East Caribbean Cruise
December 10 -- 17, 2011
By Mary & Vincent Finelli
'Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house there was hustle and bustle, so this review did not get done! 'Twas the week after Christmas and all through the house there was hustle and bustle, so this review did not get done. 'Twas Jan. 1, 2012 and a New Year, so with resolution we now attack the job; it will get done.
The Celebrity Eclipse is a wonderful art experience. Since she is a sister ship to the Solstice, she is exact in every way except in her decorations. The art collection has been described like her name: Eclipse -- "rare and unexpected" as the book on Eclipse art says. The pieces of art have been selected to make the passengers look "stop and ponder." Featured is the art community of Miami; showcasing two artists per deck, one on port side and one on starboard. With each display there are unique points being made, for example, Miller's photos of what seems to be an eclipse are actually camera less shapes made directly onto photographic paper. Using this as a stepping off point will set passengers up for a unique and surprising art experience. Be careful what you think you are seeing may not be what you are seeing at all!
The Eclipse sails out of the Port of Miami, although it's about a one hour ride from Boca Raton, FL, security is much less time consuming than Ft. Lauderdale. Thus a similar amount of time is required. We arrived at 12:45pm, baggage drop off was rapid. Vincent used his walker and not his scooter. Even though 1:00pm was listed as boarding time, we were boarded immediately. We have Elite status; therefore, there was no waiting. Our stateroom 1524 Deck 11 was ready; we left our carry on luggage in the room and were off to the buffet of Roast Beef and Pop overs in the Oceanview Cafe` (deck 14 aft).
As we remember, all the captains of the Celebrity ships we have met have been Greeks, so is this one on the Eclipse, Captain Panagiotis Skylogiannis, who was born in Athens, Greece. The ship was beautifully decorated for Christmas. The Grand Foyer on Deck 3 had a wonderful gingerbread Church and winter scene. The church had three separate sections and two bell towers. The scent of gingerbread brought Mother's kitchen to mind. It was artfully adorned with lots of frosting and "snow"; the foreground had a miniature train and it was surrounded by miniature Christmas trees with many twinkling white lights. There were several mini house scenes and even a red mail box with Snoopy sleeping on top of it. The Atrium balconies on Decks 4 & 5 were festooned with green balsam garlands and clusters of gold and maroon balls. Everywhere were real red poinsettia plants and some areas were all white poinsettia plants --- just lovely.
To travel on these fantastic cruise ships anytime is great, but at holiday time it's spectacular. Hotel Director Bernhard Stacher (Austria) and his staff set the tone on the Eclipse with very high standards. The sea is good to Bernhard and he gets younger looking every cruise.
Even though we wrote a thorough description of her sister ship, the Solstice, here we will concisely review the Decks:
Deck 2 houses the medical facility.
Deck 3 has the lower level of the Moonlight Sonata Dining Room with its fantastic ceiling of crystal balls and ship evoking shapes. Here are also Guest Relations, Shore excursions and the Passport Bar.
Deck 4 has Celebrity Central, Entertainment Court and the Eclipse Theater. Here are also Cellar Masters Wine Room and three Bars: the Quasar, Martini Bar, and Crush. It also houses the Fortunes Casino, the shops on the Boulevard and the upper level of the Moonlight Sonata Dining Room.
Deck 5 has the upper level of the Eclipse Theater, the Art Gallery, Galleria Boutiques and the Photo Gallery. There are four lounges: Cafe al Bacio (coffee), Ensemble, Galleria Tastings, and Michael's Club. There are five restaurants: Bistro on Five (Creperie), Blu (Aqua Class reserved restaurant), Murano (specialty restaurant, French cuisine), Qsine (specialty restaurant, around the world cuisine), and the Tuscan Grille (specialty restaurant, Italian steakhouse).
Deck 6 has the iLounge (Internet) and staterooms.
Decks 7, 8, & 9 have all staterooms.
Deck 10 has the Library with open stacks (24 hrs.) and staterooms.
Deck 11 has a Relaxation Lounge and staterooms: mostly Suites, Concierge and Aqua Class staterooms.
Deck 12 has passenger areas: Aqua Spa, Beauty Salon, the Persian Garden Pools, Solarium swimming Pools and Whirl Pools. Aft there are the Sky Suites and the Concierge Staterooms
Deck 14 has two Bars, the Mast and the Oceanview, the Sky Conference Center and the Sky Observation Lounge. Midship is the Jogging Track and aft is the Oceanview Cafe`.
Deck 15 has the Corning Hot Glass Show, the Lawn Club and Bocce field, the Fun Factory and the Video Arcade.
Deck 16 is the Sun Deck.
The ship is registered in Valletta, Malta. She had her Inaugural Season 2010; she weighs 122,000 tons; her length is 1,033 ft., beam is 121 ft. with a draft of 27 ft. and a cruising speed of 24 knots. Her occupancy is 2, 850 guests.
Wheelchair accessible cabin #1524 (Aqua Class) is located forward on the starboard side. It has an automatic door opener with an extra wide door and a foyer with a place to park the wheelchair. When entering on the left is a huge bathroom with a large 4X4 ft. shower with fold up seat. And safety rails all around. Next is the queen size bed with flanking night stands: One drawer and a shelf and reading lamps. Then, there is a small beige love seat and a medium coffee table.
When entering on the right there is a double wardrobe with ample room. Next, is a long desk/cabinet with six drawers, a personal safe, a refrigerator, a lighted mirror, a desk chair and a coffee table. The carpeting was Burberry, heavy on the maroon and our Steward was Fevon Gracias, who was always ready to help. The far wall is half window and sliding doors to the balcony which has two recliners, two stools and a table. Vincent uses the balcony frequently, he loves to relax, to contemplate and sometimes naps lulled by the ship's motion and the sound of the waves. He also enjoys star gazing and this time he was lucky to see some of the most bright shooting stars on late Tuesday evening. Later we learned that it was the peak of the annual Geminid meteor shower.
