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Review of the Celebrity Eclipse
Cruise Date: April 2011
Booking: Travel Agency
Cabin number: 9104
Cabin category: 1B
Celebrity Eclipse 4/2/11 W. Carib.
Western Caribbean Cruise
April 2 - April 9, 2011
Friday, April 1
On Thursday, we were given the opportunity by our Business Development Manager to do a cruise on the brand new Celebrity Eclipse ? one we could not pass up. We only had a two day notice, so we hurried to make all the reservations and found out we could not get any flights the day of the cruise and decided we had to fly to Miami on Friday. We made reservations at the Springhill Suites Art/Medical District as we got a good travel agent rate. Normal rate is about $119 per night at that time of year for a Friday. The hotel is located just a few miles from the cruise pier and although it?s not in an ideal location, the hotel was very nice. The room was a junior suite with a sitting area along with a work desk, refrigerator, microwave, and couch. The shower room contained a very nice shower and a sink. The door to this area of the room was a frosted glass sliding door. The separate commode area with another sliding door also had a small sink. Overall, the room was excellent, albeit not much in the way of views. The only drawback was the bed ? new, but very hard. The free WiFi was spotty in the room, but available everywhere else in the hotel.
Although there was a bar & grill not far from the hotel and there were several area restaurants that delivered to the hotel, we chose to eat in the small restaurant in the hotel. I got a very nice cheeseburger with fries and Nancy got a Cobb salad. The prices were reasonable and the food was tasty. We had the cab driver stop at a liquor store on the way to the hotel where we picked up a few beers to enjoy in our room and with dinner.
Saturday, April 2
The breakfast offered by the hotel was okay ? nothing fancy, but enough to provide us with substance until we could get on the ship. We signed up for the shuttle to the pier at a cost of $5 per person, which was cheaper than a taxi. We were suppose to leave the hotel at 11:30, but due to traffic, the shuttle got there late and we didn't leave until about 11:50am. That was fine as we were not in a big hurry. We got to the pier at 12:10pm and found no lines whatsoever. We enquired as to what time they had begun boarding and were told they started around 11:15am. So, within an hour after beginning the process, all lines had been eliminated, which we thought was very good. We checked in and were on the ship by 12:25pm ? for a total of 15 minutes from the time we arrived at the pier until we were boarded - great way to start the cruise, especially when they offered us a free glass of champagne as we walked onto the ship!
We were in cabin 9104, which is a balcony cabin in the very front of the ship on the starboard side. It was very well appointed and we really liked the bathroom as it was a bit larger than what we have seen on most ships and had plenty of storage space. The shower was larger than normal and had a hard plastic door, which is always appreciated compared to the cheap vinyl curtains found on most ships. There was a built-in nightlight in the bathroom that was a very nice feature. The main closet was a little small and could have used a few more hangers. While it was fine for the two of us, those wanting to put 3 or 4 people in the room would have found it a bit tight for space. Although the bed had a pillow-top mattress, it was not as nice as the bed we had on the Allure of the Seas or the Holland America Eurodam, both of which were very comfortable. So we had to ask for a foam topper to make it a little softer as we found it fairly hard. The bed frame was high enough that we could easily slide our suitcases under it for storage. There was a large 32? flat screen TV with a good assortment of channels as well as free on-demand first-run movies, which was a big plus. There was small refrigerator in the cabin and a good-size comfortable couch. The storage was adequate, except the end tables, which were very small. There were only a couple of small hooks in the cabin, so I had no place to hang my hat.
The balcony was good size, about 9' by 6' with wonderful steel chairs with sling fabric and adjustable backs along with a heavy steel and wood round table. This was a huge plus over most balconies we've had that usually only have plastic furniture.
Overall, this ship is absolutely wonderful! In our 40 cruises, this definitely ranks among the top 2. Of course being a fairly new ship, you would expect it to be clean, but they really do a very good job of keeping it that way. The ship is beautiful with lots of places to do whatever one likes to do on a cruise. It?s very attractive both inside and out with clean lines. It has a very appealing décor that was bright and modern, yet warm and comfortable.
We brought a bottle of champagne on board with us and shared this on our balcony as we pulled out of port, which is the only way to start off a nice cruise. Later, we did get a bucket of beer ? we could choose a combination of any of the $5 beers and got 6 for the price of 5. So with the 15% gratuity added, it was $28.75 for 6 beers or about $4.79 per beer, which is not a bad price for a cruise.
We wanted to try the specialty restaurants, so we booked the Tuscan Grill the first night. Price was $30 per person and very well worth it. We tried several of the items and everything was wonderfully prepared and very good, specifically the onion soup, the Kobe beef meatballs, the salmon, and the veal chops. I had a NY strip steak that was good, but not up to what I had in the Pinnacle Grill on the HAL Eurodam last year. We bought a nice bottle of Pinot Noir to have with our meal. Dessert was decadent as always. We tried the dark chocolate fondue, the tiramisu, and the pistachio crème Brule. This is definitely a wonderful specialty restaurant.
