It used to be the case, not so long ago, that a ship would have to go quite a few years before it saw anything other than basic maintenance and updates – the occasional dry-dock, a few minor modifications and some soft furnishings, maybe, but generally nothing terribly major for 20 years or so.
Not anymore. Whereas the dear old QE2 underwent just two significant refurbishments in her 40 years’ service, vessels today hardly go a decade without some kind of substantial makeover. Just like Celebrity Cruises.
We were hugely impressed with Celebrity’s Solstice-class ships when we sailed on the Celebrity Eclipse out of Miami in 2011. For all her size – she weighed in at a fairly hefty 121,878 tons, and carrying 2,850 passengers – the third vessel of her class was a well-balanced cruise offering, loaded with options but still boasting the quality and, especially, the cuisine, which the brand had become known for since the 1990s.
So you can colour us distinctly surprised that the Solstice-class has been included in the $500million Celebrity Revolution renovation programme that is currently adding even more lustre to the line and its ships.
It seemed fairly solid thinking that the four sisters of the Millennium-class would be tabbed for a major overhaul last year. After all, the initial Celebrity Millennium dated back to 2000, so her revamp was probably right on cue.
Yet this month saw the Celebrity Equinox – just a year older than the Eclipse, having been launched in 2009 – emerge from dry-dock as the latest recipient of Celebrity Cruises’ Revolution renewal programme. And we have to say this looks a mighty impressive refurb.
Not only has Celebrity added its signature The Retreat area for all suite guests (a luxury touch that was pioneered on last year’s all-new Celebrity Edge), it has enhanced its already impressive array of culinary offerings AND introduced an extremely thoughtful new science and technology programme to its Camp at Sea kids club.
The general revitalisation – carried out over 29 days at the shipyard in Cadiz, Spain – has also given the ship a distinct all-new feel throughout, ensuring future guests a thoroughly refreshing time at sea.
In full, the $500million modifications and updates:
• The addition of the complete The Retreat experience for all suite guests, including the chic enclave of The Retreat Sundeck, an exclusive sun-soaked hideaway, and the sophisticated style of The Retreat Lounge (which was formerly the lightly-used Michael’s Club), with interior decor by world famous designer Kelly Hoppen.
• The introduction of Le Petit Chef and Le Petit Chef and Friends, two imaginative and interactive dining experiences offered in Qsine (previously the Silk Harvest restaurant), which have been developed in partnership with TableMation and Skullmapping that bring the tabletop to life using innovative 4k technology (we especially like the sound of this!).
• A completely reimagined Passport Bar, enhancing a prime spot for pre and post-dinner drinks and mingling.
• Craft Social (the former Gastrobar), a new casual spot featuring more than 40 craft beers, plus wine selections and cocktails on tap, along with comfort food favourites, flat-screen TVs and inviting leather seating.
• Fully refreshed staterooms and suites ship-wide, featuring Celebrity’s exclusive eXhale bedding collection with luxurious king-sized Cashmere mattresses.
• The launch of an exciting partnership with the renowned Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, featuring S.T.E.M.-focused activations and unique programming for the popular Camp at Sea for young cruisers. The interactive programming focuses on science topics such as microplastics and the diversity and importance of plankton to the Earth’s oceans and environment.
• Digital enhancements across the ship, including the addition of RFID lock technology and pervasive Xcelerate Wi-Fi, as well as the brand’s industry-first facial recognition technology with the implementation of the Celebrity Cruises app, allowing smooth port arrival and expedited boarding, plus additional features including guest-to-guest chat and digital room keys.
• New treatments and products offered at The Spa by Canyon Ranch, including three new Signature Couples’ treatments, Dyson Supersonic blow-outs, Mink and Rapid Lash services, and new facials by Reveal Machine.
• New retail offerings, including John Hardy Boutique, Kate Spade and a new watch boutique featuring Shinola, Hublot and other premium Swiss brands.
In many ways, it is The Retreat area that should hold the most appeal for Celebrity guests, adding as it does an ‘upper-class’ style and feel to the overall experience. This feature – pioneered by Norwegian in 2009 and subsequently adopted by a number of cruise lines – effectively creates a separate onboard echelon, much as First Class did in years gone by, and ups the ante in terms of exclusivity on these larger vessels.
Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, insisted the latest addition to the Revolution updates marked a major step forward in the programme. She said: “Celebrity Equinox holds a very special place in the hearts of everyone at Celebrity Cruises, and also for our guests. This one-of-a-kind ship continues to be the most awarded in our entire fleet.
“Now, emerging from her dramatic modernisation, our guests are going to love the new, ‘Revolutionised’ Equinox even more. There is no better way to experience the Caribbean year-round than on board this stunning ship.”
The Equinox is now back sailing her regular Caribbean series of voyages, based at Fort Lauderdale, and alternating between the western and eastern parts of the region over five, six and seven nights. There are also a handful of tempting 10 and 11-night sailings this autumn, which travel as far afield as Barbados and Curacao, thus ensuring plenty of time to enjoy the new-look ship.
Next ship to get the Celebrity Cruises’ Revolution treatment will be the 2011-built Celebrity Silhouette in January 2020, while the full $500m renovation programme – which started last year – will be completed by 2023.
Have you sailed on a ‘Revolutionised’ ship of the Celebrity fleet yet? What did you think, and what was your favourite part of the new look? Give us your thoughts in the Comments section below.