Embarkation was extremely smooth. As I have osteoarthritis I was directed to a designated help area and I was then helped to the ship - all documentation swiftly and competently dealt with. I was told that this sailing had the most number of wheelchair/mobility aid customers they had had. The help was kindly and considerately offered.
We were greeted on board with a selection of welcome drinks. It was good to be on board for just after 11 am (We had this year stayed in Southampton overnight - the Ibis budget hotel which was perfectly acceptable for the one night - the Boat Show was on so hotel prices had gone up accordingly) We had plenty of time to explore the ship and nowhere got too pressured. The staterooms were ready just after 1pm and ours was lovely.
Overall comments would be - the staff on this ship were excellent. I walk with crutches and the staff in the Oceanview would rush to assist me! I was always approached and asked did I need help. I was brought cups of tea - cutlery if I had forgotten it and nothing was too much trouble I attempted to try and give one waiter a small gratuity which was graciously refused ! I would also mention the staff in the ladies' restrooms - they too on seeing me enter would rush to open doors for me and to offer to help! This flies in the face of other comments I had seen from someone complaining that there was a lack of staff in the buffet area and no one willing to help. This was certainly not so for me. I wish the same could always be said for fellow passengers. I remained speechless at one chap as I was walking on the outside deck on 14. My crutches are not invisible, neither is my walking difficulty and yet he walked right up to me from a good distance away and forced me to swerve from where I was walking causing me quite some pain. Now I am NOT a complainer - I won't succumb to mobility scooter mind set and I am quite independent but his action staggered me as it had no rhyme or reason to it. There was plenty of room and time for him to deviate his pathway slightly. I had to do that enough times to dodge the sun loungers dragged onto the jogging trackway to keep their occupants bodies in the sun! I mention it because I was angry with myself at the time for not pointing out his plain rudeness and unacceptable behaviour. This brings me to my only gripe about the cruise - and this is not Celebrity's fault - but for me there were far too many British people on this cruise with a predominance of people from the southern end too. There was a focus from too many on getting sunbeds on the deck and keeping them for as long as possible. I didn't let it affect my enjoyment of the holiday - I just went elsewhere but if you are an occasional sun worshipper - be warned; there were too many sunbed hoggers. There were very few other nationalities on board and this was disappointing.
The stateroom 8181 was great. There was plenty of room - storage and room around the bed thanks to the curved end of bed design. We were very comfortable in there. Nice balcony - good visibility all around. the room was kept extremely clean and orderly by our very nice room steward Sidney and his assistant. they too could not do enough to assist me. It was appreciated.
The food on the ship was excellent. The Moonllght Sonata restaurant produced tasty meal after meal. We were never disappointed. We did not use the specialty restaurants so cannot comment. I would probably choose select dining on a future cruise as it was sometimes rushed to get to the 6pm sitting and sometimes we avoided it and ate at the Oceanview. Friends of ours had chosen select dining and they were pleased with it. Whoever "puts" together the dinner companions on the sittings deserves a prize though as we had wonderful dinner companions. The mix of ages and geographic location worked really really well and we enjoyed every dinner with our table companions.
The buffet food was fine - for me it was a bit of a struggle at times to -after a tiring day- walk all round it all to choose - but that is my problem and not a reflection on Celebrity. My OH loved the Italian food selection and would have lived on the meatballs if I had allowed it! He was however amazingly tempted by the salads to eat salad! The Italian dressing provided did a lot to help with that too! The carvery beef was always tempting when on the menu:)
The brunch served towards the end of the cruise was lovely and wasn't the "free for all" previously written about on the forum comments. The display was a credit to the chefs and kitchen staff. I got many good photos.
The public areas of the ship are interesting and kept immaculately. On this cruise the officers were very much more in evidence than my previous cruise on the Constellation. The activities were plentiful and many I just didn't manage to get to. (I did intend to get to the hot glass show but sadly didn't make it. with so much on offer it was difficult to fit everything in ) I didn't access the outdoor pools or tubs because of the previously mentioned popularity but I swam on quite a few occasions in the indoor pool which was fine. It was closed the first day in the Bay of Biscay but open on the 2nd when the water was a little.... lively. So much so that one lady thought the pool had a wave machine! I had to tell her that it in fact didn't and it was just the action of the ship led to an interesting and lively swim though. One elderly gentleman wasn't comfortable though and 2 of us ladies helped him out. I - who used to be a very very sea sick sailor wasn't troubled at all. though I do feel that the Eclipse seemed to move more than the Connie. I can recommend the wearing of wrist band anti seasick remedy for a couple of days and I also had crystalised ginger with me. they worked ! Our cabin was in the forward section but I wasn't troubled. Liked the Cafe al Baccio for coffee though at busy times one could wait to be served. Service for drinks over the ship was fine and having a classic drinks package didn't seem to affect waiter attention at all. Drinks were always served efficiently. I er might avoid Bloody Mary's in future though as my experiment re that saw me gulp rather.... the Tabasco got me. I did get a taste for Rusty Nails though even after a first time gasp with one ! On the whole I stuck with whisky and diet Sprite - how good to be able to get diet lemonade.The Shiraz wine on the package was fine too.
