We Try It: Celebrity Cruises’ Suite Class

May 11, 2015 | By | 8 Comments

Luminae suite restaurant on Celebrity Eclipse

More and more, mainstream cruise lines are adding separate areas for their highest-paying passengers.

Think executive floors on hotels or premium cabins on airplanes, with lounges, separate dining areas and personalized service — only at sea. MSC Cruises has the Yacht Club, Norwegian Cruise Line has The Haven, and Cunard has long had Grills Class. Just last week Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley said it’s likely Suite Class will roll out across the Royal fleet.

Celebrity Cruises’ entry into the market is its Suite Class, launched this year. Although the only structural difference suite passengers will notice is a brand-new restaurant, Luminae, high rollers on Celebrity ships now receive priority embarkation, premium drinks, dining across specialty restaurants, private minibar, exclusive access to Michael’s Club and your own personal butler, among other perks.

Do these perks smack of “elitism?” Arguably, yes. On a ship such as Celebrity Eclipse, where we sampled the service, just 132 people — out of a total of 2,852 — get to experience all of this. But is there any difference between traveling in Suite Class and First Class on planes? (Also, the trend isn’t going away: Celebrity President & CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo has said the line’s new Edge Class of ships, debuting in 2018, will continue Suite Class.)

We got onboard to find out for ourselves. Here’s what living the “suite life” is like on Celebrity.

Priority Embarkation

Passengers within Suite Class receive priority check-in and embarkation, and indeed, I got fast-tracked (but that might be because I was press). I was checked into my Sky Suite in less than 15 minutes.

Reports Emma Hanbury-Chatten, who traveled in a Royal Suite for her first voyage on Celebrity: “Everyone was welcoming and helpful. It’s a very, very well-oiled machine. The suite was in perfect order, everything was in place.”

Read on for more

    Q&A: HGTV’s Property Brothers Talk Cruising

    May 11, 2015 | By | 17 Comments

    Scott brother twins sitting on chairs outside

    If you binge-watch HGTV like I do, you’re most likely familiar with Jonathan and Drew Scott. The duo best known for helping couples find, buy and flip fixer-uppers into their dream homes in “Property Brothers” will be hosting Sailing With the Scotts: Ultimate Design Cruise this November 16 – 20.

    The four-night theme cruise on Carnival Ecstasy will offer a chance to get to know the guys, soak up some sun over umbrella drinks and participate in a variety of games, competitions and fun informative sessions. And in typical Scott brother fashion, there will be a ton of surprises.

    Jonathan and Drew — who I was excited to learn share a cruising addiction — also will be joined by fellow home design-savvy TV stars such as Jason Cameron, Jillian Harris, their brother JD Scott and the Junk Gypsy Company as well as singer and songwriter Adam Hambrick.

    I caught up with the two Scott brothers (yes, they’re twins) to chat about what’s in store for the cruise. See what they’re most excited about, what fans onboard can expect and more, below.

    What made you guys decide to host a theme cruise?

    Jonathan: It mainly came out of the demand from fans. They love getting together with us and seeing us live. It’s very fun — we spend half the time educating people and the other half making fun of Drew, which everybody can get onboard with. So the fans were saying, “Why don’t we think of doing a big meet and greet?” That’s when we said, “Well wait a sec, what about doing these cruises?” Friends of ours like Lady Antebellum and KISS and New Kids on the Block — they’ve all done these celebrity-themed cruises, and they said it’s just been an absolute joy.

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      Hot on the Forums: Is it Better to Be Overdressed or Underdressed?

      May 8, 2015 | By | 15 Comments

      Formal couple  (photo: Everett Collection/Shutterstock)

      According to Mark Twain “clothes maketh man,” and there’s nothing like the topic of dress codes to get cruisers hot under the sartorial collar. Most times, the debate concerns passengers who shun suggested formal night attire, donning T-shirts and flip-flops instead of tuxedos and fancy shoes.

      Style police aside, we’ve all had moments when we’ve dithered in front of the closet. I’ve always been stumped by the ambiguous ‘smart casual,’ choosing to err on the smarter side of the spectrum — and then wondering if the resulting outfit will be over the top. And of course, you never know if you’re heading for a potential wardrobe malfunction until you get there.

      How dressed is too dressed is the exact topic launched on the Cruise Critic forums by Eglesbrech on the Cunard board.

      I like to dress up in the evening and it does not bother me what other people do. Live and let live as long as people broadly conform to the rules. How do others feel?” she asked. “Do you think there is such a thing as passengers being overdressed on the non-formal evenings or indeed during the day and is that as bad as being underdressed?”

      From the replies, it seems that many Cruise Critic members like to step out in style (at least on Cunard). There are even breakaway formal nights, organized independently by chic cruisers.

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        Steal of the Week: Mother’s Day Cruise Deal

        May 7, 2015 | By | No Comments

        piggy bank sailing worldwide
        Everyone is looking for the deal of the century. So how do you choose the one that’s right for you? Check the Lido Deck each week to get the scoop on our favorite deals — then grab the phone and pack your bags.
        THE DEAL: We’ve seen a smattering of Mother’s Day cruise deals this year, and you can still take advantage of the Princess Cruises‘ deal when you book by May 14.
        WHAT WE LOVE: Well, we love our mothers, and that’s why it was nice to see some deals aimed at enticing family and friends to take mom on a cruise this year. From an 80s cruise that offered to send your mom flowers if you booked by May 7, to this cute promo by MSC Cruises, the cruise industry is hinting heavily about what to get the mother in your life on May 10. However, the only promotion that still seems to be valid through Mother’s Day is Princess Cruises’ deal offering up savings and onboard credit on a variety of itineraries from Canada to the Caribbean.
        WHAT GIVES US PAUSE: While the sentiment is sweet, it’s not the most sincere deal on the market. Shop around for more inclusive deals if you’re planning on making the cruise a family event and consider what mom likes, above all. If she’s into spa days, consider a ship with a top onboard spa. If dining is what she’s into, be sure to book reservations on a ship with award-winning dining. Even if all you give her is a card and a note that a sailing is in her future, we imagine the prospect of an exciting new cruise is enough to keep any mom happy.
        HOW TO BOOK IT: For all the nitty-gritty on these deals (including that pesky fine print), click here.
        Looking for cruises for under $75 or even $50 a day? We’ve got ’em listed on our Cheap Cruises page.
        Get great cruise deals — and exclusive member offers — delivered weekly to your inbox.

