We were with four friends; all of us have cruised before two of them, like us, with Celebrity. We are all in our early seventy's, are active experienced travellers who enjoy foreign parts, good company, dancing, shows, and the occasional tipple. Each couple did there own thing on the cruise for most of the time meeting up for lunch and dinner and getting together for shows and occasionally for events and shore trips. This review is a consensus of all our opinions and our collective and individual experiences.
Our own first sight of the Eclipse was impressive but annoyingly prolonged as it was from the traffic jam coming in to Southampton. Clearly not Celebrity's fault, there were two other cruise ships leaving at the same time as the Eclipse and the Southampton boat show was on next door. After spending nearly an hour to do the last 3 miles we finally made it and fortunately, our getting on the ship was achieved with ease. We were however pleased that we had little hand luggage, as the walk to the ship from the car park was for some of us quite long enough.
The welcoming glass of champagne is a nice idea but in reality at that point, we think most passengers just wanted to get to their cabins as much gulping was in evidence.
Our cabins, Concierge Class on deck 10, were generally as expected having previously travelled on the Millennium and Summit but with some obvious and welcome improvements, the new bathroom was terrific, nice big television, patio furniture etc. but the new storage arrangement didn't please. There was a shortage of decent drawer space and cabins with the bed in the middle of the room meant that it was very close to the wardrobe making access difficult. In addition, the wardrobe depth was insufficient, particularly for men's jackets. (The Italian designers must have narrow shoulders) The closeness and hinging arrangement of adjacent cabin entrance doors was also a pain causing collisions at times with our next-door neighbours.
However, despite the detail annoyances, overall our group gave a big thumbs up for the cabins.
After checking out our accommodation, it was off to the Ocean Cafe for lunch. Everybody found the new island arrangements confusing at first but after a few circuits we all agreed that the concept worked extremely well and the food served offered tremendous variety and was of excellent quality. Just one major problem. During a visit to the Cafe, one of our party slipped on the tiled floor and fell flat on her back as did, as the cruise went on, a number of other people. Although the Celebrity staff were excellent in their response to the fall, surely a non-slip floor should be a reasonable expectation in such an area.
We took early sitting and the first evening at the Moonlight Sonata was the first of 16 great dining experiences. The staff were attentive; service was quick and the food was of excellent quality and variety. For those who on occasion preferred a more conservative choice there was always the more conventional alternative menu. What a good idea ! The wine list was rather scary price wise but we found some very drinkable choices at the less costly end of the list but why on earth, if they are going to always add 15% for gratuities, don't they include it in the price ? We can't not pay it.
Some of our group also tried the dining room for breakfast but surprisingly their experience was very different from the evening service. They found the service very slow; the food was often cold and on the first visit were told that the item on the menu they requested, smoked haddock, was not available. On the second visit, they were told the same thing but after making a fuss, it suddenly became available. They didn't go a third time.
The "brunch" was a strange event. It was very stylish and well presented but we couldn't understand the rational for having it. Eating Brunch is not a practice any of us have and the idea of waiting until late morning to eat or have just a little breakfast and then an early lunch didn't make sense but we went along to give our support.
Sadly, after dinner on the first evening the enjoyment of the cruise took somewhat of a negative turn. The show the first night was rated by all as very poor. Much was made of the "live" band and they were good but it seemed to us that they simply competed with the singers to see who could make the loudest noise and the result was an entertainment disaster.
Having had our eardrums battered in the theatre, we then decided to find a bar, listen to a bit of music whilst having a chat, a drink and maybe a dance. That turned out to be impossible. Most of the seats in the bars, which were all corridors, were by then full and even if you could find a one let alone six, the loudness of the music in those bars situated anywhere near the atrium made it impossible to hear yourself speak. Surely Celebrity must realise how bad it is. This was not just our a concern but one expressed by quite a number of other passengers and how can it be good design to put the library open to an area where music is playing at what seems like 120 decibels.
After many attempts to find a place where we hope we would get a relaxed and enjoyable time we abandoned our search inside the ship and eventually found solace in the Ocean Cafe bar. No music except for the sound of the sea and no dancing but there was a choice of seats and a particularly warm welcome from the staff. After a couple of more evenings we didn't bother to go anywhere else. Thanks Clint for looking after us.
