Just got back from a 2 week Med cruise on the Celebrity Eclipse, so reluctantly adjusting to making my own bed and meals again etc.
Having read some of the recent reviews I was a bit concerned that standards may have slipped (we last sailed on the Eclipse 2 years ago, having previously cruised with P&O and Royal Caribbean) but, to be honest, we had a fabulous 2 weeks and were thoroughly spoilt. My only real criticism would be that Celebrity do need to add some imagination and variety to their itineraries, as the previous cruise had exactly the same ports as this one and their Med cruise on the Eclipse next year is also a repeat of this itinerary. I like a Med cruise and I'd love to sail with Eclipse again - but don't want to just keep repeating the same ports. I know I could sail from a European port but one of the main advantages of cruising to me is avoiding the stress and hassle of airports.
I've detailed below our views on the cruise:-
- Embarkation. More
We arrived around 12.30 and were swiftly on board and enjoying a crepe in the Bistro on 5. Bliss. The announcement that the rooms were ready came whilst we were in there, and our bags arrived about 45 minutes before the safety drill was due to start.
- Stateroom. We had a Sky Suite on the resort deck, booked late on a guarantee basis for a very good price. Our last Eclipse cruise had been in an Aqua class stateroom, which I'd found somewhat cramped and lacking in storage space. The S2 suite was much more spacious, with sufficient room for the sofa bed to be utilised giving both my niece and I a double bed each night. The wardrobes were huge (and had an internal light) with loads of coat hangers, and we had so many deep drawers that we didn't actually use them all. The cupboards over the unit housing the flat screen TV also remained unused - not like us at all! The bathroom had a bath and an over bath shower, with some nice Bulgari toiletries that were regularly replenished. The towels were lovely and fluffy, but not really what I would have described as bath sheet sized so we usually took some of the pool side towels back to the cabin with us as these were bigger.
Being in a suite for the first time meant we had a butler - Arun - who was lovely. We did our own packing/unpacking as we like to know where things are, but Arun was very helpful with respect to booking speciality dining for us (we had 2 complementary bookings as part of the suite "perks"), and bringing and setting out room service breakfast on the balcony table etc. Life can't get much better than sitting out on a balcony with a nice breakfast whilst watching a pod of dolphins! Arun also arrived with canapés and tea and coffee each afternoon - and these were much better than what we'd seen (and ignored) in Aqua class. They seemed to be from the afternoon tea selection in the Ocean View Café, and usually consisted of a couple of finger sandwiches, a couple of cookies and a couple of the small cakes/desserts.
Ramon, our steward, and his assistant were also great - it didn't seem to matter when you left the room or how long for - it had always been cleaned and made up on your return. The chocolate covered Oreo's on the pillows each night were a nice touch, although we missed the flavoured chocolate that Celebrity used to provide.
The suite itself was ideally placed in terms of access to the lifts, the swimming pools, and deck 14 for the Ocean View Café and sun loungers away from noisy children and I would happily book it again - price and funds permitting! The only negative with it was that it was under the overhang from deck 14, so the balcony was generally shaded. Having said that, the weather was plus 30C for much of the 2 weeks, so the shade was often very welcome.
- Main Dining Room. We had paid the tips up front so had Select dining in the Moonlight Sonata on deck 4. We usually booked a table for 2 between 6pm and 6.30pm, and had a table next to a window on all but one occasion. We were in a section served by Iresh (from Mauritius) and Ghosh (from India), and they were both fast, efficient and friendly. Ghosh caused much amusement with his "lovely" bread, "wonderful" dessert menus and loud "ooooh's" when delivering desserts :). The food was good, varied and usually hot - and Celebrity has started to vary the dishes on the left hand side of the menu so it's not always salmon, chicken or steak as an alternative to the daily menu.
I agree with other reviewers that the tables are a little close, but those sitting near us were always nice so no complaints on that score.
- Ocean View Café. Buffets are not something I would usually compliment, but this one is good and the island design does seem to work to reduce queues (the only place queues regularly seemed to form was at the ice cream station!). The buffet could be busy at breakfast and lunch times as you'd expect (particularly as it was peak season and the ship was over the stated capacity of 2850 passengers), but we always found a table. The food was hot and tasty, particularly the pasta selections, and the staff seemed to clear tables quickly.
- Tuscan Grill. We had a superb meal in here. Window table, knowledgeable and friendly waitress, great food (beef ravioli, chop chop salad, filet mignon), no room for dessert....
- QSine. Again - great food, great waitress, great experience - and we did save room for dessert in this one!
- Staff/crew. Nice to have the senior staff so visible - and so willing to have a laugh. We watched Dancing with the Officers one evening from Café Al Bacio and it was hilarious, aided by a female Canadian passenger who was really up for a laugh and deservedly won. All the staff we came across were friendly, professional and always smiling. The staff at Café Al Bacio were under particular pressure on the last sea day when it was quite grey and there was a cold breeze. We managed to get a seat, but then were waiting for some time to be served. A senior officer was checking the situation (there was also a very long queue for takeaway drinks), asked us if we'd ordered, and got a waitress straight over when we said no. Despite being so very busy the waitress was still smiling and friendly - so all credit to her and to Celebrity.
- Solarium pool. Ideal for a cool down on hot sea days and not usually busy. We were very surprised one day to actually find around 20 people in it as the normal occupancy seemed to be only around 3 or 4 people
- Entertainment - fair to say this was variable. All 3 of the theatre group shows were good, but we had to come out of the show by Lindsey Hamilton as the sound levels were just too loud - my ears were ringing! The Rock Tenors were superb and earned themselves a standing ovation, and the Chinese magician was also very good. The party band, The Spitfires, were dreadful. The female singer was okay but her voice lacked power and just didn't carry. The male drummer/singer simply couldn't sing. He was awful - badly out of tune on every song.
