4 types of Celebrity Cruises ships, explained
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Of the seven big cruise lines that account for the majority of cruises taken by North Americans, Celebrity Cruises has one of the simplest fleets.
At the core of the brand are 11 relatively big ships that can be bunched into just three groups.
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Each of these groups — known as “classes” in cruise industry lingo — is made of ships that were constructed around the same time to the same basic design. If you know one member of the group, you know them all.
In addition, Celebrity operates three very small vessels in the Galápagos that, together, make up a fourth grouping of vessels. As we’ll explain below, these three vessels are far different than the line’s 11 main ships and constitute what is, in effect, a separate business for the brand.
An introduction to Celebrity Cruises ships
For years, Celebrity has been one of the cruise industry’s great innovators when it comes to new cruise vessels.
The line’s two new Edge Class ships are widely heralded as two of the most innovative cruise ships at sea. They offer such groundbreaking features as cabins with glass walls facing the sea that open at the top to create a balcony-like feel, and “magic carpet” platforms on their exteriors that move up and down for a variety of uses.
But the Edge Class ships are just the latest vessels at the line to break ground when it comes to innovation.
The line’s somewhat older Solstice Class ships also offer a number of features that were groundbreaking in their time and — in many cases — remain rare and alluring even more than a decade after they first debuted.
Carrying about 2,000 to 3,000 passengers a piece, Celebrity’s 11 main vessels are large but not giant by today’s standards. At around 91,000 to 131,000 tons, they’re nowhere near as big as the giant ships operated by Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line.
The line’s three Galápagos-based vessels are downright tiny, as they have to be to operate in the Galápagos. The government of Ecuador, which controls the archipelago, does not cruise allow vessels that carry more than 100 passengers to operate in the destination.
Celebrity’s three Galápagos-based vessels carry just 16 to 100 passengers each.
In general, Celebrity’s biggest and most amenity-packed ships are its newest ships. If you’re looking for a cruise experience with the most possible onboard activities and venues, you’ll want to steer toward the vessels in Celebrity’s Edge and Solstice Classes.
If cruising in a more intimate environment is your preference, you’ll want to look at Celebrity’s older Millennium Class ships, which are significantly smaller than the Edge and Solstice Class ships.
The three small Galápagos-based vessels are — you guessed it — the vessels you want if you’re itching to see the famously wildlife-filled islands.
Compared to such cruise operators as Carnival Cruise Line, which has eight different classes of vessels, Celebrity has a relatively easy-to-understand fleet.
Ships in class: Celebrity Apex (2020), Celebrity Edge (2018), Celebrity Beyond (coming in 2022)
Size: 130,818 tons
If you’re in the “newer is better” camp when it comes to cruise ships, this is the Celebrity ship class for you. Celebrity’s Edge Class just began rolling out in 2018, and the two vessels in the series that have debuted so far are by far the most advanced vessels in the Celebrity fleet.
They also may be the most advanced vessels in any cruise fleet.
Designed to carry 2,908 passengers a piece at double occupancy, both Celebrity Edge and Celebrity Apex boast such innovative new features as “infinite veranda” cabins with outward-facing walls that are entirely made of glass.
Billed as an industry first, the new glass-walled cabins were made possible by a rethinking of the way the load-bearing walls of cruise ships are constructed.
Notably, the top of the glass walls in the cabins slide down at the flick of a switch to create a balcony-like area — an innovation that, until recently, only had been seen with cabins on river cruise ships. The balcony-like area can be closed off from the rest of the cabin by closing bifold doors.
Another innovative feature of the Edge Class ships is a 90-ton platform the size of a tennis court that’s cantilevered over the side of the vessel and used for all sorts of functions.
Dubbed Magic Carpets, the platforms (there is one per ship) move up and down to serve as everything from tender boat boarding areas to 90-seat alternative restaurants.
Among other unusual features, the Edge Class ships have plant-filled “playscapes” with outdoor eateries on their top decks called the Rooftop Gardens. Inspired by childhood playgrounds, they’re designed to “awaken the inner-child in everyone,” the line has said.
The ships also offer unusual, glass-walled lounge, dining and entertainment areas at their backs called Eden created in collaboration with famed designer Patricia Urquiola, and covered, adults-only solariums designed in collaboration with renowned British architect Tom Wright.
In addition to being Celebrity’s newest and most innovative ships, the Edge Class vessels also are the line’s biggest ships — though they aren’t all that much bigger than the line’s Solstice Class ships. The bigger size allows for a few more onboard venues than can be found on the line’s older vessels including an augmented reality dining experience called Le Petit Chef.
Celebrity currently has plans for five Edge Class vessels in all. A third vessel in the series, Celebrity Beyond, already is under construction at the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in St. Nazaire, France. It’s scheduled to be completed in 2022. Two more of the vessels are expected to be constructed by 2023 and 2024, respectively.
Ships in class: Celebrity Reflection (2012), Celebrity Silhouette (2011), Celebrity Eclipse (2010), Celebrity Equinox (2009), Celebrity Solstice (2008)
Size: 121,878 to 125,366 tons
Comprising five vessels, Celebrity’s Solstice Class accounts for nearly half of the line’s big ships and more than half of the line’s total capacity.
As such, the Solstice Class probably is the class of ship you will sail on the most if you become a Celebrity regular. Solstice Class ships sail everywhere from the Bahamas, Caribbean and Alaska to Europe, Asia and Australia.
When this class of ship first starting rolling out in 2008, they were heralded for their game-changing design and features, including a few things that still are unique in the cruise world.
Just a tad smaller than the Edge Class ships, the Solstice Class vessels are perhaps best known for the innovative, half-acre Lawn Club areas on their top decks, which feature real grass.
