This was our first cruise and we were concerned as my husband is disabled and has food allergies. There is a lot of information about the ship elsewhere and so this will just outline the relevant parts and a few constructive personal thoughts at the end.
Special Services ---------------- We contacted Celebrity special needs (email@example.com) on a couple of occasions regarding power outlets in the cabin, wheelchair and scooter, and medication. They were excellent in all aspects and will send you a non-invasive questionnaire. You may need to get a doctors letter. There is a 220v European socket (by the kettle – 5m from the headboard) and several 110v sockets in the cabin. They actually supplied a 5m long 220v extension cable so that it would reach the bed for medical equipment. You should request this in advance if you need it. They also offered a fridge for insulin, which we declined. Although there is a small amount of room in the minibar, we use Frio medication wallets for insulin and something you should definitely consider if you are not familiar with them. They also supplied a sharps bin. You will need to measure your electric wheelchair/scooter. We took both and it was worth taking both! Note that once or twice, the scooter charger did not flash normally during the charging process. This may have been down to spikes in the power supply or poor voltage/frequency regulation. Overall, I would not be too concerned, but don’t start panicking. The wheelchair was best suited for shore excursions. Although most of the coaches could take both, some of the towns were not scooter friendly but you can get around in a wheelchair.
Prescription Medication ----------------------- Interesting topic. Their handbook tells you to take a set of prescriptions (which we found to mean an official list of medication (like a repeat prescription order). Given the travel delays around the Icelandic ash issue this is thought provoking and when taken literally is very good advice; especially if you were stranded for any length of time. Check with your travel insurance! Axa/PPP don't cover costs if you run out of medication and so having extra and a set of prescriptions is very good advice. Consider taking these in addition to your passport when going ashore in case you miss the ship. Southampton – At the port ------------------------- Cars are lined up in rows and queued so that luggage can be off loaded. There is plenty of assistance available. They took the cases and the wheelchair – we kept the scooter in the car. If you have prepaid parking, you can park opposite the terminal. Once the disabled car park is full, they let you go to the adjacent pay and display. Once back inside the terminal you have to checkin and then board the ship. That can be quite a trek (uphill when we boarded) in a manual wheelchair. The carpet varies through the ship and when in a wheelchair you can certainly tell the difference in pile. Although it’s all level, it can be fairly hard work and this is where having a scooter helped a lot. In fact, there were a lot of scooters in use.
Aqua Class ---------- There were flowers, fresh fruit, iced tea, bottled water, and sparkling wine in the cabin. The cabin was ample and the disability aids adequate for all but the worst affected. In order to cater for the UK, the cabins have a kettle. This is definitely useful if you need hot water for medication and possibly if you don’t purchase a drinks package, though drinks are free in the Oceanview restaurant. Once or twice we were surprised to note that the dirty cups were not changed as part of the turn-down service. The bed is fairly comfortable and there is adequate storage. There is a cabinet immediately adjacent to the bed for medical equipment and an adjacent single 110v socket.
Medical Facilities ------------------ Although not used personally, some friends noted that the some of the charges for medication were exceptionally high. They were apparently quoted £80 for a £3 tube of cream for cold sores by the nurse and about the same cost to see the doctor. Obviously you would only have to pay the excess if you have insurance. Actually, I was bitten on the foot and we waited to call our own doctor in the UK once we were in port as there was no signal on the ship. Luckily we had antibiotics and Ibuprofen, which my husband has to carry and I could start straight away.
Dining ------ You have to be very careful with allergies and really need to discuss any special requirements in advance. My husband has a severe reaction to garlic and it is worth noting the differences between the restaurants.
** Blu Restaurant We used the Blu restaurant for breakfast and dinner. The assistant maître d’ was outstanding. He would bring the dinner menu over every evening for the next day and they would cook anything specially. Everyone wanted to look at it. In general, quality of food varied between 2/10 and 6/10 (compared to the buffet at Bellagio in Vegas) and variety about 5/10. Quite often steaks were undercooked, overcooked, or overcooked at one end only and very rare at the other (couldn’t figure that one out!). We were not the only ones not eating them or sending them back. You could order things that weren’t on the menu and they would always prepare items and sauces without garlic. Sadly 2/10 for food quality is well below par, but the service was exemplary 90% of the time.
** Oceanview The Oceanview buffet is one of very limited lunch time choices. Ask for something without garlic and you will be offered a jacket potato! Everything else out of the acres of food has garlic. To be fair they would have done better with some notice. One point that is easily missed is that they have some helpers in the middle of the food stands that assist people in wheelchairs to get a meal and find somewhere to sit. An excellent touch that is not immediately apparent.
