Having cruised a numerous times with Princess, NCL, P&O, Royal Caribbean and Riviera Cruises (down the Nile), this experience was average at best with some areas of excellence and some very poor.
Firstly I appreciate that Celebrity is a Greek Cruise Line (the 'X' standing for the first letter of the Greek owners family name Chandris) and merged into the Royal Caribbean brand by the same family. Although Greek it was obviously modelled on the needs and values of the USA market. I accept the focus would be different to Cunard, P&O, NCL etc. I must commend Captain Leonardos Palaiokrassas, or Captain Leo as he is known on the ship, for his presence, availability, humour and professionalism.
However from our experience Celebrity is and will not be my 'brand' for the following considerations:
The experience of Freedom Seating in Moonlight Sonata dining can only be compared with a school or factory canteen, A very poor standard of presentation and cullinary skill with a limited range of choice and cramped seating. The listed 'Fresh vegetables' were mashed potatoes from powder, a boiled carrot (three nights in a row) and sometimes a small head of broccoli. In addition there was a very limited range of choices and no gluten free indications for us coeliacs. After three stressful evenings, hoping things would improve', we gave up on the Moonlight Sonata Restaurant. For the remaining evenings of our cruise we dressed as we always do for 'fine dining' and the Evening Chic evenings but dined in the Oceanview all-day Cafe which was 'roomy' and had a good range and standard of food (compared to the Sonata Restaurant)... but, unfortunately, it was designed as a cafe and not designed for 'fine-dining'.
As Europeans, when on vacation, we are not used to dining before 9.15, unlike our friends across 'The Pond' who queued for dinner at 5.15 in the afternoon. Unfortunately no later dining than 9.15 (in speciality dining or the Cafe) was available on this ship... we think this is very poor. The extraordinary long queues spilling over into the Martini Bar at 5.15 for the 5.45 fixed time dinner sitting added to the school canteen/factory canteen atmosphere. All the evening entertainment seemed to be based around the fixed time dining, especially the early sitting.
I offer the following illustration of one of a number of poor levels of quality and service experienced in the three days we tried to 'Fine Dine' in the Moonlight Sonata Restaurant. Some Celebrity enthusiasts will obviously think this experience acceptable to 'Fine Dining' and quality cruising!
Cruise Night 3. Our party of four arrived at the Sonata Dining Room at 8.30, dressed for 'Evening-Chic'. When we reached the desk we waited several minutes before anyone bothered to attended to us... no great problem as we laughed and chatted amongst ourselves. Half-way through the usual check-in process of cabin numbers and table availability an irate US citizen came to the front desk and without apologising started complaining to our Restaurant Check-in Captain. She immediately left us to attend to him. The complaint from the irate passenger went on for over 10 minutes and the restaurant manager was called. Eventually this passenger had 3 senior staff attending him and we were still left standing unattended at the restaurant check-in desk (his complaint being he had to wait 10 minutes for his main course and when it came it was cold... he was obviouslt comparing this standard to his usual dining at Wendy's, Denny's or Taco Bell). In the end we had to interrupt this discussion/vociferous complaint to request that our dinner check-in was completed. Eventually a junior member of staff was sent to attend to us but we had to start over the whole cabin number, table availability process again. By this time it was 8.50. Although there were a number of empty tables we were directed to a middle table wedged between larger tables crowded with diners completing their meals. We said this was unacceptable pointing out all the empty tables by the windows. We were told they were unavailable as they were being set up for the next day and we should have come earlier. We asked what time? The reply was 8.30!!!! When we informed her that we would go to the Cafe she said she would get us a better table. When one was found at 8.55 we were escorted to it to find it was occupied. Then the young stewardess said she would go and check and would be right back. The four of us were left standing in our 'Evening Chic' in the middle of the dining room for a very uncomfortable ten minutes. Finally at nearly 9.10 we were led to an isolated table at the back of the restaurant sandwiched between the kitchen door and a service station. My steak ordered as rare was well done and miniscule. It was accompanied by a scoop of powdered 'mashed' potato, one boiled carrot and a minute head of broccoli. Those vegetables had now been served for three days in a row. For a dessert I ordered the cheese board and when it came there were no crackers... when asked for they arrived after I had finished the small selection of cheeses on the board. This being the third night of stressful dining we decided we would continue to dress for 'fine dining' every night but only use the Oceanview Cafe 'all-day buffet' for the remainder of the cruise.
Any up-grade from the Sonata Restaurant was Speciality Dining at $55.00 per person per meal... i.e. $210 per night for the four of us (over the length of the cruise $2,100 on top of the $18,000 already paid for our 8.500 mile 'dream trip' to Hawaii).
As new to Celebrity Cruises we were surprised that the Sky Lounge was out-of-bounds on many occasions for Captain Club functions but no functions for Celebrity newcomers. If there was one we certainly did not receive an invitation to it! For such a smart lounge it was soul-less for most of the day and it came as a surprise that the bar did not open until mid-evening (7.00 pm) thus precluding pre-dinner cocktails with lovely views of the sunset.
We had a number of photographs taken i.e. embarkation, Chic Evening, relaxing on deck. We did not buy any as the results were so grainy it looked like a group of High School kids had taken them for a project... and at $50.00 each!!!!!
On the whole the Eclipse was a happy crew, attentive and polite and led by a very able, personable Captain who was always seen around the ship and was very approachable. The crew seemed happy to be with and stay with Celebrity. The reason may be that on a number of occasions we had more than a feeling that the ship was run for the benefit of the crew and not for the benefit of the passengers.
Tendering for ordinary state room, non-Captain's Club, 'newbie' guests was well organised but ponderously slow.
On the plus side the Rock theatre show was outstanding. The best we’ve seen on any cruise ship on any of the cruises we have undertaken. Well done to the producer and the very talented singers, dancers and the band.
Another plus was the cabin. Larger than most cruise ships' balcony state rooms with an excellent bathroom featuring a very spacious, glass-doored, corner shower. The balcony was certainly roomy and easily fitted the table and both sun chairs even in their sunbathing configuration.
The Oceanview Buffet had good quality and tasty fare, although slightly restricted and unvaried i.e. exactly the same dishes for the English breakfast, American breakfast, fruit, every day.
Vancouver was the quickest and most efficient disembarkation port we have ever experienced (with Fort Lauderdale being the worst).
However one good show and a very nice, larger-than-most, balcony state room did not compensate for poor dining in both food and arrangements, little or no provision for welcoming 'New-to-Celebrity' guests, very slow disembarkation at the two tender ports (especially for 'newbies' not yet allowed into the Captain's Club). This makes us reluctant to recommend Celebrity Cruises to family, friends or colleagues. But respect all those 'fans' that think Celebrity is the 'top of the cruising tree'.
Unless the destination and ports-of-call of a Celebrity cruise catch our imagination we will probably not make another Celebrity cruise.
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