- Outside pools. Nice but always full of noisy kids. There were a lot of children on this cruise ( I heard a figure of around 500), which did surprise me a bit as Celebrity doesn't really market itself for children and the ships lack attractions such as the Rock Climbing Wall and the Flowrider that Royal Caribbean offers. It was August though, and the majority of the children were well behaved. I'll probably just avoid peak season in future
- Sun loungers. We always managed to find a couple, although it was harder on sea days unless you were up reasonably early. We did see belongings being cleared after 30 minutes around the solarium pool, but clearance was a bit hit and miss near the outdoor pool and elsewhere. We did once see the pool butler clearing towels from loungers on deck 14, but he didn’t touch loungers that also had belongings on them – despite some loungers near us being left unoccupied for more than two hours. I’m sure if people were a little less selfish and cleared their belongings when not actually using the loungers availability would be more than enough for everyone.
- Ports. We did the dolphin safari in Gibraltar but were disappointed to find Celebrity had switched the provider. We'd previously done this trip on an oldish wooden boat but this one was on a modern and rather bright white and yellow boat branded Dolphin Adventures. The boat travelled through the harbour to the dolphin area at a speed that resulted in a lot of the passengers on one side of the boat getting drenched from the backwash of water, the staff didn’t seem particularly knowledgeable about dolphins, and apparently 30 minutes in the vicinity of the dolphins was all that was allowed. The whole thing seemed rushed, and we back on shore before we knew it and waiting 20 minutes for the mini-buses to come back and return us to the ship. The whole excursion was certainly not the 2 hours it was advertised as being – and was much better when done on the old boat. Lots of dolphins were later seen playing in the wake of the ship when we left harbour, so it might be best to save your money where this excursion is concerned and do something else.
Villefranche – tender port. We didn’t do an excursion here as we’ve previously visited Nice, Cannes and Monaco so thought we’d explore the port itself this time. The tender was trouble free as the sea was lovely and calm. There’s a nice tourist building at the arrival point with toilets etc, and once you’re through that you’re quickly on the sea front with shops, cafes and a little craft market selling handbags, jewellery, perfumed soaps etc. Lovely port, and well worth a visit.
Civitavecchia – having been to Rome previously, and not really liking the thought of being there on a very hot and busy day in August, we decided instead to do the Lake Bracciano and Wine Testing excursion (it was also an afternoon excursion so we had a nice lazy start to the day). The excursion was nice, but be aware that time at the lake is limited and the emphasis is much more on the winery and the wine tasting – with 6 different wines to try. We did buy a couple of bottles of the very nice Rose wine.
Livorno – we did the Florence excursion that took you for a short stop at a Leather Factory and then gave you approx. 3 hours free time in Florence itself. The tour guide was great fun, escorting us to St Croce Square and giving clear and detailed information on decent restaurants, shops, and where to all meet up again etc. Having been to Florence on a number of occasions we shopped for leather handbags and then had a pizza lunch at a restaurant to one side of the cathedral. Pretty perfect day really
Genoa – we stayed on the ship whilst in port, for the first time ever. Nothing at all to do with Genoa. It was just that we’d been previously, the weather was really hot and humid, and lazing on the ship by the pool with cold drinks on tap just seemed so much more appealing…..
Malaga – we did the Panoramic Malaga excursion which was very good. The tour guide had a nice sense of humour, and Malaga is very pretty. If I went back again though I’d be tempted to take the shuttle bus into Malaga and then see the town from one of the pony and cart’s that seemed to be readily available. The tour guide advised these could take up to 4 people, and cost approx. 40 euro’s. Malaga also seemed to have plenty of HoHo buses
Lisbon – we did the excursion to Sintra and Cascais. The excursion itself is fine, but the traffic in Sintra in August was horrendous and was then equally bad when trying to get back to the ship from Cascais - we were back 40 mins past our scheduled time (albeit still well before the ship’s planned departure time) and had to go straight to the MDR despite having allowed, we thought, time for a change and refresh before our table reservation time. The tour guide was also the worst I’ve ever encountered. She just wasn’t interested in the tour group or the tour, and repeated the same information numerous times in an absolutely dreadful monotone voice. The Eclipse has never looked so welcome……
Ship shops/sales - found quite a few bargains on board due to the good exchange rate between the pound and the dollar. Chanel perfume and Clinique skin care and cosmetics all much cheaper on the ship than in the UK, and also cheaper than the various ports. There were some decent discounts on sale items on the final sea day, but watch what you're actually charged when they go through the till. We found a number of items had been charged at full price rather the sale price, and then had a rather lengthy debate about getting the required refunds...
Disembarkation was a doddle - off the ship, suitcases collected and on our way home by 8am. Just sorry to wave goodbye to the Eclipse after a wonderful holiday. Now saving my pennies for the next cruise… Less
Celebrity Eclipse Cruises to the Eastern Mediterranean
Great cabin - very spacious and with loads of storage space. Handily situated for the lifts, the pools and the restaurants' and also the Ocean View Café. Some noise at times from the Ocean View Café, but not too bad. Only negative is that cabin is underneath the overhang from deck 14 so the balcony is shaded for much of the time (only really got any sun at sunrise and sunset). Would happily book it again though