For 2011, the line has gone a step further to placate its U.K. guests, who make up 80 percent of the passengers on the ship's ex-Southampton sailings.
Booze is always a cultural consideration for a British audience, so cruisers may be rejoicing at the news that Celebrity president and CEO Dan Hanrahan has announced that six British and Irish beers will be served onboard all summer: Fuller's London Pride, Old Speckled Hen, Boddingtons, Guinness, Murphy's Stout and Newcastle Brown Ale.
What's more, the 15 percent "service charge" on drinks that Brits dislike so much will be included in the price of all beverages on Eclipse. We're waiting for clarification from Celebrity Cruises as to whether this means the charge will be removed, or drinks will simply be shown as 15 percent more than they are at the moment (which would defeat the object, somehow).
Further tweaks include:
Coffee on the tea trays in the staterooms. Despite the Brits being a nation of tea drinkers, there were apparently complaints last year that the new kettles and tea bags in the cabins weren't enough.
A Champagne Royal Tea Experience has been added to every cruise. Although there's no actual connection with royalty, the weekly event -- which will take place in one of the ship's specialty restaurants on a sea day -- sounds promising. Think proper leaf tea, fine china, trays of dainty sandwiches and cakes, champagne and music from a string quartet. At $25, it's a considerably better value than afternoon tea in any London hotel.
British newspapers will be available via iPads, which can be hired from Guest Services for a fee that's yet to be announced (but expect around $10 for the week to download a paper every day). This is a combination of several factors: a nod to saving paper; a further plug for Celebrity's close relationship with Apple; a new revenue stream; and a chance to offer a much broader range of newspapers to guests. It'll be available on other Celebrity ships, too.
Entertainers that will appeal to a U.K. audience will be lined up. Celebrity is currently recruiting guest speakers and stand-up comedians. So if you know anybody…
Regulars on Eclipse will notice other enhancements, too, which are being introduced across the fleet. The much-loved iPad menus in the eccentric speciality restaurant Qsine will have video and interactive features now, including a game in which you can assemble your own cocktail and shake it on the iPad. Lunchtime snacks will be served from carts around the pool, avoiding the need to move at all from your lounger. Speciality Wine and Dine packages will be introduced, so guests can pre-book meals and wine in restaurants like the Tuscan Grille and Murano.
Even without these enhancements, Eclipse is clearly a runaway success. To wit: Senior vice president Lisa Lutoff-Perlo recently revealed that the number of people booking their next cruise while still onboard Eclipse is three times higher than that of the next most popular ship in Celebrity's fleet.
-- By Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor