This was the 29th Cruise on eight different Cruise lines for my wife and I, our eighth Cruise with Celebrity, and our third on Solstice Class ships. We have developed a love for this class of Ship after sailing on the Silhouette last April and doing a TA on the Equinox last fall. The Eclipse and it's crew did not let us down. This was the second time we had done this same Itinerary after sailing it on the Constellation in Jan. of 2012.
We flew to FLL two days early as we have usually done over the last several years and stayed at the Holiday Inn Express for the first time. The HIE was very nice and the staff excellent. A light breakfast was provided in the am and the rooms were clean and comfortable. We rented a car for the second day from Gold Coast Rentals which was the second time we have done so. They pick you up at your hotel, and when you drop the car off they provide a free shuttle to the pier. Cars are new and well maintained and the prices are very reasonable.
Embarkation went very smoothly after we arrived around 11:30am. We had a few minute wait after checking in but we were allowed on board by 12:00 and on our Cruise. We grabbed a cocktail and wandered the ship a bit before getting a snack just before 1:00. Cabins were available by 1:30 and then we could grab a couple chairs and start the tan going.
Our Cabin was on Deck 8, and was a rear facing Hump Cabin on the Port side of the ship. The angled cabins have a Balcony about twice the size of the normal Balcony. We had experienced these on the Silhouette where we had a forward facing cabin on the AQ Deck 11. I would prefer the forward facing to the rear facing myself, as I found it a much better view and really not much more wind to put up with the cabin facing forward.
The Ship is beautiful and we were well familiar with it's layout after the Silhouette and the Equinox. All are very similar and only vary in the detailing, artwork, etc. Exception would be the Lawn Club area where the Eclipse still has the Hot Glass Show and no Cabanas. I like the open grass areas even though they are not overly used. That being said, the Cabanas are not used much either and probably face the wrong way. Would be more attractive if they faced out to sea to me.
We were in the MDR on this Cruise after having been in AQ and Blu the last two Cruises. We love and prefer dinner in Blu, but the MDR did a great job overall with only one glitchy night of service. The menu now lists items that are Gluten Free which is handy for my DW who has a Gluten intolerance. Other dietary issues are also addressed using symbols next to each menu item. We had a table of eight Cruise Critic members which included three couples that have traveled together previously and one new couple linked up with through the CC Roll Call. They fit right in without any problem and we had a lot of good conversation over the two weeks.
The Itinerary included eight islands and five sea days, a perfect mix in my mind. We started with two sea days to Aruba where we went to Eagle Beach with some of our table mates. Second Stop was Curacao which was a bit cloudy so we wandered around town for awhile instead of heading to the Beach as planned. We then had a sea day on our way to Grenada.
In Grenada we took the Water Taxi back and forth to Grand Anse Beach which was very nice and we had a nice view of the Ship across the harbour. Barbados was next and our Taxi driver took us to Settler's Beach and the Surf-side Cafe. This was the first time we had been to this beach and it was nice with plenty of sun and shade so all we needed was chairs. The Beach Bar was a bit pricey on food but beverages were about average price. In St Lucia we treated it as a "Ship Day" as a break since we have done tours here in the past.
Antigua found us at one of my favorite Beaches - Valley Church Beach and The Nest Beach Bar. Postcard beautiful and nice Beach Bar and Umbrella and two chairs were $20. St Marten was very busy with five ships in Port. Our friends wanted to see Ma-ho and the airplanes landing over the Beach and it was jam packed but a good time. St Thomas was also very busy with close to 20,000 passengers in Port. We took the Champagne Cat Tour through the Ship to avoid the Crowd and had a really great afternoon of sun, snorkeling, and sailing.
We finished the Cruise with two sea days back to Fll.
Our Cruise Critic group was very active with a pre-cruise gathering at Duffy's Sports Bar, a Sail Away Gathering after Muster Drill, a Slot Pull the second Sea Day and a nice Connections turnout for the Meet & Greet.
We met a lot of new friends between these events and the Martini Bar, etc. You were constantly running into fellow Cruise Critics though out the Cruise.
The only drawback to the Cruise was the LONG LINES at disembarkation. Folks were waiting over one and a half hours to get to their baggage, and on to customs. With my wife's mobility issues and the fact that we used their Luggage Valet Service, we moved through more quickly than most, but there were a lot of unhappy cruisers that morning. Other than that it was a wonderful cruise and we look forward to doing the same Cruise again next Feb.