My DH and I are in our 50s and have taken 22 cruises on Princess and a few on Carnival. We had an opening in our vacation schedule and decided it was time to try something new. I wanted to recapture the feeling I had on my very first cruise. I still remember the awe I felt when I first stepped onto the then-new Diamond Princess. With that in mind, I did some research on the Celebrity boards and found a 10-day Hawaii to Vancouver cruise on the Celebrity Eclipse that worked well for us. Although I don’t usually write reviews, I thought my observations might be helpful to other Princess cruisers who might be considering Celebrity.
The Eclipse is a Solstice-class ship, which seems to be similar to Princess’ Royal class ships. I’ve been on the Royal Princess twice and feel the Eclipse was quite comparable. Decor is completely different, especially Celebrity's atrium which is open all the way to the top of the ship (beautiful). Celebrity is more modern whereas Princess is more traditional. Both ships are beautiful in my opinion. The Eclipse had two sets of elevators. The main elevators were aft of midship and had eight glass elevators (four each side) that overlooked the atrium.
Embarkation – We arrived at the port around 12:30 p.m., so the priority groups had already embarked. They took our pictures when we checked in, so we just walked onto the ship after getting our SeaPass and passing through security. As on Princess, staterooms weren’t ready right away, so they encourage you to go to the buffet. Ironically, this was the least crowded the buffet ever was at lunch and it wasn’t too bad. Rooms were ready around 1:30 and they made an announcement when we could go to our stateroom.
Muster – Neither line requires you to bring the life vest anymore. Both check you off a list when you show up and both have a humorous-type video to communicate the information. Princess does a better job of actually showing you how to put on the vest. Both are done inside in various venues, so the seating was comfortable. Celebrity had a silly song about washing your hands, it’s the thing to do. I had to laugh because I overheard one passenger say he was going to lose it if they kept playing that awful song.
Dress – Before the cruise, I was concerned about what to pack, but people dressed pretty much the same as they do on Princess. People dressed casually during the day and wore smart casual to the dining room at night. Celebrity doesn't have Formal Night and instead has Evening Chic (but it looked about the same to me). We didn’t go to the dining room those nights; however, the people who did seemed to dress about the same as they do on Formal Nights on Princess.
Main Dining Room – Princess has more seafood options for those who like seafood, but food quality was very comparable. Celebrity has dipping sauces along with butter for the bread and baked onion soup is on the always available menu. Both were nice options.
Buffet – Comparable if comparing with Princess’ Royal class buffet. If comparing with Princess’ older ships, the Celebrity buffet was better.
Buffet Hours – The Celebrity buffet had more limited hours and lunch and dinner had later start times than Princess (noon for lunch and 6 p.m. for dinner). As a result, the buffet was a mob scene at lunch. Dinner crowds were fine, probably because most people eat in the dining rooms. We solved the lunch crowd issue a few days into the cruise by eating lunch in the dining room and dinner in the buffet. Pizza and pasta were always available in the buffet even after main dining hours. The pizza was pretty good compared to the pizza by the pool on Princess (my opinion), but I’d say Alfredo’s in Princess is still the best of the pizza options.
Grill – Celebrity’s grill had a limited menu of hamburgers and hotdogs. When weather is bad, they move the grill items to the buffet. I didn’t eat at the grill (except fries). DH had a burger one day and said it was good. You can add cheese, grilled onions, and bacon to the burger if you wish.
Aqua Spa Cafe vs. International Cafe – The IC has more variety. On the other hand, the Aqua Spa had free coffee, tea, and juices, so you could get them there without having to go to the buffet. We ate breakfast there every day to avoid the buffet crowds. The Aqua Spa Cafe had limited breakfast and lunch hours versus 24 hours for the IC.
Specialty Restaurants – More expensive on Celebrity. Didn’t try them, so I can’t compare.
Specialty Coffees – DH tried the vanilla lattes and said they were fine. I was content with the free coffee, so can’t judge Cafe Al Bacio. Free coffee is strong on both lines.
Drinks – We prefer the alcohol drink choices on Princess and the prices are lower. Beer selection is better on Celebrity (at least on the Eclipse) if you like craft beers (we do). We did eventually figure out that you can ask for drinks that aren't listed on the menus. For example, we only saw specialty drinks listed, but you could ask for a margarita or mojito, and they had them at prices cheaper than the drinks listed on the menus.
Drink Packages – Both lines have drink packages. Celebrity appears to have more options (3 different packages for alcohol alone) and sometimes they are put on sale prior to the cruise. Unfortunately, neither of us can drink enough to make it worthwhile to purchase the alcohol packages even at sale prices, but it’s great to get them during a promotion. Celebrity has drink package promotions more frequently. Princess seems to have the Sip and Sail just once a year.
Entertainment – Celebrity’s entertainment wins by a mile. The production shows were excellent! On Princess, we seldom go to shows because we’ve seen most of them and the seating situation in the theater is awful. On the Eclipse, the theater almost always had plenty of seating even if you showed up just before showtime. The production shows featured singers, dancers, and acrobats (think Cirque de Soleil like). The performers were very talented and did five different production shows. On other afternoons and nights, the Eclipse featured two different comedians who each did two different shows. They also had guest singers three nights. We went to one of those shows but skipped the other two -- we needed some down time! In addition, they had two naturalists on board who gave talks on sea days along with a variety of other activities. We normally don’t attend many of the activities on ships, but we were surprisingly busy on this cruise wanting to see how Celebrity compared. I did read a comment on our roll call by someone who commented that Celebrity had really upped its game on the entertainment, so maybe this isn’t typical of all Celebrity ships. I normally don’t pay attention to the captain or the cruise director, but these two were very visible and had a great rapport. It surprises me to say this but having Captain Leo and Alejandro on board definitely added to the enjoyment of the cruise. Who knew?
