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I went to Royal Caribbean's private island on a Celebrity cruise ship. Here's what surprised me about this visit

22 Apr 2024

Celebrity Cruises has officially begun regular visits to Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean's private island in The Bahamas. 

Celebrity Reflection at CocoCay

After departing Fort Lauderdale, Florida on April 21, Celebrity Reflection sailed to CocoCay, arriving shortly before Wonder of the Seas. This marks the first time that Celebrity has called at the island since the $250 million renovation that was completed in 2019. 

The enhancement included a pier, as well as numerous attractions targeting thrill-seekings, including Thrill Waterpark, a zip line, and a helium balloon.

Celebrity Reflection, along with Celebrity Beyond, are scheduled to regularly visit the island on itineraries ranging from 3 to 7 nights. 


From the moment I stepped onboard, it was evident that Celebrity was heavily leaning into CocoCay promotional materials. 

CocoCay advertisements frequently appeared on television screens throughout the ship, and the Cruise Director even held an information seminar about the island at 2:30pm before sailing away. I heard the "Perfect Day" song playing in the buffet during lunch, too! 

They really seemed to want to give passengers every bit of information possible to help them plan a "perfect" day ashore. 


When we returned to our inside stateroom after dinner, we discovered that our cabin steward had left us some complimentary CocoCay swag, including a baseball cap, towel clips, and a small misting spray bottle. 

From receiving identifiable wristbands to having my basic drink package treated like the premium one, here's everything that surprised me on my visit to Perfect Day at CocoCay with Celebrity Cruises. 

The hero photo is credited to Chris Yansick, who is currently sailing onboard Wonder of the Seas. 

Read more: I went to CocoCay for the first time, and here's what I'd do differently

Guests onboard Celebrity Reflection were asked to wear wristbands to help staff differentiate who was cruising on Royal Caribbean versus Celebrity


In addition to the destination-specific goodies that we received in our cabin, we were also provided two orange wristbands. 

"...we kindly ask you to wear [them] while visiting Perfect Day at CocoCay. Doing so will help us shape your future experiences at this exclusive, private destination, as we will learn about our guests' needs, preferences, and expectations," read the informational sheet. 

Many guests seemed to respect Celebrity's wishes, as the majority of passengers who disembarked at the same time as I did had them on. Plus, there were a lot of people wearing them at the adults-only Hideaway Beach. I was asked by the couple sitting next to me what the bands were for, so they had noticed a lot, too!  


Though I'm not surprised by what seemed to be more Royal Caribbean guests at Hideaway due to Wonder of the Seas' capacity, it was hard not to notice all the bright orange bands throughout the day. 

While the younger crowd that typically frequents Royal Caribbean may be more likely to pay for admission to Thrill Waterpark or the zip line, the bands will help the company learn what Celebrity guests are seeking on the island. 

Around 11:30am, I left Hideaway Beach to get an idea of where Celebrity guests were congregating the most. 


While there was certainly no shortage of guests at Hideaway Beach, I found that because of Wonder's capacity, it made Celebrity's presence seem more scattered. 

Rather than observing a lot of Celebrity passengers at Chill Island, Oasis Lagoon, or South Beach, the excess of Royal guests was exceedingly noticeable. In fact, I was surprised by the abundance of empty lounge chairs, especially since it was a little bit before peak lunch times. 

Hideaway Beach definitely seemed to be popular for cruises on both lines. 

I was worried Wi-Fi and drink packages wouldn't work on the island


Though Celebrity is part of Royal Caribbean Group, I wasn't sure if my packages would work ashore. When I initially stepped foot on the island, my Wi-Fi seemed to be cutting out a lot. 

Since I upgraded to Celebrity's Premium Wi-Fi, I had higher hopes for the connectivity. In the end, I'm glad I paid the difference because my partner's Basic Package was even more restrictive. She was able to open apps on the ship that she wasn't able to on the island, such as Instagram and TikTok. 

Moreover, Celebrity offers passengers two alcoholic packages, whereas Royal Caribbean only has one: the Deluxe Beverage Package. Those who purchase Royal Caribbean's Deluxe Beverage Package receive a relatively all-inclusive experience, with cocktails made with top-shelf spirits included. 


Celebrity's Classic Package is more restrictive, as it only includes drinks up to $10. While I could have paid to upgrade to the Premium Package, I figured that there would be a decent selection of drinks to choose from. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case onboard, as the majority of cocktails cost anywhere from $12 to $17. 

I wasn't sure how the package would be honored ashore, though. To my surprise, the Classic Package was treated like the Premium. 

There was no cap on beverages; my finacée was able to order a Patrón soda for no extra charge. However, all the bartenders I spoke with said that they're still trying to figure out Celebrity's packages since this is Celebrity's first sailing to CocoCay. There's a chance that this will change in the future. 

Having visited Perfect Day at CocoCay numerous times, the experience ashore felt extremely similar to my Royal Caribbean sailings


It's truly a winning formula. Those who want to enjoy Celebrity's upscale amenities will be able to do so, while also being able to visit the award-winning island. Celebrity ships are about giving the Celebrity customer a product with high guest satisfaction to enjoy, too. 

While I enjoyed my time at the upbeat Hideaway Beach, it was nice returning to a low-key ship. Plus, there were definitely fewer children onboard. 

As someone in their mid-twenties with no kids, it was nice to be surrounded by adults onboard while also being able to enjoy everything that CocoCay is known for. Now, those interested in visiting CocoCay have options, whether they're seeking a family-friendly vacation or a more adult-oriented and refined experience. 


According to Royal Caribbean President and CEO Michael Bayley, the demand for Perfect Day at CocoCay is “exceptionally high.” Out of 100 global destinations, it's the number one rated port that Royal Caribbean sails to. 

Celebrity Cruises' President, Laura Hodges Bethge, acknowledges that Celebrity's clientele doesn't want to be left out of this private island experience. “

By introducing this new program," she said, "we can meet this demand and offer something new and historic to all our guests.”

