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Celebrity status - gourmet cruising - Europe

Where to stay

Travel Information

The itinerary

Set sail on Celebrity Apex for 12 nights and experience the highlights of Nordic countries with the Best of Scandinavia cruise. Departing from Southampton, stops will feature the most iconic spots of Scandinavia and the Baltic countries, including Stockholm, Tallinn, Helsinki and Copenhagen. Three departures are scheduled for 2024 (27 May, 15 June
The itinerary and 27 August). Prices range from £1,469pp for an inside stateroom to £3,934pp for the AquaClass (including access to SEA Thermal Suite and exclusive dining at Blu restaurant) and £5,196pp for The Retreat suite (with exclusive access to Luminae speciality restaurant and The Retreat Lounge and Pool Bar). celebritycruises.co.uk

Where to eat

Meals are included at four restaurants plus complimentary cafés and bars (C). Others are divided into two categories: Stateroom Exclusive (SE) and Speciality (S). Prices are an average per person for a three-course meal, excluding drinks and gratuity, unless stated. Please note, currency on board is US Dollar, so exchange rates are applicable.

Blu (SE) Expect vibrant, crisp flavours and clean cuisine matched to biodynamic wines. Plenty of veggie options, like plant-based Beyond Burger with garlic-avocado spread, piquillo peppers and crispy onions.

Café al Bacio Savour an Italian-style Lavazza espresso or opt for a Tea Forté premium tea. Cosy up in one of the red armchairs by the portholes with a good read and delectable pastry made by in-house pâtissiers – éclairs, cupcakes, Danish pastries, brownies… You name it.

Eden Restaurant (S) The place where design meets more outward-facing space than any other venue on board. Innovative specialities inspired by nature are at the core of the daily-changing offer. Choose from a sevencourse tasting menu with wine pairing or dine à la carte. Lobster-based mains are masterfully done – ask for the Nova Scotia lobster casserole – and the bar’s signature cocktails are not to be missed. Dinner only. £51.

Le Grand Bistro (S) French staples like croque monsieur, bouillabaisse and slow-braised lamb bourguignon served in a traditional bistro atmosphere. Children will enjoy an interactive experience with Le Petit Chef – an animated character appears beside your plate and shows you how each course is prepared before it’s served. Breakfast £8, dinner £43.

Luminae at The Retreat (SE) A luxurious experience awaits guests in this private restaurant decorated with Kelly Hoppen’s exquisite interior design and offering a special menu selection from Michelin-starred Daniel Boulud. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Normandie (C) A sophisticated ambience with art deco elements and Versailles-like mirrored panels is the perfect backdrop for French-inspired culinary delights. Start with coquilles Saint-Jacques, served in an exquisite pinot blanc sauce with crème fraîche and Gruyère, followed by duck confit with the most delicate apple-lavender compôte. Wash it all down with a glass of Elegance, a pinot noir made exclusively for Celebrity Cruises by Californian winemaker Kendall Jackson. Dinner only.

Oceanview Café (C) A market-place-inspired eatery. Don’t miss out on the Eggs Your Way station for breakfast – poached, Benedict, sunny side, take your pick. The bakery has a delicious selection of freshly baked items, including Nordic specialities like the dark-rye Norlander loaf. The choice for lunch and dinner is seemingly endless and includes an Asian stir-fry station, an Indian counter and a salad bar. Locally sourced produce is always available – look for their tasty selection of salmon gravlax. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

Raw on 5 (S) The opulent raw bar at the entrance, displaying a wealth of oysters, crabs and lobsters, sets the tone for this intimate yet stylish eatery. Yoshi Okada, a fourth-generation sushi master, has designed the menu to provide an insight into traditional Japanese fare. Enjoy the complex flavours of a handmade sushi roll or nigiri featuring tuna albacore, shrimp, eel and other fresh selections, or relish the simplicity of chef’s special selection omakase sashimi. The Land ‘meats’ Sea section won’t disappoint, either – try any of the flavoursome curry udon soups. Your culinary experience would be incomplete without dessert – East meets West is a comforting green tea coconut panna cotta. Be sure to pair it with one of the premium sakes. Lunch, dinner. From £26.

The Retreat Lounge and Pool Bar (SE) On deck 15, Guests of The Retreat benefit from an exclusive lounge with gourmet bites and beverages throughout the day. Don’t miss out on Afternoon Tea and enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail while you chill on a designer chaise longue overlooking the sea. Deck 16 offers a sun-deck pool and bar for extra delight. What more could you ask?