When we first got onboard, they tried to sell us a package deal, which would have given us dinner in all three specialty restaurants along with a bottle of wine in each for around $279. The price of the Tuscan Grill was $30 per person, Qsine was $35 per person, and Murano was $30 per person. Normally, for 2 people to do all three restaurants the cost would have been $190 without wine, so the package was a good deal for those wanting to enjoy all of these magnificent restaurants while enjoying some nice wine.
And speaking of wine, they have the greatest wine bar where you take a glass, your sail-n-sign card, and decide from the hundred bottles of wine which one you want to try. These are self-dispensing machines, some chilled, some not, where you decide whether you want a partial, half, or full glass of wine. It's very unique.
Also, they have a martini bar where the bar in front of you is frozen. Rather interesting to see the temporary messages and pictures people write in the ice.
Sunday, April 3
Being a day at sea, we slept late and didn't get up until 10:30am. We ordered a pot of coffee and really enjoyed sitting on the balcony watching the beautiful blue water. The one thing we really like about Celebrity is that there is no smoking in the cabins or on the balconies. While we've seen a couple of people smoking on the balconies, it wasn't a problem for us.
There are only two pools on the ship, but there are plenty of chairs around, especially in areas not near the pool. And all the lounge chairs have very nice thick pads, making them very comfortable. From what we saw, there were Celebrity employees designated to pick up towels from chairs where people aren't sitting and they seemed to be doing a good job of it as we did not hear any complaints from anyone searching for chairs.
We had lunch in the main dining room today and it was very good. Nancy had a Cobb salad and I had the shrimp scampi.
I purchased a WiFi package for $49.95 that provided me 90 minutes of computer time for my netbook. They tell me this is the first ship constructed with WiFi throughout built into it at the shipyard. I found service everywhere on the ship, albeit as slow as usual, it was a good strong signal.
Around 4:00pm we were passing by the NCL Epic - they left port about 45 minutes before us. One of the people watching them said it looked more like a building than a ship. We had to agree with that statement ? in fact, the top of the front section looked like it was a building still under construction! Very square lines and not appealing compared to the Eclipse.
We took a tour of the children?s area and it is relatively small with not a lot of activities compared to other similar size ships we've been on. This is definitely a ship for couples or those without families as there are not many amenities to keep children busy. Other than the pools and the lawn area for bocce or croquet, the only other amenity for them is a half-court basketball area and a very small video arcade. Although there was a nice teen area onboard where they could gather, in our opinion, teens would be rather bored on this ship.
The fitness area has saunas in the locker rooms, which are free to use, but the spa is the only place with steam baths, although there are charges for everything in this area.
The main thing about this ship is that it does not feel like a big ship. It?s 122,000 gross tons and has 2,850 passengers and even though it was almost sold out, we did not felt crowded or that we were on a ship of this size. The only time the size was obvious was walking back and forth to the dining room in the back from our cabin in the front. Needless to say, we don?t like cabins in the front!
Tonight was our first formal night. Since our suitcases were both right at the limit of 50 pounds each, I chose not to take a suit jacket or my dress shoes - just didn't have the space and didn't want to pay additional fees for another bag. Plus, I'm never crazy about wearing a suit anyway. When we arrived at the main dining room, they did not have any problems with me just wearing a shirt and tie, but I did see them ask a couple of guys to either put on a tie or wear a jacket as they had to have one or the other. Seeing as how it was Celebrity, it was a little surprising to see a lot of men either wearing jackets and no ties, or ties without jackets. Personally, I was comfortable with what I was wearing.
Monday, April 4th
Today we were in Grand Cayman, one of our favorite islands to visit. We woke up late as we did not want to hassle with the crowds trying to get onto the tenders. After we finished breakfast, which was around 10:00am, we headed down and found there was no line at all, so we were on our way within a short period. They have built a new pier since our last visit. This one is called the north pier, so it's a bit further away from the main part of the shopping area. We walked around to the left and found the scuba diving shop, where we got information about snorkeling and diving to pass along to our clients. We then headed for a bar that had free WiFi and I spent the next 2-1/2 hours on my computer and on the phone making resort reservations for a client and getting caught up on work. Afterwards, we did some snorkeling right off the dive pier in the same area where the shore excursions were snorkeling. Difference was, they paid $45 per person and we were doing it for free! We had planned to go to 7-mile beach, but time prevented us from going over there, so we just stayed closed to town, but it was fine. After snorkeling for a while, we headed to our favorite bar near the south pier and enjoyed some wonderful mojitos.
