Monday, January 23, 2012

Celebrity Cruises Eclipse (Cruise Ship Review)

I am writing this review while on my return flight to the U.S., having just spent the past two weeks (14 nights) aboard the Celebrity Eclipse. Launched in April of 2010, the Eclipse joins Celebrity's award-winning family of "Solstice-class" ships, which currently includes the Celebrity Solstice, the Equinox and, in 2011, will also include the Silhouette. So, although I will try to maintain complete objectivity, I must admit that I boarded the Eclipse with very high expectations. Fortunately, with only minor exceptions (as later noted), I was not disappointed.

The "Hardware"

When discussing the physical attributes of a cruise ship (i.e., it's layout and appearance), industry professionals often refer to the ship's "hardware". So, let's start there.

At 122,000 tons (the largest in the Celebrity fleet), the Eclipse was surprisingly easy to get around on and, even with a full capacity of 2,850 passengers (based on double occupancy), the ship never felt crowded. To be perfectly honest, my first impression of the interior décor was that it was a bit "plain" but, as the days onboard passed, I came to appreciate it more and more. Consistent with Celebrity's position in the industry as a "premium" cruise line (as distinguished from "mass market" or "luxury"), the overall look and "feel" of the Eclipse is what I would describe as "subdued elegance". Unlike the "cheap glitz" or "pretentious opulence" of some other ships I've seen, the interior of the Eclipse seemed to be intentionally understated by its designers so that guests (myself included) would feel completely at ease while residing in their upscale home at sea. Colors in the main lobby area were soft and light, while other public areas and lounges (including Michael's Club and Cellar Masters) were adorned in deep natural wood tones with luxurious furnishings and plush carpeting.

Hallways and stairways were sufficiently wide for side-by-side passage of guests and we rarely had to wait more than a minute or two for an elevator. The public bathrooms were immaculate and they were always well-stocked with small single-use cloth towels (rather than paper or hot air dryers).

The pool and solarium areas were spacious enough that finding a comfortable lounge chair was never a problem. However, the jogging track (or "walking path" for those of us over the age of 60) went right through the pool lounging area (so it became something of an "obstacle course") and it didn't go completely around the entire ship.

Perhaps the most unique feature of the ship's "hardware" was the "Lawn Club". I must admit that a negative pre-conceived notion (based on photos and descriptions that I saw) may have clouded my expectation. But, after spending just a few minutes watching fellow passengers playing croquet or basking in the sun on the finely manicured natural grass, I realized that the photographs of this area in Celebrity's brochures and television commercials could not capture it's peaceful serenity. I loved it!

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