Spotting a super sale on the April 9th sailing of Celebrity Eclipse I eagerly booked and was blessed with one of the cabins with a larger balcony. I traveled with my husband. We are two middle aged cruise lovers and have been addicted since we first discovered what a delightful experience crusing can be!
Traveling to Miami was uneventful as we had a direct flight arriving in Miami airport at noon. Previous cruising buddies picked us up at the airport and we traveled to Coral Gables for lunch at Havanna Harry's. Catching up with our friends and comparing notes on their last cruise and ours was extremely enjoyable. Havanna Harry's portions were huge and I left the restaurant feeling like I had already been to the buffet on the ship! We snapped a few pictures with our friends to keep until we sail together again. Then it was off to the cruise terminal.
Arriving at 2:30 in the afternoon make check in a breeze. We simply walked through the entire procedure, no waiting whatsoever. Of course we knew that our Roll Call members had already sampled and explored the ship prior to our arrival. We went immediately to our stateroom and was pleasantly surprised to see how large the room, bathroom and balcony were. Messages were awaiting us and muster drill was less than an hour away. We were to meet in Moonlight Sonata, the stunning main dining room. We found it very tastefully appointed.
Since the ship is less than a year old everything looks brand new. The ship no longer requires you to wear your life jacket to the muster drills. The Eclispe showed a brief video and we were on our way.
After muster we went up to the pool deck bar on the 12th floor to meet our fellow Cruise Critic roll call members. Everyone was wearing beads to identify our group. We laughed, talked and put faces to names both real and cruise critic "handles". Knowing we had an official "Connections" party the next morning some of us wanted to meet and get started with the party upon arriving at the ship. We also made some dinner plans as we had the "select" anytime dining option.
Dinner on embarkation night was "smart casual dress". Clear definations of dress requirements were posted at the doorway of the main dining room. Many tasty selections were on the menu. My husband had the prime rib. I chose the dinner portion ceasar salad with grilled chicken still being relatively full from lunch. Afterwards we proceeded to the 8:45 PM show in the theater which was a preview of the coming attractions for the upcoming week ahead. "Que" is the cruise director, he led in the introductions. He was energetic without being over the top. After the show we retired to our stateroom as it had been a long day.
Sunday, April 10th - Sea Day
Up early, had coffee on our balcony. (coffee was very good, and I a very particular about my coffee!!!) I always bring our travel mugs, so much easier to walk around with than an open coffee cup. Was surprised that Eclipse also provided paper cups with lids to those who wished to use them. At 8 AM in the Celebrity Central theater on Deck 4 a Catholic Mass was held. Father Joseph Ganiel was the visiting priest on board and he offered Mass each day. After Mass a non-denominational sercvice was held. Paster Swift was visiting on board from Columbus, Ohio.
At 10 AM the Cruise Critic Connections Party was held in Quasar Lounge on Deck 4. We had approximately 50 members attend. One of the CC members put together name tags for everyone and organized the event. A member of the entertainment staff on the ship welcomed us. Sadly, none of the officers or key staff people attended as is popular on other cruise lines. Coffee and tea were available. Each of us took the microphone and introduced ourselves, told where we were from, number of cruises. Several folks had been on Eclipse or its sister ship Soltice previously and told us some of the ships features. We stayed and chatted for well over an hour and made plans for other events with each other.
We explored the ship and attended a Galley tour of the kitchen. Spent the afternoon in the solarium, the adult indoor pool. Very quiet with loungers and beach towels abundant. Also offered was a scrapbooking class in the late afternoon. Evening show was "Ovations" Celebrity singers and dancers preforming Broadway renditions.
Ports: San Juan - arrived at 2 PM
We were off the ship by 2:30 and were greeted by several tour guides offering a $10 tour of the city and Old San Juan. We visited an old fort and traveled around the city for several hours. Stopped at Don Q who was offering free rum punches. There was a CVS drugstore next door which was a good stop for anything that you might have forgotten or that case of bottled water.
