Design Destination at Sea : Discovering Puerto Rico from the newly revamped Celebrity Summit Cruise Ship

April 1, 2019

AD – Paid Partnership with Celebrity Cruises 


I am sitting in my garden as I write this and it looks like I’ve returned home to Spring and sunshine (at last – hooray!). Last week found me on board a newly refurbished cruise ship headed from San Juan in Puerto Rico bound for the British Virgin Isles.  My trip was five days door to door, whistle-stop doesn’t even begin to cover it and I’m not usually this jet set, but when Celebrity Cruises got in touch and invited me on board their newly revamped Celebrity Summit to see the interior design on board, including suites and decks designed by Kelly Hoppen MBE, I was more than a little intrigued.

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I’ve stayed in many kinds of accommodation in my time including youth hostels, a poshtel (Lisbon), ryokans (Japan), a monastery (Ischia), tents, airbnb, many apartments and good hotels in between. But never on a ship. We got married on Capri as it’s my favourite place in the world. Why do I love Capri? The sea. Not much makes me happier than dappled light glittering on water. And the idea of discovering the world from sea is incredibly appealing to me, so why have I never stayed on a cruise ship before?! 

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Let’s be honest, what do you think of when you think of cruises? I think of one end of the market or the other, either retirees on a traditional slightly stuffy affair with black tie dinners that all feel a little staid, or at the other end 18-20’s party boats, enforced fun and the exact opposite in comportment that the first makes me think of. Celebrity Cruises,with the launch of Celebrity Edge last year and the next stage of their revolution – transforming three of their current ships this year into far chic-er affairs, with world class interior design, destination dining and all the modern conveniences you’d expect from a modern holiday alongside a commitment to environmentalism and diversity, there’s not much to dislike about the idea of a cruise with them. So, what was life actually like onboard? 

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It was quite genuinely pretty awesome. Waking up just before sunrise as the thin veil of early morning cloud obscures your vision to see perfect beautiful clear waters  and the vessel moving towards what look like craggy rocks in the distance is more than a little enchanting. I sat on the balcony with the bed a few metres behind me wondering how on earth I had ended up living this incredible experience, why had I never slept on a ship before. By the time I was showered and up on deck it was 7am, the sun was starting to burn through the light cloud cover and the craggy rocks I had spotted in the distance became transformed by the sunlight into the glistening green jewelled islands of hilltops and towns recognisably the British Virgin Isles. 

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You may say that’s the geography overwhelming me. But as a bonafide Interiors obsessive (ok, some would say snob!) I find it hard to really let go on a holiday if the decor jars with me. I call this environmental sensitivity, but happily accept the count if you prefer to call it snobbery. And I really loved my room in a Concierge class stateroom with balcony, designed by Hirsch Bedner Associates, the New York design firm behind a dazzling array of hip and trendy commercial spaces including established luxury clients including various Hiltons and Four Seasons. Staying in this accommodation, whilst compact, has all of the amenities you desire and a dash of design panache to boot. The interiors are a perfectly muted affair with influences that feel both Scandinavian and American. A pink and brown-ish-greige pallete accessorised with velvet, marble and brass is right up my design street and exactly the kind of modern experience I was hoping for. For some reason I was expecting a modernised ship may be awash with stark white, hard lines, and perhaps a little sterile. But on the contrary my room was chic and cosy with more than a passing nod to modern interior design trends and sensibilities.

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Life on deck is an equally chic affair with a design instinct that feels focused around clean lines and provenance. From the sun loungers to the eateries, Celebrity Summit feels genuinely chic and contemporary. I think most of us see cruising as a once in a lifetime opportunity (possibly the central reason we associate these ships with a slightly older clientele) but what about if you really went to town and booked into one of the suites designed with luxury in mind by the Queen of Taupe herself, British design institution Kelly Hoppen ?! Kelly hardly needs an introduction or an accolade from me, but one thing you know you will be getting with Kelly is both neutrals and glamour. She is very adept at using a signature look again and again in ways that always feel a little different, fresh and intriguing. 

