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Sunday,  July 21, 2024 8:55 AM 

On Location: “BEYOND excited” – Canada gets the Celebrity Beyond treatment in Florida

On Location: “BEYOND excited” – Canada gets the Celebrity Beyond treatment in Florida
From left (of Celebrity Cruises Canada): Mathieu Robert, Sandra Pennington; Allan Brooks; Brenda Lynne Yeomans; Laura Di Nardo; Chad Kowalenko; Valerie Lavigne. (Pax Global Media)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

BEYOND exciting! BEYOND what I imagined! To infinity…and BEYOND! 

The puns were served hot this past weekend as Celebrity Cruises held its official naming ceremony and inaugural Florida sailing for its newest ship Celebrity Beyond, the third vessel in the line’s “new luxury” Edge Series.

Size is a key differentiator on Beyond – at 1,073 feet-long and 17 decks high, it’s both longer and taller than its predecessors Celebrity Edge and Apex.

On board the new Celebrity Beyond. (Pax Global Media)

PAX is currently on board, getting an up-close look at the chic ship, which also has 179 more cabins (1,646 total) and can accommodate up to 3,260 guests.

Spaces have been reimagined, like the outdoor, Moroccan-inspired, Nate Berkus-designed Deck 15 Sunset Bar, which is now 180 per cent larger with tiered levels.

The Retreat, an exclusive “resort-within-a-resort” area for suite guests, also has more deck space and units due to high demand.

The Retreat has more deck space on Beyond. (Celebrity Cruises)

“I’ve been waiting for this day to arrive for a long time and I am ‘Beyond’ excited to be able to share her with our guests,” said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, Celebrity Cruises President and CEO, at the ship’s naming ceremony at Port Everglades on Nov. 4. “She is the gold standard by which other ships are built and embodies the meaning of relaxed luxury.”

The Moroccan-inspired Sunset Bar on Beyond. (Pax Global Media)

The Sunset Bar is now 180 per cent larger with tiered levels. (Pax Global Media)

Simone Biles shines

Beyond made her U.S. debut in New York last month following a series of European sailings earlier this summer

The ship now embarks for the first time from U.S shores on a variety of Caribbean itineraries to St. Thomas, St. Maarten, the Bahamas, Grand Caymans and more.

Two back-to-back sailings – cruises to nowhere – were organized this past weekend for travel trade pros (including many Canadians).

The program kicked off with a voyage to mark Friday’s naming ceremony, which was led by Beyond’s Godmother, gymnast Simone Biles, a 19-time World Champion and seven-time Olympic Medalist.

From left: Captain Kate McCue; Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President & CEO, Celebrity Cruises; Olympic gymnast and Beyond Godmother Simone Biles; Jason Liberty, president and CEO, Royal Caribbean Group. (Supplied/Celebrity)

Addressing attendees in Beyond’s Theatre – which has a 20-foot-tall 4K wrapping LED screen – Biles shared the stage with Lutoff-Perlo and Captain Kate McCue, who is the first (and still only) woman to be named captain of a "Mega" cruise ship.

“It is an honour to be selected as Beyond’s Godmother and to join such a distinguished group of strong, barrier-breaking women who have been named as Celebrity’s Godmothers before me,” said Biles, who activated Beyond’s naming by pressing a button in the shape of a gold medal, igniting a shower of glitter.

Jason Liberty, president and CEO of the Royal Caribbean Group, parent company of Celebrity Cruises, said Simone’s “determination, progressive nature, empowered attitude, and grace in the face of challenges make her such an inspiration to so many around the world.”

“All of these attributes are why Simone Biles is perfectly suited to watch over Celebrity.”

British singer Leona Lewis was also there to perform, adding to the excitement and magic of it all. 

Singer Leona Lewis performed at Beyond's naming ceremony. (Pax Global Media)

Mary Jean Tully, founder & CEO of Tully Luxury Travel, spotted at Celebrity Beyond's naming ceremony. (Pax Global Media)

Design that goes beyond

A second trade sailing is currently underway, giving Canadian travel advisors a chance to connect with the Celebrity Cruises Canada team, and experience the sleek ship, which showcases the design talents of British designer Kelly Hoppen CBE.

The star collaborations on board go, ahem, beyond the usual expectations.

