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Looking Back: Celebrity Cruises Marks 30th Year in Service

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As Celebrity Cruises turns 30 this month, they’re proving that age is just a number. Not only did they recently hold the first-ever virtual deliver of a ship, but the vessel in question is the sister to the award-winning Celebrity Edge.

How did the company get from their first ship, the Merdian, to the brand new Celebrity Apex?

Let’s take a look at their history, as well as what’s on the horizon for the popular cruise line.

In The Beginning

The Galileo (Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/dunedoo)

It all started back in May of 1990, when the Greece-based Chandris group created Celebrity Cruises. Chandris had dabbled in cruising previously, having launched a brand named Fantasy Cruises.

But when they saw an opening to attract a more upscale crowd, they sent one of their ships — the Galileo — in for a massive refurbishment.

What emerged was the S.S. Meridian, which would become the first ship to sail under the Celebrity Cruises banner.

The Meridian remained with Celebrity Cruises right up until the time the company was bought by the current parent company, Royal Caribbean International, in 1997.

The SS Merdian (Photo via Flickr Creative Commons/Jasperdo)

At that time, the Meridian was sold to Sun Cruises. (This sale proved to be a wise move on Royal Caribbean’s part, as the ship would sink following an engine fire only two years later.)

Before long, Chandris’ Celebrity Cruises had proven successful enough that they ordered two more ships, the Horizon — which joined the fleet in 1990 — and the Zenith, who arrived two years later.

Introducing New Ships and New Concepts

Photo via Celebrity Cruises

Under the watchful eye of Royal Caribbean International leadership, Celebrity Cruises quickly expanded. They weren’t, however, simply adding new ships. At the same time, they were proving to be innovators within the cruise industry.

READ MORE: Celebrity Summit Review

With the 2000 introduction of the aptly-named Millennium-class, Celebrity became the first cruise line to reduce exhaust emissions by using gas turbine engines as opposed to the traditional propulsion systems. It was also on these ships that the concept of specialty dining was introduced.

Photo via Celebrity Cruises

Next up, Celebrity introduced the Solstice class in 2008. Already known as a bit higher-end for a mainstream cruise line, these ships took Celebrity’s game to the next level. One of the most popular additions to these ships was the Lawn Club, which was basically a grass-covered sun deck.

The lawn club could be considered something of a precursor to the Central Park neighborhood which would eventually pop up on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships.

In 2004, Celebrity Xpedition began sailing to the Galapagos Islands. This “luxury mega-yacht” was later joined by the Celebrity Xperience and Celebrity Xploration, each of which trod the same territory as the Xpedition.

Taking Things To The Edge and Beyond

Celebrity Edge was launched in 2018.

Celebrity once again grabbed both attention and headlines when in 2018 they rolled out the Celebrity Edge. The ship took full advantage of developing technologies to introduce several game-changing elements, such as the “magic carpet” which moves up and down the side of the ship, serving as everything from a tender platform to a specialty restaurant, depending on which level it’s being utilized on.

Tender boats can operate from the Magic Carpet.

The ship also introduced the concept of “infinite balconies,” which allow cruisers to get closer to the sea than ever, and an unusual entertainment/dining/social complex called Eden which, truth be told, garnered mixed reviews during its early days.

READ MORE: Celebrity Edge Ship Review 

It’s worth noting that Edge, like the upcoming Celebrity Apex, were rolled out under the watchful eye of Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, who in 2014 became the first female president of a major cruise line.

And if you’re seeking inspiration, look no further than this 32-year veteran of Royal Caribbean, who got her start in the travel industry after responding to a Help Wanted ad placed by a travel agency!

Next up for the company? There are currently plans for three more Edge-class ships, starting with the Celebrity Beyond. But for the moment, we’re looking forward to helping the company celebrate its 30th birthday while welcoming Celebrity Apex to the family!

Feature Photo from Flickr Creative Commons/JasperDo

Celebrity Cruises Through the Years

America's trusted voice on cruise vacations. Editor of Cruise Radio and producer/host of Cruise Radio Podcast and CRN audio briefs.

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