Celebrity Beyond review: ‘A star quality cruise ship’ | Travel

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A a life-size silver peacock guards the entrance to the Cypriot restaurant on Celebrity Beyond. Tribute to Hera by Clarita Brinkerhoff, part of the ship’s 4,500-piece art collection, is studded with some 28,854 sparkling Swarovski crystals, all set by hand. Like everything about this sleek new ship, it makes me look twice.

The 3,260-passenger Celebrity Beyond launched in May, slightly larger and arguably even better than its sisters, Edge and Apex. As the ship looks huge when I look at it from the Southampton dock – and distinctive, with a large tangerine-coloured platform cantilevered over the side – I climb the gangway and step into a world far removed from all the cruise clichés of Vegas Glitz or floating retirement homes. Instead, beyond is a bit South Beach, with Mediterranean, Mexican and Moroccan touches.

Celebrity calls itself a luxury cruise line, but that doesn’t mean the luxury of a white-gloved waiter or the fancy dress of a diner. On my two-day mini-cruise, Beyond turns out to be, quite simply, a good time to relax, with imaginative cuisine and a steady stream of martinis in a setting that is reminiscent of a W hotel very much bigger.

An Infinite Veranda cabin

RYAN WICKS

There’s more than a little star-quality shine thrown into all of Celebrity’s new ships. “Queen of Neutrals” Kelly Hoppen designed the interiors of The Retreat, a collection of 196 suites and calming common spaces shared by their occupants. These include a gorgeous private terrace with cocoon chairs suspended above the pool, an exclusive lounge, and Luminae, an elegant restaurant where only the biggest spenders can dine.

There is more. Daniel Boulud, the superstar French chef whose dishes are already on the Luminae menu, has opened his first restaurant at sea on Beyond, named Le Voyage. Celebrity Wellness Advisor Gwyneth Paltrow picked out goodies from her Goop website, including an acupressure mat and a “crystal-infused meditation pillow” to adorn Aqua Class cabins, which offer extra perks for health conscious people.

Fame has its own fame too. Captain Kate McCue is the first American woman to helm a major cruise ship, and she documents life at sea on her 369,000 Instagrams and more than three million TikTok followers.

I peek into some of the most lavish suites, which offer a world of unparalleled luxury if you have the money. The light-filled Edge Villas, which cost around £7,500 pp for a week, span two decks and come with a private plunge pool. If I were to win the lottery, I’d throw a party in one of the two Iconic Suites, the largest on the ship, which sleeps up to six people and costs just £19,500 pp for seven nights. The Iconic suites are located at the top of the deck and have a better view even than Captain Kate. Perks include an expansive outdoor area with a hot tub, Peloton bike, butler, and Hoppen’s carefully curated collection of tasteful artwork. But this isn’t a ship just for the super-rich; inside cabins start at around £750 pp for a week.

The pool terrace

The pool terrace

MICHEL GREENERY

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There are also plenty of activities, including quizzes, live music, movies, gambling lessons, and glitzy shops to explore. No scholarly lectures, though.

Most passengers seem content to just laze around the pool during my short cruise. But I prefer to stay active, so I head to the gym. The ship has an F45 studio (“Eight hundred calories burned in 45 minutes,” the instructor tells me enthusiastically), but yoga, at £15.50, or spinning, at £16.25, are more my thing than intense circuits. The spa is one of the finest at the sea; the SEA Thermal Suite is a haven of saunas, steam, healing salt crystals and luxurious heated loungers.

Around the ship there are plenty of places to people watch or hide. Swish cabanas – a whopping £405 for a day, including various drinks and snacks – line the main pool. The Rooftop Bar and Grill is a lovely space to curl up with a book in the sun, the chill-out area surrounded by plants and hedges. Two glass-walled infinity pools cantilever over the side of the ship here, which is a nice touch, as the sea views are endless (although I notice the magnifying effect of the glass is decidedly unflattering; anyone approaching the pool along the deck can see you kicking around, deformed to the size of a baby elephant).

