Celebrity Eclipse Mediterranean Cruise August 21st to September 4th
I am writing this review in an attempt to be as fair and objective as possible. I have cruised numerous times on HAL and also on Silversea and Windstar. This is my first cruise on Celebrity and I did have great expectations, however not all of these expectations have been realized. To be fair, we have both enjoyed this cruise but I believe that there is much room for improvement is certain areas.
Firstly, when we booked the cruise, we booked Aqua Class. With this class you supposedly get "early referred boarding". I am not sure if the problems mentioned here are Celebrity problems of the port problems. When we arrived, a lady very nicely told us to leave out bags over at "CPS" and pointed to a Door outside that has a sign saying "CPS" when we got over there, the men standing around didn't know anything about where we were to leave our bags. We finally found a man who said he would take them. We then were one of the first people through check in and were told to go have a seat in the boarding area. I enquired about early boarding and she had no idea of what I was talking about. She then came running after me with a red card saying "6" and said this was my boarding group. Over all boarding was not bad but a little confusing.
Ocean View Cafe on Embarkation day.
We were met onboard with a glass of champagne and directed to the Ocean View Cafe. All I will say here is the layout of islands does seem to help crowd control. However, the food is just average and most was cold or at best lukewarm. They do have a nice variety and the peanut butter cookies were the best.
However I have to mention what has tended to be an underlying theme around the ship. The service here is at best distant and worst nonexistent. I am not sure if this is because this is a new ship and the employees are not yet comfortable or this is "Celebrity". However, I was on the HAL Eurodam when it was new and also the Oosterdam when it was new and the employees all seemed much more eager to serve and to interact with their guests.
Breakfast in the Ocean View was nice but again cold. I will also say that they are trying to cater to the British and serve both American and British bacon and sausage. I will say the missed the boat on the British sausage and also the American bacon (which I was looking forward to) was a bit tasteless.
Blu is a private restaurant reserved for Aqua Class guests. I do gather that Suite guests can dine here for a fee on a space available situation. Blu is one of the bright spots of the ship. Dinner here is supposed to be healthy eating. However you definitely don't go hungry. Also the waiter we had was fantastic. Here at Blu no request is too much. On the second night I asked if they ever did escargot in Blu and was told that in future evenings that could be arranged. However prior to the lobster starter we had ordered arriving two orders of escargot arrived. Escargot has been arriving every night since with out being asked for. Also on one particular night the waiter was really recommending the rib-eye steak and also the pasta. I asked about the lamb chops and Barry ordered the duck. Barry got the duck, my plate had both the lamb chops and a rib-eye steak and in the centre of the table was a serving of the pasta for us to share. So in essence we had 4 entrees between the two of us. They cannot do enough for you.
One down side is breakfast at Blu in not near as nice as breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill on a HAL ship. The service is adequate and the food portions are sparse.
However, overall Blu is fantastic.
The Tuscan Grille is one of three premium restaurants that you pay a supplement for. This one is supposed to be an "Italian Steak house". I will say that the "Tuscan onion soup" was second to none. I have not had better onion soup anywhere. However, we both had the rib-eye steak and both of then had gristle that had to be spit out. The flavour was great but the quality of steak was not even as good as Blu. The staff here was very attentive and are really trying their best. This dining room is at the back of the ship so you have nice views. However, I will say the dEcor is more oriental than Italian.
Qsine is a brand new concept for Celebrity and is definitely unique. You order of an Ipad and everything is served in a very unique way. There are no starters, mains etc. you order what you like and it keeps coming. Go in hungry it is a feast. The presentation is very unique and quirky. The Lava Crab balls were fantastic. However the Indian range came cold and fairly tasteless. Overall this is not to be missed though. It is a bit of a twist on Heston Blumenthal's unique cooking. It's more about fun and presentation. (Spring rolls served on springs)
This is the most expensive and elegant restaurant on the ship. It is "French" cuisine (with the name Morano???). I have to say it was wonderful. The lobster here was fantastic and the soufflE for dessert was second to none. I will say that this definitely met the standard of the Pinnacle Grill even though it is not a steak restaurant.
Main Dining Room
We only ate in the main dining room once and that was for their Grand Brunch they offered on one sea day. The brunch was very nice. The dining room looks wonderful however it seems that most seating is under low ceilings of the second level and I did hear a lot of people complain that is was tight and noisy.
All I can say on this one is the burgers and hot dogs were good however the service and attitude of the staff here was indifferent at best and down right terrible on occasion.
I have to admit that one night we were pigs and were peckish. We ordered room service and I will say it was the worst food I have ever had on a ship. The deep fried Indian starters were cold and tasteless. The club sandwich was unrecognizable and soggy. Only edible items were the "chicken wings which were 6 chicken parts that were barely bit size. I will say it was prompt.
Ships dEcor and layout:
I have to say that the ship overall was very beautiful. It is the largest ship I have been on and I usually prefer smaller ships. It is ultra modern with the exception of a few bars such as Michael's Club and the Ensemble Lounge which are decorated very traditional. One small comment, the ensemble lounge is decorated with dark woods and dark furnishings. During the day it is beautiful, however they turn the lights down so far at night it is dangerous. I even saw one of the pensioners on her motorized chair with her head lights on in this lounge.
The colour schemes work very well and are not too bright. I will say that one thing the Eclipse has over say the Eurodam is they have learned how to work colour with low energy lighting so that it does not look harsh.
