Although this was our 12th cruise after sailing with RCCL, Carnival, Princess, and NCL, this was our first Celebrity Cruise. We read many reviews about the Eclipse and it sounded like a sure bet that this ship was a winner. We left the frigid cold of the north and departed from Cleveland the day before the cruise departure of March 5th. We arrived in FLL and booked SAS transportation for the transfers to Miami. SAS was there promptly and for $13 pp you just couldn't beat it.
We bid for our hotel on Priceline and got the Windham Garden Hotel in South Beach. We read many mixed reviews on this hotel once we won the bid—there aren't many deals to be had out there for that time of the year so we resigned ourselves to the fact that we were only going to be there one night and we could survive anything for a night. Honestly, some of the reviews were terrible and to be honest, this hotel is not that bad at all. It's in a great location, the rooms are clean—yes, they're small, but if you know anything about South Beach you understand how long ago these hotels were built. Typical hotel rooms back in the 50s were small, no large beds, extra furniture or anything like that. The elevator is old—reminds me of some of the ones we've been in when visiting Europe, but it worked. The air conditioning worked in all 3 rooms so that was not a problem. This hotel has been updated so I was surprised to see that it wasn't falling down around our ears as some of the reviewers would have you believe. And it had a lovely pool/sitting area outside which was pretty private with all of the trees, etc. The best feature of this hotel though has to be the location—it's only 2 blocks from the beach, lots of great restaurants, bars, shops nearby. The worst feature that I can think of is that some of the rooms are a bit noisy at night so you might want to ask for a room away from the street side. If you have $400 or $500 for a one night's stay, then spend it on another hotel, but for this price in South Beach, you can't beat it.
We took a van cab the next morning to the pier and it ran about $10 pp. We arrived at the port at approx. 11:20 and it took about 45 minutes to actually get on the ship. We brought 2 bottles of wine and were able to bring them on board & into our cabin without a problem. However, I had a travel iron—something I always bring on cruises—but it was confiscated before I boarded because of the risk of fire. This would make more sense to me if they had a rule banning curling irons, flat irons, etc.—they pose the same dangers. I just see this as a way to force you to pay for their laundry services, but it's not that big of a deal—just a warning to anyone out there who depends on an iron when they're on a cruise. Iron your clothes before you pack and pack them carefully.
Our first impression of this ship is that it's very pretty, but none of the 6 in our party felt that the dEcor equaled what we've come to expect on most cruise ships. Since we normally cruise on RCCL ships, we expected to see similar dEcor but that's not what this ship is like at all. It is VERY understated—very contemporary, and in some cases I would go as far as to say it can leave you cold.
Our cabin was 9200 and it was very nice. I really liked the lay out of the cabins—even though at first it appears that you don't have the drawer space that RCCL offers, but there is a huge storage cabinet above the bed that takes care of any extras that need to be stowed away. The bed was comfortable and roomy, and the cabin was really pretty quiet at night. The balcony furniture is a step up from what we've had on other cruises so that was a nice surprise. Our room was always cleaned and stocked with towels, lotions, etc.—we never had to ask for a thing.
There are two features of this ship that we felt were just a bit above RCCL ships: the food, especially in the buffet on deck 14 AND the service overall. All 6 of us in our group felt that Celebrity falls short in the area of entertainment and the overall dEcor on the ship. There's just not as much going on as you find on RCCL ships and the rest of them. The entertainment they have is good—we especially liked the Asian group that performed in the Centrum lobby and poolside. They were so talented and everyone seemed to really enjoy them. The problem seemed to be that there was not enough of a variety of entertainment going on at any one time. On RCCL you'll find live entertainment at a variety of places throughout the ship at most times of the day. We really missed shows like the Newlywed Game, etc. And we felt that the 10:45—11:00 PM showtime in the theater was really kind of late for us. Plus we just didn't feel like the acts were as professional as what we've enjoyed on other ships. Our groups age range is 57—65. I guess it should have been a hint as to what to expect when we saw that glass blowing was considered part of their entertainment.
One of the highlights of our cruise experience was our wait staff in the main dining room. We sat at table 510 every night even though we chose their select dining plan. Our waiter was Nengah and Numba (probably not spelled correctly) they and the rest of the staff were absolutely fantastic, along with the hostess and head waiter. Each one of them bent over backward to please us and we so appreciate all they did to make our dining experience enjoyable every night.
Even though my husband and I had already been to most of the ports on this cruise, we did enjoy the stops and really enjoyed our first visit to Roatan in Honduras. Our first stop was Georgetown, Grand Cayman, and we took a cab once at the port for only $4 to Paradise Beach. This was a very nice beach but it was expensive to use their chairs and umbrellas. We hadn't been to the Cayman's since the hurricane went through and it's sad to see how it's affected this island. They still are suffering the affects of the hurricane and because they don't have a pier, many cruise lines won't put them back on their itineraries. Our 2nd stop was Cozumel and we took a cab to a beach there. We were a bit disappointed in Cozumel—the water wasn't nearly as clear and as beautiful as we remembered, and it seemed littered also. Costa Maya was our next stop and we enjoyed our stay there. The seas were rocky when we headed into their port though and it wasn't easy for the captain to dock but he did it. As it turned out, Eclipse was the only ship to dock that day in Costa Maya. One of RCCLs mega ships attempted but hit the pier and did some damage—all of the other ships turned away and left. We took a bus into Mahujual for $3 and parked ourselves on the beach at the Green Iguana. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed our time there. We walked a bit down the beach to find $15 massages for an hour—and wow, were they great. We were right on the beach with the waves breaking only a few feet away and let me tell you, these women know what they're doing. It's the cheapest massage and one of the best we've ever had. Roatan was a nice surprise—it's such a beautiful island and we thoroughly enjoyed the beach we visited for the day. For $20 we took a tour of the island and then were dropped off at the beach to spend a few hours. We did this on our own once we docked.
Debarkation was a little chaotic—there were no signs of the crew there to help control the lines or the crowds of people waiting to get off the ship. The ship arrives back in Miami pretty early and it seems like quite a few people were off the ship before 8 AM, so I think catching an earlier flight can be considered. We never wanted to take a chance on flights leaving before noon, but the last few cruises we've been on would've allowed for earlier flights without question. Unfortunately, our flight didn't depart from FLL until 7:30 PM so we decided to rent a car from Alamo for $45 total for the entire day. We had a nice day, spent some time at Bayside and had lunch there, and did some sightseeing in Ft. Lauderdale before heading to the airport.
All in all we had a nice trip, and definitely enjoyed getting away from the brutal Ohio winter. I don't know if we'd sail Celebrity again—at least not until we're maybe 20 years older. We just found it a bit boring. BUT the service is great and the food was very good. Hope this helps anyone out there planning a cruise. These are just our opinions and we in no way want to offend anyone, but I know how much I value honest opinions when we're planning vacations so that was my goal when I wrote it.