After an excellent cruise with Celebrity Cruises aboard the last Edge class ship, Celebrity Beyond, I wanted to do it again! So I started looking for cruise opportunities this summer 2022, with the rule of not having to fly. From Paris, you can easily reach Barcelona or Amsterdam, 2 major cruise ports, directly by TGV (bullet train). At the same time, Celebrity has launched a promotion for “solo” travelers: while you generally have to pay for 2 even if you are alone in a cabin, this promotion, valid for a selection of cruises until the beginning of next year, canceled this additional cost. So from opportunity to opportunity, I fell for 3 cruises!
The first, in July, aboard the Celebrity Beyond, for 9 nights in the Mediterranean from Barcelona. I chose a “single” cabin, specially designed for one person. But with the promo, I was able to get an upgrade for the Aqua Class cabin (more interesting since it includes the Blu restaurant and access to the spa), for really not much more money.
The second, in August, aboard the Celebrity Apex, for 7 nights to the Norwegian fjords, departing from Amsterdam. I chose an inside cabin, but again, I had the option of finally having a cabin with a balcony, in Concierge Class.
And the third, in September, again aboard the Apex, still departing from Amsterdam, but to go around the British Isles this time, for 10 nights. The ship being far from full, the prices have dropped quite a bit and by opting for this cruise at the last moment, I was able to have a Sky Suite, including reserved access to the Retreat, as well as the Luminae restaurant.
Three ways to experience life aboard Celebrity’s latest vessels!
Travels by train, hotels
There is a certain satisfaction in reaching a cruise port without having to take a plane. It is first of all in tune with the times: avoid flying and its significant impact on the environment! But it is also the guarantee of a much less stressful trip. Not having to go through all the airport checks or checking that you haven’t violated one of the many restrictions associated with this mode of transport is relaxing. And the summer of 2022 was a disaster when it came to airports: disorganization, endless queues, potential loss of luggage, travelers on edge… Calmly walking along the platform, boarding, packing your suitcase in the spaces provided for this purpose, sit quietly in your place and let yourself be transported to the city of destination, without having to take endless public transport or taxis which painfully bring you back to the city center… “No fly cruises” !
For Barcelona, in summer, there are 2 direct TGVs (bullet trains) per day from Paris Gare de Lyon. I took the one at 10 a.m., and I chose a slightly unusual hotel: the Barcelo Sants, which is located directly above the Barcelona Sants train station. Difficult to do better to find yourself in your room, just arrived.
In Amsterdam, which is easily reached with the Thalys, the Nordic version of our TGV, I opted for a hotel right on the cruise terminal pier. It is less than a kilometer from the train station: you can even walk there from Amsterdam Centraal, if you have no problem walking a little. The boarding on the ship is then a few steps from the hotel the next morning… another appreciable comfort.
Embarkation and disembarkation
Celebrity’s mobile app is now central to the onboarding process. Everything must be prepared in advance: declaration of the vaccination status with proof for the 2 doses and even the booster (just have to download copies of the certificates), choice of the arrival slot (first come, first served)… in short, all of the registration is done before D-Day. Each time, I had one of the first slots (11:30 am). At the terminal, everything went very quickly. A verification of the vaccination certificate against Covid, the negative (antigenic) test… and we are authorized to board.
On these 3 cruises, I never took more than 20 minutes between entering the terminal, when you leave your suitcase, and entering my cabin. The record on Celebrity Beyond was 12 minutes. Yes, yes… 12 minutes after entering the terminal with my suitcase, I was in my cabin.
Access keycards are waiting at the cabin door, which obviously simplifies the whole process. Tear the little envelope, and the cabin door can be opened!
The process is fine-tuned, and it’s a quick and painless boarding.
Disembarkation is done in waves, according to an order number, assigned before the end of the cruise. When you are in a suite, you have a number among the first, but nothing forces you to rush. The only restriction is not to get off before your number is called, otherwise the luggage would not yet be available in the terminal.
Cabins must be vacated by 8 a.m. on the last morning. Passengers must have left the ship before 9am or 9.30am. Depending on the cabin reserved or the level of loyalty reached, different options are available to passengers. For the suites, the Retreat offers a light breakfast after the dedicated restaurant, the Luminae, closes at around 8am. Passengers loyal to the company, Elite level or higher have a restaurant reserved for them, also until the last moment. Easy to enjoy the ship one last time and get out at your own pace.
Cabins, stateroom service
The originality of the cabins with balcony on board the Edge class ships (Edge, Apex, Beyond, Ascent…) lies in the integration of this part normally exterior to the whole cabin. Criticized by some, praised by others, the concept may surprise. The cabin benefits from a significant extension of its interior in the closed position. And it is possible to configure the space to find a more classic balcony, even if the separation with the rest of the cabin is not identical to what has existed elsewhere for years.
These cabins are the same in all categories with balcony (Veranda, Concierge Veranda, Aqua Class Veranda…). Only the services associated with these cabins vary (and some colors inside the cabin). The Concierge version provides the assistance of a concierge for all procedures on board. The Aqua Class version gives access to both the spa and the Blu restaurant, included in the price. But the cabins are exactly the same.
The suites, the first level of which is called Sky Suite, are larger, with a more classic and larger balcony. The categories of suites then fly to huge cabins, including, on this class of ship, the Edge Suites, a sort of duplex on the front sides of the vessel, with a living room, a bedroom upstairs and an outdoor area serving as a terrace with a huge jacuzzi.
Cleaning in the cabins is done twice a day. In Concierge Class, you are entitled to petits fours in the afternoon. Then, the contents of the fridge are adapted to the preferences of the passengers. The concierge is there for the slightest request, from booking restaurants or shows, to more original things, such as organizing meals in the cabin, or delivering any order.
Internet, browse and stream
Internet access, via wifi on board, is also included by default. It’s limited to surfing, with no video, unless you choose a suite. Whether in the Mediterranean or further north in Norway, availability was almost permanent, with no major cuts. The flow was stable, whatever the situation. No complaints.
A feature that had disappeared for a while has made a comeback: the ability to send videos to the cabin television (“cast”). Once the connection manipulation is done, the smartphone applications that allow it can see their video transferred to the big screen. It works for example very well with Netflix (and the “stream” option of internet access, of course). Once the video is “sent” to the TV, you can watch Netflix in your cabin. It’s not HD, the stream is suitable for a limited bit rate, but it works.
Since September, the Beyond has shipped a Starlink connection, which offers a much higher speed. The first passengers who have been able to test this new option confirm much higher speeds, and therefore increased comfort of use. At the time of these first tests, the price of internet access had not been modified by Celebrity. Let’s bet it won’t last… but who knows?
To be continued, on next pages, restaurants, drinks, swimming pools and spa, the Retreat, theater, excursions and prices!