Another wonderful cruise with Celebrity! Like we did on Solstice over a year ago to Australia and New Zealand, my daughter and I traveled alone, but this time, to the Baltic. She is a young adult who is physically disabled, needing to use a walker or a wheelchair to get around. The Celebrity staff, from top to bottom in their interactions with us, could not be more helpful, kind, upbeat. We found the ship to be fully accessible, easily so. Celebrity standards are high and they were reached if not excelled on our cruise on Eclipse. Modern Luxury is Celebrity's mantra, and it is a fitting one.
We stayed in an Aqua Class accessible cabin on Deck 11, cabin 1524. Yes, as you may have heard, Celebrity has been making some changes, but regarding the guest experience, the cutbacks are impossible to notice, and if you didn't know that there had been for instance, nightly pillow chocolates, or an acapella group - you would be none the wiser. So, let's start there - no more pillow chocolates, but one night, everyone received a mint chocolate covered Oreo in a Celebrity-Oreo co-marketing initiative - very well received, and everyone I talked to would love to have more than one per cruise as they are quite tasty! Certainly a win/win for Nabisco and Celebrity. One other night, we did get about a dozen pillow chocolates all at once, arranged in a design on our bed - the same chocolates we received on Summit recently, no longer with the "X" logo, but with a generic half moon design. Also, there is no more towel art (unless people in other cabins got some and I am not aware of it) - no more towels in your room arranged as monkeys or elephants. In Aqua Class, no more daily flowers unless you are a Captain's Club member, and no more pillow menu, at least according to our steward. Also, the once a cruise brunch Grand Buffet has been eliminated. The activities staff has been greatly reduced, but - you would never realize that, unless you have cruised with Celebrity over the years, to know that there now are fewer staff on the activities team.
I can say with certainty based upon this cruise on Eclipse, that the guest experience is excellent - you do not realize that cutbacks have been made. Corporate has done a great job of ensuring continuity of passenger care while attempting to improve their bottom line. There were still zillions of trivia contests including the popular progressive trivia, dancing with the officers, dance lessons with the production dancers; battle of the sexes, minute to win it challenges, the egg drop, flash mob, organized lawn game contests, the hilarious late night Liar's Club, the marriage game, late night comedians, interactive theme parties - the Celebrity Life Activities Team - Maarten and Mark, including the unparalleled cruise director, Sue Denning, did a fabulous job. The activity staff was smaller than before due to corporate changes/cutbacks/reorganization, but the passenger experience is unaffected and remains outstanding.
The guest entertainers were excellent, some not to our personal taste, but the comedians were especially fabulous. And of course, the Eclipse production staff, including the stellar onboard orchestra, put on amazing full scale production shows - such talent! There are in fact some new things that we have never seen before, such as daily free fitness classes in the gym, such as "cardio combat" and "buff booty". The on board lecturer was excellent, and the Top Chef at Sea Quickfire challenge in the theater was very fun to watch - next time I will be more aggressive with my arm waving so that I will have a better chance of getting picked to participate! These activities and shows are just a sampling - there is so much to do onboard. And though it was usually pretty chilly, we enjoyed relaxing on the pool deck under tartan plaid blankets!
We ate our meals in Blu, the dining room reserved exclusively for Aqua Class passengers. Food was delicious, imaginatively and skillfully prepared. We generally had the same server as we would go to dinner early in order to get a window directly at the window. He recognized that though we are not strictly vegetarian, nor are we slab-o-meat people, so he would always give us the vegetarian menu along with the main menu, so we always had loads of fabulous dishes from which to choose. We generally enjoyed lunch during sea days at the Aqua Spa Cafe. The dishes served are light, and we would often combine several of the salads onto a larger plate, for instance combining a quinoa salad, the legume and lentil salad with a mango and mascarpone salad, adding elements from the adjacent salad bar, to create our own personal creation - lovely, and so much less stressful than negotiating the Oceanview Cafe, the busy main buffet.
Qsine is our favorite specialty restaurant, so we ate there one of the evenings. The food is whimsical, modern, unique. The other specialty restaurants though very good, we find to be too traditional for our tastes, whereas Qsine offers an outstanding, uncommon, culinary experience.
We are Elite Captains Club members and we very much enjoyed the policy on Eclipse this cruise - we were each issued three drink coupons per day, to be used between the hours of 5-7pm for select free drinks, in most any bar on the ship. Due to the cool weather the whole cruise, we would generally always go to the indoor Sky Lounge, foregoing our usual favorite spot, the Sunset Bar, which is outside. The Sky Lounge was open to all passengers, and canapes were served during the 5-7pm hours. This is a positive change as in past cruises that we were on, and I know this varies from ship to ship, cruise to cruise, the Sky Lounge was closed to all but Elite Captains Club members. Keeping the lounge open to all passengers regardless of the Captains Club status I think is best as everyone gets to enjoy the beautiful lounge, savor the canapes, and those that have coupons get their free drinks, those that don't, pay or use their drink package. Fair for all!
