“Get Out There” is a column for itchy footed humans written by Paste contributor Blake Snow. Although different now, travel is still worthwhile—especially to these open borders.
It took a minute, but cruising is back. Although most liners halted their sailings over the last couple of years, all ships are now full steam ahead.
The same is true of Celebrity Apex, the best-rated, recently launched ship from the ocean’s top-rated cruise line, according to passenger reviews. After being christened just before the pandemic, Apex basically sat unused for the better part of two years, before settling into its current Caribbean itinerary last fall.
The week before Christmas, my family boarded Apex in fantastic Fort Lauderdale for a week of all-you-can-eat fun, island hopping (e.g. Key West, Cozumel, Grand Cayman), and sunny relaxation. Here’s what we liked most about the ship.
Four star food
Celebrity is known for “above average” cuisine, and the same is true on Apex. Although the main dining rooms missed a couple of times, the majority of dining rooms, specialty restaurants, and even the buffet usually landed, if not delighted. Notable dishes included the butternut apple walnut soup at Tuscan, the burrata beet salad and braised short ribs at Le Petit Chef, and the Greek salad with chicken kebabs at Cypress. The buffet’s Caribbean oxtail was outstanding, as were the fire grilled pizzas, beef chimichangas, and near exhaustive selection of food. Other highlights included the chocolate croissants, mousse cake, and anytime goodies from Cafe Bacio. Oh, and bottomless soft serve ice cream by the pool (I was on vacation!)
Unlike other cruises, Celebrity has included free drinks, WiFi, and tips on every ship for the last couple of years. This is a wonderful perk that makes the cruise experience that much more enjoyable, indulgent, and care-free. It’s partly why Celebrity has been rated one of the “best values” in cruising, despite its upscale digs. Although the included basic drink package and wifi are both limited, their inclusion is better than other cruise lines can say, plus premium packages are available if you really want it all.
This ain’t your grandma’s cruise ship. Apex and the company’s new “Edge” class ships are shining examples of this. Onboarding, porting, and disembarking are a breeze with app checkin and the ginormous destination gangway. Vegas-like push button controls quickly wake, sleep, or adjust your room in an instant. The “infinite” balconies with convertible windows give you more space than traditional verandas. The tender boats are the most luxurious I’ve ever been on. And the bathrooms are the biggest I’ve ever refreshed myself in. Overall, Apex is smart, modern, and expedites your vacation instead of complicating it. Even the mandatory safety check takes just a minute (really).
Apex is not a booze cruise, nor is it a boring one. There’s no blaring announcement in your room everyday telling you what’s going on. There is an activity guide, but Celebrity assumes you’ll seek it out and is okay letting you sleep in as long as you want. On the ship, Apex exudes a laid back environment without ever being overtly boring (more on that below). My only critique is the ship might have been a little too quiet at times and could have benefited from more upbeat music in certain situations.
Apex has an open air big screen on the top deck for watching sports and movies—the biggest I’ve ever seen on a cruise ship. Our family enjoyed the World Cup, NFL, and recently released movies on it several times. The pool and suspended hot tubs are similarly spacious and satisfying. And complimentary room service is an indulgent bonus. But Silent Disco was the funnest thing we did on board. Using tri color coded wireless headphones, three different DJs spin different mixes simultaneously. Listeners and dancers tune into their favorite, and it’s fun to watch which color is getting the most love at any given moment, or just people-watch with your headphones off.
After sailing on Apex—our third Celebrity ship in five years—it’s no wonder this cruise line is the highest reviewed with equally high marks for value. Party-hard passengers probably won’t love Apex, but virtually everyone else will—couples and families very much included.
Where to stay: If you’re forced to overnight or extend your vacation before or after sailing, my family had a relaxing time at Marriott Harbor Beach Resort. It’s a big, beautiful, classic property with its own private beach, renovated rooms, and minutes away from both the cruise port and airport. It’s a real South Florida gem.
Blake Snow contributes to fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies as a bodacious writer-for-hire and frequent travel columnist. He lives in Provo, Utah with his adolescent family and two dogs.