By: Tiffany M. Jones
In March of 2009, Celebration Cruise Line opened its doors to the masses, offering a new and inexpensive cruise expedition to the Bahamas Islands. Many may recognize this company by their commercials with spokesmodel Carmen Elektra who encouraged everyone to join the celebration. If the commercials, which featured a nice luxurious cruise ship with smiling and toasting travelers, was not enough to entice vacationers into taking the bait; the offers for free cruises and trips to various other locations were definitely successful. For a small “fee,” you could book a free 2–4 nights on the Bahamas Celebration as well as partake of free trips to Disney World, Las Vegas, Mexico and more. Anyone looking for a fun family vacation or for a little rest and relaxation would think “Why not?” Especially when you are told you only have to pay for the port fees, taxes and your travels to each location. The rest of it (the food, the resort, the rental car, the hotels, and the cruise itself) would be yours without question. Sounds good doesn’t it?
Well, the old saying that “something too good to be true usually is” is more than accurate to describe this cruise experience. The marketing companies that offer you this fabulous vacation package — in hopes of spreading the word about this new celebrity-endorsed venture — will eagerly congratulate you when you opt to take advantage of this this wonderful opportunity. Hopefully, the sarcasm is implied here. What they may or may not tell you is that while so much is offered to you freely, it all still comes at a high price, costing you the joys and convenience you’d expect in a vacation.
There is no surprise that most free vacation opportunities come with a brief one-hour— two hours tops— presentation that you much see before you are able to enjoy all aspects of the package. That part is usually expected and comes as a small sacrifice for so much more. In this case, expect to be held up for three to four hours of your day, swindled and hassled throughout the entire time until you either agree to purchase a time share in Ft. Lauderdale or absolutely lose your patience and demand the free cruise tickets you were promised. Also, expect your resort stay in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to be situated so far from the hub of tourism attractions (including the beach, malls, restaurants, and most importantly to the port of call) and to be more comparable to the Motel 6 than to any resort you may envision. And lastly, expect to deal with underwhelming shore excursions, a lack of variety of food choices on board, and to be nickeled and dimed for everything along the way. The bottom line is: the grandeur you think you will enjoy onboard is nothing more than an illusion spun with used car salesman tactics.
In all fairness, this young company has only been in operation for less than two years. So, many of the marketing schemes used to lure millions of prospects or more accurately to take advantage of were probably in hopes of building patronage, increase awareness and create invaluable word-of-mouth advertising. And like any product that debuts; research, development and testing is all part of the process. So, the cruise experience is using its first round of tours to work out the bugs and kinks, which may be a hit or miss in terms of customer satisfaction. Upon departure, some guests agreed that the whole experience (including the good, the bad, and the ugly) is just part of the gamble you taken when choosing to get something for nothing. Sometimes, you get exactly what you pay for. In this case, that doesn’t amount to much. But others were so disenchanted by their experience that they opted out of returning to their resort or to make use of the other parts of their package (the additional trips to Disney, Vegas or wherever else that was promised). These participants had been so disgusted with their accommodations and treatment that they decided to abandon the rest of their vacation and return home.
Okay, so the package experience may be a bust. But, what about going straight to the Celebration Cruise Line website and purchasing a vacation? Here are some key points and warnings to help guide your decision:
* The rooms are really spacious and clean. Even the smallest stateroom can house three guests comfortably.
* The staff is very friendly and seems to really enjoy what they do.
* The late night parties, shows and karaoke contests are indeed the most fun aspect of the ship. Participate in everything they have available, as it is the best way to gain the most of the experience.
* This is more of a family cruise line. If you are young and single and childless, this may not be the best option for you. Even the pool onboard will swamped with small children as the slide attached is the main attraction to the younger guests.
* The infamous all day dining, including midnight buffets, that is usually part of most cruises is not a feature on this ship. At most, you have one Italian restaurant opened until 4 a.m. and a few trays of food circling around the floor at midnight. The various food options, however, are not available.
* The excursions are overpriced. You can probably find your own tours, travel and attractions for much cheaper.
* Hardly anything is included or complimentary. Usually the joy of cruises comes in knowing you’ve paid for everything up front. You may have to pay for even the smallest of amenities like non-alcoholics beverages and water.
* Disembarkation may be a nightmare. Opt for the earliest time possible and do not wait for instruction before leaving the ship. If your time comes and you do not hear an announcement to disembark, go anyway! Otherwise, you will be sitting for a long time.
In the end, it may be best to save your pennies and pay in full for your travels. Though other cruise lines may be more expensive, having an enjoyable vacation without dealing with meager accommodations, being inconvenienced by the lack of options near your hotel stay location and feeling underwhelmed by the offerings on board the ship is priceless. As for whether or not you should heed Carmen Elecktra’s invitation to join the celebration, it is strongly advised that you get your closest friends, order a pizza, and go to Redbox instead. But, then again, the choice is yours.