14 day cruises out of Fort Lauderdale are likely to attract an older demographic. Retired folk have more time, free income, and inclination. It's very important when picking a cruise to not only think about destination but who is onboard. For me, the demographic on this South Caribbean jaunt skewed a little too much in that direction and the stream of scooters, walkers and people drawing their last breath as they climbed a flight of stairs was generational as much as anything else. Yes, I know this will be me one day, but if you are 40 and still mobile there are probably other Celebrity cruises for you. I certainly wouldn't want ths clientele/Celebrity, to lose what they enjoy/sell to accommodate a non-target audience.
I think generationally it is important. Travelling as a gay couple we felt protected by the somewhat austere code of conduct policy given the right for some of the passengers to hold different life values and beliefs, but express this in silence not action. I did mention this occasionally and the comment was there 'are cruises for LGBT' people but I think that is self-defeating.
This informs the cruise experience. It felt somewhat like dressing as tinkerbell for a Fancy Dress party only to realize its an OAP Christmas do. You have brazen it out or your go home and shower. We did the former, made our own fun, and enjoyed ourselves.
I've never been cruising before. Our reason for trying this cruise was to scoot around some potential holiday destinations. The 7 island stops on this cruise fitted the bill nicely. I like my islands lush, earthy and a bit rough round the edges so Grenada and St Lucia won out despite the continual stops to visit my Aunt/Uncle the spice-selling, rum-swigging hawker. Other islands are more touristy and have rather lost their charm to the $USdollar. You can swim with stingrays, snorkel with sea turtles but tourism is the leading industry here - the endless parade of schools/universities identified spit out polished tourism professionals each year and they follow the same script. Of these St Maarten/Marigot is the best for shopping and beachfront atmosphere/punch and Antigua has the port 'Big Bananas' hangout where the barman will pour you some drinks and tell you some lies.
The Eclipse ship is a striking thing and it delivers on design and use of space, particularly in communal areas. It's a little more 4 star Vegas than New England but this is a brand and its great what they have done with it. The Ensemble Lounge and Passport bar have a sort of smoky/hazy atmosphere that isn't to my taste, but the bright lights of the Martini Bar, the cocktail chic of the Sky Lounge and the fresh air of the on deck bars means you have choice. I would have preferred one long pool as opposed to two smaller pools but this is probably an engineering challenge on rough seas.
Especially on sea days, it is vital to throw yourself at the onboard entertainment (not staff). It is a good programme for the demographic and there is surprising tension at the bingo.The entertainment director, Sue, is very good at working the crowd and pushes hardest amongst the crew to say hello and offer a warm greeting. Less so the officers unless you are a VIP. The Eclipse shows are of a good standard with skilled artistes even if I prefer more hoofing to acrobatics. Themed nights ,like the Irish night, were great fun.Perry Grant has made a career out of selling a blackpool pier performance as a niche, obsessively fan supported act. It must be something they put in the hot milk. And everyone is tucked up by 11pm here. After that its the outside smokers, the slot pull fanatics, and the pissed younger European numpties heading for the nightclub (hand held high). There is a slight sense that by not going to bed you have upset the status quo with the hard working staff and they will loiter, play terrible music and generally make sure that late is not-so-late, often so they can get to their own end of shift dos.
Dining in the main restaurant is a bit of a chore - it's a noisy crowded operation as opposed to an experience in elegance, though this is a problem of scale. Food is heavily weighted to fish and meat entrees on rotation so it's a bit of a struggle finding variety. Onion soup is pushed everywhere so I think they over-estimated demand.Of the speciality restaurants, Blu is the best in that it is boutique, the food feels more inventive and the staff are more experienced at building atmosphere. Murano has a somewhat patronizing habit of explaining fine dining as if you've never experienced The Ivy. The Tuscan Grille suffers from foggy lighting but has good staff, and serves - yes - meat and fish entrees! We didn't use Qsine as I see enough IPads in my day job for this not to be a novelty and fusion food is overrated.
We stayed in a Celebrity Suite and this was our highlight. A well designed, high end space to escape from it all with seperate lounge area, bathroom (with bath) walk-in storage and ample balcony space. This is probably where Celebrity wins out as you get what you pay for - including an excellent, tireless butler, Luiz. The suite comes with complimentary elite status discount vouchers (laundry and BINGO!) and perks - a sailaway on the helipad, wine tasting and a high tea. Very welcome and Rameco - the Captains Club host a charmer. one minor irritation is wifi shoukd be provided as standard for suite customers. We had the opportunity to view other class cabin spaces and they all seem good areas, imaginatively making the most of the footage available.
We decided late in the sailing that we would do another Celebrity Eclipse Cruise in 2014 but, as per the top of the review, one in Europe where the demographic is likely to be more balanced. There are great deals to be had for early booking - discounts and onboard credits and Anna, in the office, is a real example of selling well, and keeping the customer onside with a thank you bottle or two.
As this was our first cruise, I doubt we will become 3x a year cruisers or join the rankings for who has cruised the most that seems to be the introductory gambit on these things when meeting new people. and we DID met a small but perfectly formed group of new friends and acquaintences (initially helped by joining the cruise critic forum and signing up for their events). Any holiday is what you make and about managing expectations and overall Celebrity is a good brand that works hard for its position in the marketplace. Next time, however, I hope we have got it right and the focus is more travels with peers as opposed to travels with my Aunt - or even Grandad.