30/05/2024

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Cruising the Celebrity Beyond Review: The Retreat Experience

12 min read
Cruising the Celebrity Beyond Review: The Retreat Experience
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When you cruise on one of the most beautiful cruise ships, the Celebrity Beyond, and stay in The Retreat’s Sky Suite, you expect to be treated like royalty and eat like one. While we had a lovely cruise on our Mediterranean itinerary, royalty is not a word I’d use to describe our Retreat experience in this Celebrity Beyond review.

And we were expecting it for a 10k suite.

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Our Celebrity Beyond review of our Retreat experience is our own. We will share what we loved and didn’t love about Celebrity Beyond’s The Retreat. We encourage you to share your own thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Let’s start immediately with what everyone is wondering: Is the Retreat worth it?

Is The Retreat on Celebrity Cruises Worth It?

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With the lackluster personalized service and the changes Celebrity Cruises recently made to the lower-level suites, we have to say that it’s NOT worth it. Not for $10,000 + suites. The value is no longer there.

We are not usually suite dwellers. Although we enjoy the extra amenities, our pockets usually can’t afford $10,000+ suites.

And while we are a travel site sharing content and tips. Sponsors do not fund these trips (and I don’t want them to). We pay for everything out of pocket. It’s just a fact we want to share and keep it at the forefront as we continue with our honest Celebrity Beyond review of our Retreat experience.

Not to be quick to make comparisons, but once upon a time, we bid $500 per person to upgrade from a balcony to a Haven suite on the Norwegian Getaway and won. THAT suite experience was unforgettable, and to this day, we still talk about it.

I crown that Haven experience a true luxury experience. Royalty is a word I’d used to describe our Haven experience that we won on a move-up bid. And I would pay 10k for that experience again.

Let me not continue rambling about another cruise line, as this is a Celebrity Beyond Retreat review.

The Retreat on Celebrity Beyond Review

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You probably think we should feel blessed to take a cruise like this in the first place… we do. In all, we had a lovely cruise. We just expected more from The Retreat. 

Celebrity calls it “the ultimate luxury vacation experience.”

They have a good product with so much potential, yet it failed to wow us. It all came down to the non-existent personalized service and the amenities they continue taking away that you can get on other cruise lines for less or about the same cost.

The big picture is that as you read this, it will seem fantastic. But without the personalized details, the experience falls short of expectations. The little things make a big difference, and unfortunately, The Retreat didn’t quite deliver on that front. Despite the overall positive experience, the lack of personalized service left us feeling like we just booked a Deluxe Balcony with some added amenities.

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What are the benefits of the Retreat? 

Before we get down to what we love and didn’t love about The Retreat, it’s important to understand the included benefits.

  • Access to the Retreat Lounge
  • Access to the Retreat’s Private Sundeck (Edge Class Ships & Revolutionized Ships)
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner at The Luminae (lunch only on sea days)
  • Priority Embarkation and Debarkation
  • Priority Tendering
  • Retreat Concierge
  • Retreat Host and Team for Sky Suites or a Dedicated Butler for Celebrity Suites and above
  • Premium Beverage Package Included
  • Premium Wi-Fi Included

Note 1: If you booked before October 4th, 2023, the benefits included Prepaid Gratuities and a Significant amount of Onboard Credits. (We managed to take advantage of this.)

Note 2: Many cruisers who had booked and made final payments before August 14th, 2023, were surprised that Dedicated Butlers had been removed as a benefit to the lower-tier Sky Suites, including Aqua Class. Celebrity Cruises did not announce this change, and the affected passengers arrived onboard on cruise day only to be surprised by their new retreat host and team.

Our Review of the Celebrity Beyond Retreat Breakdown

Priority Embarkation

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Priority Embarkation at Civitavecchia Cruise Port was a breeze. It was nice to arrive at the terminal, go through security, and be escorted into a nice lounge area to check in and have coffee, drink, or snacks before embarking.

However, I was surprised we weren’t escorted onto the ship or to our cabin. We may have left through a separate exit towards the gangway but soon merged with everyone else. It felt almost like the rest of the embarkations I had with Celebrity.

There was no separate embarkation at ports throughout the rest of the cruise. You stood in line with everyone else when you got back. Once, we saw the sign for Retreat guests, and it didn’t matter; they shuffled everyone into it.

Sky Suite Cabin

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We loved our Sky Suite Cabin on Celebrity Beyond. It was one of the best cabins we ever stayed in. The cabin’s layout is fantastic, with the bed facing the balcony. We loved getting up in the mornings and waking up to that balcony view.

