Celebrity Cruises: ‘X’ Marks The Spot For Relaxed Luxury At Sea
By: Bruce Parkinson
If you’re looking for a ‘Relaxed Luxury’ experience at sea, ‘X’ marks the spot.
You can easily pick out a Celebrity Cruises ship by the large ‘X’ on the funnel, and that tells you what you can expect -- cool, modern design; premium dining, pampering spa treatments, thrilling entertainment; diverse ports of call; and warm, personalized service.
Celebrity promises its guests will sail “on the world's best places to the world's best places.” The cruise line, owned by the Royal Caribbean Group since 1997, now features a fleet of 15 ships travelling to more than 300 destinations on all seven continents.
As well as a dozen mid-to-large ships carrying between 2,137 and 3,260 passengers, including some of the most innovative at sea, Celebrity Cruises has expanded into the expedition segment, with three much-smaller vessels cruising year-round in the Galapagos Islands.
‘Luxury’ is a much-debated term in the cruise industry, but rest assured that Celebrity Cruises, while not on the level of Seabourn or Regent Seven Seas, offers a premium, upscale experience. Celebrity’s ‘All-Included’ pricing option comes complete with an extensive drinks package, unlimited basic WiFi package and tips for crew members. The All-Included option can offer significant savings compared with purchasing elements a la carte.
Are You A Celebrity Cruiser?
Every cruise line appeals to different segments of the market based on what they offer. Celebrity guests tend to be sophisticated couples in their 40s, 50s and 60s. They’re looking for a fun vacation, but not a party cruise. Children are welcomed aboard – and there’s a great activity program for them, but you won’t find as many as on lines like Royal Caribbean and Carnival. That said, Celebrity can be an excellent choice for multi-generational family groups with a variety of people to please.
The kids program is called Camp at Sea. Celebrity says it is unique because the schedule of activities changes on every sailing based on the interests of junior cruisers. There are four categories of interest -- Art, Recreation, Culinary, and S.T.E.M. – and youth counsellors have designed more than 500 activities to engage, educate and entertain.
While the newer Royal Caribbean and Carnival ships feature top decks loaded with family-friendly attractions like waterslides, go-kart tracks and laser-tag games, the top level of a Celebrity ship is a much more serene space. There are many tranquil lounges and relaxing pool areas, where guests can enjoy sea views and breezes in relative quiet.
The onboard Celebrity experience is based around the vacation pillars of fine dining, diverse entertainment and a wide range of choices for bars and live music venues. There’s plenty of fun to be had, it’s just a different kind of fun than that offered on larger mainstream ships.
Celebrity’s Ever-Evolving Fleet Delivers ‘Wow’ Factor
Celebrity Cruises gained huge media attention when the first of its ‘Edge’ Class ships debuted in 2018. The ground-breaking Celebrity Edge has a different profile than previous cruise ships, with outward-facing cabins fronted with wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling glass – a new concept made possible by redesigning the internal architecture of the ship. The overall effect is to give passengers a closer connection to the sea and to the ports visited.
Another headline-creating feature of Edge and the Edge Class ships that have followed is the Magic Carpet, a 90-ton, tennis court-sized platform cantilevered over the ship's starboard side. The huge device moves up and down the the vessel serving a variety of functions, ranging from a lounge to a restaurant to a tender-boarding platform. Whatever it is being used for, the Magic Carpet offers glorious views of both the sea and the ship.
Another Edge distinction is the three-deck-high, plant-filled lounge, dining and entertainment venue at the back of the ship called Eden. Keeping with the theme of uniting passengers with the water they’re travelling on, Eden is partially enclosed in glass and full of seating areas facing outward to the sea.
Carrying around 3,000 passengers each, there are now three Edge Class ships – Celebrity Edge, Celebrity Apex and Celebrity Beyond, with Celebrity Ascent set to arrive late this year and an as-yet-unnamed Edge Class ship coming in 2025.
The current largest group of Celebrity ships in the fleet are the five Solstice Class vessels that debuted between 2008 and 2012. They’re not much smaller than Edge Class, carrying just under 3,000 passengers each, and were also considered state-of-the-art when they debuted.
Celebrity Solstice, the first of the class, made headlines for the half-acre of live grass on the top deck known as the Lawn Club. It’s a relaxing space where guests can play bocce ball or croquet, listen to a jazz band as evening descends, or have a picnic in the sun.
The final group of larger ships in the Celebrity fleet are dubbed Millennium Class. Four vessels – Celebrity Millennium, Celebrity Infinity, Celebrity Summit and Celebrity Constellation kicked off the new century with their debuts between 2000 and 2002. All have been significantly renovated and upgraded in recent years. In fact, Celebrity has spent $500 million since 2019 on a fleetwide upgrade, adding Edge Class features to older ships.
Millennium Class ships are significantly smaller than the Celebrity ships that followed. Each carries just under 2,200 guests at maximum capacity. They remain popular among loyal Celebrity cruisers who enjoy the line’s quality service in a more intimate setting.
Celebrity also operates three vessels in the Galapagos Islands, a bucket-list destination for many travellers. Restricted by the environmental fragility of the region, the ships carry just a privileged few, ranging from 16 to 48 passengers.
