Celebrity Beyond: The cruising experience that goes above and beyond your wildest dreams

Composite: Imagery of Celebrity Cruises' new Celebrity Beyond cruise ship
Cruising is often thought of as a retiree's dream - but is this the cruise for young people? Photo credit: Supplied

When someone of my generation thinks about cruise ships, it's probably accompanied by visions of the ageing and the affluent: people who retired with a small fortune and now spend their days seeing the world in style. 

You know, the type who wear Ralph Lauren polo shirts with loafers - sans socks - and can afford to travel in business class. 

And this stereotype does have facets of truth. Cruising is often costly, not typically afforded by young people just beginning their careers, and with restaurants, entertainment and sun loungers right on your doorstep, it provides a level of cushy comfort that appeals to those with their backpacking days long behind them. 

For the younger crowd, the concept of cruising may lack excitement: where's the adventure? You don't have to rely on Google Translate and Google Maps to get by, there are no cultural customs to navigate, and you don't have to skimp and save by bunking with several strangers. For those who want to experience the world in all its dirty, debauched glory, a luxury hotel at sea probably won't tick those boxes. 

But despite my preconceptions as a 25-year-old zoomer, a four-day stay aboard the Celebrity Beyond - the latest ship to join Celebrity Cruises' fleet of luxury, award-winning Edge Series vessels - may have made me a cruising convert. 

The Celebrity Beyond
The Celebrity Beyond is the latest luxury vessel to join Celebrity Cruises' fleet, the Edge Series. Photo credit: Supplied

In November, I was lucky enough to experience the Celebrity Beyond in all its glory, making the long trip from Auckland to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for its inaugural sailing and naming ceremony. And man, the ship definitely went above and beyond my expectations (yes, prepare for puns).  

Christening the ship was lauded gymnast and its newly minted Godmother, Simone Biles, in a naming ceremony that truly proved Americans don't do anything by halves. With gold streamers and a soaring vocal performance by British songstress Leona Lewis, the Celebrity Beyond was baptised with a bottle of champagne shattering against the hull, as per tradition, to the whoops and cheers of the crowd congregated in the ship's stunning theatre. Yes, there is a fully fledged theatre onboard, complete with world-class performers on its stage. But more on that later. 

Gymnast Simone Biles at the naming ceremony
Gymnast Simone Biles is the Godmother of the Celebrity Beyond and made an appearance to officially launch the ship at the naming ceremony. Photo credit: Supplied

I should start off by noting that my fellow passengers were probably not indicative of the crowd the Celebrity brand would typically attract. Those onboard included cohorts of  media and PR personnel and members of the travel trade, culminating in a wide range of demographics that may not always be reflected on a standard sailing. 

Celebrity's leadership has stressed the Edge Series primarily targets those who are new-to-cruising or new to the brand, typically aged around 40 and over - but don't let that put you off if you're a waggish young whippersnapper such as myself. 

The attention to detail throughout the ship - such as here, in one of the main restaurants - is incredible.
The attention to detail throughout the ship - such as here, in one of the main restaurants - is incredible. Photo credit: Supplied

For one, the cruise ship contains all the entertainment you could hope for on a holiday abroad - but conveniently, everything is located in the same place. No late-night Ubers, tuk-tuks or Google Translate required - simply stagger back to your quarters after a few too many drinks (safely), or catch an elevator (safely) to the buffet for pizza at 2am. 

As for what entertainment is on offer - where do I begin? From bars to restaurants - 32 to be exact - to live music to theatre to jacuzzis to the casino and everything in between, there is something onboard for everyone. Yes, even for us zoomers: there's also a fully fledged club, complete with silent discos and celebrity DJs, and more places to drink than you could ever hope for. 

Rooftop garden
For the fitness fanatics, there's not only a huge gym, but 7am sunrise yoga - held here, in the rooftop garden - as well as pilates, F45, and walking tracks around the decks. Photo credit: Supplied

If nightlife isn't really your bag, there's plenty to entertain yourself with during the sunny days on deck. When you're not relaxing by the pools or dining in exquisite restaurants headed by Michelin-starred chefs, there's high-end luxury retailers to peruse, an art collection to admire, a rooftop garden to stroll in, a glass-ceilinged solarium and indoor pool to sun yourself by and an extensively equipped gym. If this isn't enough, there's plenty of tours and classes to tickle one's fancy, from chocolate tastings to sunrise yoga and F45. Plus, there's the stunning spa with sweeping views of the ocean, offering an array of high-tech treatments - think CoolSculpting, facials and acupuncture - with masseuses, barbers, nail technicians and beauty therapists all in one place.