Food Glossary

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  • Restaurants Blu010 0765
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  • Restaurants Raw on 5 017 0070
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Food and Travel Review

Design-led interiors, exceptional dining and cutting-edge art are attributes often associated with the world’s luxury hotels and leading restaurants. But you’ll find them all, along with culinary and cultural excursions, on a Celebrity Apex cruise. Here’s a taste of life on board. Words and photography by Marina Spironetti

The first pleasure of the day is watching the blinds of our Infinite Veranda going up. It’s like being at the theatre, when the curtain is lifted and reveals a new set. The skyline of Stockholm emerges from the morning mist – a Bergmanesque view of the pinnacles and towers of Gamla Stan – and the slow procession of small boats has already started along Saltsjön Bay.

Entering the fifth day of our Scandinavia and Baltics Cruise, we are venturing into the depths of our journey on Celebrity Apex, a grand, 16-storey city on water that first set sail in 2020.

Since setting off from Southampton, the days at sea have allowed us to familiarise ourselves with the ship’s outstanding amenities. As you wheel your trolley to your stateroom, you note a remarkable selection of contemporary photography along the way and realise this is a combination of a luxury hotel and an art gallery. The show continues on deck 14, where the turquoise of the open-air pool is framed by a silver sculpture of two hands forming a heart shape – the monumental Love Heart by the Sea by Italian artist Lorenzo Quinn. He is in good company – pieces from celebrated artists such as Jaume Plensa, Marc Quinn, Lionel Smit and Kōhei Nawa are scattered everywhere from the Rooftop Garden to restaurant areas.

There are striking elements of playfulness too; from the fairytalelike Magic Carpet – a cantilevered glass viewing platform that juts from the side of the ship and can move up and down – to Patricia Urquiola’s impressive Library of Plants, a greenhouse-like area towering 5m above the Eden Bar.

The three-storey Grand Plaza, designed by Parisian agency Jouin Manku, is the majestic heart of the ship. Or, rather, its belly, since it gathers a wide variety of cafés and restaurants to choose from. With 29 different bars, lounges and eateries, Apex offers an unrivalled culinary journey that ranges from casual pub fare to Michelin-starred signature dishes. They claim you won’t find another dining experience like this at sea – and they are probably right.

‘Our goal is to connect our customers to the destinations they’ll visit like never before,’ executive chef Alexander Capello explains. ‘We’d like to do this through food as well, combining flavours of the world with locally sourced ingredients as much as possible.’ With almost ten years on board Celebrity Cruises ships under his belt, the chef is aware translating their farm-to-fork philosophy into a vessel’s daily operations can be a tricky task. ‘Restaurants that don’t restrict us to a fixed menu give us more freedom in the kitchen,’ he explains. ‘Take our buffet-style Oceanview Café: we always offer a selection of local produce there – and whenever we are unable to do so because of logistics, we have local recipes for you to get a flavour of the place.’

When it comes to locally sourced food, Raw on 5 restaurant is the shining star. As the name suggests, the focus is on anything fresh from the depths of the sea, with a menu crafted by Japanese sushi master Yoshikazu ‘Yoshi’ Okada. His dishes are delightfully simple and fresh – a feast of oysters, chilled shrimp, king crab legs, sea bass ceviche, salmon and octopus sashimi, and much more.

Outside, the scenery is changing again. As soon as we leave Stockholm, navigation through the outer archipelago begins: a maze of islands, islets and rocks, dotted with cottages and beautiful gardens.

The following morning, Helsinki meets us with an unmistakably autumnal mood. The shuttle bus drops us off by South Harbour, immediately next to the city centre. The 19th-century redbrick building of Vanha Kauppahalli – Helsinki’s Old Market Hall – provides a safe shelter from the abrupt rain. Inside, the recently renovated hall shines with a new splendour while retaining its nostalgic appeal. Everything is warm and comforting – tourists and locals cram into the cafés, warming up with coffee or a bowl of steaming salmon soup, the local speciality. The stalls are brimming with an exceptionally diverse selection of food, from the ever-present salmon to more unusual delicacies such as reindeer spring rolls, elk kebabs, reindeer chips and – believe it or not – bear in a can.

When we bump into Yoshi, peacefully savouring his time off with a fish sandwich from Scandinavia Café, we know we’re in the right place. ‘Fish is always fresh here,’ he says. ‘These countries know how to take good care of it. I know my onions; I am a fishmonger’s son. My father still runs his stall at the fish market in Yokohama – he’s 81 – and he is like a god to me when it comes to cutting fish. I feel like a local here; and Nea even speaks some Japanese!’ he exclaims, pointing out the friendly young woman behind the counter, Nea Hokkanen, who has been working here for little more than a year.

‘A lot of things are special about this place. It’s a small community where everybody really comes together. Visiting the market hall is a family tradition for those who live here – at Christmas, for example, or during the summer. It’s such a historical landmark for all of us,’ Nea declares as she puts in front of us a traditional Karelian pie and a glass of lonkero, aka Finnish long drink, made with gin and juice.

