Pre Cruise Stay: Since we decided to unwind a few days before we were to board ship we looked for a nice Hotel in Fort Lauderdale- preferably close, or at the Beach. We choose the " W -- Hotel- " Fort Lauderdale. After a little searching we arrived there in our rented car! Right from the start we were very satisfied with their service. We just drove in , stopped the car and were taken care of by a friendly staff member who parked our car- since no one is to park his own car there, they took care of the luggage , which we saw again in our room. We were escorted to a nice , if a trifle dark Lobby were check in was a breeze!
The Hotel itself is very modern, " cool" and vibrant -- HIP as they call that these days! We got a nice room with a spectacular view over Fort Lauderdale- including the port ( very important- for me) Since the Hotel has two towers- finding ones way is a bit confusion in the first- but one get's used to it soon. We really enjoyed our stay, the weather was perfect so we could enjoy their " cool" ( literally speaking- since the water was very, very cold) pool area! Dinner and breakfast were excellent -- if a bit pricy, with outstanding service!
Would I recommend the " W " -- well yes- ideal if you look for a modern and, as mentioned, vibrant lively hotel. Nice experience but we would choose a more " conservative" kind of Hotel next time!
Anyway since we were booked on a Solstice Class ship- Eclipse to be precise- the Hotel was a perfect match- since they are very similar in style and surroundings.
We sailed on board Solstice Class ships before, so we knew what to expect. Embarkation was swift and soon were on board and greeted with usual " champagne" ! From former experiences we knew the cabins would not be ready before 1 pm, so we decided to have a little lunch before! Bistro on Five was packed so we went up to Buffet! As always a nice selection and something for everyone's taste.
We booked one of these " most wanted" hump- cabins we had a nice and large balcony- Deck nine! We booked this cruise whilst on board the Constellation more than a year before so the cabin selection were still great back then.
We made our pick from the Elite- member booklet- for us , it was the free Internet package and the laundry coupons- the rest- well it is buy something and get a little something extra! Nice perks for Elite members are the complimentary drinks in the special selected lounge every evening-and the nice -- if only continental breakfast in Tuscany Grill- stunning view's included! The later comes in handy on Debarkation day- where one can sit and have drinks an little snacks while waiting for ones number to be called!
The Eclipse is- as all Solstice Class ships, a stunning and elegant ship. I mentioned it in my former reviews and will do so again- X- ships are exceptionally clean and well taken care of! The food was very good- I don't know but for us we thought the food on our previous cruises with X a bit better- but still- very good! Service in the main dining room was good- NOT EXCELLENT- where they constantly remind us to put the cross in the comment card.
The first evening we arrived at table mentioned on our card and were politely asked if we would agree to change tables , since a family would love to sit together. We were traveling with our friends from germany, who live very fare from us . Therefore we asked for a table for four right from the early stages of booking.
Naturally we agreed and so ended up on a table with eight people. Since we especially looked forward to nice chats during our dinner and due to four more people at our table we were almost unable to do so. As nice as the people at our big table were we asked the Maitre'd to change tables for us! He did so and we got our table for four! During the cruise it got to our knowledge that the " family" for which we made room in fact where total strangers- so THAT family -- thing was an outright lie! Not very nice!
The new slogan with what X s advertises is called " Modern Luxury" -- well it seems that includes loud music all over the ship. " Hip and modern" background music almost in every lounge and every nook and corner! Very difficult to find a nice quite spot to read ones books! If anyone is looking for them- they are there sure- but hardly so- one is the Solstice Deck- the other in the very front of the ship up on the uppermost decks! The promenade deck is pretty useless for that purpose- or maybe you like to look at nice orange life boats!
I understand X want's to attract a younger bunch of cruisers as well so they seem to have turned the music up as soon as the early seating diners leave their cabins, dressed for the night! The live band who performs on deck 3 can be heard all over the atrium, that and the overly loud music in the Martini Bar ( a " nice" mix by the way) makes it impossible to have a nice chat whilst enjoying a Drink in the otherwise wonderful Martini Bar!
We had dinner in two of the ships Specialty Restaurants- one in Murano's and the other in Tuscan Grill. Well, the food in both of them were outstanding good and well worth the extra cost. However we were absolutely not impressed with the Service in Murano's -- it started " HIGH UP- with much blah blah- from then on in went downhill - no coffee or tea afterwards ( we were not even asked) and we had to call the waiter over twice in order to get our checks! Totally different in Tuscan Grill- besides we like the nice views and atmosphere there much more!
Solstice Class ships compared with the Millenium Class of ships have a few design flaws -- well that of course is my/our opinion! I already mentioned it- there is no proper promenade deck, just very limited under the hump and up front at the Bow! To less elevators for ship that size an passengers carried- waiting for an elevator, not even at peak times can be a very long wait ( not that big a problem for me - since where I go, my e-book goes LOL) The Lawn Club is a nice alternative- and one which I used on former cruises with X 's S -- Class ships. This time the background music was just to loud to sit , read and enjoy!
After the first week my better half fell ill with high temperature and all the symptoms of the influenza -- none of the pills we brought seemed to help so I insisted on going to the medical facilities on board! They were very friendly helpful and professional - the doctor diagnosed pneumonia in the early stages. They handled it well and it got better after only three days! We were surprised to see that so many people fell ill- the place was packed every time we went there for treatments. At almost every port the paramedics showed up at the pier and carried one or two ill passengers away. We were told they had to leave the ship because the ship could not handle their illness! So sad to watch and how easy it could have happen to us! The cost for the medical facilities and treatments - very pricy indeed, was covered through our Credit Card, otherwise I highly recommend travel insurance.
There is so much reported already about the ports of call, which included, Barbados, Aruba, Curacao, St. Martin, St. Lucia, Bonaire and the private beach of X, Labadee - in Haiti and I can't add anything new there, I won't go into the port of calls any further!
We booked the non alcoholic package -- which suits as nicely and is quite enough! They advertise those packages like crazy. Petty obviously some bar tenders or waiters seem not quite happy with them. Some of them were downright rude! Especially in the Casual Dining Area, called " little all Baccio! One example: one the very last day I asked for a glass of orange juice for breakfast and was told on Debarkation Day there is no orange juice available, not a problem -- I have no idea why - but be it! Just when I left I saw that he put the bottle of orange juice- full to the brim- out of his fridge! That was the icing of the cake! I made sure to write in the comment card- even if it is no big avail- they should be aware of it anyway!
The celebrations for the New Year were great and held on the pool deck, they did a great job in bringing us in a good and mood and high spirits into the New Year. To the point and the ships whistle at the turn of the year rain set in- that only could mean luck!
Debarkation was a smooth affaire since we made use of the Elite -- Waiting Lounge- Tuscan Grill! We booked the transport to the airport via Celebrity, to avoid long taxi cab lines. Well when we arrived at the bus it all got very unorganized and chaotic! Rude and unnerved bus drivers shouting at each other ( and some not so patient passengers as it is) -- in other words a real zoo! They made us wait in order to get our luggage into the bus in the order to the chosen airline- very well thought and good thought out! When we arrived at the airport we all had to leave to bus at THE first entrance of the building- we were told " every airline counter is nearby so we should all get off now" -- who is familiar with Miami International know THAT THIS ABSOLUTLEY NOT THE CASE! So why putting the luggage in such an orderly fashion into bus in the first place???
It has a been a great cruise with a few issues- but nothing that could spoil our cruise. We just came to the conclusion that the next cruise with Celebrity has to be on one of their Millenium Class ships since they suit us more in size and design. In cruising with Celebrity you get a lot for the money you spend!