Firstly, I will start with my opinion on the ship. Very beautiful, and in my opinion, well designed. The cabins are smaller (we had a deluxe balcony) than on say, Independence of the seas, which is a problem as we had 2 girls with us, aged 10 and 11. You had to be very efficient with where you put things, fine for 2 people I would say (even though my parents said they didn't have enough room, but they are used to larger cabins also). I was concerned that my girls would not have enough to do. The clubs were fantastic, my girls don't really like the clubs much, but it was hard to get them out at times! The staff were very friendly and happy for us to pop in anytime to check on them. They get trips to the bridge and backstage tours for example (older ensign groups upwards, not sure about the little ones...). Also I liked that the clubs take the children to see the production shows (I have trouble getting my girls to the theatre to see the shows, but they were more than happy to go with their friends and all supervised closely by staff). There were 80 children in total on board, not a lot considering it was half term. We were in room 9229 and the first night we had a creaky roof, when I reported this, it was sorted immediately with follow ups from the maintenance team. Nothing was too much trouble, it you wanted anything, you just asked and you got! For example, I had an excellent Fillet mignon one night and asked for my dad to have one the next night, which was sorted. If you wanted anything in the main dining room and it wasn't on the menu, if you asked for it, the next night you can have it, they have a whole section for special orders. Our waitresses Jelena and Karolina were really attentive and loved our girls and Kevan also helped out on the nights that Karolina was poorly, but even then, the service was seamless. We felt no need to try the other restaurants (we did have a look at them and they looked fantastic and was temped by Murano for a special meal). Only tried room service once and within 10 mins the breakfast for my daughter arrived. The officers on the ship all spoke to you and were very visual. Sarah in the entertainment team was fab and was great fun, hosting lots of the events on board. Some have said there wasn't enough to do, well I thought there was a lot for all ages and tastes if you wanted it. As for the music, there was lots of variety all over the ship, I loved to listen to the different types of music and was nice that it was during the day as well as the evening. All the staff spoke to you and you felt that they meant it. They were very good with my girls, being very patient and helping them out with items on the 'scavenger hunts' from the club. When we did the family hunt, one of the staff even offered to go to another kitchen 2 decks down to get a banana for us! Lots of little extra things that I noticed that set celebrity above Royal Caribbean and P&O, iced towels when arriving back from onshore and a nice welcome, better service and lots more room (even though our cruise sailed full). Staff often remembered your name in the bars and what you had to drink.
As for the shows, I liked the production shows (especially Eclipse, so don't miss that one), some of the other shows weren't to my taste but then you have to cater for all age groups. I would say the average age of passengers was about 55-60 but there were other families like us and younger peeps about too. The theatre was nice and very comfortable seats.
Didn't have any spa treatments, too expensive, but I knew this, as I have been on american ships before. Used the gym and the jogging track.
Don't miss the brunch buffet in the main dining room on the 2nd sea day which is fantastic.
Now onto the ports of call....
MADEIRA : We booked a taxi tour in advance here (kindly recommended by a fellow passenger who wrote about him who had been on IOTS). Angelo Gomes 00 351 919 912 578 or email@example.com was the best taxi tour we have ever had. There were 6 of us, 4 adults, 2 children and asked him for a 4 hour tour of the island. He spoke perfect english, was waiting there with our name card on time. A taxi tour was great, as he can take you where the coaches can't and the scenery in Madeira, especially around nuns valley is breathtaking. Of all the stops, this island was the best. Also worked out cheaper than the ship tour and I like the flexibility of being able to do things at your own pace rather than with the 'herd'. If you want a taxi, you turn right out of the terminal. There are 3 queues, one for taxis into Funchal (town), one for taxi tours and a third for pre-organised taxi tours like ours. If only all the ports had a system like this! If you are on a tour bus, you turn left out of the terminal.
TENERIFE : You dock at Santa Cruz here and there is a free bus put on by the town. We took a tram here to La Palma (which is the old capital). It was ok, only cost 2.45 euros each return on their tram. Some nice buildings in La Palma. It takes 35 mins on the tram (very new, efficient and clean). You need to turn left once you reach the big statue/white bowl area (you can't miss this, just cross the road after being dropped off by the bus). Follow the tram signs to the nearest stop. Press the english union jack sign on the paying machines - look carefully,it's not easy to find). Get on a tram that says La Trinidad. The machine gives change. Make a note of which station you go from, we nearly got off when we returned at the wrong one! We luckily came across the tourist information office (the most beautiful one I have ever seen), so I suggest you print off a internet map of La Palma before you go as i don't think the ship has them. I probably wouldn't go to La Palma again, but it's quite nice and a cheap day out at 2.45 euros! I like to try the local transport, all part of the fun of travelling I think.
