Eclipse Azores & Canaries accessible review, Sept 2014.

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towny44
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Eclipse Azores & Canaries accessible review, Sept 2014.

Post by towny44 » 28 Oct 2014, 10:29

This would be our 3rd cruise on the Eclipse over the last 3 years and, following some cruise forum comments about reducing standards, we were keen to check things out for ourselves. We need not have worried, the Eclipse showed hardly any signs of a decline in standards, unless you consider pillow chocolates each night essential; and the standards of cleanliness on the ship continue to amaze us.

The Southampton Boat show was just finishing the weekend we embarked so, to avoid ridiculously hiked hotel rates, we had booked a great deal at the Holiday Inn Basingstoke for our pre-cruise overnight stay, and despite the age of the hotel it provided very modern accommodation and a very good choice for breakfast. The only problem was in finding the hotel, it is less than 2 miles from the M3 junction but the poor signposting in Basingstoke along with less than clear google route map instructions, meant we spent the best part of 30 minutes exploring every inch of the ring road before we eventually found the hotel. I think an investment in a satnav might be on the cards before our next trip.

Embarkation was a breeze, as Select Captain’s Club members we could check in and board anytime between 11:30 and 3:30, we were in the car park by 11:30 and sitting on the open aft deck of the Ocean View café enjoying a late elevenses coffee by 11:55, other passengers we met were on board by 11:00am, so they obviously start earlier than 11:30. Celebrity has security before check-in, which I am convinced is why it is so much easier and far faster than P&O’s Ocean terminal; and since you park your own car with ABP parking there is no hold up waiting for valet drivers like you get with C&PS, altogether a less stressful experience than Ocean Terminal.

The first two and a half days are sea days, a time to relax and settle in to the cruising experience, weather wise we were very fortunate to have some sunshine and warm temperatures from the off, and the pool and sun decks were very well patronised. One drawback with this itinerary was the limited number of accessible shore excursions, and the very high prices of those there were, however we are now more than content with a short stroll around the main resort part of any port of call, and generally view the ship itself as the main holiday venue.

Our first port was Ponta Delgada in the Azores; a new experience for us and quite a pleasant place, a fairly level promenade, essential when you are pushing a wheelchair, but as in most of the islands we visited the streets inland can be quite steep so we restricted ourselves to the promenade.

Funchal – Madeira, with only one small accessible shuttle bus and about a 45 min frequency, we decided to walk into town. It is quite a trek with a steep incline at one point, but perfectly possible for most wheelchair users. There was quite a bit of redevelopment work around the harbour and the first part of the sea-front promenade, which produced a few problems for wheelchairs, but I guess this will have finished by the start of the 2015 season. We did venture up into part of the town but only to the main pedestrianized area beyond the Cathedral, but the most important stop was for a drink and one of those wonderful custard tarts they specialise in here in Madeira.

Santa Cruz – Tenerife, there is a free shuttle bus to take you on a 1 mile trip out of the port area to the cruise/ferry terminal, where you end up about 200 yards away from the ship across the harbour basin. Santa Cruz is not really a tourist resort but there is a level promenade which takes you toward the town centre where there are a number of sidewalk cafes and restaurants, some even have free Wi-Fi, although the one we found had a 13 character password with numbers and upper & lower case characters evenly distributed throughout, without my stylus I gave up on this! The streets into the shopping area are uphill as usual; we only went a short way up the main pedestrianized shopping street as further on the steepness increased.

Las Palmas – Gran Canaria, an easy level 10-15 min walk from the ship to Playa Las Canteras, one of the main beaches in Las Palmas which is located on a wide bay about 3km long with a promenade backing onto the beach all the way along. There are some quite busy stretches with sunbeds and umbrellas and lots of outdoor cafes and restaurants. We were there on a Sunday and it was very busy with lots of locals as well as tourists continually arriving.