Celebrity Cruises will visit Royal Caribbean's private island for the first time. It's symbolic of the two lines' closer relationship

18 Apr 2024

Celebrity Cruises is scheduled to call at Perfect Day at CocoCay on Monday, April 22. It’s the first time Royal Caribbean’s sister line will visit the private island since its $250 million renovation.

Celebrity will visit CocoCay

Celebrity Reflection, a Solstice Class ship that was launched in 2012, is set to depart from Fort Lauderdale on a 5-night cruise on Sunday that'll visit CocoCay and Cozumel. 

She will be docked alongside Wonder of the Seas on Monday. On Tuesday, Celebrity Beyond and Freedom of the Seas are scheduled to visit CocoCay. 

By the end of the year, Celebrity will have sailed to CocoCay 47 times on cruises ranging from short 3-night getaways to weeklong Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries.

CocoCay aerial with balloon in view

Fares start as low as $277 per person for a 3-night cruise onboard Celebrity Reflection. 

Prior to Celebrity’s expansion, access to the island was reserved for those sailing on Royal Caribbean ships. Now, passengers can enjoy the family-friendly amenities during the day before returning to one of Celebrity’s upscale ships. 

Onboard, you won’t find any thrills that have come to define the Royal Caribbean brand, such as the FlowRider surf simulator, zip line, and AquaTheater high diving shows. 


Instead, Celebrity focuses on delivering a refined experience with world-class cuisine, high-end accommodations, and top-tier entertainment.

Typically, Celebrity’s itineraries highlight more unique ports across the globe, with two ships stationed year-round in Asia and Europe. 

Due to the demand for cruises to The Bahamas and Caribbean, Celebrity will now offer sailings throughout the year, many of which will call at CocoCay. They will also tap into the weekend cruise market.

Celebrity Ascent

"Our customers are consistently asking for more opportunities to visit this stunning region year-round, have more weekend options so they can get away easier, and have expressed a desire for a private island destination,” said Laura Hodges Bethge, President of Celebrity Cruises.

“By introducing this new program, we can meet this demand and offer something new and historic to all our guests.”

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

Perfect Day at CocoCay is a popular destination that’s known for its beautiful beaches, thrilling water slides, and upscale amenities

Royal Caribbean

According to Royal Caribbean President and CEO Michael Bayley, the demand for Perfect Day at CocoCay is “exceptionally high.”

"CocoCay is the number one destination that Royal Caribbean goes to in the world out of 100 global destinations, because it’s a curated experience designed and built to deliver a high-level experience to the customer,” Bayley said.

Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, Utopia of the Seas, is scheduled to enter service in July 2024. 

Going down the slides

It’s the first new build for the line that’s beginning with 3- and 4-night cruises, as transitioning from weeklong to weekend sailings is typically a hallmark of older vessels. The ship will visit CocoCay twice per week, compared to Icon of the Seas' singular weekly visit. 

Additionally, Royal Caribbean recently completed the island’s adult-only Hideaway Beach expansion, bringing the island’s capacity to 13,000 passengers per day.

Read more: I just spent 11 days on Celebrity Edge – did it live up to the hype?

Though guest satisfaction is paramount, sailing to CocoCay benefits Royal Caribbean Group from a financial perspective

Hideaway Beach

With CocoCay located about 140 miles from Miami, it’s a quick and convenient destination, which helps reduce the company’s fuel consumption and costs.

Plus, visiting private destinations, including Royal Caribbean’s Labadee, Haiti, helps keep more profits in-house.

There’s no competition for shore excursions, ensuring that passengers spend money with Royal Caribbean or Celebrity, rather than a third party.

Infinity pool

It’s easy to find cheaper operators in ports like Nassau and Cozumel. On my upcoming Celebrity Reflection cruise, for instance, an ATV tour in Mexico starts at $85.99 through the cruise line, whereas a tour through Cozumel Tours by Johann and Sandra is just over $100 for a shared vehicle.

Though CocoCay has complimentary beach chairs, a large freshwater pool, and plenty of dining options, the island is known for its paid activities, ranging from Thrill Waterpark to the upscale Coco Beach Club.

It’s not uncommon to see admission to the waterpark starting around $150 per person, with overwater cabanas sometimes costing upwards of $4,000 or $5,000.

Read more: I rented a $2,000 cabana at Royal Caribbean's adults-only area of CocoCay

Members of Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society can have their loyalty status matched within Celebrity’s Captain’s Club

Icon of the Seas

Climbing the ranks of Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society is rewarding. From complimentary drink vouchers to exclusive events, discounts on laundry, and more, the company excels at keeping fans “Loyal to Royal.”

Though Celebrity and Royal Caribbean are owned by Royal Caribbean Group, the lines appeal to different crowds. According to Celebrity Cruises, 51% of guests on 7-night cruises are 60 years old and older. Additionally, Baby Boomers make up the majority of guests onboard Caribbean sailings, with anywhere from 47% to 63% of passengers coming from this generation.

Royal Caribbean is the more family-friendly of the two, with activities geared towards even the youngest sailors onboard.

Celebrity Apex docked in St. Thomas

Whether you've been a devout Celebrity or Royal cruiser, you don't have to give up all of your loyalty perks. Depending on your cruising needs, you may find yourself wanting to try the other line, as they both have a lot to offer! 

Perhaps, for instance, your children are grown and you're seeking a more refined vacation, but you've only ever cruised with Royal. 

You are able to match your Crown & Anchor status to Celebrity's Captain's Club once you accumulate 30 cruise points. Similarly, those within the Captain's Club can match their status to the Crown & Anchor Society upon reaching the Select tier. 

Wonder of the Seas at CocoCay

Though the programs aren't identical, you can benefit from perks like complimentary drinks, discounted Wi-Fi, upgraded bathroom amenities, and more. 

The only caveat is that you cannot match into the top level for either program. Those who are part of the elusive Pinnacle Club won't be able to become a Zenith Captain's Member. Instead, the highest you can match into is Elite. 

Similarly, the highest status you can achieve via the status match in Royal Caribbean's Crown & Anchor Society is Diamond. 


