Sunday, February 26, 2012

Review: Celebrity Eclipse – Feb 11-18, 2012

By TravelGirl:

It's been awhile since our last blog entry, but TravelGuy and TravelGirl have been busy with...well...traveling and enjoying a new life in South Florida.  Here is a review of our latest cruise --

This was our second cruise on Celebrity, first on an S-Class ship, and was a celebration of our 15-year anniversary.  Overall, Celebrity gets an A from us.  This experience was probably our best at sea so far!

After hopping the shuttle from an off-site parking lot about 10:55am, we arrived to the port about 11:05am and were on board by 11:20 a.m.  It was a quick and easy process.  We enjoyed the champagne welcome by Celebrity, as most other lines no longer greet passengers with a glass of bubbly upon boarding.

We originally booked an inside, but starting about three weeks prior to sailing, prices kept dropping.  We upgraded a couple of times, and ended up in a category 1B veranda – 9108 – forward, starboard, for only $50 more p/p than the original price we paid for the inside.  What was particular notable for us is that even though we were very far forward, we felt very little movement.  Compared to other ships and other lines, the cabin bathrooms were the largest we’d ever seen without being suite bathrooms.  We toured an inside cabin also and saw that the inside bathrooms were the same size as the verandah bathrooms.  Celebrity is doing it right!  I’d choose this cabin category again in a heartbeat, but frankly, would be happy in an inside as well since they were mighty spacious.

Food in the main dining room was unremarkable most evenings, but in the specialty restaurants, well…it was outstanding!  Qsine is an experience everyone should try.  It earned an A from me in the “presentation” category, creating a memorable experience from the moment we arrived to the experience of ordering from the iPad, to the nice arrangement of each shared dish as it was placed before us.  I’ve never experienced strawberries on sticks, embedded in a grass box.  Have you?  How cool is that?  For our dessert, we chose to decorate our own cupcakes, and since it was our anniversary, we each happened to create cute heart decorations with various frosting flavors and different types of sprinkles.  Be sure to go to Qsine on an empty stomach as you’ll want to explore the menu and try various items.

Though Qsine really won me over, Tuscan Grille was an even better experience, albeit different.  Because of its location on the ship, it lends itself to quite a romantic environ being that it’s directly aft.  We were seated at the window, right over the wake, and really felt like we were the only two in the restaurant.  Of course, we weren’t though. Our serving team was over-the-top attentive without pestering us, and I must say that the focaccia bread, both the tomato and the onion, was probably the best focaccia I’ve ever tasted.  The food here is flavorful and presented beautifully, and the service just tops off a wonderful evening.  I can’t say enough about the fantastic experience here.

Bistro on Five – Fantastic option for breakfast or any meal, especially if you love crepes like we do.  There is an upcharge of $5/person to eat here, but worth at least one or two visits to try both the sweet and savory crepes.  We dined at Bistro on Five about 10am on Day 2 and were literally the ONLY people there.

Oceanview Café – The Eclipse buffet is one of the best I’ve experienced at sea.  I love their assortment of international foods, and the variety from day to day.  One of the highlights for us was the daily sushi station that opened every day at 5pm.  It became a sort of “appetizer” stop for us on our way back to our cabin each night for our pre-dinner nap, and I admit that on some evenings I overindulged.  It would be great if the sushi were available earlier in the day so it didn’t conflict with those enjoying early dining or, like us, those wanting to snack on it but not spoil our late dinner.  I still think about that sushi because it wasn’t like typical “cruise” sushi – it contained the right balance of rice and seafood.

We visited several bars on Eclipse, especially during a poker run/pub crawl we attended.  Our favorite bars were:

Molecular Bar for the freshness and flavor of the nicely crafted drinks.  Be sure to try a Lucky Cat with liquid nitro!

Martini Bar for the show they create when someone orders a flight.  We sat next to a group who ordered a flight of 17 martinis, and yes, the bartender poured 17 martinis on  top of the bar all at one time.  Pretty impressive!  This bar has an ice top to it so you can feel free to carve your sweet sayings or whatever you feel like saying.

Sunset Bar for the fantastic location on the aft of the ship.  Watch the wake and see an all-around view of the sea.

The late night adult comedian, Brad (something) was funny, but not the funniest adult comic I’ve seen at sea.  He performed just about every night on the ship, but the Cruise Director said each show was the same.  So, if you see him once, there’s no need to go back to see him again.  I DO recommend going to see him, but I could have gone for a “more adult” show, if that makes sense.

The Corning Glass Museum Hot Glass Show is a must see!  Watch as they create bowls and vases and other items for the ship.  We got to see them make a couple of different items, but the large bowl they were making for the Liquid Chef at Molecular Bar actually broke after they’d worked on it about 45 minutes.  You could see the disappointment in the gaffers and the crowd as well, but they kept on keepin’ on!  They offered several shows, so be sure to catch at least one.  Note that the Hot Glass Show is not on Silhouette and it won’t be on Reflection.

San Juan – We took the free hop on/hop off trolley from the pier up to the San Cristobal fort.  We’ve been to so many forts in the Caribbean and in the U.S., but if you haven’t been to this one or El Morro it’s worth a visit.  Cost was $3/person and the trolley stops right in front of it.  Afterward, we walk easily down the hill to our favorite spot in San Juan – Café Berlin.  That place just keeps getting better.  Their menu is fantastic for both vegetarians and carnivores, their drinks hit the spot, and the service is attentive and friendly.  We enjoyed dining outside on the sidewalk and meeting another couple from Seattle, and sharing stories.  Small world.

St. Maarten – We cabbed it over to Orient Bay, and walked to the north end as far as possible, to Coco Beach, which is where we spent the day sunbathing and eating/drinking.  It’s not the cheapest spot on Orient, but it’s not as touristy and has far less people enjoying the place.  We didn’t feel like we were on top of our neighbors, and I was able to sunbathe topless without people gawking (except for two young girls who were curious – but it was a bit amusing watching them watch me through their sunglasses as they strolled by slowly).  Yes, I could see them.

St. Kitts – This was our first visit to this lovely island and we were happy to have chosen Welcome Tours as our tour company.  Beulah is the owner, but our tour guide was York.  Beulah greeted our group (we had put together a group of 8 in advance) with hugs, and welcomed us back at the end of the day with hugs.  She was such a warm person and great representative of the island.  We purchased the Full Island Tour for $38 p/p which was a steal compared to some other companies.  We felt fortunate to have received a tour of the full 68-mile island so we know where we want to hang out next time we visit St. Kitts.  I recommend this tour company as a great way to see the island and meet some of the locals along the way.

Celebrity Eclipse is one of the, if not THE most beautiful ship I’ve experienced in our 15 cruises so far. 

The atrium area with the glass elevators, and the artwork sprinkled around the ship really add to an elegant but UNstuffy experience. And The Lawn Club.  If you miss spending time at The Lawn Club, you’re really missing out on something that sets these ships apart from others.  There’s nothing quite like seeing a guy mow the lawn on a cruise ship!  The grass is so perfectly kept that you MUST walk your bare feet through, play some lawn games, or lay down a towel and just relax while gazing out at the ocean.  It’s a majestic event. 

The service really set this cruise apart from others – each staff member delivered excellent service, and I just can’t thank them enough for providing such a memorable anniversary cruise for us!