New cruise aboard one of Celebrity’s magnificent ships, the latest to date (September 2021): the Celebrity Apex, sister ship of the Edge, on which I loved my transatlantic in 2019. This ship is not very different from the Celebrity Edge, only a few details.
While I had always chosen an Aqua Class cabin on this company (which includes access to the spa and especially the excellent Blu restaurant), this time I wanted to test a suite, and have access to the Retreat, the private part reserved for the passengers of the suites.
The suites on Celebrity can reach new heights, with in particular the Iconic Suite or the Edge Villa, on 2 loft-style floors. The first category, more modest level, are the Sky Suites, from S3 to S1, depending on their more or less advantageous location on the boat.
My cabin is a Sky Suite S1 (11204), with a surface area of approximately 300 square meters. The bed faces the bay window opening onto a balcony of approximately 10à square meters. The design is elegant and warm without being flashy. A sofa can be transformed into an extra bed, a coffee table and a stool complete the “living room” area. A large television (swivel) overhangs a piece of furniture with 3 large drawers and a fridge. A removable table extends this piece of furniture. In the folded position, we benefit from a full height mirror. In unfolded mode, with an armchair placed in front, we have a small desk.
The content of the fridge is not included in the price of the cruise … although the cruise ticket includes a premium drink package … surprising. But apparently, water and beers are not excluded in the end, and the bottles are regularly put back in the fridge, without invoicing. Another surprising point for this cabin category: no coffee machine.
The electrical connections are complete and we appreciate the box which allows you to hide (a little) all the cables that you may have to connect. Small disappointment: while there are many sockets next to the bed on one side (including a double USB socket), there is nothing on the other side … so no connection for the smartphone if you are bad side of the bed (no USB or electrical outlet).
A strong point of the cabin is its integration into the Celebrity application: everything is controlled from your phone! Air conditioning, opening and closing of curtains, lighting (with several turnkey configurations) … but also media broadcasting on television (photos, videos …).
To stream a video from his phone on the TV, the system uses the principle of Chromecast. A specific code is displayed on the television, and allows you to connect to it. Better, with the Wifi Stream package (included in the price of the cruise for the suites), you can watch a movie directly from Netflix or any other equivalent online service. Having tried it several times, I confirm that it is a very good system, which works perfectly.
The bathroom is large enough and in 3 parts: a large basin with 2 taps surrounded by plenty of storage space, a shower-bathtub with several jets, and an isolated toilet. The mirror above the basin opens in 2 to reveal a window overlooking the bedroom and therefore allowing all the light coming from outside the cabin to pass through.
The bathroom products provided are of good quality, better than those generally found in conventional cabins. Room service is impeccable.
The balcony is large enough, with 2 armchairs and a small coffee table (which would have deserved to be bigger, or even to be a real high table).
Suites give access to the Retreat, a private place at the front of the ship. It consists of a lounge, a terrace and an exterior upper deck. The lounge is moderately large, but sufficient to find a quiet corner either in large armchairs, large sofas or a table like bar table. A weak point: almost no electrical outlet has been provided. As a result, passengers who come with their laptop are often very helpless!
Before the pandemic, we found in this lounge many self-service drinks, coffees, waters, wines, beers … but everything has been removed. There are still a few small fridges where you can still find a few soda-like drinks. Everything else is now to be ordered from the bartender. At certain times of the day, light meals are also available. Likewise, I have the impression that the offer has been reduced (especially in terms of schedule, because during most of the day this small buffet was empty most of the time).
From this lounge one can access via a staircase to a sundeck, also private and much larger than the lounge. We then go through an exterior part of the lounge, a sort of terrace, another quiet place. Upstairs there are therefore many lounge chairs, a jacuzzi, a small swimming pool (which I call a water hole, because to call it a swimming pool would be an exaggeration!), As well as a bar open during the day.
I was surprised by the large number of passengers present here during the day (to the point of sometimes not seeing an empty lounge chair, it looked like the MSC Yacht Club!). I learned, while discussing with the Concierge, that on this cruise Celebrity had authorized a lot of upgrades, to make discover the Retreat to as many people as possible. So not the normal density of the place, I hope.
Everyone is very caring for the passengers here, and the overall vibe is nice, although I wonder if Celebrity might be abusing its concept by overloading it a bit too much. To give an example, on a day when most of the lounge chairs were occupied in the Retreat, there was plenty of poolside seating in the center of the ship … exactly the opposite of what you would expect, considering the price to book a suite!
Suite passengers also have a restaurant reserved for them, the Luminae. Same effect as on the sundeck, especially at the start of the cruise: long queue and long wait before getting a table. The same causes producing the same effects! As the cruise progressed over time, things became normalized, and access became faster. This restaurant is open morning and evening, and at noon if the ship is at sea (non-stop days).
Positioned as a French gourmet restaurant, whose chef, Daniel Bouloud, is also French, the menu offers very good dishes. The ceremonial is a bit “too much”, American style. In this restaurant, as elsewhere on the ship, there are many waitresses and waiters from Mauritius. An opportunity for them, and for us, to speak French!
