We sailed on the Celebrity Eclipse February 8th for a 14 day Caribbean cruise. This was one of the better cruises we have been on.
Embarkation - We had a group of 30 on a bus from the W hotel. The pier was so crowded at noon that our bus was told to circle around again before we could park and unload. Then, there was confusion as we got conflicting directions from the luggage porters to "tip your porter". Yes, which one? Guess we hit the peak time of boarding. Once in the building, the lines were pretty long - took around 45 minutes to be processed. Once on board, we headed to the Oceanview Café for lunch. Our bags were in our room by 1:30pm, which is very good.
The Ship - This is a very large vessel for 2800 passengers. If felt really spacious - the common rooms were very large and airy. I only felt crowded twice - for the first lunch and last breakfast, but this is to be expected on any ship. Everything felt new and fresh. They have a large cleaning staff that is busy all the time. On the first two sail days at sea, everyone wants to get a tan. There were plenty of deck chairs to go around if you didn't mind being up on the deck above the pools. Towels were laid out in advance. Pool staff was helpful. The Solarium is a nice, quiet enclosed pool area with two hot tubs. A nice place to read and snooze. I could not read in the lounge chairs in that area since they could not be adjusted to reading height. Celebrity makes a big deal about the "lawn" on the top deck. Pretty useless in my opinion. I tried the putting contest one day - like putting on your lawn that needs mowing.
The Passengers - Average age was about 65. Very few kids since this was a two week cruise and school is in session. Folks were very pleasant - people at this age with the funds to do this are comfortable with themselves and just want to enjoy life. Everybody is super polite. Very nice.
Our Room - We had a veranda, cabin 9219, that was amidships, near the card room and elevators - a nice location. Layout of the room was excellent - bed near the sliding glass door - bed had a rounded end for ease of passage - couch facing the dresser, TV, and makeup area, good design. Storage under the bed for your luggage (awesome!) and storage above the bed. Nicest veranda room we have had. Bathroom was somewhat larger than other ships - clamshell shower was good and, again, larger than most. Hooks inside to let washed clothes drip. AC worked well, but no numbers, you need to crank it way down. Veranda had two excellent chairs and small table.
The Restaurants - The Oceanview Café is the buffet and it is pretty typical but - again - spacious with plenty of stations. Breakfast is full range from sausage and eggs to omelets, waffles, juices, coffee, cereal and fruit. Didn't see much variation. Lunch has salads, entrees, soups, pastas, and daily specials. Nice selection of deserts and ice cream. Dinner is *somewhat* similar to what they serve in the main dining room (MDR) but not quite. I was surprised at this. On our last Oceania cruise, the buffet food was identical and as good as the MDR - we, and others, ate there a lot, nibbling on lobster tails every night and then sampling other treats. Not so on the Eclipse. We ate there once and not again. It was really dead.
Moonlight Sonata is their MDR and it is a typical two story affair with an opening in the middle. Food was good. Portions were small, which is OK with me. Only saw lobster once. They did have some very good entrees such as ossobuco, lamb shank, and prime rib. We had Anytime Dining and this is great - just show up when you want. Might have to wait a bit, but bring a drink. Shared a table some nights and met some nice people. I enjoyed the MDR a lot. Lunch there was a nice break.
We tried two the specialty restaurants. Murano was nothing special food wise and not worth the price. In the Tuscan Grill, I had mediocre veal but my wife had an awesome lobster flambé served tableside - worth every penny - do this and you will not be disappointed. They try to upsell you in both restaurants, which I found offensive.
The Mast Grill serves amazing hot dogs and Angus burgers poolside. Get the Celebrity burger with all the trimmings. Yum!
The Bars - By all means, head to the Martini Bar before dinner. It's loud and fun. The bar itself is metal with a layer of frost as the bar surface. The bartenders put on a show. They have a couple of liquors there like Effen and Symphony vodka you won't find elsewhere. The Sunset Bar, up top and aft, is a great place to have a drink and watch as you leave port. Directly below is another bar at the aft end of the Oceanview Café - there is another bar in the OC in the front port side. The Skye lounge is front and a nice place to have a drink - they always seem to have music and sometimes passed snacks. The Ensemble Lounge is nice, with music sometimes. The Pool Bar is always booming, and they frequently have secondary bars in the pool area. There are about six other bars. You will not go thirsty! Service in all the bars is excellent.
Drink Package - We had the classic alcohol package and not only is it a money saver but the selection of beer, wine, and liquor was very good. There was some confusion twice as to whether your $8 liquor included a Martini, but most of the time the bartenders let it fly. Tip is included. You present your card, they check the code, key it in, and return your card. Nothing to sign. You will see each transaction on your account as $0.00.
Excursions - We did a few. The Beach Rendezvous on St. Maarten was good, with a nice lunch and helpful hostesses. Took the half day excursion on Grenada to a nutmeg factory, that was nice. We golfed on Antigua at Cedar Valley - this was a bargain compared to the other golfing venues - the course was very nice with some great elevations. OK, the carts are old and the tee boxes are rough, but it's the middle of winter and just be glad you are playing golf in the sunshine. Drink the local beer and don't keep score. Don't play Mahogany Run on St. Thomas - played there, overrated and expensive.
Music - They had a lot of different types of musicians, jazz, classical, rock, all flavored for our age group. Really enjoyed everything we listened to. Music was in the atrium, bars, pool, etc. I even liked the canned music they had in the pool and solarium.
Other Stuff - One of the crew is an expert on iPhones and he made six one hour presentations on how to use your device - first class - you would pay $$ for this at home. The officers gave three presentations on environment, navigation, and propulsion. My wife said that the navigation was good. I went to the propulsion and fell asleep. The library is two stories, but most of the second story is just for show. Selection is mediocre. We had good luck in ports finding free Internet at bars and restaurants.
Who Knew? - This is only our seventh cruise so we are not veterans so some things surprise us. #1 - We had ~30 motorcyclists on board with their Harleys. On a half dozen days, they offloaded their bikes, met local cycling club members, and toured the island. Pretty cool. #2- I had signed up as a Cruise Critic member sailing on this ship. We never did make any of the CC functions, but my registration got us on a CC list - everyone on the list was invited to a bridge tour which was really nice. Thanks to the CC folks who arranged this. The ship offers a full day tour of the boat for $150 each.
The Norovirus Arrives - In the later part of the first week, we were notified that instances of the virus were detected among passengers and that the ship was taken precautions to prevent its spread. And they did, kudos to the work they did. All the previously self-serve stations (food and drink) were now served, crew were constantly cleaning all public areas, taking the ice off the Martini Bar (oh, the horror!) and sanitizing stations at major food venues were manned. The virus did not spread. Whew. Good going Celebrity.
Summary - I would do another Celebrity cruise. I would place them below Azamera, Interworld, and Oceania but ahead of Royal Carribean and Carnival.