November 23, 2014

REVIEW – The CELEBRITY ECLIPSE is a four star Las Vegas resort at sea headlined by a putting green…

CELEBRITY CRUISES REVIEW – CELEBRITY ECLIPSE gets FOUR STARS…

 

The ship is a Las Vegas resort at sea with a putting green…  Should you want an ocean-liner experience, look to Cunard, Holland-America Line or a smaller Celebrity ship.  But if you want an endless list of things to do… then this is your ship.

Celebrity Eclipse in the Virgin Islands.

If you want a high end Las Vegas resort afloat this four star “ship” is the answer…  The ship reflects mass market cruise travel.

I sailed aboard the Celebrity Century five years ago from San Juan to Italy, and any remnant of Chandris (founders of Celebrity) have vanished.  This ship and Celebrity have become nothing but a brand of Royal Caribbean Lines.

The third of Celebrity’s Solstice-class ships to arrive on the scene, the Eclipse had a number of features we found quite appealing. A top-deck, half-acre lawn—yes, real grass—and a working glass-blowing studio were two neat aspects. Solid musical entertainment, a Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatic show, and an expansive spa and fitness center were other assets. The Celebrity Eclipse is a beautifully designed vessel, and we discovered classy art and handsome hand-blown glass pieces throughout the ship’s public areas. One experience we looked forward to was the dining, and with relatively high surcharges at the specialty restaurants, we wanted to be wowed.

Dining hall aboard the Las Vegas liner…

The ship is beautifully designed, with a relatively sophisticated ambiance. But it’s not ostentatious or cold, as some modern design can become, allowing the environment to cater to a wide spectrum of cruise aficionados. That said, the ship is not for the tracksuit and T-shirt crowd, and couples who want to dress up a little will enjoy themselves.  But it is still just a big Las Vegas resort afloat.

Bring your own movies… there is no DVD library… Holland-America Line has the best.

Dining was a mixed bag. When the dishes were good, they were very good—but too often they were followed by something middling. Other than a solid experience at Murano, no venue was consistently great, and with surcharges running $30-$40 for specialty venues we can’t recommend the dining packages Celebrity pitched us at the start of the cruise.  It was just a way for Celebrity to make more bucks.  Not at our expense thank you very much.

Solstice’s menu of restaurants, overseen by Celebrity’s Vice President of Food & Beverage Jacques Van Staden, runs the mouth-watering gamut, led by a two-level main venue, three alternative restaurants — priced at $20 to $30 per person — and a 24-hour bistro for casual meals, including some creatives twists on crepes. Altogether, there are ten dining venues on Solstice, more than on any other Celebrity ship.

One of the restaurants, Blu, is reserved for AquaClass stateroom guests. These 192-square-foot staterooms, with balconies, are aimed at passengers who want a spa-oriented cruise. Guests in these Penthouse Deck cabins get unlimited access to the AquaSpa relaxation room, the aforementioned Blu and other facilities.

Entertainment offerings were a highlight, both in terms of quality and variety. Every evening there were two or three live musical acts going, sometimes even four at once in various locations around the ship, and during sea days there was music in the afternoon by the main pool. The Hot Glass Show is a great offering, and while shows in Eclipse Theater were not all top-quality, the acrobatic show called Eclipse was pretty awesome.
Celebrity Solstice breaks the mold in every conceivable way. Measuring 122,000 gross tons (remember, ships measure, not weigh — a gross ton is a unit of interior space), Solstice is Celebrity’s largest ship by far.

Carrying 2,850 cruise vacationers when fully occupied, she’s a big hunk of hull for a cruise company whose ships have hovered right around the 2,000-passenger capacity.
Despite its size, the Celebrity Eclipse was easy to navigate, with location maps at all major intersections. The ship’s daily newsletter, Celebrity Today, was nicely detailed about the many activities on offer. We appreciated that smoking areas were kept to a minimum, though on a couple days decks 4 and 5 at mid-ship were plagued by a lingering stale cigarette smell (the adjacent casino is the only indoor area where smoking is allowed). And we liked that hand sanitizers were encouraged, especially when entering the two main restaurants, Moonlight Sonata and Ocean-view Café.

Real Grass on a ship! The most ballyhooed feature on Celebrity Solstice, of course, was the Lawn Club, with real grass. I thought it was a joke when Celebrity first announced the half-acre grassy area on the top deck of the ship, but it simply works. The Lawn Club is a great place to relax, play croquet, putt, picnic, practice bocce or wiggle your toes in the cool blades of real grass. This unique area, shaded by canvas sails, is a natural touch that’s somehow more impressive than some of the whiz-bang technologies that cruise lines add so often.

And finally there was the Lawn Club, a somewhat heady name for a seemingly simple concept: a real half-acre of turf blanketing much of the top deck. We doubt this element is simple to maintain with all the spilled drinks and sea air, but we think it’s a terrific asset. We look forward to enjoying the grass again onboard the Eclipse or another of the ships in Celebrity Cruises’ Solstice Class.