When I see all the talk about "rebranding,'" and Celebrity being an upscale line I am surprised. It is not the lowest, but it is far from an upscale line. IMHO. Yes it is nice and some of the suites provide superior environment and service, but this is clearly a mass market line and, if too much emphasis is placed on trying to be UPSCALE -- I fear that X will lose potential markets.
Is Celebrity an upscale line?. It is not Crystal and it is not Seaborn, but yes it is at the top of the scale of the mass market lines. What makes it that way? Tuxedoed European service in the dining room from very well trained wait staff. Menu and presentation of food far superior to most mass market lines. Knowledgable wine stewards not bar servers or waiters serving your wine at dinner. No Macharena, o solo mio, or dancing waiters in the dining rooms. A better class of service in the room, at the pursers desk, from the bar service. Better shows , better entertainers, better equipment , better facilities. Each just a notch, but a noticable notch, above the other mass market competition. I cannot believe that anyone will be turned off by an improvement in little details such as champaigne upon boarding and cold towels by the pool.
Let's put it in Hotel terms. Celebrity is mass market the way Hyatt and Marriott are and Carnival is mass market like Best Western or Holiday Inn. All are mass market, none are bad , all in fact are good, but one is a notch above the other.
NO!!! We were on the Mercury 6/1 Alaska and on formal nite our table of 4 couples consisted of 2 men in tuxes (hubby and 1 guy without tie or cumerbund), 1 sports jacket and 1 guy in a knit shirt and sweater. Until the line has the willingness to refuse dining room admitance to anyone not willing to wear a dress shirt and tie on a formal nite they can NOT be considered upscale. Also, the dinner menus were no better than our Carnival cruise 12/01 and they charged for expresso and cappachino in the dine room which Carnival and even NCL did not. I am highly disappointed in Celebrity. The staff was basically acceptable although we did have problems. Nothing outstanding however, and our tips reflected that.
Celebrity does a good job but they are not upscale in my humble opinion. I think mainstream cruising is similar to going to a chain hotel for dinner. The food and service are often good but seldom outstanding.
I have to agree with PapaBill - the Hyatt/Marriott vs. Best Western/Holiday Inn analogy hits the nail right on the head! IMHO, Celebrity is a notch above the rest of the other "mainstream" cruiselines - in fact, several notches above.
Years ago when Celebrity started out as a cruise line, it was more upscale, catering to a different clientele than it does today.
If you have sailed Celebrity as I have back in the early nineties you will understand.
Today, I would call Celebrity basically middle of the road. There is , in my opinion, a clear reflection of Royal Caribbean showing in Celebrity. I personally think a Celebrity
Cruise today is nothing more than a Royal Caribbean cruise with a different name and different logo on the stack.
If you could have sailed the Meridian, Horizon and Zenith back in '90, 91 and 92 then sail a couple of the ships today, the difference would be so very plain.
I agree that years ago the Celebrity product (and other cruiselines' products, as well) was different than it is today. Celebrity did cater to a more upscale clientele, but so, also, did most of the other cruiselines. Why? Because cruising was relatively expensive and the only folks who could afford to cruise were those in the higher socio-economic brackets. Cruising was an "elite" vacation, reserved for the very few.
Some twenty years ago, the cruise industry came to the realization that there was an enormous untapped market in the millions of people who had never cruised, and began seeking out those people. Since then massive ad campaigns, lower prices and (until recently) a strong economy resulted in millions of new passengers, many of whom would never have dreamed of taking a cruise just a decade ago.
The result - the cruise product has changed over the years, but so, too, have the passengers, and unless the cruiselines begin requesting tax returns prior to accepting reservations, that's the way it's going to be.
That being a given, I still believe the Celebrity product is several notches above the rest of the mainstream cruise products out there.
Celebrity is supposed to be premium mass market. I think the furnishing of the ships, space ratio, cleanliness level, style of service to a degree, lack of announcements, can help them meet the minimal requirements of the industry's watered down standard of the premium mass-market category.
I think those who say the food preparation and menus distinguish Celebrity are the problem. Sorry. The food isn't what it was, isn't what it should be. As Babette has said the menus are dumbed down, currently. The food is one of Celebrity's biggest problems and from what I can tell from all those who have inside info on Celebrity's food budget, the problem is NOT going to fixed anytime soon. If at all.
