We wanted an Alaska cruise that stopped at a truly impressive glacier, that left and returned to the same port, and lasted no more than 7 days due to work/life restrictions. Many of the one-way or 10-day or 14-day cruises have stops at the good northern glaciers, but this Celebrity one was the only RT that was 7 days and stopped at the stunning Hubbard Glacier.
We also had family spanning ages 8 - 72 in our group, so we wanted a ship that offered activities for all the ages in our group (8, 40s, 70s).
Finally, we wanted a cruise line with good food, so we booked Royal Suite 1241 in order to have the option of dining in any and all of the restaurants onboard, and having Luminae as our primary dining room.
This cruise was to celebrate our mom's 70th bday and we chose this stateroom for several reasons:
(1) She a homebody and does NOT like going out to public spaces. We knew she would refuse to go to the library, Lawn Club, Sky Lounge, Michael's or any public areas to hang out, so having a living room and dining table in the suite was of upmost importance. She is the type to stay mainly in her stateroom, so we wanted her to be as comfortable as possible.
(2) Since she is inclined to stay in her stateroom, we chose a large one with a dining table and butler so that she could have high tea served in the suite, as well as some lunches or even dinners catered in.
(3) She wanted really good food, so Suite Class meant that she could eat at the best options on the ship without even having to think about upcharges. Suite Class pretty much means you can eat anywhere without extra fee.
Pre-departure: Shoreside Concierge never reach out to us. We had to hunt down a number and call them to make our requests. We spent time on two lengthly phone calls with them covering our requests but mainly covering the food sensitivities of the three Suite Class passengers.
Port of Departure: Vancouver. Amazing city. We visited for a total of 6 days before and after our cruise, and we liked it more than the cruise itself, LOL. Can't say enough great things about our experience in this city, and since it isn't technically part of the cruise experience, I won't delve into all the things we loved. Suffice it to say, if you're choosing a departure port, Vancouver would be my pick, hands down.
Embarkation: We enjoyed how, as Suite Class, we were escorted right onto the ship. The girl checking us in at port did an awful job and we encountered problem after problem with our SeaPass cards throughout the cruise because of all the things she forgot to do at check-in. But we wouldn't find out until later; beyond that, the check-in process was smooth. The port of Vancouver is an enormous building, but signs and people made it clear which way Celebrity was to go vs HAL. There was no real curbside check-in; we had to take our luggage and roll it to where port workers were collecting them. It was no more than 100 yards from where the taxis dropped us off, but it is still a struggle for two seniors and two adults to handle a child and 8 rolling bags. Once onboard, they whisked us pass the champagne to Michael's Lounge, but there was no champagne offered to us there nor later. The staff in Michael's told us to head to Luminae for our embarkation day lunch without telling us how to get there. They unceremoniously kicked us out of the lounge, in effect, and we had to fend for ourselves, grabbing champagne as we passed through the busy entry hall, confused as to where Luminae was or how to go there.
Shoreside Concierge requests: We discovered, once onboard, that several of our requests to Shoreside Concierge was never taken care of. Given that we had two rather long conversations with them, this was extremely disappointing to find out. The three biggest things they missed: (1) we were never put on the waitlist for the Hubbard Glacier Excursion; (2) two out of the three Suite guests had food sensitivities that were discussed extensively but not noted at all, including the guest of honor who cannot have dairy or beef; and (3) the room was not decorated for the 9 year old's bday celebration on the final night of our sailing. That last one was a huge let-down, because the room WAS decorated for grandma's bday celebration on our first night, so he was looking forward to the same treatment.
We had nothing but wonderful things to say about the stateroom attendants for both the Royal Suite and Aqua Class staterooms. They did an amazing job, so diligent and so unobstrusive and so thorough. One of the best things about the ship. My mom is meticulous and she was so happy with the job her stateroom attendant did, plus, it was tricky to catch the suite empty, given how much time she spent in the suite! Kudos to him.
*Hugo was a star, always welcoming and solicitous. We had several really extensive food restrictions in our group, and he always worked so hard to make modifications to address that.
*Definitely a far superior menu to main dining room menu, but service was unacceptably slow. It should not take one hour between appetizers and entrees. It got so bad that we started to avoid eating here; no one wants to spend 3 hours eating two course at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Seriously.
*The Daniel Boulud specialty menu was a disaster and not even close to evoking our experiences dining in his various establishments.
*The food substitutions were not the most interesting food. A fruit plate is not a clever substitute. We did a much better job of requesting modifications to the menu than going with what the chef came up with. One exception was a stunning platter of 16 prawns that the chef grilled up for my mom's dinner on the last night. That plate was delicious and on par with the rest of the menu. Other than that, our own modifications and requests were much more successful than the chef's.
