We arrived at Southampton on a beautiful sunny day at the start of a heatwave. Little did we know, it wasn't going to last!!
..., but more of that later.
We (my wife Jane and I) drove the 2 hours or so down to Southampton and were expecting to drop our luggage off by the terminal, but they have changed this system and now when you park some guys take your luggage and put it in a van. Seems a bit of a waste of time to me, but there you go.
Check in was quick and painless (photos are now taken at the check in desk) and we were on the ship and straight to our cabin at about 1.30pm.
We were in 8344 on the back end, which is in the column with the bigger balconies, so plenty of room, but effectively no canopy, so a real sun trap if the ship is the right way round.
We had sailaway on the Sunset Bar where a lot of our CC roll call got to know each other (thanks Fran for orginisation, badges etc). Our Meet and Mingle was on the next morning in the Sky lounge ('cos the Brazilians hadn't booked it!...more on them later!) where there was the normal coffee and pastries, a gift raffle and sorting out who owes who for the various trips we had all booked. Quite a crowd. I think Fran said we ended up with 130 on the roll call.
We had been on the Eclipse when she was new (3 years ago) and she still looks as good. Apart from all the stewards looking after the cabins, there were loads of guys around the ship cleaning seemingly 24hrs a day.
We chose Select dining from previous experience...definately the way to go for us. I had booked the first 3 days online, but as that had taken over 90 minutes, decided to do the rest on the ship. Never had a problem with times (usually about 7pm) and never had to wait. Food was a good standard (considering they are doing around 2500 sets of meals a night!) and we had no complaints. On about 3 or 4 occasions we used the Oceanview for our evening meal. Lots of goodies up there, but the big revelation was the steak counter. Every night they have loads of fresh cut steaks (fillets, sirloins, T bones etc), rack of lamb, veal steaks etc which are cooked to order. They were absolutely brilliant. One night I had 2 fillets (about 30 in a pub at home) just because I could!!
I did the usual round of trivias etc and came away with a few prizes. Celeb have changed to the voucher system as used by Princess, so everytime you won you got a ticket and on the last day you went and chose your prizes. Our regular team (Chris, Mal, Yvonne and Paul...oh and me) became very good at coming second (though we won some). Made the mistake on the progressive trivia of not having an American on the team!
As Elites, we were looking forward to the 'cocktail hour', but unfortunately we fell foul of the voucher system. Now this has pros and cons. You can go to most bars, you can take a drink with you into the restaurant, you can take a drink to your room (handy for one couple who had 2 young children with them), but the main 'con' is you miss out on meeting and talking to other people. To be honest, most people met in the Sky lounge anyway...expcept when the Brazilians were in town!
So, the Brazilians. There were about 350 of them on board on some sort of conference. They moved around en masse and in a group would just barge by. Individually, they were great (sat with several in the buffet at various times), but the main thing was most nights they booked the Sky lounge for a private function and thus, no cocktail hour. Of course, the official reason was there were too many Elites on board, but the real reason was the Brazilians! This was borne out, as on the last Thursday Celeb did a 'normal' Elite event in Sky and there was loads of room..unless some had got into the habit of not coming and just didn't turn up. To top it all off, on the last night when everyone was going to meet up for a 'goodbye' drink; the Brazilians had booked the Sky from 7-9pm! I also heard that Elites (who, lets face it, are loyal customers) got the 'not so good' tables in the MDR near the galley doors etc, whilst the Brazilians got all the ones in the centre of the floor. Celeb really needs to decide if they are a cruise line or a conference facility!
So we headed off north in blazing sunshine. By Monday it was fog and on entering Reykjavik harbour it was rain and about 8C. There was a bit of a scrum to get off the ship and a few raised voices, but everyone got off in one piece! We did a Grand Circle tour with GTI tours organised by Lynne on our roll call. Saw Gullfoss waterfall and the geysers etc. A very nice tour. As we docked at 1pm, we didn't get back until 9pm, so up to the Oceanview for a bite. Next morning was a bit miserable, so I stayed on board and did quizzes!
