My girlfriend and I just got back from an amazing cruise aboard Celebrity's Eclipse.
First off, as a quick intro we are in our early 30's, and we are experienced travelers, with this being our 8th cruise. We have also cruised Carnival, Princess, and Royal Caribbean. This is my second Celebrity cruise, and my girlfriend's first.
Embarkation in Miami: We arrived around 2pm, and boarded the ship effortlessly. My first step on the teak deck showed me the newness and beauty of the ship. Another step had me in front of a white-gloved staff member offering a choice of either mimosa or champagne. Nice touch, Celebrity. Very classy. I noticed these small but very important gestures the entire week. From that point on, we were overjoyed with every aspect of the ship.
Typically, we choose interior cabins due to their economy price and convenience for mid-day naps and sleeping late, but we got a great deal on a balcony cabin, so we splurged. The cabin, on deck 8, was in a word, wonderful. The room was spotless, extremely well set up, and gone were the overly annoying blues and pinks of other cruise lines. The cabin was decorated in earthy tones, with wood cabinets and granite countertops. The balcony was large and beautiful. The bathroom was also fabulous, with a vessel sink and tile backsplash. The shower was easily large enough for two people, and had a door rather than the annoying curtain. There was plenty of room, and the bed was one of the most comfortable we'd slept on while on a ship. This theme of cleanliness and beauty ran throughout the ship.
Public areas were amazing, and while it is a larger ship, it never felt cramped. The pool area was, of course, a popular hangout on sea days, and the Oceanview Cafe did seem a bit hectic on the day everyone boarded, but other than that, the cruise and the onboard experience felt very intimate. The Lawn club was fabulous, the previously mentioned Oceanview Cafe and the Moonlight Sonata (the wine tower is truly something to behold) were amazing, and the specialty restaurants were gorgeous. We found the ship to be the most attractive one we had ever cruised on. As far as beverages go, we found the sunset bar (at the very aft of the ship) to be rarely crowded, and Michael's Club (as well as the darkly lit area just outside of the entrance) to be wonderful places to enjoy a refreshing drink. The martini bar was fantastic, as was the casino. I was even blown away by the beauty of the public bathrooms. The ship is completely modern and beautiful, from head to toe. To be honest, I really don't have much to say in any sort of negative slant towards the ship.
One very important note: My girlfriend and I typically bring a bottle of wine or alcohol onboard in our bags with no problem. I had previously read that Celebrity was really cracking down on this, but that we were allowed two personal bottles of wine with a corkage fee. So we decided to pack two bottles of wine, in our checked luggage, and if discovered, be very willing to pay the fee. So by evening on the first night, neither of our bags that contained the wine had shown up at our door. Around 6pm I got a call from the room steward, letting me know that I had to go to deck 2 security because there was liquor in my bag. Of course, I was pretty embarrassed, but he said not to worry, that there were plenty of people in the same boat that we were in. When I got down to deck 2, there were indeed a large number of people claiming their bags with alcohol. In order to leave with the bag, one had to open it and show the contents to a security staff member. Those with wine were allowed to keep the bottle(s), but any liquor was confiscated. I assume that it was given back at the end of the cruise, but I don't know. So take this as a word of warning to those thinking of sneaking the hard stuff on board. Truthfully I was a bit surprised that they did this, but I suppose its the direction the industry is going.
Food was fantastic on all fronts, which was a welcome surprise. I admit that I have feared for some time that with the advent of specialty restaurants, cruise lines would allow the quality of main dining room food to deteriorate while focusing on the revenue generating specialties, but it was not the case here. Steaks were cooked very well, risotto was fabulous, and appetizers and desserts were fantastic. Also, the service was top notch. We did try both Qsine and the Tuscan Grill, which were both spectacular. In the Tuscan Grill, the steaks were cooked to perfection, as was the Sea Bass. Also, ask for Ozzy if you can. He will take care of your every need. Qsine is not to be missed. Everything about this restaurant is just fun. When you enter, they give you an IPad with which to browse and order the many small plates available in a tapas-style configuration. These were all better and way more creative than any tapas place I've been to. Sushi lollipops, Kobe beef sliders, a trio of soups, all served so creatively that they're as fun to look at as they are to eat. For example, the painter's filet arrived in the shape of a painter's palette, with the outside colors being various accompaniments that were to be enjoyed with the filet. Simply amazing, and well worth it. The only gripe I had with the overall ship offerings was the sushi that was offered nightly. It wasn't bad, by any means, but other lines (specifically Carnival, which is totally unbelievable) had much better rolls and fresher tasting fish. Also the pizza from room service was pretty doughy, but I wasn't expecting too much there.
The ports were great. Please note that if you are ever in Costa Maya, please get out of that initial port area. I love Costa Maya, and have never spent more than 5 minutes on that tourist trap of a pier. I was told by another cruiser that the owner of the pier made a deal with the cruise lines that they would try to keep as many people on the pier as possible, but anyone who stays is missing a true Mexican/Caribbean gem. Rent a golf cart of take a cab into town. You will find great bars, fantastic restaurants, waaaaaaaaaay cheaper beers, great people, crafts, massages, and beautiful beaches. I hate to hear every cruise how many people didn't even know there was a town there. Also, if you are in Cozumel and have some wheels, Mr. Sancho's and the "Freedom in Paradise" reggae beach bar are totally worth the trip - my personal favorite being the Reggae bar. Its at the very southern tip of the island, and they have cheap drinks and great eats. It is well worth the trip. West Bay in Honduras was also a great beach with a lot of fun things to do.
Entertainment was basic cruise fare...I don't usually attend many shows. The newlywed game, ran by passable cruise director Paul Baya, was bland. However, the cirque-de-soleil style show, titled Eclipse, was pretty good. In fact, I believe a lot of the stunts were more dramatic than the majority of the crowd could understand.
If you are a Captain's Circle member - don't miss Celebrity's club member party. It was far and above the best of the parties that any line has thrown that we have attended for return guests. This is reason enough to join the club.
The only issue we had with the entire cruise was the disembarkation. No numbers were going to be called like other lines, they just basically told you to vacate the stateroom by 8:30 and go to your assigned waiting area (the Moonlight Sonata for us). Well, rather than harp on it, lets just say we didn't get off the ship until around 11. There were tons of people standing around, with no information from Celebrity about how long things were taking or why. I was told by one of the customs people that this always happens in Port of Miami on disembarkation day, so I don't think this is a negative aspect of the ship or Celebrity itself.
Overall the cruise was virtually perfect, and the Eclipse was one of the best ships we have ever been on. I will have to say that I personally prefer the "main street" design that Royal Caribbean takes on its larger ships as opposed to a 3-4 story atrium, but that's just me. It seems like it creates more of a central hub for the ship. I do like Celebrity's focus on elegance rather than family, and while I do like RC's approach to active people (basketball courts, rock climbing walls, surfing, etc.), Celebrity's focus on understated sophistication is also very a welcomed change of pace and was executed with ease. We will be sailing on Celebrity in the future.