Bang the drums, sound the bugles — and meet Kate McCue, the first American woman to captain a cruise ship. It shouldn’t be a big thing, but it is. And she’s just one of the stars on board the almost 3,000-berth Celebrity Beyond.
McCue, who bears more than a passing resemblance to actress Sandra Bullock, walks around with a badge on her jacket declaring: ‘Please don’t call it a boat.’ (In cruise-speak, apparently, they’re always ships). And with a strut in her stride, she means business.
Celebrity Beyond gets starrier. Enter (although, sadly, she’s not here) Gwyneth Paltrow who, with her lifestyle brand Goop, has partnered with Celebrity Cruises as wellbeing adviser. From smoothies to yoga sessions, healthy elements are everywhere on Beyond. I can certainly vouch for the deep-tissue massage at the spa. It took at least 50 people to wake me up afterwards.
Nick Redman sets sail from Southampton on the almost 3,000-berth Celebrity Beyond, pictured, for its inaugural sailing
Gwyneth Paltrow, with her lifestyle brand Goop, has partnered with Celebrity Cruises as wellbeing adviser
Back in my day (the 1970s), the words ‘celebrity’ and ‘cruises’ in the same sentence invariably meant Kenneth Williams, Sid James and the Carry On crew misbehaving somewhere on the ocean wave.
How long ago that feels, as I take in my surroundings on Beyond’s inaugural sailing this week from Southampton — out into a clear blue, unseasonably tan-inducing English Channel that could easily pass for the sea off Mykonos.
Forget big buffets and waterslides. This ship — like its siblings, Edge and Apex (a fourth, called Ascent, and an unnamed fifth are in the pipeline) — is determined to ring the changes. Indeed, Celebrity Beyond is the cruise ship for people who think they won’t like cruises. Whether it’ll work is another matter, but you have to admire the chutzpah.
Gwyneth Paltrow might not be to everyone’s taste — let’s not forget she gave the world a candle called This Smells Like My Vagina — but what’s sold on board here is a little less controversial. It includes Goop Glow Lotion, Goopgenes Nourishing Lip Balm and G.Tox Detoxifying Superpowder.
From smoothies to yoga sessions, healthy elements are everywhere on Beyond, according to Nick. Above is its spa area
‘I can certainly vouch for the deep-tissue massage at the spa. It took at least 50 people to wake me up afterwards,’ writes Nick. Above is one of the spa’s treatment rooms
So far, so wacky. I check out The Theatre next, which features a show called Arte. It’s a canter through a century of art with a screen that projects Roy Lichtenstein and Klimt-like images.
And where on a ship anywhere in the world might you find an art gallery — called The Art Gallery — which holds auctions? Chris Greyvenstein, who works for Park West Gallery and sells on board, tells me: ‘About an hour ago I received 18 signed Salvador Dalis.’ He hopes to sell the lot.
Continuing the arty note, there’s an ‘immersive transition space’ en route to dinner. It’s a glass-mirrored gallery of lumpy bronze sculptures to sit on. Why? Search me. Apparently it’s meant to stimulate the senses — hence the vanilla-like aroma wafting — as you walk through to Eden, at the stern.
A relaxation room in the spa. Passengers can invest in wellness products – such as Goop Glow Lotion – from Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop brand
‘At times, it doesn’t even feel like a ship. It’s more like a Manhattan design hotel that floated out to sea,’ writes Nick. Above is the ship’s spa area
With its geodesic-style window panes, this multi-level restaurant might look like the pterosaur aviary in Jurassic World, but it serves down-to-earth food including an excellent Beef Wellington. And it has a fine line in ecological-sounding cocktails, such as ‘Clouds’.
Captain Kate is right. This is not a boat and, at times, it doesn’t even feel like a ship. It’s more like a Manhattan design hotel that floated out to sea.
My ice-cool ‘stateroom’ has interiors from designer Kelly Hoppen, TV’s much-hyped queen of stone tones. She has also created, among other spaces, The Retreat, up on the top deck.
‘Celebrity Beyond is the cruise ship for people who think they won’t like cruises. Whether it’ll work is another matter, but you have to admire the chutzpah,’ writes Nick
Celebrity Beyond has a seven-night cruise from Fort Lauderdale on November 13 from £1,579 pp (celebritycruises.com).
It’s what you might call an exclusive resort within a resort, where guests happy to pay top dollar can book Instagramable two-storey apartments with plunge pools, or vast royal suites. I clock decks of immaculately styled bars and restaurants that wouldn’t be out of place in Paris, Mumbai or London. Among them is Normandie, with its blush-pink Art Deco looks; Cyprus and Tuscan; and the intimate Le Voyage: the first restaurant at sea from global star-chef Daniel Boulud.
The most curious feature of Celebrity’s Edge-class ships is the Magic Carpet — picture a big, windowed elevator that can be moved up and down the side of the hull to different floors. Depending on the time of day, this can serve as a lobby, welcoming guests on board, or a hip drinks venue.
After this episode, I head for a second cocktail in the Grand Plaza, the core of the ship, which centres on the magnificent Martini Bar lit by a showstopping whopper of a chandelier. And I like how the drinks list informs you: ‘All martinis are available in super-sized format.’
Ultimately, I settle outside at Sunset Bar and I’m lucky to meet Nemanja Markovic, from Montenegro. If anyone can make the coast off Bournemouth feel like the height of summer in Bodrum, it’s Nemanja and one of his super-kicky Marrakesh Mules. I raise a glass to a new departure for cruising.