We are a family of three including a son aged six.
Our travel consultant persuaded us to try a Celebrity big ship cruise. (I had been disenchanted by one of NCL’s behemoths.) We are glad that she did, for we had a great vacation.
We flew from Western Canada and stayed two nights in Ft Lauderdale at the Hilton Marina near the cruise ship terminal. For $130 a night, the room was adequate. The hotel coffee shop restaurant was closed in the evening leaving their expensive Asian restaurant as the alternative. On the second night we found Carrabbas Italian Grill nearby. Good food and good value. On the second morning we breakfasted at Einstein Bros Bagels on 17th Street. It is a popular venue with great food and friendly staff.
Embarkation day with hundreds of guests leaving for cruise ships mid-morning from the cramped Hilton entrance was challenging. The cab driver tried to drop us off at the wrong ship. We had a tour of the congested port as a result.
We were aboard by noon and tried the AquaSpa Café for lunch (deck 12 forward). Healthy food. We would have patronized it more during the cruise, but its proximity to the pools meant that the few tables were occupied.
Cabin: We had a Verandah stateroom (deck 8 amidships) on the starboard side. It was well-appointed and the bathroom was generous with good storage. The stateroom lacked both hanging and drawer space. We took a lot of clothes since there were three formal nights out of fourteen. We used our suitcases from under the bed as extra storage. The balcony had two loungers and a round table. We had room service breakfast outside on several occasions and managed to fit another chair and coffee table quite comfortably.
Dining: We used the main dining room – Moonlight Sonata (decks 3 and 4 aft) most of the time. We tried the Oceanview café (deck 14 aft) but found that our son always chose sushi or pizza. In Moonlight Sonata, we avoided the kid’s menu. He ate very well from the adult menu. They adapted his choices of fish or meat dishes by dispensing with the sauces and designer vegetables and giving him broccoli, carrots, corn and peas instead. We enjoyed the four course meals when we could. Usually we had three courses as our son is good for about 75 minutes – maybe a little longer with iPad and earphones. Some patrons seemed concerned about a young child in such august surroundings. However, he was well-mannered and polite to the waiters and was a source of amusement when entertained by the staff. We were impressed by the variety of choice and the quality of the food and had no need of the specialty restaurants. We saw the same people most nights in the Sonata. They too seemed happy with the food and service.
We did try Bistro on Five (deck 5 amidships – $5 cover charge). The crepes were good. I found the Bistro menu confusing. They did not charge for our son – nice touch Celebrity.
Beverages: We did not purchase a beverage package, but will do so in future. The package mix of alcoholic drinks, plus premium teas, coffees and juices is appealing and will be easier to handle than the pay as you go alternative.
Dress code – men: On non-formal nights the Celebrity dress code calls for men to be smart-casual in long sleeve shirts. This is not the case. Most men were wearing “golf” shirts. On formal nights, most men wore suits although a good number opted for tuxedos. Some men wore blazer and slacks. My impression is that enforcement is slack as Celebrity does not care to upset paying customers. I opted to hire a tuxedo from the ship to cut down on baggage. We filled in all the statistics online and were pleasantly surprised that everything fitted well.
Dress code – women: The ladies took pains to look good. If only some partners would try as hard.
Dress code – kids: Few attended formal nights. They were dressed well.
Service: My wife was impressed by the size of the service staff. This contrasted with a recent HAL cruise where the numbers seemed thin. Because our son engaged with everyone he encountered on the ship (and is cute) we met many of the crew. They were friendly and helpful and made our stay memorable.
Fellow passengers: We met many passengers through our son and found them entertaining, amusing, well travelled and worldly. Most were from the US, Canada, the UK and mainland Europe. Many were seniors who had cruised frequently. We gleaned much useful information about cruising and enjoyed the company of this older demographic.
Fun Factory: The kid’s club (deck 15 forward) had several tiers of participation. Our son was in Cadets (6–8) and spent his afternoons there. The staff was strict but friendly and the kids seemed to enjoy the facility and programs. I believe that there were about 150 kids and teens aboard out of 2850 passengers.
Entertainment – Eclipse Theatre (decks 4 and 5 forward): Shows are at 7 pm and 9 pm. It was tough to make the first show from the early dinner and the second was too late for our family. What we saw was good but our sample was too small to comment further.
Shore Excursions: (1) Curacao – Historical Willemstad Trolley Tour. We were towed around on carts for about 90 minutes. Interesting architecture and history. Good for photographs. Take plenty of water. (2) In Barbados we arranged a day pass directly with the Hilton. Most enjoyable with a good, safe beach. Take the hotel bus. We were ripped off by a taxi driver. (3) Antigua. Scenic Antigua and Beach. Good sightseeing. Nelson’s Dockyard was only a brief visit. Turner’s Beach was nice but had inadequate facilities. A lot of driving. (4) St. Martin. Sea and See Tour. Sightseeing and a semi-submarine. Submarine portion was cancelled because of high winds. We cancelled the tour because we wanted the marine portion. (5) Ft. Lauderdale. Sawgrass Mills Mall Express. We chose this excursion to use a few hours before an afternoon flight. Supposedly it takes passengers directly to the airport. This did not quite happen – a detour back to the ship took place.
Summary: Eclipse is a luxury floating resort. Travelling with a child limited our exposure to some of the ship’s programs. Nevertheless, an Eclipse voyage with sun, sea, limitless horizons and abundant fresh air provided a great vacation. The ship is in good condition and is not crowded. The public areas are generous and Eclipse handles choppy seas well. We enjoyed sea days and port days equally.
Suggestions: (1) I think that the lawn area (deck 15 aft) is a gimmick. A large space is under utilized and fringed by a grim fraternity of smokers. The latter also pollute the walking decks (deck 5 – port and starboard). (2) Celebrity would do well to match HAL’s laundry offerings. Two weeks is a long time and the individual item prices are off-putting.
Conclusion: A great vacation on a quality line. We have already booked another!