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Cruise review: Is Celebrity Beyond the cruise ship for those who don't like cruises?

Travel News from Stuff - 05-12-2022 stuff.co.nz

To cruise or not to cruise, that is the often divisive travel question.

In one corner, the ‘forever cruisers’. They don’t just love them, they love them. Spouting off ship names, gross tonnage stats, and anecdotes from many a port, they see cruises not just as forms of transport, but the holiday destination itself.

In the other corner, the ‘never cruisers’. Whether it is health-on-board concerns, or the environmental impacts of these floating giants, these are a group of travellers who would do anything but set foot on a ship.

For me personally, I was closer to the latter, adding in concerns about possible boredom from being stuck on a ship in the middle of nowhere. I was happy to be proved wrong, but cruises were nowhere near the top of my travel list. But that may change, and all it took was one of the newest, and biggest ships launched this year.

First of all, Celebrity Beyond is a behemoth. The third and largest of Celebrity’s Edge class, it is a 141,420 gross tonnage giant. Seventeen decks with a maximum double occupancy of 3260 and a crew close to 1500 from 60 countries, the ship is a gleaming symbol of how an industry is bouncing back from the depths of the pandemic.

Having spent a northern hemisphere summer puttering around the Mediterranean, it is now home ported in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where I was invited along to the official naming ceremony of the ship last month.

Any fears that this was going to be a humdrum experience evaporated as soon as I got on board, and it started with the accommodation. What would be called a bog-standard room on this ship was better than many hotels I have stayed in lately. The Ocean View stateroom had an exceptionally comfortable king-size bed with plenty of clever storage space and a more than adequate shower and toilet.

The heart of the ship is the Grand Plaza and Martini Bar, with some of the specialty restaurants such as the Japanese-inspired Raw on 5 (a definite highlight) feeding into the central complex. In all there are 32 different places to eat, from private restaurants to the pile-them-high free-for-all buffet at Oceanview Cafe.

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If all that food and drink gets a bit much, you can make some room by using the large gym at the ship’s bow, or take an F45 class or ride a Peloton on board. Those who value a bit more ‘me’ time are well catered for at The Spa. As you would imagine every type of wellness programme you’ve heard about is available, along with some more obscure ones like Earth Grounding massages which alleviate “negative electrons transferred from the Earth’s’ surface into the body”. As you do.

The main pool deck is the second central hub for the ship. The Resort Deck is the place to see and be seen, with cocktails flowing as passengers mingle in, and out of the water. Warning though, the limited pool chairs get snapped up pretty quickly. If the weather turns, which it did at times on our journey, the nearby adults-only solarium provides respite from the rain.

Speaking of adults-only, this ship is very much catering to the 45-plus couples market. While there are kids’ clubs and spaces for teens, this is not a ship with a great focus on the young ‘uns. No roller coasters or go-karts at sea here. If you are planning to bring the family, there may be better options.

For those who want to splash the cash, then there are whole sections of the ship just for you. The Retreat is a resort-within-a-resort with a two-storey sun deck and private areas. There's also a lounge and a private restaurant, Luminae, which means you needn't spend time with the hoi polloi if you so wish.

And my fears of boredom at sea were blown out of the, ahem, water. Downloading the Celebrity app for your phone helps you plan through the huge range of entertainment options that are available throughout the day.

For those who like losing money there’s the ubiquitous casino, along with a theatre with rotating shows, some very high-end shops as well and a whole range of quizzes and competitions such as Deal or No Deal games and pool volleyball. There are also artworks liberally splashed around the ship and ingenious installations such as Odyssey, a dark hallway of mirrors and metallic sculptures that leads from the shops to the Blu restaurant and Eden bar on Deck 5.

But despite all the shimmering new toys, the abundant food and the seemingly endless entertainment what really made the trip were the crew and my fellow travellers. Yes I know the people working here are paid to be ‘happy’, but there was a genuine warmth to everyone I interacted with. Nothing was too much trouble. Everything was done with a smile. As one barman told me, he was just happy to be back working and supporting his family again after these troubling last couple of years. There was relief behind his smile.

I also met strangers who became fast friends and even if I never bump into them again, in these small moments of time there were the perfect companions. The right people at the right time.

I know cruising isn’t for everyone, and I am yet to fully tip into the ‘forever cruisers’ category but for now, for the first time, I also won’t be dismissing it as an option.

The Celebrity Beyond is home ported in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. For more details on itineraries go to .

A sister ship in Beyond’s class, Celebrity Edge will make its debut in the New Zealand/Australia market next December for the 2023-24 season. It will offer an array of 6- to 13-night itineraries. More details at .

All Celebrity ships sail with a Covid-19 vaccinated crew, and in Australia and New Zealand all guests aged 12 and up are required to be fully vaccinated to sail.

Ocean cruising has an impact on the Earth's waterways. Celebrity Cruises is aiming to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and has already introduced several sustainability initiatives, including the use of solar panels and the elimination of plastic water bottles and straws. There is an opt-in for reduced housekeeping services.

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