Celebrity Ascent First Look: Review, Tour, & Should You Sail?

Note: Cruzely was invited for a complimentary inaugural cruise aboard the new Celebrity Ascent. Below are our thoughts about the new ship from Celebrity.

Celebrity Ascent from the ocean
Celebrity Ascent is the fourth in the cruise line’s Edge class of ships. We recently had the chance to sail and came away extremely impressed.

For those that have sailed across multiple cruise lines, you know that each line — and each ship — has its own unique personality. In other words, no matter how many different cruises you take, there’s always something that’s new to experience. We were reminded of this on our recent inaugural cruise aboard Celebrity Ascent.

Celebrity Ascent marks the fourth in the cruise line’s ground-breaking Edge class of ships (or “Edge series” as Celebrity calls them). And while we’ve sailed on nearly every major cruise line (including Carnival, Royal Caribbean, MSC, NCL, Virgin, Princess), one major line we had yet to experience was Celebrity. Turns out that their newest ship makes us feel like we’ve made a big mistake waiting this long to sail.

Meet: Celebrity Ascent

Celebrity Ascent view from side
Measuring 140,000 gross tons, Ascent isn’t near as large as many modern mega ships. However, we don’t know that we’ve ever sailed a more spacious vessel.

For those not yet familiar with Celebrity, it’s part of Royal Caribbean Group’s portfolio of cruise lines. Aimed at a more upscale experience, you can think of it in car terms to get an idea of its positioning in the market.

Just like Toyota has the upscale Lexus brand, Royal Caribbean offers the elevated Celebrity brand. But this is much different than just a “nicer” Royal Caribbean cruise ship. It’s something completely different with a different atmosphere, feel, and philosophy. It’s much more geared toward adults (though kids are welcomed!) instead of focused on everyone.

Celebrity went a new direction with its Edge class of ships, beginning with Celebrity Edge that first sailed in late 2018. Now the cruise line introduces Celebrity Ascent, the latest in the class (along with Edge, Apex, and Beyond).

If you have sailed these sister ships before, then you have a good idea of what Ascent can offer passengers. If you haven’t, or haven’t sailed Celebrity at all, then you don’t know what you’re missing.

First Impressions of the Ship

Pool area on Celebrity Ascent
It’s hard to overstate just how beautiful the new ship is. Upscale and contemporary, it doesn’t even feel like a cruise ship but rather a resort. We also love the art around the ship, including the massive octopus sculpture seen at the bottom of this photo.

Boarding at Terminal 25 in Fort Lauderdale, Ascent makes a strong first impression. You enter near the Grand Plaza — a multi-story atrium centered around The Martini Bar. This is definitely a hotspot for the ship and during the evenings it gets busy. But it’s also a great initial introduction to the style and atmosphere of the ship.

You’ll notice the distinct asymmetrical shape of the space and bar. There are no wood tones or heavy chrome accents. The spot oozes with contemporary style. It’s wide, open, and airy. This isn’t meant to be a nice cruise ship… it’s built to be a nice resort.

In fact, walking around the ship when boarding, our first thought was if you took a spa and used that as inspiration for a ship’s design. The colors are calming. The lighting is always perfect. Even the music is a relaxing mix that provides some white noise to the ship without being intrusive.

But what really caught our attention is the space around the ship. First, it should be noted that the inaugural sailing we attended was only about two-thirds full. Even imagining most spaces with a full capacity ship still left plenty of space for everyone (the one exception is The Martini Bar area in the Grand Plaza that got very busy during the evenings).

This makes sense as based on tonnage versus passengers carried, Ascent has a space ratio of 43.1 at 100% occupancy. Anything above 40 should be considered reasonably spacious.

Buffet area on Ascent.
We immediately were struck by the space that’s built into the ship seemingly everywhere. It’s a simple thing, but makes a big difference. For instance, note the high ceilings and wide walkways in the ship’s buffet.

