I'm back in the good ol' USA and back on my diet so I guess it must be time to write my cruise review!
A bit about me: I'm a divorced mom of 2 grown sons, road warrior by profession, who just loves to travel even on my vacations. I've done a number of cruises with my family but this was my second-ever solo cruise, and my second-ever transatlantic. My first solo cruise was a westbound transatlantic last fall on the Constellation. I'm pretty boring on my cruises--I like to rest, eat good food and drink good coffee, read, relax on my balcony, and listen to interesting speakers and good music while on the ship. Celebrity allows me to do all of these things in great comfort and style. Also, I'm a cheapskate--hence my forum name--and I HATE paying any more than absolutely necessary for anything.
Since I live in Florida now and only need a 1-way flight for a transatlantic cruise, I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out the best transport options to and from the cruise. I ended up driving to a nearby airport, parking in long-term parking and then renting a car and driving to Ft. Lauderdale in it. I chose a rental company that had a free shuttle to the port, and one-way rentals don't have an extra drop-off fee in Florida like they do in most places. Then I flew back to my local airport from London at the end of the trip. For what I spent on the parking and the car rental, I could have probably spent a night at a hotel in Ft. Lauderdale that offered free cruise parking and a free shuttle to the port...but then I would have had to make the 4 hour drive home from Ft. Lauderdale after my flight instead of the 1 hour 20 minute drive home from my nearby airport. So I think I made the right choice and would do that again given the flight arrival timing.
I left home on that Saturday morning at about 8:30 and arrived at the ship at about 1:30. The check-in line was very short and I was on the ship within about 15 minutes of entering the terminal. A painless check-in experience!
I had booked a concierge class room on a great weekend sale--wanted the extra cruise point that came with it to push me into elite status with Captain's Club. While I like the expanded room service menu and the balcony footrest on the S-class cabins, I would not normally pay a whole lot extra for them...so in future I'll probably book a regular balcony unless the price is almost the same. I watched the open cabins in my class like a hawk prior to the cruise and was rewarded by noticing one of the extra-large balcony cabins (1075)come open and moving my reservation to that cabin. (Worth mentioning that I did not have the 1-2-3 deal that many onboard had, but since I am not much of a drinker and since I'm sailing solo it would definitely not have been wise for me to pay the higher fare it would cost in order to get the 1-2-3 deal.)
I certainly didn't need the giant balcony but it felt so luxurious to have it! The location was also great, right near the elevators but noise was not a problem at all. Cabins above and below. The only downside (and it was minor) was not being able to see out to the front of the ship unless I leaned way over the edge of the railing, since I was on the back of the front "hump."
After checking out my cabin and meeting my businesslike but efficient housekeeper and her assistant, I headed up to the Aqua Spa Cafe to get something to eat--I didn't want to eat a heavy lunch that late in the afternoon, so the options at the Aqua Spa Cafe were just right. I had no problem finding a seat in the solarium. I spent some time wandering around outside--it was a gorgeous day--then headed back to my room to put my wine and Diet Mtn. Dew (that I brought onboard with me) in the fridge and enjoy my extra-large balcony while reading Celebrity Today and planning my evening. (I brought 2 bottles of wine onboard and that was the only alcohol I drank on the cruise except one glass of wine for the captain's toast at the theater--didn't even touch the free bubbly that was in my cabin.)
That night I went to the dining room (I had Select dining) a couple times and the line looked pretty long both times, so after checking out the menu and deciding there was nothing I couldn't miss I ate in the Oceanview. I ended up having dinner in the Oceanview about half the evenings, and one night I went to Bistro on Five, just because I didn't feel like getting dressed up and making conversation with others! Yes, I'm quite the introvert! When I did go the MDR I enjoyed meeting my tablemates and I didn't have an unpleasant experience with anyone there. The food and service were just fine every time as well. It really was just my introversion that kept me away!
I had lunch in the MDR once (requested a table to myself and read my Kindle during lunch that day) and it was also good. I never did get to the MDR for breakfast on this cruise--on vacation I'm just not an early bird unless I have to be up for a tour!
I ordered room service for breakfast 3 times, and while it was always on time, 2 of the 3 times they forgot one of the items in my order. That isn't something I've experienced before, so I probably was just unlucky this time. Knowing how hard the housekeeping staff works I didn't complain or request that they bring the item--it isn't as if I was starving at all! And breakfast on my giant balcony was a great experience even without my eggs, or without my smoothie.
The service at Bistro on Five was very attentive--there were only a couple other tables in use at the restaurant while I was there--and the food was well-prepared but I didn't find it that special. I may have just been jaded by that point in the cruise after so many days of eating so well!
