Cruise Review: Azores and the Canary Islands – September 2015
The cruise got off to an unpleasant start with really rough seas for almost three days en route to the Azores with the wife being “man down” for virtually the entire ... Read More
Cruise Review: Azores and the Canary Islands – September 2015
The cruise got off to an unpleasant start with really rough seas for almost three days en route to the Azores with the wife being “man down” for virtually the entire sailing to Ponta Delgada! However, thereafter the weather improved considerably with sunny, albeit often somewhat windy days, being the norm for the balance of the cruise which, in general, proved to be an enjoyable and interesting experience.
We spent a couple of days in Southampton prior to the cruise after having spent an eminently pleasant week touring the beautiful Cotswolds area of the UK and South Wales, both areas which have long been on our bucket list. We were enchanted by this Olde England experience visiting many quaint towns, historic buildings and monuments and country pubs, interspersed with many scenic walks in this delightful part of the UK.
The recently refurbished Eclipse is an impressive vessel. However, we frankly, did not see that much had changed from the previous time we had sailed on her some four years back apart from the addition of the Luminae restaurant reserved for suite holders and the change to the access to Michael’s Club, which similarly is now reserved exclusively for suite guests. But the general, understated ambience of the ship remains – clean, well-furnished, tastefully decorated and well maintained.
Service was of the standard we have come to expect from Celebrity and we must commend the Royal Caribbean Group for the quality of people it employs and for the obviously high standard of training that is provided. Staff were, with very few exceptions, uniformly well-groomed, courteous, friendly and efficient - some exceptionally so, such as Jacinto and Ricky our hard working, respectful stateroom attendants, also Nyoman and Yoanna in the Select dining room who provided outstanding attentive service, jovial wine steward Kenrick (Hey Mon!) always willing to go the extra mile and Govind, barman at the Sunset Bar who my wife will attest mixes a mean apple martini!
Officers were always highly visible around the ship and the Captain ensured there were plenty of opportunities for officers to engage with passengers through, inter alia, photo ops, officer/guest competitions, official parties and so on.
Entertainment was also some of the best we have experienced on recent Celebrity cruises. Despite the disruption to the main entertainment programme caused by the inclement weather during the first part of the cruise which necessitated the cancellation of some scheduled stage productions, energetic Cruise Director Sue and Activities Manager Martin, ensured guest were kept entertained with a range of activities and game shows. Some of the evening entertainers in the main theatre, including a few better than usual singers, a frenetic juggler, and a comedic pianist, were especially good.
For some reason, and we never got a satisfactory explanation, it had been decreed that the evening theatre performances would take place at 8h30 and 10h30 each evening as distinct from the usual times of 7h00 and 9h00 that we have always found on other ships. We found the latter times to be much more convenient. We prefer to dine reasonably late so can take in the 7h00 show before dining at our leisure after eight each evening. However, with the changed theatre times we would either have had to dine before seven to take in the 8h30 show or resign ourselves to waiting for the 10h30 performance which, generally, we feel is too late.
The matter was compounded by the numbers of passengers who now choose Select dining and often it was difficult to get a table much before 9h15 which resulted in a rushed meal if one wished to see the 10h30 performance.
It seems to us as if the whole change was made to accommodate the foibles of first sitting passengers, who on this cruise were predominantly British who, apparently, like to dine a little later than the American who, typically, are the majority on most sailings. We trust the changed show times on this cruise are an aberration and do not become standard for Celebrity in future.
Food by and large, was pretty good with some memorable meals and very few, unsatisfactory dining experiences. Because of the congestion in trying to get a table for two in Select dining on many evenings, we had more evening meals in the buffet restaurant than we would normally ever contemplate. We were never left hungry with the range of fare on offer including better than usual sushi. In fact, we thought the quality of food generally in the buffet restaurant was amongst the best we had yet experienced on Celebrity ships.
Main dining room fare was always more than satisfactory. Generally tasty, well-presented meals efficiently served.
We had one excellent meal in the speciality Tuscan Italian steakhouse but generally we find the costs of Celebrity speciality restaurants at $50 per head to be too prohibitive, especially for us South Africans where our currency (the Rand) is now over 21 to the US$, i.e. each Rand is equivalent to less than five US cents!
Overall itinerary was interesting visiting seven ports during the course of the fourteen day cruise. We only participated in two ships excursions -in Funchal Madeira, a city tour that included a cable car ride and an exciting two kilometre rumble down the streets in a wicker toboggan and in Tenerife an exhilarating tour of the national park, a World heritage Site, with views of the lava fields of Mt Teide, the tallest mountain in Spanish controlled territory, both tours good value for money. In other ports we did our own thing, either taking a Hop-on/Hop-off bus tour, a useful way to orientate oneself to a new destination especially in large cities such as Lisbon, or just touring on our own which we did in the smaller ports of Fuerteventura and Lanzerote.
All in all an excellent cruise in the comfort and ambience we have become accustomed to expect from Celebrity. We are happy to now be able to strike the North Atlantic islands off our bucket list – another wonderful privilege to be able to experience this unique part of our fascinating planet. However, we would be unlikely to do a repeat cruise to this destination and were somewhat amazed to learn from many other passengers that they had cruised the Azores/Canary Islands on numerous occasions before to the extent that many seldom even left the ship at the ports of call as they had already experienced the main attractions on offer on previous cruises!
As enjoyable as this cruise was and as interesting as many of the sights and attractions offered were, there are still so many other destinations we wish to explore before we would ever contemplate a return to North Atlantic archipelago.
Now looking forward to our next cruise to Alaska in May 2016! Read Less