More than that, however, there was obviously a lot of thought put into building a ship that feels spacious everywhere. Hallways around the ship are wider, from the cabin hallways to those around the interior areas of the ship. There are also lots of spots from the Solarium to the Grand Plaza to the ship’s theater that cover multiple decks. The result makes for long sightlines and an airy feeling.

This trend even goes to the cabin doorways, which seem the width of a regular door at home instead of the relatively narrow cabin doors found on most ships.

In other words, if your biggest complaint about cruising is that it’s too crowded, this is the ship for you.

A Look Onboard

It’s hard to overstate just how nice Celebrity Ascent is unless you’ve sailed it or one of its sister ships (which are said to be similar). While pictures don’t do it justice, we have highlighted some spots with details about what to expect and some images to give you an idea.

The Grand Plaza with The Martini Bar at its center is the main atrium of the ship. Evenings here are one spot that can seem to get a bit crowded, and it’s a high-energy spot to enjoy.

Grand Plaza
The spot to be in the evening, the Grand Plaza is a center atrium on the ship. There’s seating around the edge, bartenders that do fancy acrobatics while they mix drinks, restaurants lining the decks on both sides, and a massive light fixture in the middle.

During the evening live music is played and there’s no better spot to enjoy a fun evening out with your traveling partner.

Ascent’s theater is simply amazing and a tech marvel. It’s a round room with circular stage, which by itself creates an interesting visual. The screens behind the stage can move and project any backdrop imaginable, along with lots of lights, moveable stage areas, and more.

The Theater
The Theater on Ascent is a massive circular room with a stage in the middle. Five movable video boards provide backdrops while parts of the stage can raise and lower. A center section in the ceiling allows performers to drop from the roof while the lighting and sound features are world class.

The result are visually stunning shows that have to be seen to be believed.

The Retreat on Celebrity Ascent
If you are fortunate enough to sail in The Retreat, then you have access to a private sundeck with pool, a lounge, and private restaurant.

The Retreat
Like some other lines, Celebrity has their own “resort within a resort” that features higher-end rooms. Along with nice rooms is a lounge area and outdoor pool/sundeck that is only available to these guests. There is also a private restaurant for passengers in The Retreat.

Adults-only solarium
In addition to the pool shown earlier, Ascent also features a large adults-only Solarium that’s a relaxing spot to enjoy.

Pool Area/Solarium
If you want to be by the pool, you have two main options. First is the general pool deck that features a large pool, some great artwork (we love the chrome octopus), and twin hot tubs that sit up over the deck like flower blooms.

The Solarium is an amazing space that spans multiple decks with a domed ceiling. The atmosphere is calm and serene with lots of seating, its own pool and twin hot tubs.

Rooftop Garden on Celebrity Ascent
Want to get fresh air and ocean views without being in a swimsuit? The Rooftop Garden has outdoor seating and also features sporting events played on a big screen in the evening.

Rooftop Garden
One feature of the Edge series ships and continued on Ascent is the Rooftop Garden. This is an open space on the top deck that features seating and open space in a park-like atmosphere. There are pools nearby, but it’s more of just a relaxing spot where you can enjoy the company of who you’re traveling with. There is also a large screen that features sporting events, yoga classes during the day, and more.

Eden overview on Ascent
The multi-story Eden anchors the back of the ship and spans multiple stories. It’s a lounge space, an entertainment space, and you can also visit the paid restaurant or free café.

Another signature space in the class that’s aboard Ascent is Eden. It’s hard to describe the area as it’s somewhere to be entertained, to grab a bite to eat, or to just lounge. It’s multiple stories with lots of natural light and located aft of the ship with great outdoor views. During the day it’s relaxed and a great place to unwind. During the evening the crew puts on performances, and there’s also a high-end restaurant.

Cabins on Ascent

Cabins are nicely appointed and stylish. This room is a suite, but typical rooms — including interior cabins — felt plenty spacious.

No matter how you want to travel, there’s a cabin that will fit. And one nice thing is that they are all nicely appointed and comfortable. The theme of space continues throughout the available staterooms. If you’re used to cramped cabins, that’s not the case here.

