Check in at Southampton was a shambles. Although Elite members we were not directed to the 'Select' queue for security having been missed by the one member of Port staff who apparently had the duty of issuing stickers to identify this and the mistake not being picked up when our documents were scrutinised. We were faced with a huge queue for one scanner with three scanners being used for 'Select'. When we queried this with the keeper of the 'Select' gate we were spurned, yet when we arrived at our scanner some 35 minutes later we were told that we in fact should have been 'Select'. This is a new system for which we were unprepared, some kind of notice should have been displayed.
The ship was as spick and span as ever and the staff friendly and welcoming. I was delighted to recognise many crew members from our three previous Eclipse cruises. Our cabin was kept clean to an impressive level, including the balcony. I brought the usual half dozen plastic hangers to help speedy dressing and avoid the layering that can get tedious. The immaculate Lawn area was much enjoyed for Boce, Golf and Croquet. The Captain's Party buffet lunch was at 1pm for main and 3pm for late diners. It should be at 12pm and 2pm we suggested.
The food was very enjoyable with plenty of choice. The breads and pastries are a always a delight. The chocolate cake was historic. A few times the only cooked 'green' available at lunchtime in the Ocean View Cafe was mushy peas, I took a helping of salad with fresh frozen peas or spinach but missed broccoli or beans which were not always available. Fruit was always of the first quality. The Moonlight Sonata Restaurant was a wonderful experience with the best service and food I think we have had yet on a cruise. We had a meal in the Murano and were very pleased with the modern french menu, quiet surroundings and service. The friendly wine waiter there introduced us to some exceptional wines which have become our favourites.
The film choice was good and we had excellent speakers. The Theatre entertainment was very good, singer Sam Kane was a big hit as were the A Cappella Quartet who had a deserved standing ovation. The musicians on board are one of the things that make cruising so special. The interactive 'happenings' in the Grand Foyer were very successful and we enjoyed the singer and dancer led entertainments very much. The Crew Talent Show and Ship Company farewell was well attended with standing ovations for the talented performers.
We were delighted that there is a new 'No smoking' policy in the Sky Lounge and this transformed our experience for sailaways, cocktails and dancing. The only major problem, as has been noted in several reviews is the THUMP per second of a 'Techno Beat' which seems to be on a continual loop everywhere. One evening it was impossible to talk in the Sky Lounge and it certainly marred the enjoyment of the scenery so we complained and some 'Standards' were eventually put on to everyone's relief. The THUMP was playing on the morning we left in the Tuscan Grille, not conducive to relaxation before travel. The Disc Jockey seems to like 'thump' as he put on 'thump' type disco for Latin Night and Motown which cleared the floor after a good start with the classic versions. Like lighting, music affects the ambiance of a cruise ship so I hope that more thought is given to this aspect.
A major topic of conversation amongst the Elite members was the pre-cruise price drop. As early bookers it was a shock to see these discounts. We were given the opportunity on board to purchase an open ended price guarantee package for future cruises. I note that Cunard are offering similar guarantees as it will surely lead to very many people playing the waiting game if this happens again. We are looking forward to the next three cruises we have booked with Celebrity, booking the two for 2013 when it opened.
We took the shuttle and walked around this fascinating city in glorious sunshine. We went to an Art Gallery, walked up to the amazing Cathedral then around to the park and back to the central area. There is an amazing blue glass building on the waterfront that is a must see, the interior is marvellous.
In Akureyi we took the 'Jewels of the North Tour' again in sunshine and saw the Waterfall of the Gods, the Hverfell mountain, Dimmuborgir the magical landscape and the geothermal field with the steam vents and boiling springs. The countryside was green and charming with little farms and trout streams.
In klaksvik, Faroe Islands we took the shuttle and strolled around this delightful little town. We went to the little Museum sited in a historic building part of which is a cafe lit by candles, and to the Church where a trio was playing guitars and singing, mostly in English but also in Faroeise. The local beer and cider was sampled and the shopping was popular. The sail away was magical, the scenery is exceptional , green cliffs rising sheer from the sea with little villages nestled in the valleys near the sea.
Having visited Geiranger before we took a hike up the mountain to the look outs and the forest with waterfalls was very pretty.
In Molde we walked in to town and took a quick look at the small historic building collection then walked down past the lovely gardens of the Chateau and back into town where the Jazz Festival was very lively.
In Flam we were fortunate to get tickets for the Railway and refreshments tour which we really enjoyed. The waterfalls are spectacular and the views amazing. I bought the DVD in case my own camera efforts don't do it justice. We also walked around the new village paths for the views and liked the brewery and shops.
In Bergen we took the shuttle and went to the Haaken Hall which is a bit like Westminster Hall. It has extensive lower galleries, not many people entered so it was atmospheric. With entry you get a coffee or tea and reduced price entry to other museums. We had little time so walked around the grounds then the Bryggen historic area and the Fish Market. There were many cruise ships in port so Bergen was very crowded but jolly with band music and street perfumers (the native American musicians had everyone enthralled). The sail away was impressive with a suspension bridge then many small islands with tiny houses and boat docks.