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Celebrity Eclipse
CELEBRITY ECLIPSE - MEETING THE ACCESSIBILITY CHALLENGE

Our second cruise on Celebrity Eclipse included three of us. Barb, her seventeen year old daughter, Marie, and myself. Marie is confined to a wheelchair having been born with Spina Bifida and I have limited mobility as the result of a condition known as Charcot Foot. Due to our special needs we were fortunate to be able to book an accessible cabin on Deck 10. Fortunate in that of the more than 1,400 cabins and suites onboard, only 30 are fully accessible. Although Celebrity has actually surpassed the industry ratio of 2.5%, it is hoped that, considering the large number of aging baby boomers that want to cruise despite some physical setbacks, even more accessible accommodations will be added by the cruise lines to future ships and even those under refurbishment.

Enough of the editorializing, let's get back to this cruise.

We booked through Celebrity for our ground transfers from Miami International to Port Everglades Cruiseport at Fort Lauderdale. There was a delay at MIA mainly caused by a mixup in delivering the power wheelchair from the airplane to the baggage area but, once aboard the accessible bus, things had settled down. Our total inventory included three large suitcases, three overnighters, the aforementioned power chair, a manual wheelchair and my electric scooter. Both the power chair and the scooter would be used onboard following my introduction to the difficulties of using a manual chair on the carpeting in many areas of the Celebrity Constellation on last fall's transatlantic. The manual chair would provide backup for Marie as well as be used during our short post-cruise stay in England.

Embarkation went smoothly and within a reasonable amount of time we were onboard the ship.

The stateroom was huge by normal standards and the washroom was equipped for any kind of mobility issue. Included were wider doors with an automatic door from the corridor, no doorsills, sloped bathroom thresholds, numerous grab bars, a lowered bathroom sink and stateroom vanity, roll-in shower with fold-down shower bench and hand-held showerhead and lowered closet rods. The balcony was easily accessible and and, due to the increased floorspace, we could turn our vehicles with no problem.


Accessibile Stateroom

Accessible Bathroom
The configuration and size varies with the category selected but, in talking with fellow special needs passengers, all were pleased with their accommodations.

Celebrity Eclipse was the line's third Solstice Class ship and, although a mega ship, it somehow fits comfortably leaving the impression that it is never crowded. She spends her winter in the Caribbean running out of Fort Lauderdale and divides her summer activity between Scandinavia, the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands. Her home port for these cruises is Southampton in the UK. She offers two transatlantic repo cruises each year and we were joined by more than 2,800 fellow passengers on the spring crossing with stops at Nassau, San Juan and Philipsburg before picking up a northeast heading to Southampton. Separate features on the different ports of call as they relate to accessibility will appear elsewhere on Barrier-FreeCruising.com.

Moving about Eclipse is, generally, very easy.. especially with the scooter. The stateroom corridors are carpeted but the majority of the public areas are hard floor.

The solstice designers eliminated or at least smoothed down the bumps at the floor seams and the main 'streets' are wide and easy to negotiate.. as long as your fellow travellers keep an eye out for you.


Wide aisles offer plenty of space

Elevator Lobby
The elevators can get quite busy at certain times such as just before the two sittings in the dining room or when the shows finish in the Celebrity Eclipse Theatre but you quickly make note of this and make your plans accordingly.

The elevators themselves, especially the glass ones at the Grand Foyer are quite spacious and many a time we boarded with the power chair and the scooter and there was still room for four or five other people to join us.

When entering the Oceanview Cafe, there was always plenty of staff eager to help either finding a table that accommodated the three of us or helping us select from the food islands spread throughout the venue. Our wait staff in the Moonlight Sonata Dining Room, Alfie and Cayah, made sure that we were well looked after. Alfie also became very adept at parking the scooter after I transferred to my chair, not even once getting a speeding ticket!


Moonlight Sonata Dining Room

Sky Lounge
Whether using one of the public washrooms, looking through the shipboard shops or just taking a breather on the lawn covered upper deck, staff would stop and ask how we were enjoying the cruise and offering assistance should we require it. As attentive as they were, they were never in our face and we appreciated that. Our cabin attendants, Elvis and Jamie, adapted to our special needs quickly and catered to our every request.

Marie found the Fun Factory with its varied activities and, although there were hardly any children on the trip, she made use of the facility many times.

We were told that, on the March Break Caribbean cruise there were more than a thousand kids onboard and both the X-Club and Fun Factory were packed. As with the rest of the crew, the Youth counsellors are multi-national and this added to the charm of the venue.


Fun Factory

Corning Museum Hot Glass Show
For the grownups there is certainly no shortage of things to do. Daytime activities are nonstop during sea days with guest speakers, numerous games including trivia, bingo, dance and exercise programs, cooking demonstrations, relaxing by the pools, enjoying the Aqua Spa, watching the Hot Glass Show, trying your luck in Fortunes Casino or just doing nothing.

The evening is when Cruise Director Sue Denning pulls out all the stops and the theatre comes alive with full-scale productions or guest artists while the Grand Foyer rocks with the party band, Quasar features different theme music nightly and the Sky Lounge is host to guests until the wee hours.

For those looking for some quiet time one of the more popular spots is the Solarium. Restricted to those eighteen and over, except at special times, this glass enclosed area has a heated pool, a circular spa pool and two whirlpools. Good news for the special needs crowd is that the pool and one whirlpool are equipped with lifts to help get in and out of the water.


Solarium Whirlpool with lift

Solarium Pool with lift
The outdoor pool area consists of a Sports Pool, a shallow Family Pool and four hot tubs. Unfortunately none of these are equipped with a lift system so those children with special needs must get permission to use the Solarium.



There are two theatres onboard, the Celebrity Eclipse Theatre seating more than 1,100 and the much smaller Celebrity Central used by guest speakers and for games shows. Both are fully accessible with the large one even offering front row seating for special needs passengers if they know who to ask.


Celebrity Eclipse Theatre

Celebrity Central Theatre
Onboard Celebrity Constellation last fall we were shown a special wheelchair entrance to the floor level of the ship's theatre that took us through a corridor used by the cast and crew to get them to the stage.

Upon boarding Eclipse we enquired about access in the main theatre and were informed that special needs passengers had a section set aside for them just past the main entrance. There was even reserved seating provided for their care givers. The problem was, for me, that it was too far back from the stage for my eyesight. Later that first day, after further queries on our part, we were contacted by Guest Relations and informed that there was, indeed, a special elevator available to take us from Deck 4 down to Deck 3 where we could enter the theatre and transfer to seats in the front row if we wished. From the first night's show through to the final night at sea we were met when we entered the theatre, escorted to the elevator and the process was repeated for others as they learned about this access. Basic rule: Ask, Ask, Ask!


Deck 4 special needs seating

Deck 3 Front Row
All too soon we were in the River Solent and docking at Southampton. Travelling Concierge Class we were invited to Qsine to await our disembarkation call and, having been pre-cleared by UK Immigration while in the middle of the Atlantic, it was down the gangway to our waiting driver.

Within hours the ship would slip her ropes and take another group of travellers to Norway to start her summer season. We would journey to London for a few days before flying home.

If there was a negative to the whole experience it would be that the voyage didn't last long enough. We were treated like royalty and not like people with special needs. The entire crew, navigation and hotel, were sensitive to our situation and dealt with us, and everyone we talked with, in a friendly, professional way.

Celebrity Eclipse



Bob Rice
Barrier-FreeCruising.com

FOR A COMPLETE PHOTO CALLERY OF CELEBRITY ECLIPSE CLICK HERE
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