served ashore.