We regard ourselves as seasoned cruisers but somehow we had never cruised with Celebrity Cruises before and when we were offered an attractive deal on Celebrity Eclipse cruising to the Baltics we jumped at the opportunity. The package offered was 1st passenger full price, 2nd passenger half price, with a classic drinks package and gratuities included. This turned out to be incredibly good value for money. When we made the booking the itinerary included 4 formal evenings. It wasn’t until we received the passenger information booklet two weeks before sailing that we were advised that formal evenings had been abandoned and replaced with ‘chic’ evenings. The recommended dress was now smart casual including jeans. This was a big disappointment to us as formal evenings are a significant part of our cruising enjoyment. There were also no themed evenings.
Never the less we arrived at Southampton and the ship looked impressive. Boarding was slow and even though we had been allocated a specific time for embarkation there didn’t seem to be much heed paid to this.
We had chosen a mid-ship balcony cabin on deck 7 which turned out to be excellent in both size and layout. The en-suite was particularly appealing with a proper shower enclosure instead of the curtained off corner provided on so many other ships. The cabin steward was smart, friendly and attentive but we did find that complaints about minor issues were not dealt with efficiently, e.g. the balcony door would not lock and it took three days to resolve. Also, the bathroom tap leaked from day 1 and was still leaking at the end of the cruise.
The entertainment aspect of the ship is rather strange. There are excellent pool areas, both indoors and out, and a real grass area on deck 15 where croquet and boules are played. But open deck space is limited so there are no areas for deck quoits or shuffle board which was disappointing to us as we have always enjoyed the competitive camaraderie amongst players.
The ship is fairly large with 2850 passengers so it was a surprise to discover that it only has one theatre. With two shows a night there was not enough seating to accommodate everyone at the more popular shows although it has to be said that there were plenty of empty seats for some of the entertainers . We have travelled on cruise liners of a similar size which have featured theatres at each end of the ship.
As with most of the larger modern cruise liners the centre of the ship boasts an atrium. This is usually light and airy but not so on Celebrity Eclipse. There is very little natural light and , even on the brightest day, the atrium and surrounding shopping areas have to rely on artificial lighting. Strangely, the natural lighting source at deck level 15 is directly over the lift shaft so whilst the lifts are well lit, the atrium isn’t.
The crew were exemplary – cabin crew, deck crew, dining room staff, entertainment crew – everybody! We were lucky in that our table waiters in the main dining room were particularly attentive and entertaining. The menu was a bit indifferent the first week but improved significantly for the second week. So much so that we didn’t try any of the themed restaurants especially as, having studied some of the menus, we didn’t consider an additional charge of $50.00 per person was justified.
The scope of the ‘at sea’ daytime entertainment was very disappointing. On the plus side there were one or two excellent guest speakers, glass blowing demonstrations and plenty of quizzes which proved to be very popular. However, on the down side this was the first cruise we have ever been on which did not feature line dancing lessons – a particular forte of ours. What did feature very heavily in the programme was a significant number of Boutique presentations which purported to be informative or educational but turned out to be sales pitches for extremely overpriced commodities. The other aspect of the programme which annoyed us greatly was the emphasis given to gambling activities in the substantial casino. We got the impression that Celebrity Cruises’ objective was to extract as much money from its guests as possible. Perhaps this was why the cost of the package offered in the first place was so reasonable?
It was unfortunate, and no criticism of Celebrity Cruises, that the dreaded Norovirus struck very early in the cruise. The crew tried valiantly to contain it but many guests, ourselves included, succumbed.
Having said all of the above, we had a most enjoyable cruise. The weather was, for the most part, very kind and the various ports of call were magnificent. The shore excursions were well organised and extremely interesting.
Never the less we have written to Celebrity Cruises expressing our feelings and advising them that it is unlikely that we will sail with them in future.