Nov. 27 - Dec. 4, 2010
Cabin 8230, Category 1A
For us, this cruise was all about the ship. We booked to get away and relax for a week. Having previously sailed Solstice and Equinox, we knew we'd have no problem feeling right at home on Eclipse. In every sense of the word, this cruise and ship were fantastic.
We drove to Miami early on embarkation day, arriving at 11:30 AM. We dropped the luggage with a porter and parked directly across the street from the terminal in the parking garage. A short walk to the terminal, and we proceeded through security before entering the check-in area. Your passport is checked here and your carry-on's go through a regular scanning procedure. We then immediately walked up to an Elite passenger counter for check-in. In less than five minutes, we had our keys and proceeded to the line to board the ship. It was about a 15 minute wait in line for the photo processing of your sea pass card. By noon, we were seated on the outdoor aft deck of the Oceanview Cafe on deck 14 and enjoying lunch.
By 1:00 PM they announced that we could proceed to our cabins. Our 1A cabin was standard size, bed near the closet and bathroom. While I'm still not wild about the closet configuration on these ships (one of the few things that could have had a better design), there is plenty of storage space for clothing, shoes, etc.
The great thing about this cabin is that it is on the "bump out" and therefore has a much larger balcony than other rooms in this category. It also has the largest balcony of all four bump out cabins in this area of the ship. The balcony is angled and is probably about 70 sq ft., a very nice size.
We liked the location of this cabin as well. Just off the main set of stairs/elevators at the atrium. Easy to walk up or down to all activities. Cabins are extremely quiet and we spent quite a bit of time on our balcony reading and enjoying watching the Caribbean go by. I wouldn't hesitate to book this cabin or the one directly above it on deck 9 again.
What can I say? I think the public spaces on this class of ship are the prettiest I've seen on a ship (keep in mind I haven't sailed all lines....just Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Princess, NCL, HAL and Carnival). These ships are hands down the most comfortable and lovely ships out there.
The layout of Eclipse is essentially the same as her sisters, Solstice and Equinox. Minor changes were found here and there but overall the ships have a similar feel. Changes I've noticed (I'm sure others can add to this short list):
· Qzine replaces Silk Harvest. This funky restaurant is going to serve Eclipse and Celebrity well. More info in the Dining section below.
· Tiered benches at the Hot Glass show instead of flat benches....nice touch!
· Angled grand staircase
· Removal of hanging chairs in Quazar disco
· Marble floor in front of the bar in Michael's Club is gone
· Large ball planter for the tree in the atrium
· Different color schemes in some areas like Sky lounge.
I don't often make statements as strong as this but the food overall on Eclipse was outstanding. Nearly everything we ate was delicious and when you factor in the amount of food being prepared each day for several thousand people, it's remarkable that they can serve food this good.
I can highly recommend the coq au vin, chateaubriand, all the pastas (I'd often order an appetizer size before my entrEe), and all the soups in the main dining room (Moonlight Sonata). Tablemates loved the frog legs and ordered them on several nights even though they weren't always on the menu.
The brunch in the main dining room took place on day 2 (a sea day). I was pleasantly surprised to see them making eggs Benedict to order instead of placing them pre-made in a warming tray. What a difference. This allowed me to create my own version by getting a slice of prime rib to place on the English muffin before the poached egg. It was yummy!
The Oceanview Cafe, the buffet restaurant on Eclipse, has a wide variety of very good choices for breakfast and lunch with limited choices in the evening. Waffles hot off the griddle remain a favorite of mine. Several of the stir fry and Mexican options were also very good.
The only item I didn't care for all week was the burger at the pool grille. I find them typically WAY overcooked, often to the point of being burnt. Took one bite and couldn't eat any more. But there were plenty of choices for great food so one not so good item out of many isn't bad.
We decided to give Bistro on Five a try finally after having sailed several times previously on S-class ships. I have to admit it was very, very good. I had the sweet and sour crepe first followed by the dulce de leche (caramel) crepe for dessert. It was delicious and we were glad we tried it.
The highlight of our culinary experiences on Eclipse, however, was Qzine, the new specialty restaurant that has replaced Silk Harvest on this ship. Where to start? I had read a great deal about the restaurant before boarding so I was somewhat prepared for the quirkiness that was about to present itself. I'd call it a tapas-type of restaurant featuring tastes from around the world. 21 Cruise Critic members dined together at two tables here (no small feat to arrange....more on that later). As you enter the restaurant you'll notice that nothing is ordinary. You are greeted by different chairs (some tall, some short), eclectic tables & light fixtures and waiters who are as fun as the serving pieces and food itself.
After you are seated, each guest is presented an iPad. I'd say we spent the first 30 minutes playing with the iPad, checking out all the options from the drink menu to all the food items. After selecting drinks (even this is fun), our table decided to let our waiter make various selections off the menu for us. He told us if there was something he didn't bring that we wanted just to let him know and he'd get it for us. This was the perfect way to experiment with this vast menu. Among the items we enjoyed were sushi lollipops, a bang-bang type shrimp dish, BBQ pork and vegetable spring rolls, a funky fabulous tasting crab ball (I can't even begin to describe it), lobster escargot, popcorn fish, Kobe beef sliders, painted filet mignon and a series of desserts including decorate-your-own cupcakes.