FOOD AND SERVICE
Service under Hotel Director Bernard is excellent. We travelled Aqua Class with our own special Dining Room "Blu." This restaurant is dedicated to healthy, inventive offerings (reminiscent of chef Todd English). The portions are medium to small; just the way we like them, since we are more tasters than eaters. The Blu manager is Alex , whom we met on the Solstice. Maitre D' is Marcel (Slovakia) and Asst. Maitre is Viorel (Romania). The Sommelier is Krish (Mauritius). Our waiters were Gede (Indonesia) nad Renata (Macedonia). This friendly International group made our week at table #855. Blu is decorated exactly like the one on Solstice except the dominant color there was cobalt blue and here it is ruby red. Not as stunning as the blue, but still lovely.
The breads are excellent and hot: crispy bread sticks, French bread, olive rolls, dark ryes and some sweet ones too. Practically, there are just four courses: appetizers, soups and salads, entrees and desserts. Eating in Blu was pleasant and quiet. On the second Formal Night Bernard invited us to the Captain's table in the Moonlight Sonata and we were struck by the fact that the main Dining Room was so active and high spirited. It was fine for one night, but the next night we truly appreciated the calm and relaxing atmosphere of Blu! I guess we are starting to show our age.
We dined in the Tuscan Grill ($30 cover charge) and enjoyed it. The menu is new, the Maitre d' Jorge is from Portugal and his Asst is Erkan from Turkey. There is an offering of eight or so appetizers. Mary tried the crab cake and a carpaccio of mango and octopus, and Vincent the prosciutto and an arugula salad with fried mozzarella. For entrees Vincent took the perfectly cooked filet Mignon and Mary the Veal cutlet done Milanese style with mushrooms and truffle sauce, buonissimo. Our waiters were Peter (Hungary) and Mehomet (Turkey) and the Sommelier was Maria (Serbia). Service was terrific and the entrance of walking under giant wine casks sets an expectation for a special night, and it was.
On board activities are under the supervision of Cruise Director Mike Gibbons whose interesting background in music and performance makes him a hit! On this ship , in addition to the usual cruising activities, such a dance parties, pool games, trivia, bingo, casino gambling, etc., there is an interaction between officers and passengers which includes challenges of officers versus guests in Bocce games (Lawn Club, deck 15), Pool Volleyball (deck 12), etc.... Also there was a Star Gazing party on the Lawn Club conducted by officer Andrew. The List of Activities published in Celebrity Life is so extensive that you can be very busy throughout the cruise, so we are very fussy in selecting some interesting ones and dedicate the most of our time to relaxing and enjoying "il dolce far niente" (the sweet do nothing). We also enjoyed chatting with a few officers at the Captain's Circle Party, the Environmental Officer Andrew Mott (Worcester, Mass.), Financial Controller Fani Kechagia (Greece) and Resources Officer Mario Valentino (Canada). All of them are courteous, helpful and interesting people, easily interacting with passengers.
"Celebrity Showtime" in the Eclipse Theater has been on par with our expectations, but the one show we enjoyed best was that of the singer impressionist Paul Tanner: a great voice and terrific impersonations of Tom Jones, Johnny Cash, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. We heard that comedian Al Ducharme was really hilarious in several performances throughout the cruise, unfortunately his shows were so late at night that we missed them all.
PORTS OF CALL
Day 1. Miami, FL USA Depart 4:30 pm
Day 2. At Sea
Day 3. San Juan, Puerto Rico Arrive 3:00 pm Depart 11:00 pm
Day 4. St. Thomas, USVI Arrive 8:00 am Depart 5:00 pm
Day 5. St. Maarten, Antilles Arrive 8:00 am Depart 5:00 pm
Day 6. At Sea
Day 7. At Sea
Day 8. Miami, FL USA Arrive 7:00 am
We had an early breakfast at Blu Restaurant and at eight o' clock we went to the Bistro to get wheelchair assistance for debarkation. It was all so very simple and expeditious that we were on our way home by nine o'clock.
This was another great cruise. There has been insinuations by some readers that our reviews are not critical enough, since they contain only a few negative points and bias for the special treatments we receive from officers and crew. And this is somewhat true: How could we write a negative criticism when we have had a great cruise, where everybody made us feel very special, where everything we desired we received? Naturally, our demands are reasonable and we know what to expect when we book a cruise on a given ship. This was our 93rd cruise and by now we know well many cruise lines and their ships. Thus, we know what to expect from most of them and we can choose our cruises accordingly to our desires and preferences. Furthermore, since in the last few years we both have had to deal with limited mobility and need a wheelchair accessible cabin, we cruise only with those lines which do best to accommodate disabled passengers. In the past we have raised issues about availability, location, comfort of accessible cabins with several cruise lines, but only some of them have heard our plea by making their new ships more wheelchair-friendly (i.e., Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Princess and Norwegian), while some others have ignore the problem (i.e., Costa, Carnival and Holland American). Actually, there is something that can be improved even in this ship: The gangway at the entry point to the ship on deck 5 is a bit too steep for Mary's wheelchair pedals thus she had to be helped to access the ship.
Our next cruise is on one of our very favorite ships, the Oasis of the Seas, Jan. 21st, 2012. We sailed on the Oasis in Dec. 2010 for the inaugural cruise, thus we look forward to spend our wedding anniversary on this fabulous giga ship. We have also booked a cruise on the MSC Poesia for Feb. 18th, and this is a new cruise line we want to experience. Happy cruising!