Currently, you only earn points on the line that you're sailing with, so if you're cruising on Celebrity, you won't earn Crown & Anchor points. 

In September 2023, Andrea Shay, AVP of Loyalty for Celebrity Cruises, mentioned that there's a possibility of consolidating Royal Caribbean Group loyalty programs

Shay acknowledged that the current status matching program doesn't thread the Royal Caribbean Group brands together. 

"We have some status match between the brands today, but there's such a huge opportunity for us to do more and really take advantage of the connection and us being part of the same family," she said. 

Celebrity is working with sister brands to hopefully reveal more information about what this could potentially look like. With Celebrity now sailing to CocoCay, an integrated program would make sense, as it would provide greater value and recognition for guests while fostering a stronger connection between Royal Caribbean Group brands.

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast Episode - Celebrity Ascent review

06 Dec 2023

Listen to the Show

Matt and Don sailed on Celebrity Ascent and shared what made this ship different

Share with me your thoughts, questions and comments via...

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

01 Dec 2023

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.

7 things new and different to love about Celebrity Ascent

29 Nov 2023

Celebrity Ascent is the newest cruise ship to debut in the Edge class of ships, and it's name implies it's in a position to move up the ranks of the ships the preceded it.

Celebrity Ascent

The fourth in a series of five ships, Ascent is a bit bigger than the first two Edge Class ships (Celebrity Edge and Celebrity Apex).  She's 20 meters longer and a deck taller.

There are 179 more cabins on Ascent than on Edge or Apex.  At double occupancy, Celebrity Ascent has a capacity of 3,260 passengers. The original Edge Class ships had a capacity of 2,918 passengers.

That extra space means the ship has more room to expand certain venues, such as The Retreat suites-only section of the ship and a larger Sunset Bar at the back of the vessel.

Grand Plaza

There's other touches as well, and, I was curious to know what makes this ship stand out from the rest.  Having just sailed on Celebrity Apex last week, comparing the two ships so closely together was an intriguing opportunity.

Celebrity Ascent will sail to the Caribbean out of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.

Pool on Celebrity Ascent

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.

Grand Plaza

Grand Plaza

As soon as you board Celebrity Ascent, you're going to notice the central hub of activity looks totally different.

The Grand Plaza is the epicenter of everything happening on the ship.  Since the first Edge Class ship, the Grand Plaza has been a focal point for the ship, and with Celebrity Beyond and Ascent, you get a different layout.

Grand Plaza

The LED chandelier is is more central, which really opens up the space and surrounds the deck with a beautiful glow.

If you loved the martini bar before, the new one is expanded is fully circular too.

Grand Plaza

Celebrity says it's "loftier" and "airier" and I think I was struck by how much different the layout makes in the feel of the venue compared to Apex.

Another nice change is the addition of World Class Bar to the atrium.

World Class Bar

This bar is a fan favorite on other Celebrity ships, and has been included on both Celebrity Beyond and Celebrity Ascent. It serves up "bespoke cocktails" with great views of the Grand Plaza.

The Annex

The Annex

When I boarded Ascent, the Annex wasn't even on my radar, but I think this is the sleeper hit of this new ship.

Brand new to Celebrity, the Annex is a private room you can rent for your family to enjoy.  It's multi-purpose, and allows you to customize the entertainment to your needs.

It has the choice of:

  • Golf simulator
  • Celebration Lounge
  • Personal karaoke party
  • Game day streaming
  • Movie night deluxe

Essentially, it's a place you can rent to have a special enclave for a party, celebration, or retreat.

The Annex

The cost depends if you're renting it on a sea day or port day, and which private event theme you pick.  Celebrity says it will cost around $200 - $350 for the private event.

When I cruise with family or friends, I love any opportunity to have a special area for just us, and this seems like a great addition.

Sunset Bar

Sunset Bar

When I went on Celebrity Apex, everyone told me to check out the Sunset Bar. Clearly that message got back to the cruise line, because the Sunset Bar is larger and beautiful.

Views of the ship's wake have always been a favorite of cruisers, and this Sunset Bar doubles down on those views. This is the bar to go to on a sea day to enjoy a view of the ship's wake, the sun rising and setting, and the ocean breeze inbetween.

Sunset Bar

The theme is labeled as "international beach club ambiance", but I was getting some Spanish Mediterranean vibes sitting here. 

Sunset Bar

The extra space really makes it feel like a destination, rather than another bar. I love how much more seating there is, and how the bar doesn't dominate the entire space.

Rooftop Garden area

Rooftop Garden

If I think of Celebrity cruise ship, I usually think of their lawn and garden top decks, and Ascent has an expanded area to enjoy.

You'll find more seating, new private nooks, and two new floating pools that are cantilevered over the side of the ship.

Rooftop Garden
Rooftop Garden

When there's not an event happening here, it's a great spot for "I want to be outside without being at the pool". It's serene, pretty, and I like how the area is arranged.

Rooftop Garden Grill has also been re-arranged, thanks to Ascent being a bit longer. It's less protruding into the garden area, and is the perfect sea day dinner.

The Retreat

The Retreat

If you're lucky enough to stay in a suite, Celebrity has greatly expanded its private suite area.

Known as The Retreat, the indoor space is 25% bigger than on Celebrity Edge or Apex.

The Retreat

Think of The Retreat as a suite neighborhood on an Oasis Class ship multiplied to threefold. 

The indoor space features au d'oeuvres, drinks, and plenty of seating. And it's open 24/7!

The Retreat concierge

The personal concierge team is there to assist those in suites that don't have butler service.  The concierge team is split among four hosts.

The Retreat

Outside is more reserved seating for suite guests than I've ever seen on any Royal Caribbean ship.

The Retreat seating encompasses multiple decks, and has plenty of quiet nooks and crannies. Plus, there's a hot tub too.

The Retreat

You don't need to book a suite to have a great cruise, but it sure is nice to have this space if you do!

The Club

The Club

I spent less time in The Club than I would have liked on Celebrity Apex, but I think this space is vastly underrated.

