Discover the latest ship in Celebrity Cruises’ luxurious fleet in this Celebrity Apex cruise ship review as we set sail in style on a week-long trip to the Greek Islands.
The smell of the sea, sun on your skin, the taste of new food and the sound of different languages – just a few of the things I’ve missed from travelling. The last 18 months have been tough on the travel industry, and no sector more so than cruising, which saw ships out of action for over a year. But travel is coming back to life, and cruising with it.
AD: My trip was hosted by Celebrity Cruises, but all views are my own.
My last big pre-pandemic trip was an Alaska cruise with Celebrity Cruises, so if felt strangely apt to be back on board with them for my first overseas trip since. This time I’d be travelling on Celebrity Apex, the newest ship in their fleet, sailing through Greece and Croatia. One of the Edge Series ships, she’s a radical new departure from Celebrity’s previous ships. But what’s it like on board? This Celebrity Apex review tells you all you need to know.
Celebrity Apex cruise ship review
About Celebrity Apex
Celebrity Apex is the second of Celebrity Cruises’ new Edge Series ships, following on from Celebrity Edge which was launched in 2018 and with Celebrity Beyond scheduled for 2022. Apex launched in March 2020, but the pandemic meant it all had to be done virtually, her first sailings were postponed and she finally set sail this summer.
Celebrity Apex is currently sailing around the Mediterranean – we did a one-week Croatia and Greece itinerary from Athens’ Piraeus Port which took us to Dubrovnik, Mykonos, Rhodes and Santorini, with two days at sea. She heads to the Caribbean later this year before sailing on various routes around Europe from spring 2022.
Celebrity are known for their ‘modern luxury’ style – more luxurious hotel than floating mega resort – so it’s no surprise that Apex isn’t trying to compete to be the biggest ship around. With 16 decks, 2910 passengers and 1319 crew, she’s dwarfed by the giants of cruising – Symphony of the Seas can hold 5500 passengers. But that’s no bad thing, the ship feels manageable, there are more intimate spaces… and you shouldn’t get too lost.
What’s new on Celebrity Apex
Edge Class ships share the same design and style, a smart but unstuffy look created by a team of top interior designers who were new to cruise ship design, including Kelly Hoppen CBE, Tom Wright, Nate Berkus and Parisian duo Jouin Manku. Think muted colours, luxurious fabrics, and eye-catching art and sculptures throughout the ship.
It’s not your standard cruise ship – there are new spaces and features, and the ‘outward-facing’ design focuses on bringing the ocean closer to you. Each Edge Class ship has a few different features so they’re not identical – partly based on guest feedback – Apex has a new craft beer bar and there’s a 110-foot wraparound LED screen in the theatre.
Smart technology is integrated throughout the ship, right from check in. A new Celebrity Cruises app means you can add your information and upload a photo before boarding to make check in much quicker. It also tells you what’s on, gives you the day’s menus and you can easily check your account balance. You can even use it to open your stateroom door.
And the ‘Always Included’ package makes it easier to work out what you’re going to spend, with tips, unlimited wifi and a standard drinks package included for all guests. You can also upgrade to two other packages – Elevate (with premium drinks and shore excursions up to $200) and Indulge (with streaming wifi and $200 onboard credit).
What are Celebrity Apex staterooms like?
Celebrity Apex has 1467 staterooms – around 10% are inside and 10% are ocean view (meaning with a window), but the vast majority have a veranda. Aqua Class and Concierge Class staterooms come with extra perks, from access to the thermal suite and Blu restaurant to a dedicated concierge. And there are also 176 suites on board Celebrity Apex.
If you want to splash out, there’s an array of amazing spaces you can stay in. There are the Edge Villas located in The Retreat with their two-story living area and private plunge pools. Or the spectacular 5,000-square-foot Iconic Suite, right at the front of the ship, with two bedrooms, a balcony over the bridge, cabanas and hot tubs.
New for the Edge Class ships are the Infinite Veranda staterooms, which swap a normal balcony for what’s almost an outdoor room added onto the cabin, which you can either close off or leave open, with a window that goes up and down with the push of a button. It brings the outside in and gives you more space – up 23% versus a comparable balcony stateroom on Celebrity’s Solstice Class ships, and the bathrooms are also 10% bigger.
But some fans of the traditional balcony might miss being able to sunbathe outside and leaving the door can make the room steam up if it’s humid. All staterooms feature upgraded beds with king-size cashmere mattresses. There’s also a touchscreen which lets you manage the temperature, lights and curtains. And – for anyone who travels with lots of electricals – there’s an upgraded range of sockets including USB charging points.
Is Suite Class worth the splurge?
Celebrity are focusing on high-end experiences with their revamped Suite Class, but is it worth the extra cost? Some cruisers don’t care too much about where they sleep as they’re out and about all day, but I’ve always liked to have a balcony. But on this trip we were upgraded to a Sky Suite – and I’m not sure how I’ll go back!
