Legends Theater impresses not only with its 850-seat capacity, but also with the size of the stage. The majority of the theater is not set up with traditional seats; instead, you'll find rotating cocktail chairs with small tables for drinks. It spreads across two decks and has massive porthole windows that are covered by curtains. There's not much in the way of decor -- just a smoky purple hue in the carpet and chairs, as well as industrial-looking silver walls around the portholes.
The signature production shows change every eight weeks, but include performances of popular American hits with plenty of costume changes, plus variety acts that might feature contortionists, acrobats, comedians or magicians.
* May require additional fees
In addition to live musical performances and headliner shows, the theater is used for comedy shows, movies and orientation. Bahamas Paradise Line is also booking some major acts to come onboard, including The Marshall Tucker Band, Suzanne Vega and KT Tunstall.
Passengers spend most of their time onboard in the evening, as the ship is docked in Grand Bahama for a full day. (Most passengers go out to explore the island.) However, there are several activities planned when passengers first arrive on the ship in the Port of Palm Beach. (Boarding begins at noon.)
A wine tasting kicks off in the mid-afternoon, as do pool parties and steel drum band performances. Ship tours, welcome aboard orientations, casino gaming lessons and martini tastings keep passengers occupied until the sun goes down.
While in the Bahamas, cruisers choosing to stay onboard can take a Latin dance class, watch a movie screening in the theater, play bingo, learn how to fold towel animals, take part in a trivia quiz or round up the family for some "friendly feud." You can also partake in the ship's own versions of The Newlywed Game and Name That Tune. Music continues to play at the outdoor bars, and bartenders showcase their talent with mixology lessons.
Fair warning: Prepare yourself for an excessive number of announcements about everything from upcoming activities to drink specials and shore excursion sales.
Grand Celebration has plenty of musical events going on in the evening, but they are scattered around the ship. The Voltage Nightclub typically features happy hour deals early in the evening, followed by live dance music and parties. The pool area is home to karaoke, while other lounges such as the Encore Lounge and Regal Room have country music, rock 'n' roll tunes, '70s disco favorites, themed evenings (such as Elvis Presley) and line dancing. The Dancing Martian Bar on the top deck features dancing under the stars, with a large outdoor concert stage.
In addition to the main production show offered each night, cruisers can also enjoy late-night adult comedy and the once-per cruise Quest, an adult scavenger hunt that can get pretty rowdy.
The Par A Dice Casino has more than 75 slot machines (pennies and quarters), four blackjack tables, a craps table, roulette, casino war, and three poker tables with variations on the game (Let It Ride, etc.). The massive Encore Lounge divides the gaming area from the lounge area -- complete with a dance floor, stage, light-up screen, drum set and speakers. The casino and lounge also have enough cocktail tables and chairs to seat an army along the windows and in front of the stage.
Unlike on most ships, all the bars and lounges on Grand Celebration are located on the upper decks. Due to the open layout of the bars, lounges and nightclubs, it's easy to meander from one to the other. Each has its own distinct ambiance; passengers can go from loud disco music in one place to quieter Latin or jazz tunes in another.
In the evening, a number of the bars take on a sophisticated feel that is in stark contrast to the steel drums and island music pumping throughout the pool deck in the afternoon. It's unusual that the bars and lounges are all located on the upper decks, and during the day (when there isn't much going on) they are ideal for a quiet getaway with scenic views. The bars have an extremely wide selection of specialty cocktails; in addition to pina coladas, rum runners and mudslides, you'll find drinks like Irish teas, acai caipirinhas and lychee martinis.
Note: The cruise line generates the majority of its revenue from the sale of alcohol, which is aggressively marketed to passengers. On the first day, in the 20 minutes it took us to eat our buffet lunch on the pool deck, we were approached seven times by crew members asking if we wanted drinks.
Commodore Lounge (Deck 8): This martini bar, with a built-in piano and a massive porthole window, is located at the entrance of the Admiralty Club Restaurant. Its quiet atmosphere makes it ideal for an elegant date night or after-dinner drinks and music. Martinis include all the classics: gimlets, dirty martinis, Rob Roys or martini flights. Open 4 p.m. to midnight.
