Our Transatlantic Voyage on the Celebrity Apex

As we mentioned in previous articles, we opted for a transatlantic cruise to get to Europe this time. Many people, us included, have been curious about having so many sea days. Also, how we would handle being in the middle of the Atlantic for so long. Overall, we had a pretty good time participating in onboard activities, working out, eating good food, and generally relaxing.

6 Daze at Sea

I’m writing this section on my first day at sea. Having left port around 5 pm on Saturday, April 30th, we won’t sight land again until Saturday, May 7th in the Azores islands. A full 6 days in the middle of the Atlantic.

Diana has had some motion sickness issues. I’m good so far. On the plus side, our captain said our crossing would be relatively tame as compared to a recent one of our sister ships, the Celebrity Edge. The Edge apparently hit 8-15ft swells. We shall see if our fearless leader forecasts well.

One of the rougher days at sea

One “feature” of an easterly sea crossing is that we move forward one time zone on most days. It happened our first night and will happen again tonight, our second night. I almost missed a guest lecture scheduled for 9:15 am because my watch hadn’t advanced automatically. I guess bleeding off 6 hours of time change this way won’t lead to jet lag.

Post-cruise update: The several 23 hours days were only hard when I had to get up for an excursion or a lecture. Diana felt the “jet lag” was equal but different with this one-hour/day time change.

Our Room (Cabin)

We have a nice, largish room with an “Infinity” balcony. Basically, it is floor to ceiling window where you can lower the upper half to let in the breezes. They further enforce the balcony concept by putting outdoor flooring and deck chairs. I guess it provides an outside feeling even in inclement weather, but neither of us liked it. We both prefer a real balcony.

There is a central control unit for everything that lets us manage the lights, TV remote, HVAC, and blinds through an app on our phones. I’m impressed with the integration. It’s kinda cool to be able to adjust the room temperature from bed (no pun intended). The app also gives us access to our onboard wallet.

Our “balcony”

Direct Connect to My Wallet

On the plus side, we started the cruise with an $1100 stateroom credit. Most of the credit ($750) came from the booking agent. We added $250 by being an RCL shareholder, and $50 by joining their rewards program. We applied the funds to excursions and onboard food/drink upcharges.

On the downside, I can’t help being surprised that EVERYTHING on the ship comes with an associated cost. There are some free/included onboard activities as well as pretty good basic dining options, but many, many things have an extra cost and the spa charges were frankly outrageous. Even taking a behind-the-scenes tour of the ship costs money. I guess if they can get someone to pay for it, why not?

At least we were able to quickly see all of our charges via the phone app. However, we saw a $0 charge for every drink we “purchased”/ordered, even though we had a drink package. All of the $0’s made it difficult to see other real charges. My theory is that they are using these $0 charges to track tips as well as overall usage patterns so they can better extract more money in the future for things we really like.

Activities Available On-Board

We’ve enjoyed many of the onboard activities on our sea days especially all of the live music on board. There were lots of other things to do as well: trivia, art auctions, bar games, lectures, bocce, learning a language, etc. We attended an ABBA Sing-Along event that was fun. And the multitude of boomers participating seemed in their element even if their moves were less impressive than in bygone years.

The rocking boat added a bit of a twist when I tried Bocce At Sea, causing balls to roll unpredictably. I might say that was why I performed so poorly, but it wouldn’t be true. I just flat-out sucked this time despite having a cocktail in my hand. Clearly, I need to practice playing bocce with a cocktail in my hand a lot more.

Similarly, the pools had a wave action as the water rolled from side to side with the ship. It was pretty comical to be tossed around inside a pool. Stretching and weights in the gym were also slightly more challenging with the motion, especially since the gym was right at the front of the ship. Diana had some trouble working out for the first few days because the motion sickness was really bad in the gym and the bikes were always in the sun.


A couple of lecturers were present for our crossing. Jim Kennedy, former Director of the Kennedy Space Center, was a college intern there at the beginning of the Apollo program. He had a lot of fun pictures and stories from both the Apollo and Shuttle programs.

Melinda Bates became friends with Bill Clinton at Georgetown and worked for his presidential campaign. She later served as the White House Visitors Director for his administration. Melinda had many stories and pictures about visitors and the building itself.

Show Headliners

There were live performers in the theater each night at 7 pm and 9 pm. Many of the headliners had serious musical chops. Uptown was the first group we saw. They were a high-energy Motown and Soul Revue. Next was Charity Lockhart, a pastor’s kid turned singer. She had a strong voice with great range and she did an Aretha Franklin tribute show. Charity was even selected by Billy Preston and Aretha’s family to complete an album that Aretha was working on at her death.

Claire Maidin was another notable performer. Claire had studied classical piano, but couldn’t be constrained by it. She became a vocal coach working on shows like Britain Has Talent. Clair channels Liberace and clearly loves performing. She performed a few Adele songs, which turned out to be a bit of a theme on this cruise. Several other vocalists we saw on the cruise really seemed to like Adele. Like, a lot. They all seemed to be influenced by her.

Drink Packages

When we booked our cruise, the Classic package was included. With it, you can purchase drinks up to $9 in value, which covers a lot of choices. Because we didn’t really understand how the drink packages worked, we didn’t opt for the premium package before the cruise. However, as soon as we got on board we were offered an upgrade to Premium for just $10/day or $140/pp for the whole voyage. Given that we had some credits to use up, we chose to take the upgrade so we didn’t spend much thought on whether a given drink or glass of wine was covered. It just took some of the hassles off the table. Happily, the premium package included espresso-type coffee drinks and San Pellegrino sparkling water, Diana’s favorite.

