Celebrity Cruises delivers relaxed luxury in an LGBTQ+ welcoming environment on their new ship BEYOND

Written by | Travel

Not sure cruising is for you? Might not feel comfortable on a cruise unless it is an all-LGBTQ+ voyage? Well, Celebrity Cruises may just have you rethinking all of that! After sailing on the newest ship in the Celebrity fleet, the 140,600-ton Celebrity Beyond, I will quote the words of a passenger who was asked if they were converted to cruising? The response was, “No. I’m converted to cruising on Celebrity.” The new Celebrity Beyond, the third ship in their Edge Series, is aptly named for a reason, it is simply … BEYOND. This ship (whose godmother is Simone Biles, 19-time World Champion Gymnast and seven-time Olympic Medalist) was built with more attention to detail than any other in the fleet – longer and taller, with wellness and relaxed luxury at its core. Kelly Hoppen’s exquisite style “changed how cruise ships are designed,” says Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President and CEO of Celebrity.

Once on board, you enter the Grand Plaza with its Martini Bar. “We built this space to be reminiscent of a European piazza – with live DJs, specialty restaurants, bars and lots of energy,” proudly reveals Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations Brian Abel. The chandelier show must be seen to be believed. Beyond lives up to its name in accommodations, destinations, design, culinary delights, and wellness. From two-story villas with their own outdoor jacuzzi, to world renowned Chef Daniel Boulud’s only restaurant at sea – Le Voyage, with over 400+ bottles of wine in their collection, to the theater’s 112-foot LED panels, this ship blends technology and innovation.

Adjacent to the rooftop garden with two cantilevered plunge pools, sits the Sunset Bar – a Moroccan inspired multi-level bar on Deck 15 of Beyond, designed by Nate Berkus. The attention to detail is noticeable and appreciated – giving the same relaxed luxury vibe … from the furniture, plantings, barware – and of course the incredible view from the stern of the ship. A live DJ brings chill beats to accompany your afternoon sail-a-way cocktail, and at this time of year in the Mediterranean, the sun doesn’t set until 9:30pm, so relax and enjoy!

The first-rate retail experience at sea for men – Mankind, has apparel, leather items, watches, jewelry, and more – all expertly curated for the male shopper.

Healthy smoothies and bites weave in the wellness experience even without you knowing. Fitness (F45) and spa programs and products (Goop from Gweneth Paltrow) are available and at your fingertips throughout the day. In the Spa, there is an unbelievable menu of services. Two of my favorites are the BIOTEC Super-Charger for Men – this facial helps de-stress, de-age and de-fatigue the complexion. A triple hit of ultrasonic peeling, steam and galvanic current delivers a deep clean, simultaneously exfoliating and powering up antiwrinkle properties; and the Coconut Poultice Massage, which uses perfectly warmed pure coconut compresses to massage the body, releasing natural emollients to nourish and moisturize the skin followed by a traditional hands-on massage to relax and de-stress the muscles. In addition to the Spa and Fitness Center, you can take your experience to another level at The Retreat, private suites and exclusive spaces, including a two-story sundeck, lounge, and restaurant – all creating a resort-within-a-resort.

With a 100% fully-vaccinated passenger and crew policy, health and cleanliness are top priorities and highly visible – everything is constantly cleaned, swept, wiped down – from the ship railings to the tour buses – with hand sanitizer available. This focused effort provides one of the safest modes of travel, as well as passenger peace-of-mind.  Celebrity demonstrates a commitment to shaping the future of travel.

The vibe around the ship is jovial and free-spirted, everyone enjoying the common space, a coffee, a martini, a laugh, and a smile. The passenger demographic is very diverse – somewhat younger than you might imagine, and I met and spoke with many passengers, all who experienced the same welcoming level of service, openness, and equality.  The crew here goes truly beyond – not the obligatory “good morning” or “hello” but a genuine smile and thoughtful interaction.  I found what Captain Kate McCue said to be true: “the ship is amazing, but it is the crew that brings it to life.” Having been in the service industry in a previous life, I am aware of what hard work it is, but Celebrity has managed to find, not just a crew, but a family.

The thoughtful little things like remembering one’s preferences at dinner, holding a special item in the retail shop, walking you to a specific destination … the entire crew works together seamlessly to make your holiday stress-free. While I certainly couldn’t interact with the full complement of 1400+ (from 60 countries), I would like to express a heartfelt “thank you” to a few who made our trip so enjoyable on so many levels. Sole in the Mankind retail store went above and beyond in helping with us with some specialty items (yes, this ship is aptly named); Sandeep, Shanice (oh we loved Grandmother’s freshly baked bread), and Natalie, who served beautiful and delicious dishes in the Tuscan Dining Room; Carlos in Café al Bacio prepared the best sugar-free vanilla lattes around; Flavia in Eden (a multi-use restaurant/bar/lounge filled with tropical plants) for suggesting the roasted Carabineros shrimp and the sheep’s milk ricotta gnocchi with smoked pecorino cheese; Grace who made all of our martini dreams come true in the Casino; and many others.

Celebrity’s slogan is “We believe in opening up the world – for everyone,” and the company delivers on that promise. Royal Caribbean Group, Celebrity’s parent company, received a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2022 Corporate Equality Index, the nation’s foremost benchmarking survey and report measuring corporate policies and practices related to LGBTQ+ workplace equality. “We want everyone to feel welcome and want to be known as a diverse and inclusive brand,” says Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President and CEO of Celebrity.

Recognizing the need to improve the representation of all marginalized communities, Celebrity created The All-Inclusive Photo Project (“AIPP”), a new campaign and the world’s first free to use, ‘open source’ travel image library. I was privileged to view some of the images and speak with one of the photographers, Giles Duley, an English documentary photographer and himself a triple amputee. The stunning images feature models, athletes, artists, and activists, all from underrepresented groups, experiencing the wonder of travel and sharing their unique story.  In addition to Giles Duley, the works of acclaimed photographers Annie Leibovitz, Naima Green, a Black, queer New York-based photographer, and Jarrad Seng, an Australia-based photographer, filmmaker and creative director of Malaysian-Chinese descent, are also showcased.

Cruising has always been a desirable vacation option. But as travelers become more discerning and in tune with social issues, Celebrity presents itself front and center for your consideration. A partner on so many levels – LGBTQ equality; gender equality (Celebrity boosted the number of women working across their fleet from 3% to 32%; 45% of guest-facing crew on Beyond are women); the environment (everything on BEYOND is recycled and the ship’s carbon footprint is 30% less than a land resort; and they have a 90% reduction in single use plastics); and the world (Celebrity supports and provides financial assistance to its Ukrainian crew and established a fund to help get families out of Ukraine).

As I write this toward the end of my voyage, live piano music plays to accompany my morning coffee in the Cafe al Bacio. This spot, along with the Martini Bar, became the rendezvous for my fellow cruise acquaintances and I during my time on board. I feel as though I am leaving many new friends once I disembark from Beyond. But I will be back.

Are you ready to join in the adventure and discover the world again? Whether on Beyond or another of their award-winning ships, you can read about all the destinations and experiences awaiting you on Celebrity and book your cruise at https://www.celebritycruises.com/.

[All photos by Metrosource]

Last modified: May 25, 2023