Regal Room Jazz Bar (Deck 9): This bar is located near the casino and Voltage Nightclub, making it easy to hop back and forth between venues and take in different types of musical entertainment. The Regal Room has a speakeasy feel, with a piano, dance floor, dark-hued furniture and wall backdrop of jazz players. A number of events are held here during the day, including wine tasting and an aperitif power hour. Open 4:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Encore Lounge (Deck 9): This massive bar spreads across the casino, serving as a haven for gamblers needing refreshments. In addition to tropical drinks, it also serves a variety of unique mojitos and the "Encore" -- a mix of vodka, lime juice, basil, ginger and cucumber. The Encore stage hosts live country and pop music. Open from 2 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Voltage Nightclub (Deck 9): This is the ship's disco, but with the exception of multicolored lights, it feels a lot like any other lounge. Still, there's a large dance floor, ladies' night specials, upbeat pop music and theme parties (like Mardi Gras and Latin fiestas) that keep things lively in the evening. Open 6 p.m. until late.
Plunge Pool Bar (Deck 10): During the day, the Plunge Pool Bar is home to island music and tropical cocktails; in the evening, it hosts live karaoke that draws a crowd and plenty of talent. Open noon to 1 a.m.
Ocean Breeze (Deck 10): The massive open-air bar at the back of the ship (just next to the buffet) faces the Jacuzzis and is a great spot to grab a drink or flop down in a lounge chair. It is open late at night, but it isn't a live music venue. (Head upstairs one deck for that.) Open 6:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Dancing Martian Bar (Deck 11): This open-air, circular, somewhat spaceship-looking bar has great views out the back of the ship, and passengers can kick off their shoes and play bean bag toss games or relax in lounge chairs on the artificial grass lawn. There is an impressive, elevated stage primed for larger performances, and in the evening a live DJ hosts dancing under the stars. Open 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.
A pool and two Jacuzzi tubs are located on Deck 10 aft by the Ocean Breeze bar and lounge area. Just below this is the kids' pool and small water slides (around six feet); note that kids must be toilet trained to use the pools. In the center of Deck 10 is another pool with surrounding deck space for lounging and people-watching. The Plunge Pool Bar and Plunge Grill are also found in this popular area. There is a Jacuzzi at the front of the ship at the solarium.
Overall, the main pool area looks a bit dated. However, its bright colors and lively, happy, relaxed atmosphere make for an energetic and upbeat hub of sun, food, music and activities. Longtime cruisers might experience a sense of nostalgia for the days when poolside fun was the main focus (instead of rock-climbing walls and high-tech theater shows).
Scattered around the pool area are foosball and air hockey tables, and several bean bag toss games are set up on the "lawn" in front of the Dancing Martian Bar. You won't find shuffleboard, a sports court or jogging track. Dance-offs, games and nighttime karaoke are hosted by staff around the pool, but we found that passengers were somewhat reluctant to participate (other than for karaoke), particularly when it was chilly outside.
In addition to traditional reclining lounge chairs, there are several casual wicker couches and cushioned pod chairs for kicking back in the corners of the pool area on Deck 10 by the games tables. Tables near the Dancing Martian and the Ocean Breeze Bar have colorful umbrellas for shade. A solarium sun deck is hidden at the front of the ship on Deck 11; it has four partially enclosed, dome-shaped cabanas (first-come, first-served -- no reservations available) with cushions large enough to take a nap. These lounges face the windows, making it a prime spot at sailaway -- and the ship's best-kept secret. Considering the area is somewhat difficult to find, adding some plants and a few more cabanas could make the solarium feel like a truly exclusive area (but without the fees).
Strike a Pose photo gallery, located in front of the theater, sells portraits, magnets and keychains. One interesting offering is green screen photos. Passengers have their pictures taken in front of a green backdrop and can then choose from an array of backgrounds onto which they'll be superimposed. (Think a cruise ship deck or beach with palm trees.)
For additional shopping, three duty-free stores are bundled into one at the shopping galleria. Forget Me Knots, Puffs and Splurge offer cigars, perfumes, liquors, rum cakes, clothing and other souvenirs, with special power-hour pricing. A small conference room is also available near these shops.