Adding to the fun were the ultra-create serving pieces. For example, the four "spring" rolls were each served inside of "spring" mounted to a pretty piece of marble. The bang-bang-type shrimp dish was served in a stemless martini glass situated in a blue-lite ice-filled globe. The popcorn beer-battered fish was served in popcorn containers. With each new dish brought expressions of awe and laughter. My husband's mojito came "unassembled" with the alcohol in separate vials, fresh mint with a mortar and pestle so he could create his own drink. Finally, the dessert menu is served in a Rubik's cube.
Beyond the fun and creative, the food was unbelievably good. The Kobe beef sliders and painted filet mignon may have been the best food I had on the ship all week (makes up for the less than par burgers at the pool).
Celebrity has gone way outside the box with Qzine. Everyone in our group thoroughly enjoyed the evening and thought it was worth the extra $30 fee for such a great time and great food. I think they've hit a home run with this concept. Be prepared to make an evening of it. We were at Qzine for close to four hours. It didn't feel like it as the evening passed way too quickly. But plan to visit here on a night you don't want to do much else on board.
One final comment on Qzine. This is definitely a place you want to go with a group of people. There are so many different things to try that your overall experience is going to be better if you dine with a larger group and share. That also adds to the fun. This isn't the place for a quiet, romantic evening - head to Murano for that. There is plenty of room for the restaurant to accommodate groups of 8, 10 and 12. But the challenge comes when you attempt to pre-book the restaurant for a group. On-line reservations won't allow you to book for more than 6 people and the Captain's Club wasn't willing to make the reservation even though they said they were when I called and provided all of our information to them. I realize Celebrity probably doesn't want to fill the restaurant with lots of groups that may not show or cancel but they need to come up with a way to accommodate groups through a pre-booking process. The essence of this restaurant is doing it with a group of people.
Kudos to Celebrity for trying something uniquely different in the dining arena. Qzine will serve them well, especially if they come up with a way to accommodate larger party reservations. OH....and they really, really need to begin selling some of the serving items from all their specialty restaurants. Place the restaurant logo on some items, open a little Specialty Restaurant gift shop and they would be selling tons of this stuff. What a great memory to use some of these wonderful pieces at home after the cruise.
PORTS OF CALL
This was really a get-away and relax cruise for us. We didn't do any shore excursions and only disembarked the ship to get a good walk in each day we were in port. Others we sailed with enjoyed various excursions in each port of call. We'll definitely plan something in Roatan the next time we are there. We were just happy to enjoy our balcony with a book or a quiet pool during port days.
ONBOARD ACTIVITIES & ENTERTAINMENT
There is no shortage of onboard activities and entertainment on Eclipse. You can do as much or as little as you'd like. We participated in many of the trivia contests (enjoyed having it at the Oceanview bar in the afternoon), some of the cooking demonstrations (the Battle of the Eclipse Chefs was hysterical), got in a daily mile walk (wish the promenade went all the way around and that the lifeboats didn't completely block the ocean view here) & late night comedy. There were wine tastings, lectures, the regular evening entertainment in the theater and lounges (most people enjoyed the theater entertainment). Our evenings were mostly spent in Michael's Club or the Martini bar for before dinner drinks with Michael's Club later in the evening to enjoy the piano music and drinks with friends. Lots of people could be found dancing before dinner to live music in the atrium.
We didn't try the spa on this cruise and made virtually no purchases (I would have purchased some of the serving pieces from Qzine but they aren't selling them yet!).
Bottom line is that you really couldn't be bored on Eclipse unless you intentionally wanted to be.
CREW & FRIENDS
Maybe we just sail Celebrity too much, but in our opinion, no other cruise line staff beats the crew on Celebrity ships. We do sail other lines and by no means am I saying that crew on other lines aren't good, the greater majority are wonderful, too, but there is just something about Celebrity's crew that makes sailing with them special. Sure, not everything is perfect all the time, but for the most part, their crew is friendly, caring, ready to serve whatever need you may have. I find a friendly smile usually goes a long way in getting a problem resolved.
The crew on this sailing was as good as it gets in the mass market of cruising. Captain Panagiotis Skylogiannis served as master of the vessel. We've had the pleasure of sailing with him on previous Celebrity cruises. He is seen around the ship often and always offers a friendly hello. Hotel Director Damien O'Connor was equally visible and friendly. Several staff even commented that he was a great hotel director to work for. Officers were ever present throughout the ship and were always happy to chat with passengers. John Grantham was the Cruise Director and he and his staff made sure there were plenty of things for passengers to do throughout the cruise. When the leadership at the top treats their staff well, which was apparent on Eclipse, it definitely trickles down to how crew treats passengers. I've always believed that great service starts at the top. Congrats to the entire crew on Eclipse for making this one of our best cruises ever.
On the opposite side of the coin, the passengers we met on this cruise, from those on Cruise Critic to our tablemates were fantastic. For some reason (maybe it was the time of year???), everyone on this cruise just "clicked." Many shared shore excursions, or drinks together in the evening, or teams at trivia. This was the first cruise that we had both a Sailaway party when we left Miami and an "unsailaway" party on the last afternoon as we made our way back to Miami.
Overall, this sailing ranked up there as one of our all-time best. A big thanks to everyone (passengers and crew) who made it that way. We look forward to seeing everyone on another cruise soon.
To view photos from our cruise, click here: http://celebrityeclipse2010.shutterfly.com/