A life-sized silver peacock guards the entrance to the Cyprus restaurant on Celebrity Beyond. Clarita Brinkerhoff’s Homage to Hera is studded with some 28,854 sparkling Swarovski crystals, all set by hand. Like everything on this swish, sumptuous new ship, including the 4,500-piece art collection, it’s both a thing of beauty and a talking point.
Celebrity Beyond is the newest and biggest member of the Celebrity Cruises fleet and embarked on her maiden voyage from the British port of Southampton in April. Celebrity’s design team has taken elements that were already fabulous in Edge and Apex, Beyond’s predecessors, and created something even better. Cool, stylish interiors meet expansive outdoor space dotted with greenery, secluded spaces and bars with a South-Beach-meets-the-Med vibe.
The ship is luxurious without seeming opulent, and chic without overloading on glitz. You won’t find white-gloved waiters standing to attention, or a requirement to wear black tie for dinner, or instructions to sit at the same table every night. This is the ultimate ship for Gen X. It’s the ship that will blow away all your preconceptions about cruising.
If you’re already familiar with Celebrity’s Edge-class ships, there are some enhancements on the new vessel. Beyond is 20m longer and has an extra deck, which means there’s an even wider choice of dining and entertainment venues.
There’s more than a little star-quality sparkle thrown into all of Celebrity’s newest ships, thanks to partnerships with superstar chef Daniel Boulud, famed British interior designer Kelly Hoppen, and Gwyneth Paltrow, Celebrity’s Wellbeing Advisor and founder of wellness website Goop.
There’s more star quality in Captain Kate McCue, who’s at the helm of Beyond and is the first American woman to captain a major cruise ship. With 357,000 Instagram followers and a cool three million more on TikTok, Captain Kate is pulling in the cruise fans and flying the flag for diversity, a concept Celebrity takes very seriously.
Much of the new space on board is taken up by The Retreat, Celebrity’s enclave of suites. This ship-within-a-ship complex gets larger and more lavish with every new vessel the line builds. Suites range from the spacious Sky Suites to the seriously big hitters. Edge Villas, for example, span two decks and have a private plunge pool. The two Iconic suites, the biggest, sit on the bridge, enjoying vast entertaining space, their own Peloton bikes, huge decks and a curated collection of tasteful objects d’art.
Stay in a suite and you can dine at Luminae at The Retreat, a suites-only restaurant designed by Kelly Hoppen and featuring signature dishes by Daniel Boulud including octopus pasta salad, herb-crusted rack of lamb and lime and berry pavlova. There’s also a tranquil Retreat Lounge and the best bit, a private sunbathing space that now spans two decks and has its own pool, over which three hanging cocoon chairs are suspended.
New on Beyond are the Aqua Sky Suites, a step up from the AquaClass staterooms. Either category is a good bet if you want to spend time in the SEA Thermal Suite, a serene paradise of saunas, steam, healing salt crystals and luxurious heated loungers, as access here is included. Guests in these suites can try out Goop-recommended amenities, too, from an acupressure mat to a “crystal-infused meditation pillow”.
You’ll be able to enjoy the healthy menus in Blu, a restaurant exclusive to AquaClass guests (Aqua Sky Suite guests can eat in Luminae, too), although I’d recommend trying some of the other restaurants. Why would you eat in the same place every night when there are 18 different venues to try?
This combination of unfettered luxury and choice, says Tim Jones, Celebrity’s vice president and managing director, Asia Pacific, is what makes the ship stand out. “Not everybody who wants a luxury holiday wants a small ship experience,” he told me. “Beyond offers all the beauty and seclusion and the intimate level of service you get on a small ship but couples it with amazing venues like Eden and the production shows in The Theatre, and all the restaurants.”
Familiar bars and restaurants from other Celebrity ships appear on Beyond, with some changes. The Rooftop Garden, a lounging area enclosed by living plants and hedges, and sculptural “trees”, is bigger, with the addition of two infinity pools cantilevered out over the side of the ship. Be warned: Anybody approaching the pools along the deck can see your legs kicking around and the magnifying effect of the glass is not flattering.
The Sunset Bar, always a popular hangout for sundowners as the ship leaves port, has had a makeover by designer Nate Berkus. Now it spans two decks and has a cool, almost Mexican vibe, with squashy sofas from which you can gaze out over the ship’s wake.
