We are a family of four who were first timers on Celebrity but have previously cruised with P&O, Royal Caribbean, Princess and Costa. Our choice of cruise line is based on itinerary, date and price and Celebrity won hands down for our choice of summer holiday this year.
It was easy to drive to Southampton as there is a good motorway network. The car park for the ship was opposite the building so passengers with mobility issues would not have a problem. Embarkation was extremely fast with no queue for a check in desk and we were on board by 11.30am, just 30 minutes after locking the car! Before boarding there were opportunities to book speciality restaurants, spa treatments and purchase drinks packages. As we stepped onto the ship we were greeted by a complementary glass of champagne which really set the tone for a fabulous cruise.
STATEROOM - 2B Deluxe Ocean View with balcony deck 7 port side
Our cabin was ready by 1pm and a couple of our bags were already outside the door by the time we arrived. The sofa bed also had a trundle bed underneath it but we selected a cabin with an upper berth and our steward checked with us on the first day which configuration we preferred. He agreed that the trundle bed is not as good as it blocks access to the balcony. The cabin was very spacious for a basic cabin and was much larger than a standard cabin on P&O however it didn't have as much drawer space despite the size of the cabin.
There were just five drawers, the bottom three were deeper than the top two, plus a narrow drawer where the hairdryer was stored under the vanity unit. In addition, above the bed there were two large overhead storage units which were extremely useful for storing clothes and made up for the lack of drawer space. The wardrobe had two separate additional rungs that folded down to give two level hanging if required. I brought little hangers for my children's clothes and it really helped with the limited drawer space available. We also asked for loads more hangers and our steward provided us with metal ones which were perfect as they took up less space than the bulky wooden ones in the cabin. Prior to sailing, I was really concerned that a two door wardrobe wouldn't be enough space for everything but with extra hangers there was no problem. I removed the bulky dressing gowns from the wardrobe and hung them in the bathroom as I think that extra space really helped us!
We asked our cabin steward to empty the fridge on the first day so we could use it for our own drinks. The fridge was a good size and easily held the 3 litre wine box we brought on board and the cans and bottles of water than we got from the bars on the way back to the cabin. We also had a kettle as we were sailing out of Southampton so we stored a carton of milk from room service in the fridge to make cups of tea and coffee during the day rather than drinking the UHT milk provided.
The bathroom was very spacious and had the best storage space of any bathroom we have had on a cruise including the mini-suite on Crown Princess. The shower was a generous size and had sliding doors. Although there was no washing line there were two spigots (knobs) in the shower plus two more on the door. Celebrity provided soap, lemongrass moisture lotion, lemongrass conditioning cream and lemongrass hydrating shampoo. There were also cotton buds, cotton wool balls and tissues in the bathroom. There was no shower gel provided.
The lighting in the cabin was good and the upper bunk had its own light in the ceiling. The bedside lights were both extremely bright and couldn't be dimmed so you couldn't really read in bed without disturbing the rest of the cabin. The main lights could be dimmed and even when the bathroom light was turned off there was still a dim light so you could see. This was particularly useful to us as our son was not in total darkness to get down from his bunk bed in the middle of the night.
There were three power sockets, two US and one European (for the hairdryer and kettle provided). We actually brought a four bar extension lead with us as we had so many things to put on charge at night and this worked really well. The safe had a combination lock and was the largest one we have seen on any cruise line due to its depth, so we were able to put a 13 inch laptop inside and it would also comfortably take an ipad.
The cabin had an interactive 21 inch Samsung flat screen TV. You can use your television to book shore excursions, check your on board account, order room service and watch television. We enjoyed watching the GPS map which showed the location of the ship. We were not able to view our photographs on the television however, and the photographers confirmed that Celebrity have currently withdrawn this facility on Eclipse.
The balcony was spacious with clear glass and a wooden rail. The balcony floor was wooden and the furniture had a metal frame with a wooden top. The two seats reclined in three different positions. We were able to get additional seating for our children but surprisingly there was no outside light for the balcony.
We were really pleased with the cabin and didn't feel at all crowded even though there were four of us in one cabin. There was a huge amount of space under the bed for our suitcases. The life jackets were also stored under the bed in a basket so if you don't want to use the over head storage you could always put the life jackets up there and use the basket under the bed to store clothes.
