A little about us: this was my 4th cruise but my first on Celebrity Cruiseline (recent last 2 were NCL and 1 Carnival Cruise back in my 20's). This was my husband's 2nd cruise, his first being NCL Epic. We are in our early 40's, no kids. We are somewhat health and fitness minded so while we like to indulge while on vacation, we still stick somewhat to routines such as working out in the gym and balancing lighter meals to compensate for some of the higher calorie meals and drinks while we are vacationing. We probably don't represent the majority of cruisers which seemed to be about 45% families with young children/pre-teens and 45% who appeared to be couples in their late 50's and up without children. We did see some young couples around our age without children but not many. So my review will have more weight around items that fit our profile vs. what others may be looking for (such as children's activities, etc).
The boarding process. We came in the night before to avoid any travel delays getting to the Ship. We stayed at the Marriott Biscayne Bay (very nice hotel and fantastic sleep in the "heavenly bed"). A short cab ride over to the marina and we arrived about 10:30am. The Port is always chaotic what with the Cab drivers with baggage handlers and cabbies fighting with one another. Last year when we went on the Epic, we witnessed a little spat between a passenger and a bag handler and whether or not it was coincidence, one of their bags never made it on the ship. We opt for over-tipping the baggage handlers and my husband joked with the man that he was paying insurance to ensure our bags all make it on the ship. Our bags were available almost immediately on the boat. Back to check-in. Unlike NCL, where we lined up outside, Celebrity allowed us inside the terminal. I did the pre-registration easy pass thing prior to leaving and we were scanned in, setup the credit card and ready for boarding in 5 mins. We had to wait approx 10 mins before being let onto the ship which was about 11am or so. Our cabin wasn't ready but I didn't expect it to be until 1pm or so based on other reviews I had read prior to sailing. The bars were open so we immediately started with a beverage while we explored the ship. First thing I noticed in comparison to NCL Epic was the drink had plenty of booze in it and that the bartender was not too friendly. On the Epic, the alcohol in the mixed drinks was practically non-existant but the bar tenders were very friendly. I'll take a good drink over friendliness so not a bad trade-off from my perspective.
As mentioned we like to work out and we also like to enjoy Spa amenities such as the Sauna, Steam Room and Jacuzzi after a good workout. This Spa, sadly couldn't hold a candle to the Epic. We opted not to go with the Aquaspa Class Cabin since we had done the Spa class on the Epic and felt it was not worth the extra cost when anyone on the ship could purchase the Spa pass and have the same amenities. On the Eclipse, we purchased the Spa pass for the week which entitles you access to the Serenity Room. Honestly the Serenity Room/Spa Pass was a joke. I was very disapointed. First off, NO TALKING in the Serenity room. It is posted on a small sign when you walk in, very easily missed so if you miss that sign and comment to anyone with you about the room you will be glared at by the people in there as if you are with monks taking a vow of silence. Zip it. Okay, we got that and learned to mime all week when we would want to signal each other to go in the steam room or stay in a chair. The Serenity room has 1 small unisex steam room. There are 2 curved benches. 1 bench can seat approx 4 people and the other can seat 2. Very inadequate for a ship of this size. My gym at home had a much nicer and larger steam room. The floor of the steam room had some sort of debris floating around the fist day which didn't help my opinion. There is another tiled room entitled the Aromotherapy room. Guess what? No aroma at all. Not sure what it was for. So for $205.85 for a couple, you have access to a quiet room, a small steam room and heated chairs. Should this really be an extra charge?
Mens/Women's Shower/Locker Rooms. We visted the gym everyday bringing a change of clothes, etc. The ship does not supply flip flops or slippers whether you are having a "treatment" or not. So while there is Purell being pushed on you wherever you go, there is no attempt to curb spreading foot fungus in the steam room and other shared areas. There is also no complimentary razors or products as you will find in most Spa changing rooms. There is the usual dispenser in the showers with shampoo, body cleanser and conditioner, but again nothing special. 3 out of the 7 days I visited, they did not have lockers available so had no choice but to lug my bag with me into the gym or choose to leave it on the floor in the changing room.
Cabin. The cabin was nicely designed and the bathroom larger than on the Epic. We had a balcony out the back of the ship which was very nice. The bed was extremely comfortable with very nice linens and the room was pretty much soundproof. We slept well. Definitely alot less storage than the cabin on the Epic. One set of small drawers. 2 overhead bins above the bed and a closet. The Room Stewards were very nice and the upkeep of the room impeccable. Surprisingly, on the Epic our bathroom smelled so bad of urine I had to ask them twice to please do something about it and they were very lax about replacing supplies (we had to call for toilet paper) so Celebrity cabin stewards were more on the ball than NCL.
