When we booked this cruise, our intention was to use the ship as transportation to Europe, where we would continue our travels. The cost was comparable to airline travel, and we had an added bonus of room and board daily, while traveling in luxurious style. Several ships make this voyage each April, but we chose the Eclipse because two of the three ports of call, Bermuda and Portugal interested us. We have been to Bermuda before and looked forward to seeing the beautiful pink sand beaches again, but we had never traveled to Lisbon, Portugal, which seemed interesting. A few years ago, we sailed on the Liberty of the Seas from Miami to Barcelona, so we had an expectation of what it would be like to spend many days at sea, with few ports of call, but beyond that, we were open to an adventure.
We were very pleased with our decision as this was by far one of the most enjoyable and relaxing experiences we have had on a cruise ship in a while. Much of that attitude had to do with having great weather for most of the trip, but we credit the Celebrity Eclipse and it’s staff for making the day to day journey entertaining and pleasant.
Embarkation Port of Miami
Our thirteen day transatlantic journey began on April 16 at the Port of Miami. We arrived to the port around 11:30 a.m. and were processed through the line in just minutes. Once on board the ship, we took some time to acquaint ourselves with the deck plan, including the location of bars, dining rooms, library, card room, gym, customer service desk, and the theater. The ship is very much like the Celebrity Summit that we had sailed to Bermuda last summer, so we felt instantly at home.
After the mandatory muster drill it was time for a cocktail, and up on deck for a 5:00 sail away from beautiful Miami, Florida.
Our luggage was received timely so we took some time to unpack and get organized. Storage space was ample, including several drawers and plenty of hanging space. There was additional storage space under the bed which stowed our two big cases comfortably. The dressing table offered space for small items and included a lighted mirror and hair dryer.
Our stateroom and balcony were spacious and perfect for enjoying breakfast or a drink before dinner. We had a full size sofa and small table next to the king bed, and the balcony had two comfortable chairs and a table. The bathroom had a fully enclosed shower (as opposed to a curtain), and while not large, it was adequate. The stateroom was located mid-ship, on deck #8, which turned out to be a good location on our one night of high seas. Because of the mid-ship-lower deck location, we felt very little motion. Location is always something to consider, but especially necessary if you suffer motion sickness easily.
There were lifeboats located below the balcony, which technically put our stateroom into the “partially obstructed view” category, but it did not adversely affect the view. When price is a consideration, and you want a balcony, this category is a bargain.
Our stateroom attendant was cheerful, attentive, professional and available at all times. He learned our daily routine quickly and serviced our stateroom accordingly. That may not sound important, but when what you want to do after lunch is to read a book on your balcony, it’s nice to have a clean room to come back to.
There are many options for dining on the Eclipse, including the main dining room, several specialty restaurants, ($$) the Spa Cafe and the Oceanview Cafe (buffet). We are not big fans of cruise ship buffets, so we had most of our meals in the dining room, in our cabin or at the Spa Cafe. We chose “Celebrity Select,” for our dining option, which means that we were not restricted to a specific time to dine in the evenings. This option also allowed us to choose a table for two or share with other passengers. The dining room was well organized and professionally staffed, which can make or break a dining experience. We have found the food on most of the cruise lines that we have experienced to be comparable, so we did not have high expectations. Our food was served hot, by a pleasant waiter, and mostly to our liking which is perfectly fine. Having a few basic, fixed choices (steak, Caesar Salad, French onion soup) on the menu each night was a plus. The hostess learned our names and table preferences quickly and made a credible attempt to seat us at a window table within the same section each night. We appreciated this level of service even more as we moved on to our next cruise on the Princess line and found it lacking.
The dress code for dining in the main dining room is fairly relaxed, and Celebrity does not have “formal nights” at all. Dressy nights are referred to as Smart Casual, which suits us well. Men typically wear dress pants and a long sleeved shirt, while women were mostly in casual dresses or slacks with a nice blouse. Fashion tends to take a back seat when we are traveling for extended periods of time, so it is nice not to feel pressured into packing additional dressy items into an already full suitcase.
Ports of Call
Ports of call on the Celebrity Eclipse Transatlantic crossing included Nassau, Bahamas, Kings Wharf, Bermuda and Lisbon, Portugal. We have been to Nassau several times and were not interested in having an excursion there, and we even considered not getting off the ship at all. Fortunately, it was an incredibly beautiful day so we decided to go for a walk. We love the Caribbean, but Nassau just does nothing for us and I was always taught to stay quiet if you can’t say something nice. This is me being quiet……………..
