Hubby and I just arrived back in Maryland after our first Celebrity Cruise. While things are fresh in my mind, I thought I would get to my review.
A little about us-I'm 50 and my hubby is 52 and this was our fifth cruise. We went from having two inside cabins to an upsell on NCL in an AB on the Sky. From then on, we cruise in low end suites on NCL and were happy with them, just didn't care for the price of the suite, but found we wanted the service. We decided to give Celebrity a try for my 50th birthday.
We flew from our home airport of BWI-Miami bound 2 December 2011. I booked a room at the Sofitel in Miami due to an airline point promotion. We rented a car from Hotwire for $27 as we wanted to dine at Jaguar's in Coconut Grove. Just a plug for Jaguar's......amazing ceviche and very original drinks! We celebrated my birthday there and the manager came out and presented me with a $25 gift certificate. My son is going on the Epic next month, so I gave it to he and his wife to use. It is near the Cocowalk in a very trendy area....I highly recommend it. Ask for Carlos....he will take good care of you.
The Sofitel was very nice as far as the staff and the room....certainly no complaints, HOWEVER we were unhappy with the music volume floors below our 10th floor room at 11 PM. We must have been tired and passed out from being overtired, but if they party every weekend and you want to rest before the cruise, I wouldn't necessarily suggest staying here unless you call prior and find out if there is an event that includes a band....definitely let them know that you want to be in a quiet area of the hotel...better yet, if they say there is something scheduled, bypass them completely. It's a shame really because we had a lovely breakfast in the hotel, they have free internet and they did not charge us for parking and the room certainly met with our expectations. When you can hear music on the 10th floor though, I personally think that's too loud. At 11 PM, many travelers are expecting to rest.
Embarkation day-hubby returned the car back to Hertz and caught the Sofitel shuttle back to the hotel. We purchased transportation through the hotel to the port for $10 each and it worked out very nice. We got our luggage loaded on, took a seat and left about 15 minutes later. The ride to the port was about 15 minutes, but the majority of the people on the ship were booked on the Epic so it took awhile to get their items off the bus. Once they were dropped off, there were roughly 10 couples left for the ships that were in port. As the Eclipse was at the end of the dock, we were last to be dropped off. We collected our items and headed in to check in. We were checked through the first check point and told to go up the escalator. Following the directions of the young lady, we get about halfway up when a RCCL employee looked at my hubby and said *weren't you told to stay down there?*. My hubby thought he was kidding in all honesty. He apparently was not because the employee started screaming at the top of his lungs to hold people downstairs. I had the beginnings of a migraine and not only did I find this action very unprofessional, but it made things bad where my migraine was concerned. We were going on a cruise and I was going to press on and suck it up! Security was just crazy.....next cruise we will get there a little earlier. Once we were at the check in, it went very fast and we were on the ship within no time. Two way radios would really be good in this situation and Celebrity should invest in some.
Some of our Cruise Critic group decided to meet at Bistro on Five. This turned out to be a very good choice. Crepes were over the top-seriously, based on this experience, I was already taking another cruise on Celebrity and buying cruise credits! Food was absolutely amazing everywhere. We were not rushed and pretty much hung in the Bistro until our rooms were ready.
We booked AQ 1547. Loved the hump balcony size, but I really missed my aft room. I wish there were AQ's on the aft within the S-Class ships. The room was beautiful, smelled very nice, the bed large and comfortable. We were ok with the sofa and the closets. Had enough room for just about everything we had packed. The bathroom while smaller than what we have had the past two cruises (we were booked in suites on NCL) was nicely sized and we were just fine. Hubby and I could be in the bathroom at the same time and that's all that mattered to us.
Blu-in a word, amazing! There really isn't much more I can say about it. Service was above and beyond anything I could have imagined. Anytime we dined there we felt absolutely so special! We met another couple that live close to our home on our roll call and dined with them very frequently, so they put us on the couch seat as we spent a lot of mornings lingering over coffee laughing. My muesli was prepared the way I love it every morning and the pastries found their way to my hips, naturally! Dinners were really wonderful. I have to say that if Blu is your dining room, you really don't need to book the specialties, even though we did during this our first Celebrity cruise.
