Editor's note: Celebrity Eclipse will go into drydock in April 2015 and come out in May with a number of new features: The ship's Cellar Masters wine bar will become the Gastrobar -- currently only on Celebrity Equinox -- and will serve more than 40 craft beers, with passengers ordering their food and drink on iPads. The pool area on the ship will see the addition of a frozen drink bar called Slush; the American-style casino will become more "British" with 12 new British-themed slot machines, and American-style roulette wheels will replace European-style ones. Eclipse will also have a private photo studio.
Celebrity Eclipse, the third of five vessels in the fleet's Solstice class, is one of the most beautiful big cruise ships on which we've traveled. Its interiors blend sophistication with a bit of whimsy, giving the ship a feeling that it's a cross between the trendy W Hotel chain, but with softer edges.
Always a line that has emphasized quality dining, Celebrity has upped the ante with Celebrity Eclipse, making some tweaks from the original Solstice that work beautifully. In particular, the concept of the playful Qsine, which debuted on this ship and has since been expanded to others in the fleet, is a stand-out, but so too is the Tuscan Grill Steakhouse for hearty fare.
The best part of Eclipse -- as on other Solstice-class ships -- is the Lawn Club, a grassy expanse on a top deck aft, where you can play bocce or miniature golf, enjoy jazz at night under a starry sky, or simply lounge on grass so soft it's more comfortable than a poolside deck chair. On one afternoon visit, we grabbed a seat and watched as a bartender from the adjacent aft bar tried to entice a visiting bird with a piece of bread. It was a little thing, but cruise ships typically don't incorporate nature into onboard features (on most vessels even the plants are fake), and for a brief moment we felt as if we were in a lush garden.
If at times the warmth and character of Eclipse and its excellent crew lent the experience a luxurious overtone, it's important to note as well that Celebrity is still a mass-market cruise line. The rampant upselling and fee surcharges were a bit of a turnoff, particularly given that the quality of dining in the fee-free restaurants was often significantly less than those with extra charges. Also, the spa felt more like a bustling train station than a serene retreat, and on sea days, the pool deck, beautiful as it is, could feel crowded and chaotic. But none of these downsides is enough to deter us from taking another cruise on this magnificent ship.