Great Cruise to Iceland and the Fjords
Graeme Atkins | June 29, 2014 | Celebrity Cruises | Celebrity Eclipse
This was our 11th cruise since my wife and I first got the bug in 2009. We??ve previously travelled with P&O, Royal Caribbean, MSC, Cunard, Princess and Celebrity to the Med, the Baltic, the Bahamas, Mexico, the Canaries, the Greek Islands and the Caribbean.
Overall, we enjoyed the cruise enormously and would go again on this ship and on this itinerary again tomorrow without any hesitation. Celebrity offers well above our average cruise experience and gives great value for money. We also appreciated the $25 on board credit from Bolsover Cruise Club and the surprise $200 on board credit from Celebrity ?? probably because we had booked early and they were now offering price cuts!
The clientele on board was predominantly 50+ and belied our impressions at check-in by being just about the best dressed set of passengers we??ve seen on a cruise with many ties and jackets being worn on smart/casual evenings and an almost 100% dress code compliance on formal evenings.
If you??re interested in any shore excursions, get them booked as far ahead as you can. We spoke to passengers who had had problems trying to reserve shore excursions online and we found that Celebrity had taken them offline well before the 3 days in advance of the start of the cruise as stated. We tried to get on to 7 shore excursions as we boarded, only to be told that five of them were already sold out. The shore excursions staff were however excellent and worked hard to obtain more places. We did eventually get on to all the excursions we wanted, but it was a roller coaster ride.
What we liked
1. The food was very good indeed ?? we only used the main dining room for dinner and sometimes for lunch
2. The cabin and facilities there were also very good, although the styling may not be to everyone??s taste
3. The staff were just about the most friendly and welcoming we have met on a cruise
4. The ship was clean and very well maintained ?? but it is fairly new!
5. The shore excursions were well organised and very good value
6. Entertainment was generally good ?? but could have been better in some cases
7. The (adults only) solarium pool had the warmest water we have had in a cruise pool and was kept full even when the sea was rocky. The very faint music around the pool meant that you could listen to your own music without any problem. There was however some selfishness about with token books left lying on solarium sunbeds while the owners went for breakfast/lunch or on other extended walkabouts. Attendants would remove such items if asked to do so if the bed had been unattended for at least 30 minutes
8. The gym was one of the best equipped we have ever seen ?? although we never quite managed to get to use it!
9. The Loyalty Programme they offer is very good indeed in its various aspects
What we weren??t so keen on
1. Check-in at Southampton was very slow
2. We seemed to have to walk along way from parking the car to the check-in ?? both outside and inside buildings (our luggage had been taken as we arrived but we did have to park the car ourselves). On our return the journey was much shorter with trollies readily available for our luggage
3. The ship??s d??cor is according to Celebrity??s current ??Solstice?? styling. This is very contemporary and it comes across to us as cold and garish in many areas of the ship, with lots of chrome and vinyl to be seen. We did cruise on Celebrity Constellation in 2010 and have fond memories of the warm styling on board at that time. I??m old enough to remember when vinyl went out of fashion at the end of the 1960s and I didn??t realise that it was fashionable once again! It seemed akin to the sort of wipe-clean plastic environment of an old people??s home! ‘Solstice?? styling can also mean a victory of style over function ?? for example, the seats in the main dining room were clearly built for other types of people with a very long ??throw?? of the seat from front to back, meaning that we slouched without even wanting to. There was almost no back support and the chairs were heavy and so wide that diners could not all sit up at the table together as the chairs were then too tightly packed together. The seating around the outside of the Sky Lounge was also very uncomfortable and didn??t even look good!
What else could have been better?
