Sailing from Southampton, Embarkation was very straightforward and, importantly, fast. Parking could have been explained better (from ABP, not Celebrity) because, as it differed from the parking offered at the Ocean Terminal for Queen Mary 2, I was a little confused at times, but generally followed the crowd. You drop baggage off (which, at 11am, there was a bit of a queue for), then either park at the terminal, or park further away and get a shuttle bus back. We had terminal parking included with our fare which was great (especially when disembarking!)
Security came first (which there was no queue for at all), then check-in. This is divided up by stateroom number range, and there are loads of desks at the City Cruise Terminal, so very little waiting around. After checking in we were told we could board immediately. The whole process from arriving at the dock to boarding Eclipse, took little more than 30 minutes.
We were welcomed on board with a glass of bubbly (pre-noon drinking… we were on holiday I suppose…) and invited to explore the ship and use the services while cabins were being prepared. We got access at around 14:00.
We were in cabin 7219, which is a ‘Deluxe Veranda Stateroom’, located on the port side of the aft hump, facing forward. The location of this cabin was outstanding, being right next to the main lobby and lift banks, but shielded from the regular grand foyer entertainment by automatically sliding glass doors.
Being on the ‘hump’ of the ship (the bit that sticks out) we had a wonderful oversized balcony which would have been especially good on a warmer itinerary. This particular cabin had the bed by the balcony doors. Store is ample, with double sliding wardrobes, lots of small drawers, and larger cupboards over the bed. The storage over the bed could be a little tricky for someone who was less mobile, as they’re quite high and the easiest way to access them is to stand on the bed!
The cabin was clean and beautifully furnished. There is a small writing desk, coffee table and sofa. We had a 32″ LCD television on the wall that faced the sofa, but could be tilted out to face the bed (albeit at an angle). There was a safe, large enough for most portable electronics and important documents, as well as a private bar that is well stocked by your stateroom attendant. Ice was always kept stocked in a bucket on the counter, and a bottle of tempting Evian was provided for our enjoyment and convenience (conveniently charged to your on board account if you open or consume).
The bathroom was absolutely outstanding. Having sailed fairly few times (last year on QM2 being the first) I was shocked to discover that cruise ship cabin bathrooms are not the palatial spaces that I’d come to expect from land-hotels, but are actually rather compact! The Bathroom on Eclipse was actually fairly spacious, with more storage than I can ever imagine using, and a shower with a glass door! That’s right, folks, no more sticky shower curtains! I later discovered that, when designing the bathrooms (a job typically done by men, believe it or not) they also got women involved to ensure it was suitable for them too, which is why there is a mysterious, diagonal bar at knee height in the corner of the shower. This is seemingly for ladies to easily shave their legs. They really did think of everything.
The balcony, which was excessively large, had good quality wooden and metal furniture and had fantastic views to the side and front of the ship. Being on the forward facing slope of the hump, views to the rear of the ship are a little more tricky.
Celebrity Eclipse is a stunning ship, and very clean and tidy in every corner we looked. Most of the public spaces are teeming with art of many styles, which makes the ship very pleasant. There are a number of different styles going on, and the ship, as a whole, isn’t so ultra-modern and stark as I had read elsewhere.
Bars like The Ensemble Lounge are dark, atmospheric, comfortable, and the home to frequent live music. Being the gateway to the speciality restaurants, they’re perfect for a pre-dinner drink and entertainment.
The Sky Observation Lounge, located fully forward at the top of the ship, has sweeping panoramic windows offering guests outstanding views of the ocean. Surprisingly we never had any great trouble finding a seat here, although we did tend to arrive early and read for a while before sailaways. The only complaint I have about the Sky Observation Lounge is that it’s the home to the Captain’s Club events, which are held frequently on Eclipse and, I assume, all Celebrity Vessels. The times and locations of these gatherings are not listen in Celebrity Today, making it difficult to know you’ll be asked to leave at some point during your relaxing afternoon. These events vary in attendees. For ‘Elite’ only events, only the starboard portion of the lounge was closed. This was actually quite good, as the ‘private event’ banner kept the rest of the lounge quiet too. Events for all Captains Club members involved closure of the entire lounge. This is where everyone would be asked to leave, and really left a bitter taste in ones mouth.
