Celebrity Eclipse -- Transatlantic Cruise -- October 30-November 12, 2012
This was our 9th cruise, 4th with Celebrity, and first Transatlantic.
We booked this vacation while on a previous cruise to take advantage of the lower deposit of $100 per person. In addition, we received a $200 ship board credit. Unfortunately, as shareholders we could not double up on any additional credits. At the time we booked this trip Celebrity still offered "packaged air" which meant they assigned our flight carrier and departure times to London and our return from Miami. I was nervous that Celebrity would put us on a less than desirable flight, but we were really pleased when we were booked on non-stop flights both ways. Since we had to sleep on the flight, we upgraded to economy comfort class for more leg room. Wearing compression socks and noise cancelling headphones made the flight more tolerable.
We arrived in London one day early and had reservations through Celebrity at The Mint Hotel in Westminster which also included transfers from the airport to hotel, to the cruise port, and from Miami to the airport. We met the Celebrity representative at the airport who then drove us to the hotel. The driver gave us a great tour of London on the way. He pointed out landmarks for us and answered all our questions.
After check-in at The Mint, we walked to Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abby. Unfortunately, the Abby was closed to the public that day. We only had a few hours to explore, take pictures and walk back to the hotel before it got dark. We ate dinner in the lounge at the hotel. We had to put our luggage outside the room that night so it could be collected and put on the motor coach for our drive to Southampton the next morning. The drive took about 2 hours. After we arrived at the ship we got in line for check-in which went fairly quickly, and we were on the ship around 1:30. We were in aft cabin 8344.
The Eclipse is a beautiful ship, similar to the Equinox which we had cruised on twice.
Right after lunch we went to the future cruise desk to make our next cruise reservation. Because we made the reservation on the first day, we received complimentary dinner for 2 at any one of the specialty restaurants.
Our cruise critic group had 285 people signed up for the connections gathering. Some of the events were disorganized due to the different days and times that were posted on various members' websites and what Celebrity arranged. Case in point: I thought our gift exchange was on the first sea day and when I went to the Sky Lounge I realized the day and time must have changed. I didn't take our 2 gifts back to the cabin and then realized I must have set them down somewhere. Someone must have seen them in a Celebrity tote bag, took them and never turned them into Guest Relations. Our business card was attached so it would have been easy to return them to us. I felt really bad that we could not participate in the gift exchange. Hopefully, someone is enjoying two nice coffee mugs from Minnesota.
Royal Caribbean organizes Cruise Critic events much better than Celebrity. Cruise director staff act as hosts. There are door prizes and they create a more welcoming and organized event.
We made dinner reservations in Qsine with other Cruise Critic people before we left home. I'm glad we ate at this new specialty restaurant. It reminded me of a taste testing smorgasbord. The concept of ordering from an iPad is unique. We will probably eat in Qsine again, but it wasn't my overall favorite restaurant.
We used our free dinner reservation in Murano. We've eaten in Murano's on the Equinox and thought it was superb. The menu was a bit different on the Eclipse and we really missed the pan seared filet mignon.
The Oceanview Cafe was standard. We ate the majority of our breakfasts and lunches there or else we would stop for a burger at the Mast Grill later in the afternoon. I still find it hard to maneuver without a tray carrying my food to the table, but at least there were enough beverage stations so we could put our food at a table and then go back for coffee or water.
The Main Dining room food was usually good. One night I couldn't find anything I liked so I ordered on the "other" side of the menu. Our waiter and his helper could have done a better job coordinating serving salads and salad dressings together, but other than that they did a nice job. We had a great table of 5 couples that we arranged on Cruise Critic and Celebrity linked our reservations so we didn't need to make any changes once on board. Two other couples knew each other from previous cruises, but everyone else met for the first time. Each night we sat in a different seat so we all got to know each other.
There were a number of events offered during sea days. A tour of the food galley was given which was interesting to see all the staff working on food preparations. We also enjoyed the "Beyond the Podium" lectures in the theater by Nigel West. A few of us learned how to play Mah Jongg thanks to the Cruise Critic passengers who knew how to play and were willing to help us learn. Their patience was very much appreciated. We went on the cabin crawl which was nicely organized by some of the Cruise Critic people. It was great to see many different cabins and locations, including the Penthouse. It's amazing how many different layouts there are of cabins in the same category and how much different the views are around the ship.
The staff of the Eclipse was very friendly. Our cabin steward and her assistant were really efficient. Dru Pavlov, the Cruise Director was previously on the Equinox, and we enjoyed his sense of humor. He did a nice job.
My husband used the spa for 3 acupuncture treatments and hot stone massages. He was very pleased with the results of the acupuncture and enjoyed the massages.
I was not very impressed with the iLounge. It was closed many times due to classes that were offered for a fee and there were only two staff members to help people. One day there was an information session about the iPad offered near the Molecular Bar and we couldn't hear anything due to the piped in music overhead.