1. The ship needs an extra set of lifts at the back of the ship ?? waiting times can be long in busy periods and sometimes it??s a long way to walk to a lift
2. Desserts in the dining room were too often cake-based and hardly ever included British favourites on a ship which had an overwhelmingly British set of passengers
3. The free daily canap??s in Concierge class were not of such good quality compared to the last time we were on Celebrity (Oct 2010)
4. There were only 3 formal evenings ?? would have liked ?? and expected – at least 4 on a two-week cruise
5. The Sky Lounge should have a 16+/18+ policy ?? we experienced young teenagers scruffily dressed on a formal evening barging around on the dance floor and they did seem to have been drinking
6. It seemed strange that we were crawling along on our sea day from the Faroes to Norway at 9 knots and we then cruised at almost our maximum speed once in the fjords the morning after. Surely it would have been better to go faster on a sea day and have a more leisurely trip into the fjord system.
7. There is always the tendency to put the clocks back on board just before a sea day rather than before a port day. And I wonder why they can??t put the clocks back on the last night of the cruise (instead of the night before) when we could all do with the extra hour as we disembark. And why too is the last night on board packed with activities late into the night when we are all up at the crack of dawn next morning to leave the ship?
We had a Concierge balcony cabin on Deck 10.
1. The cabin was always clean with a very comfortable bed and the cabin attendant was excellent
2. There was a useful cupboard over the bed
3. Without prompting, the ship??s staff brought us a tray to make our own hot drinks plus a kettle for the cabin
4. The balcony furniture was of good quality and footstools were provided.
5. The cabin was lacking in some ways ?? it seemed a little under size and the balcony struck us as very shut in
6. Storage in the cabin was very limited, with only small shelf sets instead of bedside tables, a tiny work/dressing table surface and a none-too spacious wardrobe
7. As usual, the mini-bar fridge seemed to dominate at the expense of storage space we could well have done with and it made the adjoining drawers very warm
8. We had a 3-seater sofa (all in vinyl!) in a cabin which seemed not to have the option to take more than 2 people. We would have preferred a smaller sofa and more storage space.
1. It was spacious by cruise standards
2. We had shower doors rather than a clinging curtain
3. There were lots of complimentary toiletries, including shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, shower gel, emery boards, cotton wool balls, tissues and cotton buds
4. We had the use of the nicest dressing gowns ever on a cruise
5. The bath towels were very generous in size of a very fluffy quality
6. The bathroom had good shelf space and a generous side cupboard with additional shelving
7. When the main bathroom light is off, there is still a low glow in the bathroom which is useful at night
1. Much of the shelf space was taken up by their free toiletries
2. The shaver socket has no socket for UK shavers and there were no adaptors in the shop on board. Staff did offer to recharge my electric toothbrush at Guest Relations! The socket was in the ceiling, so was OK for shaving, but no good to recharge other items
3. The shower head is not detachable
4. The cabin washbasin had a raised basin with a tap fixed right across the middle of it, making it impossible to splash one??s face in the basin
Choose your cabin carefully!
One fellow passenger said he had a ??sunset veranda?? cabin at the back of the ship and, as they were in the lee of the ship, they almost always had no breeze when we were moving. Another passenger complained that they were on Deck 3 and that they had a whining/screeching noise from machinery at 20-minute intervals day and night. The best advice seems to be to complain about any such problems straightaway. One couple did that and were ??upgraded?? away, whilst another couple who complained later were offered sweeteners instead such as complimentary visits to the speciality restaurants.
Moonlight Sonata Dining Room
Excellent food for dinner, but the service could be slow at times. We often found the lunch menu in the main dining room disappointing and ended up in the Ocean View cafeteria instead.
Ocean View Caf??
The Ocean View Caf?? seating is set out like a canteen with almost exclusively square tables ?? the whole ambience is that of a department store cafeteria. It was the most crowded we have known on all our cruises both for breakfast and for lunch ?? both when trying to get food and also when trying to find a place to eat. It could be better if the main dining room were open every lunch time, rather than just on sea days and also if the ship operated a salad bar every day like they do on Royal Caribbean.
We didn??t visit any of the speciality restaurants on board.
The dance action on an evening was in the Sky Observation Bar rather than in the disco. The dance band D??Revelation played mainly there and were excellent. Other performers around the ship were all of a very high standard ?? a jazz singing quartet – Cheek to Cheek, two different pianists, a very popular ??A Capella?? group of singers ?? ??Full Tilt?? – plus a classical guitarist.