The dishes are varied and generally good, although the variety of choices is reduced on the menu (2 or 3 starters, a soup, 3 or 4 courses), 3 or 4 desserts. This is more than enough you will tell me. But it is much less than in the menus of other restaurants. Quality rather than quantity?
However, it is difficult not to notice that the high-end French style here is aimed at an American clientele, and that for French people, we are more at the level of a good Parisian brasserie. So a good standard, but not that of a gourmet restaurant. If some dishes are above average from time to time, other dishes reduce the image that Celebrity wanted to give to this restaurant.
I really keep my preference for the restaurant associated with the Aqua Class cabins, the Blu, which offers more choices, and of a level that does not have to pall against the Luminae. We note that suite passengers also have access to the Blu, provided there is space available. This allowed me to dine there one evening and confirm my preference for this restaurant which remains excellent across all of Celebrity’s ships.
The Luminae is a good restaurant that far surpasses what you find on most competing companies, and is akin to a restaurant like the one at Haven on Norwegian. Maybe it wasn’t worth abusing high-sounding marketing, which ultimately serves it up.
The other restaurants
While I put a few caveats on the form, I can also say that the overall food on the Celebrity Apex is of a very good standard, well above the competition. This is especially true for the buffet, the Oceanview Café, which offers a variety of choices that are always surprising and of a very high quality. For me this is the best buffet of all the cruise ships I know of. Same level as Viking, except that there is more choice (because the boat is still much bigger).
I did not try one of the 4 restaurants included in the price of the cruises (the Normandie, the Cyprus, the Cosmopolitain and the Tuscan), due to lack of time, so many other possibilities are available, for an 8-night cruise. But all the echoes that I have had are nevertheless excellent.
I tried 2 specialty restaurants: Eden Restaurant and Raw on 5 (twice!).
The Raw On 5 is an “à la carte” seafood and fish restaurant, with a lot of raw dishes, such as oysters (a classic for the French, but not that common on cruise ships), sushi, sashimi or rolls.
I particularly liked a lobster salad, and I had it the 2 times I had dinner here. The oysters, according to the waiter, came from France in general, but this time, following a rupture, they were supplied in Dubrovnik. All the other dishes tasted only confirmed that for the seafood lover that I am, this is an inevitable passage aboard the Celebrity Apex. And by going back a second time, we are entitled to -25% on the second bill.
The Eden restaurant, which I had already tested on the Celebrity Edge, also left me with excellent memories, so it seemed like a good idea to go back to the Apex. The surprise is that the concept has totally changed. On the Edge, it was a 5-course menu, each time to choose between 2 proposals. Now we end up with a long menu from which we choose a starter and a main course. Not at all so original. The waiter insists on the central idea of this new version of the restaurant: the extreme quality of the ingredients. We won’t be disappointed, everything is excellent. But we lost part of the originality to return to the more classic, perhaps to less disturb the regulars of the company? From my point of view, this Apex “Eden Restaurant” is excellent (special mention for the ceviche and the lobster casserole), but the one on the Edge is more interesting, especially for a price of $ 55 per person.
The rest of the ship
Walking on the different decks of the Celebrity Apex is a source of wonder. The styles vary depending on the location of the ship, but I find all of these places very pleasant.
And for the fan of this brand that I am, I love the iLounge, in partnership with Apple, where you can buy a wide selection of their products, without paying taxes!
One of the major attractions of the Edge Class ships is the Magic Carpet, a platform that cannot be missed by its orange color, on one side of the ship. She moves throughout the day to different bridges. It is a bar and a restaurant with an obviously incomparable view. Positioned at the lowest point, the Magic Carpet also serves as a landing stage when it is necessary to take a tender to go ashore, making the exercise incredibly easy.
The service was impeccable, particularly for the part related to the suites, where all the staff are not only attentive to the slightest requests, but especially ahead of them most of the time. Our buttler came to see us regularly, just to find out if everything was going well, almost regretting that we had nothing to ask, nor any complaints! Room service, very discreet, took place twice a day, and systematically adapted to our schedules (sometimes wide!).
The health protocol required the mask to be worn at all times, except when seated, to eat or drink. The temperature is taken daily. The company made us pass 2 PCR tests, one in the middle of the cruise, for control, and the other on the last day, in order to facilitate the return to the home port and to give an official document to travelers who will need it to return to their country.
No cases of Covid were discovered on board during the cruise.
I always prefer to go ashore on my own, without necessarily buying excursions from the company. Different from the MSC or Costa in this period of travel restrictions, Celebrity left its passengers free to go ashore, without imposing anything. Suffice to say that it changed me from my previous cruise on the MSC Seashore where all outings were limited to the company’s “bubble” excursions (generally of no great interest!).
For this excellent cruise, from all points of view, I had therefore chosen to discover the Retreat experience by booking a Sky Suite. In “all-inclusive” mode, it cost me $ 2375, or a little less than a week in a Yacht Club on the Seashore, for an experience beyond measure, to the advantage of Celebrity of course!
Suffice to say that I intend to repeat the experience! I actually booked a 9 night cruise on the Celebrity Beyond next June!