Murano-this would be my one exception to book when we cruise again. Murano in a word was elegance. Food was above the board. The fois gras was amazing and the only reason I know was my husband and I had half of each others appetizers. I had the diver scallop and honestly, I probably wouldn't even waste my waiting tastebuds on it again! The scallop in no way compared to the fois gras-it was a little slice of Heaven! For our entrees, hubby selected the lamb chops which surprised me, the non lamb eater. They were pretty amazing! I still wouldn't just order them, but they were very tasty. I had the veal chop. I was cautioned by our waiter about there being some fat in them, however I love veal and was very happy I selected it. All the go withs on the plate perfectly complemented the piece of meat. I was very satisfied with my selections. Desserts, well let's just say here they were trying to kill us! =P I should have just told him to bring the cheese cart over and forget it, however the chef popped out and talked to a few tables to include ours and I told him I wanted to marry him (yep, that fois gras was pretty-darned-good!). We ordered soufflÃ©s for our dessert. I mean, what trouble could they be? We saw several delivered to surrounding tables and they appeared to be these light and airy smallish desserts. They would have been fine themselves, but the chef sent truffles and candied fruit and the waiter sent his favorite, beignets. Was this all because I wanted to marry the chef? =P Wow, note to self....no more compliments! Ummm, yeah well....suffice it to say, we had no room for anything else, so the cheese was forgotten and we waddled back to our room in a food coma!
Qsine-food was amazing however one time here was plenty. I wouldn't attempt as a group of two. We had a group of eight and were still ready to kersplode! Qsine is an awesome concept, but it's sort of like going to the Teppanyaki. Once you have been there, it's not a novelty any longer. The food was very good, but just when you thought you were in the clear, more showed up! Seriously, things could be even half of the size that they are presented. If we went back, we probably wouldn't get M's favorites. There were a few things in the box that my hubby and I liked, however Middle Eastern fare is not necessarily our favorite. We loved the Kobe burgers and the Lava Crab. The disco shrimp was sort of a shrimp salad. It was ok, but not a must have. We would have liked to try the Painters Mignon, but no one selected that. Food was plentiful, desserts were fun but one time was enough for us.
Tuscan Grill-this was the only place that service shocked me. I'm not picking, it's just hard not to notice when up until now you feel like a rockstar onboard! I compared notes with my friend and she said that their service was above the board. I will chalk it up to maybe it was the last night of the cruise and things were crazy. We were handed our menus and a good 10 minutes went by before anyone even came to fill up water. Compared to the other restaurants, this didn't seem like the norm. The Sommelier finally showed up with a wine listing a while after the water. I had selected most of the wines on this cruise. I handed the list over to my hubby and he selected on they were out of. I grabbed the list and picked a wine that turned out to be a lovely choice. Where dinner was concerned, it was another meal that was way over the top. We loved the antipasto plate...the only thing is I wish they would have had a small one that they would leave for the table. The appetizers were amazing....loved the steak tartare with the arugula salad. I had a steak for dinner which was fork tender.. We were full at this point and probably should have stopped, but NO...we had to have dessert. I ordered a little innocent what I believed would be a single panna cotta. The plate of dessert showed up with three additional items. So much for innocent! Another food coma!
Bistro on Five-I really wanted to make it here again, however we just couldn't do it....way too full from everything else! The crepes were very good....hubby and I split half of my cowboy crepe and half of his Italian crepe and it was plenty. Hardly ever busy, this little gem is a great place to people watch or watch the world float by. Well worth the $5 cover charge per person.
Cafe al Bacio-I miss my Carmel Macchiato! While items here are additional, the coffee is very much worth it.
Geleteria-Save your money and get ice cream from the Oceanview Cafe. A tiny scoop cost us $6 for the two of us and it wasn't even that special. Pass on it and save your money. The ice cream is just as good in the buffet. Actually, it tasted better because they gave you more!
Mast Bar-I needed a hamburger fix one day so this worked. Onion rings were crunchy, hamburgers tasty...they were all Warehouse store quality and we were good with that.
Oceanview Cafe-we were pretty happy with most of what we tried here. Sushi was good and it was fresh. It was a little more *ricey* than we are used to, but it didn't make or break it for us. Pasta bar was great and we loved the selection of drinks on Celebrity. We don't drink a lot of soda, so the juices worked for us. Try the Vietnamese Meatball....REALLY good!