** Bar Grill An outside grill with good quality burgers and other food with little additives. Great for a quick snack and a lot easier than the Oceanview. Very easy access in a wheelchair.
** Qsine The restaurant with iPads, but no pictures! We thought about that and had a chat with them, but you pretty much had to decide what you were going to eat and it all seemed to be a tad overwhelming when you had to sit there and have most things explained. Something that would have been much easier with pictures on the iPad.
** Main Dining Room We went once for lunch after the bad experience in the Oceanview. To be honest, it was very quiet and service was excellent. Choice of dishes was very limited, but the fish and chips were very tasty. Again, they would have done as well as anywhere else if they had some notice. They tried to hurriedly cook some satays but they were dried out when they arrived. At least they tried, which was nice of them. Access was easy.
** Tuscan This is a premium restaurant with excellent service. Access was okay, but arrive early for dinner if you want to easily negotiate to a window table. The food was all ordered the day before and quality was about 8/10. It would have scored higher but the Calamari was overcooked (it always seems to be on the Eclipse). The quality of the food was excellent and as you will appreciate a lot of work preparing it all without garlic. A rare treat: food with that extra special care and steaks that were cooked to an exact standard.
** Cafe Although in the middle of the ship, the chairs are heavy to move if you are in a wheelchair. You can order from the table, but the staffing is very poor and so is the service. I chased an order for coffee after 20 minutes only to be told it had been lost. On another occasion, four staff were chatting and ignoring customers. Good points here are that you can get coffee to go which may be of help for anyone with wrist issues – or trying to wheel yourself.
Around the ship --------------- The ship is very contemporary and exceptionally clean. Toilets everywhere are very accessible and there are usually people there to pass you a towel or assist – truly excellent service. Aqua Class have access to the Persian garden – steam room, herbal sauna, showers and stone beds. Accessibility is fine, but you need to bring clothes to change into or figure something out so you don’t make your scooter or wheelchair wet. You can borrow a towel to sit on. The glass blowing display can be a trek. When the seats are fairly full, you have to wheel yourself across the grass and access can be an issue. A few more wooden tiles would sort this out with minimal impact to the lawn.
Which room to choose? --------------------- Several of the disabled cabins are near the lifts – not a problem and you won’t be disturbed. There are some other considerations though such as noise to consider as in the next section.
Grand Foyer problems -------------------- Some people near the Sky Lounge that we spoke to had complained about the noise. If you are easily disturbed, also try to avoid areas around the Grand Foyer, which is used for very loud music. This really hasn’t been thought out as the sound will travel up through the open decks (thought the library for example). My husband spoke to Nick Weir (Entertainment Director) and suggested that he used large screens and cameras as the cookery show was around the corner and out of sight for the first 30 mins. This is one area which had been badly designed and severely limits the number of people who can see what was happening. In a wheelchair – forget it unless you camp out from the night before.
Main Shows ----------
Access to the main theatre is good. There is a lift on the left hand side on level 4 which will take you down to level 3 if that is where you want to sit. The staff tell you that you should ask one of them for help, though quite often they are very hard to find. The door on level 3 is very heavy. The shows are well worth seeing and you need to arrive 20-30 mins before the show to make sure you can get to a position where you can see.
Things Easily Improved ---------------------- Show scheduling needs more thought. We quite like Sound Decision, but the times when they were performing seemed to clash with the shows. Some of the acts were repeated across the nights (not the best ones!) You can check your bill on your in-room infotainment system, which is very good. One mistake in charging took two attempts to rectify. Quality of evening food in Blu is sometimes so poor you wish you had gone to the burger bar– the chef “said he simply followed the rules” Last day – fruit disappeared and two dressing robes appeared which were apparently for the next guests. Why not move their luggage in too? The “Eat more to lose weight” seminar was nothing more than an elaborate and unproven sales pitch. What a complete waste of our time. Felt like we were being fleeced. Ship announcements could not be heard in the cabin and quite often we would have to open the door. Having said that, it shows that the soundproofing was reasonably good. No UK shaver socket! Have to get an adaptor from guest relations which we did not find out till the last day.
What we really liked -------------------- We liked a lot about the cruise and some of the entertainment was stuning such as the cirque du soleil. All but one of the staff were exceptional. Special shout out to Andrew and Katija (bartenders), Marina (wine waitress) and Jovel (Blu assistant maître d’).
The real question, would we go again? Answer yes, but would hope to see improvements as we always write very honest, hopefully informative and sometimes blunt reviews.