For guests with a membership, the spa also features an exclusive area featuring top-of-the-line treatments, including salt and steam rooms, an infrared sauna, a thermal suite and an energy-healing crystalarium. What do they do? I have no idea - I was too busy gawking at the lushly furnished interiors and clean, calming aesthetic throughout, complete with views of the blue ocean beyond. I haven't been to the kinds of luxe spas frequented by the A-list, but in my eyes, the Celebrity Beyond's comes pretty close. 

Celebrity Beyond's spa
Celebrity Beyond's spa offers more treatments than I could possibly hope to list - or even count. Photo credit: Supplied

It would be impossible for me to cover everything the Beyond has to offer, but if you're a fan of fine-dining, diverse fare and mixing and mingling while sipping on martinis, this ship is sure to exceed your expectations.

As aforementioned, the Beyond features an array of dining experiences, from the more casual Oceanview Cafe - think buffet breakfast, all-you-can-eat lunch and pasta and pizza until 2am - to Mast Grill for proper American burgers. Raw on 5 is the spot for sushi and seafood, Eden is preceded by an immersive art experience to relax the mind before entering the greenery-filled oasis, while Fine Cut Steakhouse offers premium, bloody good steaks (pardon the pun) for all the fellow carnivores out there. A selection of restaurants are exclusively reserved for AquaClass or The Retreat guests, but there are so many options available, you won't be pressed for choice. 

My photos are very sad in comparison to the professional shots.
My photos are very sad in comparison to the professional shots. Photo credit: Newshub

Then, there's a main dining area with four distinct restaurants - Normandie, Tuscan, Cyprus and Cosmopolitan - for guests who want a less specialised dining experience, which the Celebrity team says is a first at sea. Each restaurant offers different fare, from the classics to more upscale options - I enjoyed a few medium-rare steaks with perfectly smooth mashed potatoes, as well as a fair few Cosmopolitans. Pretty much everything I sampled during my stay was delicious, and if you have allergies or dietary restrictions, rest assured the friendly staff are happy to cater to your preferences. As a coeliac, many of the options were able to be made gluten free, and I felt confident that my needs were being taken care of. 

The Sunset Bar
The Sunset Bar allows guests to drink in the panoramic views and incredible sunsets. Photo credit: Supplied

It's also worth noting just how impeccable the service is everywhere you go. Staff are pleasant, polite and eager to please. The team spearheading the brand - Captain Kate McCue, Royal Caribbean Group president and CEO Jason Liberty, and Celebrity Cruises president and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo - have stressed their commitment to their staff, and it seems to show: everyone I interacted with seemed genuinely happy to help and greeted me with warmth. There were a few slip-ups when it came to the correct orders or minor issues with the Wi-Fi - I was accidentally billed for my package - but the level of service is so high, everything is quickly rectified with the sincerest of apologies. 

The Celebrity Beyond's Magic Carpet bar
The Celebrity Beyond's Magic Carpet bar - on a moving al fresco platform - allows guests to float over the water as they drink in the views, and a few martinis, of course. Photo credit: Supplied

As for the nightlife, Celebrity knows how to party. The majority of the bars onboard are open until 2am and accompanied by stunning vistas of the surrounding ocean. You can sip on a cocktail while drinking in the picturesque, panoramic views from the al fresco Sunset Bar, or enjoy live music with a martini at the Grand Plaza's lively Martini Bar, complete with flair bartending and an evening Chandelier Show. There's also the Magic Carpet - an open-air bar on a moving, external platform that positions you over the rolling waves as the ship cuts through the ocean. I told you, the Beyond is a thing of beauty. 

I could go on all day about the spas, jacuzzis, various pools and other activities and amenities to explore, but it truly is something you should experience for yourself. 

Yes, there a lot of pools.
Yes, there a lot of pools. Photo credit: Supplied

To briefly touch on the live entertainment offerings, a stay onboard the ship would not be complete without attending one of the productions at The Theatre. With shifting stage floors and stunning screen projections, the Beyond delivers spectacular shows at sea. During my stay I was lucky enough to see both Stage Door and Arte, two thoroughly enjoyable musical productions full of song, dance and incredible costumes. In both, the dynamic cast of performers took centre stage and their raw talent was truly something to behold.