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One of the things I most love about her design onboard the Celebrity Summit is the way that she has used both dark and light to create texture, particularly in textiles. You will have noticed Hoppen’s treatment of the outside spaces uses a really striking colour combination of maritime navy and white, or monochrome, against grey to create a look that I find both charming and sophisticated. How could you not feel glamorous lounging in one of these retreat deck spaces, but equally how honest do the materials feel too. I love the woven detailing on the armchair frames. And the outdoor dining seats, in black and white weave, are so stunning, and at no time more so that with the full glare of the sun streaming through, creating a lattice of light and shade on the deck floor through the slatted canopy above, this is the kind of design detailing that makes my heart sing, when parts that are beautiful in themselves mirror and reflect the wider vision of the designer.

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Life in the luxury penthouse and royal suites is both as absolutely gorgeous and completely over the top as you might expect. There are muted washes of greys and neutrals, bold stripes, nods to the ocean with use of blue and coral, but it is also breathtakingly high end. Carrara marble is a staple surface, and every single detail is made of the highest quality – how does a cashmere mattress sound to you? Yes, it must be heavenly mustn’t it!

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One of the spaces that Kelly has really excelled at onboard for me are her outdoor spaces, the sundeck in the retreat space mentioned above is one of them, but so too the verandas that accompany the suites. They are so muted and completely sensitively focussed for relaxation. There are outdoor hot tubs designed with natural stone and accented by verdant greenery, outdoor dining is sophisticated but not ostentatious. Everything about these outdoor spaces say holiday chic to me. 

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It’s all very well me talking of the design focus on board (and obviously slightly inevitable given my passion for interiors) but what about actual life on the ship. What’s the food like? Are the entertainment options desirable to the modern traveller? The Celebrity Summit has 11 Restaurants onboard with menus designed by Michelin starred chef Daniel Boulud. I ate really well onboard, with particular note to Sushi on Five which had an incredible menu of Japanese hot and cold food and a great cocktail menu to match (I recommend the Nagasaki cocktails in particular). On the Saturday evening we were treated to a world first as Celebrity Summit brought ballet to sea through a new pioneering partnership with American Ballet Theatre. As a life long lover of ballet this was quite an astonishing experience, how these expert dancers managed to pirouette on the tips of their toes on a moving vessel I will never know, but I’m glad I got to see it. 

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For entertainment in the daytime it was all about poolside lounging for me, and there are several bars placed around the pool which serve up their own mean and delicious cocktails. For a refined holiday experience in the day, nothing can be more perfect than a treatment at the onboard spa. I booked in for an hour long full body massage (what!? I had to test out all of the ships offerings for you!) and I have to say I found having a massage at sea one of the most relaxing experiences. Lying down on a the bed in the treatment therapy room, having sat in the Persian garden imbibing the salt air and relaxing my lower back muscles beforehand, I looked out to sea through the linen curtains of the treatment room and wondered what could be a more perfect setting for a massage. 

All in all I found my experience onboard pretty revelatory. The Celebrity Summit is perfectly organised for a modern luxury getaway. From the design of the ship to the food, the ballet and the spa, this was a pretty faultless holiday. I was expecting to feel all of the romanticism of the explorers onboard, seeing new lands whilst sailing onboard, but Celebrity Summit has much more than just this. And if anybody wants to invite me again it’s a definite yes! 

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Join Celebrity Cruises’ (www.celebritycruises.co.uk, 0800 441 4054) Celebrity Summit, for an 11-night Bermuda and New England fly/cruise departing Cape Liberty on 16 June 2019 from £2,789 per person in an Oceanview Stateroom (based on two people sharing).

The 12-night holiday includes flights from London Heathrow; one night’s pre-cruise accommodation; an 11-night cruise departing from Cape Liberty (New Jersey, USA) and calling at King’s Wharf (Bermuda) for an extended two-night stay, Boston (Massachusetts, USA), Bar Harbor (Maine, USA) and Portland (Maine, USA) before returning to Cape Liberty for the flights home; meals and entertainment on-board the ship and all relevant cruise taxes/fees.

For more information or to book, call 0800 441 4054, visit www.celebritycruises.co.uk or talk to your travel agent.

This post is a paid collaboration with Celebrity Cruises, I only work with carefully selected brands that interest me, and that I hope will interest you. Thank you for supporting the brands that support me.

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