Any apprehensions we may have had were blown away from the moment we were on the ship. My husband didn't stop smiling for about two days and repeatedly commented on what a fantastic decision it was to take the cruise.
Embarkation was a smooth process and in no time at all we were on board and sipping champagne. We had a short wait before we were able to go to our cabins with plenty of time to unpack before the ship departed Southampton. Hubbie and I were in a balcony cabin (thanks to an upgrade) and our two teenage boys had an inside cabin. Both cabins were beautifully appointed, with good sized bathrooms. The cabin attendants were great, especially Abdul who totally spoilt our boys!
Unpacking complete, we headed off to the Sky Lounge and enjoyed a drink whilst sailing away from Southampton. After months of deliberation we decided to buy the premium drinks package. I didn't keep a tally, but suspect that we may have only just broken even with this. It was nonetheless relaxing to know that we could indulge in an alcoholic beverage (or three) and specialty coffees whenever we wanted.
We chose Select Dining and only once had to wait to be seated, which was only five minutes and was the last formal night. I was impressed with the quality of the food and service in the Moonlight Sonata, given the number of people that they need to serve each night. There were a couple of occasion where our main courses were slightly overcooked, but the staff were very attentive and offered alternatives when this happened. The Brunch was absolutely fantastic!
I reviewed the specialty dining prior to sailing and made a reservation for QSine for the second night of the cruise. Tuscan Grille and Morano hadn't appealed to me; Tuscan sounding too much like an "up-size me" steakhouse and Morano sounding rather pretentious!
Our experience in QSine was so amazing that we booked for a second and subsequently third night (we only touched the surface of what was available on the menu). Although QSine is a quirky dining experience, it is not at the expense of the quality and freshness of the food; fillet mignon was melt in the mouth!
Throwing budget to the wind, we decided to book for Tuscan for the Stockholm sail away to take advantage of the 180 degree views that the restaurant offers. The amazing views were matched by a stunning array of food. My husband said the Caesar Salad was the best he has ever eaten! The pasta courses, steak and deserts were also exceptional (I believe this restaurant undersells itself on the Celebrity website).
We swapped our final QSine reservation for Murano on the expectation that it would deliver the same exceptional dining experience of QSine and Tuscan Grille. Sadly, this was not our experience. I found that it oversold and under delivered. The quality of the meat for some reason did not match that of the other two restaurants. My husband's main course was cold and although he was offered another meal, this really wasn't an appropriate resolution to the problem. We found the service to be intrusive, to the point of being patronising; food should speak for itself! A refund of my husband's cover charge would have been appropriate and I am thankful that we weren't paying high end French Restaurant prices for what was a very disappointing experience.
We fell in love with the Ensemble Lounge for after dinner drinks and great musical atmosphere. The spectacle of the Martini Bar was also a big evening draw card.
Other enjoyable haunts were the Sunset Bar and Cafe Al Bacio, with the Sunset Bar getting our vote for the best coffee onboard. Cafe Al Bacio is a great venue, but there was some inconsistency in the quality of the coffee; espressos with no crema and lattes with too much froth! I know that another reviewer has commented on this and I also provided this feedback to Celebrity who will hopefully investigate and address the issue. Bedtime hot chocolates at Al Bacio were tops!
One of our boys was too old for the X-club, but the younger one did occasionally attend. Our boys seem to be drawn to the additional recreational facilities that the Royal Caribbean ships offer. The Eclipse is for me a good compromise given that I am not attracted to sailing on what I perceive to be a floating theme park!
The itinerary exceeded all our expectations. We took an independent tour in St Petersburg and went solo for all the other ports. We used the Celebrity shuttle bus in Zeebrugge, Helsinki and Stockholm. Hoho bus was easy to use in Copenhagen and we used train/river boat in Warnemunde. Thanks to all on CC who provided such valuable information and sorry we never met up!
Are we hooked.........................booked onboard the Infinity, South America 2012! We are now officially a statistic as I believe that the Eclipse has the highest percentage of guests who book another cruise whilst onboard; easy to see why!
One request...............give us more cruise options "downunder" especially on the Solstice Class!