Celebrity is a premium cruise line with beautiful ships and top-notch service, a step above parent company Royal Caribbean.
In 1997, Celebrity Cruises was acquired by Royal Caribbean International, parent company to Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, and it now operates as a sister company under the RCI umbrella. While the acquisition was something of a disappointment for the Celebrity employees and their fans, it did keep Celebrity ships on their keels and has kept the line going strong. At the time the line had just three modest ships, the Galaxy, Horizon and Century. As od now only the Century remains in the fleet, the other two having been traded to some of the European subsidiaries of Royal Caribbean International.
In mid- 2000, Celebrity launched the first of its four 91,000-ton "Project Millennium" ships ( four sister ships; Millennium, Infinity, Summit and Constellation), intended to establish Celebrity as a credible competitor to Crystal, but for a rather younger clientele. These ships signaled the beginning of a new era of technologically sophisticated cruise ships, including innovative, more environmentally friendly, gas turbine propulsion systems and pod propulsion systems that make a ship far more maneuverable.
Unfortunately, time moves on and things like gas-turbine engines have become too expensive to run in today's high fuel pricing environment. And the propulsion pods on these ships have been known to require maintenance on several occasions spawning a lawsuit between the cruise line and the maker. When a pod goes bad a ship must usually be dry-docked for a repair requiring canceling a cruise.
Internally, the most striking features about the Millennium class of ships are three-deck atriums and gigantic 25,000 sq.ft. spas, including a solarium and health club. There are full-service floral conservatories created by the noted Parisian floral designer, Emilio Robba, on board -- the first living flower gardens at sea. Exterior glass elevators provide panoramic ocean views.
Innovative alternative restaurants on each of the ships pays homage to celebrated ocean liners of the past. Originally, these hugely popular restaurants offered custom designed menus by noted chef Michel Roux featuring authentic recipes from the grand era of shipboard oceanic transversal. It should be noted, however, that as of January, 2007, Celebrity has ended it 15-year relationship with Michel Roux as executive chef, with no replacement announced. The line still boasts a superior culinary claim, however, and with its galleys designed for optimum freshness in preparation and serving, and the cost per passenger for food services remaining roughly the same as before, so far it does not appear that much has been lost.
Newly boarded passengers are greeted with a "welcome aboard" mimosa or a glass of sparkling wine. During their cruises they'll find an array of tempting shops in the Emporium complex, a spa café dining option with the focus on healthier, low-fat ingredients, poolside fashion shows and wine tasting, a revamped sports deck, extensive golf programs, and the innovative Acupuncture at Sea program. They'll enjoy the singing of roving a cappella groups, and will be offered a seminar or two on such topics as astronomy, photography, personal investing, or history.
Millennium-class ships feature some of the the largest suites at sea; over half the staterooms have private verandas, including six disabled-access suites with balconies. Celebrity's "signature" features include the piano bar/martini bar known as Michael's Club, the elegant Cova Cafe of Milan for coffee, and the AquaSpa, which, be assured, richly merits attention. Art-lovers will revel in the line's remarkable collection.
In January 2004, Celebrity unveiled Celebrity Xpeditions, offering small-ship adventure cruising in the Galapagos Islands aboard the program's 2,842-ton, 98-passenger namesake. These casual, 10-night Galapagos sailings include unique and active shore excursions such as snorkeling and hiking, as well as a pre and post-cruise stay in Quito, Ecuador.
In 2006 Celebrity put the Celebrity Century in dry-dock for $55 million refurbishment including the addition of new suites and many features found on the Millennium-class vessels. Details are in the individual review for Century. Mercury is slated to receive the same treatment in the first half of 2007.
A new class of vessels known as the Solstice Class started emerging late 2008. Four of these vessels have now been delivered approximately one year apart. The sister ships; number one named Celebrity Solstice, number two; Celebrity Equinox, number three; Celebrity Eclipse; number four Silhouette and number five Reflection, are 122,000 gross tons and carry 2850 guests (the last two carry slightly over 3000 guests). They are 1033 feet long and 121 feet wide. Their added size allows Celebrity to offer larger standard staterooms, a higher percentage of balconies and an exceptional range of guest-inspired services and amenities.
