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Review of the Celebrity Eclipse
Cruise Date: July 2011
Booking: Cruise Line
Cabin category: (optional)
Celebrity Eclipse Ship Visit
We were luckily enough to be invited by Celebrity to have a tour with lunch on board Celebrity Eclipse on Saturday 30th July while she was in Southampton on "turn around" day after getting back from the Baltic and before sailing for the Mediterranean. Having booked to sail on Equinox in January we were really interested in having a nose around the Sister of our ship.
We decided to stay at the new Premier Inn West Quay the night before the tour to save getting up at 4am to drive from Norwich ? although this is supposed to be a review of Eclipse I would wholeheartedly recommend this new Premier Inn if anyone is looking for a pre or post cruise hotel - as long as you don?t require parking whilst on the cruise. (The hotel has an arrangement with the West Quay Multi-storey car park behind it with 24 hours parking costing £5.00 - however we parked in the long stay open air car park across the road which was free from 6pm until 8am. We were leaving for the ship around 8.45am so just put a ticket on for an hour at 8am - £1.10 for an hour.)
Having literally moved the car across the road from the hotel we were in the terminal for 9am. At 9.30am we were taken through thorough but swift passport and security checks to the Departure Lounge where Celebrity provided free tea/coffee and magazines along with a complimentary Celebrity Bag containing brochures and details of onboard packages. I?d been expecting hundreds of people to be joining us for our tour however there were only 72 of us, 6 groups of 12 colour coded by lanyards into groups! Our group consisted of some Cruise Virgins who?d won their spaces in a competition to seasoned cruisers both veteran Celebrity customers and those new to Celebrity. All in all a good mix of people all able to pass on their experiences to the ?newbies?. By 10am we were onboard to be met by a welcoming glass of orange juice ? shame it wasn?t the usual champagne.
First impressions of Eclipse were very good; we entered through the Entertainment Court and although it?s an impressive area it felt slightly lacking in the WOW factor. However what is isn?t lacking in is elegance and refinement. Carrying on through the Galleria Boutiques, Galleria Tastings and Art Gallery we visited the Café Al Bacio, overlooking the stunning Grand Foyer, through to the Ensemble Lounge, the old world charm of Michael?s Club before stopping off in the Speciality Restaurants (Murano with its beautiful private dining room ? The Wine Room, Qsine, Tuscan Grill and Blu). All had samples of food on offer which has tempted me to try them on Equinox (although we will have Silk Harvest instead of Qsine) ? I?m definitely going to be trying for a place in The Wine Room!
Doubling back on ourselves we went down a deck to the Grand Foyer. Again it has a totally different feel from any other ship I?ve been on, stepping back from the over the top features of many another cruise ship and sticking with the elegance and refinement ? feeling much more like a 5 Star hotel ? I think this is why some people, including me feels she lacks a little bit of the WOW factor! However saying that I?m smitten!
The Grand Foyer rises all the way up and has tons of natural light flooding in and is overlooked by the glass elevators. About half way up is the ?floating? tree ? that does make you go WOW! The stairwells on each deck also look over the Grand Foyer giving a sense of space and of course loads of natural light ? it was impressive on an overcast drizzly day so I can?t wait for a hot sunny Caribbean day!
Anyway the visit continued via the Martini (Ice Bar) and Crush Bar, Cellar Masters (I?ll definitely be sampling some of the wines on offer there by the glass ? several I recognised and could never afford by the bottle in a restaurant!!), through the understated casino, Shops on the Boulevard, to the night club Quasar ? I felt like I was in an Austin Powers movie! Next stop was the spectacular Solstice Theatre. Although it felt smaller than some theatres I?ve been on board ships it does span 3 levels ? I think you?d have to be careful where you sit as there were several posts! Rehearsals were about to start but unfortunately we didn?t get to see any of the Cirque du Soleil style show. After reading reviews on here it seems to not have the same support as other ship?s set piece productions ? however I?m genuinely looking forward to seeing it.
Next we had a very quick ride in the elevator, up 10 decks to the Lido Deck where we explored the Mast Bar and Grill, Oceanview Café and Bar ? there has been criticisms of the layout of the Oceanview Café, I personally have to say on first glance it looked like it was fit for purpose. By this time ?paying? guests were on board and taking full advantage of the café. The food looked of a high quality with a very varied selection available. The Dessert and Ice-Cream stations are going to be visited a fair bit by me I think in January!! Although there weren?t any trays there were plenty of servers to help you to a table with your food! I suppose breakfast will be the test of whether I think the café and its layout and seating works!