Room Service. We enjoyed ordering room service directly from our TV. It was very nice to have breakfast in bed and/or on the balcony. One word of warning, pay attention to quanties when ordering. For instance, select Egg, Select Quantity (we choose 4 for 2 eggs each) and we received 8 eggs not realizing, "Egg" is actually 2 Eggs. It was very confusing. It seemed on some days, the eggs automatically came with Bacon and Sausage but we would also have 2 more sets of Bacon and Sausage in separate plates. Quite embarrassing to have the Room Steward cart in 12 plates for just 2 people! Room Service was great.
Dress Code. I don't know how I missed this but I didn't know about the formal dress code and we didn't pack anything dressy so we pretty much were left to eat in the Cafe (buffet) for almost all of our meals. 1st night was Cocktail Attire, 2nd Night Formal Attire, 3rd & 4th nights were "Smart Casual" which I would say is similar to business casual, then back to formal attire... I understand the majority want to glam it up but personally I prefer a look that is more neat and casual. Unfortunately, we didn't go to any restaurants because I felt underdressed. We met other cruisers who told us not to let that us stop us from going but the reality is that I go to fancy dinners all dressed up for my job and it's not necessarily what I want to do on vacation. Also, I don't remember this coming up on other cruises but apparently no irons are allowed on board and if you want something pressed, you must pay for pressing which is fine but you need to plan ahead, if you want it back before 24 hours, it is double the price. We tended to wear clothes that were the least wrinkled rather than deal with sending clothes out for pressing. There was one day in the Celebrity Daily news where they offered a Laundry Challenge, stuff 1 laundry bag with as much as you can fit for $40. This was a good deal and it was nice to not have as much dirty laundry to bring back with us.
Cafe Buffet. I'm not a food snob but have to say the buffet was blah, mediocre at best. Same food every single day. There were a few Indian selections, your typical Pasta offerings, 1 carving station and a large salad bar with very wilted, sad and dried out looking cukes, tomatoes, etc. It was okay and edible but nothing special. Soda is not included. Coke, Diet Coke, etc. is $2.00 per can plus automatic gratuity. 1 Liter of Evian $4.00 + 15% auto gratuity. 15% auto gratuity is added to everything. If you drink 1 bottle of water out of your cabin fridge, you are still paying the 15% gratuity. We would have loved to have a casual eating option such as a Sports Bar (Epic had a great Sports bar with Darts, Pool Tables, etc.) with ice cold mugs and draft beer that my husband really enjoyed. One night in the casino, there were throngs of people surrounding a tiny television where a game was on. It would have been nice to have a casual grill/pub style restaurant with appetizers, etc.
Deck/Pool Area. It was a challenge to find 2 chairs together in sun no matter what time you went outside however, it was easier than on the Epic. The Pool Butlers were very good about removing towels from chairs that appear to have been held or abandoned so while we had to canvas 2 decks searching for chairs, it wouldn't be long before we would find some. We thought the grass area would have been better used for chair space than for the lawn area.
Entertainment. We enjoyed New Year's Eve out on deck with singing and dancing entertainment. We particularly liked the acapella boy band. We didn't go to any of the shows because we just didn't see anything that looked interesting or anything we haven't already seen elsewhere. Can't comment too much there.
Ports. We arrived late in the day for San Juan, PR. We spent some time in the casino there. After we each lost about $250 each, my husband went to use the Restroom and was turned away because he did not have a casino card! He thought there was a misunderstanding and explained we had just spent $500 in the casino and should be allowed to use the rest room. He was told that did not matter, go get a casino card and we'll let you in. He was forced to go next door to Senior Frog's to use the bathroom. We spent some time in the Old Harbor Brewery and met some super nice locals, my husband had his icy cold draft and I was able to get a nice grilled chicken salad and the best margarita I've ever had. This made up for the casino.
St. Martin. 2nd time to St. Martin, same old chaos trying to get transportation to the beaches. Lots of yelling and fighting between the taxis and the people coordinating passengers. We chose to go back to a Marriott Resort where we spent the day on the beach last visit with rented chairs and an umbrella and beach bar nearby for cold ones and frozen drinks. Very nice.
St. Kitts. Loved the little monkeys we saw everywhere. We went to Frigate Bay and again rented chairs and an umbrella. Beautiful beach day and area. One caveat was the price for food, 1 burger with fries was exactly $21.00 and it was no special burger either.
We chose the Express option where you get off the ship with your bags. This means you must report to the Theater at 6:30am. We were off the ship in 2 minutes and at Miami Airport around 7:15am.
While all in all, we had a terrific vacation, I would go back to NCL next time only because of the Freestyle dining and cruising style. Not to mention the Spa on the NCL Epic was incredible with huge hottubs and hot/cold baths, Steam room, saunas, etc. Hope this review helps!!