Kings Wharf, Bermuda was our next port of call. We arrived around 1:00 in the afternoon and disembarked quickly. We purchased our day trip bus tickets at the port and hopped bus #8 to Horseshoe Beach. The air temperature was a comfortable 60+ degrees and warming as the day progressed. The water temperature was another story. Renovation to the public access entrance prevented us from taking the easy route to the water, but the bus driver pointed out an alternative route which was a bit challenging for some older folks riding the bus with us. The sandy, narrow trail meandered down the hill for about a half mile toward the water. We didn’t mind and enjoyed the exercise. The newly renovated entrance was scheduled to open just a few days after our visit. We took a peek and it looked very nice and accommodating to the thousands of visitors who will come here in season.
We spent our afternoon navigating the shoreline rock formations trying to avoid being being hit by incoming, frigid cold waves. It was a fun game, especially since we were fully dressed and carrying camera equipment. After all, that is what this beach is all about. It is incredibly picturesque and immensely soothing. Spending just one day here will create memories that last a lifetime. If you don’t believe me, just check out these selfie smiles!
A few hundred photographs later, and extremely contented with our outing, we were ready to make the climb back up the hill and walk to the bus stop for the half hour ride back to port.
Several hundred passengers departed the ship at this port, and after spending just a few hours there, we understood why. It is warm, colorful, eclectic, historic, cultural, picturesque and affordable. If you tire of the city, the beach is just a short train ride away. Check out this article to learn more about visiting Lisbon. Our six hours here only served to peak our interest, which it did, and we will return.
We spent our time exploring the inclined streets with quaint shops along narrow alleys, while enjoying the uniqueness of the architecture along the way. Like most European cities, Lisbon displays a serious and stately Roman and Gothic influence while the Portuguese pavement and tiled buildings add what I considered to be a touch of whimsy.
During our walk, we made purchases of wine, fresh strawberries and chocolates and we spent time in a trendy bar called Double9 where we were treated like family. We saw street performers and locals enjoying a beautiful day on a park bench or airing their laundry in the breeze. It felt familiar and comforting. Sometimes all it takes is one special moment to make a day memorable. This day, we had several.
Thanks Double9 for your wonderful hospitality and a delightful afternoon cocktail experience.
Sail away from Lisbon is magical, as the ship passes beneath the largest suspension bridge in the world and the Christ statue stands with outstretched arms in the distance. Just two more days and we will reach our final destination, Southhampton, England.
As I shared in a previous post, sea days are relaxing for us, and we find it very easy to establish a daily routine. The activities staff created plenty of opportunities for busying oneself including trivia games, dance classes, flash mob rehearsals, water color classes, Iphone classes and a host of privately organized board and card games, just to name a few. I was lucky to have found a Mahjongg group the very first day, and I played with them for at least three hours every sea day. Malcolm used that time to exercise by walking the track on the deck, watching the news, a movie, or the French Open, which was broadcast each day on the Casino TV. Our shared activities included afternoon trivia, lunch in the dining room, card games and napping. Don’t laugh, all that relaxation makes you sleepy.
You will notice that I did not say check emails or browse the internet in the paragraph above. That is because we did not purchase the internet package that is offered by the ship. Also a good decision, because it did not function most of the time. We heard many people complain about cost vs. value. We did hit the first wi-fi hotspot available at each port to catch up with family. The same goes for the drink package. When we costed it out, we would each have to drink in excess of 6 drinks per day to make it cost effective. No thanks. We enjoyed a cocktail in the afternoon and an occasional glass of wine with dinner which was satisfying and cost saving. Ditto with paying the additional charge for specialty restaurants. Even though this ship does have a couple of very good restaurants, notably Murano and the Tuscan Grille, we did not want to blow the budget with three weeks in Europe yet to come. There were passengers who were spending their entire vacation on this cruise and I fully understand why they would want to splurge on everything from spa treatments to shopping sprees, but it was not in our budget to be extravagant here.
We arrived in Southhampton, England around 7:00 a.m. and were off the ship by 8:30. Our luggage had been collected the night before and it was waiting for us in the baggage area of the port. The process could have not have gone more smoothly. Now, off to the next leg of the journey!
If you are looking for relaxation and luxury for your next trip to or from Europe, we highly recommend a re-positioning cruise. Glam it up or keep it casual, go economy or break the bank, your choice. Happy sailing…