A few months back I posted my comparison of HAL with Royal. You can read that [here]. I noted that we would be sailing with Celebrity in October. And so we did. I have a review of the cruise pending (I will update this post when it publishes) but I wanted to get my thoughts down on the differences while my memories of the cruise are still fresh.
This was only our second Celebrity cruise. Our first, on Century, was pretty dreary. She was sold within a year of our cruise so that might have had something to do with it. This time we got a good deal through my spouse's connection with MLife, and his parents have status with Royal so Celebrity was a good compromise for a family cruise.
Celebrity Eclipse is a beautiful ship in great shape. At 2852 passengers, she is larger than any HAL ship. She will be “Edgified” next year and more suites and cabins will be added. I hate it when they do this.
We found the ship to be a bit more crowded at peak times than Vista or Signature Class ships of the HAL line. Yet there were plenty of places to go to have a quieter experience. We almost always found a table to play cards when we wanted to. There were open chairs on the decks. No squabbling over deck chairs like you read all the time on the Celebrity forums..
The ship was very quiet early in the morning. We like to get up early and get coffee, head to the gym, then have breakfast. We had the ship almost to ourselves from, say, 5 am to 7 am. I don’t typically swim in a cruise ship pool, but the adults only Solarium pool at 7 am was usually empty, and I think if we go again I will try it.
The gym was great. Lots of room. We had a small group of regulars early in the morning and save for one day there were plenty of machines for everyone. I enjoyed the daily stretch classes (which were free) and they had a variety of classes for a $18 fee. It seems like the classes were pretty well attended. Sometimes the HAL classes only have one or two people in them. Very comparable.
I would say the HAL Lido Market Buffet is definitely better than the buffet on the Eclipse, both in terms of variety and quality. There were “daily specials” on both lines but the Celebrity specials, well, weren’t very special.
We were always able to find a table for 4 in the Oceans Buffet, whereas we did have some waiting at times on Oosterdam.
If the Buffet is better on HAL, I think the Main Dining Room experience is pretty much even. Some hits, some misses. The Celebrity Chic Night menu was good, and the Beef Wellington was tasty. One of our party had the lobster and it was “okay.”
Both lines have good service. I have an impression that the ships owned by RCI have more service issues but that was not apparent on the Eclipse. We had perhaps the best main dining room service we’ve ever had on any cruise line. That is high praise.
Service at the Cafe al Bacio was excellent. As were the drinks and pastries. I'd say coffee drinks similar to Explorers Cafe, but treats much more diverse at Bacio.
The room attendant was very efficient. We follow a pretty set schedule and he worked with it almost exactly and we never came back to an unmade bed.
Officers were very visible throughout the ship. Captain Leo is a real professional. Very engaging. He was on the gangway at departure saying goodbye to the passengers.
Persian Garden vs Thalassotherapy
I bought the PG pass ($149 for 10 days the day of sailing) partly because we had onboard credit to spend. There is no pool. The steam and dry aromatherapy rooms were much larger than on HAL ships, and both worked! (My last two cruises on HAL one or the other was out of order for the duration). The heated loungers were nearly identical. Where HAL gets the nod is the therapy pool. There is no equivalent on Eclipse. In my opinion, if you like the water, the HAL spa pass is a much better deal.
Also note, steam and dry sauna are available for adults in the spa changing rooms on Eclipse. You don’t need a special pass to use them. So unless you like the heated loungers, you really don't need to buy a PG pass.
I don’t really care about perks, but my inlaws do. They have status on Royal which is reciprocated (minus one level) on Celebrity. They get free drinks at “happy hour” and some other perks that they enjoy and that is what keeps them loyal to Royal. They keep telling us the HAL perks are pretty skimpy and their Carnival status doesn’t get reciprocated. This matters to some people and probably should be looked at.
Celebrity passengers are a pretty diverse cross section of people. We heard multiple languages being spoken. All ages. There were kids, but not many of them. The passengers seem to stay up later and get up later. They seem to drink more alcohol and the bars are pretty busy. There were tons of activities on the sea days. They had a passenger choir! Lots to do. Much more than HAL. So something to consider if you like to be entertained. It did seem as though the Eclipse passengers were, overall, somewhat younger than on the typical 10 day plus HAL sailing. Perhaps a bit pushier than your typical HAL passengers.
Well, what can I say? Of course entertainment on Eclipse was much more a focus than on any HAL ship I’ve been on. It really is no contest. The live music nightly in the Atrium is also a nice plus. It was somewhat uneven quality wise, but it was nice to have that going on. It brought life to the center of the ship.
I would sail Celebrity again. Their boards are full of people bemoaning the cutbacks, complaining about Edgification, cutting up the ships into classes, etc. But from my perspective, the Eclipse offered a nice cruise.
I still look at itinerary first. HAL continues to have better itineraries. For example, January 2021 we are considering Antarctica. I would not sail Eclipse to Antarctica. For one, the bow is only open to Suite passengers. But besides that, the HAL Santiago to BA itinerary is just better.
Value. HAL provides some great value for the money. We got a good deal on our Celebrity Hawaii cruise. But if we allow our MLife status to lapse by not going to Las Vegas this year, that value will be gone. Overall, prices are higher on Celebrity.
Our next cruise will be Westerdam Japan Transpacific 2020. We will probably look for a Celebrity cruise to appease the inlaws. Maybe New England in the fall.