The Grand Foyer can be described as nothing else. On deck three (the bottom deck, effectively) there is live entertainment and dancing at various points throughout the day. This is flanked on either side by a bank of three glass lifts stretching right to the top of the ship. About half way up is a huge bubble in which a real tree is planted – very spectacular. On some levels, overlooking the foyer, are 2-deck high spaces such as the Library (not particularly quiet), Team Earth (I don’t know what this space is, other than the meeting place of Friends of Bill W.), and the Card Room (with leather topped tables and a reasonable supply of decks of cards and board games). On deck 6, also overlooking the foyer but enclosed in glass, is the Celebrity iLounge, home to Apple-centric sessions and internet access, as well as your place to buy various Apple goods at tax-free prices, offering considerable savings on the UK prices.
For pool lovers there are two main areas. An outside area with two pools, four hot tubs and ample deck chairs (including many under the shade of the balcony above). There’s also an indoor, adults-only area called the Solarium, which has a pool and two hot tubs. There are lots of alternative seating, such as the two-person cabanas and the two-person hammocks, both looking out to sea. You have to be an early riser to secure one of these though, as they disappear fast. Leave one unattended for more than 30 minutes, and your belongings will be whisked away to make room for someone else – a policy that seemed to be enforced while we were on board.
Finally, one cannot review a Solstice-class ship without mentioning the outdoor spaces. These are fantastic, including the lawn club – a large patch of well tended real grass where one can enjoy numerous deck games and putting. Unfortunately we didn’t get much use out of this, or the outdoor pool area, as the weather wasn’t great.
There are, honestly, too many spaces to discuss in detail. Suffice it to say that all are beautifully decorated.
We had the pleasure of trying almost all of the dining Celebrity has to offer.
The main dining room (Moonlight Sonata) is a modern, two-level affair with towering, white, rib-like pillars and the imposing glass tower of wine. It’s an impressive room, although we were at a table for two off to the side, near a window. The room can be transformed with colour-changing LED strips adorning the walls and ceiling. Food in Moonlight Sonata was largely excellent. Bread was delivered and replenished regularly, and served with butter, cream cheese, and tomato hummus. Service was brisk and efficient, although on one occasion I had finished my started before we had been served any wine. This seemed like a one-off however, as on all other nights our three man team of Robert (waiter), William (assistant waiter) and Jaison (sommelier) were outstanding, and seemed to work seamlessly together.
Tuscan Grill is an Italian (well… Italian-American) style steakhouse. The food here was excellent in quality, but overwhelming in quantity which definitely detracted from the experience. The restaurant is fairly light and airy and benefits from a fantastic position at the rear of the ship on deck 5. We were seating by one of the windows at the rear and very much enjoyed watching the sun set on our first night aboard. Definitely American-sized portions and fantastic, well cooked steak. We wont go back, purely because of the portion size, but for those with big appetites it should be an enjoyable experience.
Qsine is a tapas style culinary adventure with many small(er) international dishes designed to share in a tapas-style experience. You’ll be guided through the iPad menu by your culinary guide (waiter) who will entertain you and tell you a little about each dish. Some dishes involved a DIY element (such as the Tacos that have DIY guacamole) but this adds to the fun. Absolutely fine to do alone, although would be better in a larger group as you can try more things without exploding. Food was good to very good (the spring rolls, served in springs; and the lava crap were particular highlights) and the presentation is wonderful and fun. We’d go back purely to try everything we didn’t get to try this time round!
