Bahamas Celebration Cruise
Bahamas Celebration Review
By Nancy Norris
On a recent trip to Fort
Lauderdale, I was invited to attend a cocktail reception on
the MS Bahamas Celebration while it was docked at Port
Everglades. Formerly the Prinsesse Ragnhild, a Color Line
ferry, the ship was originally built in 1981 to transport
cars, trucks and passengers for short trips between
Copenhagen and Oslo. Purchased for $50 million, the ferry
was given a $10 million makeover to convert her into a
cruise ship. Renamed the Bahamas Celebration, she began
sailing 2 and 3 night Bahamas cruises in March 2009.
Although this 35,855 ton ship
was dwarfed by all the mega ships in port, the vibrant blue
hull of this 1500 passenger vessel made her unmistakable.
Before boarding, I knew this was not an ordinary cruise ship
and would lack all the bells and whistles of the floating
resorts that surrounded her. However, keeping an open mind
while touring the ship, I realized she had her own unique
appeal and would definitely serve a specific niche market.
Granted, there was no expansive promenade, retractable roof
solarium, soaring glass elevators, glitzy lighting or
majestic, ornate staircases. But, within the confines of the
available space, the Celebration offers many of the
amenities which have become standard on modern cruise
ships. Aesthetically, much of the “ferry's” original design
has been left intact. The chrome and gold colored railings
and fixtures, complemented by a substantial amount of
polished wood provide a nostalgic ambiance.
While I was able to spend just
a few hours on the ship, at the reception I was fortunate
enough to meet a fellow agent, Candace Lima, who had just
completed a 2 night cruise on the Celebration. She was
gracious enough to share her impressions with me, as were a
couple of past passengers. With their permission, to provide
a more in-depth perspective, I have included their first
hand experiences in this review.
The first things I noticed
upon boarding were the low ceilings and narrow hallways.
Actually, this reminded me of my first impression of the
Celebrity Zenith a few years ago. While some may find this a
bit confining, others may find this comfortably appealing.
According to Candace, “As I walked around the ship, the
narrow stairways and lower ceilings began to have a kind of
cozy feel – you weren't lost in the crowd. It began to have
a comfortable vintage cruising feel.”
So, let's take a closer look
at the physical components of the ship by beginning our tour
at the top and working our way down.
As a ferry that traveled in
cold climates, there was very limited outdoor space. Without
a doubt, the addition of a Pool Deck was a necessity in
turning the ferry into a cruise ship. Due to the
construction of the vessel, the only option for adding a
pool to this space was to install an “above ground” pool.
Don't expect to swim any laps, however. The pool is a
crescent shaped, glass-walled, 4 foot splasher.
Flanking the pool are two
covered hot tubs, one port, one starboard.
The Hot Tub
During the refit, twin Tiki
Bars, an alfresco buffet and outside eating area were added
just beyond the pool.
An interesting feature is the
“South Beach” style loungers that line the outer sides of
South Beach Lounges
There is also a separate
pirate themed children’s pool with a 180’ slide. Moving to
the interior of deck 9, DJ’s Ice Cream station can be found
at the summit of the sky lit atrium.
DJ's Ice Cream
Decks 8 and 7
house passenger cabins. Staterooms on these decks are
standard cabins, Category 4 (ocean view) and Category 5
(inside). While small and very basic, all standard cabins on
decks 8, 7, 6, and 5 have newly installed flat screen
televisions and a nice size bathroom.
Category 4 Cabin
It is important to note that
the ships electrical currency is 220 volt. Each cabin has a
converter onboard to charge cell phones. There is no safe or
hair dryer in the room.
An aft patio and the octagonal
shaped Ocean Breeze Lounge are the focal points of deck 6. A
skylight roof brings an open airiness to the space, yet a
sparkling chandelier and traditional wood trim of the lounge
create a vintage elegance which was quite inviting.
Ocean Breeze Lounge
A small library and card room
are adjacent to the Ocean Breeze Lounge. Standard passenger
cabins can also be found on this deck.
Directly below the Ocean
Breeze Lounge is the upper level of the 630 seat View
Upper Level of the View
Children's facilities for 2
age groups (4-10 and 11-14) are located in the forward
section of deck 5. The rest of deck 5 is devoted to
additional standard cabins.
Deck 4 is the hub of
entertainment and activity. The main level of the View
Nightclub occupies the aft portion of deck 4. Although not a
typical show lounge, this is the main entertainment venue.
