After a very red-eye Flybe trip down to Southampton and a quick transfer to the City Centre from Parkway Station, the taxi driver who took me to the port asked if I’d been on Eclipse before. Not only had I never been on the ship, I have to admit to never even having seen one of such gigantic proportions up close and personal, Eclipse was even bigger than I could have imagined!
Check-in was smooth – predominantly because I’d arrived very early. Those who came later did not enjoy such a smooth transition through security! On board, the scale, grandeur and luxury were apparent from the outset. From the stunning outdoor pool and Jacuzzis on the top deck – number sixteen!! – to the half acre of lush green lawn (I kid you not!) also on the top deck, to the themed speciality restaurants which are fitted out to the highest standards and present food of Michelin Star quality, all the way through to the impeccably presented staterooms……….that’s right, there are no cabins on Celebrity ships, they are all staterooms. The group of Travel Counsellors and Agents on board enjoyed a highly informative and comprehensive tour of the ship.
The stylish Library on Deck 10, overlooking a real tree suspended in the Atrium was my personal favourite, closely followed by the Cellar Masters; this plush, leather-festooned, wine bar stocked everything from a reasonably priced Pinot Grigio to a bottle of Screaming Eagle, an American offering which will set you back $5,500! We thoroughly enjoyed an entertaining wine and cheese tasting led by Oz Clarke in the afternoon and the daily “Celebrity Today” magazine ensured you were always aware of what was happening, where and when. We all opted to upgrade to the Premium Drinks Package; normally retailing at $77 per day, this ensured we could drink pretty much anything we wanted – except Screaming Eagle! We also opted to upgrade our dinner in the evening and visit one of the speciality restaurants and the Tuscan delivered the goods in every department! There was a Casino and a Night Club for the energetic and insomniacs – I heard at least two people say next day they had been up till 5.00 a.m. And I can honestly confirm they were not TC’s! All in all, a great start to our whirlwind cruise.
After an excellent breakfast that would have graced any 5* establishment, we headed off for a two hour Business Update on all things Celebrity. The team of presenters majored on why we should book this particular brand, highlighting 10 key reasons ranging from the luxury marque and quality of the brand to the innovative cuisine and the 280 destinations across seven Continents which variously comprise their Itineraries. Impressive!
Following a Cappuccino and a cake in one of the many Bistros and Cafes throughout the ship, we contemplated and contrived a plan for the rest of the day. At a four hour round trip, Paris would be one step too far so instead, four of us decided that we would set off on a “Discovery Tour” of the Normandy region – and what an inspired choice this turned out to be! We opted for a five hour trip in the company of our excellent and highly entertaining and informative driver, Jamie. The “flowery coast” was stunning and in full bloom. We crossed the impressive Normandy Bridge and visited Trouville and Deauville, the latter sitting proudly upon one of the northernmost Normandy beaches which featured in the D-Day landings. The seafood market in Trouville is an absolute “must see” – just don’t forget your wallet! Whilst the langoustines were the size of my fist, the price ticket of £50 per kilo was a bit scary!
We visited a 17th Century church and a stunning 5* Country House Hotel on our way back to the beautiful town of Honfleur. Tightly knit and incredibly narrow buildings surround a stunning harbour, littered with restaurants specialising in seafood. The huge portion of local mussels in cider with Camembert, along with the customary frites, rounded off our afternoon. An excellent tour, inspiring itinerary and first rate company, what more can you ask for – all in all, a great day!
In the evening, back on Eclipse, we were invited to a VIP Cocktail Party followed by another outstanding dinner in the shadow of the two storey, crystal wine store in the main dining room.
We all agreed that it will be much easier to sell Celebrity in the light of our experience; we all had a great time and left inspired – and as always, it was great to spend quality time in the company of fellow TCs and share experiences and ideas……………………….as well as a few G&Ts!