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Celebrity Cruises History: How Celebrity Began & Where They're Going

Marissa Wright

Mar 2, 2023

Read time
5 min read

Celebrity Cruises was founded in 1989 by the Greece-based Chandris Group, which established the cruise line's reputation as an up-market big-ship operator. The line's signature "X," displayed on the funnel of all Celebrity ships (except for the expedition vessels) is actually the Greek letter chi for "Chandris."

The Celebrity Cruises Fleet Today

The following cruise ships are currently in the Celebrity Cruises fleet: Celebrity Apex, Celebrity Beyond, Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Edge, Celebrity Equinox, Celebrity Flora, Celebrity Infinity, Celebrity Millennium, Celebrity Reflection, Celebrity Silhouette, Celebrity Solstice, Celebrity Summit, Celebrity Xpedition and Celebrity Xploration.

Celebrity Cruises: The Beginning of the Celebrity Cruise Line

The first cruise ship in the line was S.S. Meridian, which launched in 1990 and was followed shortly by the two Horizon-class ships: Celebrity Horizon (1990) and Celebrity Zenith (1992). Meridian left the fleet in 1997, Horizon left in 2005 and Zenith departed in 2007.

During this time, Celebrity introduced its Century Class: Celebrity Century (1995), Celebrity Galaxy (1996) and Celebrity Mercury (1997). The Century Class was sleeker, larger vessels with more sophisticated design elements that included onboard modern art collections that were an attraction unto themselves.

Galaxy left the fleet in 2009, Mercury departed in 2011 and Century in 2015.

In 1997, Royal Caribbean acquired Celebrity Cruises, and within three years the first of the line's modern-era Millennium-class ships was delivered.

Celebrity Cruise Ships in the Early 2000s

Between 2000 and 2002, Celebrity launched four ships: Millennium (2000), Infinity (2001), Summit (2001) and Constellation (2002).

With these larger Celebrity ships (some 2,200-some passengers at double occupancy versus 1,800 on Horizon), the modern-day version of Celebrity Cruises emerged with its all-glass elevator banks, onboard art collections and a focus on culinary experiences.

At the same time, the line also began rolling out a series of programs and enhancements designed to improve the onboard experience.

Among the additions were an expanded adult enrichment program, afternoon tea and a spa cafe dinner option (which eventually became Blu and is only open to passengers staying in AquaClass cabins).

In 2004, Celebrity launched its Xpedition sub-brand with the 98-passenger Celebrity Xpedition (48 passengers as of 2019), which was formerly known as the Sun Bay I and built in 2001.

Though the Celebrity cruise line intended to expand its expedition cruises to the Antarctic and Arctic, it decided to stay in the Galapagos, where it added two more ships -- Xperience and Xploration -- in 2017.

In 2019, the line added an all-new, custom-built ship: the 100-passenger Celebrity Flora. It also simultaneously retired Celebrity Xperience.

Celebrity Cruise Ships: Branching Out With Bigger Vessels

With the introduction of Celebrity Solstice in November 2008, the first of the line's Solstice-class ships, the Celebrity cruise line took its vision to the next level and its ships to another size -- all are about 30 percent larger than Celebrity's Millennium-class ships.

With the extra space, Celebrity Cruises shook up the cruise industry with the introduction of its top deck Lawn Club -- an oasis of real grass perfect for picnics, lounging and playing classic lawn games like bocce ball.

Other ships in the Solstice Class are Celebrity Equinox, which launched in summer 2009; Celebrity Eclipse, which came in spring 2010; and Celebrity Silhouette, which debuted in summer 2011. All carry 2,850 passengers. The final Solstice-class ship, Celebrity Reflection, launched in October 2012 with a capacity of 3,030 passengers.

Celebrity Cruise Ships: Impressive Enhancements in the Industry

With the introduction of its Solstice Class, Celebrity Cruises rocked the notion that a cruise line that positions itself in the "premium" market must keep its ships small and cozy.

At the same time, doubts emerged about the fate of its Millennium-class ships, but the line managed quite nicely, adding a series of enhancements to Celebrity ships that pleased even the most stalwart fans of smaller ships.

Overlapping slightly with the launch of the Solstice-class ships, they embarked on an ambitious refurbishment project, investing $100-plus million to overhaul its four Millennium-class Celebrity ships.

The ships gained several of the most popular features that debuted on the Solstice Class, including a creperie and Italian steakhouse. Celebrity Constellation was the first to receive the dramatic makeover when it went under the knife in spring 2010. Infinity (November 2011), Summit (January 2012) and Millennium (April 2012) followed.

Celebrity ships Summit, Infinity and Millennium underwent further renovation in 2015 and 2016, adding a top-deck movie viewing area, called the Rooftop Terrace, and Tuscan Grille restaurants. The Bistro on Five creperie also transitioned to Sushi on Five, an a la carte sushi restaurant, in 2016.

Celebrity Cruise Ships: Looking to the Future

Celebrity Cruises hasn't been known as an innovator since the Solstice Class debuted, but with the launch of its Edge Class, which debuted in December 2018, the line is shifting once again toward trendy innovations that are sure to make a lasting impression.

First and foremost of these is the Magic Carpet, a tennis court-sized moveable deck that is cantilevered off the side of the ship and can move up and down -- as low as Deck 2 and high as Deck 16. The function of the Magic Carpet depends on which deck it's been placed on.

For instance, on Deck 2 it serves as a throughway for passengers getting on and off tender boats, while on Deck 5 it serves as an alfresco extension to a raw bar restaurant. On Deck 14, it'll function as a location for happy hours and late-night parties, and all the way up on Deck 16, it'll transform into an alternative restaurant.

Celebrity Apex followed Celebrity Edge in 2020, riding the coattails of success for the Edge-class Celebrity ships.

New Celebrity Cruise Ships: What's Coming to the Celebrity Cruise Line

When Celebrity Cruises decided to expand its fleet, they dreamed big. Celebrity Beyond entered the cruising world in 2022 with much applause from the cruising community. It boasts Edge Class features, including the enchanting Magic Carpet, Rooftop Garden and The Retreat.

The Retreat is an exclusive experience for cruisers with private dining options, enhanced cabins, and outdoor plunge pools. The Retreat is only available on Edge series ships.

A new Celebrity ship will be entering the Celebrity cruise line fleet in late 2023. Celebrity Ascent will be the fourth and last Edge-class ship, with the same enhancements and incredible features as the first three Edge-class ships.

We can only expect great things from the Celebrity cruise line fleet as they grow and create new innovations for cruisers.

Updated March 02, 2023
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