When the first Solstice-class ship debuted in 2008 (Eclipse is the third, launched in 2010), the phrase "game changer" was used to describe it. With a real grass lawn, a living tree suspended in the atrium, stunning cabins with character, quirky art, a glass-blowing studio, an achingly hip Apple store and a restaurant so innovative that land-based establishments took notice, the reviewers had a point: Ships in the Solstice Class blew all other mainstream vessels out of the water.
However, fast forward almost 10 years and some of these features are looking, well, a little worn. For example, Qsine, which really did set the bar high in terms of quirky cuisine, is now looking a bit gimmicky (sister brand Royal Caribbean's Wonderland restaurant has taken on the Qsine concept successfully).
That living tree? -- No-one gets quite what it's for. And the glass-blowing? -- was long ago removed from sister ships, to be replaced by a restaurant. We even heard people say the iLounge seems a bit dated.
Celebrity Eclipse regularly pulls in high marks for passenger satisfaction, and it has won Cruise Critic awards for the Best Mainstream Ship for several years in a row. Plus, Celebrity gave it a significant refurbishment in May 2015 (the first since its launch), introducing a number of new features that spoke to what cruisers want. These included a craft cocktail bar, World Class Bar; a craft beer bar, Gastrobar; and a dedicated restaurant for passengers traveling in suites, Luminae.
Eclipse is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful big cruise ships we've ever sailed. Its interiors blend sophistication with a bit of whimsy -- akin to a trendy W Hotel, but with softer edges.
And, perhaps most importantly, the ship positions itself perfectly for the first timer -- not so big that it's overwhelming, but not so small that you get bored. It's got a good selection of restaurants, the real-grass lawn is still a great spot to just hang out, the entertainment is still of a high quality and generous-sized cabins are bigger than the industry average.
It's also got that all-important celebrity (with a small c) link up with the the U.K. TV show, The Wine Show; and rugged Brit adventure expert Ben Fogle, who gives talks onboard and helps design some of the line's more adventurous excursions.
On the downside, the rampant upselling and fee surcharges are a bit of a turnoff, and on sea days, the pool deck, beautiful as it is, can feel crowded and chaotic. Service is often overwhelmed, not just on the pool deck, but at all bars; and the Oceanview Cafe often feels like a motorway service station.
But none of the negatives is enough to deter us from taking another cruise on this fine ship.