We felt like we were gliding through the air it was so smooth and quiet which was a great surprise as our cabin was at the front of the ship so we expected to feel more movement. Eclipse is a beautiful modern ship which is light in colour and spacious. It had glass lifts mid-ship which passed a growing tree suspended in the air! The lifts provided the immediate location of iLounge, the library, Team Earth, guest services , shore excursion desk as well as the dining areas and were therefore quite busy. My favourite venue was Cafe Al Bacio as the coffees were amazing and the mini sandwiches, cakes and light bites were delicious. Another popular venue was the Martini bar which had an ice bar! They provided snacks while we enjoyed a drink and were happy to make non-alcoholic cocktails so you don't have to like Martinis to experience the bar.
There were two outdoor pools on deck 12 and four Jacuzzis (with the two closest to the bar being reserved for adults). I couldn't stand up in one of the pools but they were both equally crowded at times with adults and children. My children loved the playing in the fountains which were also popular with adults! There were ample sun loungers even on hot sea days (both in the sun and in the shade) but loungers by the pool were always a premium, as were the double loungers. The pool attendants were good at removing towels from abandoned loungers so more loungers were always becoming available. I also saw security informing children to go to the Jacuzzis closer to the fountains explaining they were in the adult only ones and it was good to see that rules were being enforced in the main. In addition to the outdoor pools, the Solarium was an air conditioned adult only area with another pool, two more Jacuzzis and double hammocks. The pool in the Solarium is the first pool we have seen at sea with a hoist for disabled passengers. It was extremely calm in the Solarium, particularly the coloured dancing fountains and relaxing music. I was really impressed by the plush cushions on all sun loungers but indoors and out. The spa and gym were also on deck 12.
There was a jogging track on deck 14 and at the front of the ship the Sky Observation Lounge provided an inside area to watch where we were heading as well as providing a venue for the dancing classes and choir rehearsals. A favourite area of the ship for us was the Lawn club, which was a real grass area for relaxing, games, picnics and also the location of the Hot Glass Show.
The food on Eclipse was magnificent. The main dining room looked wonderful and the food was equally impressive. In the evening, there was an anytime menu on the left hand side (including escargots, lobster bisque, Caesar salad, New York steak and crème brulEe) and a daily menu on the right. The quality of ingredients was clear on Celebrity and we ate some of the best food we have ever eaten on a cruise. There was often a lack of vegetables with the main course which was something we missed. The dining room was open for breakfast every day and on early port days an express breakfast was available before arrival time with the opportunity of a cooked breakfast. On sea days the dining room was open for lunch which had smaller portions and is highly recommended. On one sea day there was a brunch event. There is not to be missed. The dining room was decorated with ice sculptures and the food ranged from sushi and roast meat to chocolate fondue and crêpes!
The Oceanview Cafe is the buffet on deck 14. The food and choice was always excellent and the layout was very clever with individual islands for food stations taking away the problem of queues. The executive chef was clearly visible at lunch time buffet service which showed good quality control. This was also the best place to find complementary ice cream throughout the day. There were several flavours of ice cream and sorbets (including sugar free) and a huge selection of sweets and nuts for toppings. In addition, there was soft serve ice cream in the buffet and at the Mast Grill. The Mast Grill was a hotdog and burger venue also on deck 14 near the pools. We were really impressed with the speed of service and good quality of food at the grill which proved a popular venue for lunch especially for the children as they could eat outside in their swimming costumes and then go back to the pools for some more fun!
QSINE - We went to Qsine, an International quirky speciality restaurant to celebrate our wedding anniversary and had a fabulous time. We ordered our meal on an i-pad which had pictures for the various dishes and the pictures were not of the dishes themselves but rather a symbol so there was a picture of a spring for spring rolls and a picture of a volcano for lava crab. Everyone kept telling us that Qsine is better in a group however we were only two and had an excellent time so don't let that put you off. The presentation of the food is very original, soups are served in test tubes and sushi as lollipops. We enjoyed 11 courses in total and loved every minute of it. Highlights of our meal included the lava crab, painter's mignon, Chinese Martini and the chocolate tombstone. We were at Qsine for three hours and would have happily stayed for longer if we hadn't needed to leave and pick up the children from kids club. Qsine is a very relaxed dining experience, you can order at any time (some people used the ipads throughout the meal) and they don't start cooking the next course until you are ready so it is very much at your own pace. It is so different from the MDR it is really something you can look forward to during your cruise. We would certainly go there again.
