Embarkation was quick and easy. No long queues and a very smooth process from arrival to receipt of ship pass. Port staff were pleasant and helpful. We were stopped on the way to the gangway by a Celebrity photographer saying we had to stop to get our picture taken for the ship pass, complete poppycock as the ship pass photo is taken as you go through security on the ship itself. Upon arriving onboard crew were waiting with glasses of orange juice and bubbly. Our stateroom wasn't ready yet so we made our way to the Ocean View buffet on deck 14 for a spot of lunch. First impressions of the layout were impressive; plenty of space around the food islands but a major annoyance was the lack of labelling above the food. This was to be a recurring theme throughout the cruise.
During lunch an announcement was made informing passengers that their staterooms were now ready. We had a mid-ship concierge class stateroom on deck 10 starboard. It was a hump stateroom so our balcony was double the length of standard stateroom balconies in this class. The balcony easily accommodated 2 chairs and matching footstools along with a decent size table It seemed there had been an accident on our balcony on the previous cruise, the glass partition between ourselves and the suite next door was missing and had been replaced by a large ugly piece of vinyl covered hardboard. This not only blocked light from that direction but flapped like a Rolf Harris wobble board whenever the wind got up. We jammed a napkin underneath to alleviate the noise. After a few more days the wind got too much for the napkin and the partition finally gave way. The whole partition was being held in place by one central attachment, A quick call to guest relations had the repair completed within 30 minutes, I don't know how long the stop gap measure will last though. Perhaps Celebrity should consider storing some spare balcony partitions onboard for such an occurrence. Wardrobe space was limited and seemed to be rather narrow; shirt and jacket sleeves were easy to trap as the wardrobe just wasn't deep enough. Suit carriers didn't sit inside at all unless you tilted them taking up even more precious space. There were 2 large overhead storage compartments above the bed but no bedside drawers, just a small 3 shelf stand alone unit Our cases slid easily under the bed, plenty of room there. A large flat screen TV sits above the fridge/safe unit. We had to call guest relations when our safe malfunctioned, another little problem that you just don't expect from such a hyped to the max ship. The TV is a very nice quality item with an adjustable arm so you can view from anywhere in the stateroom. One of the downsides of the interactive services on the TV was that not all of them were actually in operation. Many of the options and menus didn't work. It looks like Celebrity have ported the software over to Eclipse from Equinox but they've not got it up and running yet. We ordered a pay per view movie and it stuttered and paused constantly, rarely running for more than 10 seconds without a hitch. Guest relations were apologetic and promptly refunded the cost. The couch and bed were both extremely comfortable, pillows were wonderfully soft too. The bathroom was bright and well laid out, noticeably smaller than the bathrooms on previous cruise ships but it had plenty of storage space for toiletries etc. The bathrobe was to die for, very luxurious indeed. The supplied toiletries were of a decent standard, I gave them a try until my luggage arrived with my own. When the luggage did arrive, it was placed right outside and against the door, which happened to open outwards. It's no mean feat trying to push your way out against a barricaded doorway, a safety issue there for Celebrity to retrain staff on. Our cabin steward was competent; he did everything he should have apart from leave a card to tell us when the balcony cleaning was taking place. It's quite a shock to suddenly see a man outside your balcony pointing a hose at you while you get dressed. On a few occasions we came back to the room to find what we thought were gifts for us on the bed. On one night it was 2 large Celebrity branded towels and on another it was 2 sets of handbags. Neither came with a leaflet or card saying these items would have to be paid for. We, along with many other passengers assumed they were gifts for Concierge class. We later discovered that was not the case. We spoke to guest relations and were told they are chargeable items but they didn't tell us how much.
I didn't attend the theatre shows so can't comment on the quality of the performances. Celebrity had as an activity the chance to join a passenger choir. It was an excellent idea and was taken up by around 20 or so passengers. They performed on the last sea day to a rapturous applause. Much of the other shipboard entertainment was the usual fare, bingo, Wii games. Etc. The lawn on deck 15 provided a venue for putting, croquet and a few other lawn games.
The accapela group were excellent, as was the soloist Jefferson Ang. The remaining musical entertainment was extremely loud and completely out of sync for the surroundings. Whenever the band is playing on deck 3 it can be heard all the way up the ship. I pity anybody who was looking for peace and quiet on this ship to read in the library or play cards in the card room as it is impossible to get away from the overpowering music. On more than one occasion we had dinner in Bistro on 5 and we were unable to converse properly with our dining companions, as the noise was so terribly loud. In fact one of our party had problems getting the waiter to hear his order.
Crew standards ranged from extremely poor to superb. One incident of note occurred at the ice cream station. I asked the crew member what flavour a particular ice cream was; none of the ice creams were labelled. The crew member picked up a scoop of the ice cream, put it up to her nose and sniffed it, she brought it too close to her nose and it touched the tip causing her to jerk her head back in surprise. She said to me she thought it was blueberry. I watched in amazement as she put this same ice cream which she sniffed and had touched her nose straight back into the ice cream tub for other passengers to eat. I immediately spoke to a senior crew member who took my details and promptly took the girl off the station. A few days later she was back on again, hopefully not using her nose as a flavour detector.
