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Take a look on board Celebrity Apex in the photo gallery above.
The peachy Florida sunset is not quite close enough for me to reach out and touch, but I'm tempted to try anyway. With an Aperol spritz in hand, there's no better place to enjoy the ocean views as day turns into night than from the bright orange Magic Carpet. Jutting out over the edge of the ship, Celebrity Apex's cantilevered floating platform is as large as a tennis court and as inviting as a beach bar. The glass balcony enables premium visibility and creates an illusion that one could dive off the edge into the deep blue sea.
Located on the starboard side of the ship, the 90-tonne moveable deck is designed to serve multiple purposes. When stationed at Deck 5, it transforms into one of the ship's most popular bars and live music spaces. At dinnertime, highly coveted tables are the place to be for grilled lobster tails, slow-roasted chateaubriand and line-caught branzino. On Deck 14 it becomes an open-air extension of the pool deck; on Deck 16 it hosts private events.
Down on Deck 2, it serves its original intended function as a platform for getting on and off tenders. As a water-level thoroughfare, there's no need for passengers to navigate stairs and ramps. Instead they wait their turn to go ashore in a modern and inviting lounge area.
Information on the platform's current location is updated in real-time and displayed on the LED touchscreen elevator panels for ease of navigation. And no, despite the name, safety considerations preclude passengers from riding the Magic Carpet as it moves between decks. It would be fun, though.
The engineering feat is impressive, the true innovation a rare achievement in cruising. It's a highlight of Celebrity Apex's outward-facing vision, on a ship designed to maximise its connection to the sea.
Finally christened this month, 581 days overdue from its original scheduled inauguration in March 2020, Celebrity Apex is the current "It girl" of the industry.
Fitting then that her godmother, Reshma Saujani, is a dynamic and inspiring woman. The founder of successful non-profit Girls Who Code, Saujani is the author of the bestseller, Brave, Not Perfect.
We all know how much the world has changed in the past 18 months. Now that we are through the worst of the pandemic (fingers firmly crossed), Celebrity Cruises is going all in on their prediction that travelling by ship will be better than ever in 2022.
When the ship is Celebrity Apex, at the peak of its class in so many ways, the future looks bright.
Apex's guest capacity of 2910 at double occupancy, with 1319 crew members, means an elevated level of service at an approachable price point.
The second Edge-class ship, Apex matches and then one-ups sister ship Celebrity Edge. A third vessel in the series, Celebrity Beyond, will debut next year with social media favourite Kate "Captain Kate" McCue at the helm.
As well as the established Edge Series features, passengers can look forward to brand new attractions, including a reimagined Eden zone with tempting dinner options and Wonder at Eden entertainment programming. The curated art collection onboard surpasses that of many esteemed galleries.
A new bar, Craft Social, features some of the world's best craft beers and delicious pub food. The main dining room has been divided into four intimate restaurants, serving Italian, Greek, French and American classics.
The line's most technologically advanced ship yet, Apex impresses with theatre productions incorporating an enormous curved LED screen.
Beautifully designed cabins and suites feature high-end interior design inspired by residential trends (looking at you, white and grey faux marble). From modern two-storey villas to cosy inside staterooms, all accommodations will please the tech-savvy with temperature and TV remote controls operated from the smartphone app.
From the chapter on why-didn't-anyone-think-of-this-sooner, Celebrity Apex's Infinite Verandahs blur the lines between indoor and outdoor living. Press a button and the top half of the cabin's floor-to-ceiling glass window-wall comes down, letting in the fresh breeze and transforming the entire cabin into a balcony. If the weather turns rainy while the cabin is unattended, the Captain closes the window by remote control. They really have thought of everything.
The mind boggles at the gargantuan feat facing ship designers and engineers of the future. How can they continue to surprise and delight us with innovative features we didn't know we needed? It can't be easy, but somehow they keep on rising.
FIVE MORE THINGS YOU'LL LOVE ON CELEBRITY APEX
1. THE COMPLETE PACKAGE
With Celebrity's Always Included promise, every cruise includes drinks (spirits, cocktails, wines by the glass and more), Wi-Fi and tips. In providing these popular amenities free of charge on every sailing, every cabin category, every time, Celebrity has eliminated one of the few onboard "pain points" experienced by most travellers.
2. WORK IT OFF, OM IT OUT
Onboard fitness breaks a healthy sweat with the introduction of first-at-sea F45 classes as well as HIIT and Peloton bikes in the gym. Book an Iconic Suite and the butler will set up a Peloton for private use.
Celebrity Cruises' focus on Women In Wellness has led to collaborations with influential female leaders including Gwyneth Paltrow's goop. That means inspired morning meditations, chlorella smoothies, in-room fitness menus and Botox onboard.
3. RETREAT TO LUXURY
All guests who book a suite have access to The Retreat experience, ideal for special occasions or just a we-deserve-this-after-lockdown splurge. Retreat guests may dine at Luminae, from a menu curated by Michelin-star chef Daniel Boulud. There's an exclusive lounge, sun deck and pool that would rival any luxury resort. Dedicated concierges are available 24/7 to accommodate requests and make reservations.
4. RETAIL FIRSTS
There's an emphasis on high-end luxury goods within the ship's 7,000 square feet (650 square metres) of retail stores. Bvlgari and Cartier stand-alone boutiques should take care of any casino jackpots, while the first-ever Montblanc lifestyle boutique onboard a ship might inspire cruisers to update their luggage. At the iLounge, the first authorised Apple Specialist at Sea, guests can buy Apple products tax- and duty-free.
5. HEALTHY AT SEA
Confident that post-pandemic cruising is now a safe way to travel, Celebrity is sailing at reduced capacity to enable social distancing, with enhanced cleaning and sanitation protocols. Celebrity Cruises will continue to abide by CDC guidance and require all guests, 12 years and older to be fully vaccinated with all initial COVID-19 vaccine doses administered at least 14 days prior to sailing. All guests age two and over must present a negative COVID-19 test taken within two days of embarkation. There are more doctors and nurses on each ship than ever before. Importantly, Celebrity provides a guarantee that if you test positive for COVID during your cruise, they will cover the cost of onboard medical treatment and private air transfer home for you and your travelling party.
A 12-night cruise in the British Isles on Celebrity Apex costs from $4724 a person. It departs from Amsterdam and stops at Dublin, Belfast, Glasgow and more. Wi-Fi, drinks and service charges are included.
Kristie Kellahan was a guest of Celebrity Cruises.