Into the Fjords with the Eclipse
Embarkation We went down to Southampton the day before and stayed in a hotel right by Gate 8, for a swift and easy embarkation. Sadly we had notification a couple of days before we set off that the Boat Show preparations meant that Gate 8 (the normal gate) was closed and now we had to go to Gate 10, which was half a mile away. Also, while the weather expected in the UK was warm and generally good, the fjords could expect the remnants of a tropical storm. As it turned out the walk (with suitcases) wasn’t bad and the weather in Norway (although misty on the sea days) was both a reasonable temperature, sunny to dull and no rain (thank goodness). Embarkation was a dream, walked through check-in and security (coats and shoes off – and back on again) and onto the ship, so sitting drinking a cappuccino (free Classic Drinks Package) by 11:30, which was the time we were due on! Stateroom ready just after one while the suitcases arrived about the same time we cast off. So a very good start! (On the way back just as easy, walked off with the minimum of fuss, picked up the cases and arrived at the station in time to catch the train an hour earlier than we expected) The Ship It was our first time on Celebrity, although we had cruised with Ocean Village (great), P&O Ventura (dire) and Royal Caribbean ( Voyager(v good), Adventure (v good), Liberty (excellent) & Legend(not as good) ) before so these were used as a yardstick to judge the Eclipse. Although the design of Eclipse is similar to Legend/Ventura with a central atrium it had a much more open feel to it, which we liked. The public rooms (bars, cafes & theatre) are very well appointed with good quality furniture to relax into. The stateroom was Concierge class, not something we would normally go for but as it was (almost) the same price as other balcony cabins we treated ourselves), was well appointed and there was a bottle of sparkling wine and fruit waiting when we arrived. The food was refreshed each day and we could have had hors d’oeuvres each day, but having seen the selection on the first day we opted out. To be honest, although the idea is nice, we would have far preferred a couple of chocolates, assorted nuts, cheese and biscuits, the selection of hors d’oeuvres we got were very unappetising! The cabin itself seemed spacious (although the selection of pillows meant that the spares had to be piled on the sofa), a good-sized balcony and the bathroom the best we’d had on any ship – super! The shower was spacious and a proper shower, not the tray-and-curtain affair that we endured on Legend! People The staff both in the main dining room, stateroom attendant and around the ships were friendly and attentive, around the same standard as Royal Caribbean and a pleasure to get to know. They were much more attentive to things like table clearing, spillages and hand hygiene than on Legend and overall kept the ship looking at its best. I guess that most on board had a drinks package included as the bars and café were packed most of the time and the staff, although hard-worked, kept smiling and working so hard. A minor niggle was that each staff member had their own way of doing things so that, for example, a Coffee Frappe was completely different each time we had it, and we heard that the same occurred with cocktails too. Food The Oceanview (breakfast/midday) restaurant has good seating, not too packed in but does get busy especially on sea days. Having said that we managed to be seated every time we went up without too much trouble and the selection of food was excellent and well cooked too. The restaurant has panoramic windows so the views, especially while in the fjords were really amazing. The food in the main restaurant was from two menus, the menu of the day and the classic. The day’s menu was posted outside the main dining room but not the classic. This was a pity as the classic menu wasn’t static but cycled through three ‘standard’ selections and unless you knew what the day’s selection was it was difficult to choose if you wanted the MDR or perhaps Oceanview or one of the speciality venues that evening. The day’s menu was designed (I think) to be inventive, in that the dishes served departed for expectation in the same way that reality TV amateur chefs try and put a ‘twist’ on the meals. This lead us (after a couple of mistakes) to opt for the Classic dishes. As an example I order dishes with roast potatoes twice, the first time a got two (rather leathery) potato wedges and the second four ¼ inch cubes of oven-roasted potato. Luckily there were a number of side dishes one could select from the classic, so we used those to produce a more balanced meal. The food was generally cooked to a fairly high standard – pity about the menu, although the sweets were something of a disappointment (although by that time we were normally full so no problem). We were only on the Eclipse for eight days and so only visited a speciality restaurant once and chose Qsine. Here you select four or five mini-courses using an iPad and they are delivered to your table one after another. We had Sushi lollypops to start, these were great looking, but we aren’t (it turned out) great sushi fans, so we probably won’t have them next time. The curry selection was great and the filet mignon was divine but the Chinese selection we rated as ‘nothing special’. We wished we’d gone for the Turkish kebab (which the next table had chosen) it looked superb (and noted as a ‘must have’ next time). Sweets were delicious but by that stage we were full and needed a couple of turns round the top deck to walk it off. Overall it was an amazing and delicious experience. Entertainment The theatre was packed each night and so early attendance was a must. Because of out meal-time we were mostly late and had to stand at the back. The seats were comfortable and the quality of the ships entertainment team was high, so much so that I stayed and watched a lot more than I would have done on other cruises. There were also some special acts such as Tenors of Rock and Toni Warne (from the Voice), comedians, conjurors etc. and the ones that we watched were again a very high standard. The ship also has the ‘Hot Glass Show’ run by the Cornel Museum of Glass. It sounds a bit boring but wasn’t and people would sit up on the top deck in the wind (remember we’re in the fjords) and be spellbound for the whole show. I certainly enjoyed and look forward to watching it again on a future cruise. Destinations Bergen Nice town with interesting street stalls down at the waterside but the prices! £15 for a small bowl of fish soup! Flam Up into the mountains on the world’s steepest railway, fantastic views and cliffs, forests, waterfalls, lakes and gorges. Not to be missed Geranger An idyllic fjord, quiet and almost lake-side location. We had a peaceful walk around the edge of the fjord. It was magic Alesund We had a guided walk around the town that had been rebuilt after a disastrous fire. Quite nice but overall not that breathtaking. Stavanger A lovely place with interest shops/stalls, a lagoon and really well maintained old town with beautiful gardens and flowers. Overall Overall a very good cruise although having done the fjords once I don’t expect we will be revisiting them for a few years. The ship itself and the crew did impress us and we plan to cruise with Celebrity again. In fact we have booked for a cruise on Eclipse for next year which, I think, says it all!
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