Celebrity Eclipse Inaugural Cruise 29 April 2010 - 4 nights
Rosy spotted this cruise, whilst watching Sky TV and we were immediately interested. Initially we looked at an additional departure on 26 April, to France, but chose the inaugural cruise to Cork, as it was 4 days for the same price as the 3 to France, for £359 per person, plus tips. We booked a balcony guarantee but were lucky to be upgraded to Concierge Class, with a few perks, including a bottle of bubbly on arrival. This was very welcome and a nice surprise.
As we live very close to Southampton, we thought we'd leave home about 09.30 to board the ship at about 11.00, which we accomplished very easily. We enjoyed a leisurely drive and after some slightly confusing directions from officious security men, I dropped our bags and Rosy, at check-in and I parked the car, about 300 metres away then walked back, which was fine as it was dry, but in the wet would be a pain!
We went straight through security and check-in and were on board immediately. We enjoyed a complimentary glass of bubbles and then had an early lunch in the Ocean View Restaurant. This was an excellent buffet, with free tea, coffee, lemonade, fruit punch, water and various juices. There's real buzz about the ship, just after boarding, as everyone is excited about what lies ahead.
We checked out the activities list to sort out our day then went to our cabin to unpack. We were surprised to find a size 16 evening gown in the cupboard, together with a shawl, so presumably a lady must be feeling pretty cold! We handed them over to Jimmy, our steward, who apologised and told us that changeover day is very busy and he then produced the binoculars and umbrellas from under the couch! The bubbly, fruit and fresh flowers were all waiting for us. The cabin is very plush and the bed has several pillows and nice linen. We found the coffee table to be a nuisance so ejected it to the balcony. The mini-bar was unlocked and I put some of the stock in the wardrobe, to make room for our champagne, which we brought with us. One thing worth noting is there is very little space for clothes. There 5 fairly small drawers, but plenty of hanging space. I think they should convert half the hanging space to shelving. There are cupboards above the bed, but these aren't very accessible.
The bathroom is very spacious and the shower cubicle large, with solid doors, so no flapping curtain to stick to one's bare skin! There's plenty of storage space and nice toiletries. The light stays dim overnight, which saves groping around in the dark and stubbing toes on furniture. The cabins have individual controls for heating / air con. There is a large, interactive flat screen tv and a long couch.
The balcony is accessed by a large sliding door and has two loungers, with footstools and a round table. The balcony is very private and with strict rules re smoking, the air is very clean.
The cabin (1184) was quite near the stern and a fair way from the lifts, so unsuitable for those with walking difficulty.
After settling in we went to explore the ship, paying special attention to the hot tubs, which could have been much hotter, and the fitness centre. We took lots of pictures and checked out our dining table, which was for 4, when we'd requested one for 10! We quickly changed it and have been very lucky with our tablemates.
Next we explored the open decks and found some very nice cabanas around the hot tubs on deck 12. These offer plenty of privacy and are very comfortable. In hot weather they will be very popular. There are also a couple of hammocks. The outdoor pool area will be popular in hot weather and the indoor version equally useful in cooler or wetter conditions. Towels are readily available and the showers in the spa area are both powerful and hot. Each changing room has a single sex sauna, but unless one books spa class, the mixed sauna costs $20.
We ate breakfast in the Ocean View Cafe, as we like the informality and the ability to see the food, prior to selection. We usually ate breakfast at about 08.00 and the restaurant was pretty empty and peaceful.
The breakfast selection is comprehensive and the only chargeable items seemed to be freshly squeezed juices.
These juices are complimentary if ordered with the Concierge Class balcony breakfast, but we didn't bother with this as the weather wasn't suitable. A 'healthy' breakfast is available at the Aqua Spa Cafe on deck 12, but there seemed to be an extra charge. Breakfast is also available in the more formal restaurant, for those who enjoy more service.
Most people seemed to eat lunch, buffet style and again there was an excellent selection.
Ice cream was available all day in the Ocean View Cafe. This was free of charge, but Gelato was also available on deck 5, at extra cost along with speciality coffees and Crepes.