St. Maartin - Arrived at 9 AM
We prebooked on line a tour with Bernard' Tours. He has an excellent website. Traveled four hours around the island on both the Dutch and French sides. Went to Orient Beach (one side of it is a nude beach!) You can rent chairs and umbrellas for $7 or $8 depending where you stop at. Some vendors offer a drink and changing room facilities. Margot was very interesting as we saw about 5 planes land right over the beach front.
St. Kitts - Arrived at 8 AM
Met our tour guide Ilva Wallace for a private tour with ten passengers on her air conditioned van. We had a cloudy day which was perfect for traveling about. Ms. Wallace is a native of St. Kitts and knows all the neat places to see, some off the beaten path and exploring the island with her was fun. Visited the Brimston Hill Fort and rain forests. While looking over a high overlook our group encountered a small brown dog who was emaciated. She was obviously nursing a litter of puppies somewhere. The only thing I had to offer her was a package of Lance cheese crackers. She was the sweetest, most gentle dog, gingerly eating the broken crackers from the palm of my hand. Had I known to expect this I would have packed some milk bones in my carryon suitcase! (I worked in veterinary medicine and could sense her temperment prior to touching her) We said a sad good bye to Ilva and St. Kitts and boarded the ship. Went to Bisto on Five for a delish lunch of crepes. I had the Cowboy Crepe filled with provolone cheese, steak slices, onions, spinach and I added mushrooms. For dessert I had a berry filled crepe. It's not on the menu but they made it for me upon request. After lunch we went back out to the port and visited some of the many shops. We were the only ship in port that day and the end of the season is near for the Caribbean stops, shops were offering lots of "sales". Several gentlemen had small monkey's that they would allow you to hold - they would seek a donation and you could take pictures with them.
We left port at 6 PM and at 10 PM we returned to St. Maartin for a medical emergency. A crew member had become ill.
Thursday - April 14 - Sea Day
Celebrity offered a wonderful brunch from 10 AM until 1 PM in the main dining room. It was a sight to behold. Personally, I don't think I have ever seen that much food, so delightfully presented all in one place before! This is not to be missed. Ice sculptures held scoops of chocolate covered ice cream. Carved fruits and vegetables adored platters of large shrimps. There was something there for everyone including a chocolate fountain with fruits.
Trivia was offered several times on sea days as well as a plethora of other events. That afternoon we viewed two whales while sitting on our balcony. We attended the Corning Glass show in the afternoon which was spectacular. Evening entertainment was "Cirque" an acrobatic team of performers.
Friday - April 15th - Sea Day
Walked early around deck 14 for some exercise then attended daily Mass. Breakfast followed in the Spa Cafe then some swimming in the Solarium. Lunch was in the Mast Grill which served great burgers, onion rings and fries. I needed more exercise after that meal! My husband attended an environmental discussion by the ship's engineer. He explained much about the ship's internal operations. We had a survey to fill out regarding our thoughts on the cruise, staff, entertainment, food, beverages and ship itself. I gave excellent marks as our room steward and wait staff each gave excellent service.
It was time to pack and get ready to go back to reality.
Some things I observed -
Well sound proofed rooms, we were near the elevators, could not hear a thing in our cabin.
The ship was very tastefully decorated.
Room steward called us by name.
Large balcony with two loungers, a chair and a table big enough to eat on.
Buffet stations were spaced in positions not to cause over crowding.
Very comfortable bed and linens were not starched stiff.
Fantastic shower, large enough to towel dry yourself in.
Smooth, quick elevators with a light up system indicating opening.
Loved Select dining - you could arrange to eat with a table for two or chose your tablemates.
Friendly, polite passengers
On a closing note let me tell you about someone I met on my cruise that was delightful. She was a beautiful blonde nine year old with the manners of a lady. Her name was Shirley. It was obvious that she was devoted to her family. It was such a treat to see her about the ship. She attended our cruise critic meeting and Mass and was, as always, well behaved. I was honored to spend a bit of time with her on two occasions when she was off leash - Shirley was a special needs dog.