TUSCAN GRILL - We were given a 20% off voucher for Tuscan Grill at the cooking competition on the last day and enjoyed the amazing view of the wake of the ship as we sat in the restaurant. Tuscan Grill was much more formal than Qsine, but again extremely relaxed and unrushed which we appreciated. The quality of the food at Tuscan Grill was definitely more refined and a higher quality than the Main Dining Room and the service was also attentive without being intrusive.
BISTRO ON 5 - Bistro on 5 was fantastic value ($5) and provided an opportunity of waiter service for lunch on a port day. The crepes were delicious and they were able to adapt them by changing ingredients on request. It was open from breakfast throughout the day and was always extremely quiet. It was open on embarkation day and would provide a quiet venue if you want to avoid the busy buffet.
Unlike some cruise lines, there were no endless announcements of events over the tannoy to promote activities apart from the Captain's announcement at midday followed by a summary of events by the Cruise Director. The Celebrity Choir sounded very professional and seemed quite serious. There were dance classes, quizzes, films, sports competitions and Celebrity Life events. We enjoyed the croquet competitions (especially the day we won!) and the cooking shows. The galley tour was extremely interesting and the chefs ran a question and answer session to entertain waiting passengers while the tours took place. There were about 200 people who attended the galley tour event which was only offered once on the cruise so keep an eye out for the event.
Our children were in the Cadets (6-8) and the Ensigns (9-11) and both enjoyed the activities in club. On port days the club runs complementary sessions in the morning from 9am to midday, in the afternoon from 2pm to 5pm and then in the evening from 7pm to 10pm. Lunch, dinner and slumber parties are available for a fee. On sea days the club doesn't close for lunch (but you need to take your children to lunch at some point!) and the dinner party is complementary. Ensigns had a lot of scavenger hunts which our son really enjoyed and the cadets activities were more craft based. The kids' club programmes are delivered to your stateroom the night before, although our steward didn't always deliver the correct age group which was quite annoying as it was still a problem even after we confirmed with him which age groups we needed.
We were on first sitting fixed dining and service often felt rushed. Plates were cleared and next courses lay down before everyone had finished and considering we were eating as a family of four it was completely unnecessary. Our waiters did have the children's milk and chocolate milk ready upon arrival however which was appreciated. Our daughter has an egg allergy so we saw the Assistant Maitre D at the end of each night with the next evening's menu so we could pre-order her food. This ensured that she could have frogs' legs and pasta which would not otherwise be available. Fortunately all ice cream on board is egg free.
After a disappointing start of endless singers, the evening shows greatly improved during the cruise and entertainment was quite diverse including a comedian, a juggler, a ventriloquist, a flutist and an acrobatic show. We struggled to get seats on the acrobatic show and ended up standing at the back of the theatre so make sure you arrive early for a seat that night. The musical entertainment during the day around the ship was also diverse, with an excellent Acapella group, a trio string group, a Spanish guitarist and singers who entertained the pools, lounges and bars. The Hot Glass Show was available throughout the cruise and is something you can join late or leave early if you wish as it is a two hour show. We attended the Cruise Critic connections party where an officer made a note of our cabin number and then later in the cruise we received invitations to a bridge tour and an engine control room tour which were both very enjoyable.
PORT AND EXCURSIONS
Ideally we would have spread our booked excursions out but we like to be independent unless a great distance is required or like Gibraltar the cruise line can offer something better than we can do on our own. It just so happened that this meant all our excursions ran consequently in the first week.
GIBRALTAR - "Upper Rock for Families Tour" (with Celebrity)
We thoroughly enjoyed our excursion which included all the highlights we wanted to see. Our mini bus took us to the Cable Car where there was no queue and we went up to the Upper Rock for a complementary drink or ice cream. From there we walked down to St Michael's Cave which was definitely worth a visit. Then our minibus picked us up and drove us down to Ape's Den. An ape decided to jump on my head and was then joined by another one! I didn't mind and thought it was quite funny but if you are nervous of animals you might want to keep your distance. From the rock we visited the Gibraltar Museum, drove to Europa Point and then were given the choice of either being dropped off in town or returning to the ship. Our guide gave detailed and interesting information at every part of the tour and we were really pleased we booked with Celebrity. We tried to book the trip online which said enquire onboard, and on boarding we were told it was sold out. However our TV showed that we had been charged for an excursion and apparently the shore excursion department on Eclipse had received an email from Miami saying we were trying to book the tour online so we got the last four places! It was a great way to start the ports of call.
