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5 things I hope Royal Caribbean steals from Celebrity Ascent (and one they shouldn't)

01 Dec 2023
Matt Hochberg

They say imitation is highest form of flattery, so I really hope Celebrity Cruises ends up feeling very flattered in the near future.

Celebrity Ascent

I just sailed on a two-night preview sailing on the Celebrity Ascent.

This is the fourth Edge Class cruise ship, and it has a few notable tweaks and additions.  I enjoyed my time exploring Ascent, especially after just sailing on Celebrity Apex and being able to contrast both ships.

Having spent a combined 9 nights across two of Celebrity's best new cruise ships, I couldn't help but swoon over a few things these ships have that you can't find on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.


In a combination of jealousy and inspiration, I came up with a list of things from these ships that I think Royal Caribbean should really consider using on their ships. Call it copying, taking inspiration from, or borrowing, I just think they would be a hit on Royal Caribbean.

Disclaimer: Celebrity Cruises invited me to sail on Celebrity Ascent for a quick two-night preview cruise that was open to travel agents and members of the press. I did not pay for this sailing.

Theater stage

Celebrity Ascent theater

Celebrity Ascent has a beautiful protruding stage with a stunning 4K screen behind it, and I think it's such a beautiful way to put on the impressive shows that Royal Caribbean is known for.

The stage comes out into the audience. It's not quite a theater in the round, but it brings the audience so much closer to the singers and dancers.

The screen behind it is my favorite part, because it's so dynamic and helps convey the story being told.

Celebrity Ascent theater

The problem with this type of stage is if you want to put on a traditional musical or play, but Royal Caribbean has not bought the rights to a musical for the last three new cruise ships.  So if they're moving away from that model, why not go for a stage that allows them more creative license?

Bluetooth in sports bar

Craft Social bar

I wasn't aware of this feature until Celebrity Cruises President Laura Hodges Bethge mentioned it in a townhall event onboard.

In the Craft Social bar, there are many television screens to watch a few different sporting events. It's the de facto sports bar on Celebrity Ascent, and it draws plenty of guests who want to watch their favorite team.

The problem with any sports bar is you can only have one audio feed playing at a time, which means if your team isn't in that game, you can't hear it.

Craft Social bar

With Ascent, Celebrity has added a new piece of tech to get around the problem.

"We can only have sound in the bar with one game happening, but that might not be the game you want to watch," Ms.Hodges Bethge explained.

"So on the other TVs, we can have the other games going on. And then if you have your own smartphone, your own headphones, you can hook it up to that TV. And so you can listen to the game that you want to listen to."

Playmakers SOTS

After hearing this, I immediately thought of Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade because that space is such a home run with guests, but has the same sound problem.

While it might not prevent Philly fans from chanting "Fly, Eagles Fly" after a touchdown, it would mean I could focus on the games I care about.

Late night eats at Oceanview Cafe

Oceanview Cafe

Sometimes I want more than pizza as a late night snack.

On Celebrity, they keep the Oceanview Cafe buffet open past the time when dinner service is over.  It has pizza, but it also has a few items to select from too.

Oceanview Cafe

You can find salads, pasta, cheeses, and some bread to peruse in addition to pizza.

It was so refreshing having something else to pick from at night, so I wish the Windjammer would adopt this model. Keep one or two stations open so guests have a bit more variety.

Non-smoking casino

Casino on Celebrity Apex

Royal Caribbean has experimented with a non-smoking casino in the past, but I really would love for them to go the same route as Celebrity.

The casino Celebrity Ascent is 100% non-smoking, and it makes it so much more enjoyable in and outside of the casino.

Without the residual smell of smoke, I enjoyed my time in the casino much more (even if I pretty much lost any money I gambled in there).  Plus, no smoking in the casino means the smell doesn't creep to surrounding areas, as it inevitably does on Royal Caribbean ships.

Celebrity casino

The primary reason Royal Caribbean has not made the change is because of revenue concerns.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley said in 2022, "Every, I would say every couple of years, we do test this and we take one or two or three ships we ban smoking in the casino. And the result is less people go in the casino and that that's the reality of it."

I don't have access to the numbers, but if Celebrity's bottom line can support a non-smoking casino, I'd love for Royal Caribbean to do the same.



Celebrity Ascent is the first ship to have a new venue where you can rent it out to watch the big game, sing karaoke, or play virtual sport games with just you and your friends.

The Annex is a private room that you get for two and a half hours at a time.  It's stocked with food and drink, and you have the choice of using it for any sort of activity:

  • Golf, baseball, football, and soccer simulator
  • Personal karaoke party
  • Game day streaming
  • Movie night

It's big enough to accommodate up to 15 people and costs $200 - $350 depending if you're in port or not and which activity you want.

The Annex

Royal Caribbean has private karaoke rooms you can rent on a few of its ships in On Air Karaoke, but the dynamic nature of the Annex is a step above.

I think this will be a popular space on Ascent, and would be a hit on Royal Caribbean as well. I know I would love to use it with my family and friends!

Don't copy: All Included

Concierge Class cards

It's not all roses and rainbows with things different between the two cruise lines, and I hope Royal Caribbean doesn't follow Celebrity's lead with their All Included program.

All Included bundles a base drink package and base WiFi package into the cruise fare. It used to include gratuities too, but Celebrity dropped it because, "it wasn't what they [customers] perceived as the highest value for them in actually selecting Celebrity."

Nonetheless, I was disappointed with the program because of the reality it created.

Drink on Apex

Because everyone on the ship had a drink package, it seemed the price of individual drinks went up so ensure only those with an extra cost Premium Package could get the higher shelf selections.  

The result was I found drink prices cost more on Celebrity than on Royal Caribbean.  An $11 Michelob Ultra price tag is a great example of this.

With the WiFi, you get a very limited and slow connection included.  That's fine if all you're going to do is text, but I think the reality is people end up wanting to do more. So the result is you're probably going to spend extra to get the higher tier internet package too.

I loved the concept of All Included, but it's implementation left me less impressed and I don't think it's a good fit for Royal Caribbean.

Matt started Royal Caribbean Blog in 2010 as a place to share his passion for all things Royal Caribbean with readers. He oversees all the writers at Royal Caribbean Blog, and writes a great deal of content on a daily basis.  He has become one of the foremost expert on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Over the years, he has reached Pinnacle Club status with Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program.

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