ABOARD CELEBRITY APEX_581 days.
Celebrity Cruises President and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo told us that’s how long it’s been from the original date of Celebrity Apex’s grand U.S. debut. Then the pandemic hit.
But now the time has come, and Ms. Lutoff-Perlo delivered a simple but powerful message to an assembled crowd of travel advisors, media and guests:
“The comeback will be stronger than the setback.” Amen.
We were all there for a short preview cruise and the official Godmother naming ceremony. A longtime, maritime tradition, the Godmother for Apex is Reshma Saujani, founder of the non-profit Girls Who Code and author of bestseller, “Brave, Not Perfect.” After remarks by Royal Caribbean Chairman and CEO Richard Fain, along with Ms. Lutoff-Perlo, Ms. Saujani initiated the crashing of the giant champagne bottle against the hull. Let the party begin!
Apex joins Celebrity Edge as the second ship in the “Edge” series. A third ship, Celebrity Beyond, is coming next year.
For the next 36 hours, we had a chance to get to know Apex, which included meeting with Celebrity executives, participating in “immersion” sessions to learn about its features and operations, along with free time to explore on our own.
To board, you’ll have to be vaccinated (and show your vax card), as well as submit a negative COVID test (antigen or PCR) taken within the last 48 hours. You’ll want to download their app in advance — it will help streamline the boarding process, although in our case we still had to do some things manually. A bonus was no masks are required while on the ship. Thank goodness.
Having sailed previously on most of their Solstice and Millennium-class ships, we’ve always been big fans of Celebrity. This was our first Edge-class experience, and even with our short time onboard, they have clearly taken what was already a great product to a whole new level.
Known as market leaders in art-at-sea and design, Apex is a delight for the senses at every turn, with amazing attention to detail, creating a succession of “wow” moments as you walk through public spaces, restaurants and shops.
Our first “wow” was after we dropped off the luggage in our Infinity Veranda stateroom. Instead of a traditional balcony, that space was enclosed by floor-to-ceiling glass. At a touch of a button, the top window drops down to afford open-air views. When you want privacy, another button drops a shade. The extra room gained allows for a king size bed. Well done!
We also appreciated the number of charging outlets. Wifi was reasonably fast, but restricted to only one device at a time.
One of the signature features of Apex, like Edge, is the Magic Carpet, an orange, cantilevered, moveable platform that serves as a lounge, bar and dining venue, as well as a boarding area for getting on and off the tenders. Sit back on one of the sofas or chairs, have a cocktail and watch the waves go by below you.
I got to try out boarding a tender from the Magic Carpet, and now I’m definitely spoiled — not only by the ease of stepping on and off, but also by the tender itself. Celebrity had them specially designed by a yacht company, and their rows of leather seats are like no tender you’ve taken before.
One more note: You’ll always know what floor the Magic Carpet is on by checking its status in the elevators.
There are a total of 29 restaurants and bars onboard — something for every taste. The first night we had dinner in one of the four main dining rooms, Normandie. Each one has its own central theme, which provides some variety you typically don’t get in main dining.
The second night found us in Eden, looking much like the proverbial garden. Aside from housing one of its most sought-after specialty restaurants, it’s also a spectacular, three-level space, filled with living plants, whimsical art, a bar and entertainment space, all located against a geodesic wall of glass. Altogether, it’s an amazing feat of maritime engineering.
Both the food and the service were good, but I would want to spend more time on the ship to do a fair assessment of each.
Guests have lots of options for places to relax or party. A popular one is the Rooftop Garden on deck 15, with all the look and feel of a city park. It also features a restaurant, the Rooftop Garden Grill, as well as a big screen to show movies.
One deck down is the pool area, with a giant LED screen on one end and a hands forming a heart sculpture on the other. For fitness buffs, there’s a jogging/walking track that spans two decks. You can also reserve one of the high-end cabanas and enjoy your own private party.
Adjacent to the pool is the Solarium, an adults-only pool area under a glass dome. If we had more time, no doubt we would have done some major chilling here.
On decks 4 and 5, the heart of the ship is the Grand Plaza, featuring a towering LED light sculpture over the Martini Bar. It’s a main gathering place for drinks, dancing and just hanging out.
If money is no object, Apex can provide whatever luxury you can afford in a variety of suites, including some that are two-story. Designed by Kelly Hoppen, they are as beautiful and they are functional, with all the niceties you would expect. We were told the largest, the Iconic Suite, goes for as much as $100,000 per sailing. Which reminds me, I need a buy a lottery ticket.
A nice perk for suite guests is their own private space: The Retreat Lounge and the Retreat Sundeck. They also have their own private restaurant, Luminae, and it’s gorgeous.
For entertainment, we dropped into The Club on deck 4, a multi-level space where we listened to a band. It’s also used to stage productions. After dinner on the first night, we saw “Crystallize,” a high-tech, music and lights, dance and acrobatics extravaganza in The Theatre. The artistry was amazing, but we’re not the biggest fans of electric violin.
On the last night, we headed to the Rooftop Garden for the 80s Flashback Party. It took a little coaxing by the DJ, but eventually the dance floor was filled with people gyrating to Michael Jackson’s greatest hits and other 80s music. Yes, we got our groove on.
Shopping is another mainstay on Apex, and while onboard, the ship’s captain cut the ribbon for the grand opening of the only Montblanc lifestyle boutique at sea. Located on decks 4 and 5, you’ll find a number of famous brand names here, including Cartier, Bulgari and Konstantino Jewelry.
Detailing all the fabulous art pieces on Apex would take much too long, but among the most notable is a walk-through installation called Biota, by Japanese artist Kohei Nawa, featuring curved walls of chrome, and the Empower Flower, by Brazilian artist Rubem Robierb, complete with a cushion for those Kodak or smart phone moments.
It would seem hard for Celebrity to “one-up” itself when the third Edge ship, Celebrity Beyond, debuts in 2022. While onboard, I did run into Harri Kulovaara, Royal Caribbean’s EVP for Maritime and the innovative force behind the design of their ships. I asked him what we might expect. In a nutshell, he said “bigger and better.”
Summing up, Ms. Lutoff-Perlo told travel advisors there was a “silver lining in the COVID cloud,” that cruising provides “the safest vacation on planet Earth.” It does appear, judging by the accolades given Apex, the comeback will indeed be stronger than the setback.
PHOTOS credit Gerry Barker
Our Infinity Veranda stateroom
The Rooftop Garden
The Normandie dining room
The Magic Carpet
The Solarium at dawn
Celebrity Apex at sea (cover photo)
CruiseCompete travel advisors can assist with details and sailings.
All Things Cruise, ultimate source for cruise lovers ~
Interested in a land-tour, possibly all-inclusive? Try our VacationCompete site, where trusted vacation specialists compete to offer the best deals!
We reserve the right to correct any errors or omissions. Thank you.