Boarding in Southampton was efficient and well organised and first impressions were very good.
Apologies for the long review but it was a two week cruise!
The Ship – The Eclipse is a beautiful ship with lots of very separate / themed areas. The lawn club on deck 15 is a world away from the main pool deck and has a colonial feel to it. Each area of the ship has its own special seating ranging from comfy slouchy sofas, leather covered chaises and fun hammocks and privacy pods in the Solarium. The Solarium is a haven for those who want to relax in a warm, quiet and relaxing environment, with water fountains playing in the background and the healthy café to one side. The Solarium was particularly useful as it was quite windy on the way down from Southampton following the Atlantic coast and the same on the way back. The down side to the Solarium and much of the seating on the ship is that many people reserve loungers all day to use them for just a hour or so – this never seemed to be policed by staff. The weather was very rough down to Gibraltar, coming out of Cagliari and out of Lisbon on the way back. The ship seemed to roll a lot more than other ships I have been on in similar weather.
Stateroom – We had an inside stateroom on deck 9 which was one of the biggest and nicest we have had. The decor is similar to a good 5 star hotel with a modern stylish bathroom and good size shower. A slightly oversized leather sofa takes up much of one wall but otherwise there is plenty of room to move. The bed was very comfortable and there is a choice of pillows from a menu. A 32inch flat screen TV which has a number of different features including the ability to view any photos taken onboard, order room service, a view from the bridge, 20 free on demand movies (and hundred or so pay per view) and GPS tracker. Storage was adequate with cupboards over the bed and an average sized wardrobe. A bonus was our suitcases fitted under the bed. A kettle and tea making facilities took up much of the dressing table space.
Staff – Celebrity sells itself on its service and many times we were told by the Cruise Director Que that celebrity rated number 1 in the industry. At best staff were perfectly pleasant (our stateroom steward was lovely), at worst the staff were indifferent, stroppy or outright rude. The worst offenders were the security staff who at times bellowed or were pushy with some of the older and more flustered passengers. Our waiter was nice enough but a number of times we were told not to bother ordering certain items off the menu in the main dining room. I did not expect his sulking when I ordered crepe suzette against his advice, which turned out to perfectly fine! All in all I did not see any superior service and have had much better elsewhere.
The people – The majority of passengers aboard were 60+ (at a guess 80%) and of those at least 50% were over 80. Although we are in our early 30’s this was not a major issue as I am pregnant and we were looking for a quiet holiday. Our tempers were put to the test at times as the staff did not seem to be able to cope with the volume of people with physical disabilities or understand that older people can be quite demanding.
The food – Not bad but repetitive! The buffet is the same food pretty much breakfast lunch and dinner, day in day out. It is of an adequate standard and abundant but pretty boring after a couple of days. We had an early sitting in the main dining room and were placed with a family party of 5 to make the table up to 7. The food was usually OK but the waiters spoke only basic English so that any deviation or complicated questioning was not understood or catered for – examples is the cheese pasteurised? Is the duck cooked or cured? There were two menus – one that remained the same every day and one that changed. The unchanging menu was steak, chicken and salmon with crème Brule and apple pie for dessert.
Having eaten in a number of good quality restaurants I understand it is usual for most meat to be served pink and good quality salmon and tuna served rare but our companions being over 60 were of the more traditional meat and boiled vegetable generation struggled sometimes with the menus. I was not impressed that we would be discouraged from eating one dish a night by the waiter because it was not very good – why have it on the menu then?
The entertainment – From what we saw this was excellent – A musical/Broadway variety act, a pop/rock show, an A Capella group, a hypnotist and a Cirque du Soleil type act. Considering the age of most of the people onboard, boy were they hard to please! The ship’s company included an amazing ballerina and her partner who regularly pulled off the most amazing dances, stunts and lifts and barely a clap from some of the audience! I felt sorry for the hypnotist as he struggled to get many volunteers and without these there would have been no show. Despite the limited numbers it was still a fascinating show and I laughed myself silly at a very severe looking gentleman who thought he made a very lovely ballerina!
The ports of call -
Gibraltar -45 minute walk to the cable car – walk if you can it beats the crowds
Toulon – 30 minute $10 shuttle from Seyne sur Mer – I believe you can take a 10 minute ferry costing 2 Euro each way. Lovely place, lovely market!
Livorno – we paid to go to Florence and Pisa on a “By yourself“ excursion which cost approx £50 each and consisted of a coach journey with no guide, but we got a lovely escort. We left the ship approx 08.30 and arrived at Pisa approx 11.00. The Field of Miracles in Pisa is a 15 minute walk from the coach stop. The tower and surrounding area is pure honey pot and you could not move for people. We were given 40minutes which was enough time for a photo and a loo break. We got to Florence approx 13.00 and had 3 hours. Because we were hungry we headed for the first Pizzeria we could find and lost an hour eating (our waiter lost our order!) so this left us enough time to wander round and have a quick look at the main sites. It was very hot and the queues to go in any of the sites were 30mins+. A 15 minute walk back to the coach and we got back to the ship approx 18.00. So be prepared these excursions will only give you a taste of the places you are going.
Civitavecchia – 45 minute walk or 10 minute free bus ride into town (take the bus especially if it is hot!). Small tourist town with a pretty harbour and big castle – be warned we were there on a Saturday and there were 5 other ships taking on new passengers making the port area bedlam!
Cagliari – Very hilly! Walked to the castle and back.
Cadiz – Bit like an island and very easy to walk around. Lots of narrow streets – watch out for the white vans – they don’t care if there is not enough room to pass for both them and you! New Town had lovely deserted beaches.
Lisbon – Although it rained, a beautiful city with lots of lovely tiled houses and beautiful purple flowering trees. Again a 10 minute $10 dollar transfer takes you to the main shopping area, then to Belem (for the Monastery and Tower).
Vigo – Up a lovely river. Although an industrial fishing port, you would never know – very well looked after and again very hilly. Has a lovely cosmopolitan feel about it.