As a Royal Caribbean fan, it reminds me a lot of Music Hall on the Oasis Class ships, but on Celebrity it feels much more open.

New for Ascent is "Smoke and Ivories", which is a musical event that is themed to a 1950s cabaret. It features a piano, hand-to-hand fights, tap solos, passionate duets, and aerial performances.

The Club

There was also a really neat augmented reality retro video game where people act as the player in the game in the center of the space to play arcade games like Breakout.

The space may not have a snazzy name, but I like the layout a lot.

Cosmopolitan restaurant

Cosmopolitan restaurant

It's a small change, but the Cosmopolitan Main Dining Room restaurant has been re-themed.

Celebrity's Edge Class ships have four different Main Dining Rooms, with each having a unique theme. The core menu is the same across all four, but each restaurant has a few appetizers and entrees that are special to that venue.

Cosmopolitan restaurant

On Apex, I enjoyed my dinners in Normandie, and this new space looks equally beautiful.

There's a lot of great specialty dining on Celebrity Ascent that gets a lot of attention, but don't overlook the Main Dining Rooms either.

Other notable changes to Celebrity Ascent

I noticed a few other changes Celebrity made with its fourth Edge Class ship.

Le Voyage

The intimate and upscale restaurant Le Voyage has been redesigned, and it features a menu created by Chef Daniel Boulud. 

Fine Cut Steakhouse

Fine Cut Steakhouse has an expanded seating space, which is larger than on previous Edge Class ships.

This means the restaurant has been expanded to the edge of the ship so that the restaurant has floor-to-ceiling windows on one side.

I took my first Celebrity Cruise on a new ship. We had a great time, but I missed Royal Caribbean's entertainment

27 Nov 2023

After taking more than 70 Royal Caribbean cruises, I thought it was time to try a cruise on sister-brand Celebrity Cruises.

Celebrity Apex docked in St. Thomas

Over the last few years, I think Celebrity has raised its notoriety among the cruise industry and its eye-catching Edge Class cruise ships have gotten a lot of people to reconsider booking a Celebrity cruise, myself included.

As someone who loves to cruise on Royal Caribbean, trying a different cruise line seemed a bit strange. I enjoy Royal Caribbean, and there's a reason why I love to cruise over and over with this line.  But at the same time, I was curious what the experience would be like to cruise on Celebrity.  

Unlike other cruise lines out there, Celebrity is within the same corporate umbrella as Royal Caribbean International, so it felt less strange to go on another cruise line.

Read moreWho owns Royal Caribbean?

After talking about it for a long time, I booked my family on Celebrity Apex for a 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Matt on Apex

I picked Apex because I wanted a new ship, and the Edge Class has gotten so much attention that I felt it would be a great first step forward to try Celebrity.

I was never concerned about having a bad time onboard, but I was curious just how much I would enjoy the experience.  Would it feel exactly like Royal Caribbean? Would I fall in love and never want to go back? What would my kids think of it all?

Pre-cruise and embarkation

Apex in Fort Lauderdale

Everything leading up to the cruise and the check-in process for a Celebrity Cruise felt pretty much the same as Royal Caribbean.

Both lines use the same backend for its app.  While there are two different apps, they look and work exactly the same but with a different color scheme.

I did a status match in the months leading up to the cruise with my Crown and Anchor Society status.  Both lines will honor your status on either line, with Diamond, Diamond Plus or Pinnacle Club members getting Elite status in the Captain's Club.  This is one tier below their upper most loyalty level.

Having Elite status in Captain's Club didn't really get me much value on my cruise, but it was nice to have it, just in case.

Celebrity cruise terminal

Celebrity Apex sails from Port Everglades and the cruise line has its own cruise terminal.  It's a beautiful building, and set up efficiently.  Certainly in-step with any of Royal Caribbean's newer terminals.

Infinite balcony cabin

Infinite Balcony

In looking at which cabin to book, we went with a cabin category I never would have booked if not for a great deal on it.

Thanks to my friends at MEI Travel, they had a special agency rate on Concierge Class infinite veranda cabins that made it just as cheap to book those rooms as a standard veranda.

It can be a little confusing to understand what Concierge Class gets you, as the name seems to imply you get a higher level of service. Celebrity has sub classes of cabins that get special benefits, including the Concierge Class and Aqua Class.

Infinite Balcony

In short, Concierge class gets you an infinite veranda cabin with some additional benefits. The actual cabin is very similar to a normal veranda, but there are some extra perks included.

Concierge Class cards

The main perks of Concierge Class are:

  • Priority Embarkation and Debarkation
  • Embarkation day lunch
  • Priority Dining Time in main dining room
  • Canapes and sparkling wine on request
  • Upgraded pillow menu
  • Concierge Service
  • Destination Seminar
  • Umbrella and binoculars during the cruise in your cabin
  • Complimentary shoe-shining service
  • Extra hairdryer in the stateroom
  • Upgraded Hansgrohe rainfall showerhead
  • Embossed keyholder and tote bag
Concierge Class benefits

That sound impressive, but most of these perks will likely go unused.  The best benefits are the embarkation day lunch, concierge service, canapes and champagne, and priority embarkation.


Because everyone cruises differently, how useful all of this is can vary and we barely used any of the benefits.  The canapes were not the sort of food I liked, and I don't drink champagne.

Concierge Club

The concierge team was very friendly and welcoming, and did assist with any issues we had, but we didn't have many problems for them. We booked a standard dining time every night pre-cruise, so priority times in the dining room didn't help.  And the rest of the benefits either went unused or didn't factor much into the experience. 

I think next time I wouldn't book Concierge Class if it cost more than a regular cabin. 

Infinite Verandah on Celebrity Apex

When I told others I was cruising on Celebrity, so many complained about the infinite veranda concept, because they said it ends up just being a big window that sucks all of your air conditioning out instead of being a balcony experience.

As for our cabin itself, I really wanted to love the infinite balcony design.  Unfortunately, they were right.

