Prior to this cruise we had not sailed with Celebrity, but had spent quite a long time on various P & O voyages, mostly on Oriana, but also on Artemis. I am a part-time scooter user as a result of over 35 years of rheumatoid arthritis and cruising is a good way to overcome this difficulty. P&O have banned scooters from ordinary cabins, so we looked for another line to travel with. Celebrity Eclipse was the answer and a pretty good one at that. Better than my P&O experiences in a number of ways. We took a late offer on a Concierge Balcony cabin which offered certain privileges.
We travelled to Southampton in our own car and parked with Cruise Parking for 14 nights. Our luggage was loaded on to a minibus by their staff and thus transported to the passenger terminal where it was taken by a porter and loaded on to the ship. On return we were met by Cruise Parking staff and transported back to our car in the same fashion.
Embarkation at Southampton was easy, and not too lengthy. There was a special desk for disabled people, and then a series of long ramps to get aboard, which was OK for me on a portable scooter, but not good for my wife with two replacement hips and a dodgy knee (no scooter). This is a big ship, so there was a good deal more walking to get to the cabin (1122) on deck 10. The lifts are, however, very good indeed with plenty of room in each for a wheelchair and scooter as well as several standing passengers.
The stateroom I would rate as a step up on an ocean view cabin on the Oriana and it was both more easily accessible, and spacious. Our twin beds were firm and comfortable, the heating could be controlled adequately and the scooter stowed in one piece without difficulty. There was adequate wardrobe, cupboard and drawer space, as well as a settee which would double as a third bed. The electric outlets are US sockets, so those who go on board without a European adapter will need to buy or borrow one from customer services($50 deposit). Our steward was excellent and we were delighted by the free room service for food. This proved a boon because we are both pretty stiff in the early morning and were thus able to have breakfast in our stateroom.
Food on the whole was good (not outstanding), especially the meat in the main restaurant (Moonlight Sonata), though there was noticeable repetition of items on the dinner menu We felt this was an interesting way to encourage some passengers to use the various specialist restaurants aboard, for which they would have to pay extra. As part of the cruise deal we had a free Classic Beverages package which entitled us to more than enough free drinks, alcoholic and otherwise. Some speciality coffees are included, so one can enjoy these in the pleasant surroundings of the Cafe al Bacio and Gelateria, providing it isn't too crowded, or elsewhere. There are also various bars . Waiter service was very good and friendly in the Moonlight Sonata. The other main inclusive dining venue is the Oceanview Cafe, a buffet, which I would rate as very good, though we didn't use it for main meals. All the crew were extremely helpful, but staff in the buffet deserve a special mention for volunteering to help unaccompanied mobility disabled people to carry food to their table.
I don't use the entertainment facilities. My wife does, sometimes. As far as we could judge they were OK, but we heard some criticism of one or two of the acts.
Those who are mobility disabled may find the following account of some interest. Our first unscheduled stop was Vigo which we have visited several times previously. It is possible to walk into the town centre via a large ramp. I scooted and my wife did the walk, with some difficulty. Otherwise we booked excursions in almost every port, Funchal (Madeira), Las Palmas (Tenerife), Santa Cruz (Grand Canary), Arecefe (Lanzarote), but not in Fuertaventura or Lisbon. We also booked an excursion in the Azores, but this port was removed from the itinerary due to bad weather. In the end we didn't go on any of the excursions because I found it extremely difficult to meet an early morning start. Instead we took a step on step off bus round Las Palmas which was ideal for wheeled travellers because there was a special disabled ramp for boarding. In Funchal we hired a taxi (€60)which took us round the old town and then up to the Cabo Girão, one of the highest cliffs in Europe, by the back route which was not used by coaches. The driver had lived in St. Albans for a number of years and spoke excellent English. The driver of our taxi in Santa Cruz (€80)could not speak English, but he had a friend who could (lived in Birmingham for some time), so we got on very well because we met the friend in several locations along our route which was up to the old village of Teror and then on to the volcano crater of Caldera de Bandama to view it and get a splendid panorama of the island. We had an idea that Lanzarote was going to be a dead loss - wrong! On disembarkation we found a large comfortable taxi (€85), whose driver, Alexandro, we could only rate as being excellent beyond the call of duty. His driving was measured and smooth, his treatment of us was both considerate and empathetic. We went to the volcanic wilderness which is the Timonfaya National Park and on arrival were deterred by the sight of long lines of tourist cars queuing for entry. Our taxi pulled over and drove past them all the way to to the visitor centre from which the compulsory national park buses start. After a short spell in the tourist queue we boarded one for the extraordinary drive round this massive caldera and its larva flows. Alexandro escorted us on to the bus and met us coming off. He didn't speak English, but the car was fitted with an English commentary which was played to point out the features of interest along the tour. In Lisbon we used a step on step off disabled friendly bus again. We intended it to be a short trip, but it proved to be a longer, rather high speed, but very informative trip round Lisbon which also took in the very modern Orient district. In the past we have only trudged the few tourist streets in the centre of the city and were determined this time to see more.
I would class the Celebrity Eclipse as a first rate (not luxury) modern cruise ship whose builders have made excellent use of the space available. The passageways are roomy and public rooms are pleasant, the lifts fast and efficient. I met no problems getting around with my scooter. Other wheelchair and scooter users seemed perfectly happy as well. Those with arthritic joints might find the walking to get on to this large ship a little difficult, so they would be wise to be prepared before they embark. I should also mention that the size of the ship can mean a long walk to get to the dock gates on the rare occasions that shuttle buses or other transport is not provided. Taxis are generally not allowed inside the dock gates.
Complaints? I would simply mention that we booked the cruise initially because the itinerary included the Azores. We didn't go there and dallied across the Bay of Biscay to Vigo. It would have been possible for the passengers to have spent more time in Vigo (or maybe some other port) if the amended itinerary had been adjusted to take account of the shorter distance which the ship needed to travel.