Pictured left to right outside the new store are: Paul Hardwick, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents Director of Retail; Emma Bailey, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents; Tutti Taylor, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents; Councillor Candy Vaughan, Mayor of Eastbourne; Trevor Ridler, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents Business Development Manager; and Shirley Waters, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents..
The exciting news of cruise ships returning to service and the travel industry resuming, means we can finally get away on much needed and well-deserved getaways.
Our Cruise Development Manager Rachel Brinkley was offered the opportunity to join Celebrity Cruises brand new ship Celebrity Apex and found it was a mix of emotions… Firstly, the excitement of getting back on board after such a long time, but also the nervousness of what will it be like and a number of questions I’m sure everyone has. What will it be like? what will the protocols be? what paperwork is required? how will it be travelling abroad? And most importantly where do I find out all this information? Rachel shares her experience with us here.
Travel agents have always been on hand to offer advice, expertise and share their knowledge and I honestly feel that they are a key factor when there is so much new information to understand.
Cruise lines have extensive experience providing for a clean and sanitised environment aboard cruise ships in their daily procedures, and one of the great things about the cruise industry, is its ability to adapt and they have implemented new procedures and protocols to keep everyone safe at sea, without affecting your overall experience
Knowing the requirements, understanding what I needed to do and what procedures were in place, I downloaded the Celebrity App, booked my flights and started thinking about packing…but first I had to find my suitcase!
Prior to the flight Ryanair communicated details of H&S protocols, as well as providing information for the destination and links to information sites.
I also had a number of updates and communications from Celebrity too which meant I knew exactly what I needed to do. I was finally getting away!
Travelling to Athens, I was required to complete a passenger locator form for my arrival, and to join the ship I had to be double vaccinated and would need to have a Covid-19 test at the port prior to embarkation. I arrived at the airport and was on my way.
At the airport the processes were efficient, security was quick and effortless. The plane was not full but masks were required on board, other than when you were eating and drinking.
Testing to join the ship, all guests are required to have a test prior to embarkation.
I had to pre-register for a test before travel (all booked through the Celebrity app). On arrival into Athens I was transferred to the port, luggage was taken and we went through to the testing area where I showed my QR code, was given a reference number and a tube and went through to the station to be swabbed!
I then had to sit in the waiting area (with cucumber water served to me) and when the number was called, got my results and a clearance sticker to go through to check in – process took about 20 – 30 mins. I was on board!!
I was incredibly lucky and was allocated a Sky Suite, and oh my gosh what a suite it was!
Not only was the suite beautiful, spacious and had a fantastic amount of storage and incredible ocean views, it also allows you to use the Suite only restaurant, Luminae at The Retreat, as well as the Retreat lounge and sundeck.
Suite guests also have their Personal Retreat Host, onboard Retreat concierge and reserved seating in the Theatre for shows on Chic Nights. One really incredible touch was that you are greeted at the theatre by your Personal Retreat Host, and shown to your reserved seating when you arrive.
Suite guests get to dine in Luminae at The Retreat, a private restaurant offering exclusive menus with Signature Dishes from chef Daniel Boulud. The setting was beautiful and the food was incredible with so much choice, and nothing was too much trouble. The crew could not have been more welcoming.
Celebrity Apex, is the second in the Edge Series ships, with an incredible range of staterooms and suites, 29 restaurants, bars, and lounges and fantastic space and design. I was so excited to see what this incredible new ship had to offer. And she did not fail to meet all expectations. Wow, was the common theme throughout!
The ship is beautiful. The spaces, the décor and the overall feel. I felt relaxed and comfortable throughout, wherever I went, it really was fantastic to be back.
The crew were incredible; friendly, helpful and always happy to assist. The service was fantastic from start to finish
Celebrity Cruises have also recently introduced an all-inclusive offering …Always Included. To me, this has enhanced the Celebrity Cruises experience and added an extra touch of luxury.
I really liked the choice of dining venues on board, there really was an option for everyone. A choice of four main dining rooms to choose from, as well as the Eden Café, Mast Grill or the Oceanview Café. The Oceanview Café, has waiters and waitresses bringing you drinks and food is plated for you at the stations.
The speciality restaurants offering a Steakhouse, French bistro, sushi and seafood, BBQ grill at the Rooftop Garden Grill - this was my favourite with an amazing outside setting, ocean views and incredible food and service, or Eden offering an open kitchen and innovative dishes for an incredible dining experience. I really need to get back on board to try Eden and Le Petit Chef experience!
The retreat is a beautiful area at the top and front of the ship, available only to suite guests. When the weather wasn’t so great, I loved sitting and relaxing in the solarium. It’s a really lovely inside area with pool, hot tubs and a café and juice bar.
The entertainment on board was amazing. There was always something to do and the shows were fantastic.
Some ports allowed guests to travel ashore independently, however in Messina I was required to take an arranged tour and had to have a Covid-19 test prior. This was all arranged by the ship and I was given a time and place to attend. On arrival I provided our ship pass to check in and was given a tube with a reference number and handed this to the medical team. The results for the test were then delivered to my suite that evening. I also had to complete a passenger locator form but the ship provided details of this to me and gave all the information needed.
As I was disembarking in Palma, I needed to take a Covid-19 test the day before and complete a passenger locator form. Again, this was arranged by the ship and all information was provided ahead of time. It was a really easy process and very well organised.
The flight back was almost full, but again was an easy process through check in. Supplying documentation and getting all the paperwork checked does add a little bit of time but the airports had this in hand and everything was really well organised so I didn’t really notice. Arriving back into Stansted, I was off the plane, through passport control and had my bags in record time!
I was required to complete a form to return to the UK, and had to do a day two PCR test after my return. This was all arranged before I left and I used Randox which offers a discount when you book through our agency. After ordering the test it arrived in the post within a couple of days, and I returned it using a drop box local to me. The results and certificate were sent through the following day. a really easy process.
Celebrity really do have everything in hand and made everything so straight forward and easy. All information is provided, protocols are in place, procedures are organised and the experience was easier than I had ever expected. I felt safe and secure throughout and knew whatever happened Celebrity had it in hand and I would be looked after… I really don’t know what I was initially worried about!
I had the most incredible time on board, the experience was better than ever and Celebrity Apex really did blow me away. I hadn’t appreciated how much I had missed cruising and am so grateful to have been able to get back on board, and being able to go back to doing what I love.
Our agents are here to help every step of the way and have incredible knowledge and expertise, the cruise lines are better than ever. I can’t wait to get away again and am already making plans for my next one!
When not in use as an embarkation station, the space is used for destination immersion, shore excursions, and more.
Used for an embarkation platform this incredible platform also transforms in to a bar and restaurant with incredible sea views
Inspired by classic French bistros
Craft Social Bar offers over 40 handcrafted boutique beer selections, creative cocktails and a wide selection of a la carte, gourmet comfort food and bar bites
Spread over 3 stories Eden offers a bright and airy atmosphere, and change as the mood shifts from breakfast to lunch, plus al fresco dining is available on either side of the café.
AquaClass® guests will enjoy this exclusive restaurant
Celebrity Apex offers 4 main dining options
Normandie Restaurant features contemporary French cuisine
Cuisine inspired by authentic southern Italian eateries
Creative cuisine—new American with global influences.
The menu’s main focus is seafood and features simple, clean dishes that celebrate the food and beverages of the Mediterranean region
Globally inspired and cutting-edge dining, exclusively reserved for guests of The Retreat.