Apex appeal: Why innovation and sunshine on Celebrity Apex is the perfect combination
January 24, 2023 | Hollie-Rae Brader
Aspire editor Hollie-Rae Brader heads to the Caribbean to sample Celebrity Cruises' Edge-class ship
The chef chops, stirs and goes about his culinary tasks with absolute precision. A master is at work, and it’s clear for all to see. There’s no place to hide; every diner has a front row seat to this gastronomic masterclass. But this isn’t any old chef’s table degustation.
This is Celebrity Cruises’ ultra-immersive Le Petit Chef and Friends dining experience, where an animation is projected onto every setting on each tabletop, allowing guests to enjoy an evening combining playful and whimsical entertainment with impressive cuisine.
Served in Celebrity Apex’s Le Grand Bistro, every guest sits captivated, thoroughly entertained by the projection of a tiny chef hard at work. Each course reflects a season, with an accompanying storyline highlighting key milestones in the chef’s life. When the mini master of food finishes creating each dish, waiters suddenly appear with the real thing for passengers to enjoy.
While the experience at Le Petite Chef won’t be for everyone (it’s a set menu at specified mealtimes), it’s a unique, fun-filled and light-hearted affair. It certainly brought a smile to my face, and while Celebrity Cruises isn’t necessarily geared up to cater for tiny tots, it proved positively mesmerising to my then seven-month-old who beamed with joy as he watched the colourful story unfolding before him.
Innovations at sea
And this innovative approach to dining is echoed throughout the ship. In fact, it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to unique approaches to cruising on Celebrity Cruises’ Edge series of ships. Instead of a traditional main dining room, Apex boasts four themed restaurants, all serving the same menus but each with differing speciality dishes.
To round off the culinary offering, the ship also features paid-for options including steakhouse Fine Cut, seafood venue Raw on 5, healthy option Blu (for AquaClass passengers) and, for those in suites, Luminae.
Apex and sister ships Celebrity Edge and Celebrity Beyond feature countless innovations, from the cantilevered Magic Carpet, which elegantly slides up and down the side of the ships, to multi-level culinary and entertainment space Eden, where shock and awe are emotions often conjured up during performances. There’s also the wondrous Rooftop Garden, where passengers can hide away among the flora in warmer climes.
The brand has made huge leaps on its offering for high-net-worths too, with a bounty of impressive suites designed by Kelly Hoppen and the stunning Retreat area, a private deck for guests in the top accommodation categories. Celebrity has made a big play for “luxury lovers”, as the brand’s UK sales team has often described its target audience, and the onboard offering reflects this.
The Retreat‑class suites, including the Iconic Suites and the beautiful two-storey Edge Villas, are more akin to high-end, big-brand hotels and will particularly appeal to affluent clients.
The line recently announced Apex will sail from Southampton in 2024 (see box, adjacent), but I was lucky enough to sample her in the Caribbean earlier this year. My sailing on the 2,910-passenger ship began and ended in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with dreamy stops in St Kitts and Nevis, the US Virgin isle of St Thomas and Nassau, the Bahamas, along the way.
In St Kitts, we joined an excursion to a beach to frolic on the powder sands and hop in and out of the water for respite from the heat. We supped bottles of Carib and spoke to locals who were full of pride for their island paradise.
Other passengers, many of whom had visited the island before, opted to sail across to sister island Nevis to explore new shores. The Celebrity crew recommended we visit the tranquil shores of Magens Bay when we pitched up in St Thomas, with the gently lapping water proving perfect for our crawling tot.
Here, locals walk up and down the beach taking cocktail orders, with tourists clearly unable to draw themselves away from the perfectly clear water. I joined the flock, plonked myself in the water and awaited my strawberry daiquiri.
In the Bahamas, we stayed on board and enjoyed the ship while others disembarked. At the time, rules in the Caribbean meant our baby couldn’t go ashore without being on an excursion because he was unvaccinated, something the Celebrity team had helpfully briefed us on prior to our sailing. Our day started with a chilled breakfast in Eden (our favourite spot on board) while Theo crawled around exploring, making his way from one pouffe or soft furnishing to another.
After a coffee at Café al Bacio, we headed to the main pool and splashed around for hours in the Caribbean sunshine, with shade helpfully provided by a giant piece of artwork in the form of two hands creating a heart shape. In the afternoon, we visited The Retreat, a place of peace and serenity and a perfect spot for a nap.
Pre-dinner drinks are a must on the aft of the ship in the Sunset Bar, where cocktails are served as the sun dips slowly out of sight, leaving behind it a wake of pink, burnt orange and red hues across the sky.
Utter bliss. Some guests were a little disgruntled at having a baby on board (the majority adored us), but we went into the trip knowing Celebrity doesn’t position itself with tiny cruisers in mind. That said, the crew, the service and the onboard offering was outstanding from start to finish, with Theo becoming a bit of a celebrity as the week went on. And he certainly wasn’t the only little one on board. As well as countless other families, there was also the army of Petite Chefs popping up each night to entertain diners.
Celebrity Cruises is set to base Celebrity Apex in Southampton for the entire 2024 season. The Edge-series ship will replace Celebrity Silhouette and will sail on ex-UK sailings of between four and 13 nights in duration.
Apex will sail from Southampton between May and November 2024. The ship will offer a 12-night Norwegian Fjords and Arctic Circle cruise, calling into Norwegian ports Tromsø and Honningsvåg. Ibiza – a new port for the line – also features in the 2024 programme. Celebrity has outlined plans to host 600 agents on Apex next year ahead of its UK season, with a series of ship visits and seminar-at-sea sailings.
Jo Rzymowska, Celebrity Cruises’ vice-president and managing director for the EMEA region, said: “The UK has always been integral to the success of our brand. Homeporting Celebrity Apex in Southampton is testament to the strength of local consumer demand, supported by our formidable travel partners.
“There is huge appetite from UK guests who share our curiosity for people, places and cultures, and our passion for opening up the world through a love of travel. “I’m looking forward to welcoming even more of our guests on Celebrity Apex when she raises the bar for cruising from Southampton in 2024.”
Celebrity Apex offers a seven-night Norwegian Fjords cruise on June 18 from £3,431 per person in a Sky Suite. The round-trip from Amsterdam visits Kristiansand, Haugesund, Geiranger and Alesund, all Norway. celebritycruises.com
Hollie is editor of Aspire’s print and online products. She is responsible for the running of the club and ensuring the content produced and the events organised are relevant to the Aspire audience. She was previously deputy news editor and cruise writer for sister title Travel Weekly. She loves exploring new destinations and is gradually ticking new countries off her list. She most enjoys writing about cruise, South America and Japan. Before working in the travel industry she held news reporting roles at the East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star.