Celebrity's prices are too low, lower than Carnival sometimes. Celebrity's offers still too many cheesy aspects such as picture with pirates in the dining room and also they appear with at some docks, souvenier glasses, Park West "art" auctions, inch-of-gold sales, and other such cruising staples -- Let me say, here, that HAL and Princess do as well and HAL and Princess also meet the minimal requirements of premium mass market, IMO --
Cruising has changed. It is more a mass market, adult camp, oversaturated experience. The industry is selling the new to the point that people refer to what would be considered at least modern ships in the mid-80s now old or older ships. Galaxy, Mercuy, older ships. Ridiculous. People now want to sail on ships no more than 2 years in to service and often need to sail on ships that are a few months in service. People say that can't sail without a balcony, but balconies are nothing special. They are akin to terraces in low-cost housing, IMO. They used to be special. Now they are ubiquitous. Pick any new ship from the major lines, all of them have tons of them, clearly seen above the hull line.
There's no huge demand for a Celebriy of the early 1990s, no discerning pax to know about the quality of food, of service, right now. Quantity is stressed over quality. Keep the prices down so I can sail 3 times a year, I just want to have fun is often expressed. Fine for RCI, but that's not supposed to be the point for a line like Celebrity. It's more lets get the hot itinerary and bargain. Celebrity, like HAL and Princess, stress bargains over quality. The bang for the buck may be there, but an experienced that seems distinguished and an escape from everyday life, is not.
I'm not high on cruising right now.
If you want upscale, have to go to Crystal or Radisson, and even they are cutting back and maybe going closer to what used to be defined as premium, albeit with smaller ships with higher passenger space ratios.
Well said, Ben. I agree, sailing Celebrity in the early 1990's was a different experience than it is today. I still find Celebrity to be the best mass market lines. With competition so fierce today, trying to fill too many mega ships, and post 9/11 anxiety has affecting today's market, I don't see Celebrity becoming a "premium" line again. The rebranding has improved the product line somewhat, but the only way to implement serious changes towards upscale is to increase ticket prices and pay for the premium distinctions (IMHO). I still enjoy Celebrity and will continue to sail with them, but the days of "exceeding expectations" are certainly gone.
I agree Celebrity food quality has declined from the early 90's, but that is true of most of the cruise lines. What used to make cruises so special was the quality and presentation of food. Todays Celebrity falls short here. As far as staffing, I find that Celebrity is just as good as ever.( I go back to the real Chandris days) My wife has declared that crusing is no longer as "special" as it once was and I must agree. I wish the cruise line would raise the price (modestly) and retain a better product. All the cruiselines are trying to be "everything" to everyone, and that just doesn't work. I for one would welcome a return to clasic cruising but I am not in the Crystal Cruises price catagory.
The low fares currently offered on major cruise lines may be attracting lots of passengers, but to those of us that have cruised for a few years, I fear the "special" feeling of a great cruise with excellent food are just a memory of the past.
Very interesting comments! And all are valid points to consider. Regarding the
history of this cruise line, didn't Celebrity used to be part of the Chandris line and
wasn't that considered a budget line years ago?? I seem to recall vaguely that
the Chandris line owned Commodore Cruise Lines which went defunct and there
was at one time a connection between these companies and Celebrity in those
early days when Celebrity first started cruising with the Meridan, Horizon and
Zenith (wasn't there another ship?).
I think PapaBill is closer to accuracy when describing "upscale". Obviously,
Seabourn, Radisson, Crystal, are in a class by themselves; followed by
premium mass market cruise lines with Celebrity at the top, followed by Princess
and Holland America and perhaps RCCL. It is my opinion that Carnival is more
of a budget cruise line-- prices for that line is so low that almost anyone in any
income bracket can take a 7 day cruise.
Some people may consider Princess, Holland America, and RCCL true middle
of the road mass market cruise lines; it just depends on what amenities people
consider important enough to qualify as "upscale". To each his own.....
I like Carnival, but I'm also realistic enough to realize that it is a budget line
that gives a great big bang for your buck. The lines are different enough to offer
different experiences that satisfy me. I look forward to my first experience on
Celebrity's Horizon- after 4 cruises on Carnival, 1 on Holland America and 2
on NCL, I suspect that Celebrity will provide a different experience. Am I right?
It's tough to differentiate brands like RCI and Celebrity within the same company when both brands are good, both are mass market, and both share certain backoffice functions.
They're trying to make Celebrity more "upscale" (a very elusive and hard to define adjective), but it's very tough in the current market, where price is the primary driver at all mass market lines.
