Just back from a two night inaugural cruise aboard the Solstice Class Celebrity Eclipse. Celebrity is a Premium Cruise Line, above the mass market lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and NCL. The Premium Lines include Princess, Holland America, Celebrity, Oceania. The Luxury Lines are Regent Seven Seas, Crystal Cruises, Silversea Cruises, and Seabourn.
A few years ago, I did a ship inspection on one of Celebrity's older ships and was completely underwhelmed. Small staterooms, frayed fabrics, just nothing to make me want to put my clients on the line. Comparing to Oceania, they came up short. I've also sailed twice on Princess and have been disappointed both times. So I boarded the Eclipse with low expectations. All I can say is "WOW."
The Eclipse is new. She's gleaming fresh (been sailing all summer in Europe) and bright. Initially disappointed to have an ocean view stateroom, I walked into my room and said, "Wow." Spacious, large window, and really nice bathroom. Wow. I mean a smartly laid out bathroom, with a shower door that doesn't flood the floor, and cabinets with glass doors that actually close, so your toiletries don't fly about in rough seas. The sink is a raised sink, really lovely. Nice carpeting. Comfortable bed. Flat screen TV. Not the fantastic marble you find on Crystal or Regent, but really lovely in the Premium Category.
The staff is professional, providing gracious service with an energetic, youthful vibe. Good humor mixed with really top-notch service at a level that is way above Premium. The food is terrific - also at an unexpected level. The bars are show-places, and fun; they had a jazz ensemble on board that was flat out amazing. The pools are nice, but there is one pool that's adults only and quite serene.
There are so many little touches that just raised the bar for a Premium Cruise Ship - a lawn on the top deck that you just have to walk on barefoot. A really outstanding gelato corner. Nice shopping arcade. Really good artwork throughout the ship. On, and on, and on.
The nice thing about Premium is that it isn't at the cost point of luxury; but the experience is so far above Mass Market. You are out of pocket for a lot on a Premium Ship - drinks, specialty restaurants - that are included on Luxury, but it makes the transition easier. But within the Premium Cateogry, I will be putting my clients on Celebrity from here on.
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