Cutting edge design on board Celebrity Beyond. (Pax Global Media)

In addition to Berkus and Hoppen, Celebrity also partnered with Paris-based design firm Jouin Manku, British architect Tom Wright, Michelin-starred Chef Daniel Boulud (who introduces his first-ever fine dining restaurant at sea, Le Voyage); and products from goop CEO and founder Gwyneth Paltrow, the brand’s Well-Being Advisor.

The accommodations have fresh details that blur the boundaries between indoor and outdoor living, including the swoon-worthy two-story Edge Villas with outdoor plunge pools and eye-popping 1,900-square-feet Iconic Suites, the largest in the fleet, with a private sundeck.

Master Bedroom in the Iconic Suite. (Pax Global Media)

Infinite Veranda Stateroom on Celebrity Beyond. (Celebrity Cruises)

Celebrity's Infinite Veranda staterooms also return, allowing passengers to enjoy open air access to the sea and with the press of a button. 

Other Edge-Series features that pop include The Magic Carpet, a cantilevered, floating platform, the Rooftop Garden (which has real shrubbery) and Eden, a multi-level concept café, restaurant and performance space with leafy art installations and soaring panoramic windows.

Eden is a multi-level concept café, restaurant and performance space. (Pax Global Media)

The Rooftop Garden.  (Pax Global Media)

“This ship gives you confidence”

Allan Brooks, director of market sales at Celebrity Cruises Canada, said he was “thrilled” to have Canadian partners on board to take it all in.

“It hasn’t been an easy time, but we definitely see a very bright light at the other end of this tunnel,” Brooks told PAX, reflecting on the pandemic.

Allan Brooks, director of market sales at Celebrity Cruises Canada. (Pax Global Media)

“Confidence” is the word Brooks uses to describe Celebrity Beyond, which has 32 food and beverage venues.

“This ship gives you confidence,” Brooks said. “As a director of sales, or as a travel partner selling this, you can confidently say you're going to enjoy this. There’s truly something for everyone. It's a work of art, from the design to the architecture to the flow of the ship, the programming, not to mention the amazing dining opportunities and beautiful entertainment.”

From left: Chad Kowalenko, Brenda Lynne Yeomans; David Harris; Jennifer Matthews; Renata Grant; Laura Di Nardo. (Pax Global Media)

From left: Brenda Lynne Yeomans, Key Account Manager - Canada, Celebrity Cruises; Sandra Wesson, Director of Product and Industry Relations, Transat Distribution Canada; Maryanne Islip, Flamborough TravelPlus. (Pax Global Media)

From left (of Direct Travel): Carol McLelan, Michelle Ferris, Sonya Hemmings, Nicole Goodheart. (Pax Global Media)

From left:  Brenda Lynne Yeomans, Key Account Manager - Canada, Celebrity Cruises; Richard Fain, Chair of The Board of Directors, Royal Caribbean Group; Renata Grant, regional manager/Ontario, Vision Travel. (Pax Global Media)

"Upper Edge Class"

There are tweaks on Celebrity Beyond that, perhaps, propel the ship into a new class of its own. An “Upper Edge Class,” you could say.

The Grand Plaza on Decks 3, 4 and 5 has been redesigned – it is loftier and the popular Martini Bar is now placed in the centre so more guests can see the bartenders perform flair tricks. 

The Grand Plaza,. (Pax Global Media) The Martini Bar in the Grand Plaza. (Pax Global Media)

This buzzing hub, with DJs, live music and a futuristic LED-power chandelier that fires up with light shows at night, is the heartbeat of the ship.

There’s a new bridge on Deck 5, overlooking the action in the Plaza, that creates a direct path between the Raw On 5 sushi restaurant and Fine Cut Steakhouse.

Beyond also sees the return of World Class Bar, where old-fashions and signature cocktails rule.

Blu restaurant. (Pax Global Media)

Some restaurants are also a little larger – Luminae in The Retreat now wraps around the ship and Blu, reserved for passengers in AquaClass, has been expanded. The market-style Oceanview Café has also added a back bar and more light-filled seating.

Fitness spaces have also evolved – the motion studios for F45 and spin classes now face the sea, allowing more natural light into the rooms.

