I organised this trip, for a group of 10. All of us are experienced cruisers.
My wife and I have sailed many times with Royal Caribbean, P&O, Princess and Costa. This was our first time on a Celebrity ship, and what better way to experience a new cruise line and a new ship than on its inaugural cruise?
Because we are Diamond members of the RCI Crown & Anchor Society, we were immediately enrolled into the Celebrity Captain's Circle as Elite members. We used our Elite 'perk' to jump the queue at check in, and to get a discount on wine at dinner.
My overall impression of Eclipse, unfortunately, didn't WOW me. Make no mistake, she's a beautiful ship and she's extremely comfortable. But for me, the WOW factor wasn't there. In fact my group as a whole, and other cruisers we met, felt the same way. It's as if she's missing something.
The Ocean View cafe was a great place to eat. The standard of the buffet food and the choice available was possibly the best I've seen.
The ship's entertainers were first class, whether they were bar entertainers, outside deck entertainers or those in the theatre. The two production shows we saw blew us away! "Edge" are definitely the best ship's entertainers we've ever seen.
The Hot Glass Show, put on by Corning, is very entertaining and educational. In fact, to be fair, this did have it's own WOW factor, seeing huge glass vases being crafted from molten glass right before our very eyes. Stunning!
The cabin we were in (8110), which was a basic balcony cabin, was much, much nicer than we were expecting. The bathroom was very well equipped, with a glass screened shower, and water pressure that was a near-on power shower experience!
The beds and pillows were divine! They were so comfortable. If we could have taken ours home with us, we would.
So, that's the positive part.
Unfortunately, there's a negative part too. And this is mainly the human customer service side, which with a little more training could be vastly improved.
The ship's crew, in my opinion haven't been fully trained in getting it right. I've always been of the opinion in a customer service environment, that there's a world of difference between 'Doing the right thing' and 'Doing things right'.
'Doing the right thing' is 80% of the task. 'Doing things right' is the final polish that needs a lot of work, and is the difference between good service and great service.
To illustrate what I mean:
Our dinner waiter was a very nice chap, and all ten of us had a good rapport with him. But he was so scripted! He went round the table and personally asked each of us whether we enjoyed our dinner using exactly the same words every single night. That, in my books, is 'Doing the right thing'. If his supervisor checked on him, he got the tick in the box and nobody could deny him of it.
When he served the dinner, he never quite got the knack of serving the plated meals in a consistent manner. Some were served meat to the front, whereas other were served with meat to the back. Basic training in any good restaurant would have taught him to place the plates consistently with meat to the front. With further training he'd get it right every time and would be 'Doing things right'.
Our wine waiter would pour a new wine, into a glass containing wine from a previous bottle. Maybe I'm wrong, but I was always taught 'New bottle, New glass'. Again, with further training he'd get it right every time and would be 'Doing things right'.
By the way, if you like fine wines, you're in for a treat. The wine list is very extensive containing some very expensive wines. But I do wonder how many Brits will be willing to pay $1700+, yes $1700+, for a bottle? Our wine waiter told us that any offers available were only applied to wines over $75 per bottle. Needless to say our group didn't get near any offers!
In the Ocean View cafe, most staff were very helpful and courteous. But some staff would often cut in front of passengers. Sometimes to the extent that I saw passengers having to stop dead, and some even had to step back for fear of being bumped into. This, to me, is impolite and unacceptable and can be rectified with training.
Other little negatives.
This was its inaugural cruise so we were surprised to learn that some wines had run out and when we ordered others we were told that there was only one bottle left. What are Celebrity going to do in the height of the season?
This is a very large ship, and takes some navigating around. Celebrity have a pocket map of the ship that they leave in every cabin, but unfortunately it's almost useless. It looks good, but is really only a small cut-away drawing. Other cruise lines have great ship maps, shame Celebrity haven't got theirs right.
The seats in the Moonlight Sonata (main) restaurant look great. But, they are very heavy to move and are difficult to manoeuvre once seated. Obviously designed for looks, but lacking in practicality. Even the crew commented that they felt they were too heavy.
The shops were stunning, and there appeared to be more choice than on most ships. But most things that were for sale were at the high end of the market, and priced accordingly. None of your Bijoux Turner here!
I guess all ten of us were expecting Celebrity to be a cruise experience that was a little more refined and up-market than Royal Caribbean.
The cabins certainly were. The food in the Ocean View cafe certainly was. The entertainment certainly was. The shops certainly were.
But the service needs a tweak to get it right.
Would we cruise on Celebrity Eclipse again? Of course we would. She's a beautiful ship.