The infinite veranda is a great cabin, with plenty of space for two people. The balcony sitting area means you get more space to use inside the room when the balcony isn't "open". 

Infinite veranda view

The problem is you have to weigh whether would you rather have the veranda open and be able to look out and enjoy the breeze, or air conditioning in your cabin for the next hour.  On a Caribbean itinerary where the humidity is quite high, this is a much more difficult conundrum.

As soon as you open the verandah, the air conditioning turns off, the cold air escapes outside and everything in your room fogs up almost immediately.

No air conditioning

If it's not hot or humid out, then this works quite well.  But in Puerto Rico, it was disappointing.

Infinite balcony

So we just kept our infinite veranda closed for the cruise and we managed to have a good time nonetheless. It was nice having views of the ocean, and the extra space provided by the balcony sitting area was nice to have.

I loved how big the cabin felt, especially the bathroom. The shower was extra large, and there was lots of vanity space.

Plus and enhanced feel

Celebrity Apex centrum

Celebrity's tag line is they embody "modern luxury" and it manifested itself in Apex's look and feel.

Coming from Royal Caribbean, you'll quickly notice drinks served in glasses and buffet plates that aren't made out of plastic. Chairs everywhere have extra padding, drinks are poured freely instead of using jiggers, and the entire experience feels more premium.

It's subtle, but I enjoyed having a more plush feel to it all, in the same way a luxury sedan feels compared to contemporary sedan.

Oceanview Cafe

There are a few areas this really stands out, such as the Oceanview Cafe buffet, the Cafe al Bacio, and the pool deck.

Oceanview Cafe is your standard cruise ship buffet, but the variety of food was quite impressive. There were panini stations, a freshly grilled meat station, more made-to-order cooking stations than I've ever seen, and overall more choices.


Cafe al Bacio is the coffee shop that not only has a variety of coffees you can order by waiting your turn, but there's tables and chairs you can sit at and get waiter service to take your order.

If you can imagine a Royal Caribbean pool deck with the Solarium's furniture throughout the pool deck, that's essentially what Apex's pool deck is like.

I never went on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship and wished for these sort of changes, but I certainly welcomed them on Celebrity.

Really good food, especially if you're a foodie

Food on Celebrity

One aspect of Celebrity a lot of readers told me about was Celebrity's food game.

In short, you're going to find a wider variety of foods at any of the restaurants that go beyond what I might expect to find on Royal Caribbean.

I found a lot of these extra choices to lean heavily into the adventurous palate. If you aren't a picky eater, I think you'll find a lot more to consider on a cruise beyond a beef dish, a pasta, a chicken, or some vegetables. 

Fine Cut Steakhouse

It really shines with Celebrity's specialty restaurants, and even I was surprised to find duck leg confit, a tomahawk steak cut, roasted trout.

Of course, this assumes you actually would order these items, or you'd stick to similar fare that you'd find on Royal Caribbean.

In my opinion, it's better to have too many options than not enough. So I liked that it wasn't "more of the same" with the food choices.

French Onion Soup

We ate most nights in the Main Dining Room, which was very akin to the Main Dining Room on Royal Caribbean before its latest menu changes.

There are four dining rooms on Celebrity Apex and each serves the same menu, along with a subset of special dishes unique to that restaurant.

Main Dining Room menu on Celebrity Apex

Our waiters gave us a secondary menu that had a copy of what those special items are in the other restaurants, in case we wanted to order off of them. 

Moreover, the waiters were willing to substitute items and order things off the menu. When I asked about an Indian curry dish option, the head waiter arranged to have it every night I would dine there. When my youngest daughter just wanted pasta while dining at Rooftop Garden, our waiter ran downstairs to the Main Dining Room to get it.

Main Dining Room on Apex

Speaking of the menu, it's worth noting that Celebrity still has a Main Dining Room menu that has a classics section, where a subset of the evening menu never changes.  This means you can get escargot, French onion soup, and a grilled chicken of every night of the cruise in addition to the rotating options.

Not as much to do onboard as Royal Caribbean

Atrium on Apex

If there was one area of my first Celebrity cruise that made me wish I was back on Royal Caribbean the most, it was the daily activities.

There were activities, shows, and events offered, but far fewer than on Royal Caribbean. There were maybe one or two trivia sessions per day, and at night the offerings really slowed down. 

I'm not a party animal or someone that goes from activity to activity on my cruises, but Apex skewed heavily towards a "let's sit down and relax" vibe.  That's perfectly fine, but it made me realize how much I missed having a pub singer, Schooner Bar player, trivia host, or multiple shows to see.

Matt in Eden

The ship had a silent disco, DJ music, and other typical entertainment of the sort, but there were far fewer sessions.  Many of the instrumentalists would play "coffee house" versions of the songs, which kept the pace slower.

Every cruise line has a stereotype about it, and Celebrity's has historically been that it caters to an older crowd than on Royal Caribbean.  I can see some of the truth in how it's a bit tamer in terms of the ship's energy level.

Show on Celebrity Apex

That isn't to say there isn't anything happening onboard. You'll find events in the Royal Caribbean app, but there just isn't as much as on Royal Caribbean.

I can keep myself entertained in the daytime, but I love things to do after dinner and I was disappointed in the lack of options.  We ended up in bed by 10pm on most nights because there just wasn't a lot happening.

Non-smoking casino was wonderful

Casino on Celebrity Apex

Win or lose in the casino, the fact the casino on Celebrity Apex was 100% smoke free was fantastic.

On Royal Caribbean's ships, smoking is allowed in the casino, and it tends to become the indoor smoking lounge just as much as a place to gamble and smoke at the same time.

The fact smoking is allowed in Royal Caribbean's casinos doesn't stop me from going, but it was nice a nice change to have the casino smoke-free.

Considering the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates just 11.5% of Americans smoked in 2021, it's clear Celebrity has moved towards embracing 88% that don't smoke.

I'm not here to start a debate about the virtues of smoking, just point out the casino on Celebrity Apex was non-smoking and I really enjoyed it.