Marvels of cruise ship engineering, the Lawn Clubs are maintained by full-time greenskeepers who oversee a complex filter and irrigation system to keep the grass looking shipshape. Home to Adirondack chairs, hammocks and lawn games such as bocce and croquet, these Lawn Club areas offer a quiet, park-like respite from the activity in other parts of the ships.
If you want, you can walk across the Lawn Clubs barefoot.
Among other unusual features, some of the Solstice Class ships also have a glass-making pavilion next to the Lawn Clubs that are home to glass-making shows. New York’s Corning Museum of Glass appoints resident glass-makers for the ships and maintains an exhibit and shop adjacent to the show area.
The Solstice Class ships also are home to some of the most stylish outdoor pool decks at sea. Like the Edge Class ships, they also feature indoor, adult-only pool areas that, notably, are topped with glass panels that are embedded with solar panels that contribute to the ship’s power grid.
In addition, the Solstice Class ships have large spas, casinos, showrooms and a wide range of restaurants including the line’s signature French venue, Murano.
Other places to dine on the vessels include pan-Asian venue Silk Harvest (only found on Celebrity Equinox, Celebrity Silhouette and Celebrity Solstice) and an outdoor grill where you cook your steak and seafood (only available on Celebrity Reflection and Celebrity Silhouette).
Called Lawn Club Grill, the latter is part of the Lawn Club on the two ships.
One of the Solstice Class ships, Celebrity Reflection, also is home to one of the cruising world’s most spectacular suites — the 1,646-square-foot Reflection Suite. It was the first two-bedroom suite ever on a Celebrity Cruises vessel.
Ships in class: Celebrity Constellation (2002), Celebrity Summit (2001), Celebrity Infinity (2001), Celebrity Millennium (2000)
Size: 91,000 tons
The oldest of Celebrity’s three main classes of vessels is its Millennium Class. The four ships in the series began rolling out in 2000 (at the turn of the millennium, hence the name) and all are now around 20 years old.
Despite their age, the vessels still appear very up-to-date, thanks to some major overhauls in recent years.
Initially, the Millennium Class ships and Solstice Class ships had quite a few differences. But over the years, these differences have narrowed as Celebrity has added some of the most popular Solstice Class venues to the Millennium Class ships, too.
The most obvious difference between the two classes of ships today is the smaller size of the Millennium Class vessels. They’re about 30% smaller than Solstice Class ships.
This smaller size can make the Millennium Class vessels a good choice if you’re the kind of cruiser who prefers a more intimate experience.
But the smaller size also means that the Millennium Class ships have fewer venues in all than the Solstice Class or Edge Class ships.
All the restaurants you’ll find on Millennium Class ships are on Solstice Class ships, for instance. But not all the eateries on Solstice Class ships can be found on Millennium Class ships. If you’re a fan of Murano, for instance, you won’t find it on the Millennium Class.
Ships: Celebrity Flora (2019), Celebrity Xploration (2007), Celebrity Xpedition (2001)
Size: 2,842 to 5,739 tons
As mentioned above, Celebrity operates three very small vessels in The Galápagos Islands.
While each one of the vessels is a bit different, they logically can be grouped together, as they offer a similar type of cruise experience — one custom-designed for the islands where they sail.
The first thing you need to know about these three vessels is that the cruise experience they offer is very different than what you’ll experience on Celebrity’s larger ships. Just because you love cruising on Celebrity Edge or Celebrity Solstice doesn’t mean you’ll automatically love sailing on one of these vessels — or vice versa.
For starters, the three Galápagos vessels are orders of magnitude smaller than Celebrity’s traditional ships. They hold just 16 to 100 passengers, compared to the 2,000 to 3,000 passengers that typically will be aboard Celebrity’s larger ships.
Because of their small size, the three Galápagos vessels have far fewer onboard amenities than the bigger Celebrity ships.
But cruising in the Galápagos isn’t about the onboard experience. It’s about seeing the incredible wildlife that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection.
To that end, all three of these vessels are expedition cruise vessels — the kind that carry landing craft on board for exploring in remote areas and sail with specialised guides.
Voyages on the three vessels (they’re really too small to call ships) revolve around daily landings with these guides — all Galápagos National Park–certified naturalists — to view the destination’s famous land iguanas, tortoises, blue-footed boobies and Darwin’s finches.
The most recently built of the vessels, the 100-passenger Celebrity Flora, is one of the newest and most luxurious vessels in the Galápagos. It boasts two penthouse suites spanning the entire width of the ship. Each measures 1,300 square feet. All other accommodations are suites, too.
Celebrity Flora also features two restaurants with menus crafted by a celebrated chef, a laboratory for hands-on science lessons, multiple lounges, a plunge pool, a stargazing platform and two sets of cabanas for deck-top glamping.
The Celebrity Cruises fleet is relatively easy to understand. There are three main classes of vessels — the Edge, Solstice and Millennium classes. There’s also a fourth grouping of three small vessels that operate exclusively in the Galápagos. You’ll find a lot of consistency from ship to ship in the Celebrity fleet in the type of venues that you find on board.
If you’re looking for the most venues and amenities, or if you’re the type of cruiser who only wants to be on the very newest ships, you’ll gravitate toward Celebrity’s Edge Class vessels.
If a smaller, more intimate ship is more your style, you probably want to take a look at the line’s Millennium Class vessels. And if you have any interest in visiting the Galápagos — a once-in-a-lifetime-type destination — it’s hard to beat the line’s three small Galápagos vessels.
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Featured image of courtesy of Celebrity Cruises.
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