Our Sky Suite Cabin was 10211. It was spacious and modern, with plenty of closet space. The bathroom was so nice, with a rain shower, an enclosed tub, a double sink, and a separate toilet.

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The balcony was big! However, there was a small obstruction in the balcony view that we didn’t mind at all. The narrow column couldn’t even be seen from inside the cabin when looking out as it was strategically placed.

We would stay in a Sky Suite Cabin again without the Retreat benefits.

The biggest downside of these cabins is no coffee machine. The highest-level suites have coffee machines, but not the lowly Sky Suite cabins.

Also, you must pay for the drinks in your mini-fridge set up in your Sky Suite. We advise having the Retreat Host remove everything from the fridge so you can fill it up with included canned drinks and bottled waters from the Lounge. Ours was kind enough to bring us water daily, but he couldn’t bring us premium bottled water or canned soda.

Retreat Host and Team

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The Retreat Host is the cabin attendant. They have taken on this new role of keeping your cabin clean, attending to your needs (laundry, etc.), and sometimes being assigned to other non-suite cabins around them. 

They aren’t your butler. Based on our experience, if you request something beyond a typical cabin attendant’s duties, they instructed us to call room service or visit The Retreat Lounge. Sometimes, they apologetically told us they couldn’t fulfill our request.

That’s not to say that our Retreat Host wasn’t great. He was as good as any other cabin attendant we had ever had. He quickly assisted with anything we asked of him that fell under his responsibilities.

The Butler, part of the Retreat Team, did come by to introduce himself on the first day. He said he was in charge of suites from decks 10-12. He was not a dedicated butler. We never saw him again.

Another Retreat cruiser told us they called him for something, and he told them that’s not his job; he does office work now.

We found out about the no-butler after we had upgraded to a Sky Suite after reading it on a Facebook Group. We were not informed or told differently while on the phone upgrading. On the website, when booking, it said Dedicated Butler, and a few days later, it was changed to Retreat Team and Host.

To us, the whole thing seemed shady. We weren’t upset since we didn’t know what to do with a butler. However, while on the ship, we realized we couldn’t have a butler bring us lattes to our room in the mornings snacks throughout the day… amongst other things.

Butlers do take care of personalized details you wouldn’t get otherwise, which made us see why other Celebrity cruisers were upset.

FYI: Specialty coffee is not part of room service. So it would have been nice to have lattes delivered first thing in the morning by a butler.

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Double latte at the Luminae at Breakfast.

You may ask, am I that lazy that I can’t get the latte myself? No. Usually, that’s what I do. But you’re missing the point.

If you paid 10k or more for The Retreat, anticipating exclusive luxuries, and were instead told to get things yourself, it’s another reason to reconsider its value.

The Luminae

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The Luminae on Celebrity Beyond

The Luminae on Celebrity Beyond is open for breakfast and dinner every night. It’s open for lunch on embarkation day and sea days. We loved that the menu changed daily for dinner.

If you want to feel like royalty anytime throughout your Retreat stay, go to the Luminae. The staff at the Luminae are excellent. Our head waiter, Gary, and his team cared for us daily – they went above and beyond, even when we didn’t ask them to. The sommelier, always had the best mocktails made for hubby for dinner, which as a nice added touch.

We tried to make it to The Luminae often to take advantage of it as it was supposed to be some of the best food on the ship. We failed to see that consistently throughout our ten nights aboard.

You can’t blame the front of the house for the pitfalls of the back of the house. The food that was served was hit-and-miss. Sometimes, meals would take a long time to come out, depending on how busy it was. The food seemed never to come out hot, but more times than not, it was lukewarm. Many times, the dishes were just edible or just fine. But we were expecting outstanding, and that only happened with a few dishes. Chef Daniel Boulud’s signature dishes weren’t that great either.

If you didn’t like something, they’d happily take it back and give you something else. We don’t send things back unless something isn’t cooked or truly disgusting.

We enjoyed breakfast in the Luminae with delicious pastries and a few signature dishes. They once even made my husband a breakfast sandwich he was craving. The Luminae burger is delicious for lunch. When they served sashimi in Luminae, that was always a winner. You could never go wrong with the Filet Mignon.

In all, we were expecting more from The Luminae. They missed the mark. The food wasn’t any better than eating at other main dining rooms we’ve eaten in on other Celebrity Cruises. Sometimes it felt like they were trying too hard.

Without a doubt, though, the service in the Luminae was exemplary.

Our best dinner on the Celebrity Beyond was at EDEN, a specialty restaurant.

