Tourism & Cruises

Celebrity Cruises is spending $500 million to transform every ship in its fleet

The Retreat Sundeck on Celebrity's ship-within-a-ship private area, The Retreat.
The Retreat Sundeck on Celebrity's ship-within-a-ship private area, The Retreat. Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises is pouring more than $500 million into a massive renovation plan that will touch the line’s entire fleet and span four years, the Miami-based line announced Tuesday.

Beginning in 2019, Celebrity will begin renovations in what it’s calling the “Celebrity Revolution,” an overhaul of the line’s 12 ships that is playing off the hype around its upcoming class of ships, dubbed “Edge,” the first of which will debut in November.

Celebrity had initially teased the renovation plan last year, but has now upped the sticker price from $400 to $500 million.

The undertaking is immense, involving more than 500 architects, designers and engineers — and necessary, said Carolyn Spencer Brown, chief content strategist for cruise review website Cruise Critic.

As shipyards fill up with orders for new ships, the lines have turned to renovations to preserve consistency across the fleet.

“Consistency really matters for cruise lines,” Spencer Brown said. “You have to, at some level, offer the same core experience. It doesn’t have to have every bell and whistle, but it has to feel like a consistent experience.”

The bells and whistles from Edge, most notably the Magic Carpet, a floating deck that juts out from the side of the ship and travels up and down the ship while transforming from loading platform to cocktail bar to restaurant deck, won’t go on the older, renovated ships. But the transferable features — new staterooms and restaurants, and updated spaces — will.

MagicCarpet (6).jpg
Perched on the starboard side of the ship and the size of a tennis court, the Magic Carpet is the world's first cantilevered venue that travels 13 stories. Magic Carpet features open-air panoramic, outward-facing ocean views, a full bar and space for live music performances. Celebrity Cruises

In a way, Spencer Brown said, Celebrity is echoing Royal Caribbean International, its sister line from parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises that has leveraged the popularity of its new mega ships while updating older vessels. Royal Caribbean recently spent $120 million to renovate an older vessel, Mariner of the Seas, to sail three- and four-night itineraries.

“It’s taking a page out of the Royal playbook and they are using this as a magnet for people who said, ‘I’ll never cruise because it is fusty and musty and old,’ ” Spencer Brown said.

New features

Celebrity will focus on staterooms, in particular, as it updates its fleet.

Celebrity Reflection’s lavish 1,830-square-foot, two-bedroom reflection suites and its signature suites, 559-square-foot cabins with private deck access, will be added to Celebrity Solstice, Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Equinox and Celebrity Silhouette, for instance. Designer Kelly Hoppen, who helped design the staterooms in the new Celebrity Edge ships, will help bring the new stateroom classes to the line’s older vessels.

Celebrity is also bringing its new ship-within-a-ship private area for suite guests, The Retreat, from Celebrity Edge to the entire fleet. Each ship will get a Retreat Sundeck, outfitted in plush loungers, and Retreat Lounge, a 24/7 area for drinks, light bites and live entertainment. The Retreat Lounge will take the place of Michael’s Club, once a craft beer bar on Celebrity and more recently a members’ only private lounge.

In general, all the staterooms on Celebrity Millennium, Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Infinity and Celebrity Summit will get a makeover, plus the staterooms and many of the suites on Celebrity Solstice, Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Equinox, Celebrity Silhouette and Celebrity Reflection. The cabins will get a fresh new design, and be outfitted with RFID locks, and capability for Bluetooth and Celebrity’s internet service, Xcelerate.

The penthouse suite on the new Celebrity Edge ships. Celebrity Cruises

“If you look at the design of many of the new venues going on our current fleet, you can see that Celebrity Edge was the inspiration,” said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises in a statement. “We really are figuratively and literally taking the fleet to the edge with The Celebrity Revolution.”

On the culinary side, the popular restaurant, Qsine, an iPad-assisted dining experience currently available on four vessels, will be renovated and added across the fleet. The restaurant will now offer the virtual Le Petit Chef experience, in which a small animated chef entertains diners. The virtual experience will also be on Edge.

The line’s Overview Café will also get a redesign into an open, marketplace style offering international meals. The main restaurants will be freshened up with new textures and finishes. Other culinary updates: an expansion of Celebrity’s Gastrobar concept, which serves more than 40 craft beers, cocktails and gourmet comfort food, and the inclusion of Celebrity’s Passport Bar, which is now available on just Celebrity Equinox and Celebrity Solstice.

Celebrity also plans to expand its new SEA Thermal Suite, a new addition from Edge, which features eight different spaces including a salt room and rainfall water therapy room. The line will add new shopping experiences from brands and designers such as Shinola, John Hardy and Hublot, plus digital photo galleries and upgrades to public venues.

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Rendering of the renovated Celebrity Cruises Terminal 25 at Fort Lauderdale's Port Everglades. It will open in October. Celebrity Cruises

In preparation for the arrival of Edge at Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades this fall, Celebrity is also renovating its Terminal 25 at the port. The new terminal, which will feature an expedited check-in process with facial recognition, will debut in October.

“The incredible reaction and level of excitement for Celebrity Edge that we’re seeing from consumers, our valued sales partners and the press, really influenced our decisions,” Lutoff-Perlo said. “Not just for the new features we are implementing as part of the Celebrity Revolution, but also for the new experiences offered onboard our ships.”

The renovation plan will kick off with Celebrity Millennium in 2019 and run through 2023.

Chabeli Herrera: 305-376-3730, @ChabeliH