Cabaret type shows are performed here.
The View Nightclub
Forward of the View is the
Open Water Club for teens (ages 15-17). As we move forward
along the port side interior promenade, there is a Photo
Gallery then the Rio Restaurant. This Brazilian
steakhouse/buffet is one of the four restaurants serving
guests on the Celebration and one of the two main dining
Overflow seating separates the
Rio from the Trattoria Di Gerry Restaurant. Cheerful and
comfortable, the Trattoria Di Gerry is the casual
alternative restaurant to the two main dining venues. Here
guests can enjoy late night dining of pizza, pasta, salad,
dessert and specialty coffees.
Trattoria Di Gerry Entrance
Continuing forward, a scale
model of the Prinsesse Ragnhild is the central focus of the
space adjacent to the atrium elevators.
Prinsesse Ragnhild Models
Beyond the elevators is Pub
437. Reminiscent of an English Club, this pub-style
lounge/piano bar offers comfy leather chairs and lots of
inviting warm wood and brass accents.
Next we find the very
attractive Crystal Room, the primary/traditional dining
Dining Room Entrance
Those who shared their
experience with me were quite pleased with both the service
and quality of food. Although it was a somewhat limited
menu, the choices were satisfactory.
Crystal Dining Room
Next to the Crystal Room is
the intimate Cove Restaurant. This is the ship's specialty
restaurant and comes with an additional $25 per person
tariff. Serving dinner only, it is quite small, so if guests
wish to dine there it is recommended that reservations
should be made at embarkation. Deck 4 ends at the Wynmore
Rather impressive, double
height ceilings enhance the size and feel of this casino
that was converted from a storage area.
Here, the base of the atrium
is anchored by a marble bench backed with lush foliage.
The Base of the Atrium
Surrounding the atrium is the
Information Desk, Shore Excursions, a duty-free gift shop
and entrance to the spa and gym.
Originally a conference
center, the space was transformed into a very attractive spa
offering a full complement of services.
“Coach” class cabins are also
located on deck 3. They are about the size of Pullman train
compartments with only an open closet for storage. While
guests on a very tight budget may book into this category,
they are the staterooms assigned to those passengers that
are traveling on the ship as the “free cruise enticement” to
a time share promo.
Coach Class Cabin
Tips, Comments and
As mentioned previously,
travel agent Candace Lima and a couple of past guests (who
chose to remain anonymous) provided me with additional
observations and impressions based on their personal sailing
experiences. Here is a compilation of their thoughts.
ship was very clean and the staff very friendly and helpful.
Cove Restaurant was worth the $25 cover.
the staterooms have no hair dryer, the cruise line will
provide hair dryers or curling irons that plug into the 220
volt system on request at the Information Desk.
is recommended that guests bring their electrical appliances
to the Information Desk to confirm they will work properly
with a converter.
careful when using the pool. Since it is glass encased –
everyone can see what you are doing.
excursions are offered, but pricing is not posted on their
website. Guests must call reservations for information.
load is quite mixed and interesting. Guests range from
sophisticated world-travelers to first-time cruisers testing
Bahamians use this ship for transport, so when arriving in
Nassau there is a lot of off-loading of supplies. However,
this does not affect the general ambiance of the experience.
the “free cruise” time share presentation come-on stay in
your stateroom from coach class to standard, if at all
are sparse and unimaginative, but functional for a 2 or 3
agreed, it is not a typical cruise, but found it pleasant
and would not hesitate doing it again.
Is this a cruise for everyone?
Certainly not! But, it does offer a unique experience that
may appeal to first-time cruisers that want a taste of
cruising or those who are looking for a short, inexpensive
getaway. Another market for who this cruise may appeal is
those who are looking for an alternative to flying to
Nassau. In addition to 2 and 3 night cruises, Celebration
offers Cruise and Resort Stay packages. Combining the cruise
with 2 or 3 night stays at the Comfort Suites that affords
guests full Atlantis access can make for an affordable
vacation. Pricing will appeal to those on a very tight
budget. As an example, Celebration just offered a 3 night
Super Bowl cruise for $149.
Candace said it best when she stated, “The
pricing is fantastic, the experience enjoyable and
Celebration's willingness to work with travel agents is
wonderful. I would suggest however, that agents advise their
clients that this is not the normal cruise ship. It is not
so much QUALIFYING your client, as INFORMING your client. If
they understand the original intended use and build of this
ship, they will not have a misguided first impression. It is
a unique experience and well-satisfying all around