The activities teams led the action well enough. The young, tall!! (6' 7" - yes I guessed his height wrongly in the tiebreaker question !) American guy was probably the best entertainer; smart guy who knew his stuff - came across as genuine too.
Malaga - a pleasant surprise. Took the HOHO bus eventually.... our mistake was jumping on the little tourist train by the port as it dropped us off where we weren't too sure where to find the hoho bus stop. Stupid of me as I had already spotted the stop a 100+ metres away from our docking spot and had directed someone else to it! Malaga was lovely- a gloriously hot day too. Well worth a return visit.
Villefranche - I love it here! The tendering off was well done really as it is quite a feat to get everyone off who wished to be off 30 mins before ! We tried not to rush off and it worked well staff were always in evidence to hep guests, Ice cold flannels and drinks awaiting hot and tired visitors on their return to the ship is a very welcome part! Well done to the staff as that must be a horrid job standing around in the heat!
Villefranche...i was undecided as to whether to catch a train to Nice or Monaco but in the end I stayed put. used the free cafe Internet to catch up with email. We looked around the little market stalls. One American guest did tell me of some dreadful rudeness from a French stall holder - which was a less than nice experience for her. I speak French so find that the French greet me well. We ate very well at a sea front restaurant :) I then went to the beach and swam in the sea! Brilliant.
Rome - we took the official Celeb tour. Guide was very good, though 55 mins at St Peter's wasn't long enough and I would have liked at least double that. I did come across a fellow ship passenger on a different tour and spoke with her to be greeted by her moaning that her 3 hour's time there was too much! l I asked had she been into St Peter's - NO! Words failed me and I left her to her pouting. Unbelievable!
Livorno. We had booked an easy tour of Pisa. It involved coach to a nature reserve, then river cruise on the Arno, then tourist train ride to the centre. Yet again for us... it poured down and I mean poured! Torrential rain hit the area. I alas didn't get out of the restaurant/stop meeting point so no pics of the tower for me ! Ah well... we will simply have to try for a 3rd time. The guide worked well and his humour helped the day along.
Genoa - This was the surprise and I loved it there. The architecture was lovely. We went on our own and just took a taxi from the port to the centre. Our taxi driver was French speaking so that was a bonus and he gave us lots of info on the short drive. The cathedral is simply lovely. Well worth a return visit.
Gibraltar. I have been quite a few times so only aimed to do a bit of duty free shopping. At the dock there were minibuses waiting looking for parties of 6 to do private tours. We hadn't planned on doing that but that would have been an easy organise. Queues for the shuttle taxis (5 euros return) were long and if I didn't have my walking probs I would have walked the easy, flat distance to the shopping area. It was however a very hot day so we queued. The prices in the shops were good!
Lisbon - Again a treat. It was far larger than I had been expecting. We took a private taxi around the upper areas in the morning. The queues for the HOHO buses were impossible and one of their drivers told people that it would be a 4 hour wait as there were cruise ships in the city! I think Lisbon bus companies would do better to do some forward planning. They must have lost a great deal of revenue that day! revenue I would probably guess they cannot afford to lose ! If people intend to use this service they would be advised to research the bus stops and to walk to the first stop ahead of the cruise ship quays and get on before the queues! We did a Celeb tour in the afternoon and that was lovely. We saw the main sites on the sides of the river and it complimented the morning's site seeing.
I would like to compliment the cruise shore excursion staff. The organisation for people taking the tours was efficient and effective and as a a former teacher taking school trips - I appreciate such organisation.
The evening shows were very good. Cruise Director Sue Denning brings an energy and good attitude to her job She was very much in evidence everywhere around that ship! She was helpful and pleasant. My OH loved the Chinese magician who was visible around the ship and very friendly; very pleasant young man. The Circe du Soleil type show was very good. We only went to one show on the Connie as it isn't really my kind of entertainment but this ship had good variety of entertainment. The classical trio who I saw perform in Cellar Masters were very good and the Violinist in the main theatre performed a good range of "please everyone repertoire". The comedian was also very good.... quick thinking and with good repartee with the audience. We also went to see Perry Grant. Like him very much and he was in evidence around the ship and... AND took the time to speak to guests and to make his obvious fans feel special. That impressed me...even if I do fall far from expectations...my recently acquired granite fireplace just didn't hack it as I still do not have granite work surfaces in my kitchen. I will have to attend to this oversight.
I am impressed with Celebrity. It is a slick well planned operation with great facilities. I am not as yet tempted by other cruise lines as yet. Though I am not sure what to try next. I like the idea of the sail from a home port but do not wish to be "trapped" with too many of my fellow countrymen. It was a great shame there wasn't more balance of people on this cruise. The children on the cruise were well supervised and not obtrusive.
Disembarkation was very smooth. Had a breakfast and then waited to be called for a 8 45 leave of the ship. Found the cases easily and straight out of the terminal onto a taxi and to the station.