We are in a state of bliss on board the Celebrity Eclipse – a lavish ship, by far the most lavish we have ever cruised on.
Itâ€™s been 24 years since we took our first cruise, and in the ensuing years we have done a cruise ever few years â€“ making this one we are on this week our eighth time on the high seas.
Because we are so in awe of this ship- our large and spacious stateroom, and our lovely window seat for two at dinner- we have spent a lot of time the past 48 hours talking and comparing all of our cruises, particularly lamenting on how much cruising has changed (both for the good and the bad) since our first Caribbean Cruise in 1992.
That first cruise was on a small ship, although at the time I thought it was big. It certainly was the biggest cruise ship I had ever been on. But in hindsight it was small. We had an inside room â€“ no windows and two twin beds â€“ smaller than my college dorm room. Not very romantic.
This week we are luxuriating on a ship that offers nearly every room a balcony, and our room has an exceptional large balcony. Big enough to lounge on privately, do yoga, read, and work on my laptop. The bed is a queen size, very comfortable, and the bathroom is by far the largest we have ever encountered on a cruise ship.
Back in 1992 the mega-ships were just coming on, but we were not on one. There was no spa or work out facilities. I remember going to aerobics on that first cruise and it took place in the ships theater with all the chairs pushed off to the side. There was a ladies hair salon, but nothing more.
The ship we are on today, and all the rest of the ships we have sailed since 1992 have luxury spa facilities, workout gyms, yoga studios, weights and bikes and treadmills. And though this cruise we are on I donâ€™t expect to spend much time at the pool, the pool facilities and deck areas with live music are always fun and festive,
Back in 1992 all meals were taken in the dining room, at a table with a group of people you didnâ€™t know. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were assigned time and seating. At midnight was the much anticipated midnight buffet â€“ a remarkable event for the taste buds as well as all your other senses. It always included a beautiful ice sculpture.
About a decade ago the midnight buffet disappeared on ships in place of the 24-hour buffet. Non-stop food from around the world. Today we normally go to the buffet for lunch but still use the main dining room for breakfast and dinner. Although sometimes we have breakfast in our room, eating is still a way of life on a cruise.
Today ships also offer many other onboard dining options. Over the years we have been on ships that have had pizza parlors, sushi bars, French and Italian restaurants and more. We have tried these places, and have always determined they are not worth the added costs. The nightly food in the dining room is always exceptional from lobster to duck, from prime rib to salmon and everything inbetween.
Service is a big selling point and competitive issue between cruise companies. We have always found the service onboard to be exceptional, however, nothing has ever compared to the service we had on our very first cruise.
Even though that ship may have been older, smaller and not as fancy, the service was impeccable. I remember we would leave our room for whatever reason, and when we came back â€“ whether it was two minutes or four hours later- our room would be perfectly fluffed. Our steward somehow knew the moment we left and was on top of making the room pristine for us. I also remember ordering a latte for breakfast on the very first morning of our cruise â€“ and then finding a latter waiting, hot and delicious â€“ each morning as I sat down to breakfast.
Back in those days, tipping your servers and stewards was not automatic like it is today â€“ so boy did they work for it. 26 years later I am still remembering the smallest touches and details so you know how much it impressed me. Back then you handed out cash to all your servers at the end of the cruise. Today, itâ€™s all calculated for you and paid on your final bill. Less personal for both the guest and the server â€“ but more reliable for the server â€“ most who are from foreign countries and come to earn money for a 6 month to two years term on board.
One thing that has changed for the better in a quarter century is the wide selection of cruise destinations, prices, and shore excursions. We have found cruising to offer us a unique way to see places you cannot get to by any other way than boat (Cape Horn and Chilean Fjords) and a nice way to visit places to see if we want to possibly go back for a longer time (Greece, Turkey, Sweden).
It is certainly not the only way we want to travel (we meet a lot of people on board who travel no other way) but we sure enjoy it every few years. We enjoy it for its relaxation, scenery, food and much more. And we particularly enjoy Celebrity Cruise Lines, the line we use now exclusively.
And you cannot beat the value.
We have our first port of call tomorrow, where I hope to post this blog in Bergen Norway. My first time to step foot in Norway and I cannot wait. It has been a bucket list destination for me for years â€“ land of my ancestors on my motherâ€™s side, the Viking in me is still strong and powerful.
More later in the week.
Cruise on. Fabulous.