I discovered Celebrity Cruises’ Edge class in 2019. Two weeks of Transatlantic sailing had enchanted me in various ways. Excellent service, magnificent boat, Aqua Class cabin with its excellent dedicated restaurant (the Blu), offering an incredible variety of dishes (supposed to be more “healthy”, which was quite true) and different every day: I didn’t seen the same dishes on the menus in 2 weeks time.
This new cruise, my 55th, will be the first of 2 in a row: I’m doing “back2back” this time, i.e. 2 cruises one after the other. Leaving the Celebrity Edge, after 7 nights in the Caribbean, I will embark the same day on the Seabourn Ovation, for 2 weeks towards Central America.
This cruise is also a little special because it was largely paid for by the credit I had with Celebrity, due to several cruise cancellations, regarding to the pandemic… When a reserved cruise was cancelled, I had the choice of getting a full refund, booking the same cruise the following year or leaving the money in Celebrity’s coffers, but with a +25% bonus. A good investment finally 🙂
All in all, after having booked a cruise in June 2022 on the Celebrity Beyond, entirely paid for by these credits, there was still a good amount left (but to be used in 2022, or else you lose it). It is therefore thanks to this that I was able to book this week-long cruise in the Caribbean departing from Fort Lauderdale (Florida, USA), for a small fee. Its price would have been around $2200 per person, $315 per night. The Aqua Class cabins are expensive but includes access to a specific restaurant (the Blu), and to the spa.
For some time now, Celebrity has been doing what they call “Always included”. For an Aqua Class cabin, the price automatically includes internet access (Surf), a drink package (Classic) and gratuities already paid. It is possible to improve these included options by upgrading to “Surf & Stream” internet access which adds the possibility of watching videos (Netflix for example), and from the Classic drinks package to its Premium version, including a lot of additional choices .
The “Indulge” package is made for this, it also adds an onboard credit of $300 per person. It is sometimes necessary to make some calculations to discover what real savings are made by choosing this paid package, compared to other options. For example, to switch from the Classic drinks package to the Premium, it costs $12 per day and per person ($10 + 20% tax). Over a week, it is therefore an option at $84 per person. For the increase in its internet speed, the amount is $119 per person.
First check: taking the “Indulge” package is more interesting than taking the options individually (phew!), as long as you have to use the onboard credit. It can be used to pay excursions, dinners at specialty restaurants, etc. But the surprise was still the price finally charged for this option (during the promotion period)! For 2, the amount was $638. As this immediately offer an onboard credit of $600 ($300 per person), we therefore paid for all the upgrades… $38… or less than $3 per day and per person. Champagne! (included!)
This cruise is also pivotal in the disrupted period of the Covid19 pandemic. For the first time in a long time, wearing a mask is no longer mandatory on board. Exceptions made of the theater and the casino… exceptions finally lifted in the middle of the week. So I found more or less the context before the pandemic, without a mask. A real pleasure.
Otherwise you can now leave the ship by yourself, and we were not obliged to go through excursions sometimes made mandatory by port authorities. Really a flavour of the situation before…
The number of passengers on board remains reduced compared to full capacity (1,266 passengers for a capacity of 2,809, i.e. 45% load factor). This makes public spaces very quiet, and never has to look for a place or queue. The buffet suddenly has also a limited offer, several positions being closed (I would say 60% of its maximum capacity).
I don’t know if it’s the fact of being in the Caribbean, or attached to a port in the United States (Fort Lauderdale), but the quality of the food seemed inferior to what I had known in last September, onboard the Celebrity Apex, departing from Athens. As much as the buffet on the Apex was surprising, varied and systematically delicious, here, on the Edge, the quality is closer to the standards of competing companies. Too bad and unusual for Celebrity.
Moreover, this remark finally applies to other restaurants, such as the Blu. Placed very high in my esteem thanks to my previous cruises, I unfortunately had to note that the added value of a restaurant promising meticulous cuisine, less greasy, more balanced, had lost its luster. Some nights, it was impossible to really distinguish the Blu menu from the main restaurants. The “healthy” label has taken a hit. Is it also the Caribbean/American effect?
If Celebrity sets the bar high enough for the quality of the cuisine, we will put an alarm on this cruise! Among the specialty restaurants, the Fine Cut, which I tried for the first time, did not wow me. Cagney’s on Norwegian Cruise Lines easily surpasses it. One more disappointment.
With the amount of onboard credit, I was able to return 3 times to “Raw on 5”, the ship’s nice seafood restaurant. On the Apex, there was a 25% reduction on à la carte prices, from my 2nd visit. Well, not this time. Savings, savings…
Another restaurant that I wanted to try again: the Eden Restaurant. In 2019, during my transatlantic on this same ship, I found the menu very surprising for a restaurant at sea, and the quality was second to none. The same restaurant on the Apex does not offer the same concept, but rather a more classic menu, in which you choose starter, main course and dessert. Here, it offers a 5-course menu, to be chosen at each stage between 2 options. Again, the 2022 version, even if it remains quite close to that of 2019, is a notch below. Definitely…
The difficult period that seems to be gradually moving away for cruise lines has inevitably forced them to make difficult choices to keep their business afloat. It is therefore not impossible that all this is the consequence of some budget cuts and other adjustments to the provisions! Further proof, the waiters tell you too often that the drink you ask for on the long list offered on board were unavailable. Is it worth selling a “Premium” drink package if a lot of what you want to try only exists on paper ?
The Aqua Class cabin gives access to the spa. Back to near normality too. During the pandemic period, it was necessary to reserve a slot of about one hour to be able to enter, for the company to limit the number of people inside, without masks. From now on, no need to book, admission is opened at any time of the day. The frequentation of the places remained relatively low therefore without feeling of saturation, far from it. Just go there at the end of the afternoon, around 6:30 p.m. to find yourself alone!
Another notable change from my past experience is in the cabin. I found the video streaming system (internet or local) to be very good aboard the Celebrity Apex. It also existed on Celebrity Edge in 2019…but no longer does. The functionality simply disappeared. The list of small disappointments goes on and on!
We can only wish Celebrity that the definitive resumption of cruises and the return of their passengers on board their magnificent ships will also allow a rapid return to the incredible quality of this company which has weakened recently. Because if we had to judge by this cruise, it would no longer be of the same level, even if it remains well above many other companies.