          Live from Windstar Star Breeze: First Impressions

          May 6, 2015 | By | 2 Comments

          Windstar Star Breeze (photo: Carolyn Spencer Brown)

          When Windstar Cruises officially welcomes Star Breeze, its new motor yacht to the fleet later today, it’ll represent a new chapter in history for the storied ship. Until a few weeks ago, the vessel had sailed as Seabourn Spirit.

          It’s also a continuation of a new chapter for Windstar. The small ship cruise line — best known for its trio of sailing vessels — made headlines last year when it announced plans to double its fleet. It is achieving that goal with the acquisition of Seabourn’s smaller trio of ships, the nearly identical 212-passenger Pride, Spirit and Legend. After a $2.5 million renovation last year, Windstar introduced Star Pride.

          But Star Pride hasn’t fully won over small ship fans (the ship’s approval rating by Cruise Critic members is about 55 percent). Windstar executives told Cruise Critic that the experience taught them more investment would be needed before introducing the other two ships. Star Breeze (the Spirit moniker is, alas, already in use by another Windstar vessel) launches today and Star Legend follows in a few weeks.

          Our first impressions onboard in Nice: The line has kept its word with some major new improvements. Here are the five key things to know about Star Breeze.

          Big money. Having turned on the financial spigot, Windstar has spent almost $9 million to revamp Star Breeze (and Star Legend, just now beginning its refurbishment, will get an equal spend). That’s over $6 million more than it splashed out on Star Pride (which will get more enhancements next year when it goes back into dry dock).

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            Cruise Tip of the Week: Safe Packing

            May 6, 2015 | By | 1 Comment

            carry on bag

            Tip: The carry-on bag you bring for embarkation day is more than just a place to keep your documents. Pack everything you’d need to hold you off until dinner: A swimsuit, change of clothes, any medications, etc. If your luggage gets lost by the airline or is delayed being delivered to your cabin, at least you’ll have some essentials with you.

            Full Article: Read 9 more tips on packing for a cruise.

            Want More?: Check out our related links below for more info, tips and advice.

            Cruise Packing 101

            The Ultimate Guide to Packing for a Cruise

            A Closer Look: What’s Your Cruise Packing Strategy?

            Stay tuned for more Cruise Tips of the Week — revealed every Wednesday!

              Just Back From American Eagle: 5 Cool Things

              May 5, 2015 | By | No Comments

              American Eagle (photo: Keith Marshall

              Over a pre-christening breakfast at New Orleans’ famed Brennan’s restaurant — just hours before the launch of American Cruise Lines‘ second Mississippi River steamboat, American Eagle — company CEO Charles A. Robertson waxed enthusiastic over “all the whiz-bang gadgets and doodads” in the ship’s control center.

              They’re just one aspect of what makes the line’s vessel so impressive, in both performance and amenities. Here are five cool things we discovered about the ship, before it set sail.

              1. This isn’t your grandfather’s riverboat

              “It’s more than I can understand,” CEO Robertson said of the dials and gizmos that Captain Max Taber has at his disposal on the ship’s bridge. “But what I do know is that they make the American Eagle our safest and most environmentally conscious boat to date.”

              Three energy-efficient Z-drive propeller units that rotate 360 degrees allow fancy turns, making the boat able to avoid any floating obstructions. Advanced water purification systems, similar to those on European riverboats, both ensure passenger health and return clear water to the Mighty Mississippi.

              “It’s as advanced in its own way as any of the big new ships,” said Taber, who’s now captained four of the company’s vessels. “And it’s great to pilot.”

              Read on for more

                Member Review of the Week: Wining & Dining Across the Atlantic

                May 5, 2015 | By | No Comments

                Whirlpool on Seabourn Quest

                Cruise Ship: Seabourn Quest

                Itinerary: Transatlantic, from Fort Lauderdale to Barcelona

                Member: travelingduo

                Background: Travelingduo and her partner reserved their Penthouse Spa Suite a year in advance for their transatlantic cruise onboard Seabourn Quest. With an itinerary full of sea days, the two enjoyed a fair share of variety. From restaurant hopping and spa perk indulgences to boot camp classes and much needed “me time,” read more to see what inspired them to book another Seabourn cruise.

                Onboard Highlight: Despite a few hiccups, travelingduo especially loved her suite with complimentary access to the tranquil Serene Area, and dining — especially in The Colonnade.

                Port Highlight: Funchal was the only stop before Barcelona, and despite having been many times before, travelingduo enjoyed returning and stretching out her legs.

                Don’t Miss: The Wine Journey in Restaurant 2, which travelingduo felt was worth every penny.

                Watch Out For: Binoculars, if you’re a sightseer. The ship no longer offers them onboard, so make sure to bring your own or stop at guest services for a pair.

                More: Read travelingduo’s full review for more hits and misses.

                For their efforts, travelingduo, lbudder, Jc3165, funat55 and RO7068 receive Cruise Critic logo items.

                Each week, we choose five cruise reviews written by our members, and showcase one as the Member Review of the Week.

                Read more reviews or write your own cruise review.

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