First Look at Celebrity Eclipse by Linda Pearl, CruiseMates Contributor Nov. 29, 2010
Celebrity Eclipse puts a twist on the Solstice class from Celebrity with an Apple iLounge and Inventive cuisine in "QSine"
A look inside Celebrity Eclipse
The Celebrity Eclipse has come to Florida, after a successful summer season cruising the Mediterranean and Canary Islands. The third Solstice-sclass ship, after Solstice and Equinox, the Eclipse is a statement in understated elegance. The upscale design and décor of this ship will surely appeal to anyone craving fine surroundings.
The first of two especially distinguishing features that set the Eclipse apart from her sister ships is the appealing iLounge - the result of a partnership between Celebrity and Apple Computers. It includes an Internet cafe with 26 workstations and Apple certified employees to instruct you on the many Apple products. They will also sell you the newest and greatest Apple hits including the iPad. This Apple Store at sea is a Celebrity first.
The second Eclipse exclusive is the QSine Restaurant, which has to be the most happening, fun place on the ship. Chef Jacques Van Staden has designed a contemporary menu, with hints of nostalgia, presented with the right touch of fun. The menus are on iPads and the dessert menu is a Rubik's cube-like block. Kids will love QSine, and it will take multiple visits to taste everything on the menu. The food is presented in imaginative, custom-design and crafted serving pieces, which just adds to the unique dining experience.
The Eclipse has not missed a beat - in tune with everything that premium cruisers expect; from the Great Lawn, the Aqua Class premium spa options and superb dining and service. The Eclipse is a ship you will want to book again and again.
After the Eclipse's winter season in the Caribbean, with alternating east/west itineraries, it will return to Southampton to continue sailings to the Mediterranean, the Canary Islands, Scandinavia and Russia, including short cruise options to LeHavre (for Paris) and Cork Ireland.
Back in April, I was mega-excited about my first trip ever across the Atlantic Ocean. I was invited to England for the christening of the newest Celebrity cruise ship, Eclipse. The trip was to include two days at sea to cruise the English coast.
Who would ever think that Eyjafjallajokul volcano in Iceland, of all things, would change my plans and those of literally thousands of other people. The very day I was scheduled to fly turned out to be the worst day for disruption of flight control over the U.K. So, in order for Celebrity Cruises to aid in the repatriation of stranded Brits overseas most of the press visits, including mine, were cancelled. The brand new ship headed for Bilbao Spain, instead, to pick up the weary travelers who had been sitting on 45 buses for about 28 hours, just waiting to go somewhere!
Of course, I imagine these people were thrilled to not only get transportation home, but to do it in Celebrity style on a spanking new ship! After a shower and meal these stranded travelers became relaxed cruisers. Yes, I was quite disappointed, honestly, but I felt good about all that was done to repatriate the stranded.
A few months later I got better news - the media preview cruise had been rescheduled. Now the ship is in U.S. waters and I was invited to go see her November 22 in Miami, Florida, before she begins her winter in the Caribbean. This is my story.
I had never seen any of the Solstice-class ships from Celebrity, and I really had no idea what to expect. The first first impression is that everything is designed to quietly say "understated elegance." There is no atrium per se, but the soaring open Grand Foyer is amazing. The tree suspended in a metallic sphere in mid air is especially gorgeous. You see the tree from the glass elevators - as well as a most impressive two-story library with high back chairs.
Most of the people in our media group had an 192 sq. ft AquaClass Spa cabin. By comparing notes we discovered that every other cabin in the same category is configured differently. I preferred the one we had, with the bed closer to the balcony. All are done in light woods with a large balcony so the cabin is quite bright. The bed has the curved corners, which is a bit inconvenient for tall cruisers, but is visually pleasing. Here are a few pictures (be sure to click to see the full size).
