During a small dinner with friends at the residence of television director Law Tan three months ago, cruise connoisseur and globetrotter Keren Pascual asked if we would be interested in joining him on the Celebrity Beyond cruise.
He explained that it was the newest cruise line and had just opened this year. The one he planned to do was the Mediterranean cruise, which was due to depart Rome on July 11 for Greece and Malta, then dock in Barcelona on July 21. I was very excited about Keren’s description of the cruise, especially the part about Greece. which would take us to Olympia, Rhodes, Santorini, Mykonos and Athens. I have never been to Greece and the idea of spending 10 nights aboard a luxury boat was very tempting. Thanks to Keren’s “sales” pitch, Leo Katigbak (responsible for ABS-CBN archives and film restoration) and I were on board.
As this was my first trip out of the country since the lockdown began in March 2020, there were many requirements to meet. I had to do a booster shot, apply for the yellow card at the quarantine office and a Schengen visa, book plane tickets, hotel rooms and our cruise, and finally prepare our itinerary. I was so excited for my first revenge trip that I asked my bosses for three weeks vacation leave.
On July 7, Keren, Leo and I flew to Rome and spent three nights there. We even hired a Pinoy driver, Ken Avelino, to drive us to Florence for a day to visit San Gimignano and Siena, two very picturesque towns a few hours from Rome. On Sunday July 10, we attended the 9 am mass at the Vatican and then spent the rest of the day wandering the streets of Rome.
The next day, July 11, we asked Ken to take us to the port of Civitavecchia where the Celebrity Beyond ship was waiting for its passengers to embark. The ship was certainly a sight to behold, her impressive brand-new exterior imposing and appealing. Checking in was a breeze as we completed most of the preparation steps online, including labeling our own baggage. As soon as we stepped inside, the three of us couldn’t help but be amazed and amazed as the ship was breathtakingly beautiful. The interiors were tastefully designed by world-class interior designers, and one terrace even had two Kenneth Cobonpue chairs beautifully displayed!
According to the website, the Celebrity Beyond has 21 decks and can accommodate 3,260 passengers and 1,400 crew. Its captain, Kate McCue, is the first female captain to lead a cruise liner.
When I got to my cabin (we each had our own), I saw that the interiors were very modern with their muted gray and white color scheme. The bathroom was surprisingly spacious enough and equipped with hotel-like amenities. I was especially excited to be able to order room service and have a meal overlooking the ocean from the infinity veranda. Other notable features were the remote controlled blinds, ultra-comfortable bed, mini bar, large screen TV with a good selection of TV shows, movies and live news channels from BBC, Fox News , NBC, etc
After unpacking and showering, Keren, Leo and I decided to explore the ship before deciding where we were going to have dinner. And boy, were we impressed when we saw what the ship had to offer! There are eight dining rooms open to all passengers and seven paying specialty restaurants. The Overview Café is where all the culinary action takes place. It was dubbed “Eataly” because of the wide choice of food and drink and is open all day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
For me, what was breathtaking was the “Magic Carpet Ride” area, which is a 2,100 square foot multipurpose space that hovers above the open water. Designed by Tom Wright, the same architect behind the Burj Al Arab hotel, it’s like a giant elevator that can go up and down 10 floors. During the day, it’s on deck 14, where passengers can relax and admire the view of the water. At night it is lowered to fifth deck where it transforms into a bar where guests can enjoy live music. If you are lucky, you may even witness a magical sunset.
The resort deck on the 14th level is where you will find the 75ft. main pool and the Solarium pool, which is enclosed in a glass dome and for the exclusive use of adults. This is also where you will find plenty of lounge chairs where you can rest and soak up the sun while taking in the ocean views.
Leo was also delighted with the full-service gym on Deck 15 with enough state-of-the-art equipment to accommodate 40 people at any one time. The spa also offers tanning and rejuvenation rooms, massages, and five different saunas to choose from.
Onboard entertainment is also fantastic. At any given time, there are approximately 60 activities to choose from, including musical performances, dancing, piano bar, magic shows, craft tutorials, art exhibits, film screenings , recreational sports activities such as table tennis, water volleyball, etc. the theater – which seats 500 people – is state-of-the-art, with multiple hydraulic stages and a 110-foot curved LED wall.
On our second night, as we waited to see the theatrical production called Stage Door, Captain Kate McCue appeared and introduced herself and her leaders to the audience. She called the ship a “pandemic baby” as it was built during the two-year lockdown to the tune of $1.3 billion, and made its maiden voyage just three months ago in April 2022. The captain Kate, only 44 years old, is a dynamic and decorated captain and very pretty too! She reminded me of Sandra Bullock! The luxury vessel is proud to have a dream team of icons behind it, including award-winning interior designer Kelly Hoppen CBE, Global Culinary Ambassador Chef Daniel Boulud and wellness consultant Gwyneth Paltrow.
For me, it’s the service that is impeccable. It’s like checking into a five star hotel where food is available 24 hours a day and the staff are very helpful, smiling and courteous. My cabin is cleaned twice a day by Alan Adan, a Filipino who has worked on a cruise ship for 13 years and leaves me chocolates every night when he closes my bed.
According to Charles, one of the Filipinos assigned to the concierge, there are more than 200 Filipinos aboard the Celebrity Beyond, whose crew is made up of more than 70 nationalities serving on board. And since Filipinos dominate the number of crew members, we were able to ask them to cook us a Filipino meal on our penultimate night. They surprised us with lumpia shanghai, sinigang na hipon and beef tapa with garlic rice! It was so comforting to have Filipino food after over two weeks, even though Keren, Leo and I were probably the only Filipino passengers at the time.
From what I observed, the passengers were mostly Americans, Latinos, Europeans and a very small number of Asians. As for age, I saw lots of families traveling with babies and teenagers, as well as many couple-only vacationers. It was a good mix of old, middle aged and young people.
My only regret was not having taken my children with me. But then again, isn’t that the perfect excuse to take another cruise next year? As Social Cruise Director Luigi Del Mar says every night, cruise life is back and for me it’s so liberating!
(For all Celebrity cruise inquiries, please contact Andrea Manzano at 0995-4123187.)