Dinner at the Oceanview, as many have noted, has far fewer options than breakfast or lunch, but I could always find plenty that was appealing at any meal. I especially loved the bread puddings they had at lunch time and I enjoyed ice cream almost every day. I ate so well and so much that by the end of the cruise the only comfortable pants I had were my stretchy knit ones!
The last few days of the cruise, after I'd run out of the Diet Mountain Dew I brought, I purchased the premium non-alcoholic package. I really enjoyed having multiple nonfat double lattes every day, a nonfat mocha in the morning with some pastries, and a bottle of San Pellegrino at night after a virgin pina colada. I do think I got my money's worth there, and the Cafe al Bacio coffee drinks are far better than the "free" coffee, but if I have the package for the whole cruise (which I did on my previous cruise) I just have too many calories' worth of drinks each day! So in future I'll likely do what I did on this cruise and just purchase it for the last few days of the cruise if at all.
I enjoyed the show in the theater most nights--some more than others of course. I also appreciated all of the different musical options around the ship in the evenings (and often during the day too, since we had so many sea days.) This was my 2nd cruise with Perry Grant onboard, and while I attended his main theater show and one of his Sky Lounge performances, he's just not my thing. I enjoyed what I saw, but I'm afraid I'll never be one of the Perry groupies who were so numerous on both my recent cruises. Obviously he has a large and passionate fan base among Celebrity cruisers though! Sue, the CD, was on my last cruise as well and I do think she does a great job.
I really enjoyed a lot of the speakers' presentations as well. I wish I had attended the painting classes--they sounded really interesting but I just never got there. I also, somehow, never made it to one of the hot glass shows although I was hooked on those during my last S-class cruise. I also didn't make it to the Captain's Club Select events I'd signed up for--I actually went up for the cocktail party but when the elevator door opened and I saw the crowd, I changed my mind! Not worth waiting through that throng just for a free drink and a handshake with an officer! (I wanted to mention that I appreciated having the speakers' presentations available on the TV so I could watch the ones I had missed--great idea!)
Not too many details worth sharing about my trip. I just relaxed. Spent a bunch of time sitting on my balcony staring at the waves, a bunch of time reading or watching CNN (the Boston bombing happened while I was on the cruise and I got hooked on that coverage,) a whole bunch of time eating, got a lot of sleep. Listened to a bunch of speakers expound on various topics like the history of humanity's relationship with dogs, piracy, the lives of various classical composers, the early years of the Beatles from the point of view of a British photographer who spent lots of time with them, etc. Watched the different evening shows and some of the other music around the ship. Didn't go in the pools at all, and went in a hot tub only once.
I did miss the fabulous t-pool that the Connie has, but overall I like the S-Class ships better. Newer, a little fancier, and more options.
At the ports, I didn't even get off the ship in San Juan (wasn't feeling too great that day) and in the other two ports I just walked around and window-shopped.
So there you go! That's my vacation. Met some interesting people at dinner but mostly stayed on my own.
I had decided to spend a couple days in London after the cruise. I took a cab to the National Express depot, then waited for 2 hours for my bus (I was worried about how long disembarkation might take, but it went VERY fast since the customs official was onboard and did all the passport stuff on a sea day.) I had group 2 for disembarkation and there was NO line for the taxis and the luggage area was not crowded at all either. The bus was comfortable and by far the least expensive way to get to London from Southampton, but dragging my 2 suitcases, rolling laptop bag and purse through the London Underground and the streets of London to get to my hotel was AWFUL! Luckily there were some kind passers-by who helped me by carrying some of my bags up or down staircases for me. I don't know how people in wheelchairs or on crutches could navigate the Underground at all. (This was completely my fault and I have learned my lesson--next time I do this I will pack a lot less! I didn't wear a lot of the clothes I brought on the cruise anyhow!) In London I went to the British Museum on Friday and saw the special exhibition on Pompeii and Herculaneum... and then went to the V&A Museum on Saturday and wandered through all the Medieval and Renaissance galleries. I was going to do a London Walk on Saturday evening but my muscles told me to stay at my hotel, so I watched tv and surfed the net instead. I'm that boring! :)
My conclusion is that my future transatlantics will include ports on the other side of the Atlantic rather than on this side--they just interest me a lot more! I liked getting to England and being able to have a couple of non-jetlagged days there, but if I do that again I'll pack a lot lighter. And I should really think about shorter cruises so I don't gain quite so much weight per cruise! In general I think making the trip from east to west is better because you get a bunch of 25-hour days instead of a bunch of 23-hour days! Plus you get the nasty long flight out of the way at the start of the trip instead of having it at the end.
I'm very happy with Celebrity's "product" and will definitely sail with them as often as possible in future. The Eclipse, like her sisters, is just lovely and classy and very well-designed. I had a wonderful cruise.