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Sibling Rivalry: Is the New Celebrity Apex Cruise Even Better Than the Celebrity Edge?

PHOTO: Celebrity Cruises

The second ship in Celebrity’s Edge class has added refinements.

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elebrity Apex is the second in Celebrity’s Edge Class, and younger sister to Celebrity Edge, which debuted in 2018. Edge made a splash when she sailed onto the market, but Apex is nearly identical, so what is there to discuss?

Plenty, as it turns out. The nice thing about introducing new ships in the same class is it gives cruise lines a chance to make tweaks to the original models. The ships are also packed full of original art, giving them their own sort of artistic “personality,” so there’s plenty to unpack there, too.

First, however, it’s important to talk about how well-wired the cruise experience is these days—virtually everything is done via the Celebrity app. I scanned my passport, uploaded a copy of my vaccine card and negative COVID test results, took a selfie, and got a boarding pass, all via the app. Once I got to Terminal 25 at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, agents there scanned my boarding pass about six times, and I was boarding the ship less than ten minutes after being dropped off at the curb.

Once onboard, guests can view bar and restaurant opening times and menus, and make table reservations for restaurants that require them. Once restaurants are reserved, spa treatments are booked, or activities are selected, they all appear on a personalized schedule—it even sends reminders when a reservation is upcoming.

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Iconic Suite 2
Scott Laird; Celebrity Cruises

One of the ways the ship is made most distinctive from her sister is the art collection. Many of the pieces were directly commissioned by Celebrity for the ship, so some of the art touches in public spaces differ slightly, giving Apex a similar-but-distinct voice of her own through her artwork.

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At the pool area, there’s a pair of giant aluminum hands making the shape of a heart from the Spanish artist Lorenzo Quinn. On Edge, there’s a giant white butterfly in that space. They’re both pretty much designed for Insta-selfies, but the heart hands seem to work better on their own as an art piece without a passenger posing for a photo.

Near the entrance to Eden, guests might encounter Rubem Robierb’s Empower Flower, a fiberglass throne meant to represent female empowerment. Nearby, paneling seems to strip away to reveal the steel interior of the ship’s outer hull—complete with tire marks and builder’s scribble—almost to jar guests back to the reality that they’re on board a ship at sea.

There are other homages to maritime history. In the Normandie Restaurant, one of four main restaurants, there are vintage crystal pieces from the French Liner Normandie, which crossed the Atlantic regularly between the wars. Those pieces in turn came from the Normandie specialty restaurant on Celebrity Constellation (which has since been repurposed to another dining concept).

The other main dining restaurants—Tuscan, Cosmopolitan, and Cyprus—have meals included in the cruise fare, and slightly differing atmospheres and specialty dishes each night, although menus remain overall the same among each (and the specialty dishes are often offered on the menus across all four eateries). One night we dined on sorrel seafood cakes with lemon sauce and a lovely beef wellington with an abundance of earthy morels hidden beneath the pastry crust.

A new introduction on Apex is Craft Social, a new craft beer concept that takes the place of the old casino bar. Guests can gather here for cask cocktails and a selection of extraordinary beers from around the world, in addition to a specially-created menu of bar bites. There’s also a large screen for the sports game of the moment to be piped in.

Shopping, too, is elevated, with outposts of Montblanc, Bulgari, and Cartier in the shopping arcade, plus the iLounge—an authorized Apple reseller. Retail purchases onboard are tax and duty-free (which is a particularly good value for high-ticket items like some of those Apple products) but do bear in mind import duties when reentering the United States.

Celebrity has also been mindful about providing a separate experience for suite guests, in a manner that harkens back to the class-divided days of ocean liner travel. Guests booking suite categories also have access to The Retreat, with its own sundeck with pool, bar, and hot tubs, and The Retreat Lounge, where guests can go throughout the day and night for beverages, snacks, and breakfast.

INSIDER TIPGuests who love the seclusion of the Retreat Sundeck can book the Edge Villa suite category for direct access from the second floor of their townhouse-style accommodation.

The Retreat also has its own eatery, called Luminae at the Retreat, where Celebrity is angling for a Michelin-star type experience (a spokesperson confirmed they’ve had preliminary conversations with Michelin on rating cruise lines or cruise ships) with signature dishes created by chef Daniel Boulud.

Should interest in the menus in the main dining rooms peter out at some point during the voyage, there are specialty restaurants that can be booked for lunch or dinner at a supplemental charge, including Fine Cut Steakhouse (premium aged steaks the size of your arm), Le Grand Bistro (French bistro-style), Le Petit Chef (an immersive animation experience), Raw on 5 (sushi and raw bar), Rooftop Garden Grill (think backyard barbecue in the Rooftop Garden) and Eden Restaurant (themed cuisine with nice views from the glass atrium at the fantail).

The Spa Café in the atrium has low-cal snacks (meals say those with the lightest of appetites) and juices, while the Mast Grill serves up burgers, dogs, salads, and sandwiches in a rather cozy spot wedged in between the pool cabanas and the atrium. The Oceanview Café, the ship’s main all-day-and-most-of-the-night buffet (think more high-end Las Vegas-style buffet than your local feeding trough).

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Grand Plaza
Celebrity Cruises 

Another feature introduced on Edge that is also common to Apex and the forthcoming sister ships is the Magic Carpet, a Tang-colored, cantilevered outdoor deck on the side of the ship that can be positioned on different decks. Find it on Deck 14 outside the Pool Cabanas for drinks and occasional specialty dining. On Deck 5, it augments space in Raw on 5, and on Deck 2 it can be used as a tender dock.

The tender dock function was demonstrated off Nassau on our preview cruise, and it certainly makes for a much-improved tender experience. Rather than waiting in a public room or in a companionway to be let off the ship, guests can wait in the bright, spacious Destination Gateway area before stepping onto the Magic Carpet to board their tender. While an improvement in experience, choppy seas that morning required guests to be relatively spry to embark and disembark the tender. In short, tendering is still less-than-ideal, particularly for guests with limited mobility.

The onboard entertainment program for Apex is all-new—another distinction from Edge. While it’s the typical slate of performers throughout the ship in public areas for much of the voyage (DJs and live entertainment abound in the Club, the Martini Bar in the impressive atrium, or the Rooftop Garden), there are two notables.

Celebrity Apex Exterior 2
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Celebrity Cruises; Scott Laird

The impressive theatre has a circular stage, allowing for an almost theatre-in-the-round experience, with an LED screen backdrop and shifting panels to reveal singers and musicians at focal points throughout the shows. There’s still a sense of “jukebox revue” to some of the performances, but they’re made different enough by exceptional, acrobatic dance performances. Production values, to put it mildly, are sky-high.

In Eden (as in “Garden of”), the glass-bedecked three-deck restaurant-cum-bar-cum entertainment space at the back of the ship, there’s an entirely different experience waiting. It feels very much like a garden (“All the plants that we can reach to water are real,” I was told.) that comes alive in the evenings with the “Wonder at Eden” show, with more whimsical acrobatics and antics that are rather difficult to describe apart from being quite a masterful spectacle.

Even outside entertainment times, the bar at Eden puts on a show with inventive (often garden-themed) cocktails. Tipples can be poured from a watering can into a spinning crystal glass or presented in a treasure chest that pours out dry ice “smoke” when the lid is lifted. Mixology-minded guests could spend an entire cruise discovering the cocktail menu in Eden.

A cruise onboard Celebrity Apex still abounds with elevated versions of the usual seagoing bread and circuses, but the innovations introduced on the Edge Class of ships ooze understated sophistication that will appeal to a class of cruises who have more appreciation for luxurious touches than brash gimmicks.

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