The shows in the ship??s theatre varied in quality, but the auditorium was clearly too small as it was often a case of ??standing room?? only as shows were about to start. Singer Cheryl Squires was excellent, as was the show by the ship??s company – ??Ovations?? – but one performer suffered a raft of complaints after his first performance about his inappropriate content.
Ports of Call
We did seem to have the worst berths at many of the ports of call ?? we went to Klaksvig rather than Torshavn in the Faroes, to the commercial docks in Molde rather than being more centrally moored, we were away from the Bryggen in Bergen, although we were docked conveniently at Flam rather than having to use tenders and we did have the better anchorage at Geiranger compared to the Costa ship which was also there. I imagine that some of the problem is that this ship is just too large for many of the standard moorings.
The two stops in Iceland (Reykjavik and Akureyri in the very north) were both excellent choices. We??re not really ??outward-bound?? types, but we enjoyed these two stops enormously. With awful weather in the UK for some months by now, the weather was truly glorious, with unbroken sunshine and temperatures way above their seasonal average highs. The scenery and locations they took us to were beautiful and, at times, very exciting.
There??s free wifi at ??The Viking?? shop on the quayside at Akureyri ?? get the ??Connect Key?? password at the counter. They also have two computers with free access ?? suggested 15 minutes max use.
Klaksvik is very small and was rather overwhelmed by the 3000 or so cruise ship passengers arriving on a Saturday morning! They ran free shuttle buses over the 3km stretch into town. They had also put on a modest show at the Tourist Information Office and there was an indoor fayre at the local badminton hall. Stay on the bus till the second stop for that. I do however get the impression that we would have been better off in the capital Torshavn rather than in Klaksvik.
Beautiful end-of-fjord stop with the usual tourist shops (tendering ashore).
We stopped at Molde rather than Alesund as was originally billed because of ??berthing problems??. It was never made clear what these ??problems?? were and, whilst Molde was pleasant enough, we did get the feeling that we would have been better off in Alesund.
Another truly beautiful end-of-fjord stop ?? perhaps preferable even to Geiranger. We went on the train up the valley and hiked back for 6 miles and then got the train back for the last part. Fl?m itself was a very attractive place with the usual tourist offerings.
We did feel a little short-changed in Bergen. We enjoyed being there well enough, but the ship had to leave at 2pm for its return to Southampton and that curtailed our shore excursion to some extent and didn??t really give us time to explore the city for ourselves. If we had sailed from such as Harwich, we would have been able to leave later and have more time in Bergen.
We went on 7 of Celebrity??s shore excursions and felt that they were all well organised and good value. On one of the excursions in Iceland the guide was rather poor and told us very little, but all the others were very good indeed.
Was always excellent and what we wanted first thing on a morning came as ordered on always on time.
And finally ??.
The cruise experience was geared very much to the US market, despite the fact that there were hardly any Americans on board. The vast majority of passengers were age 50+ Brits. The currency used (dollars rather than pounds sterling), the serving of alcohol to over 21s only rather than to over 18s, the language used on signage ?? e.g. apparently men have to wear underwear (pants) for smart casual evenings – all served to remind us that we were strangers in a foreign environment on a cruise starting and ending in our own country.
There was a ??port lecturer?? on board to talk us in and out of our stops and also about the itinerary. His description of somewhere being the size of the state of New Mexico was fairly meaningless to us. Comparisons by speakers to dollars was also not very meaningful to us and we couldn??t be bothered to work it out all the time!
Electrical connections in cabins are mainly geared to the US market. There??s one socket for Europeans but none for UK residents.
In the disco at ??request time?? my wife asked for Take That??s ??Relight my Fire??, but was told it wasn??t on the playlist! Music on board and the tv offerings in cabins were very geared to the US experience rather than to the UK. Any recent music played on board is from the US ?? all that Britain seems able to contribute is 1960s Beatles or 1970s Bee Gees songs! Even the BBC Entertainment channel on board was full of non-BBC US offerings.
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