I wrote this article on the veranda of our Sky Suite on Celebrity Millennium — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark
Hotels within hotels have been a growing trend for the past few years, so it was only natural that cruise lines would follow suit. Offering exclusive accommodations and VIP perks, ships within ships are turning massive ocean liners into intimate experiences, letting luxury-seeking guests take advantage of the best of both worlds.
Celebrity Cruises first introduced their ship-within-a-ship concept, The Retreat, with the launch of Celebrity Edge in 2018 (and the intention of bringing it to their entire fleet with a $500 million modernization).
So, when my husband and I decided to reenact our first cruise ever – which we took to Alaska on Celebrity Millennium – we also decided it was time to upgrade the experience and book The Retreat, which didn’t exist when we traveled on the ship 20 years ago. With more private spaces and fewer people (out of a capacity sailing of 2,218 passengers, only about 100 are guests of The Retreat), it seemed like the ideal way to cruise right now.
Apparently, we’re not the only ones who feel that way.
“The Retreat Suites have been the most popular staterooms as we return to sailing,” said Brian Abel, senior vice president of hotel operations for Celebrity Cruises. “We’re witnessing the rebirth of travel and cruising. Passengers who are so passionate about sailing again are wanting to make the most of their voyage by being in the most luxurious and exclusive offerings.”
Here are 10 features of The Retreat – all of which are included in the price – that take the already-stellar Celebrity Cruises experience to a whole new level.
The Penthouse Suite is like a luxury apartment at sea — Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises
The Retreat consists of 50 suites, starting at a roomy 254 square feet and going up to a whopping 1,432 square feet. We opted for a Sky Suite, which was so well-appointed, featuring a king-sized bed topped with a luxurious Cashmere™ Mattress, plenty of storage space, top bath products, comfy robes and slippers. The suite even had a high-quality pair of binoculars we used on our shore excursions to focus in on bald eagles hiding in trees and glaciers calving.
As grand as these interior spaces are, it’s the outdoor spaces that make the suites even more coveted. With verandas ranging from a generous 57 square feet to a jaw-dropping 1,098 square feet, you can "ooh" and "ah" over the scenery while having breakfast delivered right to your table or curling up on your couch with a good book.
The Retreat Sundeck
The Retreat Sundeck is a private space to take in the view — Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises
Located one level above the pool, the Sundeck is the ideal place to get away from the crowd and relax. Exclusively for guests of The Retreat, it features cushy daybeds, cabanas, couches and loungers as well as a host of amenities, including sunscreen, lip balm and even sunglasses, so you can stretch out safely.
The Retreat Hosts will ensure you’re supplied with water, cocktails or anything else you need. There’s also a hot tub and outdoor shower for warming up or cooling down. Best of all, because the Sundeck boasts prime real estate at the front of the ship, you’re guaranteed stunning views as you sail off to your destinations.
The Retreat lounge
The Retreat lounge is a great place to relax 24/7 — Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises
Guests of The Retreat are given access to their own lounge, where they can stop by for drinks, small bites and even afternoon tea. Renowned designer Kelly Hoppen CBE has created a warm and welcoming space, and we would often drop in for snacks and to make ourselves at home when we passed by on our way to somewhere else. (Hmm...this may be another reason we left the ship weighing more than we did when we came on.)
The lounge is also where you’ll find The Retreat concierges, who are there to help you with any request. Whether you want to make reservations onboard or off, plan a special occasion or a private excursion, consider it done.
Luminae is the private restaurant for guests of The Retreat — Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises
This private restaurant, just for guests of The Retreat, is intimate and lovely – and the food is superb, thanks to an eclectic, ever-changing menu that includes signature dishes by Daniel Boulud, Michelin-starred chef and Celebrity Cruises’ Global Culinary Brand Ambassador. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Luminae acts as the main restaurant for guests of The Retreat, so you can enjoy all your meals there. And, trust me, you will enjoy them.
