My partner and myself (both in our sixties) travelled on the Celebrity Eclipse Western Mediterranean cruise from 11 May, 2013, to 25 May, 2013.
We travelled from Grimsby on an Intercruise coach hired from Coopers, which was ancient, and quite uncomfortable, and the journey (via Hull!) was long and tedious. It is convenient from the point of view of not having to worry about handling luggage from the time it is put on the coach to arriving at your stateroom, but most of Coopers’ coaches should have been pensioned off long ago, or at least confined to local travel.
We arrived at about 1.00am and were well received, and were soon settled in our stateroom. We had opted for an inside stateroom on the basis that we would not be spending much time in it, and it was quite a bit cheaper than the next category. On reflection, although it was comfortable and roomy, we probably would not do that again, , because the lack of a window does have drawbacks, apart from not having a view eg not knowing what the weather is like, or whether it is dark or light outside. Minor irritations at first, but over a fortnight they do perhaps assume growing importance.
The first thing to say about the ship is that it looks stunning – very modern and with interesting artworks throughout. The wine tower in the Moonlight Sonata dining room is a very impressive functional work of art.
However, we soon grew to dislike the glass sided lifts, and open central core of the ship, which had some form of music playing most of the time which carried around several floors and lounges, making it impossible to sit quietly around that area. I do not care for jazz which was played frequently by one of the resident groups, and found it very annoying.
Almost without exception the staff are helpful, friendly and hardworking. I would exclude the staff in the Café Bacio from this praise however, as the ones we encountered were patronizing and unhelpful.
We did not eat in the speciality restaurants, as there is plenty of choice on offer without doing so, although I did not think the food served in the Moonlight Sonata was as good as the equivalent on the Celebrity Constellation. It was sometimes very salty for my palate, and there were never enough vegetables (which we remedied by asking for extra after a few days, and they were always provided). The beef and lamb did not have much flavour, and on one evening, we both sent the rib of beef back twice. We had ordered it cooked “medium”, and it came almost raw. Having sent it back once, it was re-delivered the first time in exactly the same state.
One of the best meals we had, however, was lunch in the Moonlight Sonata, which we only used once at lunchtime, and we regret not having used it more often.
We found the Ocean View restaurant could be very busy. We were always able to find seats, but did sometimes have to walk around quite a bit, so our food was rarely hot when we got to eat it.
Trays are not provided (in a self-service restaurant!) so we had to make several trips for food and drink.
During the second week of the cruise, self-service became “assisted service”, due to an outbreak of norovirus. We had experienced this on the Celebrity Constellation last October, but then it was implemented from the outset, and the staffing levels were appropriate to the service. On this cruise, they tried to cope with the same number of staff who had been working on the self service regime, and not surprisingly there were problems, especially when obtaining drinks from the water, tea and coffee stations.
Celebrity need to make their minds up – are they operating a self-service restaurant or one which is “assisted service”, and if it is the latter they need to staff up accordingly. Changing the status of the service part way through the cruise will only cause dissatisfied passengers.
Norovirus will probably never be entirely eradicated from cruise ships, and although Celebrity do have commonsense procedures in place to prevent outbreaks, they do not police/enforce them. They rely on passengers to comply, and there will always be some who are selfishly willing to jeopardize the health of their fellow passengers, rather than inconvenience themselves slightly.
They also need to re-examine some practices. For instance, we were surprised that bread rolls were initially served in the Moonlight Sonata in a basket, which was left on the table for diners to select their preferred roll, whilst handling the ones they did not want, and so risking the spread of germs. This was stopped after the outbreak of norovirus, but by then the horse had bolted.
Most of the facilities on the ship are excellent. I sometimes had to wait for equipment in the gym on sea days when the weather was cloudy, but it is well-equipped, and I soon learned to pick the quieter times. We did not see the point of the gimmicky grass deck which could be better utilized by providing a reasonable sized swimming pool, as the existing pools are too small to swim in.
The itinerary was generally good, although the four consecutive “shore” days, which included Florence and Rome, were a bit tiring, and taking us to Rome on the day before Pentecost, when the Vatican was besieged by pilgrims as well as the usual tourists was not good planning.
We would definitely recommend taking the private train to Rome to any passengers who do not want a guided tour. It was a pleasant experience, although the space between seats was a bit cramped and you get to know the person facing you quite well by the time you arrive!
Apart from the opportunity to buy duty free goods the stop at Gibraltar could have been replaced by something a bit more interesting, and the need to get ashore on lighters at Villefranche meant that time there was very short. Unless you are taking one of the tours I would not even bother going ashore at Sayne sur Mer – there is absolutely nothing of interest there.
A tip for anyone taking one of the hop on hop off bus tours at Lisbon – if you want to see everything on the route, do not get off until you have completed the circuit of the city. The buses only run every hour and to complete the circuit takes about two hours, so if you get off you only have time to get another bus back to the ship, so miss seeing a lot of the city.
We did not see all the shows, but those we did see were good. We particularly enjoyed Bernie Flint (winner of Opportunity Knocks in the 1970s) who is a very good singer and guitarist as well as a very funny man, and Jeff Stevenson, who is a very funny comedian who feeds off his audience. Neither of them are “blue” or use bad language as part of their acts, and having had coffee with them in the Aqua Spa café we can also say that they are both very good company, and are as entertaining in private as they are in public.
We had seen Sue Denney, the Cruise Director on our cruise on the Constellation, and she really puts herself about in the best possible way. She seems to be everywhere, and on the last night she performed in the evening show, and is a good entertainer.
Disembarkation was smooth and very well organized – no problems at all.
We enjoyed the cruise overall, and would cruise with Celebrity again if the itinerary (and price) is right.