I have cruised many times over the past 25 years. This was my first cruise on Celebrity
Eclipse. The trip was a 16 night cruise from Southampton to ports in Spain, Italy (including Venice) and Croatia.
I journeyed from my home in Lincolnshire by car to the coach pickup point in Northampton. A journey of some two hours. There was no nearer pick up point. Arrived in plenty of time and with absolutely no waiting was on board and in my cabin within 15 minutes of arrival at the port.
You are allowed to bring on board a couple of bottle of wines at embarkation which I did. Any further purchases of alcohol whilst you are on land will be confiscated and returned to you on the last day of the cruise.
Before I left home I had checked out the various drinks packages that are available. These included all you could drink for £616. This included all beers, wines by the glass and sodas. No bottles. The other point with this package is that it is per person and cannot be shared.
There will be no refunds, selections are not available from the mini-bar or via room service.
You could also buy a "room package" which consisted of one bottle of spirits of your choice plus half a dozen sodas for £60. This was strictly for cabin consumption. Also available was the premium water package price at $13.80 per day. This price does not include an added 15% gratuity.
CABIN: I have posted a view of my C1 grade balcony cabin on deck 8 at
This was a very small cabin (under 200 square feet) which could be sold as a four berth cabin. How four people could live for two weeks in a cabin this size beats me. There is a small dressing table with a hair dryer and a couple of electrical points. Both electrical outlets were 120 volt. The third point was for the kettle. Be aware that the 120 volt outlets will not fully charge your shaver, camera, phone etc. There was also a 32" flat screen TV with interactive controls. There was a choice of about 20 channels. You could browse the internet from your cabin for 75c per minute.
There was plenty of storage space (for me) with some 24 hangers in the wardrobe. Plus an umbrella and a couple of dressing gowns. The fridge stocked a comprehensive range of drinks with the following prices:
Skyy Vodka: $7.00 per miniature 5cl. Bolinet Pinot Grigio 750ml. $37
Remy Martin $9.75 Rutherford Ranch Merlot 750ml. $41.50
Can of Heineken: $5.75
Perrier water $3.00
Coca Cola: $2.50
The emergency drill was carefully orchestrated but was quite useless as (in my case) it was held in the theatre on deck 4. No lifejackets were required. I am sure that the drill satisfied SOLAS requirements - but still feel that the old fashioned way of coming up on deck wearing the lifejacket and a head count carried out would have been better - but then I'm not an expert.
On arrival in your cabin there was a bottle of Evian which had the notice attached saying that "Please note that, for your convenience, we will automatically bill $4.50 to your Celebrity Sea Pass if you choose to consume this item". This gives you a flavour of the companies philosophy.
Just to complete the pricing for the alcoholic drinks in the bars:
Amstel Light: $5.75
London Pride: $8
Magners cider: $9.25
All the above were in standard bottles.
The shower area was compact but adequate. The toiletries were own brand. I never used them. The shower itself was strictly functional with low pressure water and a fixed head. Not the best shower in the world.
The balcony was a real disappointment. Very small and with room only for a couple of upright chairs with reclining backs and a table. There was no light on the balcony. Also because the ship did not have staggered balconies like some ships (picture a pyramid) as soon as the sun hit the perpendicular it disappeared. I suppose that it is arguable that you cannot be overlooked.
DINING: There is one main restaurant on two levels with two sittings at 6.00pm (sea days) and 8.30pm. I was on a table of my own - but was offered a table with more people on it. I would have liked "Freedom Dining" where you choose what time to eat and would meet up with different people each evening. However because I chose not to pay my tips up front ($184) then I couldn't participate.
I could not fault the food which was all cordon bleu. The only slight problem that I had was the lack of vegetables which would normally be served say with a steak. This of course is the American way. Veg was always available if you asked for it. All of the servings were plated. By that I mean that there was no silver service. I understand that silver service was available in the speciality restaurants. All meals in the main restaurant were four courses plus coffee for which a charge of about $4.50 was made. I normally had a G&T which was charged at $8. After the third night the bar server knew what I liked and brought me my G&T without being asked. The service was superb and I couldn't fault it. Various wine and dine packages were available priced up to $399 per couple which included five speciality dinners and five bottles of wine. It is worth mentioning that bar drinks were free pour and were in general about twice the measure of a U.K. dispenser.
Eventually being English I longed for some plain food. This was easily available from the self service restaurant on deck 14. The choice was considerable. They even provided black pudding and mushy peas. Unfortunately they still cannot cook English Bacon. But I am sure they will learn in due course. The Maitre D was fully on top of his job and it would be difficult to find someone better.
