This is my first ever review on Cruise Critic, and I hope haven't done too bad a job!
We are a British couple in our 40's, pretty laid back and not ones to party, party, party. This was our second cruise on Celebrity, having first sampled the line with A Mediterranean cruise in 2012 on the Silhouette. We wer eso impressed that we decided to sail with them again this year, and the Iceland and Norway August 14 night sailing out of Southampton was just what we were looking for.
Overall, we had a very enjoyable holiday experience, which is not to say that we did not encounter some aspects that were below our expectations. They were not enough to spoil the cruise, but things could have been a bit better in some areas, which I will describe later on.
To start at the beginning, though, embarkation was smooth and quick. We arrived at the port at about 1300, which meant there was only a very small queue and I would say we were on board in about twenty minutes.
We were familiar with the layout of the ship from our previous cruise on her sister ship, but we noticed a few differences in the amenities and the decoration. Michael's Club is vastly different, for instance, and the Sunset Bar seemed a little smaller than the Silhouette, but this is more than offset by the extra grass areas, which were well used on the warmer days.
When cruising in cooler climates such as northern Europe we opt for an inside cabin. We thought Celebrity's inside staterooms are the best ones we have had. As spacious as P&O, but with the brilliant Celebrity bathrooms and the fantastic interactive 32 inch flat screen TV. Although some find the storage inadequate, we always use the cupboard over the bed and always manage to put everything away somewhere with the minimum of fuss. Location wise, we found ourselves in a very quiet spot on deck 7 near to the forward elevators that could take us up to the Sky Lounge and pool area very quickly. Walking down the stairs would find us at the theatre entrance in a minute or so.
We did our fair share of drinking on board, and took full advantage of the Molecular Bar and the Martini Bar. Service in these bars was first rate, and the range of drinks available could not be faulted. Sadly, service in Cafe al Bacio and the Sky Lounge turned out to be very hit and miss, to say the least. One of the servers in the Sky Lounge, Roxanne I think, was brilliant. Unfortunately the same could not be said for one of her colleagues, who failed to bring my husband his drink on one night. After sitting, without a drink, for half an hour after placing our order, during which time my drink arrived but not his, he decided it would be better to go the bar himself, where the guys were fabulous. The server ignored us from that point on, but the moral of the story is if you want a bottle of Deuchars IPA beer, best to go get it from the bar!
In Cafe al Bacio we encountered several issues with one lady, who seemed to be much slower than her colleagues forgot to bring our Seapass cards back a couple of times, and generally seemed to be quite new and unsure of what she was doing.
While on the subject of the bars, they were often very busy with no seats left at busy times. We thought this was due to the fact that the weather meant that the outside bars were either closed, or when they were open, not very pleasant places to sit because of the lack of warmth. On sea days, it was particularly bad. We thought that many of the indoor bars should have been open earlier given the nature of the climate, but there is little else that could have been done, given the fact that cruise ships are generally optimised for warm weather cruising!
Another aspect that could be improved is the fact that it isn't always clear when the various venues would close. Staff seemed to be clearing away drinks from the bars even though it was not yet the advertised closing time. This doesn't send out a good message! As I said at the start, we don;t want to party all night, but it is nice to have a relaxing and quiet drink to unwind once all the dancing and music have stopped. But it seemed to be difficult to find a venue still open after midnight, and, as a previous reviewer pointe dout, it seemed as though guests were being encouraged to go to bed instead of stay up late!
On a more positive note, food on board was very good indeed. We ate in the Oceanview Cafe, the MDR and Bistro on Five. The portions were much bigger than we remembered on the Silhouette, and side dishes such as steamed vegetables and roasted potatoes were an excellent addition to the MDR menu. Our favourite dishes were the steaks, which we found superb. We also had a very relaxed and enjoyable lunch in the dining room, but the quantity of food knocked us out for the afternoon! We had Select Dining and only once did we have to wait when we wanted a table for two. We were asked to go and have a drink in the Martini Bar and they would come and get us when a table was available. Sure enough, it only took about ten minutes and someone came to escort us to the table. Brilliant!
There was a good range of music on board with something for most tastes. Top Notch, the party band, were a bit amateurish if I am honest, but they won people over with their enthusiasm and energy. Top Notch were a pop trio, and I felt that they were wasted in the Grand Foyer where the usually performed. They were far better in the more intimate environment of the Ensemble Lounge. Best of the bunch were West Side Strings, a violin and cello trio from the Ukraine who also put on a show in the theatre one afternoon - they were just fantastic and were our favourites on this trip.
We also enjoyed the Ray Brown jazz quartet, who were a bit more mellow than we were expecting. We could never get in to Michael's Club for the piano entertainer, and we didn't go to his theatre show, so we won't comment on him. We had seen guitarist Mickey Ilardi on the Silhouette, and he was exactly the same on the Eclipse.
Theatre shows were similarly varied, but heavily biased toward the UK market. From what we saw and heard the majority of other nationalities were a little confused by some of the acts, as they didn't really understand the comedy elements. We thought Bobby Davro and Sam Kane were very good, but the Chinese magician and acrobat Peng Fei was brilliant. The production shows seemed to be well received, but were not really to our taste.
I should mention the Cruise Director at this point. Sue Denning seemed to be everywhere at all times, I don't when she managed to sleep! She was on the quayside at ports first thing in the morning to wish passengers a good day, and stll wandering about the ship at eleven in the evening. I haven't seen a more visible CD for a numbe rof years. She also has a good singing voice and comes as being genuine and sincere. We were both very impressed!
The ports of call were all very interesting, and although we had been to a couple of the Norwegian stops previously, we still found things to do. The fjords were spectacular, the highlight being the sail out of Olden in some brilliant sunshine. Alesund is beautiful, and we also had nice weather in Stavanger. In Norway we did our own thing, while in Iceland and the Faroes we took a couple of ship tours and a couple of independent tours. All were well organised and the commentaries in depth and fascinating. The best tour guide was a gentleman in the Faroes, who was quite a character! We learnt so much about the way of life in a place we had never really thought much about - but his personality and knowledge made us want to go back in the future and explore the islands further.
All in all, we had a great time, which was not spoiled for one minute by the occasional service problems in two of the venues. Everyone else we encountered was fantastic, and it would be unfair to criticise too much when it was only a couple of individuals who were not up to the usual Celebrity standards.
If anyone is considering a similar itinerary in the future, we thoroughly recommend the line, the ship and the ports. The only thing that could have been better was the weather. Even then we had some sunny and warm days, and you can't really expect Caribbean weather near the Arctic, can you?!