EMBARKATION: We arrived at the port around noon and were on board about 1:00. Everything seemed to run pretty smoothly. We were greeted with glasses of champagne and took off on our own to find our room.
CABIN: Our midship verandah room was nicely furnished, but definitely on the small side compared to rooms we've had on other cruise lines. The balcony was also a bit small, even though we were on the edge of the hump so we had some extra space compared to others. We had two chairs and footstools, plus a small table. The closet was also small, and there was limited drawer space in the room. There were generous cabinets above the bed where we stored our swimsuits and snorkel gear. Unfortunately, I'm too short to be able to reach them, but my husband could. The bathroom scored big points right away - very spacious and a roomy shower with an actual glass door as well.
DINING: We felt the food really fell short on this cruise - it was a huge disappointment for both of us. Almost nothing in the MDR had a wow factor. The descriptions sounded tempting and the presentation was always beautiful, but the flavors never met our expectations. Even the food in Murano, and especially in the Tuscan Grille, was below par. On the last day I was selected to be a "judge" in the chef cook-off between the pastry chef and the sous chef. The "judge" next to me actually asked the executive chef why our food in the dining room wasn't as good as the food in the cook-off! My sentiments exactly, but I didn't have the nerve to say such a thing! With just a little extra care in the preparation of each dish, our dining would have been memorable; instead it was forgettable.
AQUA SPA CAFÉ: We both thought the food in this little, out-of-the-way spot was really fresh and tasty. My husband said their coffee was the best on the ship and enjoyed their yogurt and fruit parfaits in the morning. The lunch selections, while limited, were also quite good. The only negative is that the Aqua Spa Cafe has limited seating and is located near to the smoking section. We understand that this dining venue is much larger on the Summit which we will be cruising on in a few months - hooray!
OCEANVIEW CAFÉ: The open layout, with separate stations for hot foods, sandwiches, pasta, salads, desserts, etc., was excellent. There was rarely any congestion in the buffet area, and usually it was easy enough to find a table. The food at both breakfast and lunch was the same from day to day. In our opinion, it was just okay - nothing awful, but nothing especially tasty either.
SELECT DINING: We usually arrived at the dining room between 6-6:30 pm without reservations. We were always seated promptly and requested to join other diners instead of eating alone. The wait for dining companions was never long, and we enjoyed meeting other interesting people. The service was rather lackluster overall. Rarely did a waiter check to see if we were enjoying our entrees, offer coffee refills, etc. We are big fans of "Anytime Dining" on Princess and found Celebrity to fall short in this area. The staff needed more polish and certainly didn't take the effort to make sure we were having a good dining experience.
MURANO: I ordered the Lobster Murano for my entree - prepared tableside by our waiter with all the flourish of tableside service when he flamed the cognac. He told us about every ingredient as he added it to the pan. The dish was OK - not great. It would have been much better if he had added the lobster later in the preparation, not as the first ingredient, because the lobster was overcooked and a bit rubbery. My husband had the venison which was good, but again it was nothing to write home about. On the other hand, the cheese course was worth the price of admission! Wonderful variety of French cheeses, and we enjoyed every single one of them. We each had some kind of souffle for dessert - good but not memorable.
TUSCAN GRILLE: We ate here the last night because traditionally the last night on any cruise we've taken has been pretty boring. The Tuscan Grill was really not good at all. There was some kind of antipasti platter which was decent. I got a filet which was perfectly medium rare, but it was DRY! For the life of me I can't figure out how a medium rare steak wouldn't be juicy, but it certainly wasn't. I gave up after three bites and passed it on to my husband. He had ordered veal scaloppini over pasta which was totally awful. It wasn't a veal scallop at all - it was ground up veal formed into a patty! And then it was smothered in melted cheese. We've had better at the Olive Garden. I have no idea what I ordered for dessert. My husband had Tiramisu which he said was so drenched in coffee that it was watery.
We had quite a bit of on-board credit to spend, so the two specialty dining rooms we tried didn't really cost us anything, or I would have been furious. Our servers were okay, not exceptional, but the food was a big disappointment. I doubt if we will ever eat in either of these restaurants again.
Since this was our first Celebrity cruise, I don't know if it was just a problem with this ship still working out the kinks (it just launched in July), or if this is the Celebrity food standard that we've been hearing so many raves about since we started cruising in 2006. We're booked on a Summit cruise in March, so I guess that will tell us if our expectations are out of line, or if it was just a problem with the Eclipse.
ENTERTAINMENT: At the first night "preview" we were disappointed that the cruise director didn't introduce his staff or give us a taste of the upcoming activities he had in store for us. The preview was rather lackluster and certainly didn't inspire us to return, but we did anyway because we are big supporters of live entertainment at home and on other cruises. The three main shows we saw were good, although the volume was way over the top. The main singers were good, as was the song and dance troupe. We would have enjoyed more set changes in the shows and more variety in the choreography. In addition to the main shows, we really liked the acapella group, Last Call, and the Bel Canto string quartet. D'Revelation was okay if you enjoy loud rock 'n roll.
ACTIVITIES: We participated in some of the trivia games and dance lessons. We would have really liked more ballroom dance lessons than the so-called line dances that were provided. Unfortunately most of the evening dancing was held in the very busy grand foyer, which turned out to be a loud and disruptive location. The beautiful Sky Lounge didn't seem to be utilized much at all and might have been a better venue.
There didn't seem to be many activities on this cruise. We are not especially late night people, but we do enjoy listening to some music or doing some dancing after the main show. We also have had fun watching karaoke, American Idol competitions, game shows, etc. on other cruises. The average age demographic on this cruise appeared to be late 60s, with an unusually large number of passengers who were mobility-impaired. Maybe that's why everything came to a stand-still after 10 pm.
The gym was well-equipped and only moderately utilized - never much of a wait for a machine. My husband found the early morning stretch and exercise classes to be excellent.
THE SHIP: Here's where Celebrity scored big - the Eclipse was absolutely beautiful. It was very modern and spacious, sparkling clean, with an excellent layout and design. The traffic flow was basically effortless with little to no congestion. The weather was windy and cool during our cruise, so the pool areas were never crowded either. The only real problem we noticed was that the indoor temperature controls seemed to be out of whack somehow. Some rooms or areas were very comfortable, while others were quite warm and stuffy.
DISEMBARKATION: We did the early morning express disembarkation and had no difficulties whatsoever.
OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: We loved the ship, we loved the bathroom shower, and we loved that there weren't constant announcements on the loudspeakers. We appreciated that Celebrity chose to dock in a calmer location in the Cayman Islands and furnish shuttle buses into Grand Cayman rather than lose a day in this lovely port. We would have enjoyed many more activities to choose from than the limited number offered each day. The "Celebrity Today" daily schedule, a new format for Celebrity, didn't provide any description of events, so perhaps we would have attended more activities had we known what they were. Most of all, we would have been so much happier if the food and food service had been cranked up a notch.