This was a 13 day transatlantic from Southampton to Fort Lauderdale with 9 sea days & calling at St Maarten, St Thomas & Nassau.
We travelled by air from Newcastle to Heathrow & were collected & transferred by bus to Southampton by Celebrity. This was the first time we had cruised on a large ship & I winced when I saw the huge queues but boarding was very quick & easy.
Our cabins were ready very quickly so we dumped our hand luggage & went up to the Ocean View café for lunch. After that it was time to explore.
The Ship – It’s huge! However it was very easy to find your way around the ship probably due to the central glass atrium which was very attractive. I loved watching the glass lifts going up & down. Although there were plenty of them we only used them a couple of times as they were often full. There are also ship layouts at every lift area which really help.
The theatre is excellent with good visibility from most seats. A few pillars obstructed but there were usually plenty of seats. I liked the way they had two performances of the main show so you didn’t have to bolt your food even if you ate at the later dining time.
I loved the lawn but there was very little space to just sit or walk on it. People were using it for games a lot & the remaining bits were "resting". It was well used contrary to comments I've read about the lawn area.
Thankfully I’m not a sun worshipper as the pool deck & the upper sun deck were constantly full when the weather was good. They seem to be reserved with towels & books a lot of the time. The upper deck is meant to be the walking/jogging track but once people started sunbathing & moving their sun beds it was difficult to get around it. Much prefer the walking decks on Azamara & Oceania ships which have very few sun beds on them.
My husband used the gym a lot; he said it was very good & rarely crowded. I looked around & tried it once when the weather was too bad to swim, but it’s not my thing. Thankfully I could swim most days and I used the stairs most of the time even when the ship was a bit wobbly.
Even though we had a drinks package we didn’t use the bars as we aren’t really drinkers so I can’t comment on the service there. A glass of wine with a meal is enough for us. However the odd times I used the pool deck bar the chap there wasn’t very sociable. Never even smiled which is unusual for a cruise ship.
The library was very attractive, quite a lot of books, very comfortable seating & in full view from the glass atrium. We often saw people sleeping there & my husband commented that it looked like an old people’s home! Even so he used to go there sometimes in the morning.
I thought the standard of food throughout the ship was very good easily on a par with Azamara but definitely not up to Oceania’s standard. Evenings we ate mostly in the Moonlight dining room with the anytime dining. The food was very good with excellent fish choices for non meat eaters as well as a veggie option. It did get very crowded on occasions even though we ate late to avoid the main rush and sometimes the service wasn’t so good. However we were in no rush to finish eating but sometimes the wine didn’t arrive for ages & then they didn’t come back to top the glasses up. We wondered whether there were new staff onboard in the restaurant. Most evenings we chose to share a table & met some really lovely people other nights we had a table for two & then got chatting to people on the tables next to us as they were so close. We were happy with the food in the MDR so we didn’t bother with the speciality dining. We’ve used them on Oceania & my experience is although the food is superb I tend to eat more! Also there is an extra charge on Celebrity & we heard a few less than complimentary comments about them so decided not to bother.
We ate breakfast most days in the Ocean View Café. On the first day we tried the Main Dining Room & shared a table with three other people. The main problem is the time this takes so we opted for self service after that. The choice is excellent in the Ocean View Café even for non meat eaters & the food was of a very high standard. My only disappointment was that on previous cruises waiters get your drinks but here it was self service which was OK once you got used to it.
We also ate lunch here and again were never disappointed with it. As someone who doesn’t eat puddings my only minor criticism was the lack of variety of fruit at lunch time. There were bowls of apples & bananas at breakfast time as well as trays of melon & pineapple. However at lunchtime it was mainly only melon & pineapple & occasionally oranges. As I said, just a minor criticism. It does get very busy in the café on occasions but you can always get a seat & the only queues were for omelettes, toast & poached eggs but I never had to wait too long. We ate a couple of times at night here and the food was very good. I had beautiful salmon & tuna steaks cooked to order & a wonderful vegetable stir fry with Asian noodles. It was so peaceful here at night after the noise & often manic atmosphere in the Moonlight Dining Room. However it’s very much a café not a restaurant & one improvement I’d suggest is that it would be great if they set up a small section with tablecloths, cutlery & glasses.
