As first time cruisers we were totally open minded about what to expect from this cruise, it was the best holiday we've ever had.
Embarkation was an easy process, the pre-booked quay side disabled parking was yards from the ship and the luggage drop off efficient and easy. There were many personnel on hand to smooth things out, as I was in my wheelchair we didn't have to join the line, so I dont know how it felt for the rest of the passengers, but we didn't hear any complaints. As we had followed all the 'what to do' info in our Celebrity documents there were no check in problems, and we got on board to be greeted by smiling crew and complimentary drinks, champagne flute in hand we became cruise passengers! The staterooms were not yet ready so we mingled with our fellow passengers and took our first look around Eclipse, it was clean, opulent and very glamourous, marble floors, thick carpet and mirrors and lights everywhere. Finding our way up to the Oceanview Cafe we enjoyed our first meal on the ship. Oceanview is the cafeteria for casual dinning and its open 24/7 for tea (at least 8-10 types, including fruit, herbal and traditional black blends), coffee, regular and decaff, and cold juices, water and ice from self service stations, from 7.30 am till past midnight food is available in a bewildering array from the various service stations all served by smiling, helpful staff. I could go into great detail about every meal, but I cant type for that long! Suffice to say its all good and I loved the puddings and afternoon tea 3.30pm to 4.30 pm, the scones are fantastic my only nit pick? Its difficult to find a cold plate to put your whipped cream on when you get a cream tea. Staff constantly bring out ultra clean plates from the dishwashers which run at very high temperatures for hygiene reasons, the many types of food available seemed to more than satisfy every palate and national favorites were available for all passengers. The Oceanview is just that a great viewing place, panoramic floor to ceiling windows on all sides and access to a large out door deck at the back, comfy seating and tables of many types are on every side with dividing walls and partitions to break the space up, it does get hard to find a seat at the peak serving times, but we always managed it as long as we were not fussy about exactly were to sit, the prime window seats usually went first! There are 3,000 passengers but it was hard to remember that as there were always so many options available for eating.
Our cabin was easy to find, there are plans of the ship and helpful signs by all lifts and in corridors, it was exactly like the pictures in the brochure and on line, an Ocean view stateroom with a large window, dressing table/desk with tea and coffee making kit and kettle, a very useful hairdryer was in one drawer. Only 4 sockets in a row, though so I was very glad I had taken note of cruise critic members and taken an extension lead with a multi socket panel for all our chargers, the sockets were US and European so we also needed our UK to other adapter, the extension panel lived on our windowsill which made a great shelf for charging phones, camera and I-pad.
The sofa was long enough for 3 with cushions and the coffee table large but not too big for the space. With a very capacious wardrobe, drawers and over bed cupboards I had no trouble stowing all our clothes and bits and bobs, in fact we didn't even use most of the many shelves and cupboards in the bathroom as I preferred to sit while putting on my make-up. The shower cubicle was large and the whole cabin was very, very clean all the time. Our attendants Jenny and Paratabansingh were incredibly sweet, helpful and hardworking. Requests for more hangers and extra pillow were smilingly fulfilled within minutes and we lacked for nothing. I took one of those hanging mini clothes dryers, and it hung on the shower enclosure or from the curtain rail and was great for drying bits and pieces, I washed out undies and so on every night and had no problems with drying them, we didn't need to use the ships laundry or ironing services as we took lots of outfits, all emerged from packing wrinkle free, once an outfit was finished with I used our suitcases stowed under the comfy large bed as a laundry basket. We sleep in a Superkingsize bed at home and didn't feel cramped by the smaller Queen-size, also I have fibromyalgia which makes sleeping difficult unless I can be properly supported and I slept really well. We were within yards of the Passport Bar and main foyer were lots went on all the time with a band every night but our cabin was a haven of peace, no noise ever intruded on our sleep. In fact apart from the occasional knock or opening of next doors cabin door which we noticed when we were awake, the loudest noise in our cabin was the air conditioning which hummed very quietly, we kept it on all the time in the Med and our cabin was deliciously cool and comfortable. The stateroom flat panel TV media centre was bigger than our TV at home and easy to use. We liked the navigation channel and the news services.
Although breakfast was available in the Oceanview, as room-service, or in the Aqua-spa cafe I preferred to have it in the Moonlight Sonata, the main dining room, were the service was wonderful, just ambling across the foyer to find a smiling group of waiters who would greet me joyfully and show me to a spotless white table was such a pleasure compared with getting breakfast for myself. A large glass of iced water would be pored for me, a smiling waiter would offer me the menu, another would proffer orange juice, then another would ask Tea or Coffee Madam? Followed by the lovely smiling girls with the mouthwatering trays of Danish, Croissants , etc. Not good for the waistline but all utterly delicious and freshly baked on board during the night. You could have almost anything you could possibly ask for in the way of breakfast foods all smilingly served and refills of coffee or tea, the waiting staff were very attentive but never annoyingly so. Vladimir,r the maitre'D was always around, smiling, helpful and willing to do any little thing that was necessary. Lunch in the Moonlight was also always a treat and the evening dinner was superb, as a Vegetarian I can honestly say I've never had such great food, a special menu was offered to me nearly every night and it was nice to see a list of dishes that were all available to me rather than the usual menu were most of the dishes were not! My omnivorous husband also loved the food, always lots of options plus sides and stunningly well presented on the plates. We selected the Select Dinning, option and strolled up at a different time nearly every night, we were more than happy to share a table most nights but on a couple of occasions we asked for just a couples table and we never had to wait more than a couple of minutes.
