Celebrity Ascent: A first look at this new and edgy cruise ship

I’m just back from Celebrity Ascent, Celebrity Cruises‘ newest ship and the fourth in its Edge Class of vessels. It’s exactly what passengers have come to expect from the line, which offers a modern, edgy take on everything from food to entertainment.

The latter is truly what shines on board. The new ship stands out for its buzzworthy new theater shows, a private entertainment room and a lively after-dark deck party.

Another unrelated highlight is that the ship features twice as many cabins for solo travelers as the line’s previous ship, Celebrity Beyond.

Below is an outline of what’s new, along with my commentary on the handful of offerings I was able to actually test out during my quick two-day voyage.

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The Annex

The Annex on Celebrity Ascent. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

New to the Celebrity fleet and exclusive to Celebrity Apex, The Annex is a small space on Deck 5 that offers a private area for groups of up to 15 people to sing karaoke, watch movies or sporting events, or play virtual sports like golf and dodgeball.

The room can be rented in two-and-a-half-hour increments at a cost of $150 to $375 for 10 people, depending on the package booked and whether it’s a port day or a sea day. (Each additional person up to 15 people is $35.) The price includes food and drinks (including bottled water and soda) from Craft Social, the ship’s pub, brought to you by a dedicated waiter. Choose from items including burgers, fries and chicken wings. (Note that alcohol is included with some packages. Otherwise, alcohol will cost extra for passengers who don’t have drink packages.)

A built-in sound system allows you to play music, either from your own device or preset playlists.

When I tried my luck on the virtual golf driving range, I found that it was difficult to put the ball in a position that made sense. (Hitting from the designated spot on the green was tough. Tees were available, but because they didn’t push far enough into the turf, the balls were suspended awkwardly far off the ground.)

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The space is comfortable and inviting, with sports-themed seating and pillows facing a giant screen where you can either watch your game or movie of choice or select from a list of 1,000 movie titles. Overall, it’s a great concept, particularly if you’re traveling with a large family or a group of friends. It would also make for a fun date night activity or a celebration of a special occasion on board.

New shows

The “Awaken” production show in the theater on Celebrity Ascent. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

Entertainment is phenomenal on the Edge Class vessels, which strive to be funkier than the average cruise ship. When you’re talking about song-and-dance performances that incorporate popular tunes throughout the ages, it’s easy for the results to be cheesy.

Fortunately, that’s not the case on Celebrity Ascent. Two sets of performers — the theater cast and the Eden cast — bring the productions to life with aplomb, hitting an impressive vocal range and mastering pop-and-lock routines that would make Paula Abdul jealous.

Two acrobats balancing during “Shimmerbox” in Eden on Celebrity Ascent. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

And, of course, no Celebrity show would be complete without jaw-dropping feats of contortion and acrobatics. They’re offered in spades during shows that include “Awaken” and “Bridges,” both hosted in the ship’s main theater and “Shimmerbox,” which takes place in Eden, an earthy lounge that also houses a restaurant, bar, cafe and performance space.

“Awaken” focuses on a series of fever dream-style numbers, and incorporates creative costumes and “Oh, wow!” dance steps with well-known songs. My particular favorites included one that evoked the ’80s with some Bruno Mars tunes and “Stranger Things” vibes and another that’s what I imagine you’d get if Janet Jackson were a character in “The Matrix.” In my opinion, this is the show not to miss.

Then there’s “Bridges,” which takes you, through song and dance, to some of the world’s most iconic bridges, including Tower Bridge in London and the Brooklyn and Golden Gate Bridges in the U.S. Numbers include slower dances and breakdancing interspersed with aerialist performances that elicit cheers from the stunned audience.

“Shimmerbox” is a more intimate, interactive experience, where the singers and dancers draw audience members onto the dancefloor to cut a rug or sing karaoke. It’s fun, but I’m more of a sit-and-watch type. Worried I’d have to become a joiner, I vacated my front-row seat about 20 minutes into the performance, when the man sitting next to me was chosen to participate.

Nightclub fun

The Eden cast performs “Smoke & Ivories” in The Club on Celebrity Ascent. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

The Club, Celebrity Ascent’s nightclub, is a cozy two-deck venue that’s home to dance parties, as you might expect. However, it’s also where you’ll find daytime sporting events like street curling and “Game On,” interactive gaming with an ’80s theme where passengers use their bodies as controllers to manipulate projections on the floor. There are six games total, each lasting for just a few minutes. They require players to dodge enemies and defend goals.

At night, head there for “Smoke & Ivories,” a new high-energy show featuring singing, dancing and acrobatics from the Eden cast.

I’ll be blunt: The Club is way too small to host the show. If you don’t arrive super early, not only will you not get a seat, but you won’t even be able to get into the venue — on either deck. I tried standing at the back but left after five minutes because I couldn’t see much. What I did catch appeared to be impressive, evoking a steamy jazz club in New Orleans.

On my voyage, “Smoke & Ivories” was on the schedule for only one performance. On a standard weeklong sailing, the show will be offered on one night at two different times, so there will be one additional chance to see it.

Shimmer party

The “Shine the Night” pool deck party on Celebrity Ascent. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

Ain’t no party like a pool deck party — especially if it’s at night and involves glitter and glow wands. Celebrity Ascent’s “Shine the Night” themed outdoor soiree encourages passengers to wear something sparkly in preparation for a night of dancing with a DJ set against a giant glowing light sculpture that pulsates and changes color with the music. No sparkles, no problem: Crew members hand out LED batons akin to mini-pool noodles to attendees.