After a lot of consideration, my hubby and I opted not to get the drink plan. We haven't added everything up, but we pretty much feel we came in spending less. Signing didn't kill us. We probably would opt not to get it again. We loved the Molecular and Sunset Bar. We had a drink at the Martini bar once....very happening place, however we chose to take our drinks in a quieter area.
The Lawn Area....we enjoyed sitting out on the back of the ship almost every evening. It's just a very enjoyable space, perfect for conversation in the evening. We had a really wonderful roll call......several of us really clicked and it just made for a wonderful week. Both my hubby and I hope to sail with them again sometime in the future.
Most common areas didn't feel crowded on the ship. The only exception would be the Solarium. Getting a chaise was impossible. People never showed back up to seats and there were these weird ways people would save for one another. Celebrity needs to enforce the rules with the chair hogs. A suggestion would be to have some sort of cubby system for those people who want to swim and need a place to put their items while they are in the pool and to handle those who are holding chairs for hours upon end. It was very frustrating!
Since we were in the AQ, we took advantage of the spa area once (seriously, it was a busy week!). Loved the views of the sea as we enjoyed the steam room and tile loungers! It's a very serene area and well worth the additional fare. I booked my very first spa treatment. I've always been very apprehensive about thinking of doing one more due to my image of myself, however due to a lot of stress in my life lately, my husband just about booked the treatments for me! I opted for a special for $129 picking three services at 25 minutes each. Since I read several groups, I also know that many people feel stressed due to the sales pitches...well, I was mildly surprised and just want to say that nothing was pitched to me. I don't know why other than maybe she felt sorry for me when she read what I considered my stress level (10) or because I told her this was my first time trying this. It was wonderful and very enjoyable. I was very relaxed when I left the treatment! The price wasn't hateful either. I live in the Baltimore area where I probably would have paid about the same amount for 75 minutes.
Riedel workshop-we paid $15 for the workshop due to a shortage of glasses. The workshop was amazing! There really is something to the shape of your wine glasses. Hubby and I were impressed so much that we will probably be buying glasses for our wine and doing this again at home.
Shows-well the only one we went to was the Newlywed/Not So Newlywed Game and we ended up contestants! It was a lot of fun and while we didn't win the major prize, we got a cool new bag, two t-shirts and a cool travel coffee cup! Better prizes than Norwegian!
It was way late when we got there and we chose to just get of and take pictures of the ship, so nothing to really report other than to say it was beautiful from the ship.
St. Maarten-We booked Bernard's tours. The tour takes you to Maho and Orient Beach, Marigot long enough to get a pastry and stops you for some shopping. It was worth the money, however the next time we'd probably just opt for Maho Beach. What a rush it is to see planes coming in so close. The tour was $40 each.
St. Kitts-We booked along with our friends the Beach Extravaganza offered by Celebrity. I think both my friend and I were very disappointed with this. Compared to other beaches in the Caribbean, the beach we were taken to in St. Kitts didn't fit the typical what you think of when going to a Caribbean beach. I could have gone to Ocean City, Maryland for the same look! There was a lack of umbrellas, we were hounded to buy something or have a beach massage. I'd probably opt for another sort of tour there.
If anyone here has read any other group, you probably read more than once about the demanding over 70+ groups on the Eclipse. Understand, MANY of my friends are 70+ so this is not about age. My older friends tend to have a zest for life that just doesn't even compare to my younger friends, so it was hard for me to understand exactly what these people onboard were complaining about. They were obnoxious to almost everyone they came in contact with, passengers and crew members alike! We were seriously embarrassed to be American....I just kept wondering what the crew was actually thinking. Luckily for us, it really worked out in our favor. Our groups were so positive, the crew gravitated toward us because we laughed and had fun. There was no excuse for the bad behavior though. I know people ride scooters, but in one particular circumstance a man riding a scooter almost knocked down one of our party who was walking from Qsine. As I said, embarrassing.
Debarkation was just about as exasperating as embarkation. Seriously, the RCCL employees really need to work on their friendliness and professionalism. It's scary when a customs agent is friendlier than the employees of the cruise line!
Based on this cruise, we are going to be paring down with out clothing even more and we are going to get some different carry on bags. I'm used to the embarkation/debarkation on NCL and found the system on Celebrity frustrating. It's solvable though.....we will just self disembark the next cruise.
In closing even with the few negatives we encountered, we bought two cruise credits. We were impressed with everything for the most part. Loved the staff, loved the ship and can't WAIT to go again!