Always Included was disappointing


When Celebrity Cruises announced they would offer a cruise fare that bundled WiFi, drinks, and gratuities, I thought it was a godsend. In reality, not so much.

We booked the Always Included fare, which at the time included basic WiFi, drink package, and gratuities. The line has since removed gratuities from this option.

The wifi that's included is abysmally slow and useful for texting and not much else. For my kids, it's fine because they could use a break from the real internet.  But for anyone else, it stinks.

Wifi cost

Compounding the problem is how much Celebrity charges for their wifi packages compared to Royal Caribbean. To upgrade my WiFi package, I would have to pay an additional $230.93 for one device or $412.93 for two devices. That's on top of the cost of the Always Included package.

Receipt on Celebrity

The classic beverage package adults receive with Always Included is fine, assuming you drink pretty basic options.  I found it very limiting, and worse were the prices the cruise line charges for drinks if you don't have a drink package.

As a Pinnacle Club member in Crown and Anchor Society, I missed my daily complimentary drink vouchers and how nice it was to have that perk. 

Celebrity has a happy hour for its top tier members, but it's only two hours and has a very limited drink menu.

More hits and misses

Pool deck on Apex

Here's more of what I liked and didn't like about  my first Celebrity cruise, in addition to what I mentioned already.

What I liked

Magic Carpet

Magic Carpet: Essentially a bar that moves up and down the side of the ship, I liked the breeze, views, and seating.

Cafe al Bacio: The coffee house I always wanted on a cruise ship.

Theater on Celebrity Apex

Theater with a protruding stage: The theater's stage and digital screen behind it were beautiful and really made the audience feel part of the show.

If Royal Caribbean is going to stop paying for musicals that need a traditional stage, this is something new ships should start borrowing.

Ship size & layout: Apex is 1,004 feet long, which makes it slightly longer than a Radiance Class ship but smaller than a Voyager Class ship.

It was easy to get around, and nearly all the public venues not at a pool were between decks 3, 4, and 5.  It made getting around and between venues very easy and quick.

What I didn't like

Drink on Apex

Bar service was nearly non-existent: In most bars or lounges, it was very difficult to sit down in a chair and get a drink because no waiters ever came by.

On Royal Caribbean, if you sit at a bar, you'll be inundated by waiters coming to take your order.  On Apex, it was the opposite. 

It might have just been our sailing and some bad luck, but other guests I spoke with on the ship reported a similar experience.

Elite Perks: I status matched from Royal Caribbean to Celebrity and being at the second-highest tier didn't really get me much.

In practical terms, there was no reason to really use the benefits provided:

  • Access to exclusive daily coffee house-style breakfast and Evening Cocktail Hour
  • 30% off Wi-Fi package or Wi-Fi upgrade
  • 15% off Drink Package or upgrade to Premium pre-cruise
  • Complimentary access to Persian Garden (on one port day)
  • One complimentary bag of laundry (wash, dry, fold) on every sailing

I did use the WiFi discount, but I did not find as much value as what I might get with Royal Caribbean.

Celebrity Ascent has been delivered by the shipyard to the cruise line

08 Nov 2023

Celebrity Ascent has officially joined Celebrity Cruises' fleet. The cruise line took delivery of the brand-new Edge Class ship at the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in St. Nazaire, France.


In addition to 1,400 Celebrity Ascent crew members, Royal Caribbean Group President and CEO Jason Liberty; Celebrity Cruises President Laura Hodges Bethge; Laurent Castaing, General Manager of Chantiers de l'Atlantique; and Captains Dimitrios Kafetzis and Tasos Kafetzis were all present for the celebration. 

“Celebrity Ascent is yet another example of innovation driving our mission to provide the best vacations responsibly. The ship continues Celebrity’s ambition to redefine premium travel and take it to new heights,” said Liberty.


“I want to thank and congratulate the Chantiers de l’Atlantique team, our Newbuild and Celebrity Cruises’ teams, and their partners for the vision, craftsmanship, and passion that went into bringing this spectacular ship to life.”

“Celebrity Ascent features all the innovative and award-winning Edge Series signature experiences that launched a new era in cruise ship design, plus a few new enhancements, and I can’t wait to welcome our guests aboard,” said Hodges-Bethge. 


This is the first ship to be delivered to Celebrity Cruises since Hodges-Bethge became the CEO.

“It is a true honor to welcome this ship to our fleet and I am so grateful to everyone involved with all that goes into launching a new ship.” 


“I am convinced that Celebrity Ascent will meet the same success as the other ships in the prestigious Edge Series. Its fine exterior and interior design and its exceptional seaworthiness make it an outstanding ship, said Chantiers de l’Atlantique General Director Laurent Castaing.

"Celebrity Ascent embodies the strong bond between the Chantiers de l’Atlantique, Royal Caribbean Group and Celebrity Cruises teams."


While a few preview sailings are scheduled for late November, Celebrity Ascent is slated to make her official debut in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on December 3 with a 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise sailing to St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and the Dominican Republic.

Distinctive ship features and new experiences onboard Celebrity Ascent


Celebrity Ascent may be the fourth ship in the Edge Class, but she is not an exact copy of her sister ships. 

For the first time, Blu, the Aqua Class-exclusive restaurant, will have an outdoor dining terrace with the ability to seat 24 guests. Other dining venues, such as Le Voyage by Chef Daniel Boulud and the complimentary Cosmopolitan dining room, have been newly redesigned. 

RelatedWhat is the difference between The Retreat, AquaClass and Concierge Class on Celebrity Cruises?

Le Voyage private dining room, on board Celebrity Ascent, the second installment of the highly rated fine dining venue by world-renowned chef, Daniel Boulud

Headed by KTGY Simeone Deary Design Group, Daniel Boulud's second restaurant at sea will offer an intimate fine dining experience that is based upon the Chef's travels. 

Entertainment is another selling point of the cruise experience for many passengers, and there is no lack of things to do onboard Celebrity Ascent.


Onboard, guests will have six new live productions, interactive gaming experiences, a transformative nightlife experience on the Resort Deck, and more to enjoy. 