Also new are three superb production shows. I’d challenge even the harshest cruise show sceptic not to be blown away by these. There are no fussy stage sets, just vast, high-definition screens, 33.5m wide, forming a backdrop to the dancers.
I saw two of the three. In Elements, there’s an additional star of the show, Daniel Wurzel’s “air fountain”, a silky sheet that flies, twirls and dances, untethered, in a jet of air, at one point extending out over the audience. Arte, meanwhile, uses a dramatic backdrop of famous paintings that come to life with jaw-dropping dance routines as you’re catapulted through a century of fine art. There were standing ovations all round and I would go to each show again.
Eden is another gorgeous space, a beautiful, airy lounge at the aft end of the ship, spanning three decks and encircled on three sides by the greatest expanse of glass ever to be fitted on a cruise ship. To get here, you wander through Odyssey, another art installation in the form of a dark, shimmering hall
of mirrors dotted with vast, smooth rock-like formations in gleaming bronze. Unsurprisingly, Odyssey is the subject of many a selfie. You’ll emerge into a space that’s flooded with light and filled with whimsical sculpture and tropical plants, creating the feeling of a jungly conservatory that also comes with a cocktail bar, café and fine dining restaurant. At night, the mood in Eden changes from airy lounge to sultry nightclub, complete with acrobatic cabaret dancers. Once a week, there’s a silent disco here, at which you can put on a pair of headphones and dance with wild abandon.
The social hub of the ship is the Grand Plaza. Restaurants and bars surround this space on decks four and five, looking down over the Martini Bar, over which a shimmering LED chandelier is suspended. Check the daily programme for the Chandelier Show, when the installation ripples with light. Underneath, the mixologists juggle bottles and cocktail shakers, performing amazing – and amusing – stunts and demonstrating astonishing skill as they prepare the bar’s signature martinis.
I love the Magic Carpet, an orange platform cantilevered over the side of the ship. The platform moves up and down, with a different function at each of its resting places. On Deck Five, it serves as an al-fresco extension to the superb Raw on 5 seafood restaurant, while on Deck 14, it becomes a lounge adjacent to the pool. On a sunny day, you can sink into a squashy, grey-and-white sofa and breathe in the sea air. With water on three sides, you really do feel as though you’re flying.
Does Celebrity Beyond sound too good to be true? I’d struggle to think who wouldn’t enjoy it. Couples, families, groups of friends, anybody LGBTQ+,
those cruise-doubters who think all ships are garish theme parks or mired in tradition and routine – even people who think they’d never be happy on a big
ship. Head for the Mediterranean in summer or the Caribbean in winter to try it out. You’ll get a taste for life on Edge-class ships ready for when Celebrity Edge comes to Australia in December 2023. And you’ll be back for more.
What was your favourite meal on Beyond? Le Voyage is a treat. Daniel Boulud’s first signature restaurant at sea is inspired by the chef’s travels around the world. It’s located off the Grand Plaza but has no windows, so you’re focused entirely on the cocoon-like atmosphere, just 50 covers in surroundings of soft gold – and the food. There are just eight starters and nine mains which dazzle in their delicacy and explode with taste.
I had exquisite tamarind and peanut-crusted prawns with a papaya slaw and a green Thai curry, followed by branzino in za’atar spice with a fennel confit and a citrus sauce, a thing of beauty. Book early.
What should I do on Celebrity Beyond? Relax on the Magic Carpet. Hang out at the cool Sunset Bar. Watch the Chandelier Show in the Grand Plaza.
Go and see all the shows in the Theatre and then head for The Club for DJ sets, karaoke and dancing. Spend a day in the SEA Thermal Suite. Bask in a “martini glass” hot tub on a slender stalk, looking down on the pool. Introduce your kids to Camp at Sea, featuring more than 500 activities. Dine in Le Petit Chef at Le Grand Bistro, an enchanting 3D animation in which tiny chef figures race around your plate, chattering and chopping food, amid a riot of colour. Just as they complete your 3D dish, waiters arrive, bearing the real thing.
What should I pack?
There’s no need for anything formal, just smart casual. Expect to spend a lot of time on deck. Bring workout gear if you want to try the classes in the gym.