In Room Movies – I think Princess has a few more viewing options including TV shows, but Celebrity did offer quite a few free movies. We were so busy that we could only fit in three movies. DH commented that Princess has more sports channels and was annoyed that they weren’t showing the NBA and hockey playoffs.
Bar Service – Service is great on both, but I think Princess has more bar staff.
Stateroom Service – Our stateroom steward was excellent and I’d say service is comparable on both lines. Both come morning and evening and leave chocolates on the pillows. That’s a plus for DH since he gets mine. Our room was kept very clean.
Veranda Cabins – We had a Sunset Veranda room on the back of the ship. I was worried about being in a balcony cabin after having mini suites on Princess, but the room was fine. The room had a full-size couch that was actually comfortable and the bed was great. The balcony was large with a view of the wake that couldn’t be beat. Bathroom was nicer than Princess with a glass door for the shower instead of a curtain. Interestingly, the mirror never seemed to fog up when we showered so they must have good ventilation in the bathroom. Princess does a better job with storage space, but I think it may be at the sacrifice of living space. Celebrity puts storage above the bed, so I kept clothes folded in the storage cabinet and moved items to the closet for the wrinkles to hang out prior to wearing. Once I figured out the new routine, it worked fine. (On Princess, I hang almost everything up right away because there’s more hangars and closet space.). On Princess, I find the balcony cabins to be too small with no comfortable seating, so I need a mini suite, but I’m happy with a veranda cabin on Celebrity. I love the location at the back of the ship and didn’t find the distance to the elevator to be an issue at all. For someone with mobility issues, the Sunset Veranda probably wouldn’t be a good choice.
Hallways – This may sound like a small thing, but it actually made a big difference walking to and from our stateroom. The doorways are recessed on the Eclipse and the stewards don’t have the big carts like they have on Princess. Instead, they have what look like large rolling suitcases. Since the doorways are recessed, the carts don't block the hallways. For those who use mobility devices, this must make a huge difference. I suspect it’s nice for the stewards, too, since they don’t have to worry about passengers trying to get by them while they’re working.
Walking Deck – The Eclipse did not appear to have a wraparound deck like the Promenade deck on some of the older Princess ships. I didn’t see a track, but also didn’t look for one. I got plenty of walking around the ship, so this wasn’t an issue for me.
Gym – DH said the gym was larger and had nicer equipment than on Princess. I didn’t see it, so I can’t comment.
Casino – We didn’t use the casino, but this one looked nice and appeared to be smoke free, so I didn’t mind walking through it on the way to the theater. On Princess, I avoid entering the casino if at all possible.
Laundry – We didn’t use the ship’s laundry service, which like Princess, isn’t cheap. Also, Celebrity doesn’t have self-serve laundromats. I knew this ahead of time, so planned for a bit of hand washing in the room. I thought this would be an issue, but since I knew about it beforehand, it was fine. I’m Elite on Princess, so I do use the ship’s laundry service there since I have free laundry. I also use the self-serve laundry for items I don’t want to entrust to the ship’s laundry. That’s an awesome perk that I really appreciate on Princess.
Future Cruises – I always purchase Future Cruise Deposits on Princess. Celebrity still has the old FCD system, but it is nonrefundable, so they encourage you instead to book a future cruise, which is changeable without penalty. Depending on the length of the cruise, you get different amounts of onboard credit and the deposit is refundable or transferrable to a different cruise. Unlike Princess, they have all-day hours for the Future Cruise office (9 a.m. - 9 p.m. daily) and they had 2 to 4 staff available to help customers. Early in the cruise, they weren’t very busy, but of course got much busier toward the end of the cruise. Although we hadn’t planned to do so, we put money down on a future cruise ($100 each) since we felt we had nothing to lose. We plan to take the cruise we booked, but it’s nice knowing we can switch to another voyage or get a refund if needed.
Internet - We purchased the unlimited internet for one device and it was excellent. I’m guessing Princess’ MedallionNet may be comparable, but I haven’t experienced that yet.
Shore Excursions – Since this was Hawaii, the excursions were rather expensive, so I didn’t book any at first. Much to my surprise, Celebrity put a few of them on sale a couple of different times prior to the cruise. They also added more 4-hour excursions closer to sail date that were priced around $55, so we ended up adding them. As on other cruise lines, you do have to prepay at time of purchase. The tickets were waiting for us in our stateroom when we boarded. Final Verdict
Both Princess and Celebrity are great cruise lines. It was fun recapturing that feeling of stepping onto a new ship for the first time. We didn’t miss our Elite benefits as much as I thought we would. That said, I love my Elite benefits, so I’ll appreciate them all the more when I’m back on Princess. Currently, we have future cruises booked on both lines. When researching new cruises, I plan to compare itineraries and prices on both lines before deciding. It’s nice to have two such great options!