We have just returned from an eastbound Atlantic crossing on the Celebrity Eclipse. As we had not cruised for a number of years we purchased the Berlitz cruise guide to help us decide which cruise line, ship and area to choose. It proved very useful and very accurate in its descriptions. We have previously visited nearly all the Caribbean Islands and cruised the east and west Med. So the Atlantic crossing allowing plenty of time onboard appealed to us. Many of the other passengers were more experienced cruisers and many British people coming home for the summer returning from winter in their Florida properties. There were also many Americans, Canadians and a few other nationalities. We were particularly lucky to share a table for eight at dinner with three delightful American couples – Ray and Dora, Paul and Mary Lou and Kathy and Stephanie. They were great company and made every evening an enjoyable occasion.
The Ship is excellent with all the facilities you could possibly need and then some, plenty of activities – we particularly liked the ‘Country Club’ area at the top stern of the ship, with easy access to deck 14 with the self-service restaurant and inside and outside seating. We also enjoyed the evening shows each night. We were six o’clock sitting with a show following in the magnificent theatre forward with seating on decks 4 and 5. We had an outside cabin with a balcony, not big but okay for 2 with reclining chairs and a table. The cabin was long, a little narrow but well fitted and comfortable with a queen size bed. The ship is light and airy for the most part although the centre is taken up by shops and a casino. There are plenty of sun beds etc. around the pool and elsewhere with towels or blankets readily available. Inside there are nice areas for sitting to have a drink or read, etc. Pretty much what you would hope for. The major activity was eating with a good choice in the self service restaurant along with the 24 hour free coffee, soft drinks, orange juice etc. Think carefully before you opt for the drinks package as although you have the convenience of drinking ‘free’ in any of the bars, the non-alcoholic drinks are all available for ‘free’ in the main self-service restaurant and the packages are not very flexible. We usually have a bottle of wine and maybe a couple of gin and tonics for which the packages on offer would have proved expensive. Non-package prices for beers were around $6 and wine about $8 by the glass. Bottles of wine range from $27 to $200 plus. We found the $35-40 a bottle range pretty good.
It would be very hard to fault the food served at dinner or in the self- service restaurant. Also the service was excellent from all the staff.
Downsides – well passengers are viewed as sales opportunities with every effort made to get you to spend more and tip more. Not aggressive, but sometimes brash and in your face. Can you resist what you don’t need or can’t afford?
There is some noise in the cabins with creaks of the fittings in moderate seas and the sound insulation between the cabins is not as good as we expected although it seemed that only women’s voices penetrated. Some passengers found the arrangements for tipping an issue with $11.25 per day being automatically added to your bill (which can be viewed, as you go, on the in cabin TV) plus the drinks waiters having 15% added to each drink you purchase together with an invitation to add a further tip ($1 per drink is okay). We paid our gratuities in advance when we booked and then gave extra to our two cabin staff and 3 waiters. They deserved it but it does all add up and needs to be budgeted for. We paid off our account in dollars the day before we arrived in the UK leaving just the last day or so to go on our credit card.
Overall we enjoyed the ship and we are likely to return to it later this year and also next with a few ‘all inclusives’ in between. I was careful with the food but put on 5lbs; my wife said she did not gain any at all!
We recommend it with the proviso of careful budgeting and self-restraint when faced with subtle and not so subtle attempts to part you from extra cash for things you don’t need and won’t value long term.