Dinners on each evening were first class, but I feel that the food on Princess was better presented. Glasses were kept full with fresh water. We didn't drink wine with our meals as it was very expensive, around $40 per bottle and we had a good supply in our fridge. We had probably too much fine food, but the cruise only lasted 4 days!
There were tea-making facilities in the staterooms, but coffee had to be ordered from room service, which could be done on the interactive tv.
The entertainment in the spacious show lounge was excellent, but there were no comedians / impressionists, which was disappointing. It was easy to fall asleep in the theatre! Other cruise lines seem to offer a more varied entertainment programme, but maybe Celebrity's standard guest prefers a more musically dominated theme.
There was the typical guest enrichment scheme, with lectures, wine-tastings, etc. No bingo, which for us was a definite plus!
There were various games available on Deck 15's lawn club, but it can be pretty cold up there. I wore my coat, hat and gloves on one day!
I won the croquet competition, but my good luck on the Lawn didn't extend to the slot machines.
There were the usual trivia quizzes, table tennis competitions etc, but no rowdy pool games, an altogether more genteel area.
Rosy and I took part in several fitness classes, but only the free variety. We didn't feel inclined to pay up to $30 per class!
We only visited one destination, on this short cruise, which was Cobh, Ireland, for Cork. We arrive mid afternoon and stayed for 27 hours, allowing the opportunity for a local night out, which we didn't take.
On arrival, we took a short walk around the port and the town then took the half-hourly train, from the quay to Fota, where there is a wildlife park, house and gardens. The park costs about 13 Euros and is mainly for families. Walking around the gardens seemed to be free and we also had coffee and cake. The gardens are about 15 minutes walk from Fota Station. We then returned to the ship for the evening.
The next day we again took the train, but this time to Cork. Cork station is about 20 minutes walk from the City Centre, along the River Lee. We did our own walking tour, enjoyed an Irish coffee and visited various churches, including St Shandon's, which is up a fairly steep hill. Entry is free, but to climb the tower and ring tunes on the bells cost 5 Euros each. To climb the tower, visitors must be fairly fit!
Rosy found out it was the start of the Cork music festival, so went to a free concert featuring choirs from Dublin and Cork, on e Irish and the other, Hungarian. This was excellent and lasted 1 hour. The Hungarian and US Ambassadors were seated in front of us.
After the concert we took the train back to the ship.
Rosy and I attended the cruise highlight, the wine tasting, a description of which is taking a long time to type as I have enjoyed the wine, particularly one sweet white, which I have forgotten the name of, but I'm not going to edit this section as it has to be a true reflection of the event. I have spell-checked it so that all my followers can read what I'm typing! We tried 12 wines, 6 of each colour, but no pink! I didn't like any of the reds apart from Pinot Noir, but loved the Spatsese (the one I forgot the name of, but Rosy just shouted it out!). The wine was complemented by some cheese and crackers and what one didn't like could be chucked away, which meant there were some buckets of pink wine.. After opting for the German white, we sat at the ice bar (martini bar with a counter like the inside of a fridge) and supped this wine, whilst discussing the merits of P&O cruises with another pair of wine connoisseurs.
We were scheduled to disembark at 09.00, with the other pax with independent arrangements. We awoke at 06.30, got dressed and had breakfast in the Ocean View Cafe. There was pretty much the same choice as on the previous 3 mornings. At about 08.00 there was announcement for all remaining pax to disembark, which we did, then collected our luggage and left the car park at 08.30, arriving home 1 hour later - easy.
The Celebrity Eclipse is a fine, new ship, with all staff and crew members polite and very keen to extend a warm welcome to guests. The main entertainment venues seemed much smaller than those we've experienced on Carnival and Princess, but the technology is superb. Most entertainment seemed to focus on music and dancing, whereas I would have liked more audience interaction and an adult comedian, or three!
The food was superb, as all food has been on other lines. Drinks were expensive, but there was no heavy marketing in evidence, unlike on Carnival and Princess.
We'd use Celebrity again, but not in preference to any other cruise line.
We expected more fuss as this was the inaugural cruise, but it felt like any other, apart from everything looking and feeling in pristine condition.