About two years ago, RAS and I cruised on one of Celebrity Cruises’ Edge-class ships, Celebrity Apex. While the trip was only three nights, and we went to the most visited port in the Caribbean, Nassau, it was probably one of the best cruises I have experienced. That’s because the ship itself made it unique and special.
Now, as part of the Cruise Planners’ annual convention, I was on the newest sister ship, Celebrity Ascent. I must admit, when we first came aboard, it was a bit of déjà vu. So much of the Ascent was like Apex.
But this sailing has been different. Our group and another travel advisor group were on a “cruise to nowhere” for two nights. That means we sailed to sea without a port stop before returning to Fort Lauderdale. We have access to everywhere on the ship, including the super-exclusive Retreat area. And we can eat and drink wherever we want for no extra cost, except for the specialty dining venues. So, here are a few things that set the Ascent experience apart from Apex.
There are just a few design and layout differences between the two ships. The one that stood out for me was the two-level figure eight running/walking track. On Apex, the edge of the track went along the more open Rooftop Garden and made near run-ins with passersby likely. That flaw has been corrected by giving it plenty of space between the two.
I’ve also noticed that the sculpture garden is not along the ship's side, like on Apex, but they are more spread out. One thing that stood out was the Aurora collection, a series of metallic pieces in a darkened hallway leading to Eden, the garden-like café, bar and restaurant toward the aft. I wish I could have spent some time here.
Another positive about Ascent is the signage. No matter where you are, you can figure out where to go. The elevators in each part of the ship have clear signs outside and inside. I never felt lost or confused when I needed to go somewhere. I wish more cruise ships had this simple but useful feature.
Our stateroom was the same as on Apex, maybe with a slightly larger bathroom (which I can always appreciate).
Dining and drinks
The four main dining rooms are essentially the same on both ships. One thing that was specially done for us was the tastings. This gave us a chance to enjoy some of the dishes exclusive to those restaurants without having to go to them. My favorites were the Brie en croute at Normandie, one of the dining rooms, and the cauliflower, bacon and shrimp mousse at Cosmopolitan. There were also salads from the other dining rooms, Tuscan and Cyprus, that included burrata and grilled octopus, respectively. My meals in two of these places were delicious but standard, which is why I don’t have pictures of them.
Oceanview Café, the buffet, was a cornucopia of international foods and flavors. I swung through when hardly anyone was around and twice for breakfast, but I was impressed with the selection of dishes, which included grilled meats, salads, pasta, dessert, Asian, Mexican, Indian dishes. Everything was presented in a beautiful, artistic manner.
Ascent had many great bars all around the ship. But hands down, the fan favorite is the Martini Bar in the Grand Plaza. Slick and shiny, with bartenders that flip and twirl bottles and glasses as they serve your drinks, the place becomes an event. A close second would be the Magic Carpet, the hydraulic platform that serves as a bar, restaurant and tender docking station and has the best open sea views. Another wonderful place for drinks and dining is the garden-like Eden venue at the aft of the ship.
I’ll be upfront – Celebrity Apex had a half dozen Peloton bikes in the fitness center. But when I went to work out, the Ascent gym did not have them. I found out the bikes were taken out as part of a national recall and may be brought back in the future. But the gym is probably one of the best equipped at sea, with plenty of cardio equipment, free weights and strength machines.
Along with the usual treatments, the spa features a thermal area with a salt room, steam room, sauna and aromatherapy rain shower. Access is included for those in spa staterooms, but anyone can enjoy them with a daily use fee.
Since this was an inaugural sailing, we had access to normally restricted areas, like the Retreat. This area, with its sundeck, pool, lounge and restaurant, is open only to suite guests.
The pools on Ascent are like those on the other Edge class ships, including the adults-only Solarium. But something I noticed was that some of the hot tubs had transparent fiberglass sides. This could be considered cool or disarming, depending on who you talk to.
Celebrity Ascent is a worthy addition to the Edge-class sisterhood of ships. I'd love to sail on a cruise here again.