The other extreme was Andrea in Bistro on 5, she was exceptional. Nothing was too much trouble for her, she was always cheerful, pleasant to talk with and generally completely on the ball. Upon hearing it was my birthday Andrea arranged for a special cake to be delivered to our stateroom. This was in addition to the cake the waiting staff brought to me during dinner on the night itself. Other crew of note were Barbra in the Passport Bar and Elena in Select dining, both are top class crew members.
Ship & DEcor
The artwork onboard is eclectic but nothing that one could call outstanding. On many other ships I've walked the corridors and stairways just to see the wonderful art on display but it seems to be an afterthought for the Eclipse. It almost feels like the pieces had to be chosen quickly as they don't compliment the surroundings and are very jarring in most cases.
Food & Drink
Where to start on my food review? Please bear in mind that I am a vegetarian so I cannot comment on the quality of any meat, fish or poultry that was served during the cruise.
I did enjoy Bistro on 5 but on more than one occasion either a dining companion or myself didn't get what we ordered. On bringing this to the attention of Andrea she apologised and made excuses for the chef saying he was trying to treat us by adding ingredients we didn't order. Nonsense, one should always get what one orders.
The crockery in the Ocean View buffet is very heavy indeed. Coupled with the unlabelled food up there it is a recipe for disappointment. You may also be unlucky enough to get a plate that has a protruding ridge on the underside causing your plate to spin every time you try to cut your food.
On more than one occasion food was wrongly labelled, i.e. meatballs had a mashed potato label, bizarre and incompetent. During our meal in the Ocean View one evening a crew member started to vacuum clean the area around us, bringing the cleaner within inches of our feet. Ladies at a nearby table were asked if they would be long, as he wanted to carry on hovering under their table, it didn't seem to matter to the crew member concerned that we were eating. A senior crew member was in attendance during this but he didn't point out to his colleague that he was being extremely rude in his actions. A pointer to a complete lack of training of crew of every level in the Ocean View
The vegetarian selection in the Ocean View and in the MDR is abysmal. Celebrity seems to think that vegetarians eat fish as it was marked as a veggie option on the menu. Also many of the so-called vegetarian dishes contained Parmesan, which contains rennet. I asked a sommelier if the wine that Celebrity used in the vegetarian dishes was a vegetarian wine. He said no, as they don't have any vegetarian wine onboard and he was not even aware that fish bladder or gelatine are used as filtering products in non vegetarian wine making. For my last night onboard I specially ordered a dish from Bistro on 5 to be served to me in the MDR as there was absolutely nothing vegetarian in the main course section of the menu. The dish arrived on time and was brought to me by Andrea. Yep, you've guessed it; the chef decided he wouldn't serve me the sun dried tomato and cheese crepe that I ordered but he would give me an artichoke one instead.
Moonlight Sonata, the MDR, was also a hit and miss affair. The major problem was that the seating for Select dining is too close together. There are only a few inches between the tables so the chance of having a private conversation over your evening meal is slim. The tables are so crammed in that waiters had to push behind you during the meal. You could tell that they were embarrassed by their continual apologies when they nudged you as they squeezed through the tiny gap between your table and the one beside or behind you.
Elena in Select was a fantastic waitress, she always made sure your water was topped up, always asked if you required pepper etc. If Elena wasn't attending to us it was a 50/50 chance that we would get any during dinner service.
The Mast Grill had some veggie food, which was of good quality. The ice cream machine there was usually very busy but the quality of the product itself was poor
The coffee shop had a nice selection of cakes and pastries available to anyone who purchased a drink, very tempting to have one each time you pass. I had one bad experience there among my many visits. I had ordered an affogato coffee only to be brought a strange concoction that bore no resemblance to an affogato. When I pointed out to the waiter that I had received the wrong drink he told me I was wrong and it was an affogato, this exchange went back and to for a few minutes until I finally had to take it back to the counter myself. I explained there I had been given the wrong drink, the waitress behind the counter said 'oh, it's just missing the ice cream' the MAIN ingredient of an affogato is the ice cream. It was not only missing the main ingredient but had 2 others that don't appear in an affogato. I don't know how the coffee shop crew can get it so wrong and then have the nerve to argue and tell the passenger they are wrong.
Drinks are very expensive to start with but once you add the 15% they become extortionate.
Ports & Shuttles
Shuttle buses were very expensive. Passengers were told in Lisbon that even if they are on a ship tour they must buy a shuttle bus ticket if they want to go back into Lisbon, as all tours will terminate at the port. Not the case as people could do what they wanted after some tours. I went on the Segway tour and bought a shuttle bus ticket too as I wanted to head back into Lisbon after my tour. Our tour group was put onto a shuttle bus and then we were given a free shuttle bus ticket, what a complete con.
Disembarkation was the best of any ship we have been on. Everyone was called in his or her own small-allotted group and there was no crowding of any kind at the gangway.
I can't imagine ever sailing on the Eclipse again, it was a huge disappointment. This is the only cruise where I've gone to bed hungry at night. If you are a vegetarian, please do some research and think twice before booking a cruise on this ship.