Celebrity Eclipse 16 night Med cruise, October 2011
As usual, we travelled down to Southampton the day before our cruise, its 195 miles and takes on average 4.5 to 5 hours, worst trip was 7 hours plus. We have stayed at the Holiday Inn Express at Nursling, a few times, so just a short journey to the docks. Since our last visit in May, they had become a recommeded hotel for a local childrens theme park, and it was a little noisy. We have decided to stay elsewhere in future.
We had been very lucky in getting an invite to visit the QM2 on the 14th October, the same day as we sailed on Eclipse. Having had a good meal at the local Beafeater the night before, we skipped breakfast, packed the car and proceeded to the QE2 terminal. We had a very interesting tour of QM2, in a group of ten with a good guide, followed by an excellent leisurely lunch with wine. We knew it would be tight to get to Eclipse, and it was 2.20pm when we left the dining room! We disembarked, fortunately the car was close, and drove to the City terminal, quickly unoaded our cases, parked the car, and checked in. We were one of the last to check in, we boarded (no photographers!), drank the 'welcome' drink, and went to our Aqua class cabin, where we arrived at 3.05pm! The difference between the two ships was a stark contrast, the traditional decor of the QM2 to the modern light decor of Eclipse.
We popped down to Blu, our restaurant, as we had heard that our favourite waiter was on board, when we got there he was on the maitre d's desk, and we got a wonderfull greeting. When we got back our steward introduced himself, and went on a case hunt, as only one of our cases had arrived. This was our 5th cruise on Eclipse, all in the same cabin on the 'hump', so might know that we are very happy with the ship, it was like coming home. We had also reached 'Elite' status, the top tier in their 'rewards' scheme, which intitled us to several perks.
First two days were sea days, and again the Bay of Biscay was kind to us, in these 2 days they held the 'Senior Oficers' cocktail party in the Sky lounge, where the only problem was getting an non alcoholic drink for my wife! I also did the Elite bridge visit, it was a fairly large group and a fairly short visit would not bother again! First port was Cadiz where we just walked into town and explored its many narrow streets, returning to the ship for lunch, which consisted of a drink and a few rolls from Cafe Bacio. We attended several shows with 'guest' artists, some good,some not so good. We did not attend any production shows, as we had seen them before. many pax were unhappy having to go early to get a seat in the theatre, seams to be the same on most ships!
The next day was a sea day, which we spent drinking coffee, doing crosswords, and failing miserably in answering the quizz questions. We always went for the wonderful Blu breakfasts, which was always a lovely unhurried event. In the evenings we always dined early, so we got our waiter, several other couples were doing the same, and the 5 tables for 2 were nearly always occupied by the same couples, often in seated in a different order, so we all became friendly. The food and service were sublime, and nothing was to much trouble for our waiters. Items from the MDR were obtainable, but we never felt the need. There were 2 'secret' sweets, never on the menu, but available if you asked (Creme Brulee and Apple Pie).
Next port was Cagliara, which we have visited before. We have cruised the Med many times, and have done the tours that interest us,so we did not do any of the ships tours on this cruise, so again, we just had a walk round the town, we normally find somewhere to explore. One of the perks of Elite is the 'happy' hours between 5pm and 7pm where you are provided with drinks and nibbles, we really enjoyed ourselves there, meeting a couple we had met before, and another couple we got to know. The next day was Palermo, we had seen all sorts of dire warnings about the port, but frankly, we thought it was not as scarey as Naples!
Another sea day spent at leisure, enjoying the ship. We had prepaid our tips, and purchased a Premium non alcoholic package each, which we found excellent value, as latte's were $5.25 each and Tea $4.75 we also had sparkling water in Blu every night, at a rough guess, the average drink priced worked at around $3, we loved the no signing, no tickets involved. Then it was Venice, the favourite port of the cruise for us, it was $20 for the boat ticket, and I noticed a sign saying one way trips were 7euro's, so not ripped off too much! We walked as far as the market, and were very suprised to see vegetables for sale from our home town in Lincolnshire! We returned to the ship with heavy parcels and a lighter wallet! We had an invite to an Elite sailaway on the helipad, the crew had put some chairs out on the helipad, trust us to choose two in front of an almighty loud speaker, which deafened us when they turned the music on! It was very cold, so much so they had to fetch some blankets for us, it was a wonderful experience, but it was so cold!