The storage gave me some concern if you have two people cruising for a week or longer. The closet sliding doors are a bit heavy and the couch is a bit too close, which makes getting to the far side difficult. There is just one rod - set up quite high, so if you have mobility issues this could prove difficult. The two small fold down racks seem to be good for very little.
There is a bureau/desk combo, with two outlets and a reading light. The six-drawer bureau has a curved edge so the drawers are shallow and not very wide. They have a safe and mini fridge which take up precious storage space. Over the bed are two shelves with lift up doors. We expected the life jackets to be there, but found them under the bed instead.
The balcony has two nice chairs with footstools and a large table, and is spacious enough for two adults.
The AquaClass cabin bathroom has a rounded plexi-shower with a large shower head and additional spray spigots. The sink is vessel style, surprisingly similar to the one I had on Norwegian Epic just a few weeks ago. Huge and luxurious white towels, slippers and bathrobes, along with a variety of spa body products get you in the "spa frame of mind."
Another perk of staying in an AquaClass cabin is that you get to dine in the Blu dining room, a real beauty of contemporary design. However our cruise was only two days long so they wanted to give us a taste of the many dining options on Eclipse.
Booking an Aqua Class cabin affords you dedicated pampering, from special pillows, 100% Egyptian cotton bedding, browsing your photographs on your TV, and wellness-themed entertainment with free video on demand on your 32 inch flat screen television. Add the exclusive Blu Dining Room and it's a special experience, especially for couples - like newlyweds.
I dined in the elegant Murano dining room the first night, with Cynthia Martinez, a spokesperson for Celebrity and Royal Caribbean Cruise lines. Be prepared for a longer dining experience if you select this romantically lit, well appointed space. One side of the menu has a gastronomic and vineyard tour, paired with your wine, called Five Senses. The other side gives you a la carte options. I had the caprese (tomato and mozzarella) salad and Mediterranean sea bass. The entire meal was delicious. Cynthia ordered the Murano lobster, which was prepared table side. The desserts were "to die for!"
My second dinner was in the Tuscan Grille. The décor includes large circular booths and oversized furniture, with a wonderful bank of windows for an aft view from the ship. I tried the fried calamari, onion soup and Kobe meatballs. The rib eye and sea bass, as selected by my table mates, along with the service, made this meal an A+ in every sense.
But the dining highlight of the ship was QSine. This venue is an Eclipse exclusive - and more of an event than just a meal. All diners receive menus on an iPad handheld computer from Apple. This was the first time I had my hands on an iPad, and now I want one.
QSine, and all of the Celebrity Cruises restaurants, are the brainchild of the lines star chef - Jacques Van Staden. The QSine idea is to give diners an unexpected and modern approach to serving familiar dishes from around the globe. They designed and produced the most unique custom made plating to hold all the unique food. It is all very creative, and I would buy them if allowed. To add to the sense of whimsy, the lamp chandeliers are all hung upside down, and the waiters are dressed in beige and orange funky jackets with the buttons all askew. I loved it!
A few examples: the spring rolls come nestled in vertical springs. Chinese selections are served in martini glasses, popcorn shrimp come in in red and white striped popcorn containers, and Asian bento boxes come with each level filled with frostings and toppings to create your own cupcakes. All the sauces are in squeeze bottles! The dessert menu is in the form of a Rubik's Cube. You will definitely be smiling when you leave here.
click on pictures below for larger images:
Tuscan Grill menu
Chef Jaques Van Staden
Sometimes you find a "my spot" on a ship, and for me this was Cafe al Bacio and Gelateria. In a bistro setting, this little bit of heaven offers coffee addicts a variety of fixes, and for tea drinkers like me, high end teas from Tea Forte offer the most delicious flavors. Tempting fluffs of pastry look like little works of art in the pretty showcases. They also have little slices of chocolate in cello envelopes that are to die for. Don't get me started on the gelato - savor your time here, and enjoy!
