How Does Celebrity Compare to Mass Market Cruise Lines?

Whenever the opportunity presents itself to try a new cruise line, I can’t help but compare it against other cruises I’ve enjoyed in the past. This week, the Celebrity Apex ship was my home base as I explored four stops along the Norwegian Fjords: Haugesund, Flam, Geiranger, and the Gateway to the Fjords, Bergen. While the ports of call were even more scenic and beautiful than I imagined, it was seeing them on Celebrity Cruises that made my countdown-to-50 trip extra special.

Celebrity Apex is the second ship in the cruise line’s Edge series, and is a sister ship to Celebrity Beyond (which will soon lose its newest-in-fleet title to the Celebrity Ascent). With a maximum guest occupancy of 3,385 passengers it is a near-perfect size, large enough to offer the amenities of a large ship, but no where near as large as a mega ship, so it doesn’t feel too crowded. My Infinite Verandah stateroom was very spacious, and I especially loved how the enclosed balcony brought the outside in even though the weather in May is still quite cool in Norway (consider visiting in June or July for warmer weather). Although the king-size bed was a little firmer than I thought I would like, I slept like a baby at night and found the mattress to be very comfortable.

The first thing I remarked about the Celebrity Apex is that it doesn’t feel like a cruise ship – onboard it feels more like a luxury hotel. The wall coverings, elegantly placed sculptures, and garden-themed spaces all make you feel like you have just entered a luxury hotel. Soft, spa-style music plays in the hallways as you walk to your stateroom. With just two staircases (one aft and one forward), the setting is more intimate than larger ships. The enclosed Solarium dome and the ultra-light, multi-level window-to-the-world that is aptly named Eden all enhance the luxurious, airy feel onboard. Rarely have I seen a ship with more inviting and cozy places to sit and read, or just stare out the three-story windows at the ocean beyond. While a rooftop garden with a single pickle ball court also looked very inviting, with its plethora of comfortable shaded lounge chairs and couches, the cooler weather on this cruise kept most people indoors.

The second observation I made about the Celebrity Apex is that it has one of the friendliest crews of any ship I’ve ever sailed on. The service was impeccable, attentive, and warm. From my stateroom attendant to the wait staff in the restaurants, the crew seemed to embody the “service with a smile” mentality that is a consistent hallmark of the brand, due to fleet-wide training all new employees must go through. I was very impressed with the service on board.

No cruise ship review would be complete without talking about the food. I had heard Celebrity was very popular with “foodies,” and now it’s clear why. The food was top notch. As with the rest of the cruise experience, everything just felt elevated above and beyond the typical cruise experience. While the four main dining rooms, each with their own specialties, delivered a delicious and memorable meal every night, the Oceanview Café buffet was also a level up from other cruise ships I’ve been on. With multiple themed stations, lines were never long and the food quality was much higher than the typical cruise buffet. Quality ingredients and a multitude of choices (Asian, Mexican, Italian, Grill, Indian, salad bars, fresh-baked breads, to-die-for desserts, and wood oven pizza) raised the level of dining nearly to that of the specialty restaurants onboard. The food, which presented itself through a different theme each day, definitely lived up to the hype.

Although they boast hands-on, structured kids’ camp programs for the younger generation (from 3-17 years old), Celebrity ships exist for adults. There are adult-only areas (like the Solarium), and the entire ship has a spa-like feel to it. Unlike other cruise brands that cater to young people and high-octane entertainment options, Celebrity provides a much more peaceful and relaxed cruise experience. No noisy sailaway parties took over the decks (although there is a night club for those who want that experience), and there were so many serene areas on the ship to quietly relax in.

Daytime entertainment had some interesting options (most of which I didn’t get to experience because I was attending a seminar at sea)–with informative and entertaining talks, art classes, games, and behind-the-scenes tours–and movies can be watched in your stateroom for free. Evening shows were on par with other cruise lines and offered a variety throughout the week.  The gym was surprisingly large for the size of the ship, and the Apex boasts the best walking deck at sea–two levels that seamlessly extend the walking track far beyond the normal single-deck circuit.

Overall, I was highly impressed with Celebrity Cruises and the accommodations felt like an elevated experience in a luxury hotel. Celebrity really is in a class by itself, gracefully and artfully bridging the gap between premium cruise lines like Princess and Holland America and luxury cruise lines like Oceania, Silversea and Regent. I very much look forward to my next Celebrity cruise, and challenge anyone who has never tried the brand to give it a go! You won’t be disappointed.

(For those who appreciate genuine writing, this blog was written using original thoughts that are solely my own and without the aid of ChatGPT.)