Next it was Dubrovnic, and as usual, people had not read the paper, or listened to the announcments, and had failed to take goverment ID's with them, and were turned off the bus at the dock gates by the border guards. Again, we explored this intriuging town, making purchases on our way round! We were then over halfway through the cruise, at sea heading toward home, but with a couple of stops on the way. The Captains Club celebration was held on a sea day, usual speeches and jokes, and a selection of food available, they had some great beef being carved, in which I indulged. That evening in Blu i had a wonderfull steak, but the next day i decided I had eaten to much beef the previous day! We noticed in the evening that many of the officers were 'on patrol' mid evening, we had several chats, in particular with the Guest Relations Manager
And so to Cartegena, another port where you can walk off the ship into the town centre, so off we set to explore the place. Down one off the side streets we saw a set of 3 escalators outdoors, quite unusual we thought, so up we went. it turned out to be some roman ruins on a hill overlooking the town. We were somewhat surprised to see one of our dinner companians, who uses a buggy, at the top! That evening, the captain warned us it would be rough the next day, which was a sea day. As forecast, it was rough with 9 metre waves and 40/50 knot headwind, and in the morning the captain announced he was slowing down for passenger and crew safety. We took some pills and retired to our stateroom for a few hours. We felt fine later in the afternoon, so went o the Elite event and dinner in Blu. After dinner we were walking past the shops with some of our dinner companions when the captain again made an announcement. He explained that as we had slowed down so much, we would arrive in La Coruna in the late afternoon rather than mid morning, and we were due to leave at 9pm. He then annouced that we would not be going to La Coruna, and our reaction was that we would be going home somewhat slowly. He the said that with the co-operation of the Miami headquarters, and the port of Vigo, we would be docking in Vigo mid morning, and leaving early evening. We were delighted, as were many as they had not been to Vigo. Others, of course complained, but we did not fancy La Coruna in the dark with lots of places closed. Full marks to Celebrity for organising this at such short notice, other lines were cancelling ports completely.
Docked as scheduled in Vigo, on a bright sunny day. Despite some moans, many seemed to enjoy our last port, the shops and restaurants must have welcomed this surprise visit by 3000 passengers, including around 35 children and 235 Americans. Once again, the Bay of Biscay was fairly kind to us, as we packed our cases and enjoyed our last chat with friends in the Sky Lounge, then our final meal in Blu and the farewells. I occasionally bought a glass of wine at dinner, and was paying around $9.25 for a glass of wine (which was a generous freepour) which is around Â£5.81, a similar price charged in many better hotels and restaurants in the UK. Cheapest bottle of wine in a Hilton recently was Â£20.00 equalling around $32.00, not sure why many were complaning about the prices of drinks on the ship
When we awoke at 6am, we were back in Southampton, down to breakfast in Blu at 6.30am as it opened, when we finished we found out we could disembark, so returned to our cabin, picked up our carry off's, and walked off the seemingly deserted ship, quickly found our cases, surprisingly the customs hall was not manned, and off to the car which was parked close by. We were in the car and ready to go by 7.30am, the best disembark ever, and as it was a Sunday, a quick exit from Southampton, and home by 11.30am!
In all, a wonderful cruise, perhaps our best ever, with the crew and food the best we have ever had. This not to say it was perfect, we had a few issues during the cruise.With the cabin being under the pool deck, around 7am we often got 'wake up' call around 7am, when the pool butlers started putting the sunbeds out.
As mentioned previously, my wife often had a problem getting a soft drink at the Captains Club events, the waiters bring round a tray of alcoholic drinks, we ask for a non alcoholic drink, and off the waiter goes, often forgetting the drink, or another passenger highjacking it before they returned.
After our visit to Vigo I went to guest Relations to pay some excess euro's off our account. There were 3 staff on duty, but it turned out only one of them was able to handle the transaction, and he was serving one passenger, with another waiting. Each transaction took several minutes, and I left the queue as it was time to get ready for dinner. When I left, there were 7 passengers waiting to do cash transactions! Looking at my account on the TV next day, I noticed that I had been charged for some drinks in a bar, and had not recieved the Internet credit due, so another trip to guest Relations, when I was able to pay in my Euro's, and sort out the overcharges. Never saw the Guest Relations Manager again, so could not hassle him about the service! Did not recieve a final account, but fortunately I had noted the ammount due as we went to bed on the last night.
Just before we left for our cruise, Celebrity announced that Constellation would be coming to Southampton in 2012, to do a series of 'food and wine' cruises. We had already booked an Azores cruise on Eclipse, but this new cruise really appealed. so we enquired if we could change our cruise. Our Personal Cruise Specialist was really helpful, and changed our booking without charge, unlike other cruise lines we have used. We lost our free carking, that offer was not available for the new cruise.