Outside, more delicious temptations await under the brightly coloured tent tops of Kauppatori, the market square, a place that is also home to a number of special events such as the famous Baltic Herring Market, a feature since 1743. The vibrant fruit display of one of the stalls draws us in like a magnet – strawberries and raspberries, but also lesser-known Arctic delicacies such as cloudberries. ‘They have a sweet and sour taste,’ says stall seller Sebastian Degerman. ‘We make jam and juice out of it. It contains plenty of vitamin C.’

‘Sea buckthorn is another Nordic treat,’ he continues, inviting us to sample his yellowish-orange berries. ‘It’s very tart, but a single berry contains as much vitamin C as three oranges, which is why you are only supposed to eat three to five every day. Best thing is to freeze them and add to your oatmeal for a great morning boost.’

After a stop in postcard-pretty Tallinn, a full day at sea separates us from Copenhagen, the next stop on our itinerary. Chef Alexander recommends we try Eden, one of the speciality restaurants on board. We know it’s going to be impressive from the moment we
enter the sculpture-lined hallway leading to it – a silver-and-white statement tunnel that has you feeling like Alice stepping through the looking glass. Spanning three decks at the aft of the ship, Eden has more outward-facing glass than any other place on Apex. And
it’s big: at 1,175sq m, it’s larger, say, than New York’s Hayden Planetarium. The 90m ramp that envelops the space, designed by architect Scott Butler and inspired by the Fibonacci sequence, enables guests to explore the area in a winding journey of discovery.

The food lives up to expectations. Even salads are impressive; the ‘bouquet of garden greens’ – an actual bouquet tied together by a leek ribbon – is bursting with freshness. Roasted and shaved crudités are held together by a sweet and crisp Vidalia onion dressing. Among the starters, the alfonsino ceviche is superb, the fish’s firm texture perfectly complemented by the acidic flavour of the leche de tigre and the irresistibly refreshing coriander sorbet.

The lush Rooftop Garden on deck 16 is the perfect location to watch the docking in Copenhagen beneath a glorious blue sky. It feels like standing on the top of an iconic skyscraper, rather than on water. ‘Believe it or not, there are almost 4,000 ornamental plants scattered across the ship,’ says Junielo A Pabalate, one of the two horticulturists on board. ‘It’s overwhelming! You don’t expect plants to exist on a vessel and it’s a constant challenge – against salt and weather conditions – but a very rewarding one.’

The Chef’s Market Discoveries excursion is another highlight of the trip – a culinary adventure across the Danish capital in the company of Alexander and Yoshi. ‘We love to accompany our customers on this journey,’ explains Alexander as we arrive in the popular Torvehallerne covered market. ‘And we also love to buy local produce, which we will
use later to cook them a special dinner.’

With over 80 shops selling speciality food, locally sourced fruit and vegetables, fish and meat, cheese and plenty of ready-to-eat delicacies, this market is the perfect introduction to the Danish food scene. Yoshi feels like a kid in a candy shop – first, a stop to marvel at the blades of Foodgear, an outlet that reminds him of those knife shops outside the Tsukiji market in Tokyo, then a quick visit to the Hav fish stall. ‘Fish and
seafood don’t get much fresher than this,’ he says. ‘Most of what they sell comes from nearby and is always sustainable. They work closely with local fishermen who use gentle fishing methods.’

Time for a fiskefilet, a large piece of breaded plaice topped with remoulade and lemon, followed by a visit to Summerbird, the ideal place to purchase a sweet souvenir. Think delicious, aesthetically beautiful chocolate, marzipan, and marshmallow flødeboller.

The tour continues across the funky shops and small eateries of the Latin Quarter. The queue of people waiting to get their sugar fix from Sankt Peders is visible from a distance. Copenhagen’s oldest bakery offers anything from buttery kringle to sticky cinnamon rolls. The latter are also known as onsdagssnegle – ‘Wednesday snails’ – and the bakery sells no fewer than 4,000 of them every Wednesday. Back on board, we are in for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Main Galley to see how the culinary team artfully prepare about 25,000 meals for guests and crew every day.

‘People don’t realise the sheer volume of ingredients it takes to make it all happen – we go through roughly 3,800kg of watermelon on every cruise. Not to mention 10,000 bananas and 32,000 potatoes – give or take a few,’ laughs Alexander.

‘Working on a cruise ship isn’t for everybody. You’re away from your loved ones for long periods,’ he continues. ‘But it’s a great life experience – over 60 nationalities are represented on board. It’s quite astounding, given its relatively small size when compared with a city. We work shoulder to shoulder from morning to evening and it’s impressive how we’re able to get along despite language and culture differences. There is a great openness. Initially, I thought I’d stay here one year and then I’d go back to the mainland, but then I fell in love with life at sea and now it’s impossible to leave.’ Having experienced life on board, that’s not so hard to understand.

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