3 takeaways from Celebrity Cruises' new ship

As I walked to dinner on Celebrity Cruises’ new ship, Ascent, I found myself at what I thought was a dead-end. The vessel’s expansive fifth deck shrunk to a narrow hallway with infinity mirrors and polished steel sculptures that seemed to indicate I’d taken a wrong turn.

But I soon realized the installation from art and design studio Fredrikson Stallard, named Aurora, also served a practical function. I walked through the mesmerizing space, which features 1,600 lights in a “digital interpretation” of the aurora borealis according to a placard at the entrance and exited closer to the restaurant.

The way Ascent immerses guests in its artwork was among several features that stood out during a two-night sailing earlier this month. And while the ship has a lot in common with previous Edge Series vessels, there are some new twists. Here are three takeaways.

The Aurora installation on Celebrity Ascent.The Aurora installation on Celebrity Ascent.

The Aurora installation on Celebrity Ascent.

1. The ship is artfully designed

Many other spaces on Ascent incorporate sculptures and paintings, and often feel like works of art themselves thanks to striking design features.

On Deck 14, for example, tall narrow archways lead guests to the ship’s Magic Carpet, a cantilevered platform on the side of Celebrity’s Edge Series ships that offers sweeping views (the platform can also move up and down the vessel).

Around the corner,  a giant metallic octopus (given the pet name Ocho by the crew) stands watch over the pool. And a tiered LED chandelier hanging above the Martini Bar is the star of the ship’s three-deck Grand Plaza.

Ascent's Grand Plaza.Ascent's Grand Plaza.

Ascent’s Grand Plaza.

The attention to detail extends to the accommodations, perhaps no more evident than in the two-bedroom, two-bathroom Iconic Suite, which has floor-to-ceiling windows, a nearly 700-square-foot terrace with a hot tub and a butler’s pantry. The room is in The Retreat, Celebrity’s all-suite category that gives guests access to a private restaurant, lounge and sun deck, among other perks.

Prices for the suite vary by itinerary, travel dates, and other factors, but the suite currently starts at an average of $21,425 per person for a seven-night cruise to the Bahamas, Mexico, and Grand Cayman, departing in March 2024 from Fort Lauderdale.

But no matter where you are on the ship, Ascent puts a premium on relaxation: There is ample seating all over the vessel, from poolside loungers to plush chairs by the window at Café al Bacio.

2. The food is elevated

Ascent’s 32 restaurants, bars and lounges showcase Celebrity’s focus on its culinary program, both at included venues like Oceanview Café – which feels like part buffet, part food hall, with soaring ceilings and a variety of international cuisine – and its specialty restaurants.

Eden Restaurant, located in a three-level space that also hosts shows, offers a mix of dishes like Aegean Sea ceviche; Nova Scotia lobster casserole; and oven-roasted chicken (I ordered the chicken at dinner, which came with duck fat potatoes, mushrooms, daikon leaves, fennel salad, pickled mustard and chicken apricot roasting jus).

Le Voyage is an intimate specialty restaurant.Le Voyage is an intimate specialty restaurant.

Le Voyage is an intimate specialty restaurant.

The line’s more intimate Le Voyage restaurant from chef and Celebrity’s Global Culinary Ambassador Daniel Boulud was redesigned for the ship with a cream and gold color scheme, hand-embroidered leather wall art and a marble entrance. The venue can accommodate around 60 people – including its six-guest private room – and features dishes inspired by travel like tamarind and peanut-crusted prawns and Brazilian moqueca.

Both restaurants also feature tasting menus, including a plant-based menu at Eden.

3. There is a private game room

Ascent features The Annex, a new space where guests can play sports like golf on a virtual simulator, watch movies and sing karaoke (there were even earplugs on the tables when I went, just in case).

Guests can choose from various packages ranging from $150 to $375 for up to 10 people, depending on their selection and when they use the space. They can also add up to five additional guests for $35 each.

On the nearly 3,300-passenger ship, The Annex serves as a private playroom.

‘Come and go as you please’: Here’s how overnight cruise stops work

Every package includes soda, water and food from the onboard pub Craft Social, and some include alcohol (guests’ beverage packages also apply).

Overall, Ascent provides passengers a modern, elegant home base for their travels. And don’t be afraid to get lost onboard – you might just stumble upon something beautiful.

Nathan Diller is a consumer travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Nashville, Tennessee. You can reach him at ndiller@usatoday.com.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Celebrity Cruises’ new ship brings art, elevated dining and surprises

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