We are a retired couple from the UK who have been cruising, primarily with Celebrity, for 10 years. This was our 16th cruise, 13th with Celebrity, all but the first in suites. Since treating ourselves to a PH for a milestone anniversary in ... Read More
We are a retired couple from the UK who have been cruising, primarily with Celebrity, for 10 years. This was our 16th cruise, 13th with Celebrity, all but the first in suites. Since treating ourselves to a PH for a milestone anniversary in 2012, we have been hooked and have not downgraded since so only cruise once or twice every 18 months. We have Elite+ Captain’s Club status but this gives us few additional perks.
We learned a few days before we left home that embarkation would coincide with the Miami marathon. Although we booked our pre-cruise hotel [including transfers] through Celebrity, we would normally take a taxi to the port. In view of the marathon, we were not sure if this would be sensible. Unsure of what to do, I contacted a fellow Brit working in Celebrity’s Miami office for local information. Her response certainly exceeded any expectations we may have had. She arranged for the local shore-side concierge staff to take care of our embarkation. But more of this later.
As well as our pre-cruise hotel, we booked our flights through Celebrity. What we had not realised, until we spoke to another person on the cruise at the gate, is that Celebrity provides a representative at the departure airport. They had been recognised and approached because they had attached their luggage labels before leaving home. I am sure that it would be useful to know that there is a representative there should there be any disruption to travel plans.
After a very bumpy flight caused by the storms along the east coast of the USA, we passed through Miami Immigration and Customs rapidly and smoothly. In view of the weather disruptions, marathon and recent reports, we had low expectations and were pleasantly surprised. The Celebrity representative was waiting for us and we were soon on the way to the Biscayne Bay Marriott. Having heard how difficult it was to find a hotel in Miami leading up to the marathon, I believe that we got a very good deal through Celebrity.
The hotel, itself, was OK but nothing special except that it had a view of the cruise port and we could see Eclipse on Sunday morning. Breakfast was very good and, although not included in our package, not expensive. We had booked two nights and just wanted to chill-out pre-cruise so we ate all our meals at the hotel. The only errand we had was to purchase flowers for the cruise. A short walk to Publix and we had a huge bouquet of alstroemeria for just $24. These were fantastic and looked as good on the last day of the cruise as the first.
Embarkation: We were picked up from the hotel just before 11 a.m. by two members of the Celebrity’s shore-side concierge team. It was reassuring to be with a driver so familiar with the area during such a changing situation. We made it to the pier in very little time to be met by another member of the team who supervised our luggage drop. We were then escorted through Visitor Security and round all the queues to a special check-in area where our Seapasses were waiting for us. From there it was straight onto the ship with an escort to Michael’s Club – just an hour from being met at the hotel.
Very shortly afterwards, our suite was ready. Here, everything we had requested in advance was ready for us – including a microwave they had actually bought especially for us! [My husband had loved having a microwave on Constellation and Millennium.] I was especially pleased to see that they recognised my preference for champagne by upgrading our welcome Perrier Jouet champagne to the Belle Epoque. After meeting our butler, Gene, he escorted us to Luminae for lunch. Here we were introduced to the Maitre d’, Nevena. Nevena was our waitress in Tuscan Grille on Constellation in 2010 and it was great to meet up with her again. Her energy and professionalism throughout the cruise was outstanding. We requested a larger table and Nevena ensured that one was available for us every evening. An attention to detail we really appreciated was having the wonderful Ravi as our waiter no matter where in the restaurant we were seated. It is not possible to have a smoother embarkation and the only drama was breaking a fingernail. Even that issue was eased by being able to make an appointment for a manicure during our short wait in Michael’s Club!
Suite: The suite did not disappoint. It is a wonderful suite in a perfect location. What else is there to say? During the whole cruise Mus and Zoran kept it immaculately. There really were no signs of wear since the first time we stayed in it, over three years ago.
Luminae: We much preferred the layout of Luminae on Eclipse to that on Millennium. It is split into two room, there was much more space between tables and there were proper tables for 4 rather than just tables for 2. In addition to Nevena and Ravi, Maggie, the sommelier, and Martina, our assistant waiter, were wonderful. Maggi ensured that we were able to drink the wines we preferred by the glass and the ever-cheerful Martina was a delight.