The latest upgrade the Celebrity cruises is the "Solsticization" of the Millennium class of vessels. The first vessel to receive this treatment was Constellation in 2010 with the remaining three receiving their upgrades with the next two years pending the availability of dry dock facilities. The upgrade process requires about 15 days.
If it's luxury without pomposity at a reasonable price you're after, Celebrity may well be your cruise line.
While the line's adherence to a traditional dress code (two formal and two informal nights on a seven-night cruise), music library, dedicated chess area, floral conservatory, and subdued décor might suggest otherwise, these are actually quite upbeat ships, with eagerly frequented casinos, floor shows, cabaret lounges, and piano bars. Honestly, with so many Greek staff members, especially officers, how could the line be pompous? This, after all, is a cruise line, that offers delivery of pizza right to your cabin.
These ships' technologically advanced interactive television systems enable you to order wine for dinner, book shore excursion, or play games of chance without even leaving your cabin. Cabins are spacious, and include such goodies as hair dryers, in-cabin massages, and in-cabin dining from the restaurant menus, including full breakfast service. Suite amenities are conspicuously superior to most mid-market lines', with butlers serving meals in-suite and assisting with unpacking and packing.
Celebrity's new Concierge Class offers premium ocean view staterooms with plusher furnishings and service-related perks like priority check-in. Originally available only on Millennium-class ships, the program has proved so popular that it is now available fleetwide, and continues to be expanded.
Celebrity's entertainment isn't up to the level of Royal Caribbean's or Carnival's. But the most glorious spas afloat take some of the sting out of that.
On the Solstice-class vessels the AquaSpa cabins offer fast and open access to the ship's thermal suite of steam baths, rain showers and saunas. These staterooms also come with special dining in a restaurant called "Blu."
On one-week Caribbean and Alaska cruises most passengers will be well into their 40's and 50's. During vacation and holiday periods, of course, a lot more families are evident. On longer cruises, including Europe and South America itineraries, retired seniors predominate. While children do cruise during vacations, some Alaska cruises and aboard Century's Caribbean cruises, these ships are unapologetically primarily for adults.Shore Excursions
The Xpedition series offers unique, and sometimes even extreme, experiences in Celebrity's ports of call, such as the Galapagos Islands or the ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru. Options in other parts of the world include a visit to the Kremlin in Moscow, exploration of Easter Island, marlin fishing in Mexico, zodiac and helicopter tours in British Columbia, bear-watching in Alaska, and a private tour of the NASA space center in Houston. Celebrity Journey will go to remote areas of Antarctica, Brazil, the Chilean Fjords and other faraway regions of South America. Celebrity Quest's itineraries in Europe include the Black Sea.
Described in detail on the line's Web site, www.celebrity.com, these excursions can be booked online up to ten days before sailing. Obviously, some of these adventures go beyond the usual four-hour bus tour, but well-planned and efficiency optimized, you find them to be on par with the luxury cruise lines in terms of quality and price.
While Celebrity is frankly adult-oriented, their Club X program offers excellent activities for children year-round. Youth activities are arranged by age groups, which vary between high and low seasons: Toddler Time aged 6 to 36 months; Shipmates aged 3-6, Celebrity Cadets aged 7-9, Ensigns aged 10-12 and Admiral T's aged 13-15 and 16-17. 18 year olds are welcome to use the teen facilities. The youth program maintains the same hours whether in port or at sea: 9 a.m. to noon; 2 to 5:30 p.m.; and 7:30 to 10:00 p.m. Group babysitting is available in the youth room for children ages three to 12, from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., at a fee of $6 per hour per child. Private babysitting is available in your stateroom for $8 per hour per child, with a maximum of two. When Mother and Pop are scheduled to dine formally, "Parents' Nights Out," are declared, and youth counselors take children to a pizza party, at no extra charge.
Caribbean and New York/Bermuda seem to be family favourites, with more and more families heading for Alaska too. Century, Galaxy, and Mercury have separate teen discos and more extensive facilities than the line's newer Millennium, Infinity, Summit and Constellation. The Solstice class spends much time in Europe, but will have one ship in Australia and another sailing out of the New York area in 2012.