*At Luminae, the staff was completely unaware that guests of Suite Class guests invited to dine with them had no surcharge for kids 12 and under. We literally had to tell the staff multiple times and show them Celebrity's own printed materials to convince them of the correct policy. Honestly, guests should not know more than the ship's staff. We only had this problem at the first meal, however, as this problem did not come up again.
*Overall, by the end of the cruise, the servers were finally getting to know us, even though we dines here maybe a dozen times. By contrast, on a Disney cruise, by your third encounter, they know you and your preferences very well.
*Excellent octopus dish, overall lighter and pleasant menu, but the service was really lacking. Almost every time, water glasses would sit empty until the meal was almost done, or refilled only after the meal was already done. Coffee refills would be hit or miss. Juice would never be refilled for us, though it was at other tables.
*This felt very impersonal and unfriendly. Definitely uneven service.
*One standout server was Unica, who took the trouble to remember guests. She was the ONLY person on the entire cruise whose service level was truly memorable. After just one breakfast with her, she remembered both our pastry and fruit preferences. The next time we saw her a breakfast, we didn't even have to say and word and she just showed up with what we liked. She would be a star on Disney Cruise Line, where this is often par for the course from their dining staff. On Celebrity, no one remembered us except Unica. And we certainly got the feeling that she was given some grief for caring about the guests.
*Excellent menu, excellent service, excellent pacing. Best restaurant on the ship, we felt.
*If the menu didn't feel so heavy, and if it wasn't always the same, we would have eaten here more often. We were able to modify our dishes with ease, though our mother's food restrictions were not communicated to the staff here and she was very annoyed when they put a beef amuse bouche in front of her. LOL
*For all the places were we had to pay surcharges for members of our family sailing in Aqua Class (we could not all fit in the Suite), this one was worth the money.
*They could be a little more friendly, take a page from Danny Meyer's book on hospitality.
SUSHI on FIVE
*Servers here extremely nice, some of the nicest onboard.
*Udon broth and rolls involving fresh crab were good. Other than that...
*This was the WORST nigiri sushi ever. Worse than what you'd get at a grocery store. Such a HUGE disappointment given how much fresh fish was available at all the ports we stopped at.
*This place has so much potential and its a shame what they have NOT done with it. AND it is the one restaurant on the ship where everyone is supposed to pay, Not worth the time or money.
AVOID until they make some drastic changes to their sushi/sashimi selection.
*Convenient (almost always open), huge, and nice change from the heavier menus we were being service. Difficult to find a table during busy times but not at all impossible.
*Horrible coffee, tho. Always go to Il Bacio.
*Son gave jello thumbs up and had about three per day, after we discovered this place.
*Only place on the ship I could find Passionfruit Orange Guava juice cocktail. Best stuff ever, but water it down with sparkling or still water because it is too sweet.
CAFE AL BACIO
*THE place to get coffee and tea on the ship. They serve Lavazza, which I love, and a decent selection of Tea Forte teas. The associated gelateria was never manned, but you could always ask someone at the coffee counter. They did a great job with every coffee I ordered, and all my soy milk cappuccinos ordered in Luminae, BLU or Murano came from here.
*Staff here was never friendly or welcoming. Despite seeing our faces every day, no one welcomed you like one would be welcomed at your local coffee shop. Again, very impersonal and standoffish vibe. They were more interested in socializing and joking around with each other than interacting with guests.
*The ship's staff of singers are extremely talented and the aerialists are also very good. The shows themselves are really blah, however, with unclear storylines/plots. Disney definitely does a better job telling stories, but these singers were better, I feel, as pure singers.
*The comedian we saw was funny, though relied too much on racist stereotypes (equal opportunity racist, he called himself). Many of the jokes went over my 8 year old's head, but he still thought the guy was funny, especially given this was my son's first exposure to a comedian.
*The three singers who did the soul show were also very talented and fun.
Overall, it was fun to catch the shows, though the changing of showtimes each night made it tricky to book dining reservations times (and we had to bc not everyone in our group was Suite Class and we paid to have guests in Luminae with us; also, we ate at Murano 3x). And with how slow dinner service was in BLU (which was STILL faster than Luminae's ridiculous 1 hr between appetizer and entree), you were never sure if you were going to make it to the show anyway.
Ports of Call:
*Very fun since Sitka, Juneau and Ketchikan are only accessible by air and sea. In order to get some good variety of experiences, we booked a private tour in Sitka, booked directly with the tour company in Juneau, and booked through the cruise line in Ketchikan.
