What can you reply to a text that pings in as you land in Athens saying, “We’ve had to move you to a Villa Suite, hope that’s ok?” My none-too-imaginative response was, “I think we’ll cope.” Readers, let me assure you my husband and I not only coped but fell in love all over again - this time with the villa.
I don’t need to remind you what a terrible year and a half it has been for life generally and travel and cruise in particular. But here we are, heading for a voyage around the Greek Isles on Celebrity Cruises’ new Celebrity Apex that promises sun, sea and an even suiter (pun intended!) cruise than we had expected.
Talk about excited! We were always destined to stay in one of Celebrity Apex’s suites but the villa promises quite a step-up. Twenty minutes after getting into the room, there’s a knock at the door. It’s Izzy, our butler, asking if he can show us around. “Of course!” we say, too embarrassed to admit we raced around the villa like kids in a sweet shop as soon as we’d entered.
The villa has two storeys. On the ground floor, there’s the dining and sitting areas, a bathroom, massive TV, a free bar with soft drinks and spirits (“Let me know if you want to change to anything else,” says the wonderful Izzy) and a hot tub on the balcony.
Upstairs, the bed faces a huge two-storey window, so you wake with a glorious view out to sea. Behind the bedroom is another bathroom and wardrobes galore. Oh, and a secret door to the Retreat, an outdoor area just for suite passengers. The villas (there are only six on Celebrity Apex, so we are really exclusive!) are the only suites with this access and we love it. As we do the Retreat, an outdoor area decked out by British designer Kelly Hoppen with a pool and bars, an outdoor restaurant and ample space to lounge in the sun or shade.
One deck below it is the Retreat Lounge, also showcasing Hoppen’s chic designer style, where suite residents are looked after royally by the attentive staff; go down again and there’s Luminae, a stylish suite-only restaurant with a dinner menu that changes daily and dishes created by Michelin-starred Daniel Boulud, a French chef with a restaurant empire that stretches across North America, Dubai and Singapore.
The Retreat is so gorgeous we could remain within its embrace the entire cruise but we creep out now and then to watch the shows and try other bars and restaurants. Celebrity Cruises now includes tips, Wi-Fi and both alcoholic and soft drinks in the price. Suite passengers also enjoy free laundry, a premium drinks package and complimentary dining in all the restaurants so you can indulge to your heart’s content.
We have fab nights out in Fine Cut, a steakhouse, the al-fresco Rooftop Grill and Eden, which is into creative dining and serves the most delicious Tandoori-style beef but miss fishy Raw on Five and Le Grand Bistro, a French feast of charcuterie, cheese and baguettes by day that in the evening becomes Le Petit Chef, where an animated version of your dish is created in front of you before the real thing is served.
Seems seven nights just isn’t long enough to try all the restaurants - goodness I haven’t even mentioned the four main dining rooms or beautiful Blu. But as I see it, that is reason enough to get back on Celebrity Apex. In a villa, of course.