Celebrity Eclipse to Iceland August 2012
Someone started a rumour that the security staff numbers had been reduced because of the Olympics - we spent about 45 minutes shuffling forwards a foot at a time.
The Celebrity Cruises brochure advises Concierge Class passengers and Captain's Club Elite members they have priority check-in. Nope. There were only two queues: one for pre reg online and one for Suite guests and I am still waiting for the upgrade fairy to visit me.
Immediate impression getting on board was that little has changed over two years. Everything was clean and tidy and without exception the staff courteous, polite and eager to please - even the housekeeping staff you passed in the corridors.
The cabin was also as I remembered it. It was (and was kept) spotlessly clean and tidy. Now the brochure says Concierge Class cabins have all standard stateroom amenities plus "[an] Extra handheld hairdryer". Now to my simple mind that means a total of 'Two' but for the third time on board I was unable to find the mysterious second one. Fruit was replenished every day as were the flowers when they expired.
We were booked on Select dining and always chose the port side of the ship. After only couple of days we built a wonderful relationship with one particular waiter, head waiter and wine waiter towards the rear of the Main Dining Room such that when at the Maitre D's desk towards the end of the cruise we asked specifically for a table served by these three. We were royally looked after and without going into too much detail our wine waiter did us a couple of favours and the head waiter gave us an inside tour of the Tihany wine tower. We were visited regularly by the head chef who was always interested in what we had to say. The food was very good, well presented and well served.
However, once, when we were seated immediately inside the doors of the MDR, the service was a little slow and the wine waiter didn't so much pour the wine into our glasses as throw it at them. But he was a youngster and I suggested the staff are teamed - experienced with less experienced ones.
We restricted ourselves to two watering holes: The Martini Bar; and Michael's Club. If I had a complaint about the Martini Bar it was that the waiters would hover over you like a vulture circling a dying wildebeest waiting for you to decide on your order. Service in Michael's Club was excellent and 'not in your face'. The pianist/singer was good, though I think his repertoire was not really on typical Celebrity passengers' play lists - I'm a relative youngster and don't know who Beyonce and The Killers are. The bar is well named as it is very much like a 'club'. I am also pleased that 'ordinary' nibbles in the shape of peanuts have arrived and not just the hard hot spicy anonymous things guaranteed to break your teeth.
We did excursions on most ports of call and all of them apart from one booked with Celebrity. Now I know lots of people moan about the organised excursions' prices but you are paying for a measure of 'security' in the event of unforeseen incident. What I really *DO* object to is the port information leaflet saying there is no 'hop-on, hop-off' bus when in fact there is. I've got no problem with Celebrity protecting its income stream so think it would be better that nothing was said rather than something not known to be true.
We had a night in The Tuscan Grill. Presentation and service was excellent - everything was faultless. My friend said that was the best fillet steak he had ever had. I cannot recall much detail - I just get a warm glow when I think about it.
What do you get after 'excellent'? We had dinner one night in Murano. I don't think I have ever used this word anywhere before - it was 'awesome'. The white-gloved service was attentive, not intrusive. The table arrangements and settings were perfect. The food both in quality and presentation was, well - 'awesome'. I have never been served or eaten so well ashore.
The next day it was back to Murano for 'Champagne Afternoon Tea'. The superlatives could continue. Until now, my benchmark for Afternoon Tea has been Reid's Hotel in Madeira, but no more. I have two cruising friends who, when we are somewhere taking tea, would say "it's not like Reid's" - but no more as I will be able to say "it's not like Murano". Incidentally the Captain came in for the tea too.
To much simpler fayre - breakfast. If I have one complaint about breakfast in MDR it's the minute amount of milk put in the milk jugs (and so few of them especially for a table of eight to ten) *AND* the serving of milk for cereals in drinking glasses. For goodness - sake put a reasonable amount of milk in the milk jugs to serve both purposes. It sounds only a small thing but I don't understand how they manage to cook poached eggs to perfection on such a large scale when I struggle for myself at home.
The food and service in the Oceanview Café was much as any mass catering cafeteria would be. But in the morning they had a problem with making toast - the toasters were set such that two to three passes of the bread were necessary before what fell out the bottom could be called 'toast'. What this lead to was long queues waiting for the toast whereas one 'pass' of the bread would not.
All good things must come to an end. If there is one thing I would like Celebrity to copy from its parent, Royal Caribbean, it's the use of tip vouchers and envelopes. The act of physically handing someone something, albeit a piece of paper, gives me, at least, a warmer feeling than just knowing the staff will get it.
Let's see what November and the Constellation brings
Written by Mr Fionda