Inside Celebrity Beyond, the new cruise ship for those who don’t like cruising
Strike the drums, sound the bugles and meet Kate McCue, the first American woman to lead a cruise ship. It shouldn’t be much, but it is. And she’s just one of the stars aboard the Celebrity Beyond, which has nearly 3,000 berths.
McCue, who looks more than just actress Sandra Bullock, walks around with a badge on her jacket saying, “Please don’t call it a boat.” (In cruise-speak, apparently, they’re still ships). And with a strut in her stride, she’s serious.
Celebrity Beyond is getting more starry. Enter (although, sadly, she’s not here) Gwyneth Paltrow who, along with her lifestyle brand Goop, has partnered with Celebrity Cruises as a Wellness Advisor. From smoothies to yoga sessions, healthy elements are everywhere on Beyond. I can certainly guarantee the deep tissue massage at the spa. It took at least 50 people to wake me up afterwards.
Nick Redman sets sail from Southampton on the nearly 3,000-berth Celebrity Beyond, pictured, for her maiden sail
Gwyneth Paltrow, with her lifestyle brand Goop, has partnered with Celebrity Cruises as a wellness advisor
In my time (the 1970s), the words “celebrity” and “cruises” in the same sentence invariably meant that Kenneth Williams, Sid James and the crew of Carry On were misbehaving somewhere on the ocean wave.
How long ago does that feel, as I gaze upon my surroundings on Beyond’s maiden sail this week from Southampton – in a light blue English Channel, inducing an unusual tan that could easily pass for the sea off Mykonos.
Forget big buffets and slides. This ship – like its siblings, Edge and Apex (a fourth, called Ascent, and an unnamed fifth are in the works) – is determined to ring in the changes. Indeed, Celebrity Beyond is the cruise ship for people who think they won’t like cruises. Whether it works is another matter, but you have to admire the nerve.
Gwyneth Paltrow might not be to everyone’s taste — let’s not forget she gifted the world with a candle called This Smells Like My Vagina — but what’s being sold on board here is a little less controversial. It includes Goop Glow Lotion, Goopgenes Nourishing Lip Balm and G.Tox Detox Super Powder.
From smoothies to yoga sessions, healthy elements are everywhere on Beyond, according to Nick. Above is its spa area
“I can certainly guarantee the deep tissue massage at the spa. It took at least 50 people to wake me up next,” Nick writes. Above is one of the spa’s treatment rooms
So far, so wacky. I then watch The Theatre, which has a show called Arte. It’s a gallop through a century of art with a screen that projects images à la Roy Lichtenstein and Klimt.
And where on a ship, anywhere in the world, could you find an art gallery – called The Art Gallery – that holds auctions? Chris Greyvenstein, who works for Park West Gallery and sells on board, tells me: “About an hour ago I received 18 signed Salvador Dalis. He hopes to sell the lot.
Continuing the artsy note, there’s an “immersive transition space” en route to dinner. It’s a mirrored gallery of lumpy bronze sculptures to sit on. Why? Look for me. Apparently it’s meant to stimulate the senses – hence the vanilla aroma that emanates – as you head towards Eden in the back.
A relaxation room in the spa. Passengers can invest in wellness products – such as Goop Glow Lotion – from Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop brand
“Sometimes it doesn’t even look like a ship. It’s more like a Manhattan designer hotel floating offshore,” Nick writes. Above is the ship’s spa area
With its geodesic-style windows, this multi-level restaurant might look like the pterosaur aviary from Jurassic World, but it serves down-to-earth cuisine, including excellent Beef Wellington. And it has a fine line in eco-sounding cocktails, such as “Clouds.”
Captain Kate is right. It’s not a boat, and sometimes it doesn’t even look like a ship. It looks more like a Manhattan designer hotel floating offshore.
My icy “cabin” has interiors by designer Kelly Hoppen, TV’s queen of stone tones. She also created, among other spaces, The Retreat, on the upper deck.
“Celebrity Beyond is the cruise ship for people who think they won’t like cruises. Whether it works is another matter, but you have to admire the nerve,’ Nick writes
Celebrity Beyond is offering a seven-night cruise from Fort Lauderdale on November 13 from £1,579 pp (celebritycruises.com).
It’s what you might call an exclusive resort within a resort, where guests happy to pay top dollar can book Instagrammable two-story apartments with plunge pools or sprawling royal suites. I show the decks of impeccably styled bars and restaurants that wouldn’t be out of place in Paris, Mumbai or London. Among them is Normandie, with its dusty pink Art Deco looks; Cyprus and Tuscany; and the intimate Le Voyage: the first restaurant at sea by world-starred chef Daniel Boulud.
The most curious feature of Celebrity’s Edge-class ships is the magic carpet – imagine a large glass-enclosed elevator that can be moved up and down the side of the hull to different floors. Depending on the time of day, this can serve as a lobby, welcoming onboard guests or a trendy dining spot.
After this episode, I head for a second cocktail party in the Grand Plaza, the heart of the ship, which centers around the magnificent Martini Bar lit by a huge chandelier chandelier. And I love how the drink list informs you: “All martinis are available in jumbo size”.
Finally, I sit outside at the Sunset Bar and have the chance to meet Nemanja Markovic, from Montenegro. If anyone can make the coast off Bournemouth feel like the height of summer in Bodrum, it’s Nemanja and one of his marrakech super mules. I raise my glass to a fresh start for the cruise.