This was our first cruise and we were on our honeymoon. We decided to go with Aqua class, primarily for the dining experience offered by the Blu restaurant, and were not at all disappointed in this or the cruise in general. However, there were three minor problems with the experience which I will describe later.
Travel to port of embarkation and disembarkation
Travelling by car to Southampton and parking up at port could not have been any easier. From the moment we handed off our luggage at the terminal through to walking out onto the ship - it was extremely well managed. The same can be said on disembarking. We were able to choose when to leave the ship and did so with ease and found ourselves driving out of the port within 25 minutes of leaving the ship.
This being our first cruise it is difficult to offer any kind of comparison of Eclipse to any other cruise ship. Suffice to say we found the ship to be excellent all round. It felt extremely modern, new, clean, well managed, friendly, welcoming and quite spacious. Cleanliness and hygiene was clearly a high priority for all on-board as the majority of public areas were manned by sanitiser machines and/or staff. In the evenings the vast majority of people adhered to the formal night attire and these nights were great. The sailing was extremely smooth and the ship did not really sway at all. The ship is fitted with some of the most advanced systems currently seen on cruise ships and there were no engine vibrations or noise at any time and during evening meals we never felt that we were actually on board a ship at all. Minor problem 1 - Although the ship never felt too over-crowded, during sea days the top deck resembled something of a holiday camp type atmosphere. It was too crowded with people, sunbeds and beach towels left everywhere. Even the lawn was invaded by people with beach towels. This wouldn't have been quite so bad had these people cleared their beach towels up after using them, but they were just left everywhere. A shame, it doesn't take too long to clear up as bins were located all over the deck and no further than 10 yards away to put these in! Having said all this, there was always somewhere at sometime during the day where you could find a place to yourself without loads of people being around. We liked top deck at 11pm-1am - nice and warm and no beach towels!
Stateroom, Dining and Service
As described earlier, we decided to go Aqua class and our stateroom was located on deck 11. The stateroom was excellent, there were no problems at all with this. Comfortable bed, pillows, an excellent shower panel in the en-suite, and the balcony was great. Our stateroom attendant was very friendly and always there to help out. The daily canapes were a nice touch as was the champagne on arrival. Dining in Blu was a superb experience. The food in there was superb. A great variety and very welcoming, personable atmosphere. The maitre d and waiters run a very smooth operation in the restaurant. One night on leaving Civi the restaurant was running through 150 guests in 30 minutes who all arrived at the same time. At the end of our meal the maitre d was very apologetic for how hectic it had been but to be honest we did not see any drop in the level of service compared to other nights at all. A great job by all those who work in there. The service in Blu was superb overall. No complaints at all. Around the ship the service was also good. At all the cafes and bars the service was prompt. The lunch buffet was great and there was always a good selection of salads, cold meats, bread, carvery meals, indian, mexican, stir fry, pizza, pasta, desserts etc.
There was always enough to keep us going throughout the day if we were on-board. The trivias were quite competitive and the hot glass show on the lawn was also very enjoyable. We tried out bowls on the lawn a couple of times and other deck games. We went to a couple of talks on how the ship operates behind the scenes and took a galley tour. When not taking part in activities there was always a quiet corner to be found with which to read a book!
Before booking this cruise we had read a few comments about the entertainment being the weakest part of the Celebrity cruise experience. Suffice to say again we were not left disappointed with this at all - bar one night where we just couldn't take any more of it and left when hands began to wave to daydream believer, it was just terrible (minor problem 2!) The ship production shows were very well done, west end broadway, edge and eclipse the show. All very good. The other entertainers offered great variety and some extremely talented - the pianist (great balls of fire!!!), the ventriloquist (but I'm only 4 years old! - genius), the flautist and the variety balancing/juggling act was barking mad but funny all the same. Cruise director Dru (DRRRRUUUUUUU!!!) deserves a mention too. He did a good job and although some of his jokes during "joke time" were a little lame, on the whole he was entertaining and informative throughout.
Overall value for money
The extra paid for Aqua class was definitely worth it and we would definitely consider this again. As for other expenditure on-board, we went for the premium non-alcoholic packages and definitely got our $20 per day worth and more besides. Alcoholic drinks were way over-priced though and at $60 per day on a package? No thanks. Minor problem 3 - the quality of the on-board photography was not great and we were lucky to get two pictures that we liked by the end of our cruise. We took every opportunity during formal nights to get the pictures we wanted but were left disappointed with the majority of these as some were not centred properly or legs were chopped etc. At $20 a photo which is a professional photographers price for that size of photo, I'd expect better. Luckily though, we have two we like!
A great first cruise, hasn't put us off cruising at all and we would definitely look at doing this again.