The two shows we had a chance to see on our two-night cruise were good, but I found this to be very traditional ship entertainment with a few exceptions. Ovations is your typical homage to Broadway/West End with songs from all the major shows highlighted. When "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" came on, they sang about 10 bars and my companion felt it was just too short. Towards the end of the show the singers were singing too loud for me.
The other production, "Edge" showcases great dancing. While your attention is on the stage they harness a dancer above the stage who then circles the perimeter, high above the stage and audience and quite close to where we were seated! It was great! The show also features dancers on bungee cords, twirling, and bouncing to the ceiling. This was the best part of the show for me.
The bars on this ship are numerous, 14 to be exact. We loved the aft Sunset Bar. Lunch and a beer were consumed in this area daily; conducive to long chatty lunches. We didn't want to move!
The Martini Bar is the place to be. The waiters put on a show with finesse and humor, filling several martini glasses and spilling nary a drop. The top of the bar is iced so you can play tic tac toe. The drinks are strong and the Appletini and Margarita knocked my socks off. Seating is generous, though if you sit under a speaker the piped-in techno music may drive you loopy, and it's hard to carry on a conversation. Move to a more quiet part of the room for optimum comfort.
Cellar Masters is a dark, spacious "men's club" atmosphere. I am not a fan of spaces this dark, but I can see it could be a popular spot. The highlight is the pour your own wine carousel. You slide your sail and sign card in and it will show your cost per ounce. You determine how many ounces you want, pull your card and start sipping! Done! The Sommelier will answer any questions you might have before you press the button.
Something most unusual on board a cruise ship is the "Hot Glass Show" by the Corning Museum of Glass up on deck 15 by the Lawn Club. This is an intimate, live demonstration of the art of glass blowing. What we saw was quite interesting, though I am not sure how many will want to sit for this in the middle of a hot day.
I recall I thought the lawn space itself seemed a bit odd when I first heard of it way back when, but I have to say what a serene space it is. Bring a towel and enjoy the sun or bring your lunch and picnic. The perfectly manicured "to golf course perfection" lawn is just a delight, with benches and chairs to read in the calm open air.
If days of pampering sound good to you, the Persian Room Spa can do it all. This restful oasis has so many options it's mind boggling. Who knew you can now get Acupuncture, teeth whitening and even Botox treatments at sea? A manicure is now a "fire and ice manicure," with hot stones and cooling gels. I had a demonstration of a hot stone massage on my neck and I thought, "Boy have I missed out all these years!!"
The shops on the Eclipse are more like what you might find in a resort area. Moda, the women's clothing store, has a great vibe starting with the cherry blossom design on the windows. They carry the same upscale Joseph Ribcoff Canadian-based clothing line that I happen to sell at home. Business was booming on our sailing! Before the shop was open I eyeballed a handbag through the window, which I ended up buying. No waiting for later as most of the accessories were one offs, having done a sellout business on the transatlantic.
Glitz is a really fun shop filled with baubles and beads. Anyone want a pink boa? It features fine jewelry like the Solstice diamond with 86 facets, never cut prior to exclusive availability on the Solstice Class. Other shops include the Showcase, featuring glass merchandise from the Corning Museum of Glass and the Riedel Gallery.
The iLounge was a spawn of a new Apple and Celebrity relationship. They have set up an internet cafe with about 20 workstations for passengers to touch base with home or work. If you are interested in learning how to use your Apple iPod Touch, or iPhone, you can get instructions on the basic functions and learn about available apps. Apple merchandise is also available for sale.
In closing, I have to say, there was so much to see in a day and a half that what I saw was just eye candy. The Eclipse is the prettiest ship I have sailed upon, and if I have my way I will sail her again.
I hope I captured a taste of the beautifully elegant Eclipse for our CruiseMates readers. It was a wonderful opportunity to view the ship and, Celebrity was a great host. As a parting gift they gave me an iPod Shuffle. Now all I need to do is figure out how to use it. Thanks Celebrity - I had a ball!