Additionally, the redesigned casino will feature brand-new games for those who wish to try their luck at sea.   


There's also an expanded Rooftop Garden; upgraded Resort Deck with cantilevered float pools; multi-level, multi-terraced Sunset Bar; and two-story sundeck for guests staying within The Retreat. 

It wouldn't be an Edge Class ship without the return of the Magic Carpet, a multi-purpose cantilevered venue that serves as a gangway for tender boats during the day and an upscale dining venue and cocktail at night. 

Where will Celebrity Ascent be sailing to during her inaugural season?


From December through late April, she will sail to The Bahamas, Mexico, and Grand Cayman, as well as San Juan, Tortola, and St. Kitts on alternating 7-night voyages. 

During the summer, she'll be based in Europe with numerous different itineraries sailing from  Athens, Greece; Barcelona, Spain; and Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy to choose from, such as a 9-night Italian Riviera and France cruise or 12-night Best of Greece and Italy voyage. 

She will return to Fort Lauderdale, Florida in November 2024. 

French shipyard cuts steel for Celebrity Cruises' next new cruise ship

07 Nov 2023

Celebrity Xcel, the fifth ship in Celebrity Cruises' groundbreaking Edge Class, is set to launch in November 2025. 

Xcel steel cutting 1

The ship's name was revealed during the steel-cutting ceremony at the Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France. Executives from Royal Caribbean Group and the shipyard were present. 

“The Edge Series has shattered preconceived notions of cruising, and I am thrilled to announce our next bold step as a brand with Celebrity Xcel,” said Celebrity Cruises’ President Laura Hodges Bethge.

Xcel steel cutting 3

“True to her name, this next ship will ‘Xcel’ beyond her sister ships with entirely new experiences, yet to be revealed, but that will change the game all over again.” 

Celebrity Xcel will be based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida during her inaugural season


After her debut, Celebrity Xcel will sail from Fort Lauderdale, Florida on 7-night cruises to the Bahamas, Mexico, and Cayman Islands, as well as Puerto Plata, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten.

According to Celebrity's website, the maiden voyage is slated to take place on November 18, 2025, sailing to Bimini, Bahamas and Cozumel, Mexico. 

You can book your cruise onboard Celebrity Xcel by heading to Celebrity's website or through your trusted travel advisor. 

What features will be onboard Celebrity Xcel?

Magic carpet

In addition to some distinctive Edge Class features, there are some differences and enhancements that will make the experience onboard this Edge Class ship different from others. 

First, the ship will have an expanded Rooftop Garden and Resort Deck with unique cantilevered float pools. 

Fans of the Sunset Bar will appreciate the multi-level, multi-terraced bar at the aft of the ship similar to the one that can be found on Celebrity Beyond. The cantilevered Magic Carpet will also return to offer impressive views of the sea's horizon. 

Martini Bar on Celebrity Crruises

The three-story Grand Plaza will be redesigned, too, in order to create an open indoor venue. 

Of course, guests looking for a luxurious and upgraded cruising experience and splurge on a suite within The Retreat, Celebrity's ship-within-a-ship concept that will feature a two-story sundeck, as well as two-story villas with private plunge pools. 

RelatedWhat is the difference between The Retreat, AquaClass and Concierge Class on Celebrity Cruises?

What's a steel-cutting ceremony?

Xcel steel cutting 2

The steel-cutting ceremony for a brand-new ship is a maritime tradition and major milestone in a ship's construction process because it indicates that the groundwork has been set. 

Typically, executives from the cruise line, as well as shipyard personnel, are present. 

As of November 2023, there's no set date for the keel-laying ceremony, which is the next milestone and marks the official beginning of the ship's construction. 

Celebrity Ascent, the fourth Edge Class ship, is launching this month


Celebrity Ascent is set to join Celebrity's fleet as the fourth Edge Class ship, following Celebrity Edge, Celebrity Apex, and Celebrity Beyond. 

In addition to Edge Class favorites, this ship will have a few experiences that cannot be found on her younger sisters, including a completely redesigned Le Voyage by Daniel Boulud; expanded martini menu at the Martini Bar; three brand-new production shows; redesigned casino; and outdoor terrance at Blu, the exclusive restaurant dedicated to AquaClass guests.

RelatedCelebrity Cruises released details about its biggest ship yet: Celebrity Ascent

Celebrity Cruises is adding a customer loyalty lounge on weeklong cruises

27 Oct 2023

Celebrity’s top-tier loyalty members will soon have their own dedicated lounge space on longer sailings.

In an email sent to Captain’s Club members on Wednesday, the cruise line announced that it would start designating an existing lounge space onboard its cruises for Elite, Elite Plus and Zenith members. The lounge space will be used “to gather on board during the daily Elite Cocktail hour,” said CEO Laura Hodges Bethge in the email. 

According to Celebrity Cruises, the lounge space will be available twice per cruise on sailings between 5 nights and 7 nights. For longer sailings of 8 nights or longer, the lounge will be available three times. The cruise line said the lounge space will be available from 5pm to 7pm, which aligns with the Elite Cocktail Hour that already takes place onboard. 

Those who have earned Elite, Elite Plus or Zenith Captain’s Club status with Celebrity Cruises are eligible to enter the dedicated lounge space. The email sent to Captain’s Club members indicates that the concierge team on each cruise will inform members of the specific days and locations when the gatherings will take place. 

Thanks to Royal Caribbean Group’s status reciprocity program, anyone with Crown and Anchor Diamond status or above will be eligible to visit this new lounge. This is because Diamond, Diamond Plus and Pinnacle members automatically earn Elite status when cruising with Celebrity Cruises.

Finally, the announcement clarifies that complimentary drinks for Elite, Elite Plus and Zenith members are still available at bars and lounges throughout the ship. Those who qualify for the nightly happy hour will need to present their Seapass card if they do not prefer using the dedicated lounge space. 

