Well here I am one day back from a great cruise and my back is out. I figured that it would be a good time to read Saturdays newspaper as I am confined to bed. Lo and behold, the travel section has a rave review of the Eclipse. It appears that Phil Reimer from the Ports and Bows web site loved his 4 day cruise as much as we loved our subsequent 7 day swing through the Caribbean.
This would be as good a time as any to return some of the wonderful tips and insight that I have received from other contributors over the last few months.
Other members such as INFI and Algorithannie have already posted links from this cruise. They have great insight and I agree with them that this is a very special ship. I will not try to duplicate their efforts which you can find in the forums area.
First off let me tell you a bit a our small group.
My spouse and I were joined by my brother and sister-in-law. Almost all our sailings have been with RCI. We are fans of RCI. Loved the ships but on our last cruise on the Navigator of the Seas we were very disappointed with the incredible number of venues that allowed smoking. The forums board helped us decide that we could continue with RCI through Celebrity Cruises. We were not disappointed.
We are happy that we did not arrive until noon. Not sure why but the ship was not available until 12:30. This being the inaugural 7 day cruise could have had something to do with it. Once it opened things seemed to go smoothly with welcome champagne. Cabins were available shortly thereafter.
Although they do not advertise it the Aqua Spa Cafe is open at lunch. If you would like a healthy alternative to the Ocean View Cafe, this is the place to start your day.
We stayed in AQUA 1633(port)and 1640(starboard). This was so we would always have a different view. 1633 had the bed closest to the door and 1640 with the bed near the veranda. Cabins are a nice size with the best bathroom size we have seen. We have heard complaints about it being too narrow especially when walking near the bed. We disagree. We had no such issues. Wonderful 32 inch LED TV with many free movies. Very comfortable bed. Verandas are just right for two people. All veranda cabins are pretty much the same size with the difference being the size of the veranda. AQUA also eat at the BLU restaurant. More on BLU later. AQUA class gives you a few extra amenities like access to the Persian Gardens but nice as that was we only went one day.
Room Attendants Luis (1640) and Vilma (1633) were top notch.
It is very difficult to describe why we liked this ship so much. Cannot seem to put my finger on it. Perhaps some future reviews will describe it well. Everything from the Theater, the pools, the bars, casinos. All seemed to be the right size, beautiful decor, nice view, in the right area.
We really liked the upper, aft real grass area. Never very crowded. Have a game of lawn bowling or the like. You will not find rock climbing or roller blading and that is kind of nice. The glass blowing by Corning is worth a visit.
This is without doubt an adult ship. Having said this they do not discourage children. There seems to be plenty of child activities. Our particular cruise was during American Thanksgiving. There were lots of big family groups with quite a few children. From our perspective the kids were well behaved and a delight to have during this holiday cruise. Again maybe someone else that brought children can give us a better appreciation of the activities for younger children and teens.
I am pretty sure that the ship was close to capacity but it never seemed overly crowded.
As AQUA class we are assigned to the restaurant BLU. We had the option of eating in the main dining room but due to rave reviews we selected BLU.
We all thought that BLU was perfect. I have heard that the MDR is also very good but because of the small numbers in BLU they must have the advantage of serving a smaller group.
Probably the selection is smaller than the MDR but with 5 choices each evening we had no problems. Food quality is excellent and if you do not find your choice there are 3 common items like chicken and steak. The service was first class all the way. We do not drink champagne so the wine steward allowed us to exchange our "welcome aboard" bottle for a nice red. We just had to pay the small difference in price.
Most days we ate breakfast at BLU. Again it was great.
We also ate at two specialty restaurants. Both are completely different and both wonderful.
Let us start with QSINE. Incredible. All I can say is read the detailed reviews in the forums. I do not have enough space to say how much we liked it. Go there hungry, do not eat the bread (good but just takes up room) and expect to be amazed for a 3 hour plus marathon. Do not worry about what to eat. Just put down your favorites on the Ipad menu. Do not consult with others in your group. Do not worry about how many items you choose. Your waiter will then guide you through your choices and will make recommendation based on which portion and flavor you like best. Service was great.
Try to leave room for dessert. I tried the surprise dessert. I will not give it away as others have done in the forums. Suffice to say that it is another reason not to eat bread at the beginning. MMMMMM. If you are going to one specialty restaurant then this is the one. Go early if you want a great seat.
The TUSCAN GRILL is a very close second. We were in Tuscany last year and had many wonderful meals. This restaurant would have fit in well in Florence.
You would never know that Oscar our waiter was from Chile. His description of all the food was very informative and he was delightful as was his assistant Nicola.
As we made our selection we noted that we forgot that this was Thanksgiving and would miss the turkey but that was OK as the entrees sounded wonderful.
Before our appetizers arrived the Maitre d brought over a special white turkey breast sampler with gravy. Now that is classy.
Loved it. The Cirque du Soleil was top notch. The regular shows were also of a high quality.
The two main acts were a British Juggler/Comedian. I apologize as I thought I had written his name down but did not. You can find his name in some of the other forum links. I feel bad about this because he is very good. A wonderful entertainer. The RCI family should try to keep him.
The second main act was Karen Granger. I should remember her name as we all hail from Canada. Karen is a voice impersonator/comedian. Close your eyes and you will think that Celine Dion or Whitney Houston is on stage. She even does a duet where she sings the male and female parts. Incredible. Another keeper.
We are Elite Level Members. I only mention this to indicate if we feel the extras are worth it.
90 minutes of free Wireless internet in the cabin. Well worth it as the system is very good. No problems at sea or in port and fairly fast.
Laundry, pressing and dry cleaning: well worth it.
Michael's Club: Great for a quick breakfast with a Latte, Expresso etc.
Happy Hour: Only went once on the last evening as we felt that it would be crowded and the drinks watered down. Furthest thing from the truth. High end liquor, wine and cocktails and not that busy. Wish we had been there more often.
THIS IS THE BEST SHIP ALL FOUR OF US HAVE SAILED WITH.
First the crew. The Captain should be proud. Always cheerful. I looked lost one day and a maintenance person cleaning the carpets asked if he could help. All the staff that we had the pleasure to be in contact with were very professional and pleasant. In a word...exceptional! You can have a beautiful ship but it is the crew that makes the difference.
Our only regret is that we did not have the time to experience everything the ship has to offer. Perhaps a back to back cruise would have been the answer.
Thank you Eclipse. You have lived up to your name.