Cabins & Suites: Where Celebrity Travellers Lay Their Heads
Depending on your tastes and budget, Celebrity Cruises offers a huge range of accommodation options, ranging from windowless (but well-priced) interior cabins to sprawling suites.
The newest Edge Class ships feature many upgraded accommodation choices, with 190 suites of various categories on each. Celebrity’s fleet also features hundreds of spa-themed Aqua Class cabins and Concierge Class cabins, which come with additional amenities and privileges. There are also many choices of connected cabins for family groups.
Several of Celebrity’s newest ships feature ‘The Retreat,’ an exclusive ship-within-a-ship experience that features spacious suite accommodations, a private restaurant, an exclusive lounge and a private sundeck. A dedicated team of attendants, concierges, and butlers ensure Retreat guests can enjoy complete relaxation.
Celebrity Edge, Celebrity Apex and Celebrity Beyond are also known also known for one of the most innovative new stateroom types in the cruise industry, the “infinite veranda” cabin. By rethinking ship construction, Celebrity was able to create balcony cabins with outward-facing walls almost entirely made of glass. The top half of the window pulls down to create a veranda setting, erasing the boundary between indoor and outdoor living.
In keeping with Celebrity’s pledge to forge a closer connection to the sea, more than 80% of Edge Class and Solstice Class staterooms feature balconies.
A Festival Of Flavors To Savor
Celebrity says its cuisine is inspired by the destinations it visits, and is hand-crafted from the highest quality ingredients. Dining options include several complimentary venues as well as a number of choices for extra-charge indulgences.
The buffet-style Oceanview Cafe is a casual space where guests have their pick of a vast assortment of options, three meals a day. The Mast Grill is a popular place for comfort foods by the pool at lunchtime.
Each ship also features a main dining room, serving elaborate evening meals. On Edge Series ships, there are four main dining rooms, each offering different décor and meal options.
The Main Restaurant serves ‘elevated classics,’ the Cosmopolitan specializes in ‘new American cuisine,’ Cyprus offers Mediterranean flavours and Normandie serves up modern French cuisine.
Celebrity Cruises offers flexible dining options, created to accommodate different preferences and approaches to vacation and traveling. There are two choices of main dining:
Celebrity Select Dining Early, Late, and Anytime
With Celebrity Select Dining Early, Late, you have a designated time each evening for dinner, starting as early as 6pm or as late as 8:30pm. You’ll be seated with the same people and get the same waitstaff each night, ideal for social guests looking to make new friends.
Celebrity Select Dining Anytime
For travelers who want a little more flexibility in their evening schedules, Celebrity Select Dining Anytime allows you to choose your dining time anytime, each night between 6pm and 9:30pm. You’ll enjoy the same menu and price. Take note that only a certain number of guests can choose Celebrity Select Dining Anytime per sailing. It is typically available on a first-come, first-served basis, particularly for passengers who book their cruise early.
Specialty Restaurants For Meals To Remember
You can eat very well within the cruise fare on a Celebrity ship. But each vessel also has at least a few extra-charge establishments. The number varies by ship, with the newest offering up the most options.
Popular Celebrity specialty restaurants include the Italian Tuscan Grille, for homemade pasta, tasty meats and seafood and flatbread pizzas. Several ships host the classic French restaurant Murano, where a flat fee is charged for the meal. Another option at Murano is a six-course meal with wine pairings for each.
Some Celebrity ships tempt seafood lovers with Raw on Five, serving sushi and sashimi, and The Porch, which offers a raw bar with oysters and lobster rolls. Others feature a Parisian patisserie-like venue called Le Grand Bistro, offering lighter fare by day and platters of charcuterie and cheese paired with wine in the evenings.
Passengers choosing the spa-focused Aqua Class cabins on Celebrity ships have access to Blu, featuring a health-focused menu. It is included in the Aqua Class fare. On Edge Class ships, guests staying in exclusive suites in ‘The Retreat’ have exclusive access to a restaurant called Luminae, featuring dishes created by New York-based celebrity chef Daniel Boulud. The line’s newest ship, Celebrity Beyond, has its own Daniel Boulud restaurant called Le Voyage.
Entertainment On The Edge
Celebrity says shipboard entertainment should be a 24/7 experience and just as bold and innovative as its ships.
Current main stage productions include Elyria, an adults only, fashion-forward fairy tale with a sultry late-night vibe, or A Hot Summer Night’s Dream, where take a light-hearted journey that fuses music, extraordinary acrobatics and a little bit of Shakespeare.
There are game shows and bingo competitions, live music in traditional settings and pop-up venues day and night, and there are regular events, parties and performances. Every evening brings the promise of something new to entertain you.
When you’re not on shore or relaxing on a lounger, Celebrity offers a full calendar of activities divided into four categories: Savor, Discover, Renew and Play.
Savor offers a menu of food, wine and spirits experiences, including blending your own wine and expanding your palate. Discover activities are designed to spark your intellectual curiosity, from touring the galley with the executive chef to the rare opportunity of learning to blow glass. The Renew theme focuses on body workouts and mind rejuvenation, while Play features activities like archery, silent disco dancing and more.
Expert Author: Bruce Parkinson
Bruce has written about the travel industry for over three decades, focusing on ocean and river cruising in recent years. Currently Senior Editor for TravelPulse Canada, Bruce is also a travel communications consultant and contributor to the popular CruiseRadio.net.