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Bahamas Celebration Cruise Review


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.

Bahamas Celebraton Cruise Review
Bahamas Celebration

 

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.

Bahamas Celebraton Cruise Review
Original Design

 

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.”

Bahamas Celebraton Hallways
Narrow Hallways

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.

Deck 9:

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.

Bahamas Celebraton Swimming Pool
The Pool

Flanking the pool are two covered hot tubs, one port, one starboard.

Bahamas Celebraton Jacuzzi Hot Tub
The Hot Tub

During the refit, twin Tiki Bars, an alfresco buffet and outside eating area were added just beyond the pool.

Bahamas Celebraton Alfresco Dinging
Alfresco Dining

An interesting feature is the “South Beach” style loungers that line the outer sides of the deck.

Bahamas Celebraton South Beach Lounge Chairs
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.

Bahamas Celebraton DJ's Ice Cream Palor
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.

Bahamas Celebraton Category 4 Cabin
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.

Deck 6:

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. 

Bahamas Celebraton Ocean Breeze Lounge
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.

Deck 5:

Directly below the Ocean Breeze Lounge is the upper level of the 630 seat View Nightclub.

Bahamas Celebraton View Club Upper Level
Upper Level of the View Nightclub

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:

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.

Bahamas Celebraton View Nightclub
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 options.

Bahamas Celebraton Rio Entrance
Rio Entrance

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.

Bahamas Celebraton Trattoria Di Gerry Entrance
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.

Bahamas Celebraton Prinsesse Ragnchild Models
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.

Bahamas Celebraton Pub 437
Pub 437

Next we find the very attractive Crystal Room, the primary/traditional dining venue onboard.

Bahamas Celebraton Dining Room Entrance
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. 

Bahamas Celebraton Crystal Dining Room
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 Casino.

Bahamas Celebraton Wynmore Casino
Wynmore Casino

Rather impressive, double height ceilings enhance the size and feel of this casino that was converted from a storage area.

Deck 3:

Bahamas Celebraton Skylit Atrium
Skylit Atrium

Here, the base of the atrium is anchored by a marble bench backed with lush foliage.

Bahamas Celebraton Atrium
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.

Bahamas Celebraton Information Desk
Information Desk

Originally a conference center, the space was transformed into a very attractive spa offering a full complement of services.

Bahamas Celebraton Spa
Spa

Bahamas Celebraton Gym
Gym

“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.

Bahamas Celebraton Coach Class Cabin
Coach Class Cabin

 

Tips, Comments and Impressions:

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.

The ship was very clean and the staff very friendly and helpful.

The Cove Restaurant was worth the $25 cover.

Although 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.

It is recommended that guests bring their electrical appliances to the Information Desk to confirm they will work properly with a converter.

Be careful when using the pool. Since it is glass encased – everyone can see what you are doing.

Shore excursions are offered, but pricing is not posted on their website. Guests must call reservations for information.

Passenger load is quite mixed and interesting. Guests range from sophisticated world-travelers to first-time cruisers testing the waters.

The 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.

Avoid the “free cruise” time share presentation come-on stay in coach cabins.

Upgrade your stateroom from coach class to standard, if at all possible.

Staterooms are sparse and unimaginative, but functional for a 2 or 3 night cruise.

All agreed, it is not a typical cruise, but found it pleasant and would not hesitate doing it again.

Summary:

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


 

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