This adds to a fantastic outdoor running track that has a sloped ramp between two decks. 

Golden sculptures on board Celebrity Beyond. (Pax Global Media)

Beyond’s quirky and compelling on-board art is also worth noting.

French sculptor Fabien Merelle's L'origine is a life-sized white elephant balanced on a man's back at one end of the main pool. This is a go-to spot for selfies and group pics.  

There’s also “Odyssey,” an expanded, mesmerizing hallway of mirrors dotted with shimmering rock-like formations in glossy bronze.

French sculptor Fabien Merelle's L'origine is a life-sized white elephant balanced on a man's back at one end of the main pool. (Pax Global Media)

We even spotted an authentic van Gogh, hanging quietly in one of the hallways.

Outside, Beyond’s resort deck is longer and cabanas now face inward.

There was also space for additions – on Deck 15, near the Rooftop Garden, there are two new infinity pools made of clear glass, overlooking the ocean.

An audience on their feet

We'd also be remiss not to mention the shows on board.

The Theatre, with an “air fountain,” life-like floor projections and shape-shifting stage floors, delivers visually-spectacular programming at sea – in richer colours, too, compared to past ships.

We caught “Elements,” (about the five elements), which incorporates futuristic visuals, acrobatic performances, edgy fashion and dramatic live covers of songs like Lady Gaga’s “Rain On Me,” Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song” and even Metallica’s ‘Nothing Else Matters.”

Elements on board Celebrity Beyond. (Pax Global Media)

We also saw “Stage Door,” a “backstage pass” into Broadway and West End’s top musicals, where pro singers and dancers perform hits from shows like Rent, Dear Evan Hansen, Moulin Rouge, West Side Story, Hamilton, Dreamgirls and more.

As a bonus surprise on the trade sailings, Broadway and West End sensation Marisha Wallace herself  (who typically appears in the show in a pre-recorded video) made a live appearance on stage during the Dreamgirls segment.

Let’s just say she hit notes that reached the heavens and, alongside the ship’s beyond-talented cast, had the audience on their feet.

Broadway and West End sensation Marisha Wallace (right) made a surprise appearance on board Celebrity Beyond. (Pax Global Media)

Attracting first-timers

Putting destinations, sexy design and onboard experiences at the forefront of its marketing, Celebrity is positioning itself to attract new (and perhaps younger) audiences to cruising.

“We love the guests we have. We just want more. And in order for us to grow, we need more first-timers,” CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo told journalists at a press conference on Saturday.

The “sweet spot” for Celebrity is the 40 to 45 Gen-X market and boomers, Lutoff-Perlo said. 

The Magic Carpet. (Celebrity Cruises)

The all-inclusive market is also on Celebrity’s radar – the brand’s new-ish All-Included pricing model includes drinks, Wi-Fi and tips.

This segment, in particular, is “more affluent” and “they want simplicity,” Lutoff-Perlo explained.

Celebrity’s “Private Journeys,” which offer exclusive tours in destinations, is also the brand’s “fastest-growing” segment right now, she added.

From left: Allan Brooks, director of market sales - Canada, Celebrity Cruises; Michael Johnson, president, Ensemble; David Harris, executive chairman, Ensemble. (Pax Global Media)

And Celebrity is keeping up with evolving tastes by recently installing Elon Musk's high-speed Starlink internet, which bodes well for at-sea video streaming and remote work.

“None of us want to be disconnected anymore,” Lutoff-Perlo said. “Not even for a minute, and that's a shame in some ways, but [it’s] our reality.”

Captain Kate McCue, whose social media accounts have amassed millions of followers via TikTok and Instagram, is also, perhaps, Celebrity’s biggest influencer these days.  

From left: Captain Kate McCue; Jason Liberty, president and CEO, Royal Caribbean Group; Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO, Celebrity Cruises. (Pax Global Media)

Not only does her platform inspire others to pursue their dreams, it also introduces new audiences to the cruising world.

“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. “It’s those ah-ha moments where you go, ‘Yes, this is what we can offer. This is our reality.”

Celebrity Beyond embarks on her first consumer sailing out of Florida this Tuesday (Nov. 8) on a five-night Western Caribbean cruise. PAX will be on board all week, alongside several Canadian travel advisors. Stay tuned for our exclusive coverage!

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