Cruise Critic Member Sails With Us on Eclipse -- Backward

March 30, 2010

"With Celebrity close to home, many places I will roam. With AquaSpa, Crush & a lawn at sea, I think Eclipse was designed for me!"

Cruise Critic member Denise Wills (Algieohno on our message boards) wrote this ditty -- an ultimately successful contest entry -- in an effort to convince Celebrity Cruises she should be invited onboard for the historic, backward departure of the new Celebrity Eclipse from its shipyard in Papenberg, Germany. Yes, the entry ran half as long as my last sentence -- but that makes sense since the contest was held on Twitter, the micro-blogging site that limits posts to 140 characters.

It's easy to see why the judges -- @CelebrityUK, @CaptGreybeard (aka the Daily Mirror's John Honeywell) and @CruiseCriticUK (that's us!) -- chose Denise's entry, submitted under the handle @CharlotteWil. In a mere 128 characters, she highlighted the ship's Southampton homeport; three of the iconic spots on Solstice-class ships, including Eclipse; and Celebrity's new tagline, "Designed for You," to boot!

So how did Wills enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime trip aboard the just-completed Celebrity Eclipse? We caught up with her and her husband, Adrian, earlier this month as the ship was being towed some 26 miles down the Ems River to Eemshaven, The Netherlands, on the North Sea, a transit referred to as a "conveyance."

Surrounded by tables and chairs still in their plastic shipping wrappers in the Lido Deck's Oceanview Cafe, Wills told us that even though she entered this contest several times to strengthen her chances, contest-entering in general is not a hobby of hers -- her motivation was not so much the joy of winning, but the ability to experience a behind-the-scenes aspect of cruising.

"I didn't care who won," she said, "just as long as whoever it was really appreciated how special the prize was."

The prize was especially sweet for Denise because of her affection for Celebrity in general, and for the Solstice class in particular. She has sailed with the line eight times, three of them in 2009, including a trip on Celebrity Solstice. Though Denise and Adrian have also sailed with Princess and P&O, she cites Celebrity as her favorite due to the perfect blend of youthfulness and classiness that appeals to, in her words, a "new breed of cruisers."

Did the prize live up to her expectations?

"Definitely!" she replied excitedly. "If anything, the actual experience was even more special than I expected. After, all, it's a true one-off, isn't it?"

We weren't surprised, based on her Twitter prowess, to learn that avid cruiser Denise is also an avid computer user, especially when it comes to researching her upcoming travels. In fact, one of the first things she does every morning is boot up her computer and log onto the Internet. And the Web site to which she always goes first?

No contest there; it's Cruise Critic.

--by Steve Faber, Cruise Critic contributor