On the first sea day came the Lifeboat Drill. What a fiasco that was. Even the comedian in one of his shows made a joke about it. We were herded into a small space and shown a video and demonstration just like on an aircraft, but unlike an aircraft, only a small proportion of the passengers could actually see the video screen. The only conclusion that we could come to for what took place was that the promenade/lifeboat deck was too actually small to accommodate all of the passengers at once for a conventional drill. It couldn't possibly be a choice !
We persevered with the shows, going every night in the hope that we would walk out of the theatre with a smile on our faces, but sadly, that didn't often happen. We all found that the single performer shows mostly failed to maintain our interest. The main and specialist acts were clearly talented but we craved variety. You can only take so much of a man trying to beat the living daylights out of a piano without getting bored. Where were the dancers ? Only later in the cruise did we start to get some proper variety, although none of us thought a man blowing a trumpet through his nose was particularly entertaining. The much-hyped final production show sadly turned out to be not much better than the first. There was plenty of variety and a spectacular set but the latter completely overwhelmed the performances, as did the mind numbing noise levels.
Sadly, for the entertainment staff we voted the most fun and hence our favourite show was the one put on the passengers.
Having said that, we did very much enjoy the music groups such as the jazz combo, guitar player and the A cappella group on the occasions when we were able to hear them in comfort.
During the sea days, the various lectures and presentations on offer were well received and we particularly enjoyed the line and other dance sessions with Carl's talks on the Titanic getting top marks. We attended a few of the port lectures with mixed results. We think anyone looking for a talk about what to see in a place might have been a bit disappointed but anyone interested in the history was well rewarded. As Captains Club members we attended some of the events on offer and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Maybe the free drinks were a factor but as always the staff at all levels were most welcoming. The Cruise Critic get together we went to, our first, wasn't quite so exiting but we did meet some nice friendly people. The girls loved the cooking demonstrations and the visit to the galley but thought the shopping disappointing although they all managed to find something to buy! Consensus was that choice of casual clothes were particularly poor and mostly those available had the celebrity logo on, something they didn't want. One of our group was also very annoyed to find that the duty free shop had run out of a number of brands including his favourite tipple two days before the cruise ended.
The sun deck areas were the real big disappointment. We have never seen sun beds packed so densely even in a low-grade hotel on the Costas. Row upon row of chairs so tightly packed that the only way of access was to crawl on to the end and even then, like seats in the bars, it was difficult for anyone arriving late to find empty ones. Everybody thought the grassed areas were quite special but all also agreed that, although it was a nice to have, it was an inefficient use of space as it could only be used by relatively few people at a time, which didn't make sense considering how crowded the other areas were. I guess if bowling or croquet are your thing you would think differently though. The glass blowing demonstration was unique and a real special treat although it is really only a one-time see. All of us took shore excursions at some ports of call, again with mixed results. We experienced both excellent and very poor guides but for the most part the tours matched the brochure although we seemed to have an inordinate amount of free time on some. We thought one guide was so bad that we reported her to Shore Excursions and although we weren't expecting it Celebrity gave us a partial refund. The most enjoyable trip was the Tapas Tasting in Malaga. You got what it said on the package coupled with a tour guide who was attentive, knowledgeable and good fun.
Whilst on the subject of port visits, we were surprised to be charged for shuttle services in Venice and Dubrovnik, something that hasn't happened to us on previous Celebrity Cruises. We were also not impressed with the 100-yard plus queue for the shuttle back to the ship when we were in Venice even though it was well before the time for the ship to leave.
Getting off the ship at Southampton was a doddle but it was good thing it wasn't raining for the walk to the car park. A good tip if you are travelling independently is to arrange to leave the ship early. This means that your luggage in on the dock from that time but you can actually get of when you want to within the time allowed. We had a scheduled 07:00 departure but had a leisurely breakfast and did not leave until 08:30. What are our conclusions ? Despite the disappointments and concerns listed above we all agreed that we had a good time and would all cruise with Celebrity again. As to the Eclipse, it is without doubt beautiful, easy to get around and well equipped and we particularly commend the staff along with the food and the accommodation. We would also like to say that it was a pleasure to sail with such a nice group of passengers albeit rather too many.
Would we cruise on the Eclipse again, sadly probably not. Either we were lucky on our other cruises and the ships weren't full but we felt that the Eclipse was just too crowded. If we are expected to pay 5 or even 4 star prices we don't expect to have to compete for seats and sun beds and because of this and the other issues raised, for us it would not be our first choice in future.
Sorry its so long folks but hope you found it useful/interesting.