Tip: As a Retreat guest, you are also welcomed into Blu if space is available. Aqua Class does take priority at Blu, but if they can, they will seat another Retreat guest. 

The Retreat Lounge

We spent the least time in The Retreat Lounge on Celebrity Beyond. The few times we did go in there were to speak to the Concierge, get drinks from the mini-fridges, or use the bathroom.

It is a lovely and quiet area of The Retreat where you can get drinks, sit, and converse with other cruisers. We preferred exploring the ship and mingling in other parts, like the Martini Bar. However, if you’re traveling with friends, this is a great spot to meet up for pre-dinner drinks or escape the noise.

Our favorite part of The Retreat Lounge was the mini-fridges filled with sodas and bottled water. You could take as many back with you into your cabin. Super convenient! However, it would be even more convenient if the drinks that are in the mini-fridge in your cabin were included.

Throughout the day, you’ll find a variety of small bites in the lounge to nibble on.

We wished all parts of the Retreat were connected and had more of a ship within a ship feel.

The Retreat Concierge

While we only spoke to the Retreat Concierge on Celebrity Beyond a few times, they were always available in the Retreat Lounge. They answered our questions and even fixed a billing issue on our last night.

Having a dedicated concierge rather than standing online at the guests’ service is convenient and an added benefit. You can also use the Concierge to help with dinner reservations at specialty restaurants and make shore excursions.

One night, for one of the big production shows, they reserved seats in the theater for Retreat guests. It was nice, but it is not a regular perk and should be for the most popular shows in the theater.

The only thing that we wished was that they weren’t tucked away in the Lounge. If you don’t seek them, then you never see them. However, they contacted us several times to update us on Retreat events.

The Retreat Sundeck

Not all cruise ships on Celebrity Cruise ships have a Retreat Sundeck. Edge-class ships and Revolutionized Ships are the only ones to have Retreat Sundecks. Only the Edge Class Ships have some water features, like a pool or a hot tub.

The Retreat Sundeck on Celebrity Beyond has a small pool, big enough for a dip, and two hot tubs.

This area was a nice escape from the rest of the ship. There was plenty of seating throughout the two decks of this area. It was almost always empty, probably because it was windy and chilly at sea on some days. The sunniest day at sea, it wasn’t even that busy.

Plenty of towels and blankets are available. Drink service from the pool bar. They even had a small lunch menu so you can order food straight from where you’re sitting. Sometimes, they brought out fruits on a stick.

All-Inclusive Amenities

We booked before October 4th, 2023, so we took full advantage of what was all-inclusive: Premium Drinks, Premium Wi-Fi, Prepaid Gratuities, and $1,000 onboard credit. (*Prepaid Gratuities and Onboard credits are no longer available with new bookings.)

With all of this included, the cost of the Sky Suite didn’t seem so bad. You’re getting all of that plus the other Retreat Benefits. Especially after you do the math, it’s not too bad.

We used the onboard credit to go to the Spa, get laundry sent out (a 10-night cruise, and then we had five days in Rome after that), and book two shore excursions with Celebrity. 

These additional perks made it feel like a real all-inclusive cruise vacation. It was nice to include the prepaid gratuities (we did tip extra onboard). It was extra nice not to worry about purchasing an internet package or running a tab on drinks.

One negative about the Premium Drinks is that there is a $17 per drink cap. Why be so stingy? When you have a Premium Drink Package, it should all be included.

Would we book The Retreat again?

Never say never. There would have to be a great deal for us to consider the Retreat again on another ship. We love certain conveniences and will pay for them if the price is right, maybe on a Move-Up Bid.

From what we hear and see, what we paid for on this cruise is about 30% more than what the cost used to be. Rates are only going up for The Retreat, and amenities are only being removed.

What did we think of the Celebrity Beyond cruise ship?

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The Celebrity Beyond is one of the most beautiful ships we’ve ever sailed on. We were surprised that only 3300 passengers were on our sailing for a mega-ship of its size, and its max is 3500 – it never felt crowded. Classy, modern ship with plenty of beautiful outdoor and indoor seating areas.

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Meet Kathy Ava, a food, travel, and cruise writer based in Los Angeles/Pasadena, and the owner and main writer of Tasty Itinerary. With over 20 years of experience planning trips and logistics at her full-time job and for herself, she’s become a pro at crafting unforgettable tasty itineraries. She’s always on the hunt for delicious, fun travel destinations and cruise itineraries. She firmly believes that life is short and we must make the most of it, so always say yes to dessert.

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