Based on the email, it sounds like the change was made to allow like-minded guests onboard to gather in a dedicated space. “I have heard from many of our loyal Captain’s Club members, such as yourself, that one of the program’s most gratifying aspects is the opportunity to be part of a community of like-minded travelers with whom you can share your experiences on board,” said Celebrity Cruises' CEO in her email. 

Parallels with Royal Caribbean’s Diamond Lounge

Because Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises are owned by the same parent company, Royal Caribbean Group, there are many similarities between the two cruise lines. 

Royal Caribbean has always offered a Diamond Lounge onboard its cruise ships, which is one of the lucrative benefits of being a top-tier loyalty member. The lounge was once the only place that Diamond, Diamond Plus and Pinnacle members could receive complimentary drinks on a daily basis. As such, having access to the lounge was a highly coveted benefit of earning Diamond status through the Crown and Anchor society. 

Royal Caribbean has since adjusted their loyalty drink policy, instead allowing Diamond members and above to receive daily drink vouchers. Vouchers can now be used anywhere onboard Royal Caribbean’s ships and are no longer limited just to the Diamond Lounge. While many guests welcome this change with more flexibility, others were disappointed that the loyalty drink perk is no longer unlimited like it once was in the Diamond Lounge. 

Matt with a drink in Schooner Bar

However, Celebrity Cruises continues to operate its loyalty drink perks in a different manner. Captain’s Club members with Elite, Elite Plus and Zenith status have access to a nightly happy hour with unlimited drinks from a set menu. Drinks are available from 5pm to 7pm onboard, with many bars participating in the Elite Cocktail Hour.  

Now, guests will have access to a dedicated loyalty lounge during the happy hour where they can mingle with other top-tier members. Since many top-tier loyalty members share a similar passion for cruising and traveling, the lounge provides an opportunity to cultivate a more community feel onboard. 

It’s important to note this change does not imply that Celebrity Cruises is adding a new lounge onboard. Instead, the email states that an existing lounge onboard will be used to host the Captain’s Club Elite Cocktail hour. This is different than Royal Caribbean, which has always had a dedicated lounge space onboard called the Diamond Club. 

Regardless, this is a nice change for cruisers looking to mingle with other Captain’s Club members.

Captain’s Club reciprocity with Royal Caribbean’s loyalty statuses

Status Match

With both cruise lines being operated under the same company, Royal Caribbean’s Crown and Anchor society members can enjoy similar benefits and perks when sailing with Celebrity Cruises. Similarly, those who have earned status with Celebrity Cruises’ Captain’s Club can also take advantage of the reciprocity program when sailing on Royal Caribbean.

With the status reciprocity program, members of each loyalty program can still enjoy similar benefits and perks regardless of which cruise line they are sailing with. Although the benefits are not exactly equal, the cruise line says they are "comparable."

For example, guests who have earned Diamond, Diamond Plus and Pinnacle status on Royal Caribbean automatically earn Elite status on Celebrity Cruises. This is the highest status you can earn through reciprocity on Celebrity Cruises. If you wish to earn Elite Plus or Zenith status, this must be earned on your own.

In the same way, those with Elite, Elite Plus and Zenith status with Celebrity Cruises’ Captain’s Club can earn Diamond status on Royal Caribbean. This is the highest level of status that can received through the reciprocity program, meaning Diamond Plus and Pinnacle members must earn their own status. 

In the spring, I sailed with Celebrity Cruises as a Diamond Plus member on Royal Caribbean. My sister and I enjoyed trying out the status match ourselves with our Elite status. Some of these perks included the nightly happy hour, access to the thermal spa, free gelato, discounts on internet packages and access to a morning coffeehouse-style breakfast. I was impressed by the status match, which allowed me to have high-tier status without ever stepping foot on a Celebrity ship prior to this cruise. 

Royal Caribbean cancels Israel visits due to Hamas attacks

07 Oct 2023

At least one sailing to Israel has been changed due to attacks by Gaza militants on Saturday.

A surprise attack on Israel by Hamas terrorists has brought a new wave of violence in the region, and these sort of incidents have historically meant cruise ships turning away.

UPDATE: A passenger on Odyssey of the Seas posted on the Royal Caribbean Blog message boards that Odyssey will skip Israel as well.

"The captain just announced (paraphrasing here) about half a hour ago, that we will not visit Israel due to the geopolitical situation, decision taken together with security experts and in view of the safety of passengers, staff and ship."

The passenger said while disappointing to have an itinerary change, he thinks it was the right choice, "I at least would not have felt safe there right now."

Instead, Odyssey is going to Bodrum in Turkey and Limassol in Cyprus.

Rhapsody of the Seas sailing away in Haifa, Israel

Royal Caribbean offers Greek isles cruises on Rhapsody of the Seas from Haifa, Israel, which located in the northern part of the country.

The cruise line has yet to make a change to Rhapsody's upcoming itineraries.


Rhapsody of the Seas is currently in Santorini.

Royal Caribbean had to cancel cruises in 2021 from Israel due to unrest in the country.

Odyssey of the Seas was scheduled to sail from there, but sailings were cancelled once the attacks began there.

In fact, in countries where civil unrest occurs, Royal Caribbean typically cancels cruises to err on the side of caution.

Tel Aviv

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday that his country was “at war” because of the attacks by Palestinian militants. A barrage of rockets was fired indiscriminately into Israel,  and gunmen were sent into Israeli territory. It's the latest chapter in a bloody saga between the two sides that has lasted decades.

Celebrity Cruises cancels too

The referenced media source is missing and needs to be re-embedded.

The Celebrity Apex is one such ship, which was scheduled to visit Israel this week.

A passenger onboard Apex posted on a message board that their itinerary has changed because of the attacks, "The captain recently announced that all stops in Israel were cancelled. "

"We are now heading to Cyprus and will overnight there.  Then we will have a sea day and arrive in Alexandria, Egypt a day early and have an extra day (now a total of 3 days) in Egypt."

Celebrity is not the only line that has changed plans.

Passengers on Holland America Line's Nieuw Standendam were already in Israel, but were quickly recalled back onboard.  A passenger posted, "three days in Holy Land has become three hours."

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