This review is almost word-for-word the same review as I wrote on another well-known cruise forum, so apologies if you've read it twice. This was our first time on the Eclipse and 3rd time on Celebrity (Equinox and Millennium before).
We found that mainly this was a wonderful cruise, with a nice mix of people onboard and great staff – also helped by the stunning weather for the whole fortnight and an exceptional itinerary.
Here are a few observations based on our experience of the cruise:
Embarkation was swift and easy, partly helped by the lack of lines for Aqua.
I had read previous reviews saying that there wasn’t a very friendly atmosphere on the ship but I have to say we didn’t find this at all, there was a nice atmosphere and officers were often in evidence around the ship (although we never saw the captain). I wonder if the change may be in some part to the very excellent Sue Denning who is certainly one of the best Cruise Directors we’ve encountered on any cruise.
This was our first time in Aqua Class and we really enjoyed the experience – particularly Blu which provided, with very few exceptions, excellent dinner choices. Service was impeccable. We also liked a number of other Aqua amenities which we hadn’t particularly thought about – such as the wonderful shower and the very nice towels and robes. The only thing which may stop me booking Aqua again is the position of the cabins – either under the overhang or under the gym. We’re fans of aft cabins and did miss our aft balcony.
We also ate in Qsine twice and Murano once. The vibe in Qsine wasn’t quite as wacky as Millennium and I like the space on Millennium better, but we enjoy the variation and have finally learned not to over-order. Murano, whilst very nice, didn’t seem to have quite the same atmosphere or food quality as on Equinox – partly spoiled by the loudest woman I have ever heard whose voice made conversation on any table around her almost impossible. The staff were clearly embarrassed and offered to move us, unfortunately we didn’t take them up on the offer and my abiding memory of Murano is not the food or service but the many times we exchanged looks with other diners as if to say ‘I can’t believe this is happening’.
Another observation about the speciality restaurants is that they never seemed anywhere close to full on any night hence, I would think, why there were always special offers to be had – particularly at Qsine. We were offered 30% off as we boarded the ship after one port day and then 50% if we dined there again.
Selection and quality of food in the Seaview Café was the best of any of our Celebrity cruises.
Wifi was the best of any cruise we've done - strong and fast signal anywhere we tried to use it on the ship.
With one exception we felt that the Guest Entertainers were first class – maybe not always our choice in music, but very good at what they did and the Production shows were of a very high standard. Other entertainment was also very good: particularly Top Shelf (the Acapella group). We felt the pool would have benefitted with some Caribbean music during the day, this is probably the first ship we’ve been on which didn’t have live entertainment around the pool, instead they had a DJ who didn’t play a particularly exciting selection. As for noise levels, on the first few sea days the music around the pool was far too loud but someone must have taken notice of complaints as it quietened down after that. I can’t say I noticed particularly loud music around the ship, although I found the Jazz quartet too loud for the Ensemble lounge, perhaps because it’s not my taste in music. On the other hand the guitarist/singer who played in there was really good and ideal for that space.
We don’t tend to participate in many activities onboard so can’t really comment, although there did seem to be very few activities on the pool deck. Those we spoke to, who had seen them, enjoyed the guest speakers and there certainly seemed to be plenty of people enjoying dancing in the centrum and at the themed parties.
We chose this cruise for the itinerary, which was very port intensive for a Caribbean cruise – 8 ports in 14 days. We enjoyed all the ports and did our own thing in each, except for the Honeymoon and Christmas Cove snorkelling excursion in St Thomas, which we thoroughly enjoyed. It wasn’t on the schooner ‘Bones’ – as advertised – but on a catamaran. Having seen the schooner we all agreed we were glad to be on the cat
Pool butlers did their job collecting towels around the ship but were hesitant to take belongings. On the first sea day (on deck 14) we saw many sunbeds saved for hours without anyone using them whilst poor people wandered around with towels looking for somewhere to sit. We were also disappointed to see the number of people who would take 2 beds in the shade under the awning and 2 in the sun. The latter sea days didn’t seem quite so busy, perhaps because people found many spare beds on the higher decks. Having said that, the loungers are so crammed in together that it’s difficult not to take an extra lounger just for somewhere to put your belongings. I realise it’s a contentious issue but I really think that the way the sunloungers are squeezed in so close together when there’s such a huge (barely used) space on the lawn isn’t one of Celebrity’s best design decisions.
Another contentious issue is that of Elite vouchers. We were really pleased that due to the number of Elite guests onboard we were issued with vouchers in lieu of the Elite function – at least that’s what we thought. We were surprised that a private Elite function still took place every night between 5 and 7 in the Sky lounge, in addition to 3 vouchers each. I’m guessing that the number of Elites onboard put pressure on for their own ‘special’ event. From our point of view (as late diners and without any desire to dress up at 5pm) the elite vouchers worked well. We didn’t notice any particular extra pressure on the bars, we usually used our vouchers at the pool bar or mast bar or just before the 7pm show in the theatre.
The eagerly-anticipated daily Zumba classes only happened during the last few days. This was a disappointment to me as the previous few cruises had zumba teachers for the whole cruise and because, as usual, the choice of free exercise classes was woeful – stretching at 7am and Abs at 7.30am on sea days only !! The Zumba teacher, who was very good, didn’t board the ship until Aruba but said he would be onboard for 6 months, so it seems we were the cruise who missed out
Casino – not very lively, with not particularly friendly staff – a real lack of atmosphere and the tables were very quiet on some nights. Whilst I don’t play the tables my husband does and he’s had some very enjoyable nights where he’s met some great people and had a good time with the staff. I think this really does depend on the casino manager – on this cruise we don’t even know who the casino manager was.
As has been posted already, many times, debarkation wasn’t great, although as UK citizens we’ve come to expect to have to stand in line for a long time whenever entering the US. This time US citizens experienced the same thing. One hour from leaving the ship to emerging out of the terminal was pretty good going on past experience getting into US ports, although I understand that those who got off later experienced longer delays. I don’t see how Celebrity can be blamed for the lack of port officials though.
All in all this turned out to be one of our favourite cruises due to a combination of ship, ports, weather and a friendly and mixed bunch of nationalities and friendly guests onboard.