We mentioned more space in the doorways, but there’s simply more space everywhere. Even interior cabins feel comfy (though certainly not large, but larger than many we’ve seen).

One feature that’s different on Celebrity is the use of “infinite” balconies, although the cruise line calls them “infinite verandas.” Typically, balcony rooms have a door that leads out to a balcony that juts out the side of the ship.

With these infinite balconies, instead the far wall of the cabin is one large window. Press a button and the top half of the window slides down, essentially making the entire room a balcony. There are still bi-fold doors that can be opened and closed to separate a balcony area and a blackout shade that closes the area for sleeping.

Infinite balcony on Celebrity
Celebrity Ascent features “infinite verandah” cabins. The window drops down to make the entire space open to the outside. There are also folding doors you can open or close to separate the area.

The Retreat should also be mentioned. This is a section of suites aboard Ascent that feature access to a private restaurant, a private lounge, and sundeck. As well, you have more dedicated services, and the rooms also come with premium drinks and wi-fi.

Entertainment on the Ship

The Club is a multi-purpose venue that can be a lounge, entertainment venue, or gaming area, depending on time of day.

Perhaps one of the biggest misnomers when it comes to cruising is the idea that you have “hokey” entertainment with performers that couldn’t cut it anywhere else. Anyone who thinks that obviously hasn’t sailed a modern cruise ship, much less on Celebrity Ascent.

There are a number of entertainment options around the ship with everything from live music to performances in Eden. But two spots stand out as unique to this class.

First is a spot called The Club. It’s a multi-story spot, that like Eden, serves a lot of different roles. During the day, it’s a place to hang out and play games. This includes some video games, and what Celebrity calls “augmented” games that are essentially video games projected on the floor that you play with your body.

At night, it changes into more of a lounge with live music and shows, including “Smoke and Ivories” — a cabaret-style show that’s above and beyond. No matter the time of day, there will be something to do here.

Theater view on Celebrity Ascent.
Production shows in The Theater are a can’t miss. We watched both “Bridges” and “Awaken” and highly recommend both.

But the star of the entertainment lineup is The Theater. We’ve been at sea across dozens of ships and never seen anything like it.

Instead of a traditional theater setup, Ascent features a round room with a circular stage in the middle. That alone provides more dynamic and visually interesting views, but it’s just the start. Around the back of the stage are five floor-to-ceiling screens that can also move and slide around the stage. During the shows, the visual backdrops are simply stunning, providing an amazing backdrop that just can’t be replicated with a traditional set.

In addition there are stage segments that rise and fall, a spot in the center of the ceiling where acrobats drop and swing, lights extraordinaire and so much more. Of course, all this speaks nothing of the talent of the performers themselves, who are world class.

We watched two shows (Bridges and Awaken) during our time on the ship and would not hesitate to watch them again. If you sail, consider the theater shows a “can’t-miss.”

Food Options Aboard Celebrity Ascent

Shrimp dish onboard the ship
Food is a big focus on Celebrity. There are four main dining restaurants, another handful of free venues, and then many spots that charge extra as specialty restaurants.

Food is a major part of any cruise and that stays true for Celebrity Ascent. All told there are more than a dozen restaurants around the ship. In general, the food and restaurants tend to be more elevated. If you’re really into high-end food, you’re in luck. We will say that those with simpler tastes do have options, but you will need to look around a little more.

Free spots to eat include the Oceanview Café, which is the ship’s large buffet with more space than we’ve ever seen on a cruise ship. It serves everything from pizza to lobster tails on the last day of the cruise. There is a small café in Eden with salad and sandwiches and light fare at the Spa Café. You can grab a burger or sandwich at the Mast Grill if you just want something easy.

Sure you can get pizza or a burger around the ship, but most options are higher end. Notice the gold leaf on the tips of these tiny pies.

For dinner there are four main dining restaurants that are included in the fare. Each one of these (Cyprus, Tuscan, Normandie, and Cosmopolitan) has the same menu but has a special section of appetizers and entrees section that’s unique from the other restaurants for more variety.