The staterooms on the whole are nicely appointed but small. The typical balcony stateroom is 194 square feet compared to 234 square feet on HAL. This is even the case in Aqua class. All rooms except for the suites only have showers. In Aqua Class there are upgraded showers with 6 heads which were wonderful. However if you are a person that likes baths then this is not the ship for you.
One complaint I heard over and over again when it comes to layout of the ship is the fact that they use the "grand atrium" for live entertainment. I to admit that if you are in any lounges such as the martini bar or Molecular when the entertainment starts down on level three, you are over powered with the noise. We actually ask the bartender to turn off the music that was playing in Molecular because it was softer than what was coming in from the foyer two floors below.
One additional mention is that the outdoor pool area is quite small and the deck chairs are so tightly packed they literally touch each other. This space is a bit of a nightmare on sea days. It is not designed for 2800 people. The Solarium however which is the adult's only pool and indoors is very nice and tranquil.
Entertainment and Bars
Over all the entertainment on this ship was very good and very comparable to HAL. The main shows were ok but nothing spectacular. The "Eclipse the Show" which was touted as a grand acrobatic stage show was interesting but a bit disjointed. The acrobatic acts were wonderful, however is seemed that they felt they should have the singers and dancers involved to make it original. They were singing and chanting and parading around the stage while the acrobatic acts were on. It was very disjointed and if almost felt you were watch two completely different shows at the same time.
The bars on board offered a wide variety of venues. Michael's Club and the Ensemble Lounge are the more traditional and offer live entertainment ranging from jazz to a string quartet.
The Martini Bar is quite entertaining unto itself with the frozen bar top and the bartenders strutting their wares doing the fancy drinks.
Quasar is the Disco which was nicely decorated but usually empty.
I will say that when it comes to drinks the bright spot on this ship is the Molecular Bar which was originally called the Gallery of Tastings. I gather they are changing the name. This bar features some of the best and freshest drinks I have ever had. They call the bartenders here "Liquid Chefs". All the drinks are made of fresh ingredients and have very unique combinations. Many are finished off with liquid nitrogen. This is kind of the Heston Blumenthal of Drinks. Andrew the bartender here was the most polite and friendly of any on board. My only regret is that this bar is situated out in the open area by the shops with very uncomfortable bar stools and not much atmosphere. However, we did spend a lot of time here because of the quality and uniqueness of the drinks and the attentiveness of the bartender.
One real disappointment was the Sky Lounge which is at the front of the ship at the top. For HAL travellers this is the equivalent of "The Crows Nest". The dEcor here is all white and very cold. During the daytime it feels more like a posh waiting room. Also they still allow smoking on one side of this lounge (the only indoor smoking area) this makes the whole bar stink of stale cigarettes.
The outdoor bars such as the Sunset Bar at the back of the ship and the pool bars are nothing exceptional. I will also say that the employees in the outside bar are not up to standard and are very aloof and have an attitude.
Service is an area that I feel Celebrity needs to work on. I was lead to believe that their service would be wonderful, however it was very inconsistent. In the speciality restaurants and the Molecular bar the service was fantastic. Also at the main desk people were very helpful. Outside of those areas I found the staff to be distant and sometimes rude. For example, at the pool grill I was in line and there were two employees behind the counter leaning against the grill staring into space. I finally had to wave at them and ask for a hamburger it was served without one word being said. This was the same almost every day at all the bars outside as well. I also was surprised that at the sunset bar the employees spent more time conversing with each other in their native languages rather than talking to the guests.
It seemed that the employees were tired and not happy. I had one employee try to justify this telling me the following. "These employees are just finishing a summer season serving a primarily British clientele who do not tip or say thank you. This is why these employees are distant and unhappy". This statement came from a British employee. Somehow I think they need to work on employee attitude.
For those that are unfamiliar with Aqua Class, this is a class that offers all the benefits of Concierge Class with additional amenities such as upgraded showers and toiletries, free access to the Persian Garden and Relaxation Lounge. All the rooms are on deck 11 one deck below the Aqua Spa. Also all these rooms only accommodate 2 people. The main perk of Aqua Class is you have Blu which is a private restaurant strictly for Aqua Class guests.
We booked this for two reasons, one the price we got was cheaper than Concierge Class and included all their benefits and also since the rooms only allowed 2 people so we felt there would be no kids. I will say there were nice touches and we did enjoy the fresh iced tea in the room and the appetizers were ok.
The main advantage of this class and I am actually surprised I am saying this is Blu. This is a wonderful restaurant and it was very nice not to have to deal with the crowds of the main dining room. Over the years I have avoided Cunard due to them still having different dining rooms for different classes, however, I found myself loving the advantages of this dining. Not to mention the food and service were fantastic.
I know this has gone on quite long but I wanted to cover it all. Overall it was a very nice cruise and good value for the money. Comparing it to its closest competitor HAL, I will say there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Where in Aqua Class you had a private dining room, you did not have an equivalent to the "Neptune Lounge" like on Hal or the service of a Concierge professional. In checking with the suite guests, they also said there was not equivalent to the Neptune lounge.
I feel that Celebrity could take some lessons from HAL on service but other than that they are very much equal. I would definitely book them again if the price is right and the itinerary fits. If HAL ever decides to base a ship out of the UK like Celebrity has done with Eclipse, I feel they could give them a run for their money.