With the constraints they're facing, I think they're doing a passable job of keeping Celebrity a line for those who enjoy the traditional cruise experience. I won't use the word "upscale" because I think it's loaded. The point is differentiation, and I don't know whether the effort will ultimately succeed, or whether they'll eventually collapse all the ships into a single brand. I think it would be a shame for that to happen, even if Celebrity doesn't always hit the mark for every passenger on every cruise.
Though it's difficult to pigeon hole cruise lines in today's marketplace.. with my recent experiences, I'd say Celebrity has definately positioned themselves at the top of the "premium" brands.
Not just with the frosty towels, and champagne on boarding, Along with the "rebranding changes" I believe I've noticed a change, for the better, in the general attitude of all the staff onboard. There is a renewed interest on Celebrity's part to dedicate themselves to staff training as well.
A good example of this was on our recent Connie cruise the ship's photographers were asking if we wanted our picture taken, rather than lining us up regardless of how we felt.
I took my first Celebrity cruise in 94 when the Century was two weeks old and I found the product offered, via the crew, to be pompous, arrogant and bordering on rude. In fact, I didn't return to Celebrity for 6 years because of that experience.
I think Celebrity is most certainly on the right road attempting to upgrade their product, while keeping their prices in line with Princess and HAL.
I think they are already distancing themselves from the competition. And if the general state of the industry improves to where they can charge a bit more for their cruises, and therefore increase their food budgets, I think they'll be very hard to beat in the Premium category for some time,
Celebrity has always had a problem trying to establish a brand. They are reluctant to use the term upscale because they will scare the new pax. There are many points that were made in the above posts that were valid but I might be able to shed some light on this topic with my historical perspective.
Celebrity was, indeed, created from the Chandris line. The Chandris line was very old and family run. It started just after WW I around 1920 and worked its' way into the passenger business after surviving WW II. Chandris was known for its' ability to refurbish older vessels and provide a classic crossing/cruise experience for less $$ than the mainstream competition. Chandris was one of the first to offer more pools, better cuisine, air conditioning and better service for less $$.
Chandris was able to survive the decline in shipping during the 60s and 70s. While other great companies folded Chandris started growing. Their theme was always the same: "more of everything for your money". I could hardly believe all the good things I was hearing about Chandris until I experienced a 10 day cruise onboard the Amerikanis
in 1971. I was onboard the Gallilao and sitting next to members of the family in 1984 when they were planning the rebuilding of Gallilao into the Merridian. This, of course, became the first ship of the new Celebrity line.
Chandris/Celebrity always delivered a superior product (most of the time-nobody is perfect). I think that you can call it refined when compared to most other mass market lines. I believe that Celebrity delivers a traditional ocean liner experience that resembles the traditions of the great trans Atlantic companies of years gone by.
I have experienced Celebrity in all of its' forms and I have to say I like them the best and I do hope that the RCI culture will not amalgamate into Celebrity. The Celebrity experience is more refined; yes it is true, they should enforce the dress code, some cruises don't offer the best food, the entertainment is pale (sometimes) and you won't have the same experience if you have a cat 12 inside compared to the Penthouse Suite. All of that is very true but I have to say: My worst cruise experiences on Celebrity have far exceeded many good ones on other lines.
My complements to those folks who posted to this thread. The thoughts expressed are well written, well thought out and are written with no antagonism towards other posters. They also did not express anyone's agenda. I have found this one thread to be one of the most enjoyable bits of reading in a long time.
I have a preference for Celebrity , but it is not an exclusive one. Our last cruise was Carnival Legend and it was a fun experience. Someone asked me to compare our Legend cruise to our last cruise on Summit. The analogy I used was this (and you may have to be from NY to understand it). Carnival is like going to Juniors in Brooklyn for Deli and cheesecake compared to going to a good 4 star Manhattan restaurant. Both have there place as enjoyable meals, they are simply different experiences, nothing wrong with either.
Keep the comments coming, I love the thoughts and opinions expressed in this thread.
Is part of the problem that now Celebrity has over 15,000 berths to fill each day? It is easier to be in a niche when you were only needing to attract half that many in pre-Millie class days! I think Radisson is experiencing the same growing pains.
I think you are right about Celebrity's problems being amount of berths. That's why I think Celebrity should have stopped with Infinity, but RCI loves new ships and ordered 4 of these class of ships. The good news is that Celebrity has no new orders, or plans, for new ships.