Service and food were always excellent and when anything different was asked for it was always supplied with smiles. I really miss all that wonderful attention! Being made to feel so welcome and important by all the crew and staff helped to make our cruise a really special holiday. We were offered hand cleaning gel before entering all food areas and in other places so it soon became second nature to do it, we were in good health for the whole cruise. The help yourself Whippy ice-cream by the pools and the multiple flavours of sorbet and ice-cream available in the Oceanview were delicious, also the Mast Grill serving burgers hot dogs and fries were very nice options for those hot sunny sea days.
Apart from the stunningly tasty food there were many, many activities available on sea days and in ports of call, I dont think it would be possible to take part in all of them if you went on 10 cruises, every taste was catered for, Hi-de-Hi style organised antics, cerebral lectures, fitness, entertainment of many different types and multiple places to sit and relax or be educated, amused and fascinated, swimming, sunbathing,reading,dancing or people watching not to mention enjoying watching the world go by as we steamed steadily across the waves it was all possible in the greatest possible comfort and luxury and apart from Bistro on Five always being full, I never failed to find a seat or lounger.
Among our personal highlights were the Theatre Shows, always a different one on each night with two performances, the Chinese magician and acrobat was the best out of an amazingly good bunch that we saw. We also loved the musicals tribute, the comedian and Lindsey the singer but they were all very good and the waiting staff were good too, one lady became 'our' waitress and that made us feel special. There were also intimate venues for other performers, and special themed parties. We had a really great time at all the entertainments and activities we went to.
The bars are numerous and cater to different tastes, the staff were always polite attentive and eager to please, but the prices are on the expensive side, many passengers had either bought or been offered as part of a booking deal some form of drinks package, we weren't sure if we would actually drink enough to make it worth while, so didn't buy one, we will probably be doing so next time we cruise and yes, we definitely want to cruise again its just such a stunning experience.
Arriving and departing from Ports of call was usually exciting and well worth being on deck or by a window for, especially Lisbon, going under the bridge was fun. Spotting other cruise ships and pointing out sights of interest,as well as looking for birds, fish or dolphins , is not to be missed. Some of my fellow passengers saw quite large groups of dolphins and even a whale, sadly I was not looking at the sea for those encounters though I did see one dolphin very briefly, and lots of jellyfish and sea gulls.
The process of getting off and on again for shore excursions was always very well handled, lots of smiling staff to help with my wheelchair when we used it and always every time a 'have a nice time' and 'welcome back' salutation from everyone. We never had any problems, but dont try to smuggle booze on board they search or x-ray every thing and every body, but very nicely and politely. Any alcohol purchased as duty frees was returned on the last night. We did think the items in the ships stores were very pricey but there were some things it was worth buying or that were exclusive to Celebrity. I looked at the 'art' in the auctions and thought it was all hideous and tacky and the salesman at the auctions very good at persuading people to bid! Likewise we avoided gambling in the casino as a waste of time and money, but others seemed to enjoy it and it was very plush and looked like a bit of Las Vegas. The shops and cafes were all very nice to look at and everything, every were was spotlessly clean and in great Repair, we saw one banquette seat in the Oceanview that was worn and that was it for faults, it was repaired the next time I looked for it. There were staff in all areas at all times quietly going about their duties, smiling and happy to help a passenger or stop for a chat or to pose with or take a picture for guests. We never felt crowded or intruded upon though, just cherished and looked after.
We did our own thing in the ports as the ships excursions were not suitable for my mobility needs and we thought they were expensive and crammed in more than my husband wanted to deal with on a relaxing holiday. People we spoke to who did use them all said they found them very good and well organised. The cold drinks and towels offered to returning passengers dockside were very welcome and on the only wet day were replaced by hot chocolate and dry towels on board the ship, again very welcome and all part of the wonderful service. The ships own photographers were always around for portraits and we bought the ones we posed for on the first formal night as we were very pleased with how we looked in that one, we posed for others but didn't like them sufficiently to buy them and I felt under no pressure to do so. Dont miss visiting the Brunch buffet that will be served on one day of the cruise even if its just to look at it! the ice sculptures and cakes, food items etc available for that make it a true gala occasion.
The process of getting of the ship was well organised as long as you read the instructions, we did and found it painless, and on that last day as we waited in the Bistro waiting for our number to be called I finally had a seat in the cafe area and indulged in a cappuccino. We were using my wheelchair for disembarkation and a member of the ships crew pushed me as far as the baggage area were a porter was summoned and took charge of our bags, wheeling them all the way back to our car.
We loved every minute of our cruise and cant wait to go again, all our fellow passengers we spoke to were friendly and the staff wonderful.