What do Simone Biles, Gwyneth Paltrow, Nate Berkus, Daniel Boulud and one of the world’s most Insta-famous naked cats have in common? Here’s a hint: It weighs 140,600 tons, yet somehow manages to float.
Aptly named “Beyond,” Celebrity Cruises’ newest ship is sailing proof that some cruise companies never stop innovating – even during a global pandemic. In fact, Beyond’s steel-cutting took place in 2020. While the rest of the world was in lockdown, ship makers at the Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard in northwestern France were busy building the 17-deck, 1,073-foot-long vessel.
Capable of housing 3,260 passengers and 1,400 crew members, Beyond is basically an ocean-going village. The real groundbreaking ceremony, however, took place in March when Beyond’s captain, Kate McCue, became the first female captain to steer a cruise liner out of the 160-year-old shipyard.
Cruising after COVID: What it's like to sail with a disability right now
It wasn’t Captain Kate’s first first. In 2015, she made waves as the first American woman to helm a major cruise ship. She’s an A-lister in the cruising industry and far from the only big name associated with Beyond. Biles is the ship’s godmother, Paltrow its well-being adviser and Berkus and Boulud lent their talents to the design and dining departments. McCue's naked cat is the ship’s unofficial mascot.
Beyond – which is currently in the Mediterranean before transitioning to the Caribbean this fall – is the third, and largest, ship in Celebrity’s avant-garde Edge Series. Like its sister ships, Edge and Apex, Beyond boasts something no other cruise line can claim: the world’s first cantilevered platform at sea.
Magic Carpet ride
Dubbed the Magic Carpet, this multiuse space hovers over the open water like a 2,100-square-foot floating shelf. It’s dynamic, too. When Tom Wright, the architect behind Dubai’s head-turning Burj Al Arab Hotel, designed the Magic Carpet, he made sure it was capable of moving seamlessly up and down more than 10 stories. During the day, it’s on Deck 14, allowing passengers to lounge in front of floor-to-ceiling water views. At night, it lowers to Deck 5, where it functions as a bar, live music venue and seafood restaurant.
You won't be bored: What it's like to go on a cruise by yourself
Food from Daniel Boulud, more
The Magic Carpet’s “Dinner on the Edge” is just one of Beyond’s 32 food and beverage options, which include eight specialty restaurants. The crème de la crème is Le Voyage, Boulud’s first restaurant at sea. An ode to French cuisine inspired by international flavors, Le Voyage wows with dishes like Argentinian filet mignon; five-spice duck pithivier, a savory pie; and Brazilian moqueca, a fish stew. It’s also hard not to be impressed by the walk-through wine display in Cosmopolitan. Like the ship’s other specialty restaurants, its menu was crafted by Cornelius Gallagher, the Michelin-starred chef who moonlights as Celebrity’s vice president of food and beverage.
Beyond also has buffet central, although it’s laid out more like a high-end food hall. Think Eataly – but instead of just Italian food, expect to find a little bit of everything. Just don’t plan on serving yourself. This ship – which has one of the highest numbers of handwashing stations per capita – is playing it as safe as possible when it comes to germ prevention. For lighter fare like acai bowls and piñakales (basically piña coladas with kale in lieu of rum), passengers can refuel at the Spa Cafe. Its menu was given the green light by Paltrow, Goop founder.
Betting onboard: Carnival Corp. to roll out sports betting, iGaming options on ships
Beyond’s accommodations range from 181-square-foot interior staterooms to two-story villas with private plunge pools and the seemingly endless two-bed, two-bath Iconic Suites. Measuring 1,892 square feet, they’re the largest in Celebrity’s entire fleet. While a four-night Caribbean cruise on Beyond starts at just $476 per person, an Iconic Suite on the same cruise will set you back at least $15,000.
Beyond also features Celebrity’s newest room category: AquaClass. These wellness-centered suites include complimentary access to the spa’s hammam (Turkish bath), crystalarium and float room, where guests can “float” in meditative bliss while swinging in basket chairs suspended from the ceiling. (There’s also a salt room and even a space carved out for rainfall water therapy.)
Alluring onboard experiences
What Beyond lacks in waterslides and splash pads it more than makes up for with cantilevered plunge pools and two-story hot tubs in the shape of giant martini glasses on the Resort Deck. The ship’s art is just as eye-catching. For starters, the 75-foot-long (24-yard) main pool fronts a life-size sculpture of a man attempting to balance an elephant on his back. Then there are the NFTs. Beyond is the line's first ship to showcase, and sell, digital masterpieces by the award-winning visual artist Rubem Robierb.
Of course, Beyond also features your cruise ship staples, albeit elevated. It’s the first ship to have boutiques from luxury brands like Stella McCartney, Marni and La Maison du Chocolat. There’s also a Vegas-style casino, state-of-the-art fitness center – the first to offer F45 high-intensity group workouts at sea – and a rooftop garden with enough plants to warrant having a full-time botanist on board.
If the common areas are too common, passengers willing to pay a little more can retreat to The Retreat. Beyond’s resort-within-a-resort concept boasts its own lounge, restaurant, pool and two-story sundeck – all exclusive spaces reserved for Retreat guests.
Still, the ship’s real VIP is Bug Naked, Captain Kate’s elusive elf sphynx. This hairless, faithful feline (who has more than 59,000 faithful Instagram followers of his own) has sailed by her side for years. Forget Biles and Paltrow; he’s Beyond’s biggest asset. On ships, cats – even black ones – are considered to bring good luck.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Cruise ship tour: Celebrity Beyond is its biggest, most luxe liner yet