Luxury Cruises: At sea a mere two days to become acquainted with Celebrity Eclipse, recently added to the cruise line's premium Solstice Class ships in 2010, I had a dilemma. How to spend a leisurely hour of my precious but limited time?
Among my choices: relax in Café al Bacío over a cup of Expresso Macchiato and Pistacchio Sicilia Gelato, lounge on the pool deck accompanied by max-strength sunscreen and a stylish straw hat or nap in the grass of The Lawn Club (on Deck 15, it's an industry first - more than one-half acre of real, growing grass).
In a perfect world, the answer would be to indulge in all. But should a sole selection be mandatory, my preference was none of the above. Instead, I curled into a white leather chair to read in the Library. Sound boring? Perhaps. But was it? Never. This stately library is the two-floor focal element of the ship's dramatic atrium. Best part: It overlooks the center of activity only a cruise ship can provide.
My mini-visit was a happening. Veteran travelers collected to preview the ship during its North American debut; and among its guests was the vessel's Godmother, Emma Pontin, a U.K. yachtswoman.
The Eclipse did not disappoint. Stats are superlative: accommodating 2,850 passengers, 90% of staterooms offer outside views, 85% have verandas; dining venues number at 10, there are 12 bars and lounges. And at a length of 1,033 feet (the equivalent of 71 traditional London black taxi cabs) and 121 feet in width (visualize 4.4 double-decker buses end-to-end), it would take Formula One champion Jenson Button 4.5 seconds to drive its length at 155 mph.
Impressive? Absolutely. But when Celebrity president and CEO Dan Hanrahan said of the Eclipse, "Here, you're not going to find rock climbing walls or a relocated Statue of Liberty," I was hooked.
Celebrity imparts more class, less kitsch.
Of the ten dining venues, five are specialty restaurants and all have their own distinctive menu and accompanying ambience. I sampled a delicious selection.
Interactive, innovative and too interesting to miss, a Culinary Tour Guide (i.e. waiter) guides you through your dining experience, one that presents classic concepts in unexpected, new-to-the-scene ways. Evidence: It's one of the world's first restaurants to feature a menu and wine list on an iPad.
The menu illustrates the eatery's playfulness. Examples: Sushi Lollipops (served on lollipop sticks), Chitini (think Chinese/martini inspiration), Lobster Escargot, Taco Royale (black Angus sirloin steak, homemade taco shells, caramelized onion-polano and do-it-yourself guacamole).
The dessert menu is different, too. Designed like a Rubik's Cube, you'll find selections by pivoting the puzzle-an individual cookie jar or perhaps frost-your-own cupcakes with the provided assortment of icings and toppings.
Make your reservations early; for if Qsine were landlocked, it's where you would spot a competing chef on his night off.
An Italian steakhouse with large circular booths, oversized furniture and must-order entrées such as Bistecca Toscana Ribeye (blackened steak with Cajun-spiced butter and "mac and cheese").
Though said to be the casual dining choice, you'll be overwhelmed with mouth-watering possibilities: made-to-order curry, pasta, sushi, pizza and stir-fry stations...all enhanced by made-to-order ocean views.
Among additional selections: Blu (health-inspired "Clean Cuisine"); Murano (Solstice-style blend of class and modern Continental cuisine with wonderful finale selections, Grand Marnier and Chocolate Souffles); Bistro on Five (think Paris and a traditional creperie); AquaSpa Café (healthy, lighter choices served in the Solarium) and Moonlight Sonata Dining Room (in addition to exceptional food, its exceptional feature is a dramatic two-story glass wine tower).
Pampering Possibilities AquaSpa
My massage with technician, Anna San Diego, was the closest I've experienced to Lomi Lomi since my reluctant departure from a massage table in Hawaii years ago.
Of course, the ultimate treat is the 24-Karat Gold Facial, utilizing rose quartz and a pure 24-karat gold leaf mask. A more active choice is the Body Sculpt Boot Camp. But whatever your selection, allow ample time to retreat to the spa's private window-lined relaxation area at the ship's bow.
Imagine a show that takes you on a whirlwind tour of the most famous musicals of Broadway and London's West End, complete with a two story-curved stairway and descending stage. See the production "Ovations" and imagine no more - it's the closest to Broadway that I've witnessed at sea.
"Edge" is a dazzling showcase of dance. With performers suspended over the stage encircling the audience and dancers ricocheting from bungee cords, it's an exciting departure from the norm.
With 18 venues-from Shops on the Boulevard (Deck 4) to Galleria Boutiques (Deck 5-your most posh purchase would be from the Eclipse Collection-an 86-facet Solstice Diamond (a design never cut prior to its exclusive availability on Solstice Class ships).
Deal makers: Personal Concierge Functioning much like a personal assistant, this crew member's exclusive goal is to implement Eclipse's "designed for you" reputation, whether it's to create a special occasion or to arrange a private shore excursion.
This getaway in a double recliner on the top deck (Deck 16) is remote, removed from the action and a slice of heaven.
The "it" spot, this is where to sip a French Martini (recipe: vodka, raspberry schnapps, pineapple) and sit at the frosted bar top - the perfect accessory for a chilled drink.
Self-guided Art Tour Using an iPad, you'll be steered through the ship to view its eclectic and extensive collection of original, contemporary art.
Lemongrass-based body products
Formulated exclusively for Celebrity, they're provided in each stateroom.
The crew's continual warm greetings underscore the initial intention behind the Celebrity name-a cruise line that treats all guests like celebrities.
Deal breaker: Time
There were too few hours to experience everything Celebrity Eclipse brings to the seas. Solution: Schedule a very lengthy cruise.