Stage Door was a total knockout; a "backstage pass" into Broadway and West End's top musicals, the cast perform a compilation of hit songs from shows like Rent, Dear Evan Hansen, Moulin Rouge, West Side Story, Hamilton, Dreamgirls and more. Plus, we were fortunate enough to witness a cameo appearance by Broadway and West End sensation Marisha Wallace, in a duet of Dreamgirls' 'And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going' - which brought me to tears. At The Club, I also enjoyed The Jazz Joint, a jaw-dropping cabaret musical set at a burlesque club in the Prohibition Era of the 1920s.

The Grand Plaza
The Grand Plaza is the place to be in the evenings: with several bars and restaurants, a dazzling chandelier that lights up every evening for a Light Show, live music and flair bartending, it's a magical experience. Photo credit: Supplied

If all of that hasn't sold you on setting sail for your next sojourn, let's take a minute to talk about the ship itself. I managed to peruse the Beyond's most expensive suites - the price of which might cause a small conniption - but the elegance and modern aesthetic throughout even the simpler staterooms was enough to make me giddy. In my Ocean View stateroom, there was a king-size bed, plentiful storage, a seating area overlooking the endless ocean, a stylish bathroom, and room service - what more could you ask for?

An example of one of the ocean view staterooms.
An example of one of the ocean view staterooms. Photo credit: Supplied

Strolling around the Beyond's 17 tiers - floors and decks - it kept hitting me how the attention to detail is so prodigious. From the colour schemes to the materials, the furnishings to the floors, the detailed ceilings to the architectural elegance throughout, the Celebrity Beyond embodies the carefully curated interiors and five-star flair of a lavish hotel. Literally everything has been considered, nothing an afterthought. 

Elephant statue by a pool
You know you're in luxury when there's a huge elephant statue watching you laze by one of multiple pools. Photo credit: Supplied

After my four days onboard the Celebrity Beyond, I have no choice but to sing the ship's praises. As aforementioned, its leadership has admitted the brand's sweet spot is the Gen-X market and boomers; but I'm convinced Celebrity Beyond has top-tier potential to appeal to younger audiences. Putting its design, destinations and onboard experiences at the forefront, Celebrity is positioning itself to attract new customers who are looking to travel - and have a good time while doing so.

"We love the guests we have. We just want more. And in order for us to grow, we need more first-timers," CEO Lutoff-Perlo told a room of journalists during an onboard press conference. 

There are different pricing models available, including an all-inclusive stay which covers drinks, Wi-Fi and tips, which is great for simplicity's sake and to avoid divvying up bills between a group. Plus, Celebrity recently installed high-speed Starlink internet, which means despite being at sea, you can continue to stream your favourite series, work remotely and keep up-to-date on social media, an added attraction for the younger demographic.

The perfect spot to relax and enjoy the views alone or with friends.
The perfect spot to relax and enjoy the views alone or with friends. Photo credit: Supplied

The amazing experience of travelling at sea aside, the cruiseliner could make a really special experience for millennial or Gen-Z folks with some cash to splash. Despite the preconceptions about cruising, the Beyond in fact offers all the trimmings and trappings of a 'lads/femmes on tour' holiday - albeit in one very, very luxurious package. There's plenty of aesthetic photo opps for your feed, and for the adventurers who aren't as enamoured with the backpacking lifestyle or travelling in tents and hostels, the ability to see the world in pure style and splendour will be very attractive. 

Although undoubtedly an appealing option for travel influencers and bloggers alike, Captain Kate McCue, whose social media accounts have amassed millions of followers, will arguably always be one of the most influential people onboard, with her reach and popularity once again putting Celebrity in touch with younger audiences. 

Captain Kate McCue
Captain Kate McCue has amassed a large following on social media for her inspirational content and promotion of the cruising lifestyle. Photo credit: Supplied

"For me, a good day is when I see a comment that says, 'I never thought about cruising until I saw this post'," Captain McCue said at the conference.

"It's those ah-ha moments where you go, 'Yes, this is what we can offer. This is our reality'."

It would be a pricey holiday, but for young people with money to spend, it will be a bucket list experience of a lifetime.

Celebrity Beyond embarked on her first consumer sailing out of Florida on a five-night Western Caribbean cruise last month. A sister ship in Beyond’s class, Celebrity Edge, will debut in the Australia/New Zealand market in December 2023. 

Lana Andelane received a complimentary, all-inclusive four-night stay onboard Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Beyond for this review.