Suite Class gets you lots of extra perks, starting with a bigger stateroom – ours had an enormous bed, lounge area, bathroom with twin sinks and a bath, separate toilet and a balcony. You also get premium drinks, streaming wifi, reserved theatre seating on formal evenings (known as ‘evening chic’), a welcome bottle of bubbly, fresh fruit platters and 24-hour room service included. All the little extras that make the trip feel special.
In addition to a stateroom assistant who services your room for you, in Suite Class you also get your own butler. Our butler Jacky brought us espressos and drinks, and arranged for our laundry to be done, he could even have packed and unpacked for us. Being new to the whole butler thing meant we probably didn’t take full advantage of the service though – it would be useful to have a list to show some of the things your butler can do for you.
One of the best parts of Suite Class is access to The Retreat. This two-storey area at the front of the ship is exclusive to Suite Class guests. Below there’s a lounge with complimentary drinks, snacks and a concierge to deal with any requests you might have.
Then above is a sun deck with comfy loungers, a café-bar with waiter service, and a small pool and hot tub. On our trip there was always plenty of space and it was a great place to watch sailaway. There’s also Luminae at The Retreat, the Suite Class restaurant, a moodily lit, smart space with unique dishes created by Global Culinary Ambassador Daniel Boulud (don’t miss the melting chocolate bombe) and a great selection of wines.
If you’re planning a special trip then the extras make Suite Class is great option – and The Retreat is a really beautiful space to spend time in. With people forgoing travel during the pandemic I can see there being lots of demand for extra-special experiences.
Celebrity Apex’s spaces and facilities
As a big fan of Celebrity’s Solstice Class ships, I did worry I’d miss some of my favourite spaces on board, like the Sky Bar and Library, but there are plenty of new ones to replace them. Instead of a central foyer running all the way through the ship, Apex’s public spaces are concentrated on decks 3–5 and 14–16, with other decks primarily used for accommodation.
At the bottom of the ship is the three-storey Grand Plaza, with the Martini Bar and a space for music and events like the brilliant Silent Disco, beneath a stunning chandelier. The theatre also stretches over three floors, with nightly shows like Rockumentary featuring rock n’ roll classics and jaw-dropping aerialists in Crystallise. There’s also The Club, used for smaller shows like the circus-inspired Caravan as well as karaoke and dancing.
A new addition for the Edge Class ships is Eden – a combination bar, lounge, restaurant and performance space over three floors at the back of the ship. It’s got a real jungle feel with giant vegetation and shades of green, and there’s a spiral walkway running around the edge with lots of tucked away seating areas where you can curl up with a book.
Moving to the top floors of the ship you’ll find the pool deck (with a pool long enough to do a few early morning laps), surrounded by sunloungers and two giant martini-glass-shaped jacuzzis. There’s also the adults-only Solarium with indoor pool and jacuzzi, which was usually peaceful and quiet. Next to that is the gym, a bigger than ever space with new facilities including Peloton bikes, and the spa, thermal suite and treatment rooms.
Replacing the lawn on the Solstice Class ships is the Rooftop Garden. The space mixes greenery and tree sculptures, with lots of comfy seating and music performances and a big screen for outdoor films (we watched Shirley Valentine on location in Mykonos).
But the biggest innovation on board Edge Class ships is the Magic Carpet – a cantilevered platform that sticks out from the side of the ship and moves up and down between different decks. We had drinks there on our first night but it also hosts special dinners and also moves down to sea level as a platform for tender boats. (Don’t worry if you’re not good with heights, you can’t tell that you’re hanging off the edge when you’re standing on it!)
Dining on board Celebrity Apex
Celebrity Cruises have always been justifiably well-known for their fantastic food, and Apex has even more options than ever, with 29 bars and restaurants on board. They’re split between those which are included in your fare, those which are open to certain categories of guests, and speciality restaurants where you pay an extra (normally fixed) fee.
At the top of the ship, the Oceanview Café buffet is larger and lighter than ever, with a double-height space which helps it feel extra spacious. Food stations serve food from around the world from morning until night – though due to current restrictions staff serve you rather than you helping yourself, so things can be a little slower.
One of the best innovations on board Edge Class ships is splitting the main dining room into four separate spaces – each with a different theme. Normandie (French), Tuscan (Italian), Cyprus (Greek) and Cosmopolitan (American) serve the same daily menu but also have their own speciality dishes. So you get a choice of places to eat included (though fans of traditional dining can still choose to have a regular timeslot and table in one of the restaurants).
Also included are the Eden Café (which does great salads), healthy dishes and juices from the Spa Caf´é and burgers at the Mast Grill. Plus there’s Blu restaurant for Aqua Class passengers and Luminae for Suite Class. So you’re never going to go hungry. But if you do want to splash out there are lots of options for a special meal.
Some of our favourites were the Rooftop Garden Grill, for outdoor dining with grilled steaks and fish with a fantastic view, Raw on Five who finally converted me to loving sushi, and Eden’s creative dishes where you can see chefs at work in the open kitchen.
There’s also the Fine Cut Steakhouse and Le Petit Chef, an innovative dining experience where animated ingredients appear on your table prepared by a tiny chef before you eat the real thing. I’d seen Le Petit Chef this on a previous trip so didn’t try it this time but heard great reviews, and the menu and animations are different on Apex.