Our experience in Sitka was amazing. Our ship arrived late to port b/c of engine trouble. Our tour time could not be moved b/c the captain had a group right after ours. He told us to try and be among the first off the ship so that we could get onto one of the first buses and down to the harbor as quickly as possible. When we went down to disembark, our hearts sank because the queues snaked all around the atrium and across the ship. We just so happened to cross paths with the Michael's Club Concierge, who was escorting another group. She told us to follow her, and walked us right to the doors. We were the first people off the ship, the first people on the first bus, and the first people down at the harbor. NOW, if we had not run into the Concierge, there was no way we would have lucked out like this. Having made multiple visits to Michael's Club, NO ONE ever explained to us how to obtain priority disembarkation for the ports. That would have been something they should have covered in one of our conversations. Anyway, Sitka is a small town, and we ate at a local food truck, Captain JuJu's, featuring some great local catch, which was a lot of fun. We spent the afternoon doing a private land tour, visiting the bear rescue, raptor rescue and totem park. It was stunning to see humpback whales (one was REALLY close), sea otter, sea lions and SO MANY FLIPPING (into the air) SALMON! The bears at the rescue were really interesting, and the different injured raptors were cool to see up close. Sitka is really quite beautiful and a great first port stop.
Technically not a port because we didn't dock, but we lucked out with the most clear day imaginable. The onboard naturalist was PHENOMENAL and told us such interesting things about the glacier. The helipad was overcrowded, but I liked how they provided blankets, headsets and warm drinks. However, in the end, we just returned to our staterooms and took in the beauty from our two verandahs, which I had made sure were on opposite sides of the ship, so that there was always at least one good view. Though ALL the views were good that day. Once in a lifetime experience. Could not have asked for a more perfect day weatherwise.
Well, for every good day, there is a bad one. Our dogsled camp excursion had been touch and go all summer b/c the heat and high temps were making dog camps shut down weeks, even months, earlier than usual. It turned out that Mendenhall stayed open until the end fo August, so we were so excited to go. Unfortunately, they could not get us on the earlier helicopters, and by the time it was our turn to fly out, the fog had gotten so bad that all choppers and seaplanes were grounded. This also meant that our back-up plan with the glacier walkabout could not happen. I was disappointed to find that the tour company we had booked with could not drive us to the glaciers instead, because that was an option and we had a long enough day at this port to go. I don't know if our experience would have been any better had we booked our excursion through the cruise line (if they could have booked us on a good alternative), but I took the opportunity to explore the port. Too many touristy shops, but we did get to have King Crab legs at Tracy's, as was the plan. There's a lovely museum in town, but most of the main strip are touristy shops, which is a shame. There were a few cute shops and restaurants further afield, north of the port area. The main area around the port is just not very charming nor interesting.
Yet another drizzly day, but this time, our excursion site was reached via bus and ziplining can be done even in the rain. This excursion was booked thru the cruise line and I appreciated how organized they were in getting us to the right buses and providing timely buses to bring us back. We did not choose to explore the downtown area, but the zipline adventure itself was lovely. We were SO HIGH up in the trees that I was seeing vegetation that I was completely unfamiliar with. They did loan us rain jackets for ziplining, but I packed the wrong kind of pants and shoes, and was pretty drenched from the hips down. Still, a beautiful and exhilarating afternoon in the beautiful and majestic temperate rainforest. The excursion offered by Celebrity went smoothly and was perfect for what we wanted to do.
Other than the bartender, there was never ANY staff in there during the day. We must have stopped by over two dozen times to find no one at the desk. We always had to leave phone messages for the Concierge if we had any questions. I feel like Michael's Club should have a permanent Guest Services staff to take care of all the issues we constantly had to go to Guest Services for, such as our Sea Pass cards not working to paying for drinks, meals, etc. Such as my father's misprinted Sea Pass card that showed no beverage package. Those issues should have been handled within the Club Lounge. If there was ever anyone in there...which there wasn't.
Canyon Ranch Spa
Having been to Canyon Ranch Lenox, I was looking forward to their menu of treatments. They didn't offer some of my favorites (parafango), but the Revitalizing Ritual and Seaweed Detox Wrap were both AMAZING, mostly due to my wonderful wonderful spa therapist. She did just a great job explaining and massaging. I loved the two treatments I booked.
The counter was a bit hectic on embarkation day, but I didn't wait to long when I came by throughout the cruise. The family members sailing in the suite all purchased Persian Garden passes and EVERYONE LOVED THE HEATED TILE LOUNGERS. The family members booked in Aqua Class got access as part of their perks. There are never enough of those things, and some people stay longer than the recommended 20 minutes. For the most part, the majority of people were really good about getting up and giving others a chance. I would have appreciated a larger variety of hydrotherapy showers, especially a warm water one. I liked the temperate sauna, but found it on one day to be cold and smelling of urine. That was only one day out of five visits, so not bad. Visited the steam sauna once and the dry sauna once. The nice showers in both the Royal Suite and Aqua Class staterooms meant that I didn't have to
I actually preferred the milder scented shampoo/conditioner/body wash/lotion of the Aqua Class stateroom to the overly perfumed Bulgari products in the suite. Just my preference. Still, H2O (Disney Cruise Line), L'Occitane (Regent Seven Seas), Aveda (Crystal) or Molton Brown (Seabourn) would be my top picks.