The magic carpet

The magic carpet

MICHEL GREENERY

My favorite spot during the day is the tangerine platform known as the Magic Carpet, suspended above the sea on the side of the ship and able to move between decks. This tennis court-sized space, with plush gray and white sofas and three-sided sea views, is an outdoor relaxation lounge when next to the pool deck; when positioned on deck five, it serves as an outdoor extension of the Raw on 5 seafood restaurant.

Time passes in a haze of exploration, relaxation, grazing and – to compensate – trying out classes in the gym. Far too early, it’s cocktail hour. I head to the two-deck-high Sunset Bar, which wouldn’t be out of place on an Ibizan beach thanks to its whitewashed colonnade, geometric tiles, and deep couches, all overlooking the ship’s wake. The English Channel is a little breezy, though, so I drop by the Martini Bar in the Grand Plaza, under a shimmering contemporary chandelier that vibrates to the beat of the music as mixologists juggle bottles and flip shakers, tossing glasses into the tunes as they prepare the bar’s signature martinis.

I am lucky to have a reservation in Le Voyage de Boulud. All the other restaurants on the ship are open plan, so you can see inside, but this one, located next to the Grand Plaza and with only 50 covers, has an air of secrecy, hidden behind a heavy door that clears the hustle and bustle of the ship. I enter a cocoon-like room adorned with soft gold.

There are only eight starters and nine main courses, but if the menu is minimalist, the dishes are bursting with flavor. The tamarind and peanut crusted prawns with papaya salad and Thai green curry are exquisite, while my spiced sea bass za’atar with fennel confit and citrus sauce is a thing of beauty. You would be hard pressed to find food of this quality ashore from a Michelin starred chef for £60, the very reasonable cover charge.

Celebrity Beyond main plaza

Celebrity Beyond main plaza

Later, I head to the ship’s theater, which – to my relief – doesn’t even offer a glimmer of the pier-end, feather-and-sequin shows traditionally associated with cruising. Tonight’s performance is the slick, high-tech Elements, singers and dancers backed by massive 33.5m wide high definition screens. At center stage is installation artist Daniel Wurtzel’s ‘air fountain’, a silky sheet that flies, twirls and dances, free, in a jet of air, at one point expanding on the audience.

I am hypnotized. But here, I’m a little dazzled by the whole ship. Confession time: I am normally more comfortable on a small expedition vessel. But if anything should persuade me to take my friends and family on something bigger, Beyond would definitely be the one.

Sue Bryant was a Celebrity Cruises guest. A nine-night cruise from Barcelona to Rome starts at £1,606 pp, including drinks, wi-fi and gratuities, departing September 24 (celebritycruises.com). Fly to Barcelona

Kelly Hoppen

Kelly Hoppen: “I wanted to change the face of the cruise industry”

When I was first asked to design a cruise ship I said no, it wasn’t for me – I usually design high-end yachts and thought cruises would be very different. But then Celebrity said they would let me do whatever I wanted. It was different. I told them I wanted to change the face of the cruise industry, and they said, “It’s music to our ears. And they kept their word.

When I design a cruise ship now, I do nothing different than when I design a five-star hotel. We strive to choose the perfect art and details for each space. Everything is at the highest level of luxury – every image is handpicked and everything we design is made as if it were a private home.

Of course, when you’re designing something on water you have to adhere to strict regulations – you can’t have lights hanging as low as you’d like, for example – but when you’re working with it best in the company, you can find a way around it.

We were the first to put two-story villas and endless verandas (where you can open the doors and windows that usually close the terrace) on a ship, and I think it’s all just spectacular – you can’t not believe you are floating in the middle of the ocean.

It’s an amazing feeling to be on a cruise: it’s so vast you barely feel like you’re on a boat, and it opens your eyes to what the journey can be like. It is coincidental that the new ship is called Beyond; early on there was Celebrity Edge, when we were on the edge of something new, and now, post-pandemic, the idea of ​​being beyond everything that’s happened is perfect.
As told to Georgia Stephens

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