Home Blog Upcoming Changes in Celebrity Cruises Spark Debate – Cruise Critic

Upcoming Changes in Celebrity Cruises Spark Debate – Cruise Critic

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Changes are on the horizon for Celebrity Cruises' all-inclusive program, which is set to become a little less inclusive.
Starting next month, the cruise line will remove gratuities from its "All Included" pricing strategy. The package presently includes tips, the Basic Wi-Fi plan and the Classic Drink Package. The modifications will also affect Celebrity's AquaClass cabins and the all-suite The Retreat.
The upcoming changes have raised concerns among cruisers, who feel the move veers away from Celebrity's premium product. What's more, other soft changes to the cruise line's offerings coupled with a few onboard experiments, have courted controversy in recent weeks.
From the removal of gratuities from the all-inclusive packages to adjustments to the butler service in The Retreat, here's what Celebrity will be changing soon and how it affects cruisers.

In November 2020, Celebrity Cruises introduced its "Always Included" approach to booking, meaning cruisers had the option to book their vacation with Wi-Fi, drinks and tips added to their fare.
At the time, Celebrity explained that their goal was to simplify the booking experience by putting an end to promotions, add-ons and limited-time offers that included the perks most cruisers were keen to add.
"Nothing is more luxurious than when things are extra simple and extra special. We wanted to bring that big, wonderful feeling of ‘everything is taken care of’ to life for our guests,” said at the time Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, then president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises.
Aside from the benefit of simplifying the booking experience, Celebrity noted that the "Always Included" program represented a good deal to cruisers, as they could save between $200-$800 on the included perks when compared to onboard prices.
Additionally, Celebrity introduced two optional packages: ELEVATE, which upgraded the included drinks package to a premium drinks package, and added shore excursions of up to $200; and INDULGE, which included everything in the ELEVATE package as well as unlimited streaming Wi-Fi and up to an additional $200 per person in onboard credit.
Crucially, the INDULGE package was automatically included for all passengers booking a suite in Celebrity's The Retreat, which also features a private restaurant, lounge and sundeck, and a dedicated team of butlers and concierge staff.
"Always Included" eventually became "All included," but the details of the program remained the same. Along the way, Celebrity also offered passengers the opportunity to forego the "All included" package in favor of a "Cruise Only" option to book. As the name suggests, this option excludes the gratuities, Wi-Fi and drink packages, allowing passengers to select add-ons a la carte. Cruise Only is currently only available for all cabins, excluding The Retreat suites and AquaClass categories.
But come October 4th, the all-inclusive and cruise-only booking options will be modified. For starters, cabins in the AquaClass category will be eligible for Cruise Only. Alternately, the all-inclusive package available to cruisers who book a suite in The Retreat will automatically include the Premium drink package and Premium Wi-Fi, in the same way these perks are presently included as part of the INDULGE upgrade. On the other hand, cruisers who book a suite in The Retreat will lose the $200 per person onboard credit benefit.
The most glaring change, however, is dropping gratuities from the All Included package across the board. Coincidentally, this comes a few months after Celebrity raised the cost of gratuities. Inside, Ocean View and Veranda cabins pay $18.00 per person per day (up from $17.50); $18.50 per person per day for Concierge Class and AquaClass staterooms (instead of $18) and $23 per person per day for The Retreat (up from $21).
Notably, The Retreat is set to undergo another change, as Sky Suites — the area's entry-level cabins — will no longer have individual butlers and will instead be serviced by a team under the direction of the head butler.

Celebrity tinkered with other small changes onboard with experiments that didn't go unnoticed by cruisers, and won't be rolled out across the fleet.
One of these experiments consisted of making freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies available for a $2 fee, plus a gratuity, on Celebrity Equinox. "The addition of a hot chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven was solely based on our guests' feedback that they love feeling nostalgic on vacation," explained Celebrity president Laura Hodges Bethge in a letter to a cruiser that was made public.
Hodges Bethge goes on to say that the pilot was a success, as hundreds of guests tried and loved the cookie. The Celebrity executive emphasized that complimentary cookies were still available throughout the ship. But due to the backlash that this experiment generated outside of the ship, the pilot was discontinued after a few days.
A second experiment consisted of allowing guests to use vapers in the casinos onboard Celebrity ships. Hodges Bethge explained that this pilot was borne out of a request from the cruise line's casino guests. "Results were unfavorable, and that pilot has now been discontinued and we will continue to remain smoke-free indoors," said the cruise line executive, adding that outdoor smoking will continue to be allowed in designated areas.

The changes set to be implemented to the all-inclusive offerings have generated a heated debate among cruisers, who have taken to Cruise Critic's community boards to voice their opinions.
The main issue many fans of the cruise line bring up is that they feel that Celebrity has taken a step back in its identity as a luxury or premium operator. Many community members interpret the upcoming changes as cost-cutting methods, which they feel is contrary to the brand's identity.
"We all cruise for different reasons and when a brand that we've come to know and love makes sweeping changes and cuts, it stings," wrote Georgia_Peaches.
Community members point out that the changes to the all-inclusive package are the main culprit in this impression. But they view other upcoming changes — such as having some Celebrity ships include Perfect Day at CocoCay in select itineraries — indicative of the cruise line not having a clear idea of its audience.
"Trying to make some apparent distinction that people with kids on Celebrity travel with their kids, not for their kids. If you are traveling for your kids, you travel on lines packed with the 'kid stuff,'" wrote Jeremiah1212.
Other users, however, are more understanding of Celebrity's changes, viewing them as necessary steps in the cruise line's evolution and not reasons that jeopardize the brand's identity.
"ALL lines are cutting costs," said user KKB. "Celebrity still has the best overall product of mainstream lines, imo."

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