From the Oceanview Bar (with its impressive view down over the stern) which I think is a great addition to the Oceanview Café we ascended up to the Sunset Bar and Lawn Club. I was dubious about the Lawn Club thinking the space could have been better utilised however I have to admit I was impressed by it and actually am looking forward to sitting out on the grass at night with a cocktail watching the stars go by! (I think however when Eclipse, Equinox and Solstice come in for a refit Celebrity would be wise to think about replacing the Hot Glass Show with the Lawn Club Grill, The Alcoves and The Porch ? although I haven?t seen either the new facilities or the Hot Glass Show I think it would make the whole area much more user friendly.)
We then went via the Lido Deck back to the front (is that the an oxymoron?) of the ship to the beautiful Sky Observation Lounge? although a wonderful lounge with stunning views over the bow this is where my major negative point of Eclipse (and I suppose the Solstice Class Ships) comes in? I?m not anti smoking at all ? each to their own - however smoking is allowed on one side of the Observation Lounge but the minute you walk into it you are hit by the smell of stale smoke! After only a couple of minutes in there I had to leave as I started to get a headache and feel sick! I personally think smoking could have been allowed in one of the smaller bars elsewhere ? Celebrity Central for example, or they should take a leaf out of Princesses book and have a small enclosed smoking lounge. I really think it unfair to ?waste? this lounge like this ? especially when a lot of the children?s clubs activities take place in here according to our guide!
Next stops were the Fitness Centre and AquaSpa where we stopped off in the Persian Garden ? although this is intended to be exclusively for AquaSpa guests you can pay a supplement to be allowed to use it ? however at about £100 per cruise I feel this is a little excessive ? especially as this is the only steam room available on the ship ? saunas are available in the relevant changing rooms Not having access to a steam room is a first for me on a cruise ship ? one feature I will miss but it?s not worth £100 to me!
We then started our descent back through the ship via the ?private? staircase from the AquaSpa to the AquaSpa staterooms stopping off at various categories of stateroom on our way down. First stop was to one of the two stunning Penthouse Suites. I have to say I would be happy with one of these suites if for the bathroom alone! The lounge/dining room/kitchen area was designed for entertaining fellow guests and would really work even having a guest bathroom! The bedroom was adequate but I think the bathroom with twin basins, spa bath, separate toilet and bidet and combined walk in shower and steam room was truly wonderful! It also had to be bigger than the bedroom! Next was a Royal Suite; again very impressive entertaining areas however the bedroom was really small! You would have trouble passing your travelling companion whilst walking around the bed!
Next was a Concierge Stateroom (which is what we?ve booked); although the same as any other balcony cabin onboard it comes with additional benefits. An adequate cabin but a lot smaller than the mini suite onboard Princess that I am used to ? I had expected it (in my minds eye) to be about the same size as this. The seating area felt very narrow and I worry about space when the sofa bed is in use ? as it will be with us with 3 sharing a stateroom ? there wasn?t much drawer space either! There was plenty of that under the bed though to store suitcases and other bits. Other people on the tour said they had cruised with 3 in one of these staterooms and it worked ok ? also there were 13 of us in there!! Time will tell! However I have to remember you don?t live in your stateroom! What the room does have going for it is the large bathroom with glass shower surround rather than the usual shower curtain and tons of storage space. Like the rest of the ship the staterooms felt modern and elegant - others I've stayed in, even on new ships, felt a bit dated.
Lastly we had a look at Oceanview and Internal Staterooms; the Oceanview was the same layout as that with a balcony however the internal had the head of the bed where the French Doors or window would be in other rooms and felt the most spacious of them all! I?d be tempted if it wasn?t for the fact it didn?t have a balcony!
We were now, very nearly at the end of our tour and had been on board for over 3 hours. It was time for lunch and we were ushered into the Moonlight Sonata Restaurant (MDR) for lunch. We?d moved from an Austin Powers movie into a James Bond villain?s secret lair! I wanted a WOW and boy did I get one in here! I?ve read reviews complaining the food on Celebrity isn?t the same as it used to be ? I can only say how impressed I was ? we had a 4 course lunch including the best piece of beef I?ve had for years! It literally fell to bits under my fork! If this isn?t what it used to be I can only imagine how the standards have slips!
I have to say the day has cemented my choice of moving from Princess to Celebrity and if my holiday in January was as good as my day on board Eclipse then I might not be going back! Eclipse is a beautiful ship with a very modern and contemporary feel about her, the staff were friendly (everyone stopped and said good morning); the service was slick - I know they knew we were on board as potential customers but the seasoned Celebrity customers said this was normal. Eclipse might be lacking that initial WOW factor and is possibly not the prettiest ship from the outside but she is stunning and as I said refined and elegant so I can?t wait to get on Equinox in January!!
No real negatives to report, apart from allowing smoking in the Sky Observation Lounge the only other disappointment with the day was being MADE to get off! We disembarked about 2.30pm.
Pictures of the day are available at http://www.cruise.co.uk/cruise-photos/celebrity-cruises/photos/album-1910/
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