Maybe it is because we're used to sailing Disney, but I found it so odd that the Kids Clubs would be closed at three points during the day, breakfast, lunch and dinner. You had to pay extra for your kids to participate in a "dining program" during those times. WHAT?!? So odd.
BUT, what I loved is that, unlike Disney, with fewer kids, the counselors really rounded up the kids to have them participate in the different activities. You did not have to worry that your kid would go to the kids club and just sit on the XBox for two hours. It would have been nice to give them a little more unstructured play time, but overall, they kind of forced to kids to get to know each other and interact a bit. I loved that. They even hosted a family even one night where you got to see what their "camp" program was like. Very fun, very well run. Overall, I was impressed (though still puzzled by the closures throughout the day).
It was nice that the allowed a family swim btwn 4-6p each day in the enclosed solarium pool, bc the unenclosed pools are REALLY COLD on an Alaskan cruise! LOL
Though I am sure that the adults in the adult-only area did NOT like their solarium being overrun every day from 4-6p, it gave adults with kids a chance to swim each day.
We did the glass blowing and it was an AMAZING experience. Glass blowing is interesting and fun, in and of itself, but doing it on the top deck of a large ship was unique.
We also did a Reidel workshop. No one else showed up, so it became a private tasting lesson with the Murano sommelier. Super fun AND you get a code for four free wine glasses (to order) once you get home.
There is an arcade, though we never went.
Also saw some taller guys shooting basketball, so my 8 yr old did not want to join in.
There was a nice lawn on the top deck, but the signs were always turned to "keep off" when I went up there.
Library had lots of adult books, no kid books, and some nice reading chairs and nooks that I always found passengers to be napping in, LOL.
Card room had a few different games but never enough for the number of tables in the room. Only 1 mah jong set (with a few replacement tiles for missing tiles), that one old lady would be guarding like a hawk while her cardmates were eating or whatnot. It was very hard to get hold of that set to play with. Concierge should have extra sets of cards, mah jong, other games in Michael's for suite class guests to borrow and play in their own stateroom. We asked our Butler, but he said nothing was available to play in our suite.
Some members of our family popped into the casino, but it wasn't a huge draw for our family.
THE LETDOWN: Butler and overall Service
So, we booked the Royal suite instead of two smaller suites because we wanted the butler service and in-room dining. Unlike with previous reviewers of this cruise, who had good experiences, our biggest disappointment was, unfortunately, our Suite Butler. Upon meeting us, he immediately told us that he was in charge of a lot of staterooms, so that he would be quite busy during this sailing. Anything we asked for was begrudgingly taken care of at best. There wasn't a lot of common sense; when we asked for more herbal tea selections to add to our choices, he took away the original assortment, which we had also wanted! When we told him which one we liked, he never restocked it. We always had to restock it ourselves from Michael's or Cafe Al Bacio.
As opposed to reports of being able to cater Hubbard Glacier day with food from the sushi restaurant, in addition to other foods, we were told that we were limited to the room service menu and the main dining room menu. He did cater us a lunch on Hubbard Glacier Day, but it was much less of a festive celebration; he made it feel like an imposition. We tried to order the food from room service directly, but was told we HAD to do it thru our butler, whose very attitude told us that he did not really want to help us.
Out of four days of wanting high tea served in the suite, it was done once.
Out of three days of wanting lunch served in the suite, we also only did it once because our butler made us feel like it was such an enormous and excessive undertaking that was an imposition on him. We never even bothered to ask about any dinners.
We were highly underwhelmed and disappointed by our butler's attitude. He was nice, just not proactive nor welcoming nor dedicated to providing true service. For future bookings, I would not recommend booking this stateroom category for the butler, just for the space/roominess of stateroom. Overall, this did not impress the first time cruisers nor the repeat cruisers in our group.
I think the problem with this sailing was really the service. Other than a handful (count on one hand?) of people who took the time to recognize or familiarize themselves with us, this ship felt like a machine churning out soulessness. Staff really should be more friendly with guests they're seeing often on a 7-night sailing. Most of the Celebrity Eclipse staff just could not be bothered. For each stateroom's occupants, we only felt that our stateroom attendant, spa therapist, Hugo in Luminae, our server (I forget his name) in Sushi on 5, and Unica in BLU really cared about having us as their guests on this ship. That's 5 people out of dozens and dozens of staff members we came across regularly. And that's sad when you're choosing Suite Class on Celebrity for their reputation, service quality, and being treated like VIPs. Read Less