My wife and I are not big cruisers; our last cruise was 20 years ago on the Celebrity Century to the Western Caribbean. But this was Alaska, so it had to be by ship. The Celebrity Eclipse made us rethink cruising, as it was a pleasure from beginning to end. I was surprised to learn it will go for refurbishment in March, as it is pristine. With 2800+ passengers, the ship is big but never felt overly crowded, except maybe at the lunch buffet. There were many public spaces-- the library, card room, that felt almost intimate. We had a verandah cabin, which was worth the extra cost for the daylight and feeling of openness. Plus it was great when we neared Hubbard Glacier, where the captain did a 360 degree pirouette with the ship so that everyone had equal viewing. Spectacular! One of the highlights of the cruise.
We had late dining, which initially concerned us because we usually have dinner at 7-7:30. But it wasn't a problem. And we were fortunate to be seated with two couples from New Zealand and one from Canada. Very refreshing to meet people outside of our orbit, who were intelligent and fun to be with. It was another highlight of the trip.
Specialty dining at the Tuscan Grille and Murano was outstanding, and well worth the extra $45-50 person. Great service, outstanding food, and flexible dining times made these great choices. Highly recommended.
We booked shore excursions through Shore Excursion Group rather than through the cruise line; these were identical excursions for about 10% less money. I learned from a savvier shopper on one of our excursions that I might have saved even more money had I shopped online more. The highlight was the whale-watching excursion at Icy Strait Point (the first port); we took a short bus ride to the dock where we took a boat with about 12-14 passengers to Hoonah, Glacier Bay. The captain and the "guide", two young men who were passionate about their work and extremely knowledgeable took us out to sea. We were fortunate to see both orcas and humpbacks, one of whom breached several times right outside of the boat. Incredible!
The next day, another sunny and warm one (luckily, like all of our days on the cruise), we approached Hubbard Glacier and the blue waters surrounding it: majestic and awe-inspiring, we could only marvel at its size and beauty, and fear for its future. We heard the thunderous sound as it calved, and watched as fragments crashed into the water.
On Thursday, we reached Juneau, where we took an excursion to Mendenhall Glacier. Unfortunately, a big disappointment after seeing Hubbard. It lacked the spectacle of Hubbard. I would skip this excursion. Although we did go to a salmon bake as the second part of the excursion. It was outside in a large picnic area under canopies. We watched the silver salmon being grilled, and helped ourselves to side of cornbread, potatoes, cole slaw, and blueberry cake. Very tasty. Although when we got back into the city of Juneau, we saw people eating huge crab legs at a restaurant near the dock. If we ever go back...
Finally, to Ketchikan for our final stop. There we took an off-road Jeep Safari through the Tongass Forest, where a guide took us through the winding, rocky path in four-wheel drive Jeeps. Everyone had a chance to drive; lots of fun. That was followed by a short canoe trip:10-12 passengers per canoe, to an area in the woods where we enjoyed fish chowder, salmon salad, and homemade bread and jam. A fun excursion that I recommend.
Otherwise, we found the service on the ship to be exceptional, from the cabin steward to the restaurant staff. The entertainment was fine--comedians, singers, and an ersatz Cirque de Soleil that was very good.
Roomy and spacious. Very light and airy, thanks to the verandah.