I didn't try any of the specialist restaurants as the only extra I could gain for the $30 per head cover charge would be the ambience and perhaps fresh lobster. Other meals could be taken on several venues. Including Michaels Club for a cold buffet breakfast and Ocean View Cafe most times of the day. Breakfast could be served in your cabin and although limited in range was quite satisfactory if you forgot the bacon. The only product in the self service that I didn't like was the coffee - which was rather surprising. You could however get a decent cup at most times of the day for about: Americano: $5.25; Single Espresso: $3.50.
ENTERTAINMENT: There was plenty to do throughout the day and if you liked Trivia quizzes - then you were spoilt for choice. There was always plenty of action in the main pool area with staff versus guests quite common. Deck chairs were very closely packed together and it was rather inelegant to claim a seat if you were the filling in a "sandwich". Looking at the day to day programmes I brought back then a flavour of what was on offer (for free) follows:
Table tennis; language learning; aqua aerobics; garden croquet; hot glass show; dance classes; watercolour classes; WII tennis tournament; WII bowling tournament; family scavenger hunt; many others were available. There were the usual courses and tastings that cost a fee including Yoga, computer courses, bingo and wine tasting for example. Evening entertainment was disappointing with various U.K. club acts that would normally be on the working men's club circuits. These included a juggler, a hypnotist, a comedian and a singer. All instantly forgettable. The band was very good though. There were a couple of evening "spectaculars". These seemed to go down quite well. I think the Cruise Director did the best he could on the very limited budget available.
CHILDREN: As I was on my own, I have no idea if children were adequately catered for. There were, in any case, only a handful on this cruise. My opinion is that Royal Caribbean would be a better bet for children with adults. This is supposed to be a Premium line.
SHORE EXCURSIONS: Did not seem over priced. I did a trip in Venice for about $60 and I considered it good value. They were well organised. There was also a very nice touch on returning to the ship when staff, under a canopy, offered you cold towels and a soft drink or water (free of charge!). On the one occasion that a tender operation was required - this was chaotic. People on trips were mixing with those who just wanted to go ashore - very long queues and some frayed tempers were the result. The only charge I baulked at was being asked to pay $20 for transport into town from the quay.
OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: This is a very large ship and has been rated as "Premium".
I'm sure that if the manufacturers/designers (German) could have got away with squeezing a few extra cabins for passengers in the crew quarters they would have. There are no quiet places, nowhere to read a book without the incessant Muzak. The crew to passenger ratio is very high and I'm sure that this is where the running costs mount up. Everything is so very expensive. From a bottle of "Duty Free" Baileys Irish Cream at $24 to a souvenir photographic package of your trip including a DVD for £214 (not priced in U.S. dollars).
I had one experience on board which will ensure that I will never travel Celebrity again: On boarding, a copy of Celebrity Today was awaiting in my cabin. It outlined the smoking policy. I was quite clear on this before booking - I smoke cigars. No smoking in the cabins or on the balconies (quite right too). There were tough policies for flouting this rule.
The designated places for smoking were mainly portside on 5 of the decks. I was quite happy with this. However, I was asked by a waiter not to smoke my cigar in the designated smoking area. I was only allowed to smoke a cigar at the Sunset Bar (deck 15) port side. This is an outside area at the aft of the ship. Even there you are not allowed to smoke at the bar. Tough luck if it is raining - which it did on two occasions. Cigar smoking was not mentioned in any of the paperwork I had seen.
I queried this with the Guest Relations Manager (Mr. Bryan Cooper). He said that the requirement for smoking cigars was in the small print and produced a letter outlining the policy which I had not seen before. The officer had no authority whatsoever and he stuck by the company line that it could be seen as "Diluting the Brand". I should have mentioned to him at the time (had I thought of it) that their brand was already diluted by lowering the come on price and increasing the cost of everything else. As a result of this policy the company allowed people into the dining room whose idea of a formal evening was to tuck their open necked shirts into their trousers.
To sum up - this is a pure money making machine. They might have taken the 15% service charge off because people complained but they just included it in the price of the drinks. I am sure that the powers that be know far more than me on how to turn a profit on a cruise ship.
Oh, I nearly forgot to mention a couple of things that I subsequently read in the small print: If you choose to sue the company you agree not to take part in a class action and secondly Celebrity Cruises reserve the right to test your mouthwash to see if it contains alcohol.