Murano is a contemporary French restaurant, and it the most intimate restaurant on board. Forget the sea-views, this is a dark, atmospheric and very moody restaurant with outstanding food (table side prepared lobster was great) and service. You can choose from the a la carte menu or, for an additional supplement on top of the original cover charge, you can have a tasting menu with paired wines. The food from the tasting menu is the same as that from the a la carte menu, but you get more courses and less choice (two per course). Between each course a palate cleanser was served. An excellent experience, and this is one restaurant we will be back to the next time we sail.
Bistro on Five is a perfect spot for lunch, and with a $5 cover charge per person, it’s affordable yet not crowded. Food is primarily crepes, although soup, paninis and non-crepe deserts are also available. When we first went we assumed this was a one-course, light lunch, but we were encouraged to eat as much as we wanted, our server offering additional ‘main courses’ before desert. We visited Bistro on Five three times on this cruise, and will certainly go again as the food is wonderful (try the Cowboy, which is great).
The Buffet restaurant on Eclipse is called the Oceanview Cafe, and has seating for 1,000 guests, including a small outdoor area which wasn’t heavily used on this cruise. The food is fresh and of good quality, although the selection at dinner was a bit worse than I expected having mainly eaten here at breakfast and lunch. There is a bar available for paid-for drinks, but vending machines will serve you tea, coffee, lemonade (American, not ‘sprite’) various fruit juices and fruit punch – plenty of choice!
OK, that’s enough about food… I’ve just had breakfast and I’m making myself hungry!
The entertainment on Eclipse was varied and fairly impressive. There were three productions shows which were very well put together, including a west-end / show tunes medley. As someone who enjoys plays and musicals, I’d love to have seen a longer ‘proper’ show be put on, but understand the time limits that they have for these shows. I wont dwell too much on the specific acts, as they will undoubtedly change from time to time, but the cast were very good.
The guest entertainers we had on board were comedy magician Neal Austin, who was very funny in a self-deprecating sort of way; and ‘Virtuoso of Variety’ Davie Howes. Both were very good, and I’d recommend them if you see them on a future cruise.
More staple Eclipse entertainment includes Perry the Pianist, regularly found in the Sky Observation Lounge of an evening; Top Shelf A Cappella group (absolutely outstanding and should be featured more often in bars and lounges) and Bel Canto string trio (who are talented performers, but not so good at audience interaction). All of these can be thoroughly recommended.
Finally, Sue Denning was our cruise director and has a long history in show business and on board Celebrity ships. She was ever-present and very friendly, although it’s clear that she is worked VERY hard. The farewell show featured her heavily in singing and comedy capacities. I found her quite entertaining, but her attempts to get the sparse audience involved in singing and her humour didn’t seem to go down well (what a miserable bunch!) which was a shame, as with a better crows it could have been riotous! Very personable and she clearly runs the entertainment on Eclipse with passion and excellence.
We also had a chance to hear from two of the Behind the Podium speakers. These will surely change from cruise to cruise (ours was related to the Fjords and the process of glaciation), but I take from this that Celebrity tend to get engaging and light hearted speakers, so if you want to learn something while on holiday, these sessions are fairly short and highly recommended.
I mentioned service briefly above in my discussion of the dining, but the overall service on the ship was absolutely great. In addition to our team in the MDR, one person really stood out for us; Lundi, a waiter in the Sky Observation Lounge, was very friendly and went beyond serving drinks with a smile. He would always ask about your day, he remembered your face and was very chatty and friendly. And he made the best Amaretto Sour on Eclipse…
The only issue I had which was quite upsetting was the number of people who referred to my partner as Madame. My partner is a man, and while he has longer (above shoulder length) hair, is quite clearly male. This tended to happen when he was approached from the back, and they saw he was sitting with another man. I could have excused this once (mistakes happen) but this happened regularly in the same venues. Most people wont have this issue, but most of the staff didn’t even apologise and just shuffled off with a red-face.
Other than this, isolated issue, the service was great and we look forward to being welcomed back on to Eclipse in the future!