Puerto Del Rosario – Fuerteventura, from the ship the coastline looks very rocky and the immediate buildings not very attractive, but there is a well paved sort of promenade/pavement and we walked left about half a mile then went inland and uphill into the town centre. It is only small but there are some sidewalk cafes and restaurants along the main pedestrianized section of C/primero de mayo.

Arrecife – Lanzarote, there was no accessible shuttle here and it is about a 45 min walk to the town centre, we considered taking a taxi but our memory of Arrecife from previous holidays in Lanzarote was of a fairly run down town, so we decided to stay on board. However those who went into town said it had been improved considerably, probably from our contributions to the EU budget, so if we visit again we will probably give it a try.

Lisbon, Eclipse berths upriver from the 25th April bridge, from where it is an easy walk into the main tourist area of the city, turn left and it is only a short walk to the Praca do Comercio, head across this and through the Arca da Rua Augusta and you are in the tourist area. The pavements and cobbled roads of Lisbon are not very wheelchair friendly, but the pedestrianized streets around R. Augusta are reasonably accessible. Lisbon, like Madeira, is also famous for its flaky pastry custard tarts, so we of course availed ourselves of some with our coffees.

Entertainment on Eclipse is probably not as lively as on P&O, however the production shows, of which there are only three, are very good, but like most cruise lines they do tend to flog them to death, and we live in hope there will be some new ones soon. There was the usual mix of guest artists, we only watched a few, some were good others quite poor, but we never expect top flight stars anyway. Similarly with the musical groups on board, some reasonable some not, the party band was British but not a patch on the Philipino group that was on the Eclipse last summer. We did notice that most of the popular music shows in the Sky Lounge started much later on this cruise than was the case last year; start times of 10:45 are now just too late for us.

As regards food quality, particularly in the MDR, we did not think that standards had slipped at all, unlike some recent reviews; it is still way ahead of anything we have experienced on P&O. However alcohol pricing was noticeably higher, I wonder if this is done deliberately to encourage a high take up of beverage package sales. Unfortunately since my wife now drinks very little, buying a package for two (both passengers in a cabin have to buy the package) would be far more expensive than buying drinks individually. We managed a good 2 for 1 deal in the Tuscan Grill Italian speciality restaurant one night and thoroughly enjoyed the experience as usual, but it is the extra personal service you are paying for, since the food quality is only slightly better than the MDR. The Ocean View Café servery area which gives access from both sides is so much better than those on Azura/Ventura; I believe that the Britannia buffet has been redesigned and will also be accessible from both sides; we will be able to make comparisons on our April cruise. We generally had breakfast in the buffet on port days but did manage to have some breakfasts in the MDR on sea days; the quality and variety in both is very good. The service standards on Eclipse are still excellent and the majority of the staff very friendly, and as I indicated earlier the public areas are kept spotlessly clean with the cleaning staff noticeably high profile.

Disembarkation was very easy; you are given a time and a venue to attend where announcements are made to advise when your group can disembark. However we try to time our final breakfast and clearing out the room to coincide with the advised timing, and then just head straight to the gangway, and never have a problem, our time was 8:30 and we were heading out of the car park by 8:40.

Overall Eclipse is still our favourite ship, it has by far the best accessibility for wheelchair users with automatic doors everywhere including cabins, toilets and onto open deck areas; we are already looking forward to our 2 cruises booked on her in 2015.
John

Trainee Pensioner since 2000

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Mervyn and Trish
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Re: Eclipse Azores & Canaries accessible review, Sept 2014.

Post by Mervyn and Trish » 28 Oct 2014, 12:02

Should have given us a wave Towny. We were on hols in Funchal when Eclipse was in and we watched her go out. :wave:


JoanneB
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Re: Eclipse Azores & Canaries accessible review, Sept 2014.

Post by JoanneB » 28 Oct 2014, 16:43

Glad to hear she was fine, we are off on a TA on her on the 9th November. Thanks for the review.

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