CHEATING ON MY TRUE LOVE
Celebrity Eclipse was my 9th cruise. My first was on Carnival in 1984. I would say I had a "crush" on Carnival, but never developed a relationship. I began cruising again with my family in 2004, and since then have cruised once a year on Royal Caribbean ships of assorted sizes (everything from Sovereign OTS to Liberty OTS). I truly fell in love with the RCCL product. So, why was I tempted to stray, and try another cruise line?
I suppose going with Carnival or NCL might be considered worse, since Celebrity is a sister company to RCCL. Then again, it sounds a bit incestuous (okay, not really). What follows is one man's opinion of his RCCL and Celebrity adventures. I shall endeavor to compare RCCL and Celebrity step by step (Royal being "R" from here on; Celebrity being "C":
Embarkation: Arrived at 12PM; onboard within minutes. The process was similar to R; no advantage either way.
Eclipse: A beautiful ship as mentioned on here many times. I thought it was well laid-out (I've read previous complaints about its layout). All areas were easily accessible. Again, I never had a problem with R ships, so this is another "even" area.
Stateroom: We had two; Concierge C3 Cabin #1071 and Deck 3 OV Cabin 3134. Both cabins are laid out well, no complaints. I specifically liked the location of 1071; directly off the forward elevators, almost mid-ship and quiet. 3134 experienced some overnight noises (shops, and apparently crew passages on the above deck). There wasn't enough noise to bother me, but it might affect a light sleeper. Bathrooms were larger than standard R baths; amenities included q-tips, cotton balls, bottled shampoo, conditioner, lotion. Storage was no problem with us even with three in one cabin. Concierge level offers several perks which included cheese & crackers before dinner (instead of their hors d'ouverves); also a pillow selection which I enjoyed as I prefer a firmer pillow. Overall I would give the cabins an edge over similar R ships, but not by a significant margin. Oh, the balcony was fairly roomy with comfortable chairs and footstools.
Room Service: While we used it only for one breakfast, it had a better selection and seemed a bit more efficient than R. Therefore, Advantage to C.
Food: Great Food, truly excellent Brunch on one sea day (never saw Cotton Candy offered before - our 20 month old DGD loved it). The Brunch had pretty much anything imaginable (including lox, tons of shrimp, chocolate fountain). The main buffet is open 24 hours (limited selections at times); its similar to R in layout, but offered more selections. The Ice Cream bar in particular puts R to shame. Free beverages were more accessible than on R ships. C also has a much better assortment of beverage packages. I chose the Classic Non-Alcoholic package for $13 per day. I used it for things like fresh-squeezed orange juice (rather than the machine variety), and for specialty coffees. In retrospect I would have been happy with no drink package or the less expensive soda package, but I did get my money's worth.
I like the idea that C allows you to bring two bottles of wine onboard per cabin. Between the two bottles plus a free bottle of Champagne at Concierge Cabin levels, we didn't buy a drink all week.
Dining Room food was excellent with interesting menus and combinations. I actually prefer plain foods and my favorite meal was the last night's turkey, with a nice minestrone soup for appetizer. Portions were decent, everything was well-prepared, but, again, I've never been unhappy with an R meal. DW, DS & DD tried Qsine and loved it. If you are on Eclipse it shouldn't be missed - it's a truly unique dining experience (I stayed out to watch our DGD, but apparently kids may be allowed in there - check if it matters to you). The Mast Grill on Deck 14 offered hamburgers and hot dogs of better quality than R; also chicken wings, fries, onion rings and more. Overall C definitely gets a big edge in food availability and quality.
Entertainment: I prefer R. There was no one I would really consider a "headliner" on C (okay, maybe the female impressionist). Lots of music around the ship, but R has a much livelier feel to it. Advantage R.
Cruise Director & Staff: Some people think a CD makes a big difference - I've seen various types and enjoyed them all. C has a slightly different approach (don't recall an R CD singing). Paul Baya and his staff were excellent, but different than R CD staffs. Not bad or worse, just different. Karaoke is a good example. On R ships I've been on you might get to sing once per night because of the number of people participating. On Eclipse's first Karaoke night our DS actually sang 16 straight songs! - the staff kept asking him to sing because no one else (out of a half dozen people present) wanted to. He's good, but he's not that good! Second Karaoke night: my DS and an English gentleman with a good voice each sang 7 or 8 songs; 2 other people sang one or two each. I like R's pool side games (showing my low class status).
Overall Crew: Everyone was courteous (several jokingly referred to our DS as the "Karaoke King" throughout the cruise). I would give R a very slight edge here , but that could easily differ from ship to ship.
Pool Area: After being on C I think R needs to lighten up with its towel policy. C had plentiful pool towels in-cabin and pool-side with no check-in procedure required - a much more relaxed atmosphere (On R we always guarded our towels like they were precious gems!). Nicer furniture, more availability, but that was probably due to the average age of cruisers. Drink attendants were there, but not intrusive as they tend to be on many R ships.
Overall Atmosphere: It almost felt like there was an Adult Curfew onboard. The ship closes down much earlier than R ships (with some exceptions). Cruising in mid-January meant very few children (our DGD was one of less than 10 infants-toddlers; I witnessed a Kid's Club gathering of 8 kids in the 3 to 6 age grouping). If you don't want kids on your cruise, consider mid-January cruises. Personally, I like kids, but some might prefer it this way.
Disembarkation: We were in one of the first groups and it was very quick. If you don't want to wait in line forever request an early D-bark time (I've heard from others who got backed up with later departure times). Again, this procedure on C basically mirrors the procedure on R.
Okay, if you add it all up, I think C has more plusses than R. That being the case, I can tell you my next cruise will probably be on R. There are intangibles which, while hard to describe, seem to make R a better fit for my family. I have no complaints about C - I just happen to love R, and I tend to be a very loyal individual (I should add - all 4 of our adult members still prefer R after this cruise). This was an enjoyable, relaxing cruise; I'd recommend C to anyone - but truly I still love you R, and I promise I'll be back.