GRAN CANARIA : No need for a shuttle here, just walk into town and a lovely beach about 15 mins away. It was a bit cloudy and windy the day we went but our girls were determined to have their beach day, just the same. Some of the restaurants even put welcome signs up for guests of the eclipse which I thought was nice. My parents not really impressed here, but if you like the beach, this is the stop for you, it's very nice with good facilities.
LANZAROTE : We did a ships tour here on the bus to see Fire Mountain. If you want to see it, this is the way to go (not easy to do a taxi alternative here). Very interesting and stopped at a vineyard on the way back (even though the ticket said no shopping stops). Didn't go into the port town here, so can't comment on that.
LISBON : Been before, if you like bags and shoes, this is your place ladies!! But this time, decided on another tour with the girls which was well organised and informative. Our bus broke down causing a bit of chaos near a roundabout, but after about half an hour another bus arrived to finish the tour (Panoramic Lisbon - 4 hours). We took our girls as it only cost $12, the same as the shuttle cost into town. If you are doing your own thing, no need for a shuttle here, you can walk out to the exit and there are either taxis, a HOHO bus or they have a tram service also.
VIGO : Again, been before, so as the ship docks right next to the town, you can just walk as far as you like. Again, quite good for bags and shoes (but Lisbon better). If you are up to it, walk to the gardens at the top of the hill (but only for the fit/or take a ship tour if not).
For some constructive negative comments...... Sky lounge, lovely lounge right at the front of the ship, but celebrity, please stop the smoking, it was such a shame. Especially as on the evenings that they had the wine/cheese and chocolate night, and whenever you went in there it was smelly! Now I know that I'm not a smoker and you are not allowed smokes on your balcony (which was one reason for choosing celebrity having had a balcony on previous ships next to chain smokers!).
Sunbed hoggers. Some fellow shipmates thought it was ok to leave sunglasses/towels and the like on prime beds/cubicles for hours on end. It would be nice if the pool butler clamped down on this a bit. I know they don't want to have confrontation with guests, but I spent many afternoons in the solarium reading and keeping an eye on my girls in the pool and did point out once to a butler that after other guests were trying to find beds that opposite me, 2 beds in the best spot had no-one on them all afternoon and nothing was done (but I don't know if he understood me/english language that well). Luckily, due to passenger numbers, there are more beds/felt like more room and if you weren't too choosy on your location, it was fine.
Drinks prices, now I know this has been mentioned before, but on Royal C IOTS, people power prevailed and the 15% grats for sailings out of southampton were dropped. No wine packages available either on solstice class ships which was annoying. Also for all day when in Vigo, another 7% is added until you are 12 miles out as sea for the spanish tax. I did ask about this and it was confirmed that if you had say, a martini before dinner at 6.15pm, you would be paying an extra 15% plus 7% (22%) on top for a drink, which was ridiculous. Let's hope celebrity have a rethink on this. We did know about the 15% before our holiday, but it would be a nasty surprise for you if you didn't and could really annoy you.
Stability of the ship. Now I was told that it was unusual for the ship to roll as much as it did. This is my 5th ship I have been on, and the most 'motion of the ocean' I have experienced. Now it doesn't bother me too much, apart from walking about in heels on upper decks a bit tricky, but on the first sea day, the girls had their own wave machine in the pool and a lot of passengers took to their cabins as it was very quiet. A lot of evenings (even in the canaries, the decks were closed for safety due to high winds). This isn't celebrity's fault I know, but it meant you couldn't use your balcony much or walk out of deck. I even asked at an event about the eclipse if the stabilisers were on, and they assured me they were, (although a lot of shipmates didn't believe me when I said!).
To sum up.... Of all the ships I have been on (Artemis, Aurora, Oceana and Independence of the Seas), this was my favourite and I would like another trip next year. The service was the best and more room for each passenger. Better start rattling my money box!! We are booked on Azura and QM2 later in the year, so we'll see if they can measure up, Celebrity has my vote as my favourite up to now. If anyone has any questions, happy to answer if I can.