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At sea a mere two days to become acquainted with Celebrity Eclipse, the most recent of the cruise line’s premium Solstice Class ships, 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 traditionalLondonblack 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.
Tasty Temptations – Of the ten dining venues, five are specialty restaurants and all have their own distinctive menu and accompanying ambience. I sampled a delicious selection.
Qsine – 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.
Tuscan Grille – 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”).
Oceanview Café – 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).
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 inHawaii 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.
Entertainment – 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. The Celebrity’s musical production was the closest to Broadway that I’ve witnessed at sea.
Shopping – 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).
As a freelance travel writer and photographer since 1988, Cynthia Dial has visited the world’s seven continents (most recently Antarctica) in quest of a good story . . . from getting her hair cut in Paris, horse whispering in Hawaii and touring Burma (Myanmar) only months after Aung San Suu Kyi’s release . . . to celebrating Summer Solstice within Finland’s Arctic Circle, hiking to Machu Picchu and visiting Molakai’s former leper colony atop a mule alongside a plunging cliff. In short, she experiences and writes about topics at the top of many readers’ bucket lists. Cynthia is author of the award-winning non-fiction book, Get Your Travel Writing Published. Now in its third printing, it was published in London, England, and sold worldwide (U.S. distributor is McGraw-Hill). Among her outlets are national and international newspapers and magazines including, Time magazine, Hemispheres, Destinations Weddings & Honeymoons, Shape, Dallas Morning News and the Toronto Star (which featured her around-the-world shopping column, Shopping Trips). She also contributes to TraveLife Magazine (distributed throughout Canada) and JustLuxe.com (a luxury portal receiving 2.1 million monthly hits). Cynthia’s radio experience includes World Footprints Radio (formerly Travel’n On) and the Travel Hub show on WorldTalk Radio, on which her No Passport Required segment was a regular feature. She additionally appears as a travel specialist on LiveFitMagazine.com. The travel-addicted writer admits that each time she steps onto an international flight, boards a train or steps onto a ship’s promenade deck to go to work, she congratulates herself on her career choice.
“Follow me around the corner and around the world as I share the ins, the outs, the good, the bad, the funny, the sad – all pieces of the traveling puzzle.” – Cynthia Dial