We found the onboard wifi to be improved from previous cruises. As Elite Captains Club members, we each get 90 minutes of free wifi. You no longer have to go to the internet lounge to turn in your coupon. You just log in from your iPad or laptop using the ID code on your seapass card. Your free 90 minutes is already in the ship's system tied to your seapass card ID number, so you login, create your password and et voila, you're all set to go. Logoff is simple! Also, now, when you reach the end of your free 90 minute period, you are instantly and automatically logged off, so that you do not incur any charges. We never had any problems at all, the system was efficient and simple to use. Sometimes yes, connection time was longer, but other times, we got in immediately. Considering that we were sailing in the middle of the Baltic and North Seas, we were very pleased!
For all of the ports, we booked ship excursions. We found the Shore Excursion staff on Eclipse to be very organized and helpful regarding our special considerations surrounding my daughter's wheelchair and walker use. The Shore Excursion staff was aware of our special needs and made accommodations for us. The Baltic itinerary of course is fabulous, I don't need to sing the praises of such world class cities as Stockholm or Bruges, those songs have been sung! St. Petersburg is of course the highlight of this itinerary. We especially enjoyed the local Russian folk music singing and dance group that was brought onto the ship to perform at 10:30pm on board in St. Petersburg. They were excellent, authentic, very talented. In Germany, where we were docked until midnight, a local German folk music and dance troupe was brought in, an Oom-Pah Pa Oktoberfest style band, but we had to miss them as we took the 12.5 hour excursion into Berlin.
From a disability perspective, getting around in these ports of call is not surprisingly, not the easiest thing to do due to many reasons, not the least of which is the cobblestones, some of which were extremely rugged - we discovered that there are cobblestones, and then there are cobblestones, yikes, but we managed! We've negotiated the streets of Rome, even Pompeii, but Tallinn, Estonia holds a special place in the annals of difficult streets for the disabled to negotiate! But of central import, is that most of these countries, well ok, all of these countries, are far very far behind the USA as far as mobility rights go, but we knew that and were mentally prepared for the reality. Negotiating the likes of Peterhof, Catherine's Palace and The Hermitage in St. Petersburg was especially daunting. Our tour guide was excellent on the Celebrity sponsored two day all inclusive shore excursion that we booked, but the staff that work in these individual iconic palaces and museums are less than friendly, unwilling to smile, unwilling to give you help when you clearly need it, and are in general unpleasant.
Negotiating the crowds is almost as daunting as navigating over the most ancient of the cobblestone streets, and don't even think that you are going to find a lift, and if you do, it is at the far end of the palace, in the opposite direction of where your tour group is heading! I am not sure what it is about the Baltic countries, as there are many that we visited, many different governmental systems - but we found that throughout, attitudes were less than welcoming toward the physically disabled. The attitude was that we were on our own - curb cuts are few and far between and are not truly curb cuts, they all have a lip or ledge - and if you are in a power wheelchair, unable to have independent mobility at all, then forget it, seriously, don't come here. These countries don't want you. My daughter has strength and with balance support, such as a handrail or a strong arm, she can do stairs. She can walk with support from a person when her wheeled walking aid can't get over what these countries call a curb cut. But for the disabled that are unable to get around a bit on their own, these countries send the message that you are not welcome. For whatever governmental reasons, the people with physical disabilities have not been able to effect the changes that are necessary to break down physical barriers. I know that these are old cities, and that some buildings can't be changed - I live in the Boston area - we have cobblestones, we have buildings from the 17th century, so I get that. But we have visited many many European cities, and it's the countries like France, England, Italy, Spain, that have made serious inroads in showing that those with physical disabilities are just as important as any able bodied person. Equal access for all. Physical boundaries can give the disabled an inferiority complex as a message is clearly sent that you are not welcome. The cities that we visited in these Baltic countries send that message, too bad so sad for you. Our tour guide in Denmark on the CPA3 Copenhagen with Dragor Village, Carlsberg Brewery & Canal Tour actually asked my daughter, and this is a direct quote: "So, what's wrong with you, we've all been wondering" and, over the microphone, she said to the entire bus, "Can you imagine being in a wheelchair in my country? We are definitely not handicapped friendly here in Denmark" If I hadn't heard her say these things with my own ears, I would never have believed it! So, beautiful, yes - even rudimentarily welcoming to the physically disabled, no.
Another wonderful Celebrity experience! I have four more cruises with Celebrity booked, and I absolutely cannot wait! Read Less