I am a lifelong lover of travel, who has only recently discovered cruising. I am now addicted, and have taken 6 cruises in the last two years, on 5 different lines. Therefore, I believe I have good perspective to evaluate The Eclipse experience.
It is obvious that the exterior lines on Solstice Class ships are beautiful. Likewise, Eclipse's interior leaves you flabbergasted. This feeling is a combination of many small features, many of which I highlight below.
Pre Cruise: We booked a room at the Miami Intercontinental via an opaque retail hotel site. We scored a great price using information obtained via these boards. We took the $20 upgrade to the ocean view room and had an amazing view of the port. We loved watching the ships come in on Saturday morning. The extra charge to upgrade is well worth it.
Embarkation: We took the Hertz downtown office shuttle to POM after dropping off the rental car. We waited in line for 15 minutes to receive our room cards, and then walked directly to our Sunset Veranda which was ready.
QSINE: Amazing concept, fun and delicious. It is, without a doubt, a reason to pick this ship over other earlier S Class ships without it. You can sample as many distinct dishes as your stomach can handle. We loved the Sushi Lollipops and "QSINE Surprise" dessert. We ate here two nights in a row so we could try all of the many choices. Murano was very good with lavish cuts of meat or lobster. An unexpected highlight was the afternoon High Tea held in Murano for $17. Beautiful china, warm scones, yummy finger sandwiches, sweets and cookies complemented by ultra premium teas.
Spectacular Bars: We loved the wine bar where you can sample many different wines. I really liked that the self serve wine machine has three pour sizes and prices for each bottle. You can sample a small taste of a $300 bottle affordably. The ice covered martini bar was sophisicated and I enjoyed a great show of bartending skills. The beverage package really works to make the ship's bars hopping, allowing you to get to know more of your fellow cruisers.
Shows: I never cruise for the entertainment. However, Eclipse's three productions; Ovation, Eclipse and Edge, have very high production values. The costumes, sets, lights and in air trapeze acrobatics, were energizing; far superior to what I had seen in the past on the high seas.
Enrichment: The glass show really impressed me. I was shocked by the high quality of glass being produced. The entertaining play by play given by the artisans had me hanging on every word. The astronomy lecturer from the Smithsonian helped my balcony stargazing skills and was interesting. They also had talks on navigation and other technical aspects of ship technology. Bottom line: the Eclipse offered the most entertaining sea days I've experienced.
The staff overall was very friendly, never failing to greet us in passing. Our room attendant kept the cabin spotless, just like every other cruise I've been on.
The lawn club is fascinating. Hard to believe it possible to have acres of real sod in the middle of the ocean! Try Golf, Croquet, or just smell the freshness of the grass. Don't forget to check out the solarium, very relaxing space. I loved the beautiful wall waterfall, complete with dancing fountain at its base. The light show and soothing soundtrack seemed to be in perfect sync. Internet packages were pricey, but adequate WIFI for my laptop, all the way to the aft cabin.
Criticisms: (Minor, but still some room for improvement)
Lack of aft staircase/elevator: The distance from a Sunset Veranda to the nearest stairway is 130 yards. I'm all for getting exercise, but this is ridiculous. If you forget something its AT LEAST a 10 minute walk from any public area to the back of the ship. They could at least throw in a stairway back there. The chime when the elevator arrives needs to be changed! It is an overly loud, high pitched screech, which threatened my girlfriends mood on a daily basis. Smoking areas on board are few and not marked. There is no logic in their location. This produced confusion and conflict between smokers, nonsmokers and even crew, who couldn't seem to figure out the smoke zones. The coffee was consistently bad, worse than any other line I've been on.
We opted for traditional dining, late seating. We were seated at a table for two by request. Be aware that you are one foot apart from the next table. Call a spade a spade. If there is not enough room to accommodate a table for two then don't offer them. The closeness makes the experience identical to being seated with a group. Our service in the MDR was average at best, i.e. waiter had 0 interaction with us and the assistant's English was not good. The food quality was not bad; but no better than any other mainstream cruise line. I feel it far inferior to Disney's included dining. Also, if you are not in the middle of the dining room (like us), you don't see the signature wine tower and can feel separated from the room's energy. Finally, our SV stateroom was directly above Tuscan Grill. The grill extends outward beneath the aft cabins which did block our view of the water when looking down.
Disembarkation: Long process caused by immigration designating only four officers to work the entire ship. Huge lines, resulting in us not getting off the ship until 11 a.m. This was not Celebrity's fault but don't push an early flight.
Conclusion: Absolutely, the best boat I've been on, and highly recommended. Before I set foot on Celebrity Eclipse, I cruised only for the ports. After Eclipse, not so sure. The positives far outnumber any negatives. I can't wait to try Silhouette.