Another fantastic vacation and a wonderful cruise. My wife and I were travelling with 2 female friends, and this was the second cruise on a Celebrity Solstice class ship that the four of us have taken together. The Eclipse was spotless, and well cared for throughout the cruise. The staff at every level, in every Division go out of their way to make your vacation the most enjoyable and memorable at sea !! Kudos and Thanks also to everyone on Cruise Critic, as the suggestions/ideas/past itinerary advice garnered in the months leading up to the cruise made it just that much more enjoyable...and if I might brag a bit, all my plans went off without a hitch !!
We stayed in London 3 nights pre-cruise, and I had booked a small B&B in the Belgravia area (B&B Belgravia) and could not have been more pleased. Truth be told, I booked it because it featured a Commercial grade, self-serve 24hour Espresso Machine (coffee addict here), but everything was great. Full, made-to-order breakfast, free bottled water and snacks, helpful staff, very clean, small but quite adequate rooms, nice garden, and a fantastic location. Just a five minute walk to Victoria tube/train Station, and in a quiet area with great little restaurants/pubs/ fish-n-chips stands all within a 2 minute walk. Coffee-Shops nearby too, but who needed that, what with my 24 Espresso Machine !!??
We had booked transport from Airport-Hotel, Hotel-Port, and Port-Airport via Stonehenge through Smith's because yes, we had quite a bit of luggage, and one in our party was not quite as mobile as the rest of us and I was worried about getting on off buses, trains, tube with heavy suitcases etc. I highly recommend Smith's for those who want to prebook transport service as they were punctual, friendly, brand new vehicles and reasonably priced.
Embarkation was a breeze, and we were on board, with pictures taken(and for those who think the Celebrity Photographers attempt to take your picture alot, you have never travelled with my wife and friends...we posed for pictures at every turn !) etc, within 20 minutes of arriving at the pier. (we wanted to enjoy a leisurely morning still exploring London, so we didn't arrive in Southampton until about 2pm).
We had C-1 Stern Cabins, as we have become lovers of that location/wake view over the last few years, and since we had previously sailed on the Equinox, we knew exactly what we were in for. I know some people have complained about the fact that unless you are on Deck 12 (where we previously stayed), your balcony is looked down upon by those above. This was not a concern during the entire trip, and quite honestly, with the view out towards the wake/sea, I never really looked up to see if anyone was above ! And yes, it is a long walk to the elevators, but still worth it to us !!
Our cabin staff, Michael and Cheryl (both from the Philippines) were FANTASTIC, and could not have been more accommodating and friendly. I grew up in the Philippines, so I am always thrilled when I meet staff from there and can surprise them with a few words in Tagalog.
We chose Select Dining, did not pre-book reservation times, and the longest we had to wait for a table was 5 minutes. After the first 2 nights we fell in love with our Waiter- Michael and Assistant -Roger, and asked and were given tables in their area every night afterwards, regardless of the time we arrived. On one night there were no tables in their area, but the Maitre d' seated us nearby and informed us that Michael and Roger would still be our servers !! ( Harder for them I am sure...but KUDOS to Celebrity for doing this !!). We found the food in the MDR above average to excellent throughout the cruise, and believe me we tried alot. I ordered 2 appetizers or entrees and yes even desserts on many occasions, and these requests were ALWAYS met with absolute accommodation. On the ONE occasion when one of our friends did not find her entree enjoyable, Michael noticed within minutes and offered a substitution (that was NOT even on the menu that evening) and which was delivered while the rest of us were still eating our own entrees. We ate most breakfasts/lunches in the Cafe and found the selection and quality above average as well.
I am a fitness nut, and the gym was my constant companion every morning as the doors opened. The gym, as on the Equinox, is well stocked with good working machines, adequate equipment and a good layout. Gym staff were professional, knowledgeable and very friendly.
On board we were frequent (OK, perhaps VERY frequent) visitors to both the Martini Bar and Molecular Bar. Kudos to Mehmet at the Martini, and Milos at Molecular for their superb service and friendliness throughout the cruise. Milos became a true friend, and we wish him the best of luck in all his future endeavors !! I let Celebrity know that they should advertise the Molecular Bar, as it is not advertised or even listed on their website diagrams/on the on-board ship directories/elevator directories etc, and as a result is very often not crowded/frequented ( a good thing for me...perhaps not so for Celebrity !).
We are not big show-attendees, as we are pretty good at entertaining ourselves as a group of four, but did enjoy the couple we did attend, especially the Cirque-type show on the next to last night.
As stated in paragraph 2, I am a coffee addict so Cafe al Bacio was also a frequent place for me to visit, and I was there each morning as they opened at 7am. I also let Celebrity know that they need to be a bit more consistent with the espresso-based coffee drinks they provide, as they varied greatly depending on staff/time of day etc. Sometimes my drinks were hot/lukewarm/ adequate foam/no foam/full/not full, and had I not had the premium beverage package would have returned quite a few. However, that said, the espresso drinks are still far superior to the coffee out of the machines in the cafe( which seems to have improved in the last couple of years, but still leaves much to be desired) !!
I was surprised to find there were 2 Catholic Priests on board and Mass was offered several times, and was well attended...sorry I can't speak as to whether other denomination/non-denominational services were available. Guest lecturers ranged from OK to quite good and some sessions were very well attended. I am a huge fan of the Corning Museum glass blowing demonstrations and attended quite a few of their shows. I hope Celebrity listens to my, and other passenger comments, and that they continue to offer these shows, as they are educational, highly interesting and quite entertaining. They were always well attended on this cruise, and everyone seems to have a great time. Unfortunately, I was not one of the lucky ones to win a piece in the raffles !!
We did take a Bridge tour (signed up at Guest Relations the first evening on board) and enjoyed it. However it has become a quite popular event, and the time actually spent on the Bridge after being cleared by Security was too short, and the next group was already waiting to enter as we exited.
Disembarkation was quick and easy, and though we had a scheduled meet time in the Theatre, we were a couple of minutes late going there, so we just walk off, easily located our bags and were met by our Smith's driver as soon as we exited !
To wrap this up: The Eclipse is a gorgeous, well run ship, staffed by some remarkable people who work their tails off to make sure each passenger is graciously treated , and every one's vacation is a memorable event. Sure, you might encounter a staff member who is having a bad day, but as always...a few kind words sent their way produces the Celebrity smile and the frequently heard Celebrity response "excellent, thank you" ! Treat each staff member with kindness and respect, and expect to be treated the same in return. I am an early riser, and was up EVERY morning before 4am, wandering the ship, talking with staff, exploring all nooks and crannies, and I , and all others in my party, were completely enthralled with every aspect of this cruise.
Happy Cruising !!