Celebrity Eclipse to homeport in Melbourne

Dare to compare: Does Celebrity Cruises pass the luxury test?

There’s a new kid on the luxury block. Celebrity Cruises has invaded the “luxe” space, claiming membership of the “all inclusive” territory usually occupied by five-star lines like Regent Seven Seas and Silversea.

“Holidays should be effortless from the start.  That’s why every Celebrity cruise includes drinks, Wi-Fi and service charges – always. It’s that simple.”

If only it was that simple.

It is a great marketing ploy to lure cruisers who enjoy the five-star life. And switching passengers between brands is the order of the day, thanks to the pandemic, which has made attracting new cruisers more difficult.

Celebrity’s new “Always Included” means the following perks are free:

  • Unlimited drinks such as classic cocktails, wines by the glass, beer, soft drinks, specialty coffee and teas, juices and bottled water
  • Unlimited WiFi – internet access on two devices which includes always-on connection to social media, email and the web
  • Daily gratuities without having to worry about tipping crew members

You can upgrade to unlimited “premium” drinks and a shore excursion – but only up to $200 per person. Celebrity has a cover charge to dine at its specialty restaurants which, according to some websites, is up to $60 a day.  Shore excursions are chargeable.

And then there’s internet – and Xcelerate stream internet which is not included.

Dining with Celebrity Cruises
Dining with Celebrity Cruises

So how does Celebrity “Always Included” package compare to the all-inclusive itineraries dominated by the world’s most luxurious cruise line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, and the premium Princess Cruises?

It is a hotly contested issue. Here is what we found (note: websites are difficult to navigate on these issues, so call up and ask):

Regent Seven Seas Cruises is an all-suite luxury line which takes great pride in marketing its all inclusive itineraries. You get free unlimited shore excursions, free WiFi, free unlimited beverages and free speciality dining. Transfer between hotel and ship and one-night, pre-cruise hotel packages for guests staying in Concierge-level suites and higher. Butler service is only available if you book a penthouse suite and above.

The line’s catch-cry: “With Every Luxury included.”

RSSC’s free unlimited beverages include your tipple of choice from champagne, expertly mixed cocktails, to premium wines and spirits. Once onboard, you are able to enjoy an open bar in the stylish lounges and your in-suite mini bar is replenished daily with soft drinks, beer and bottled water.

Regent Seven Seas cruises dealsThere’s also free specialty coffee, tea and hot chocolate with baked goodies in the Coffee Connection.

Dining at RSSC’s much talked about specialty restaurants is free compared to Celebrity and Princess, which both has a cover charge.

RSSC also offers complimentary valet laundry service with clothing picked up, laundered, pressed, folded and returned to your suite each day.

At Princess Cruises, for an extra $117 per person per day, you will get Princess Plus with drinks and WiFi included.

The Princess Plus fare includes a “premier” beverage package such as cocktails at US$12 and under, and free beer, wine, specialty coffee, smoothies and bottled water (500 ml). There is daily limit of 15 alcoholic  beverages over a 24-hour period. It also includes unlimited Wifi including streaming your favourite show and video chats. Princess provides self-service laundrettes at the cost of $2 per load and detergent at $1.25.

Dare to compare:

Let’s look at a similar cruise from Sydney to New Zealand in a balcony suite across the three lines and see how they compare in price.

Princess has a 13-day itinerary from Sydney to New Zealand on Emerald Princess departing on November 19, 2021. Prices for a balcony stateroom with a Princess Plus package start from $3,519 pp. This works out to be $270 pp per day. But you have to pay for shore excursions and specialty dining.

The cruise will visit Auckland, Tauranga, Picton, Christchurch, Dunedin, Fiordland National Park, before returning to Sydney.

On Princess, if you fancy dining at Curtis Stone Share restaurant, you have to pay a “nominal charge of $29 pp ” for a six-course meal. You also have to pay for shore excursions. For instance, a 3-hour excursion to a wildlife sanctuary in Picton, New Zealand, starts from $129.95 pp.

So if you dine at Curtis Stone each night and take a shore excursion for 11 days, you’ll end up paying $406 a day pp.

Curtis Stone with Princess Cruises

Celebrity has a 10-night cruise from Sydney to NZ on Celebrity Eclipse departing on November 24 2021. Prices for a veranda suite start from  from $3,349 pp. This works out to be $334 pp per day but you have to pay for shore excursions and specialty dining.

Or get a package for another $90 a day to upgrade to the premium beverage with $200 credit for specialty dining and $200 credit for  shore excursions.

So if you upgrade your drinks, dine out at a specialty restaurant each night and take shore excursions you are on $424 pp per day.

Celebrity’s cruise will call at Picton, Napier, Wellington, Dunedin, Dusky Sound, Doubtful Sound, Milford Sound and Sydney.

Over at RSSC, there is a 16-night itinerary from Sydney to Auckland on Seven Seas Explorer departing on December 20 2021. You can spend Christmas and New Year on the luxury ship. Fares start from $13,770 pp for a veranda suite. This works out to be $860 pp per night, all inclusive .

The itinerary will visit Melbourne, Burnie, Port Arthur, Hobart in Tasmania, then cruise the Tasman Sea to take in the magnificent Fjords of Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound, Dusky Sound, Dunedin, Akaroa, Wellington, Napier, Rotorua, Whangarei, Bay of Islands then Auckland.

There are free excursions including a cheese, chocolate and wine tour in Burnie or horse-riding along the secluded beaches of New Zealand’s Waipu Coast.

The verdict:

Let’s look at the passenger/crew ratio – a measure of the level of service you can expect during your journey. The lower the ratio the more attentive the service. The ultimate ratio is 1:1.

Seven Seas Explorer can accommodate 750 guests and has a total crew of 552, giving the line a passenger/crew ratio of 1.3.

Celebrity Eclipse, is a much bigger ship with 2852  passengers and total crew of 1210, giving the line a passenger/crew ratio of 2.3.

Emerald Princess has 3114 passengers and total crew of 1220, giving the line a passenger/crew ratio of 2.5.

So you get what you pay for.

You can cruise in style on board a luxury ship from $860 pp per day with Seven Seas Explorer with everything included and no hidden charges.  And we do mean everything.

Or you can take Celebrity’s new “all included” fare – but upgrade to try and match Regent and get a price of around $424 pp per day.

But you are on a big ship. And while Celebrity is premium, the experience and ambience may not be quite what luxury cruisers are used to.

And last but certainly not least, you can pay $406 pp per day on Emerald Princess.

As always, the choice is yours. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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