This was our second cruise on the Celebrity Eclipse and we were happy to find that the Eclipse was just as beautiful as we had left her in the previous year. We booked Aquaclass following fabulous food in Blu on the previous sailing.
Parking and check-in at Southampton were both quick, straightforward and very easy. Before we could say 'Martini Bar', we were on board with a glass of champagne, taking in the lavish, art-filled environment. The embarkation was made even more exciting as we ran across friends from the previous cruise on board who were also in Aquaclass. The only difference that I noticed from the previous year was that the average age of the guests was much higher than the previous cruise, but this may have been due to the Baltic ports as out destination.
We had opted for the alcoholic drinks packages and found that service in the bars was excellent. It was particularly useful in Blu as we both like to try different wines with our meals (we have the food and wine pairing class from last year to thank for that) and found that the wine by the glass selection was very good and the sommeliers were happy to suggest different wines and provide those essential top ups. We did spend rather a lot of our time in the Martini Bar, where the service was exceptional and the drinks were highly creative. We tried the Molecular Bar too, but found that this area lacked atmosphere. The drinks package was useful during the day too - lots of hot drinks in Cafe al Bacio with some of those oh so tempting cookies.
Food on board was phenomenally good - my 9 pounds in increased weight tell some of the story. We found that the Oceanview Cafe could become rather crowded so we often ate outside by the Oceanview Bar, although it was occasionally a little windy here. Breakfast, via room service, in the Oceanview or in Blu, was always tasty and there was a wide variety of breakfasts available. We did find Blu much busier in the morning than in the previous year but the staff were still extremely attentive. Blu on an evening was a revelation. The food may be lower in salt but it is so tasty. The staff could not do enough to ensure that we were happy. They are a very hard working and caring team.
The room was good. Yes, we could always do with more wardrobe space but that may mean losing out on the generously proportioned bathroom. The shower is so good that we have bought one of the shower heads for home! Our room was always kept immaculately clean, by both the staff and ourselves. The best part of the room was that we DID get sun on our balcony as we were not under the overhang but under the suites on the floor above. Super!
We thoroughly enjoyed the ports of call. Like some other reviewers, we did find the charging for the shuttle bus excessive and only used it in Helsinki (although we could have walked that too). We took a Bruges on your Own tour and two of the St. Petersburg excursions with Celebrity. In the other ports of call, we followed walking tours that we had found independently. Tallinn was a beautiful surprise and Copenhagen will certainly be getting a second visit at some point. The number of ports does mean that the cruise can be quite tiring, especially after lots of walking. Stockholm was the only disappointing port of call. We didn't feel that there was much to do there.
Entertainment wise, there was not much on offer for our age group. However, we go involved in trivia quizzes, bocce and bean bag tossing competitions and DH won the basketball HORSE competition. The shows in the theatre were the same as the previous year - still good, but we've seen them before. The guest entertainers were from different fields, e.g. violinist, comedian, singer, magician, and all of them were of a good standard. Celebrity Central was also used much more effectively. It is a little quiet on the ship after 12, but the staff at the bars do their best to keep the guests entertained. The only disappointment was the hypnotist as the act seemed a little old fashioned.
One word of advice - just about all of the Baltic ports are fairly flat but have cobbled streets. Many of the older passengers and those with disabilities struggled with some of the steps and streets. Please check the description when choosing the trip.
Disembarkation was a very sad process. Again, it was very efficiently executed but very sad for us as our outstanding holiday had come to an end.