Tuesday, April 5th
We arrived in Cozumel to find another beautiful tropic day with lots of sun and smooth crystal clear blue water. We docked at the international pier and were happy to see how nicely they had recovered from the major hurricane a few years ago. We had planned to go down to Carlos 'n Charlies beach resort, but found that Senior Frogs had a place right beside the cruise pier with a really nice beach. So we just stayed right by the ship enjoying some great swimming and cold beer. Didn't need to go anywhere else as they had everything we wanted. We've been to Cozumel many times, so we have already done everything and bought everything several times over.
So far with this itinerary, our cabin, which was on the starboard side, was good for Grand Cayman, but not for Cozumel. We'll see how the rest of the cruise goes. (Note; turned out it really didn't make any difference for Costa Maya, and in Roatan it was nicer on the port side. So overall, a cabin on the port side enjoyed a better view than those on the starboard side for this particular itinerary.) Today, getting on and off the ship was very quick and easy - never a line. By comparison, there were two Carnival ships docked near us and they always had a long line to get on the ship. One thing we really liked is that Celebrity gives you some really nice heavy duty bath towels to take with you into port. When you come back to the ship, they have a nice ?welcome? area set up before you get on the ship where they provide a very cold face cloth and a cup of cold water along with a few beautifully padded chairs and couches, which is wonderful after spending a long hot day in port.
Wednesday, April 6th
Today we had planned ahead of time to visit the Maya Palms resort. This turned out to be a very good idea. The port of Costa Maya does not have a lot to offer basically just a bunch of shops, a big pool, and bars, but no beach. They have a pool for dolphins and it's really rather disgusting - way too small and the water is obviously too hot. Vendors like this should not be allowed to conduct business and passengers should be discouraged from using them - but that's just my personal opinion. When visiting Costa Maya, you really do have to plan for some type of excursion. There are places to rent golf carts and dune buggies, but we did not enquire as to the prices. We walked through the gambit of people trying to sell us stuff and made our way to the taxi stand. We asked how much and they wanted $40 each way. I was already told it should cost no more than $20 to get us to the resort, so after a short negotiation, we agreed on the reduced price and away we went.
It takes about 20 minutes to get to the resort. Along the way, we went through the town, which wasn't much, and passed several places where you could go to the beach and enjoy a bar. We had read several message boards recommending places in Majahual, but from what we saw, it's just not all that great, but fine for those not wanting to go far, do much, or not minding the crowd. They did have some bars on the beach with white sand, which were nice, but no real amenities. When we arrived at the resort, Mark was there to meet us and show us around the facility. There were only 12 guests staying there at the time and 11 of them were out on a scuba dive, so we basically had the place to ourselves. The resort is beautifully kept with lots of trees and flowers. They had a nice big fresh-water pool and a lovely white sandy beach. From what I read and what I got from divers, the scuba diving in this area is absolutely wonderful. I would have loved to give it a try, but alas, today was to be filled with drink, food, and just being lazy. Kathy & Doug have built a fantastic resort - it's American owned and operated by West End Divers, which also own and operate the Bonne Terre Mine diving operation in Missouri, so there?s an 800-number in the U.S. making it really easy to book and discuss options. Guests are asked what they like and don't like in the way of food, so they can accommodate everyone's needs. And I must say the food was outstanding, especially the fresh pico de gallo. Everything was made on the premises from fresh local supplies. We would really have liked to stay for dinner, which was a seasoned roast that looked delicious, but too bad we weren't going to be there that long. Dinner the following night was going to be a pig roast and sounded awesome. The staff is very attentive and always seeking to please the guests. In our mind, there was no other place we wanted to go and nothing we would have rather done while in Costa Maya than to visit this resort - truly a wonderful day. We would love to visit for a week and enjoy the fantastic hospitality, food, and diving. With only 12 rooms, the place would never be busy. Our day visit was $32 per person, which included unlimited alcohol and we paid the additional $10 for a great lunch consisting of typical Mexican fare. With the taxi, our day-long excursion was $120 for the two us. When you consider that most excursions run about $45 - $75 per person for a 3-hour adventure and usually don't include an unlimited bar and food, the price we paid for an outstanding all day adventure was fine with us.
Tonight on the ship we ate at Qsine. It's advertised as uniquely extraordinary and it truly is. It is a wonderful specialty restaurant with a charge of $35 per person but very well worth the price. There are 20 dishes offered and you can choose as few or as many as you want. They told us to try 6, but after 2-1/2 hours, we were only able to eat 5, plus dessert. I won't go into detail about it, but the food was awesome and you really have to try this remarkable restaurant.
