In this Celebrity Beyond review, guest contributors John and Sandra Nowlan offer readers a peak at the new ship, part of the line’s “cutting-edge” Edge class.
It’s easy to spot the unusual parabolic bow (designed for better water flow) and the unique Magic Carpet. This wide orange platform juts out from the starboard side of the ship, moves up and down over 13 stories, and serves as a bar, restaurant and tender platform.
Innovations continue inside the ship. Boarding usually happens in the three-story central Grand Plaza. A massive chandelier of color-changing LED lights rises over the main feature, the huge Martini Bar where waiters entertain regularly with their cocktail juggling skills.
Many large cruise ships have glass-enclosed elevators in this central area in addition to fore and aft elevator banks but Beyond has only two sets of stairs and lifts located near the front and back of the ship. It means a bit more walking and occasional congestion.
Exploring the ship from stem to stern
It takes several days to explore Celebrity Beyond in its entirety. But strolling from bow to stern is a great way to appreciate the imaginative artwork, the distinctive public rooms and passageways, plus the creative use of light and color. The casino (small by mega-ship standards) is non-smoking.
The designers placed Eden at the stern, where most ships of this size have the main dining room. This spacious area with three full stories of glass provides remarkable water views from the bar, the lounge, an entertainment area and the excellent specialty restaurant.
Deck 14 includes an open-air, 25-yard lap pool, one of the largest at sea. On the same deck, just behind the Spa is the adult-only Solarium, a dome-covered area with a pool, hot tubs and comfortable loungers.
One deck up is the splendid and well-cared-for Rooftop Garden with its own bar and grill, a giant screen for movies, and the ship’s unique meandering jogging track that includes a gentle incline to Deck 16. Five laps to a mile.
Our contemporary stateroom on Celebrity Beyond
The hallways, rooms and suites on Celebrity Beyond are all tastefully decorated in muted shades of gray and maroon. Most ocean-facing rooms boast another Celebrity innovation, the Infinite Balcony. Instead of a door leading to a standard balcony, that popular feature is part of the enhanced room size.
At the touch of a button, the top half of the full-frame window drops down providing sea air and an unobstructed view. The “balcony” area has chairs and more buttons to lower shades or draw a curtain to provide privacy. Most reviews we’ve seen love the feature although several people miss the standard balcony.
The ship wasn’t full and we enjoyed an upgrade to a Sky Suite, the entry-level suite with a standard balcony and about 300 square feet of space. It had a king-size bed, a sofa, and plenty of storage space. The bathroom had a full tub and shower plus a wide sink suitable for two.
We found plush bathrobes in our stateroom with slippers that were only one size. Too big for Sandra; too small for John. We missed having bedside reading lights, perhaps related to the fact that Celebrity Beyond has no library or even a common “take one; leave one” book corner.
The large, flat-screen TV had the usual news channels (MSNBC, Fox and BBC) but no CNN. Also, unlike other ships we’ve been on, there were no music channels. A big plus for us was Jenny, our efficient Filipino butler who connected us to the internet, made dinner reservations, reserved seats in the theatre, helped us view other rooms and even tracked down missing excursion tickets.
Expanded culinary options
Cuisine has always been a strong point on Celebrity cruises and the innovations continued on Beyond. Instead of a main dining room, the designers created four separate complimentary dining areas – Cyprus, Normandie, Tuscan and Cosmopolitan.
Each has a distinctive international theme plus dishes standard to all four restaurants. Up on Deck 14 the popular buffet, Oceanview Café, was laid out in a dozen or more food islands, each with its own specialty. Much superior to the buffets on most cruise ships, we never experienced overcrowding and the food choices at breakfast and lunch were excellent.
Most new cruise ships have expanded the number of extra-cost specialty restaurants and Celebrity has joined this trend. We tried three of them, Eden, Fine Cut Steakhouse and Le Voyage by Daniel Boulud.
Along with outstanding service, we enjoyed some of our best-ever lamb shank, crab cakes, lobster casserole, prime rib and filet mignon. Surprisingly, our only disappointing meal was at Luminae, the high-end restaurant exclusively for suite guests where the fish was less than prime. We were told that sometimes there was a seafood supply problem.
Celebrity Beyond is an appropriate description of the main theatre on this ship. The dazzling technology is state-of-the-art with a 20-foot tall, $5 million LED backscreen containing 17 million pixels and curving 110 feet around the versatile thrust stage. It’s put to good use with imaginative shows often featuring a live band with a dozen or more singers, dancers and acrobats.
The main theatre was where guests were first introduced to Captain Kate McCue, the first American-born female captain of a mega cruise ship. Full of personality as well as having fine nautical skills, she always travels with her cat, a hairless, Elf Ear Sphynx named Bug Naked. Later in the cruise, she and Bug Naked took to the stage at The Club, another entertainment venue, to lead a trivia quiz about hairless cats and to answer questions.
Entertainment seemed almost non-stop on Celebrity Beyond with music (from classical to rock) and games (like Trivia and “Yes or No”) in The Club, Eden, the Rooftop Garden and the Grand Plaza. We were disappointed that the ship offered no enrichment lectures with specialists on Caribbean history, current events and the like. Also, there were no live port talks in advance of our various stops. Instead, there was tour information on our TVs.
Technology now plays a key role in entertainment and guest experience. Most guests seemed to have smartphones and they’re quickly becoming a necessity to access restaurant menus, up-to-date information on events, and tour details. Leisure travel on cruise ships is changing fast.
Overall, we were very impressed with Celebrity Beyond, especially its service staff, cuisine and imaginative architecture. Other premium cruise lines must be watching closely.
All photo credits: John and Sandra Nowlan
Disclosure: The Nowlans were guests of Celebrity Cruises but any opinions expressed in this post are their own.
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