Theme Cruises and Special Programs: Celebrity offers unique Acupuncture at Sea and holistic healing "wellness at sea" programs. Special cruises to focus on photography and culinary gourmands are offered semi-regularly. Some ships have special designed and set entertainment by Cirque du Soleil.
Celebrity's "Captain's Club", a triple-tiered program offering a range of benefits based on how many of their cruises you've been on, sponsors four Captain's Club reunion cruises each year. Other loyalty rewards include complimentary one-category upgrades on selected cruises; a cruise video; priority embarkation and debarkation; a newsletter; complimentary wine tasting, and a cocktail party. For further information call 1-800-760-0654 or 1-316-554-5961.Tipping
Celebrity suggests a per person per day gratuity of $3.50 for the waiter, butler (suites only) and stateroom attendant; $4.00 for stateroom attendant in Concierge Class; $2.00 for the Assistant Waiter; .75 for the Assistant Maitre d' and the Assistant Chief Housekeeper. Children under 12 who are the third or fourth person in their stateroom need cough up only half those amounts. Tips may be added to the passenger's shipboard account upon request.
As on so many lines, a 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to beverage tabs, and you're on your own when it comes to room service, spa, casino and other staff. Gratuities to shipboard personnel are included in the fare for Celebrity Xpedition.
Celebrity Solstice Class
My wife and I have made 10 cruises with Celebrity Cruise Lines, The latest was in Celebrity Solstice. We have sailed in 5 different Celebrity ships including the Century, Millennium and Solstice classes. While the technical and engineering advances are indisputable, if you have cruised in a Millennium class ship, the passenger amenities in the Solstice class are a classic example of progress being change, but change not necessarily being progress. In comparison to the Century and Millennium classes Solstice was too crowded and all chrome and glitz. Although cabin locker and drawer space the Millennium and Solstice classes MAY be the same, storage space is much better laid out and more accessible in the Century and Millennium classes. Celebrity is currently "Solsticing" the Millennium class; I hope they don't go too far because in my opinion they have definitely "Carnivalized" Solstice.
For openers, there are only two banks of elevators, forward and midships. The 8 midships elevators are glass; your elevator choices are between acrophobia or claustrophobia. If you are acrophobic there are three ways to get to Oceanview Cafe aft on deck 14. In all three you would haveto use the forward elevators. On deck 11, you would have go aft and up several flights of stairs; on deck 12 or 14, you would have to cross a weather deck. Not a pleasant task in bad weather. The only way get to the main or specialty dining rooms without using the midships elevators or stairs is use the forward elevators and walk aft. The Library, Card Room and other public spaces overlooking the Grand Foyer also are unusable by passengers who have a problem with heights.
Additionally, the pool in the Solarium in the Solstice class in not a therapy pool as in the Millennium class, nor is it heated; you usually find more people around it than in it. You could hardly call the hot tubs heated either. The sign for the spa says to limit use to 15 minutes; good advice, any longer could result in a severe case of frost bite.
Trays are not used in the Oceanview Cafe. Bring one with you; we sure wished we had. There also are no food service lines; just food service stations, about 10. Consequently there is no traffic flow, resulting in a lot of people milling about. One group is checking out what's available at the food stations while the other is trying to get back to their table while balancing plates or bowls of food.
Here is how you would have to manage a breakfast of juice, coffee, milk and/or yogurt, and a plate of hot food. You put your silverware in your pocket, get your coffee and juice, then find a table; put those items there. Go get your plate of hot items and milk; if you also want yogurt you put either the milk or yogurt in your pocket. Then go back to your table and hope it hasn't been cleared or usurped by another passenger; by this time your coffee is cold. Your could reverse the fetching order; your choice is cold coffee and hot food or hot coffee and cold food. Unlike revenge, meals are not better served cold. You can be of good cheer though in the knowledge that the ship doesn't have to be bothered with policing or washing the trays.
After many attempts I finally decided the definition of insanity was, indeed, repeating the same behavior and expecting a different result. Alas, I eventually gave up on the 400 yard poached eggs. I call them 400 yard poached eggs because that is the distance I estimate the average golfer could drive one off the tee. You can get them either hardened or case hardened. If you want a drink before the show in the Solstice Theatre, take it to your seat with you and hope the other passengers do likewise because the leg room between rows of seating is restricted making drink service a challenge. Also sitting any length of time if you have leg issues can be painful. The Ensemble Lounge, Michael's Club and the specialty restaurants on the 5th deck are the only spaces in the ship up to Celebrity's past standard of elegance.
