A guest post by my friend Anna
I’ve never been on a cruise before. I had considered it to be the preferred choice for a less adventurous traveller who wanted the convenience of a floating hotel with occasional port day trips to tick their ‘culture’ box. I thought of myself as more of a ‘back pack’ and ‘small boats with sails’ type of girl…
So when my dear friend Helly invited me to join her on a press trip aboard Celebrity Eclipse, part of Celebrity Cruises, I did wonder if this was going to be ‘my cup of tea’. However, ever up for new challenges, I came along and thankfully was wonderfully surprised. The two day mini cruise, from Southampton to Le Havre, was packed full of alternative experiences that broadened my mind in a completely new direction.
The vessel is being promoted as a luxury fine wine and dining experience and had recently spent nine days in dry dock in Florida being refurbished, including the installation of a number of new world class bars and restaurant venues on board, a revamped casino, nightclub and spa.
When I first saw Celebrity Eclipse, I was struck by her size. I am not used to being up close and personal to big ships and she took my breath away. She is 1,041ft in length with a cruising speed of 24 knots. She was a ‘huge, white, shiny, elegant’ vessel whose sides stretched up above me as far as my neck could strain. She was a magnificent floating, steel city providing safe passage for 2,850 guests.
Helly and I were given an efficient tour of the ship so we could orientate ourselves. We were shown the impressive upgrades, including several new concept bars, a world class restaurant, ‘Luminae’, promising a selection of 500 wines from every grape producing region in the world and were introduced to the brand new exclusive luxury ‘Suite Class’ accommodation and services concept.
Our first taste of Celebrity Eclipse was a light lunch later that day in the buffet area while watching Southampton’s skyline slowly disappear into the drizzly, grey yonder. The buffet, set out in separate service stations, was a spread of cuisine from every corner of the globe. It was freshly prepared and delicious while staff were charming and courteous and keen to help in every way.
My next excursion aboard was to take the lift up to Deck 15 and step outside onto a real grass lawn spreading across the beam of the ship, complete with a croquet set and picnic blankets. This vast expanse of green was tended by two full time grounds men, we were told, and was watered and weeded daily. Definitely ‘gin and tonic’ o’clock!
The voyage also included a number of interesting talks and events to keep us amused in between our dining experiences. I enjoyed an informative talk by Ben Fogle covering his record breaking row across the Atlantic and a very amusing wine master class from wine writer and television presenter Oz Clarke. I was getting into the swing of this…
Later we visited the new Slush bar where one could try a frozen cocktail while lazing on a lounger by one of the ship’s pools or take a relaxing dip in one of the Jacuzzis. A trip to the newly modernised Canyon Ranch Spar for a manicure rounded off the day nicely.
Our first evening meal was at the Murano Restaurant on Deck 5. Each course was divine and the restaurant ambiance was distinguished and refined. I am no food expert and will let Helly embellish on the actual dishes but I was very impressed and felt a certain amount of glutinous delight as I pulled my chair away from the table.
We then skipped passed the nightclub and saw a glittering array of shiny chrome and lights that would not have been out of place in Mayfair. I heard from passengers later that it had stayed open until five that morning. One swift whirl around the dance floor and then off to bed after a cheeky cocktail at the new World Class Bar. My advice, do not plan an early night as time magically slips by on this ship.
The following day involved more sumptuous food. We enjoyed a gourmet tasting session at the ship’s brand new Luminae restaurant. The eatery is only available to guests paying extra for the ‘Suite Class’ experience. However, the premium service promises a superior cabin, exclusive dining venues, a private lounge area and your own personal concierge service.
The Luminae chefs took us through their menu of mouth sized bites of heaven and told us that ingredients are freshly sourced from local ports during each cruise and each menu item is only featured once during a two week cruise.
We enjoyed our second evening’s dinner at the vessel’s Tuscan Grille before visiting the Gastrobar, a new craft beer venue featuring a choice of over 40 boutique beers, cocktails and gastro pub style food, a great ambience for those wanting a more relaxed dining experience. Then we completed our night at the ship’s Martini bar where we admired the bar staff’s cocktail mixing skills, tossing bottles of spirits, ice and glasses wildly into the air. The bar surface is a frozen sheet of ice just in case you need to cool down after the flamboyant drinks show. Then it was off to bed ready for disembarkation first thing in the morning.
For me, the pleasing fact about this boat is that it is well designed to feel convenient, yet spacious enough, so that you soon forget you are on a ship. This floating community had every need catered for. It is a ‘ship in a bottle’ full of charm and luxurious elegance. I see cruising now from a different perspective and may even consider it as a possible holiday option – but I will ensure I am headed for sunnier climes than Le Havre.
We were the guest of Celebrity Cruises. All opinions our own.
Read more and book here – 8 -12 night European cruises start from under £100 per person per night, doubling in price for a stateroom with a balcony.
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