And yes.... I go waaaaaaaaaayyyy back to the early days.....to the '60's with Chandris.
Celebrity is very "middle market"... and thus does nothing outstanding. Food's okay, service is okay, entertainment is okay... but nothing really outstanding. No "Wow"
Ben and I share a dislike of the M-class. The best things about Celebrity (some ships) are water related... the t-pools on the Century class vessels... and the size of the showers (all vessels).. the showers courtesy of John Chandris.
I noticed on my April Mercury sailing... food becoming more and more RCL-like.. without RCL's chocolate desserts!
I'll agree Celebrity doesn't feel special anymore after 28 cruises with the line. Add to this the recent boondoggle with the Captain's Club....I think my cruise dollars should be invested elsewhere.. where I receive a return on my investment... say Radisson's Gold Points... or Seabourn where my days are counted up to earn free cruises.
I realize that not everyone invests the same dollars in their vacation cruiseplans. But for this single cruiser with $ to invest..... the bloom has worn off Celebrity.
Would I sail Celebrity at rock bottom market rates.... sure..... that's good value. But when I'm looking at the 2-3000 range (those single supplements!!) and onboard charges... it's definitely not a good investment for me.
We have been cruising since 1969 (9 cruises). We have always cruised primarily based on $$ with itinerary a very close second. I have seen a BUNCH of changes. Most have to do with the quality/types/choices of food and price of drinks and excursions. Ships generally held <1000 pax then. Seafood was always an appetiser back when. Dinner choices were usuall limited to beef/chicken/fish then. Tie/jacket and cocktail dress were required dinner attire back when. Our inside cabin for 7 days plus air cost the 2 of us about $1000 and I was earning $5000/year back then. Today I earn >$40,000 and our 7 day Alaska w/air was $1400. I think I like todays pricing and more casual atmosphere. Hubby recently bought a tux but said he liked casual/freestyle on NCL last Nov better than our 6/1 Celebrity.
Even if the point has already been made in this thread,it warrants repeating.
If one wants 5* accomodation,food,and service, then one must be prepared to pay 5* prices.
We were on Constellation's May 24 cruise to Scandanavia/St.Petersburg.
The price of that cruise,based on a Celebrity Suite,was $480 per day FULLY INCLUSIVE.
The price of an entry level Suite at the 5* Hotel we stayed at last December was £750 per day BED & BREAKFAST.
When one factors into the Celebrity equation not only all meals,and entertainment,but also transportation over 3300 miles,the holiday becomes incredible value for money.
We found the food,and service on the Constellation to be excellent.
And as for the Ocean Liners Restaurant------superb!
BOP'S POSTING WAS EXACTLY WHAT I WAS TALKING ABOUT!
We were on the Century last October and had 6 star service everywhere we went. My wife said that it was the most perfect cruise she had ever been on. (I've been crossing and cruising since 1965.) This cruise restored my faith in a 7 day cruise, which we had tired of.
The consistency of any given ship can not possibly be maintained 52 weeks a year. Crews change constantly and this creates problems in the service sector. I have seen food go from a 10 to a 5 just bercause the head chefs changed in the middle of a voyage. How many of you can tell the familiar story of changing tables from a surly waiter to the best waiter you ever had? It has happened to us more times than I care to remember.
I love these threads; every ship has its raft of horror stories and if the crews were free to speak you would hear tales that would curl your hair!
I think what you mention may be Crystal's reason why they are so consistent. 2 ships, and you can reasonably expect a consistent level of service when you have 2 ships. The staff turnover will be lower, you can expect to find a large percentage of the same staff on the same ship. I think they have less supply and more demand where most lines may have the opposite. It seems Crystal is building the Serenity for a reason, not just to keep up with the "we have new ships" Joneses.
I think the building boom has hurt the industry. When Celebrity had 3 ships they were fairly consistently on a high level. Things started to change with the addition of the next 3. When these ships started to bring a decent level of consistency, though of a lower standard than the original 3, then 4 more came, larger and within a smaller amount of time than the middle 3 ships.
So, I think if Celebrity gets real with itself and addresses core problems, then the line can begin reestablishing its standards in food, service, and working at consistency. And the first has to be the "wow" that Babette speaks of, the second has to be on a level that consistently outperforms at least the mainstream lines.
