So I’ve had an absolutely MAD bout of travelling and can’t wait to update you on all the exciting things we’ve been up to. Firstly, we’ve just returned from a lovely two week family cruise on Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Cruises’ beautiful Solstice class cruise ship, where we sailed from Southampton and visited Gibraltar, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. It was our first time as a family on a Celebrity Cruise (Mr E and I did a wine cruise on Celebrity Infinity a while ago) and we did wonder what it would be like to spend two weeks in a relatively small stateroom as a family (as it turned out, we were treated to extra room, which was fab). Here’s how we got on:
The main areas of the ship are beautiful. Celebrity Cruises pride themselves on providing ‘modern luxury’ and the ship reflects that ethos perfectly. How elegant is this view of the library from one of the landings?
Our stateroom was right at the front of the ship and we were very lucky to have been allocated a family ocean view veranda stateroom, which meant that Mr E and I had our own bedroom and the boys had a room with two bunkbeds (which Sam was hilariously too long for), but it did mean that we had a bit of privacy and weren’t constantly stepping over their pants, which were strewn all over the rest of the stateroom (our poor stateroom attendant, Del, cheerfully picked up sweaty socks, folded discarded t-shirts and hung up inside-out jeans every day, even after we told him not to clear up after them – he deserves a raise). Our bedroom was wonderful, with a huge bed, wardrobe and storage, and windows overlooking the helipad.
To keep this one manageable and also because I have so many great food photos (!), I’m going to do a whole separate post about dining on board Celebrity Eclipse, but the dining was REALLY impressive. The quality of service and experience in the main dining room means that you could happily dine in there every day of your cruise, but we also did a bit of the speciality dining, which was incredibly good too. Watch this space for more details!
The wine list features many of our favourite wines: Sonoma and Napa Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and Zinfandels. We spent A LOT of money on wine, but that was our choice – you can sign up for drinks packages, but we were happier doing our own thing. We did have a soft drinks package, which is frankly essential if you’re travelling with kids. Highlights included Castle Rock Winery Pinot Noir 2013, a silky smooth, medium bodied pinot which we ordered a lot: herby, plummy and full of ripe cherries, it was delicious and a perfect match to all the amazing steaks we were served. We got into the habit of going for a pre-dinner glass of wine in the Cellar Masters – a lovely bar with a great selection of wines and a very attentive and helpful Sommelier. I have so many notes on all the wines (which I won’t bore you with), but we tried some beauties.
We were determined to keep active on the trip (to counteract all that delicious food) and it was really easy, with a huge, well equipped gym, where the boys spent a lot of time, as well as a jogging track (8 circuits was a mile), table tennis, swimming and walking miles exploring on shore too. I found that I could easily cycle for 15-20 minutes on one of the cycling machines purely because I was mesmerised by the glorious view of the glittering sea from the gym! A view like that makes everything easy.
The main sun deck has two pools, jacuzzis, and a ton of loungers. Around the edges, there are more beds and amazingly comfortable hammocks…
On sea days it was quite packed, so we tended to escape to the solarium: a lovely, adults-only area under cover of retractable conservatory roof. It was cool and breezy even on very hot days and the pool was generally empty. We lolled, read loads of books, hopped in and out of the pool and snoozed: perfect holiday activities. I also treated myself to a manicure in the very elegant Canyon Ranch Spa (look out for special offers on port days).
We also loved the Lawn Club on the top deck. You can go up just to laze about on the lovely (real!) grassy areas, have a drink, play boules, or even watch the glass blowers at work (yes, really). It’s just such a lovely area on a sunny day:
In the evening, the boys occasionally headed off to the cinema to watch a film. There are some wonderful shows, and invariably we all ended up on deck 14, in the Sky Observation Lounge, where we loved the house band and the various themed evenings and quizzes (Abba evening was hilarious and great fun, and there was a large amount of embarrassing dad dancing on 80s night, which you might have seen on my Instagram stories). We often completely forgot the time and ended up heading to bed at 1pm after dancing the night away (unheard of for us oldies). The pool deck is lovely at night. When we’d done with dancing, we often took our drinks out and just sat under the stars. So pretty.
Ports of call
After two days at sea, our first port was Gibraltar. We stepped off for a little explore and a wander down the main shopping street, stopping at a café for a drink before pootling back to the ship. Mr E bought me a gorgeous watch here for our anniversary too.
After Gibraltar, we docked in Villefranche – a pretty little port town. Many of our fellow passengers headed for Nice and Monaco, but we stayed local, wandering the little streets and drinking rosé at a café. It was one of our favourite days:
We also spent lovely days discovering Rome, Malaga and Lisbon. How many holidays can you take where you can be sipping a coffee in the Piazza Navona one day, then wandering the pretty Portuguese town of Cascais the next? And even better, if one of you doesn’t fancy it, they can stay on board, laze by the pool and hit the gym. For Rome, Jim, Charlie and I chose the ‘Passage to Rome’ excursion, which basically takes you to Rome by coach, but then lets you wander and discover the city for yourself. We had five hours of free time to wander, which was wonderful.
In Genoa, I really wanted to take the boat trip to Positano but was outvoted (another time), so we explored the pretty port town. It was SO hot!
And Malaga? Well, wow. Someone’s spent an awful lot of money on the area. The terminal building is modern, light and airy with duty free shops and cafés, and the port area is lovely, with more modern shops, bars and cafés. It’s a lovely walk to the city centre (shuttle buses are available too), which is a delightful mix of ancient and modern, with beautiful old shuttered buildings above shops, bars and restaurants below. The boys and I spent a lovely few hours exploring and shopping before stopping for delicious sangria and tapas, while Jim snoozed in the solarium on board.
Our final port was Lisbon. We joined an excursion to the very pretty old port town of Cascais, full of beautiful old buildings and a lovely seaside promenade walk that takes you all the way to Estoril. We stopped for more tapas and Portuguese wine in a wonderful bar called Pica Pica. Another place to add to the list to come back and explore further.
It can be hard to find a holiday that suits everyone when you have teens and older children, but I can honestly say that this family cruise on Celebrity Eclipse was one of our most favourite trips. The boys had loads to do and plenty of free time, plus we had lots of family time to really reconnect. I can honestly say I haven’t laughed so much in ages (and not just at Mr E’s dad dancing).
Next up, brace yourself for foodie pics as I take you through the mass of dining options on board, including the fabulous speciality dining.
As always, huge thanks to the team at Siren, especially Kate, and thanks to everyone at Celebrity Cruises and on board the Celebrity Eclipse for looking after us so well. We’ll be back very soon xx
14-night Western Mediterranean cruise
Join Celebrity Cruises’ (www.celebritycruises.co.uk; 0800 441 4054) Celebrity Eclipse on a 14-night Southern Caribbean fly/cruise from £5,523, based on two adults sharing a balcony stateroom.
Price includes a 14-night cruise departing from Southampton (UK) and calling at Gibraltar (UK), Villefranche (Nice, France), Florence/Pisa (Italy), Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy), Genoa (Italy), Malaga (Spain) and Lisbon (Portugal) before returning to the UK; meals and entertainment on board the ship and all relevant cruise taxes/fees.
Price is based on 3 September 2017 UK departure. For more information on the current offer call 0800 441 4054 or visit www.celebritycruises.co.uk
Price valid until 30 November 2016.