Chef’s Table: We have taken part in a Chef’s Table on every cruise since it was introduced in 2011 and we enjoyed this as much as any other. As always, it is the mix of wonderful food and wine, great company and good service which make this event worthwhile for us. Marjan, Maitre d’ Specialty Restaurants, always tries to be innovative with the menu. This time, it had a slightly retro theme we really enjoyed.
Other Dining: Breakfast we ate in our suite: my husband collecting what he wanted from the buffet and me from the supplies Gene kept stocked as arranged with the pre-cruise concierge. This worked perfectly for us and is preferable to trying to make room service or Luminae work. Lunch we either collect from the buffet or the pool grill to eat in our suite, on our balcony or outside at the back of the ship depending on the weather and sun. We find that the buffet is arranged well and has an excellent selection. The buffet during lunchtime on the final sea day had an exceptional selection of food.
Michael’s Club: On our two previous cruises with Michael’s Club in its current incarnation, the room was packed every evening and, so, we were concerned about the inclusion of Sky Suite guests. It was difficult to understand how the room could accommodate any more people and it was very crowded during embarkation. However, at least on this cruise, our fears were unfounded and, otherwise, crowding was not an issue. Sylvia, the concierge, was efficient – in my opinion, the most important quality for a concierge – and Johnson, the barman, provided just the service we have come to expect.
Shore Excursions: Large-group, bus excursions do not interest us and nor does general sightseeing so we rarely book ship or private tours however, this time, we booked four excursions pre-cruise. Two culinary tours were cancelled but we really enjoyed the other two. The Bridgetown, Barbados 4x4 Adventure to the Green Monkey reserve was good fun and we saw lots of monkeys! We were a bit worried when we saw how many people had gathered at the terminal for the tour but there were only 10 guests in each vehicle and there was no attempt to keep us all together as a group. This is a tour we would highly recommend. We would also recommend the Chef’s Market Discoveries excursion in Sint Maarten. We were a small group of six guests and three crew and visited both the Dutch and French sides of the island including fish, spice and vegetable markets where Niels, the Murano Sous Chef, purchased ingredients for our dinner in the evening. Then we went onto Grand Case, the “French Gourmet Capital” of St Martin, for a three course lunch before travelling back to the ship. Meanwhile, Niels had returned to the ship to prepare our special dinner held in Qsine where we were looked after by the Maitre d’ who was one of the crew accompanying us during the day.
Ports: In addition to the two port where we took ship’s excursions, we visited Oranjestad, Aruba; Willemstad, Curacao [overnight]; Castries, St Lucia; St Johns, Antigua; and Basseterre, St Kitts [the only port we had not visited previously]. We are not beach people and in all these ports we just wandered around and, perhaps, had a drink in a bar although I did visit the Maritime Museum in Curacao. For us, the overnight stay was a negative but we are looking forward to our overnight stay on Sint Maarten on our next cruise so that we can spend more time on the French side of the island. One thing we did notice, because we often did not stay long ashore, is that it was usually quite late before the cold towel and drinks were available. Even those of us who do not go ashore for very long appreciate these amenities.
Ship: The ship, like our suite, was in identical, perfect condition this cruise compared to our cruise in 2012. The only flaws would appear to be in the service provided by the Photo Shop and Guest Relations. It annoys me when I understand their systems better than they do and have to insist that they check their facts with their management. We had a large amount of pre-purchased [and, therefore, refundable] OBC, spent less than expected [thanks to the dreadful selection of stock in the shops] and had two tours cancelled and I did not want the balance of our account credited to our credit card. I was told, at Guest Relations, that I could not be refunded in cash and would have to go to the Casino where I would be charged 5%. Of course, she discovered that she was not correct but it leaves a poor impression on the last evening of the cruise. Incidentally, we had been able to withdraw cash from the Casino regularly throughout the cruise without a surcharge [because we were in a suite].
Conclusion: Yet another wonderful Celebrity cruise and we cannot wait the ten months until our next. Read Less