I think, ultimately, the new has to come in new aspects of cruising rather than new ships with more amenities and land-based type of features. The "something" that makes a shipboard experience unique is being missed by the upper management, I think, is to make a more distinct cruise product, and take advantage of particular aspects of ship design vs. scaled resort/hotel design that I feel is compromising ships. And I also think that recognizing the finite amount of people that want cruise vacations in the long-run, vs. those that want to try cruising now on a new ship but won't be around in a few years when the ships are older, and dealing with the finite, smallish market, at least for those that want a standard that HAL or Celebrity claim to provide, and making that product profitable, yet reasonably affordable.
The market is still soft, and the industry overbuilt. We'll see what happens with the quality and consistency of lines like HAL, Celebrity, and Princess when the market becomes more robust. The danger is, by this time, these lines will be just middle-America, mainstream lines, and Oceania and Radisson will become the new premium lines.
Very well thought out and concisely opined. I agree with you but I am seeing something that maybe others are missing. Because Celebrity has not built any new ships they are starting to work out the bugs in the system. The comments from the experienced pax this Spring are supporting this theory. Things are getting better for Celebrity.
If you remember when RCI (then RCL) started building significant tonnage in the early 80s, they were stripping their good ships of the best help and placing them on the new ships. As each new ship would arrive the reviews would be mostly stellar but the reviews on the older ships would be good to horrendous.
I think that Celebrity went through these stages as it added to its Millenium class. My feeling is that this is now under control with a greater percentage of workers returning to different ships and being experienced enough to handle the demands that Celebrity requires. I have heard from many recent pax, who I trust for an experienced opinion, that the attitude is better and the quality is better. I think this is the first time that the crews on Celebrity have a clear picture of their goals and the reputation that they have to uphold.
We will continue to watch but I am much encouraged. I just hope that RCI and their airline executives keep their hands off of Celebrity. It really has a chance to be something special in the mainstream of cruise lines.
You have to look at Celebrity as a 3-4 class system; just like the old trans Atlantic liners. The pricing ranges from 3rd, tourist, cabin and first classes. These other premium lines only offer first class and I would challenge each of them to provide as good an experience as I am going to have on Celebrity, first class, especially when you compare the prices. I might love the Penthouse Suite but I also want to hang out at the sky bar and Jam with the crowd in Revelations. I don't want to sit in the dining room with someone who has flown in on their private jet. The premium lines have drawbacks IMO. A steady diet of champagne and caviar can get very dull.
One thing to remember here.. prior to Celebrity beginning their initial expansion program with Centry class ships they were not particularily successful financially. They "ran with the pack" toward the economy of scale theory that's led the cruise lines to their current situation.
The fact is it's difficult to make money with 900- 1200 passengers ships, with high levels of food and service without charging luxury level fares, which the majority of even the "premium" market passengers will refuse to pay.. let alone get into the larger "mass market".
Since I began cruising (in 94), and up until recently, when people asked for my choice of my favorite cruise line, I always said I have favorite ships. I felt NONE of the lines I had experienced offer a consistant enough product to warrant the kind of loyalty necessary to chose one particular favorite. I found all the lines I cruised suffered the same inconsitancy.
From what I've seen of Celebrity in the past year I do think they are making a serious run at achieving that consistancy from ship to ship throughout the fleet. Part of the rebranding process they are going through now is behind the scenes, and could be their most significant move to this end; that is the appointment of a training officer onboard each ship in the fleet.
It will take some time to see if this entire "rebranding" is effective in bringing a consistant premium product to the consumer, but I do see Celebrity making much more of an effort than any other of the premium brands it's competing with.
As far as Ben's mentioning of Radisson and Oceana as "premium lines". Firstly we have no idea what final product Oceana is going to offer, but from what I understand Radisson would have to drop a few notches from luxury brand to become a premium brand, and they seem to be one of the few lines I don't see much comment about their product losing anything at present.
I'll find out myself in Aug. when I sail them for the first time in Aug. Looking forward to it!
I am sorry to report that Radisson has recently ended unlimited free caviar. New policy is free in cabins when served in restaurant. Otherwise $25 per ounce. Same for special order in restaurants days it is not served. Don't know how much push back from pax so don't know if policy change will be rescinded.
I never partook of caviar in cabin, just when served at dinner, parties, and lounges so it is not a big hit; just don't like going backwards.
Kudos to you! We tried Celebrity because it home ported in Baltimore and was pleasantly surprised! The food, service and the entire atmosphere of the ship was far superior to other cruise lines in the mid-price range. We liked Celebrity so much that we are booked on the Infinity to Alaska on September 12th. Calling all cruisers; let me know if you are joining us!