“La Cucaracha, la cucaracha,” we sang while shaking our maracas and drinking margaritas in Cozumel as the world’s happiest chef, Angel, put my wife and me to the test of salsa.
It was one of many joyful moments we had during a wonderful week-long voyage with Celebrity Cruises, a vacation that provided much-needed winter warmth in the sunny climbs of Florida, the Gulf of Mexico and the Western Caribbean, all in an exciting and thirst-quenching round trip.
As well as being our first long-haul foray in three years, it was our first cruise with Celebrity and an opportunity to experience the highly acclaimed Apex, one of three new ships in the new “Edge class” series of Celebrity, adding a touch more luxury and some modern quirks to its already 12-strong fleet.
She is also a real stunner with her standout feature, the iconic Magic Carpet, the world’s first cantilevered floating bar and restaurant spanning an impressive 13 stories above sea level, offering guests the opportunity to literally ‘hang out’, sip refreshing cocktails and savor delicious cuisine while taking in the most beautiful views of the ocean.
It’s often claimed that one of the most exciting parts of a cruise is the first time you step on the ship and that was certainly the case for us when we entered the discovery nautical world of Apex, quickly taking our bearings on a self-organized tour of the decks and discover the location of our cabin.
Ours featured all the comforts you’d expect from a brand new ship with most things controlled at the push of a button, including Celebrity’s unique ‘infinity’ balcony, accessed via fashionable style shutters. Mediterranean that could be pushed back during the day making it feel like an extension of the room. And there’s no need to worry about being open to the elements as the button-controlled floor-to-ceiling window can be opened and closed as you please.
Before unpacking and with rumbling stomachs, the Ocean View Cafe buffet was calling, as was the obligatory “first drink” glass of prosecco to celebrate the start of a journey that would take us from Fort Lauderdale, across the Gulf of Mexico to Costa Maya, Belize and Cozumel, with the final stop at Grand Cayman in the Caribbean before returning to Florida. A few “days at sea” on each side would ensure the perfect balance between exploring, sunbathing and relaxing.
On the way to Mexico, the only thing left to decide was which restaurant we would eat after the opening theatrical performance, Charity Lockhart’s spectacular tribute to Aretha Franklyn.
The dining choices are endless with four restaurants – Chypre (Greek cuisine), Toscan (Italian), Normandie (French) and Cosmopolitan (American) – all complementary. Our favorite was the Tuscan, with standout dishes, the delicious tuna fillet with gnocchi and sumptuous papadelli pasta with beef shin stew.
The impressive list of specialty restaurants – Fine Cut Steakhouse, Le Grand Bistro, Le Petit Chef, Raw, The Magic Carpet, Rooftop Garden Grill and Eden – can all be reserved for an additional fee. As seafood lovers, Raw on 5’s exquisite sushi and sashimi came to visit on our last night, but it doesn’t matter where you dine because the Apex is a floating gourmet dream that guarantees one of the best culinary experiences at sea.
Eager to top up the tan, a retail therapy session in Costa Maya’s beachfront boutiques was followed by an afternoon of tanning and for me, a chance to whip out the sneakers for a trot around the run outdoor figure-eight Apex Track.
As well as keeping “food guilt” at bay, the unexpected burst of energy allowed me to experience other parts of the ship, including the pretty rooftop garden with giant movie screen and the lavish surroundings of The Retreat, an exclusive hideaway for the highest paying guests that has its own private restaurant, lounge, terrace and team of attendants.
Despite the ship’s capacity of nearly 3,000, there never seemed to be a shortage of sun loungers on which we could sit with a book, soak up the rays and order our favorite Kir Royale cocktails from the attentive bar staff. of the swimming pool.
Poolside entertainment was never far away either, as we took part in a fun water aerobics session and various brain teaser quizzes, letting the more competitive guests compete in a game of volleyball. against the senior members of the Apex crew.
On Belize and its capital city Belize City, where we escaped the hustle and bustle for a day to settle into the country’s natural beauty on a river tubing and zipline tour, before returning to sail to Cozumel and our tequila-inspired salsa-creation session where we sang, danced and hung out on the beach at the quaint resort of Playa Mia.
Back on board and as we were on Celebrity’s ‘Classic’ drinks package (a ‘Premium’ upgrade is available), the drinks kept flowing, and why not after 48 hours of fun in two amazing ‘on-in- a-lifetime’ Locations?
Like the restaurants, you have a variety of bars to choose from, including the Martini Bar at the Grand Plaza in the ship’s atrium, the open-air ‘Sunset Bar’ in a beautiful romantic setting, and our number one Craft Social Bar. , with its host of great beer options and a relaxing atmosphere in which we could sit and play cards at our leisure.
For a daily dose of caffeine, the Italian-inspired Al Bacio cafe was the place to be thanks to its superb range of specialty coffees and irresistible sweets, with the vanilla iced lattes and Nutella croissants winning a huge hit.
The last leg of the cruise took us to the Caribbean and George Town, Grand Cayman, which provided us with all the glitz and glamor you would expect from a place known for its financial district, but also its sandy beaches, its translucent blue water and its back -island lifestyle.
Glamor was in abundance every night in the Apex Theater, mainly thanks to the ship’s talented entertainment team of singers, dancers, acrobats and an incredible violinist, who put on several stunning shows while providing guests with exhibits. special events in the more intimate and verdant setting of Eden.
Our trip was coming to an end, but the party continued as we danced our last night at the silent disco, throwing all sorts of weird and wonderful shapes to a number of floor-filling hits, utterly unaware of our environment while immersing ourselves in the sounds of Latino, golden oldies and modern R&B.
It was the perfect finale to our wonderful cruise, but there was one more excursion to do after the inevitable disembarkation – the Fort Lauderdale Land & Sea Tour – which killed some time before our transfer to the airport and our evening flight. from Miami.
It was a real eye-opener to see how the other half lived as we cruised along the New River on a Carrie B riverboat, admiring the many breathtaking yachts and homes owned by the rich and famous.
This tour had ‘Celebrity’ written all over it and it was the fitting end to a truly wonderful trip.
A cruise to Key West, Belize and Grand Cayman on Celebrity Apex runs until April next year and prices start at £798 pp. For more information and to book, visit the Celebrity Cruises website.
When booking by March 1, 2023, travelers can enjoy savings of 75% for the second passenger, as well as an onboard spend of $400 (around £326) per stateroom.
Source : BBN WORLD NEWS