As on previous Celebrity sailings, the restaurant staff were great at flagging what I could eat as I’m gluten-free, and adapting things where necessary. You can also mix and match – have two starters or mains (entrees in US parlance). The only problem is with seven nights there’s not enough mealtimes to try out all the different dining options.
Drinking on board Celebrity Apex
The Always Included package, which is standard with most fares, covers drinks up to around $9 (so that’s standard beers, wines and cocktails – including my favourite piña coladas), with the premium package up to $15. Prices aren’t usually listed on the menus but you can find them on the Celebrity Cruises app, and bar staff can always advise you.
Celebrity Apex has a range of different bars depending on what you fancy – bottle juggling barmen at the Martini Bar, creative cocktails with a touch of theatre at Eden Bar, craft beers from around the world, including some rare brews, as Craft Social.
But our favourite spot was the Sunset Bar, on the top deck at the back of the ship, the perfect spot to watch the sun dip down into the sea, or have a pre-dinner gin and tonic. (And a note for any smokers: there’s a smoking area on one side of the Sunset Bar as well as an area outside Eden on Deck 5 and on Deck 14 below The Retreat).
Who cruises on board Celebrity Apex?
At the moment, Celebrity ships are running at well below normal capacity – our sailing had only just over 800 passengers and 900 crew. But as with most Celebrity Cruises trips there’s a mix of American and European guests, and crew from all around the world.
With cruising being put on hold for so long, everyone – both passengers and crew – is so happy to be back out there sailing again, which gives it a really special atmosphere. The crew seem genuinely happy to be back at work and meeting people from around the world again, and smaller guest numbers mean it’s easier to chat with them.
Children are welcome on board, but the focus on luxury rather than high-adrenaline features like waterslides and climbing walls means Celebrity isn’t the the most family-focused cruise line. They do have a Camp at Sea kids club though with activities from toddlers to teens. And as Celebrity Apex’s ‘godmother’ is Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, there’s extra focus on science, engineering and technology in the activities available.
How sustainable is Celebrity Apex?
Cruising hasn’t always had a good name in the sustainability stakes, but Celebrity are using their new ships to help reduce their impact where they can under their ‘Save the Waves’ programme. Emissions are being reduced through a more efficient hull design, an Advanced Emissions Purification system and technology like scrubbers.
Celebrity Apex is also the first ship in the fleet to be use shore power, where ships ‘plug in’ to ports so they don’t need to use their engines (though ports with this facility are limited at present). Celebrity are working with the Global Sustainable Tourism Council to offer sustainable tours and share oceanographic data with marine charity Oceanscope.
Their ships are also designed to be landfill free and waste water is treated to well above required standards. Plastic has been reduced too, with water bottles switched to aluminium, refillable toiletries in the bathrooms, and eco-friendly gifts available onboard.
There’s always more that can be done, with targets to increase the amount of food which is sourced sustainably and cut down the use of plastics even more, but the company is showing that sustainability is important for the long-term future of the industry – right down to having an Environment Officer on board each ship.
Find out how to reduce your environmental impact on a cruise
What’s it like cruising now?
One question a lot of people have about cruising now is how safe is it? Celebrity and other cruise lines have put a lot of work into making cruising as safe as possible to get the industry up and running again. Firstly you have to meet any requirements put in place by your departure port – which for Greece was either showing that you were fully vaccinated or had proof of a negative PCR test, and filling in a passenger locator form.
All adult passengers and crew on Celebrity Cruises sailings have to be fully vaccinated. And all passengers took a test at the port. This was prebooked through Eurofins and took a few minutes to do, with a 10-minute wait for the result before we could board as usual.
Passengers and crew must wear masks onboard (except in cabins and when eating and drinking – though a fair few people did take them off outside as it was very quiet). As well as reduced capacity, there are reminders to socially distance, air on board is continuously filtered, cleaning protocols have been increased and there’s improved medical care on board.
The day before departure all guests take another test, with the results sent to your stateroom, which you can also use as proof needed to fly home. UK travellers also need to fill in a passenger locator form and pre-book a PCR test to take on day two after arrival home as Greece is on the amber list (proof is needed for the locator form). We were cautious after not travelling for so long but it all felt very safe, more so than many places at home.
Celebrity Apex review: The verdict
So would I sail on Celebrity Apex again? Definitely. She’s a beautiful ship, and the spaces on board work well. At well below capacity there was tons of room, and there are enough spaces that even when it’s busier people can spread out and find their own spot. And the wide choice of restaurants, bars and entertainment would make it good for multigenerational trips or groups of friends who want to do their own thing sometimes.
Some long-term cruisers might find some of the innovations a bit of a change, but I think Apex might help tempt some new-to-cruise travellers to give it a try. If you’re looking for high-adrenline activities she might not be the ship for you. But if you want to get a taste of different destinations and have a luxurious enclave to return to, with great service and fantastic food, drink and relaxation facilities, then Celebrity Apex would suit you well.