When the first Solstice-class ship debuted in 2008 (Eclipse is the third, launched in 2010), the phrase "game changer" was used to describe it. With a real grass lawn, a living tree suspended in the atrium, stunning cabins with character, quirky art, an achingly hip Apple store and a restaurant so innovative that land-based establishments took notice, the reviewers had a point: Ships in the Solstice Class blew all other mainstream vessels out of the water.
And the good news is that, years later, these features have not aged one jot. In fact, other cruise lines (including big sister Royal Caribbean) are copying many of the features pioneered on this class of ship.
Celebrity Eclipse regularly pulls in high marks for passenger satisfaction, and it has won Cruise Critic awards for the Best Mainstream Ship for several years in a row.
Its May 2015 refurbishment (the first since its launch) introduces a number of new features that really speak to what cruisers want. These include a craft cocktail bar, World Class Bar; a craft beer bar, Gastrobar; and a dedicated restaurant for passengers traveling in suites.
Eclipse is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful big cruise ships we've ever sailed. Its interiors blend sophistication with a bit of whimsy -- akin to a trendy W Hotel, but with softer edges.
And, perhaps most importantly, the ship positions itself perfectly for the first timer -- not so big that it's overwhelming, but not so small that you get bored. It's got a good selection of fine restaurants, "familiar" land vacation aspects like an Apple store and a lawn where you can just hang out, top-class entertainment and generous-sized cabins.
Plus it's got that all-important celebrity (with a small c) link up with the incomparable wine expert Oz Clarke, who chooses the wines, and the rugged Brit adventure expert Ben Fogle, who gives talks. They both sail on the ship throughout the year.
On the downside, the rampant upselling and fee surcharges are a bit of a turnoff, and on sea days, the pool deck, beautiful as it is, can feel crowded and chaotic. But none of the negatives is enough to deter us from taking another cruise on this magnificent ship.
Southampton-based Celebrity Eclipse has managed to achieve what so many ships are still trying to do: attract families and new cruisers. As a result, you'll find the average age significantly lower than on most ships sailing out of the U.K. (45+ vs. 65+). When homeported in Miami, Eclipse attracts a similar passenger demographic -- just with a greater percentage of Americans. During school holiday periods, you will find a lot of families onboard.
The two levels of dress on Eclipse are smart casual and evening chic. Two evening chic nights take place per seven-night cruise. On smart casual nights, sport shirts and slacks are appropriate for men, while women will be comfortable in skirts or pants and blouses, or casual dresses. On "evening chic" evenings, men can ditch the full suit and tie in favor of a sport coat and collared shirt, with designer jeans. Women can wear cocktail dresses, sundresses or designer jeans or nice pants. n the buffet, almost any form of dress is allowed except swimwear, flip-flops, spa robes and bare feet.
Onboard currency is the U.S. dollar. Tips aren't included in the cruise fares, but suggested gratuities are automatically added to your onboard account at a rate of $13.50 per person, per day, if you're in a standard cabin; $14 per person, per day, if you're in a Concierge Class or AquaClass cabin; and $17 per person, per day, for passengers in suites. If you would like to adjust the gratuities, you can do so through the Guest Relations desk. An 18 percent charge is added automatically to all beverage and minibar purchases, as well as spa and salon purchases. You can't remove these gratuities but can add to them.