Tuesday 23 January 2018

Celebrity's X-Factor: The 'loveliest mega-ship afloat' wants Irish cruisers

Cruise control

Celebrity Silhouette. Photo: Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity Silhouette. Photo: Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity Sihouette's Lawn Club cabanas. Photo: Celebrity Cruises
The 2,880-guest Celebrity Silhouette. Photo: Celebrity Cruises
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

Celebrity is betting its X-factor will give it the edge with Irish cruisers, says Pól Ó Conghaile.

What do you give the cruise ship that has everything?

How about a Lawn Club with real grass? A restaurant with interactive iPad menus? Duty-free Bulgari and Michael Kors boutiques? A selection of 500 wines?

All are on board Celebrity Silhouette, a 319-metre mega-ship that is by now a regular visitor to Dublin Port. One of Celebrity Cruises’ five Solstice Class ships, kitted out with a Canyon Ranch SpaClub, multi-million dollar artworks and a crew to guest ratio of 1:2, the play here is ‘modern luxury’ — making for a premium experience cruisecritic.com calls one of “the loveliest mega-ships afloat”.

Think of Regent Seven Seas or Silversea-style sophistication, with the bright space and head-turning facilities of a much larger ship. That’s the Celebrity X-factor, and the Solstice ‘Suite Class’ comes with a butler too.

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Martini Bar, Celebrity Silhouette. Photo: Celebrity

Celebrity Silhouette's ice-topped Martini Bar

Quibbles? The all-inclusive nature of cruise holidays is a major draw for Irish holidaymakers, but optional Solstice Class extras (such as that Lawn Club, where private cabanas rent for up to $149/€134 per day) can really add up.

I can take or leave Silhouette’s gimmicky ice-topped martini bar, too. But Celebrity has done its research on Ireland, and clearly reckons there are enough of us willing to fork out precisely for that exclusivity.

With an upgrade of Dublin Port on the way, Irish cruisers growing more discerning by the year and the first of its hotly-anticipated new ‘Edge’ class ships due to launch in 2018, Celebrity is also looking at overnights in the capital as early as next year.

By then, it could be welcoming a lot more Irish passengers on board.

Splash

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Celebrity Sihouette's Lawn Club cabanas. Photo: Celebrity Cruises

The Solstice class Lawn Club, with real grass.

Celebrity is a sister brand of Royal Caribbean, thus far the most popular cruise line with Irish holidaymakers. With cruises accounting for around 4-5pc of the holiday market, it’s betting that first-timers who like their luxuries will give its young fleet a whirl.

A 14-night Western Med cruise on board Celebrity Silhouette, departing Rome on October 8, is priced at £1,595/€1,879pp based on two sharing an oceanview cabin (flights extra). Ports of call include Palma, Gibraltar, Lisbon, Cadiz, Ibiza and Barcelona. Book on celebritycruises.ie.

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The MSC Splendida towers over the Poolbeg chimneys as it enters Dublin Port

Fancy a cheaper introduction to cruising?

Winter in the Med offers some of the best value on the seas, with cooler temperatures seeing discounting to stimulate interest and early bookings.

Going to press, clickandgo.com had a seven-night fly/cruise out of Barcelona on MSC Splendida (pictured above, in Dublin) from €499pp on select dates between November and January.

Royal Caribbean (royalcaribbean.ie) has 25pc off cruises outside of Europe (book by September 25), and other deals are available from Irish tour ops like Sunway (sunway.ie), e-travel.ie and cruisescapes.ie.

NB: All prices subject to availability/change.

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