Can’t decide between the filet mignon and the salmon? Be like my husband and order both. And don’t skip the juicy Signature Burger with its adorable little basket of fries. It’s on the lunch menu every single day because it’s so beloved that guests would probably revolt if it wasn’t.
Impeccable service is a keystone of The Retreat — Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises
Because Celebrity understands that the real foundation of luxury is service, guests of The Retreat have a team of dedicated attendants, concierges and your Personal Retreat Host ready to fulfill any request. Although standard gratuities are also included as part of The Retreat, you’ll probably want to hand each one an additional tip at the end of the cruise for taking such good care of you.
The mini fridge in our suite was always stocked with our favorite beverages and, because these pros don’t miss a thing – including my husband’s sweet tooth and our penchant for afternoon snacks – we always came back to fresh appetizers and desserts waiting for us at various times of the day.
Special invitations and gifts
The view from the ship's helipad as we sailed into Endicott Arm, Alaska — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark
One of the most delightful perks of being a guest of The Retreat is the surprise of unexpected goodies that mysteriously show up in your suite. Every night, we received a little box of chocolates along with a small gift: a Celebrity tote bag, Alaska baseball caps, a keepsake photo of the breathtaking Dawes Glacier.
We also received invitations to exclusive events, such as a Balinese jewelry-making demonstration and – a highlight of the cruise – front-row seats for a special Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier viewing on the ship’s helipad. Warmed by woolen blankets and steaming hot chocolate, we literally had the best seats in the house when we pulled into this beautiful part of Alaska, with spectacular, head-on views unavailable from any of the public areas on the ship.
The Persian Garden is a lovely place to relax — Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises
Every guest of The Retreat gets a credit to use onboard the ship, and you’ll definitely want to apply it to the amazing specialty restaurants and the spa. Whether you treat yourself to a massage or facial, the spa is a perfect place to spend a day at sea. If you reserve a treatment, you get access to the good-for-what-ails-you Persian Garden, featuring a variety of aquatherapy environments from aromatic steam to tropical rain showers.
The specialty restaurants are all worth trying. Sushi on Five serves up authentic, made-to-order Japanese rolls and nigiri along with wontons, ramen and so much more. Tuscan Grille is Italian food at its best, and when your server says they’ll bring you a little of each item that looks good to you (which is dangerous because everything will look good to you), don’t be fooled. The portions are generous and you would be wise to wear stretchy pants. Le Petit Chef is a must-experience, combining innovative animation with an equally innovative menu for a truly one-of-a-kind dinner.
Premium Beverage Package
Cheers to the Premium Beverage Package that's included in The Retreat — Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises
Although the Premium Beverage Package is available to all guests for an extra cost, it’s an included perk for guests of The Retreat. That means you can enjoy unlimited specialty coffees and teas, craft and artisan beers, spirits, cocktails, frozen drinks, Coca-Cola products, premium bottled water and wines by the glass up to $15 per serving. You’ll also get 20% off bottles of wine.
Being able to order the beverages of your choice whenever you feel like it without racking up an exorbitant bar – or coffee bar – tab is such an indulgence, you’ll want to toast to your wise decision to book The Retreat.
Thanks to unlimited Wi-Fi, you can share live video with your friends — Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises
Ship Wi-Fi can be very expensive, but guests of The Retreat get unlimited Wi-Fi included, making it easy for them to post photos from their excursions (or from the all-day cornucopia of a buffet in the Oceanview Café) and invite friends and family experiencing FOMO to join them on their next cruise. Because we didn’t have to worry about using data, I was able to work from our veranda, surrounded by stunning scenery and occasionally joined by a humpback whale or a pod of dolphins swimming alongside the ship.
Priority embarkation and disembarkation
The Retreat guests get priority embarkation so they can start their vacation fast — Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises
When you’re eager to get on board, being a guest of The Retreat will ensure you're whisked in and settled on a lounge chair in no time. And when it’s time to disembark, you will be personally escorted to the gangway, where you'll be shown to the special section cordoned off for The Retreat guests to pick up your luggage. This saves time and makes you feel like you’ve been visiting with people who really care about you.