Next port was Akureyri, where it was chucking it down with rain, about 4C and cloudbase was 100feet! We had nothing planned here, so going by my Mums old maxim of "rain before 7, fine before 11" it stopped raining at 12.45pm! Mass exodus to get off the ship. We walked round the town and up to the church, then on to the botanical gardens.
Another sea day and off to Klasvik in the Faroes. This was our only Celeb tour out to Eidi and back. Some stunning scenery.
Another day at sea and into Geiranger. Guess what...its raining! All aboard the tenders to the port. The week after we were there they started using a floating walkway. This is all very well for the one ship that can use it at a time! We walked around in the rain for a bit, then got the pre booked bus trip to Mt Dalsnibba (almost booked out by our roll call). We left Geiranger in the rain and started up the first of 38 rain soaked hairpin bends. Had a stop at a viewpoint to take a picture of the harbour in the rain and started on the final climb to the coach park of Mt Dalsnibba in the rain. When we got there it was just about snowing (honest), and you could see your hand in front of your face in the cloud, but that was about it. However, the rain didn't detract from the scenery!
Next day into Flam...and no rain!! We docked just near the railway station. There was another ship in port that followed us in and tendered. She got her tendering operation into effect before we were cleared, so I fear those who were expecting to run to the station to get train tickets would have been beaten! Of course, the thing to do here is the Flam railway. I organised a group booking for 29 of us on the roll call. All very simple, but I booked the trip and could add extra people up until mid January. After that, everything got block booked by Celebrity, so if you are going, book early if you can. With hindsight, I should have just booked 98 places (1 carriage) as I could have sold tickets on the ship 3 times over. Again stunning scenery. By the time we got to Myrdal at the top of the line there was some light rain. As others have said, there is nothing to see at Myrdal except the station on the Bergen - Oslo line, but there was a nice cup of chocolate from the station cafe! You could also rent a bike for 250NOK if you wanted to free wheel all the way back down. On our return we went round the small railway museum and pondered on having a small (300ml) glass of beer in the brewery, but it worked out at 8 per glass...so we didn't!
So into Stavanger and wonder of wonders..the sun came out and it was actually hot! Again, nothing planned here, so we just walked around and took in the sights. At first I couldn't work out why so many disposal nappies (thats diapers to the Americans!) had been thrown in the harbour. On closer inspection they were jellyfish...loads of them. We knew before we went that Norway is expensive. To give you an idea, at the end of the harbour is a Burger King. In the UK a 'whopper meal' is aroung 5.99. In Stavanger, just the burger was 12! Ate on the ship!
On our arrival at Kristiansand Jane was not at all well. Mainly just feeling yeucch!, so I left her in bed and went out round the city. The City Train (a HOHO little train) calls at the dock when a ship is in and I went on that (10 for the day). They were having a big festival, so we couldn't go down to the beach area and where the drop off is in the city, a large stage was being built. I got off and had a wander . I went in the church and being an ex engineer was intrigued by the fact that although all the externals were stone, everything inside is timber; columns, arches, the lot. Currently the inside is a bit of a building site as a new organ is being installed, but everything is still in timber so the smell is wonderful. I was going to walk back to the ship, but saw both 'trains' were at the pick up so hopped on the 2nd one...only to find the 1st one had broken down. We all had to make sure we didn't look too smug as our full train passed the 1st full train...some people didn't look happy!
So off across the North Sea for a sea day where the pool deck was actually crowded as it was such a nice day. Arrived back in Southampton and got off the ship at about 9am, so home by 11.30am.
OK, the weather could have been better, but in that part of the world you take your chances. It didn't detract from the scenery and any cruise is a good cruise...except for the Brazilians! Celeb really must decide if they are a cruise line or a conference facility!
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