With the exception of the poached eggs, the food in Solstice was on a par with other Celebrity ships we have sailed in; and the service provided by the crew was up to Celebrity Cruise Lines' high standards. It is not my objective to discourage people from cruising in Celebrity, far from it. We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise, just hated the ship. We even booked our next two cruises onboard... in Celebrity Infinity. Celebrity will continue to be our first choice; however, we will NEVER cruise in another Solstice class ship. If the only choices were between a Solstice class ship and another cruise line we would not go or seriously consider the other cruise line!
Family of 6, ages 12 to 73. Cruised on RCCL, Carnival, NCL, Princess. We heard good things about Celebrity and wanted to try the newer Silhouette ship. We stayed on Deck 11, Aqua Class.
Embarkation/Debarkation: Very smooth and speedy. Grade: A
Ship's Appearance: Other than some odd artwork, ship looked very nice. Grade: A-
Food: Blu restaurant was quite good. Buffets were ample and tasty. One day they served an excellent brunch. Room service the best we've ever seen. Grade: A
Fitness Center: Machines were being used longer than the suggested 20 minutes, causing wait times. For 3100 passengers they need more machines. Grade: B-
Nightly Entertainment: First two shows were subpar. Acrobat show was very entertaining. Illusionist from Ireland rather annoying. Headline singer excellent. RCCL seems to have better overall entertainment. Grade: B
Ports: Cocoa Cay was fun. Been to St. Thomas and St. Martin so many times. Would rather see new islands like St Barts, etc. Grade: B
Cruise Director: Stuart was just okay, kids thought he was a dork. Grade: C
Ship Activities: For families, there isn't a lot of structured games, karaoke, or contests. Celebrity falls way short in this area vs. other lines.There were no pool contests. Kids activities rather weak. Basketball hoop in front of ship, forcing the kids to play in gale-force winds. The Family Feud game had 15 people show up. At times we became bored and just wandered to the buffet. Grade: C-
Cabin: Aqua Class cabin was fantastic, lots of space, great bathroom and shower. We opened the balconies to our three adjacent rooms. Outstanding. Grade: A
Staff: Overall, the staff was courteous and helpful, but I wouldn't say they made any impression like some staff on prior RCCL journeys. They needed to smile more and be friendlier. Some were indifferent and seemed like they didn't care for their job. Grade: B-
Casino: Typically tight slots, staff indifferent, poorly-executed tournaments. One Texas Hold Em table that was full with the same people every night. Grade: C
Ship Vibe: This is the area that would probably cause our family not to return to Celebrity. After 10 PM the ship basically shut down. The cruise director didn't inspire. Celebrity is definitely “stuffier” than other lines, even though this was a Christmas cruise. Grade: C-
Overall: The ship's layout was very easy to navigate. The lawn on the top deck is ill conceived. Most of the space is wasted. Why not build a putting course or movies under the stars? We liked the food quite a bit more than other lines. The cabin was perfect. Entertainment decent. Staff okay. Activities disappointing. Ship vibe less than stellar.
OVERALL GRADE FOR CRUISE EXPERIENCE ON SILHOUETTE: B
We were disappointed in some of the changes made on the Reflection. We have thoroughly enjoyed Aqua Class and Blu dining on Eclipse,Solstice and Equinox.
Reflection had many more Aqua guests and squeezed the tables together,but should have been made larger. Also,there were children and a baby for dinner, completely inappropriate. We love children and babies,but dinner should be for adults.That is why we pay exrea for Aqua Class.
We enjoy dining in Blu. Breakfast time was a fiasco. Yhere were not enough waiters. The little sofas in the cabins were not sofas,but slabs of wood with hard pieces of foam on top. The quality of the food at dinner was just fair. I guess we cannot expext gourmet.
Our cabin attendant was superb. His Name was Ozy Fortado and he was the best we have ever had in 24 cruises. We are going again in April on the Equinox and hope everything will be as wonderful as it was when we were on there in January of this year. Happy Sailing.