My favourite place was the Café al Bacio! The service was erratic, bizarre on occasions to say the least. However the staff were lovely, Aleksander was so helpful & funny and on one occasion when it was very quiet a couple of them treated us to some Andrea Bocelli! Some however were a bit ditsy & forgot your orders. I just went with the flow & found it very entertaining watching what was going on there. The place is just too small for transatlantics with lots of sea days, especially when the bars on decks upstairs are closed. There were often seven or eight of the staff milling around behind the counter trying to make coffee, chocolate, tea & serve the delicious little treats. Well some of the treats weren’t so little; the lemon meringue pie was fabulous.
The entertainment & activities were great. We enjoyed all the shows we went to. To name a few, the Chinese magician Pung Fe, the Eclipse singers & dancers put on some great shows, Pete Matthews the comedy juggler was excellent and we enjoyed Perry Grant even though he had a sore throat. Chiko a young Philippino singer gave a great performance & he also trained the wonderful choir who gave a couple of fantastic performances. The onboard chefs’ demonstrations became so popular you couldn’t get into them! They were fantastic characters the banter was wonderful never minds their creations. There were lots of other activities you could get involved in dancing, zumba, 3D origami, Qigong, bridge, lawn games, hot glass shows etc. I was persuaded to join the art class by two lovely Scottish ladies I met one evening over dinner. I have to say I’ve never painted before but had a wonderful time. Celebrity provides art packs with paints, paper, a palette & brushes all free! The artist was a wonderful lady who was so supportive & the people in the class were a great bunch we laughed a lot & I’m keeping in touch with some of them. I also have some watercolours to frame as mementos of the cruise and a new hobby!
I also met up with some lovely people from the cruise.co.uk forum at the start of the cruise. Neil Down kindly provided us with name badges & a lovely card with a painting of Eclipse as mementoes for us. Thanks Neil!
Sue Denning the cruise director was wonderful. She’s a bundle of energy, always smiling & glamorous as she stunned us every night with a different pair of glittering stiletto heeled shoes to match her outfits, even in the rough weather.
We docked in three Caribbean ports, St Thomas, St Maarten & Nassau. We didn’t go on any trips as we generally just mooch about getting the atmosphere of a place. The only problem we had on the cruise & it was a huge one was when we docked in St Thomas, the US Virgin Island. You have to register & go through the immigration process even if you are not going ashore as this process is to speed up the disembarkation at Fort Lauderdale.
The US Immigration staff were due to come onboard at 5.30 am to start the process; however they didn’t come until later. We were asked to make sure we came at our correct registration time and ours was 7.30 am. However problems were caused by people just joining the queue regardless of their allocated time & there were no Celebrity staff around asking them to come back at their correct time. We got through immigration after twelve. What a shambles! Just not enough immigration staff who had also caused problems when they decided they didn’t want our ESTA forms, they wanted a different form filled in resulting in big delays. Also they had no electronic equipment which meant we had to fill the same forms in again before we left the ship at Fort Lauderdale.
We had a major problem with our Celebrity post cruise transport. Couldn’t find any for ages & got soaked wandering around trying to find it. I eventually found the woman who was trying to cope with the transfers to Fort Lauderdale by herself. Now going back to booking my own transport & hotel accommodation. Our hotel was good overlooking the port & from our balcony & we watched enviously as Eclipse sailed off back to the Caribbean.
One disappointment is with the customer service from Celebrity after the cruise. I emailed them twice in November about the post cruise fiasco. I'm still waiting for a response!
We really enjoyed the cruise, it’s a lovely ship & I’m sure we’ll be back on Eclipse sometime, hopefully soon!