Celebrity Charters Solstice to Atlantis; Cancels March '09 Cruise

January 30, 2008
Passengers who participated in Atlantis Events' most recent gay charter on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas got some great news last Saturday on their way down the gangway. Atlantis has booked a full-ship charter of Celebrity's new-in-2008 Celebrity Solstice, one of the most exciting new designs to debut this year.

The Atlantis cruise takes place March 8 - 15 (in 2009, as Solstice doesn't debut until late autumn; see photo of Atlantis' flyer). The seven-night roundtrip from Ft. Lauderdale is slated to call at Aruba, Curacao and Coco Cay (Royal Caribbean's private Bahamas island). There are also three days at sea.

At this point, the just-added Atlantis cruise is only available to those passengers who were aboard last week's Liberty of the Seas charter -- at least for now. Fares range from $7,999 for the penthouse suite down to $999 for an inside cabin. It's a common practice for Atlantis to offer folks onboard one cruise a preliminary shot at booking the best rates and cabins on a new voyage, the equivalent of "giving passengers a gift at the end," we're told. And indeed, Atlantis cruises often sell out quickly (the voyage will ultimately be opened up to the general public though no future date was given).

It's not such a gift, however, for passengers who thought they were booked on a run-of-the-mill Celebrity Solstice cruise that same week, according to one travel agent who tells us that the cruise line is still selling the voyage -- even though it's apparently now committed the ship to a dedicated Atlantis charter.

Nor have passengers -- including two different Cruise Critic member groups -- been notified that their voyages are off. A Celebrity spokeswoman told Cruise Critic that there has been no announcement because "there is no signed contract." But Cruise Critic Host Joe begged to differ. "I just sat on hold with Atlantis Events for 30 minutes," he wrote in a thread on the Celebrity forum. "They are currently taking reservations from all of those who just got off Liberty of the Seas, where it was announced. He said that between their Liberty folks and Atlantis' 'alumni' it is almost sold out already."

Atlantis also confirmed the charter to Cruise Critic.

"Should Atlantis have been able to sell this cruise -- almost to the point of being sold out -- before Celebrity communicated to the passengers whose cruise has been canceled?" asks Laura Sterling, Cruise Critic's Community Manager.

Writes Host Anne, who has monitored Cruise Critic's Celebrity forum for over five years: "I'm really disappointed in Celebrity. I know these things happen, but we should never find out about this stuff on the boards before the folks in Celebrity reservations know about this. It's just really bad business."

At this point, because the charter has not been officially announced, and because Celebrity Solstice's originally planned March 8, 2009 weeklong trip has not been canceled, travel agencies who hold bookings are awaiting an official announcement before notifying clients.

As of 6 p.m. E.S.T., the original cruise was still being advertised by Celebrity on its Web site even though notification of the Atlantis charter was offered to its customers some five days earlier. The itinerary for the original non-charter voyage, also based in Ft. Lauderdale, still lists calls at San Juan, St. Kitts and St. Maarten.

We'll keep you posted.

--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief