This cruise on the Celebrity Eclipse was booked for two couples and their adult daughters. This was our third European cruise and well into double digit cruises if we include Caribbean/other cruises. We had two adjoining balcony rooms on the 8th deck (1C), with daughters sharing an inside cabin across the corridor.
This cruise was our first on Celebrity and was chosen mainly for the itinerary. Part of our group had been to some of the destinations before. The ship size was a plus for us as well as we have been on larger cruise ships that always seemed crowded. Our on-board ship experience, as a whole, was mostly good; though in the end we were not impressed enough that we would go out of our way to choose Celebrity or the Eclipse for another cruise.
Embarkation/debarkation in Amsterdam was probably some of the smoothest & simplest that we have ever been through. It was our first time through Amsterdam, so maybe the local efficiency is what made things work so well. We were given a ‘check in time’ which may have organized the lines better; there was a fairly quick line, and no sitting around. For debarkation we had a Celebrity shore excursion booked which simplified things. Muster drill was a bit silly; meet in lounge and wait around until a rather corny video comes on to watch; which might have been better if the sound was synced to the video!
The cabins were probably the best we have had compared to any of our previous cruises. While there were some signs of wear (curtains/linens/robes), the cabins seemed very well organized, bathrooms seemed spacious compared to some others that we have been in and they were well serviced by our cabin steward Gideon (thank you!). The deck chairs were comfortable, though it seems Celebrity could spend a little extra and put the matching leg rests in these cabins as there appeared to be enough room.
Generally, the ship seemed to be in pretty good condition to our eyes; and it appeared to be scrupulously cleaned; food service areas had plenty of Purell dispensers; often with crew to apply as you walked in. It was also abundantly clear to use new service items every time you went for a re-fill or more helpings of food.
Of course, one of the main activities, while on board, is eating. We mainly ate in the main dining room for dinners and the 14th floor café for breakfasts & lunches. Our dining room experience was fine with great service from our waiters/sommelier (Agostinho/Oleksandra/Rhoel – Thank You). The meals were good; it is difficult to be too critical as the feeding of so many people at one time is a major undertaking. Where we thought the food lacked could be characterized by seeing the menu and thinking ‘what shall I settle for’ instead of ‘how can I choose just one of these’; It tasted good, with a couple great items (shrimp linguine, gnocchi, and lobster, of course) but all seemed the same, day after day, as the cruise went on.
The café was good, with a lot of different options; lines at the hamburger/hot dog grill were slow at times (compared to previous cruise line experiences) and people waiting for special orders (omelet’s) sometimes made getting a quick something more challenging than it should be; maybe the layout could have been better.
As for drinks and beverages ‘up-selling’ seems to be a BIG thing for Celebrity which was a disappointment. As with most cruise lines, the cost of beverages is way over the norm of what seems reasonable ‘on land’. A can of soda was over $3.00, and a glass of wine or higher end beer was over $10.00 by the time tips are added on. The bartenders were often ‘up-selling’ their beverage packages for beer/wine/spirits; doing the math on these plans, I would have had to work at drinking to make them worthwhile; I’m sure some find benefits there, but not to our experience.
Another ‘up-selling’ experience seemed to be with their ‘special’ dining/aesthetic opportunities. At times toward the last half of the cruise, attendants were at the café entrances drilling up interest in those special restaurants (for an added charge, of course); as well as for massages or teeth whitening. It was tiring to see and a little sad to watch. Maybe this is worth it to some, we didn’t try any of these other than the sushi restaurant for lunch one day; the sushi was good, but it was an experience we have had for free on other cruise lines.
As for ship entertainment, our group didn’t attend a large portion of shows; and didn’t stay for all of the shows that were attended. I think it would be worth it to say while it wasn’t horrible, it wasn’t good enough to miss a few hours’ sleep for. The day to day pool music and other activities were okay; while on the ship during the day (sea days), we usually tried to find a quiet place to relax which wasn’t too difficult to find.
Other ship related notes: the crew/staff always seemed polite, professional and helpful; though sometimes not as engaging as with other cruises we have been on. This cruise’s clientele seemed to be rather leisurely in moving about (more so than other cruises of similar destinations); especially as it seemed to affect loading/unloading elevators (‘can you step back and let more people in?’), which were already slow; pack your patience. This same trait seemed to evidence itself when people meandered across the “jogging track’ making it difficult for people actually jogging (one side or the other, eh?). ‘Chair Hogs’ didn’t seem a problem on the Eclipse; several times I saw staff going through and clearing lounge chairs with just towels laying on them; good work! As for shopping, seems like there was a plethora of shops to buy some overpriced (?) accessories or lounge wear, but if you wanted to find a Snickers bar, you had to do some searching. Down at one of the fancy shops there is a spot about the size of two book cases that has candy/aspirin/Pringles/etc. Seems like they could avail them more space; especially when getting over $3.00 for a bag of M&M’s!
We had on-board Wi-Fi as part of our cruise ‘promotion’ or option; it was spotty and slow more often than one would like. Trying to get some work done on sea days or connect with home was frustrating; like the old dial up days sometimes. Granted, some go on cruises to avoid this; but some must stay in touch to continue to afford cruises!
The ship has a lawn area with real grass which is rather novel; a good place to wander without shoes. We weren’t real sure how it was used; seemed mostly vacant, but it was a pleasant space. Near this area is a glass blowing ‘studio’ that gives demonstrations that seemed to be well attended. We didn’t make any of those, but it was a pretty interesting diversion.