TOULON - AIX-EN-PROVENCE (FRANCE) Excursion TU33
Aix-en-Provence is a beautiful city, with fountains on every street, so the walking tour seemed an ideal option. Unfortunately the guide wasn't good and rushed us about without time to enjoy what we were walking past, the earphone sets for the guide didn't work properly and the driver on the bus was so bad he drove through a red light! There were a number of problems and I complained to Celebrity who after an initial brush off refunded half the excursion price.
LIVORNO - PISA "Panoramic Pisa" Excursion LVB6
What a fantastic day! I highly recommend this trip for the whole family old and young. The coach took us to the National Reserve Park where we boarded a trolley train which took us right up to the Field of Miracles, passing everyone who was walking from the car park! After a complementary drink we were given some history of Pisa from our guide and then had some free time to explore. The Leaning Tower has just been cleaned and is stunning it is so bright and white. Then we re-boarded the trolley train which took us down to the River Arno where we had a lovely boat trip back down to the National Reserve Park enjoying a complementary ice cream.
CIVITAVECCHIA - ROME "Glories of Gladiators" Excursion CV83
What a perfect day. Our son desperately wanted to go inside the Colosseum so this excursion seemed perfect. Our guide was superb and brought the Colosseum to life. It is definitely worth going inside. From there we investigated the Roman Forum before walking to the Piazza Navona for free time. After a spot of lunch we walked to the Trevi Fountain and Pantheon which were both nearby before treating ourselves to some Italian ice cream which was the best we have ever tasted. Rome is a beautiful city and surpassed our expectations.
CAGLIARI - SARDINIA - Independent
The cost of the shuttle bus ($20) was extortionate so unless you want the sun lounger included it is much cheaper to catch the public bus (1 euro 50!). The bus stop is opposite the port and the bus is regular even on a Sunday, look out for PF, PN or PQ for a bus to the beach. Our steward provided beach towels and a Tote bag. We got back to the port about lunch time by which time all the shops were OPEN so they are not closed on a Sunday despite what everyone says, they just open late.
CADIZ - SPAIN - independent
The port is right next to the town so there is no need for a private tour or shuttle. Cadiz looks amazing as you approach the port to berth as the cathedral really stands out. We had breakfast outside at the buffet that morning just so we could enjoy the view!
LISBON - PORTUGAL - independent
We decided to explore Lisbon by tram and bought a day pass. The number 15 tram is just outside the port, take the underpass to cross the electric train track. First we headed to Belem which has some amazing sights including Jeronimo's Monastry and the Belem Tower. We then caught the same tram in the other direction into town. The number 28 tram then took us up into the old town where the Cathedral and Castle are located. This a great tram ride as the streets were really narrow and windy, just beware of pickpockets on the tram! Lisbon is a great port of call and if you want to organise a guided tour independently the red HOHO bus just outside the port would be a good option as it covers a huge area for the same price as a short tour in places like Cadiz.
VIGO - SPAIN - independent
The town is right next to the port so it is easy to do independently. We wandered up the hill to the Cathedral which was beautiful inside and had an overwhelming scent of flowers. We then headed down the hill to take a look at the fish market. There were several musical street artists at Vigo port which I wasn't expecting as well as a shopping complex.
Initially we were extremely impressed with the final day. We were able to leave our bags in our cabin and return after breakfast to freshen up. Breakfast had the same positive vibe of previous mornings so you didn't have the "get off the ship" feeling that can darken the last morning on a cruise. However, our internet package had caused problems throughout the cruise charging outside our package and despite settling our account on the last day the error occurred again and we were delayed at disembarkation. The security staff were great at dealing with the problem efficiently (especially as I had my bill printout with all the internet credits for all the previous charging mistakes) but it was still an irritating way to end the cruise.
Celebrity Eclipse gave us a fabulous holiday and we were really impressed with the whole ambience of the ship. There was certainly an attention to detail and we appreciated the ice cold flannels, water and fruit punch which greeted us at the gangway every time we returned from a port. The main disadvantage of Celebrity is the price of drinks. Because of this I opted for the premium non-alcoholic drinks package and enjoyed unlimited speciality coffee, premium water, frozen drinks, fizzy drinks, smoothies and freshly squeezed orange juice. I would certainly recommend the drinks packages as mine was great value (compared with the drinks on board) and took away the need to sign for drinks. We will definitely look out for good deals on Celebrity again as it was truly a perfect holiday.