Wine Time

Wine options range from the $7/glass for a Tuscan Chardonnay to a $100,000/bottle 2015 Liber Pater Bordeaux. My $15/glass drink package covered a lot of decent options, so I decided to eschew the Bordeaux for another time/life.

Wine selections, in bottles and by the glass were from all over the world, so I indulged in French Vouvray (mellow with full-body), Sicilian Grillo (light and acidic), California Zinfandel and Cabernet, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, etc. The selection varied by the restaurant, with The Steakhouse having the widest and most expensive choices.

Dining Options

Given we were on a two-week cruise, we had a chance to sample all of the 10+ restaurants available to us. A few of the places have upcharges, as much as $55/pp, so we limited our participation in those to once at most. The Edge ship has the same options and our friends in Nipomo had recently been on it, so we took their advice on which spots to book first.


On our first night, we went to Eden Restaurant where the “cuisine and wine list are rooted in nature and draw inspiration from the regions we visit throughout the world”. I must say I found it difficult to choose from the variety of available dishes. Everything was so appealing. I settled on the crab cake appetizer and the lobster casserole. The term casserole was a bit of a misnomer, it was really just a pile of well-seasoned lobster. I didn’t complain.

Diana, on the other hand, has been trying a restricted diet to address ongoing stomach issues. When she told the waiter no shellfish or dairy, he almost came back with a bowl of Jello. It seemed the staff was so afraid of her keeling over with anaphylactic shock they basically refused to serve her almost everything on the menu. They eventually settled on some halibut, which was good, but the preparation was somewhat bland. Not really what we were hoping for from our $55/pp upcharge for this experience. Diana’s preferences were logged and she spent the rest of the cruise telling people she could manage her own food choices. She’ll be more careful about what she divulges going forward.

Le Petit Chef and Le Bistrot

This is the most unusual dining experience I’ve ever had. Basically, it is a four-course fixed menu with a twist: prior to each course, animation is projected onto your table depicting a tiny chef and his family creating the dish you are about to be served. After each vignette, you are presented with the real dish to savor. Each course was well-conceived and executed and we laughed through the entire meal. Overall, it was a tasty, clever, and entertaining evening, well worth the $55/pp upcharge.

Because of a miscommunication during boarding, we missed a special lunch that had been reserved for us. The staff provided us with some additional credit and we chose to use it at Le Bistrot, which occupies the same space as Le Petit Chef but is open only for lunch. Most of the food was good except for the paté. In addition to pickled vegetables that tasted of curry, the stone ground mustard had been mixed with curry. Quel domage! (What a shame!) When we asked the chef why the mustard had curry, he said it didn’t. He then told us that it had cumin, nutmeg, and Tumeric, at which point Diana told the chef that those spices comprised curry. The chef said “oh”. Not a shining moment for the food service staff. Still, the rest of the meal was pretty good.

The Steakhouse and Sushi

If it weren’t for our significant credits, we probably would have skipped the $55/pp upcharge for The Steakhouse and the a la carte pricing for the Sushi spot. Don’t get me wrong, both were very good, but I didn’t feel their fare was sufficiently better than the Main Dining selections below.

Main Dining and More

Main Dining is comprised of 4 themed restaurants: Cyprus (Mediterranean), Normandie (French), Tuscan (Italian), and Cosmopolitan (Everywhere else). Each venue offered dishes and wines specific to its theme, as well as some dishes that are offered in all of the restaurants. Most of the dishes were well prepared, with the occasional miss. Happily, you can always try something else if you are unsatisfied with your first choice.

There was a minimum dress code of a collared shirt, long pants, and shoes for men for all of the above restaurants. I believe there were a significant fraction of the guests who didn’t want to get even that dressed up, so they were relegated to the Ocean View buffet. Their loss, IMHO.

And Finally, the Bars…

There were a lot of bars around the ship. I found myself returning frequently to The Martini bar, right in the center of the ship. The bartenders did a 5-minute juggling show with lights and special music every evening at 8 and 10 pm that was always fun to watch. Additionally, there was usually some live musical group performing. The energy picked up as the night went on, so I often finished my evening there.

In the same area of the ship was the Craft Beer Bar. There was always some sports playing on the TV there and although they were out of several selections from their menu, I always managed to find a good brew. Since it wasn’t usually busy, I would also stop there for a cocktail to take into the theater to see a headliner.

The Magic Carpet is the funky orange elevator bar you see hanging off the side of the ship. It was the real wild card. They moved it between decks from time to time, but since we spent so much time in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, it was frequently too chilly to be comfortable. In the end, Diana and I decided it was more gimmicky than anything else.

Would you consider a repositioning cruise for your vacation?

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  1. I love cruising! Unfortunately, the downside of the scopolamine patches for seasickness get me every time I go off of them, so my cruising days are over until they come up with a solution.

    I agree on the spa prices! I don’t know how people get bored on a cruise. There’s always multiple choices daily! Having your room cleaned twice a day and free room service – what’s not to like?!?!

  2. Thanks. I was wondering what a modern transatlantic crossing was like. One of my dream trips is to travel around the world without aircraft. The trickiest part seems to be the Pacific crossing. There the best solution I’ve heard is to hitch a ride on a freight ship. Second hardest link is from Bangladesh to Thailand (I’ll skip Burma until they get their politics sorted out).

  3. Hi Mike & Diane

    We are glad to see you having a great adventure and enjoy reading your about your travels. We were Celebity Edge and really enjoyed it. Hope to see you both again and maybe you will circle back to Playa del Carmen sometime. Take Care

  4. So glad you are enjoying the blog. We will definitely be circling back to Playa, we just don’t know when.

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