Aboard Celebrity Eclipse: An Eastern Caribbean Cruise
This is my first time aboard a Celebrity Cruise Ship, and the first cruise I have taken in recent years that has not been with my favorite ballroom dance group, Dancers at Sea. My cruises in the past three years have been on the Princess and Cunard lines, with one New Year Cruise in the Caribbean on Costa.
On Princess ships I have done a Wine Country Cruise from LA to Vancouver, an Asian Cruise from Beijing to Bangkok, a South Pacific Cruise from Honolulu to Tahiti, and one from Tahiti to Honolulu. My Cunard cruises have included the British Isles Cruise on the Queen Victoria and two cruises along the East Coast of the US and Canada, a Labour Day weekend cruise and an Autumn East Coast Cruise, both on the Queen Mary 2.
As this is my first cruise on Celebrity and each cruise line has its own unique flavour, I an really curious to see how Celebrity compares with my previous experiences. As a food writer and foodie, the culinary aspects of the cruise are really important to me. And of course, I am also especially interested in the aspect of dance opportunities on the Celebrity fleet. As well, on the dance cruises I am usually more interested in dancing myself than seeing the dancers and singers in the shows, so this time, I will have the time to get to see each of the shows on board too. So on-board food and wine experiences, music and dance, and the production shows are the aspects to which I will pay particular attention on this cruise.
Embarkation and the Eclipse:
Flying into Miami after spending a week in Cozumel, (Cozumel to Caribbean Cruise: A Mexican Travelblogue) we stayed overnight in Doral at the Holiday Inn Express. From there we took a shuttle to the Port of Miami. Check-in by the Celebrity ground staff was swift and efficient and the cabin was ready for us when we actually boarded at 1:15 PM. The luggage took forever to come though. By 5 when I was ready to shower and change for dinner, the luggage still had not been delivered to our cabin. With 2800 guests I suppose that should be expected but with our early check in I somehow thought it would be more efficient.
Once on board we went up to the Ocean View Café buffet on Deck 14. It is huge and very nicely laid out with multiple stations for the different types of food. They had a grill area, a pizza/pasta area, antipasto, salad bars, hot food, sandwich and late afternoon sushi and an ice cream section that seems to be open all the time. I ended up having mainly salad. I did try a slice of the roast beef that they offered in the carvery but to my surprise it was as tough as leather. Hopefully the food in the restaurant will be top quality.
After eating Pat and I went off exploring different parts of the ship and met up at the muster-station for the mandatory safety talk and demonstration. The safety drill was held at 3:30. After the recent incident with the Costa ship in Italy, I paid more attention than I have been wont to do. You tend to get blasé after attending so many of these drills but not any more! Interestingly they don’t get you to bring your own life jacket to the drill like Cunard and Princess do. They just have crew members demo how to put them on.
I signed up for Internet access for the week. She scouted out the various optional restaurants and signed us up for a Champagne tea on the Friday afternoon. Then we headed back to the cabin to toast the voyage with the bottle of champagne that was in our cabin on arrival.
The cabins are really well designed – the nicest I have traveled in. It is the little touches that make it special. The bathroom has a night-light so you need not switch on a light and wake your cabin mate. There is a lot of storage space in the bathroom for toiletries, and it is set into a glass fronted cupboard so you can see where your stuff is but it wont fall out if the ship motion is bad. The beds are high enough to get a suitcase under easily. The shower is spacious enough that you don’t feel you are standing in a narrow tube and the water does not run out onto the floor. I am not sure of what the other cabins are like as this time we are in a concierge class cabin. As well as the champagne there was fruit awaiting us on arrival and later our cabin steward brought in a small plate of canapés.
My only criticism of the cabin is that there are too few power outlets so there are not enough to plug in two computers plus assorted battery chargers and other devices. But – and this is a big but – the wireless Internet works really well in the cabins. It is expensive but it works. As always I signed up on the first day so I got bonus minutes – that always helps. I ended up paying 30 c a minute instead of 75.
The ship has an elegant feel about it. I loved the centre core with the glass elevators and the view across to the library. The foyer has a marble area where the dancers perform andthere is some form of music on almost all the time.
The sail-away was supposed to be at 4:30 but there were three other cruise ships leaving at the same time so it was a bit later when we got under way. There are some very attractive condos standing at the exit from the Miami harbor – they must have the most fantastic water views.
We had chosen the early dinner sitting at 6 PM. By the time our luggage arrived and we had a chance for a quick shower, it was around twenty past when we got there. The restaurant is called Moonlight Sonata and the entrance is off the main foyer on the 3rd deck. The light fixtures are supposed to resemble champagne bubbles.
They say they will seat you up to half an hour after your assigned time. We were seated at a table next to a delightful couple from Toronto who turned out to enjoy ballroom dancing and were interested to hear about the ballroom dance cruises I had done. Their regular table is elsewhere in the dining room so we are not sure who will be seated next to us for future meals.
The dinner menu has two sections. On the left hand page are dishes that are available every night. I suppose those are the most popular ones that people tend to order. On the right hand side are the special dishes for the evening.
Since I was not going to be dancing after dinner I decided to order a bottle of wine for the cruise. I got a Clifford 2010 Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand. Pat ended up on the advice of Katrina, our sommelier, with a Grenache from Spain.
I asked Katrina how many sommeliers they had at the restaurant. She said there were 23 for the dining room.
I did not feel like an entrée so from the left side I decided to try the lobster bisque, and then chose two appetizers from the right side menu, the goat cheese tart and the Crab St. Louis. I ended the meal with a cheese platter. The bisque was creamy with a great lobster flavour. I also loved the rich creaminess of the goat cheese tart,
After dinner we went to listen to the various bands playing in different areas, before going to the introductory welcome aboard show in the Eclipse Theatre at 9 PM. There the Cruise Director, Mike Gibbons, introduced the performers and the shows that would be coming up during the cruise. There is a really great “a cappella” quartet called Uncommon Ground. The singers and dancers from the Eclipse were doing a Motown show later that evening in the Foyer area. I did not get the name of the woman who did an amazing acrobatic act with hula hoops. Since I find it hard to get even one hoop going I was blown away by her contortionist act. She exhibited the most amazing flexibility while she simultaneously had two or three hoops rotating on various parts of her anatomy.
Mike concluded the show by singing Mister Bo'Jangles. I guess I had been thinking of him as Cruise Director not performer so I was surprised by his performance which was really moving - and accompanied by one of the dancers - I don't have any of their names yet but I guess I will encounter them during the next few days. I am anticipating some really excellent production shows.