The Helm is the ship's Internet cafe, with six computer workstations and one printer. It is also one of the most classic, nautical spaces on Grand Celebration. A beautiful, stained-glass ceiling mural, massive ship's wheel, dark wood paneling on the walls and desks, nautical artifacts (ship's bell, stamps, paintings of vessels) and a small library with board games and card tables make it a quiet retreat -- except during dinnertime, when people pass through on their way to the Admiralty Club, or when live sporting events are broadcast at the Commodore Lounge bar, which is part of the same room. Wi-Fi is an astoundingly low $10 per 24 hours. At times the connection was impressive, but it can be spotty, and you'll be logged out after about 15 minutes of inactivity.
Guest services and shore excursions desks can be found in the main entrance on Deck 5 midship. Arrive at the excursion desk early; there is almost always a line. Laundry service is available for an additional charge; arrange for washing and pressing via your cabin attendant.
The Indulgence Spa (Deck 9) has an expansive spa menu with options ranging from mud and cellulite wraps to aromatherapy and hot stone treatments. It offers numerous massages with international techniques (including Thai, Hawaiian and Balinese) in private treatment rooms.
Passengers may use the sauna and Turkish bath for $20 per day, or opt for the two-person "mud and scrub" special for $50 total that includes use of these areas for 50 minutes, cleansing products and mud that passengers will apply and rinse off themselves.
The salon offers hair treatments that include wash-and-cuts, hair coloring, island hair braiding and makeovers. Other services include eyebrow sculpting, manicures, pedicures, nail art and body waxing. A 15 percent gratuity is added to all spa and salon treatments.
Tucked away in the back of the spa is a tiny fitness center with a combination of TechnoGym and Cybex machines: four ellipticals, five treadmills, seven stationary bikes and a couple of weight machines. The focus is on cardio, but there are some yoga mats for crunches or other exercises, as well as free weights up to 10 pounds. The rear of the gym has another exit that leads outside to the kids' pool area. There are no yoga or fitness classes available. The gym is open from noon until 11 p.m. on the first day, and 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. on the second day.
The ship's kid programs onboard are adequate, but need improvement. The kids' pool and splash area is too small and outdated, and there isn't much in terms of ship activities or entertainment geared towards children besides the kids' clubs. Still, for a two-night getaway, there are three different programs available based on age group: Kruzers Club for ages 3 to 7, Club Chill for ages 8 to 12, and Vibe for ages 13 to 17.
Located on Deck 9, the Kruzers Club has a small stage and indoor play center, with a rear exit that opens to the outdoor play space. This outdoor area is where the kids pool and water slide area is located, along with a small hippo slide and a handful of climbing structures, including a small rock wall. Parents should note that there are a few steep stairwells in this area -- one leads down to Club Chill -- and not much is done to prevent small children from accessing the steps.
Little ones have a welcome-aboard party, face painting, treasure hunts, Disney trivia games, balloon sculptures and cupcake decorating. There's also a bridge tour for the kids. On day one, Kruzers Club is open from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., and then reopens from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. On day two, it's open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and again from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Overall, there weren't many children on our sailing, so it seemed underutilized.
On Deck 8 below Kruzers Club is Club Chill, a slightly smaller area with an exterior that is designed to look like a ship. Inside, there's a small movie theater, Xbox, Wii, bean bag toss, hula hoops, arts and crafts, and board games. Note: For kids to reach the pool area, they will have to climb up the steep stairwell.
Scheduled activities include a welcome-aboard party, temporary tattoos, scavenger hunts, Guitar Hero competitions and Xbox tournaments, movies and dancing. Club Chill is open from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. on day one, and from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. on day two.
Vibe is the teen zone on Deck 11; it has a handful of arcade games, a 6-foot basketball-shooting game and a lounge area for hanging out and meeting other teens. Scheduled activities include a sailaway party, scavenger hunt, iPod jams (teens bring their own music), talent night, karaoke and dancing. The club is located near the pool area, foosball and air hockey tables. It is open both days from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. (with a short half-hour closure from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on day one only). There was only a handful of children on our off-season sailing, so the spaces often seemed empty.