We just returned from the 14-night Celebrity Eclipse sailing, Feb. 9 to Feb. 23, 2013. We booked this cruise over a year ago, and were very excited to try Celebrity. Here are my impressions.
WHO ARE WE? We are an active and outgoing 60'ish couple, pretty well traveled, having cruised mainly with RCI, one Carnival cruise, and numerous land trips throughout USA and Europe. We are Diamond-level on RCI, so that allowed us to sail as Elite on Celebrity, which afforded us a unique first experience with X.
PRE-CRUISE/EMBARKATION: We flew from BWI to FLL three days prior to the cruise to visit with friends in Florida. We arrived at Port Everglades at 10:30 on embarkation day (along with almost everyone else we were sailing with!) and waited on a very long line. However, once things got rolling, everything went quickly and smoothly. We were on the ship by 11:45.
THE SHIP: First impression was WOW!!! The Eclipse is beautiful. She is light and airy, with gorgeous artwork throughout the ship, and she is very easy to navigate and figure out. We had no trouble finding our bearings early on. There are numerous nooks and crannies to sit and relax, and watch the world go by. What we liked the best about the ship was how well designed the pool area was with regards to plenty of lounge chairs in the shade. We never had a problem finding chairs, regardless of the time of day, even on sea days. The Solarium was lovely, but we never used it because the air conditioning was too cold. The Lawn area appeared to be a total waste of real estate. The few times we ventured up there, it was dead. We also did not like that there is not a true Promenade deck that goes around the entire ship. That meant limited walking areas on the Promenade, and limited seating on the Promenade. Our cabin was smaller than we'd expected, with strange storage space. There were 5 drawers in the vanity, a medium sized closet, and two large storage bins over the bed. The bathroom, however, was the largest we ever experienced on any ship ever. Loved that!
FOOD & DINING: We booked Select Dining and that was a fiasco the first two nights. The cruise line overbooked Early MDR seating, and consequently half of the dining area that was supposed to be used for Select was turned over to Early seating to accommodate the additional need. Those of us with Select, who had made dining reservations well in advance, pretty much had to wait on long lines to be seated. After the second night of this, I asked for a private meeting with the Dining Room Manager, and to my surprise, he met with me within minutes of my request. He told me that they were working on a solution, and that he would personally seat us at our reserved time every night thereafter. To resolve the problem, the Early MDR folks had their time moved up to 5:30, which I'm not sure they were happy about, but it did solve the problem. I will give kudos to Surjan (the dining room manager) for meeting with me, listening to my complaints, and offering us a solution. By night 3, everything seemed to fall into place.
Our impression of the food, overall, was just fair. We always heard that Celebrity did a great job with their food, but that wasn't our experience. Certainly we had some very good meals, but many were a true miss. The menus were not impressive at all, and one entree in particular, was inedible. However, by no means did we go hungry. We did go to Tuscan Grill and Murano's, and enjoyed both very much. The service and food were impeccable at both venues. The Oceanview Grill did a good job, considering it was buffet food for the masses. We loved the Mast Grill, which without exception, makes the best burgers and fries. No wonder they had long lines all day long!
ENTERTAINMENT: Overall the entertainment was OK. There were some high spots and some misses. The Celebrity singers and dancers did a great job with their shows. Some of the guest performers were better than others. The CD, Sue Denning, was very good, and she is a very talented performer in her own right. She did a one-woman show that was excellent. The house band, Fully Functioning, was not that good. Individually they were very talented, but it seemed like they needed a lot of practice performing together. Without exception, the best entertainment on the ship was the A Cappella group, Top Shelf. It was a pleasure to hear them sing at different venues around the ship. We thoroughly enjoyed them.
Prior to this sailing, we hadn't heard of Perry Grant. This sailing marked his Eclipse debut, and he clearly has a long and devoted following of fans from previous ships. This sailing also marked his Reunion Cruise, and there were a large number of Perry Grant fans on this sailing. We went to his show twice to check it out, but frankly, he is not our cup of tea.
PORTS: We sailed to 8 islands, some of which we had previously been to. We took a last minute tour in Granada (with a guide we booked when we got off the ship,) and it very good, and very inexpensive ($25 pp, I think.) In St. Lucia, we pre-booked a tour with Cosol, and in St. Maarten, we pre-booked a tour with Bernard's Tours. Both were good and well worth the money we paid for them. The other islands we either walked, taxied, or took a bus to a beach.
OVERVIEW: We had a wonderful time on this cruise. Overall, we enjoyed the ship, its attentive and pleasant staff, and especially all the Elite perks. Due to the high number of Elites on this sailing, we were given 3 drink coupons each for every evening, with the exception of the first night, and also the night of the Senior Officers Cocktail party. We liked that we could spend the cocktail hour with our friends who were not Elite.
We would certainly consider sailing on X again in the future!