Thursday, April 7th
Today we were in Roatan, Honduras. We weren't sure what to expect, but found this island to be wonderful. On the recommendation of our daughter, who visited here on a cruise in January, we reserved a zip line tour through Shore Trips before we left. We walked off the ship and easily found the kiosk where we boarded a minivan and were driven about 25 minutes away to the zip line company on the top of a mountain. It was a total of about 2 miles long with about 8 stops. The total price for the excursion was $58 per person, but this also included a stop at the beach for a few hours and a free drink at the bar. The beach was amazing with beautiful white sand and clear blue waters. We found Dive Connections, a dive shop that rents snorkeling gear for about $15. They also had lockers and a fresh water shower for us to use. The snorkeling was absolutely the best I've ever seen! The coral reef was sometimes only a foot below the water, making it as close to a scuba dive as a snorkeler can get. My wife loved it and I loved showing her the world that is normally reserved for divers 45 to 85 feet underwater. We would love to come back for a visit sometime, as there are some lovely resorts and the beaches are awesome. They say this is the second largest reef system next to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, so it would be a wonderful place to do some scuba diving.
Onboard the ship, they were offering ½ off the price of internet packages today, so I bought another one for $29.95 that was now $15 for a total of 50 minutes. Internet connection is never cheap or quick on cruise ships, that's for sure!
Tonight was our second formal night and we had steak and lobster for dinner. As with the rest of the food, it was great.
Friday, April 8th
Today was a day at sea. This itinerary was nice in that the first day was at sea, giving us time to relax before spending 4 days in port, followed by the last day at sea, giving us time to recover after all those days in port.
We were invited to the Captain's Club party for past guests in the afternoon where we enjoyed live music by the show band and some of the performers on the ship. The food and alcoholic drinks were very good as always.
Since we're not the type to hang around the pool or participate in a lot of the functions, we spent the day relaxing on our balcony and watching a couple of movies while enjoying our own private cocktail party.
Saturday, April 9th
We chose the early departure as we were flying standby and the first flight was at 9:00am. They told us to be at the theater at 6:30am, but we didn't get off the ship until 8:00am. The process was not handled very well and information was lacking. Once we got off the ship, we got through customs and out to the taxi stand pretty quickly. Although there was a line of about 30 people, it didn't take more than 10 minutes for us to get a taxi. Price to the airport from the pier is $25 for the cab for up to 4 people and took about 15 minutes.
We got to the airport and only had about 40 minutes before our flight. There was only one person handling the United Airlines ticket counter and she was very slow. After about 10 minutes of watching her take care of one person, we knew we were not going to make the flight. Since we were flying standby, our chances of making that flight were very slim anyway as the manifest showed it was overbooked. I had looked at availability the night before and found the only other one available would be at 6:30pm and the chances on that one weren't guaranteed either. We thought about renting a car and driving to Orlando as they had a flight at about 6:30pm and there were plenty of seats available. But the more we thought about it, the more we figured we'd just rent a car and drive to Jacksonville to visit our daughter, her husband, and our 2-year old grandson for a few days. She's in the Navy and will be leaving in a few weeks on a 6-month deployment, so it was well-worth the 6-hour drive and turned out to be a wonderful decision as we thoroughly enjoyed our unplanned 5-day stay with them.
Overall, this cruise was absolutely wonderful! This was our 40th cruise and, as I mentioned in the beginning, we would rank this as #2 on our all-time favorite list. Everything was magnificent; the ship, the food, and the staff could not have been better. The only thing we weren't real crazy about was the bed. While it was nice and everyone we talked to found it comfortable, it was a bit hard for us as we're use to sleeping on a waterbed. And even after getting an egg-crate foam topper, we still found it harder than we prefer. We were on the brand new Allure of the Seas in January and their beds had 2" of memory foam on top of their mattresses, making them very nice. Wished Celebrity had gone this route.
The live entertainment was wonderful during the entire cruise, but we found the shows to be just mediocre.
The itinerary was very nice and, while we've been to Cozumel and Grand Cayman many times, we did this itinerary for the purpose of seeing Costa Maya and Roatan for the first time. We were happy we chose a nice resort for the day in Costa Maya because otherwise, this is not a port we would like to see again. Roatan, on the other hand, was wonderful and we were really glad we finally got the opportunity to visit this beautiful island. So overall, we really enjoyed the itinerary.
We loved this entire cruise and would highly recommend Celebrity and the Solstice-class ships to anyone wanting a more upscale experience. However, with that said, we found the children's programs a bit lacking compared to other cruise lines. For younger children, they would find it fine, but the older children would find the ship devoid of activities for their age group, especially tweens and teens. This is definitely a ship for those who love good food and good service on a beautiful ship and we found it perfect for our mature sedate lifestyle, but active children may find it a bit boring for their tastes.
Cruise Planners, Inc.
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