We really enjoyed the entertainment on this cruise. Some of the entertainers also performed in the afternoon on sea days for those who wanted to see them again or could not attend the evening show.
Gareth Oliver, ventriloquist. He was a semi-finalist on Britain's Got Talent. When we got home I watched one of the episodes on YouTube when Simon Cowell was judging.
Amanda Russell, singer. She was a wonderful singer. Her first performance was during some very rough seas. She wore very high-heeled shoes and could hardly stand in one place very long.
Pete Matthews, juggler. Very funny.
Rip Tides, a capella group. This group did an amazing job on their Jersey Boys rendition and performed numerous times. We really enjoyed their singing.
Jack Walker, singer. Marvelous singer who we had heard perform on the Equinox. His selections from Phantom of the Opera were outstanding.
Craig Diamond, magician. We enjoyed many of his tricks, but he was a bit "hyper" and loud during his performance.
Claire Maiden, pianist. Very talented.
Eclipse singers and dancers were amazing especially their Cirque performance.
It was fun watching many of the entertainers around the ship hanging out together and enjoying the shows when they weren't performing.
One night we went to the late night adult entertainment called the Liar's Club which was an adult game show featuring Dru, Gareth Oliver and Peter Matthews. Jack Walker played the host. We had a hilarious time as the three players had to come up with the meaning of a word and convince the audience to vote for them.
Almost every night crossing the Atlantic we turned our clocks back an hour. It was nice to get that extra hour of sleep back.
LeHarve: We booked the ship's tour to Paris without lunch. Travel time was 2 hours on a motor coach to Paris. (I wish I would have brought a book or my knitting, like some of the other passengers.) As we neared Paris the tour guide started narrating about all the sites we were seeing. Unfortunately, we were on the right side of the bus because all the attractions that I could take photos of were on the left side. Next time I take a bus tour I will remember to ask the driver which side to sit on. This was really disappointing to me since it was my first time in Paris and could only see things bending forward and looking out the window across the aisle. After the bus dropped us off near the Eiffel Tower, we boarded a river boat and took a one hour cruise down the Seine. The tour operator spoke in English and French, pointing out all the attractions as we headed down the river and then back again. We had a short amount of time at the Eiffel Tower, but not enough to go up. It was a very crowded day in Paris. We found a fast food vendor near the Eiffel Tower for a quick lunch which was not very good.
Cherbourg: We booked a tour with 3 other couples from Cruise Critic with Dale Booth. http://www.daleboothnormandytours.com/
Even though the cruise ship offered a number of excursions for passengers, we wanted to be with a small group that would have a more personal touch. Dale tailored the day to our ship schedule so we wouldn't miss anything, yet get back to the dock on time.
We got more than what we expected on our Full Day American Tour with Dale. He was so energetic and knowledgeable about WW II and D-Day. His research about the soldiers who fought in the war was amazing. He is a true historian who can tell the story better than any movie. He brought it all to life with pictures, charts and drawings in the sand. We didn't just drive by the historic places; we walked and listened to Dale as he described in detail what happened on those beaches. Everyone in the group had an unforgettable time on this tour, and I can now say I have a much better understanding of this part of WW II. This was the most fantastic tour I have ever taken.
Gijon: It was disappointing to have the next two scheduled ports of Vigo, Spain and Ponta Delgada, Azores cancelled, but there are no guarantees when it comes to weather so we found ourselves in Gijon and La Coruna, Spain. The cruise line provided bus service from the port to the town. We joined a lot of other passengers, walked around, had a drink in a local pub with our friends from the Normandy trip, and took some pictures.
La Coruna: There were a minimal amount of excursions offered by Celebrity. By this time I didn't want to take another motor coach tour so we walked around town. By the time we got back onboard ship the sky was starting to get darker and we knew a storm must be coming. I found out the Tower of Hercules lighthouse was located at the end of the peninsula and got a few pictures as we sailed past.
We definitely had some bad weather on this cruise. The Captain informed us we would be heading into a gale storm with Force 9 winds (45-54 mph). One night I think everyone woke up around 2:30 a.m. when it felt like the ship got hit by a big wave. In the morning we noticed air blowers on deck 5 trying to dry out the carpet where water much have come in. Finally, on the last day the weather improved so much people were actually in their swimsuits at the pool.
Debarkation was less than desirable. We waited for almost an hour in the dining room before we could leave the ship. The dining room was full with no place to sit and kept getting more crowded. Customs in Miami was very congested. We had to wait for our luggage at one of three carousals then walk back to the line for customs declaration. Our transfer to the airport was through Celebrity so we waited on a motor coach until given the go ahead to leave the port. We got to the airport in plenty of time to get through security and our flight home.
This was a wonderful cruise, even if the weather didn't cooperate. We made it through jet lag, met some wonderful people who I hope we will stay in contact with, and had the best tour I've ever taken in Normandy. We are looking forward to our Pacific Coastal cruise in September, 2012 onboard the new "solsticized" Millennium in Aqua Class.