To begin, the Eclipse is a beautiful ship. We felt that it was very tastefully decorated without being overdone. There were many public areas with comfortable seating. Although the ship is very large, we did not think it felt crowded except in the buffet area during breakfast and lunch. This was especially true during breakfast on port days and during lunch on sea days. We thought that the library and Team Earth area were especially attractive and provided quiet places to read and relax. There was music through much of the day which could be heard in the library so if you want complete quiet this may not be the place for you.
Because we decided late to do back to back cruises, we had two different staterooms. This was probably good because we experienced two different cabin locations. Our first cabin was 7262. It was an outside cabin with a verandah. We loved the location because it was just off the Team Earth area. The area is not used much and has several comfortable chairs so it was almost like having a private sitting room just outside of your cabin. The second cabin, 6308, was a sunset verandah cabin on deck 6. It was our favorite. We loved being on the back of the ship. The views were fantastic. The decks are not covered and several people expressed concerns on CC that there might be ash from the ship, but we never saw any. The lack of covering might be a problem in warmer climates but it was perfect on this trip because the sun provided much needed warmth on the very cool sea days. Some people on CC also expressed concerns about privacy. We did not find that to be a problem. Our first room steward was good and the second was outstanding. We enjoyed room service coffee almost every day. The room service menu had nice selections and the service was usually fast. Both cabins were comfortable for two people. We found the storage to be adequate and loved the fact that the shower had a glass door instead of a shower curtain. The bathroom was larger than on most ships and had more storage. Although the room configuration varies, both of our rooms had the bed close to the window. The rooms were very quiet. The deck furniture was sturdy and comfortable. My husband is tall and had no problem with the rounded corners of the bed.
We had late seating in the main dining room. We thought that 8:45 was a little late and would have preferred the 8:30 that we have had on most ships. We had a table for two next to a window. Many of the tables are very close together, but ours was a little more isolated. Our servers were fantastic. We thought the food selection was good. As on most ships, some selections were better than others, but overall we thought the meals were good and better than those on our last cruise on the Emerald Princess. We especially enjoyed the prime rib, tuna,the duck dishes, the rack of lamb, and the sea bass. We had breakfast and lunch in the main dining room on several occasions. We found the service at breakfast to be very good while the service at lunch was not. The buffet upstairs had many choices all of which were pretty good for a buffet. We liked that there were serving stations instead of a line since it made the area seem less crowded overall. We especially liked the pasta and salad stations. We did not like the fact that the evening buffet had a limited selection. On several sea days there was a brunch buffet in the dining room. Although it was beautiful with many flower arrangements and ice carvings, we didn't find the food to be especially good.
We tried all of the specialty restaurants. Our favorite was Qsine. It is a unique concept and overall the food was excellent. There is much to choose from. The dishes are Tapas style and if you share you can try lots of different things. We enjoyed Murano and our least favorite was the Tuscan Grill. In Murano, we had lobster and lemon sole as our main dishes. They were both excellent as was the service. The Tuscan Grill is an Italian steak house. We thought the service the night we were there was pretentious and that the steak and sea bass were mediocre. We had lunch in the Bistro on 5. For $5.00 each, it was a large meal including salad, a main course (we had crepes), and a desert crepe. All were excellent. We went to the coffee bar almost every day although we thought the prices were a little high, but the coffee was very good. They did not have a coffee card as we have found on other ships. They always had a selection of cookies, tea sandwiches, and pastries for which there was no charge. We loved the sugar cookies. The seating in that area was very nice so it was often hard to find a seat on sea days.
Because the weather was cool for most of the trip, we did not get the use the outdoor areas. The pool area was large. All of the deck furniture on the ship was of a high quality. The lawn area on deck 15 was beautiful and would have been a great place for a drink in warm weather. Although the indoor pool was small it was very attractive and had lots of chaise lounges and other seating. Our three favorite bars were the Martini Bar and Crush, the Molecular Bar, and the Ensemble Lounge. The Martini Bar was great on this trip because they had Russian vodka flights and a Russian vodka flight with caviar while we were in Russia. Trying the different vodkas and caviar was a lot of fun after a long day in St. Petersburg. The molecular bar is an interesting concept. The drinks are all made with natural ingredients. Try the dragon fly (topped off with liquid nitrogen so it smoked when served), the casarita (an interesting take on a margarita), and the mojito (the best I have ever had). The Ensemble Bar is a more intimate bar with music which made it a great place to have a drink before dinner. The Sky Bar has beautiful views and is a lovely area. It allows smoking, however, and there is a strong smell of smoke even on the non-smoking side.
