This will be a lengthy and thorough review of the Celebrity Eclipse. I will present it in sections so that you can read the part that interests you or the whole review.
I am an experienced cruiser having been on NCL, RCI, and Carnival.
We were on a 7 day Eastern Caribbean itinerary and did San Juan, St Maartin and St Kitts. We left from Miami on Saturday afternoon.
Passengers: 3100 on our sailing. Much older crowd. Average age late 50's early 60's. This is not a party ship with crazy contests. There were almost no announcements made----passengers were encouraged to read and carry the daily activity sheet. There is an excellent children's program on board and there were more children than usual this week due to spring break.
We flew into FLL on Delta the same day and were transferred to the Port of Miami by Celebrity Transfer. While I find that the price of transfers is always a little more than a cab or private transport, I prefer them because it is one less thing I have to plan---- the onus to get me to port is on them from the moment we land. Check-in was no more than 15 minutes and that was more walking through the lines than waiting. It was very well organized-- lines were divided by deck near the end where you sign for your Sea Pass (Celebrity's Ship card) After 15 minutes we were just about there when it was time to take the obligatory welcome aboard picture. However, you can easily bypass the line as a separate space was provided for just that purpose. Having been on many cruises before and knowing that you rarely look your best-- we (family of 5) went around the line and boarded the ship. We were welcomed with a drink----champagne and mimosa. Nice touch reminds me of the old days when they gave you a drink took your carry ons and escorted you to your cabin---but those days are gone---at least at these prices. Cabins are ready a 1:00pm. We were onboard by 12:30 so we headed there to see if we could just drop our bags and go up the Ocean view cafe (Buffet). Note: they close the emergency doors to keep people out of the cabins. As luck would have it our amazing cabin steward Esther was there----- we dropped our bags programmed the safe and went to eat.
In my opinion this is the best buffet restaurant I have experienced in 7 cruises. Much has been said about the lay out of the buffet and yes it is a bit confusing at first-----as a matter of fact I mentioned to staff that even a small diagram and explanation would help people navigate and see the simplicity behind the design. The buffet is set up in islands each with specific foods and signs. North and South end have hot foods and specialties (Pizza, omelet pre-made and to order, Mexican, Indian) ---these do not repeat. Middle islands are bread, salad, fruit, cheese and carving stations----these do repeat so if one is crowded go to the other. Drinks are at stations east and west (note N is the front of the ship for our purposes) outside there is the Oceanview bar -------great place to sit or bring your food. Desserts are at the sides of the N S stations. Lastly read the signs---- each island has a sign that tells you what it is--- Bread, Cheese Salad and every food also has a sign. The food was excellent---for a buffet of course. Also, there were no bacon police----you helped yourself. I loved the fact that I did not have to wait behind someone who was making a salad when I just wanted a slice of ham. They also had waffles available every day. Tea was served every day from 4 to 5pm. Ice cream was also available by the scoop or soft frozen yogurt. They have toppings available. If you want to help yourself there is a self-serve ice cream machine at the Mast Grill(outside one level up from the pool) and they change the flavour everyday.
We loved the Hot Glass show. We were all fascinated by the artistry---- it was also a nice way to be on deck without sun bathing. We were sad to hear that it will not be on the next two solstice class ships. More pay as you go restaurants are coming.
The Lawn Club: Much has been said about this area in and around the Hot Glass show. We loved it and so did sun bathers and people having an ice cream or just playing lawn games. This too, will have a new specialty restaurant were you will be able to picnic on the lawn for a fee.
Main Dining Room: The food and service were excellent. The waiters do not do shows or entertain but they are as attentive as they can be with the huge numbers that they have to serve. The food was good but not superior to Carnival. I had expected it to be way above Carnival. It was at best as good and often less than. Salads in particular we lacking and the steaks were on the tough side. Also one night I asked for two entrees and the waiter seemed surprised, "you want two meals?" Yes was my reply. I did not appreciate the question. On another night I asked for a pasta entrEe so we might all try it at the table---it never arrived. This is not premium cruise behaviour. On the formal, night baked Alaska was brought for dessert-----no one at the table was consulted. A little thing to be sure but then again the little things are what Premium lines take care of. The Maitre D' came by more than once and seemed genuinely interested--------even the Chef came by to chat but he seemed stressed and in a hurry. Still, nice touch.
Specialty Restaurants: We only went to one. Many people on the ship raved about the quality of service and food in these restaurants. We went to Qsine's and I must say that I too agree that service and food is outstanding. It should be. After all you have paid for the service twice--- $35 dollar up charge plus you lose your meal(which you paid and tipped for) in the MDR. For a family of 5 that is another $175---that is not cheap and in my opinion not worth it. Was Qsine's fun? Yes? But I would have had a great time in the MDR just the same. One other thing----- they have certain nights that they give 20% discounts on specialty dining because it is the first night or you are in port that evening. Lastly, I felt that all the expensive foods like filet mignon and Kobe beef were purposely held to the end of the meal so you could fill up on fried egg rolls and veggie chips and bread. We took 3 hours to eat at Qsine.
Cabin: Our cabin was a family cabin at the front of the ship. It was 575 square feet and had a veranda as well. It was beautiful with two huge windows and 2 separate bedrooms---one with a king bed and the other with bunk beds and a very large sitting area and TV. Only one bathroom----why would you have only one bathroom for a cabin of 5 people or more? The shower---best ever in 7 cruises but again why clear glass------no one else could use the washroom when someone was showering. I understand clear glass in a regular cabin but this is a Family cabin.
Entertainment: Excellent----- there were always good seats. Again the talent was excellent and as good as any other cruise or better.
Ports: San Juan--been there done that—it's okay but I would have preferred St.Thomas. St. Maarten a favourite and the best place to shop along with St.Thomas. St Kitts great beaches. Be careful in the shops they have lots of fake stuff and prices vary from door to door. Know your prices back home. One man gave me a price and said it was better than any ships price----I responded that he needed to beat the Costco and Wal-mart price not the ship's price. He said nothing after that
Disembarkation: Very smooth we were the last ones to get off the ship. They sent us a letter in the cabin that said to be in the theater by 9am and from there we were off by 9:30am.
Note: if you arrive at the Airport too early they will not take you bags. In our case Delta will only take them 4 hrs or less before the flight.
Conclusion: Things I have pointed out for the review are just that-------things I have reviewed. We had a great time and I wish I were still there. Would I go on Celebrity again? Yes----and I would choose a Solstice Class ship.