Down on the lower passenger deck, there was a lounge that indicated ‘members only’ for special guests or classes of cabins, I guess. Our group, of course, didn’t qualify for that; it seemed a little ‘off-putting’ having all these groups (suite class, captains club, Elite, etc.). I know a lot of cruises have these, it just seemed like this was more ‘in your face’ than our other cruise experiences. This also appeared on some of the re-boarding of the ship with special gangways for those special people!
We made a trip to the fitness area that appeared well equipped and clean. If you wanted to get into a spinning session or yoga, you might need to get signed up early as the sign up sheets filled up quickly. No one in our group availed themselves to the spa area outside the fitness space, though there always seemed to be capacity available.
Some very general port comments; not full port reviews:
We spent about a day and a half in Amsterdam before our cruise. A wonderful city with great people, architecture and drink. Two highlights, Anne Frank house and a canal tour through Those Dam Boat Guys and our guide Dominique (thank you); a wonderful day.
Part of our group took a trip to Bruges for wandering/eating/shopping and part took a ship tour to Ypres. Cab fare is €55 for 8 each way. Be sure to arrange pick-up when you want to go back because it gets hectic and you don’t want to miss the ship. The Ypres ship tour was good though suffered from some lack of direction at times (restroom breaks, order of stops, etc.). All in all, very moving on the history of the Ypres Salient in WWI and an interesting museum stop. Good beer as well!
In Cork we had arranged a private tour through Butler Tours; Kevin our guide took us to Blarney Castle, Charles Fort, and some nice lunch/shopping/beer stop in Kinsale. While we beat most of the big tours to Blarney, it was still an hours long que to get to the Blarney Stone on top; further, they don’t even wipe it off after everyone kisses it; we just took a picture and walked by.
In Dunmore East we had arranged a private tour through; our guide Mia from Brewery Hops took us to Cahir Castle, the Rock of Cashel, and a stop at the Waterford Crystal factory, as well as a great lunch stop and drive through the country.
In Dublin, we arranged a tour through Tour Dublin and had a wonderful day with Alan, our guide. We included stops first at Kilmainham Gael which had some poignant Irish history woven through this former prisons walls; well worth it (make advance reservations); a drive past the Guinness Brewery and lunch stop that included some Guinness and some traditional Irish food; wonderful. We also made it through Phoenix Park, and a walk through Trinity College and shopping on Grafton Street. A great day!
For Liverpool, we arranged a tour 50/50 tour of part history/part Beatles through FabFour Taxi Tours with our tour guide Phil. This wasn’t a full day tour, but we managed to get a taste of Beatles history (Ringo’s home, Penny Lane) and some history that included elements of US history during the US Civil War era in Liverpool that was new to most of us. We also were able to get by Goodison Park and Anfield (for the soccer lovers) and some great history of the Liverpool Cathedral (which is amazing to go through).
A two day stop in Edinburgh; on day one, one of our party went on a ship excursion for the cruise signature event to The Open at Carnoustie. As Carnoustie is a ways away, making connections in proper time seemed to indicate the ship tour might be best. This trip was for the Saturday (day 3) round. Three buses made the trip from our tender port in fairly good time with some narration along the way; when arriving in Carnoustie we had about a half hour drive around town to find the coach parking/drop off zone; whereupon the ‘two or three hundred yard walk’ to the course became about a mile. We were told the buses would leave a half hour after the final putt of the day; it had to be over an hour as bus 2 was missing two people. Not sure what happened, but it sure seemed like it could have been handled better. Too long a wait, too little information, and poor A/C on the bus; plus waiting outside for tenders once back at the pier. While the golf was enjoyable, the transportation was a disappointment.
Day two was a Scottish Highland tour with Duncan McNabb; we were able to see the bridges at the Firth of Forth, hairy coo’s, Loch Lomond, a great sheep dog herding exhibition, Stirling Castle, the William Wallace monument, and the Battle of Bannockburn site; a very fun & informative day that also include a great pub stop for food and beer.
By Dover, we were pretty tired and didn’t have a formal tour arranged. We decided to get a cab and take a trip up to Dover Castle, which was well worth it; cab fare was about 2 GBP per person up, and less than that back. This sprawling complex has many points of interest that encompass its origin to the tunnels used as a WWII hospital and war planning facility. Plan on plenty of walking, some of which is hill climbing. Again, well worth a visit.
Finally, at debarkation in Amsterdam, we arranged through Celebrity for a bus tour to Zaanse Schans and connection to the airport. While Zaanse Schans seems a bit ‘touristy’ it was interesting to see clog manufacturing, some great scenery & wind mills, and some of the best cheese we have ever tried; also plenty of souvenir opportunities.
In sum, it was a great itinerary that gave a taste of a lot of different places that would be worth seeing on their own. We arranged most of our tours on our own and have found that to be the best experience. We would recommend any of the private tour operators our guides mentioned above. They were all well informed, hospitable to our desires, and passionate about their individual countries and region.
As for Celebrity Cruises, we thought for the most part, they were good; we primarily choose our cruises by itinerary, not cruise line and nothing on this cruise pushed Celebrity to the top of our cruise line choices. By the same token, we wouldn’t avoid Celebrity for the right cruise.
Well organized, great bathroom and comfortable bed. One of the best cabins we have ever had.