To conclude our review of the ship, I want to briefly mention a few other areas. The shopping area was expensive and had little to offer. The hot glass show offered by Corning was great. We enjoyed the casino. The internet cafe was expensive and we spent more money trying to send emails than money on emails we actually sent. I will have to say, however, that we were reimbursed some of the cost. Guests Services was very helpful when we had a problem with an ATM in Ireland. The concierge, Christina, was outstanding and did a great job when our air arrangements were cancelled due to the BA strike. My husband and I are not big on entertainment, but the theater area was very nice. The few shows we saw were good and the Circ de Soleil style show was excellent.
Now to the ports: Cobh, Ireland is a pretty little fishing village. It is nice to walk around but not much to see except the waterfront and the beautiful cathedral. We took the E-Coach bus tour of Blarney, Cork, Kinsale, and Cobh. It was inexpensive and a great way to see the area. We had been to Blarney Castle before but enjoyed walking around Blarney Mills. We had a good lunch at the White House Pub in Kinsale.
Brugges, Belgium is a beautiful city. Be sure o take the canal tour and to buy chocolate. We loved the chocolate we purchased at DuMonde. It is on a back street off the main square but is well worth the search. We stopped at the Cranenburg Cafe on the square for a local beer. We arranged for a taxi into town with three other couples. It was definitely the way to go.
Warnemunde Germany is a fishing village and beach resort popular with German tourists. Not wanting to spend 6 hours to and from Berlin, we took a tour with Friends of Dave Tours. The tour was 12 hours but we enjoyed every minute. Dave is friendly and humorous. He has a variety of tours, but we took the Magical Mecklenburg Tour that included Warnemunde and Scherwin. It includes a stop for coffee and cake. The black forest cake was delicious. Scherwin was the home of the Mecklenburgs. The castle and gardens were a msut see. Before the cruise, Dave provided us with information on other ports we would visit. We found the information very helpful during the remainder of our cruise.
Stockholm, Sweden was not one of our favorite stops. We felt like we had too little time to see much of the city. We enjoyed the Vasa Museum which we accessed by the public ferry and wish that we had taken the Hop-on/Hop-off boat because we think we would have seen more. We did not see the changing of the guard but heard from others that it was worth seeing. Gamla Stan, the old town, was not much more than a lot of touristy shops. Be sure to get up early when arriving in Stockholm because the trip through the archipelago is worth seeing.
We were in Helsinki, Finland on a holiday and many things were closed so we were glad we had decided to take a ship's tour. It included a bus and boat tour of the city. The boat tour and a short shopping stop were the highlights.
St. Petersburg, Russia was the highlight of the trip. We took a small group tour with Alla tours. We had two long but excellent days with our guide Elenna. We saw everything that we wanted to see plus had the opportunity to ride on the subway and to take one of the hydrofoils. Early admission to the Hermitage was a real plus since it can become very crowded. We had heard horror stories about getting off the ship if you had an independent tour, but we had no problems. We simply walked off the ship after it was cleared by the authorities.
It is an easy walk into Tallin, Estonia from the ship. It was one of our favorite stops. We spent about two hours following Rick Steve's walking tour of the beautiful old city and then stopped at Old Hansa for lunch. The forest mushroom soup and the baked cheese dish are wonderful. Be sure to try the local honey beer.
Copenhagen, Denmark was our last port. It was about a 30 minute walk to the Nyhaven canal where we took a boat tour. It was a great way to see the city. That afternoon we took a bus tour which provided even more information. We were disappointed in the ice bar and would not do it again. After the ice bar, we walked back to the ship through Copenhagen's shopping area. We enjoyed a stop at the largest department store that had a basement grocery store that is worth a visit.
Next up-a Celebrity tranatlantic cruise.