You could definitely eat during your cruise without spending extra, but it will limit your options on Ascent. There are a large number of specialty restaurants and most focus on an elevated experience. This includes:

  • Le Voyage by Daniel Boulud
  • Raw on 5
  • Rooftop Garden Grill
  • Eden
  • Le Grand Bistro
  • Le Petit Chef
  • Fine Cut Steakhouse

In addition, there are two restaurants Blu and Luminae that are exclusive to passengers staying in AquaClass cabins and The Retreat, respectively.

What We Liked

Two things stood out to us above all else — the style of the ship and the space available. Pictured here is the stylish Tuscan Restaurant, one of the main dining venues on the ship.

Overall we were extremely impressed from bow to stern with Celebrity. It is definitely a different experience if you’ve sailed larger mass market lines including sister line Royal Caribbean. Overall, it simply feels more stylish, classy, and sophisticated. You feel much more that you are at a resort than a cruise ship.

We were big fans of the décor and style of the ship. It simply felt modern, with lots of nice touches like calm music and great art pieces around the ship.

But honestly we’ve been on nicely appointed cruise ships before. So what really stood out was how the ship’s design felt so open and spacious. This is mentioned above, but from small touches like wider cabin doorways to big open rooms like the Solarium and theater, you never get that cramped feeling like on most ships.

We also have to give special mention to the large production shows. The ship’s theater is simply a technological marvel that you have to see. The shows that are on board also take full advantage of the technology to offer something to see that’s stunning.

What We Didn’t Like

We found it hard to find fault with much of anything aboard Celebrity Ascent. But if we had to find something, we will mention that a late-night party on the pool deck could be heard in our cabin on deck 10 until close to 1 a.m. If you are a light sleeper, it could keep you up. Surprisingly, we asked some other passengers staying on our deck if they heard it and they did not. It could have just been our specific location on the ship.

And while we know that a cruise line like Celebrity is going to have some fancier dining, our personal tastes are fairly basic. We like to try new dishes, but not every meal. Having a few more “comfort food” items easily available would have been nice, but this was far from a deal breaker.

Should You Sail Celebrity Ascent?

So what’s the final takeaway? Let’s say that if you have an upcoming cruise on Ascent then we’re not just confident that you’ll enjoy the ship, we are jealous that you’re getting to sail. This was our first-ever cruise aboard Celebrity and it definitely left us impressed.

Now, we will say it won’t be for everyone. If you are a family sailing with kids, it might not be the right ship. Kids are welcome and there is a kids area for them to play while parents enjoy. Outside of that, however, there isn’t a ton — especially on the pool deck. Kids won’t have a bad time, but other lines and ships would be better.

However, those wanting a more sophisticated cruise — think a honeymoon, anniversary, or simply a cruise passenger who appreciates luxury — will find Ascent to be a perfect fit. And while the price tag is generally higher than other mass market lines, in our opinion it would be worth it.

More Photos of Celebrity Ascent

While we discussed a lot about the ship, there are some spots that we think are worth seeing that we didn’t get a chance to mention.

A shot of some of the elevator bays to give some idea of the style on the ship. One feature we loves is that the lights surrounding each elevator would turn red or green when the elevator arrived.
The casino on Ascent felt large to us with any game you want to play. We did notice that limits were higher than on cruise lines like Carnival or Royal Caribbean.
Artwork around the ship is stunning, including this mosaic in a dining room made of thousands of small rocks and stones.
This interior cabin is large enough to feature a desk and seating area and has the same style and design as much higher-end rooms on the ship.
The ship’s spa features every treatment imaginable. The thermal suite offers heated loungers that look out over the bow, rainfall showers, saunas, and more.

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  1. I also sailed this weekend. You have written an excellent truthful review! You didn’t mention the SUNSET BAR designed by Nate Berkus of HGTV. I thought the multi leveled bar was great to watch the sunset and meet fellow cruisers. The Moroccan/Mediterranean design made you think in Spain!

    • You’re right. I passed through there but with so little time, I didn’t get a chance to sit and relax/enjoy it! I could have happily spend another week onboard.


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