When reading the recent Cruise Critic comments about Eclipse I was concerned. The reviews seemed mixed, at best.
The ship launched in summer 2010 and accommodates 2800+ passengers. But the size works to your advantage in offering more venues and spaciousness. If you are happy with feel of the 1500-2000 passenger ships that were built in the early 2000's you will be pleased with Eclipse.
Since everything is new, there is no worn look anywhere. The rooms have few, if any, nicks, scratches or stains.
One nice thing about a large ship is you walk from forward to aft without having to pass through the casino smoke and noise.
We booked in Aqua Class (more later) for the location (we booked late and wanted a balcony close to mid-ships). The room was tastefully decorated, with two very impressive landscape pictures. The balcony furniture was metal/wood with mesh netting chairs. The linens were better than home. The bathroom had a vessel type sink and a large shower with sliding doors (it would easily accommodate XL size passengers) The shower head was the rain type and the stem included massage nozzles. Cabin storage was more than adequate for a week to ten days clothing with a sliding door closet, storage above and of course, below the bed. The built-in desk/cabinet had enough storage for underwear/incidentals. The bath had a floor to ceiling storage unit for all of the necessaries.
The flat screen was interactive and helpful in viewing photos and services, though it did not allow ordering shore excursions.
All cabin entry doorways are recessed into an alcove to alleviate the bumping in the hallway, a nice touch.
Celebrity's reputation is built on artwork and food quality, both are abundant on Eclipse. If you are having trouble with the concept of pay for speciality restaurants you won't escape on Celebrity. There are four plus Blu(see Aqua notes), also a special wine cellar, coffee shop and gelato station. The main dinning room is two stories with an abundance of crystal, spaciousness and low key splendor. The obligatory "cafeteria" or general eating area that is for casual dress, near the pool, and open for all meals is called OceanView. Though some of the other reviews have faulted this area, it generally exceeds expectations. The food kiosks/stations are well place, and have very good quality and choice. Yes, they are busy during sea days and short lines do form. But, ever the Celebrity conscious status, we noticed several guests stopped and reminded of the proper dress code.
An under publicized choice for breakfast and lunch is in the Solarium ( the covered adult pool between the spa and the main pools). The food is available to all, there are "normal" size portions and tends to be more health conscious. Seating is limited but its entrance near the stairway is tempting for taking back to the room (of course the 24 hour room service for all guests is better).
By the way, the easy access to and availability of "go cups" (paperboard with plastic lining) was a nice touch for both coffee and cold drinks.
Our choice was based on location and thus it was an interesting and at times frustrating experience to understand the distinction. For those who want a location that offers amenities similar to suites but not the large cabin this appears to be the purpose of Aqua. First, it is on one deck where the forward section is the Aqua spa lounge(used for guests awaiting services) but can be used for solitary reading or viewing. This area leads to a circular stairway to the spa (or you can choose the traditional public stairway route).
There was little explanation about the features on the website and nothing in the room. But, here is what you get:
So called priority boarding which meant a separate line that lead to the larger line waiting for boarding documents
Free bottle of champagne (good quality Brut)
Two bottles of water per day along with fresh fruit plate and flowers
Free access, using cabin card, to the Spa's Persian Gardens (heated lounge type seats, sauna and steam room)
Most surprising, your own dinning room (even the Suites have to wait-list to use, though they get freebies to the other speciality dinning). Ourselves and a few others we met had filled out the dinning request given to us by the pre-boarding on-line system and expected either early or late fixed seating for dinner. No, just a note in the room saying your dinners would be in Blu, with open seating/times. Blu was busy for dinner but never overcrowded and like the "Select Dinning" (Celebrity's open time choice for the main room) we could enter anytime between 6-9:30PM and there were no pre-paid gratuities before boarding like "Select". We did not use Blu for breakfast but others commented that it was excellent (not open for lunch). The room was tastefully decorated, snuggled in the area with the other, for fee, speciality restaurants and severed food that was reportedly more health conscious. Based on portion size and the wide array of choices do not be concerned about being at the health food bar at the gym. Blu has its own chef, sommeliers, wait staff and maitre'd, so it exudes that special club feel.
In talking to the staff this concept seems to be a work in progress and previous passengers may have had a different experience and future ones could see another iteration on this or other Solstice class Celebrity ships.
Though we did not book Aqua for the above reasons it is a good value if you are comparing the class 1 and 2 balcony cabin prices.
If you book aft balcony cabins be aware you can be viewed by those passengers in the outdoor dinning area and bar above.
We had some confusion with the top deck lawn area and glass making factory, what is the reason?(the glass making shows were interesting, they are scheduled for a continuous 3 hours but a segment can be seen in 30 mins.)
The singers and dancers were augmented with aerobatic performers, they got to wear some very unusually and elaborate costumes that seem to have no relevance to the performance. Some of shows appeared to be choreographed just to show-off the "gee-whiz" capabilities of the theater.
The staff is responsive and well informed but not very outgoing.
There are several teen and children offerings with separate public rooms but this is clearly an adult focused ship.
Good value, good experience for the over 40 crowd and a positive commentary on how to handle 3,000 guests in a "upscale" environment. This is not intended to be the Carnival or NCL experience.