The pool didn’t seem to be closed during the party on my sailing, so it’s unclear whether swimming will be allowed during the event.

Although clubbing isn’t something I normally do, I had a good time, despite the humid Bahamas weather. It was definitely one of the most lively pool parties I’ve attended on a ship.

Solo cabins galore

An Infinite Veranda solo cabin on Celebrity Ascent. CELEBRITY CRUISES

Like many of the industry’s most popular cruise lines, Celebrity has had solo cabins on its newest vessels for several years. Given their popularity, the line more than doubled the number of solo accommodations from Celebrity Edge’s 16 rooms to 36 on Celebrity Ascent.

This is notable because it’s the only thing different about the cabin categories on the newest ship. Rooms for one are notoriously in demand; by doubling the number available, the line has allowed more opportunity for cruisers traveling alone to sail without having to pay a single supplement for a room designed for two or more people.

Ascent’s solo cabins are available as Infinite Verandas, which, instead of standard balconies, feature large glass windows that can be opened or closed with the push of a button to allow fresh air inside.

The ship’s other cabins include inside cabins with no windows, outside cabins with windows that don’t open and balcony rooms (regular balconies and Infinite Verandas). The vessel also boasts a selection of elevated accommodations, such as AquaClass cabins, which focus on wellness and have their own private restaurant; Concierge Class that gives access to concierge services; and The Retreat, the line’s exclusive suite area, which offers seven different types of lavish cabins and gives passengers access to a private dining room, sun deck and lounge.

New dining offerings

The AI machine that helps a fairy grant three wishes to Le Petit Chef on Celebrity Ascent. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

Celebrity Ascent does not have any completely new restaurants, but there are tweaks and new additions to some dining venues.

Leading off is Le Petit Chef, a for-fee ($60 per person) dinner experience held in French restaurant Le Grand Bistro each night. Several of Celebrity’s other ships have had Le Petit Chef, but now he’s back with a brand-new show, “Le Petit Chef and the Magical Cooking Book.”

In this one, with the help of artificial intelligence, he stumbles upon a fairy who grants him three wishes. The story plays out through projections that show up on each diner’s place setting. The chef prepares each dish virtually before servers bring out the real thing for your meal.

Reservations are essential; I was unable to snag one but heard mixed reviews about both the food and the show’s plot.

The next-largest culinary development on board is at Eden Restaurant, which focuses on delicious Mediterranean cuisine for $85 per person or $120 for tasting menus. It now offers a vegan tasting menu in addition to its standard one. Unfortunately, it wasn’t available during my sailing when I asked, so I wasn’t able to try it. However, I absolutely adored the bazaar bowl with chilled labneh, beets, cucumber, almonds and naan bread and the sheep’s milk gnocchi I ordered off the standard menu.

A bowl of labneh topped with beets and cucumbers — a dish on the standard menu at Eden Restaurant on Celebrity Ascent. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

Finally, Blu — the main restaurant for cruisers booked in the ship’s AquaClass wellness-themed cabins — is now open for lunch and has outdoor seating with lovely sea views. When I asked about the alfresco dining area, I was told it wasn’t available.

The ship also has four main dining rooms. The menus are the same in all four, with the exception of a small section that’s exclusive to each one, based on its theme: Tuscan (Italian), Normandie (French), Cyprus (Mediterranean) and Cosmopolitan (new American with global influences). Anyone familiar with Cosmopolitan will notice that it has been redesigned with a slightly new look that features more ornate decor on Celebrity Ascent.

Other complimentary eateries include Eden Cafe for sandwiches and salads; the Oceanview Cafe buffet, offering stations with a variety of cuisines in a casual atmosphere; Mast Grill, serving hot dogs and burgers; and Luminae, the main dining room that’s exclusive to passengers booked in The Retreat.

Additionally, the vessel has welcomed returning added-fee favorites: Le Voyage by Chef Daniel Boulud, which features international fare and has been slightly redesigned from its first iteration on Celebrity Beyond; Fine Cut steakhouse; The Spa Cafe, which offers health-conscious dining options and smoothies; Craft Social for bar bites; Raw on 5, serving up fresh seafood; and the Rooftop Garden Grill, where you can dine alfresco on upscale grill fare and pizza.

In general, it was difficult to get a feel for what the restaurants would be like on a full-length voyage because my cruise was so short, and many of the specialty dining venues were offering abridged menus or family-style sharing plates not normally found on the regular menus.

Brothers as co-captains

Captain Dimitrios Kafetzis drives one of Celebrity Ascent’s lifeboats. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

Name one other ship helmed by siblings who will drop anchor and take passengers out for lifeboat races. I bet you can’t. But that’s what happened on Celebrity Ascent.

Brothers Dimitrios and Tasos Kafetzis are both captains for Celebrity Cruises and with the debut of the new ship, they’re trading off responsibilities every three months. The pair brings decades of maritime experience, as well as a combination of chemistry and wit that would also be well suited to a career in standup comedy.

“And now, I’m going to do something called … a doughnut!” Captain D said while steering one of two lifeboats being used to take cruisers on my preview sailing out for a look at the ship from the water. It wasn’t an idle promise, either. Soon, we found ourselves spinning in circles. (I’ll admit I was briefly sorry I hadn’t popped a Dramamine prior to the experience.)

After that, we lost in a race against his brother, who was driving a second lifeboat nearby. “Captain Tasos is 30 pounds lighter than me!” Captain D shouted, maneuvering us across the waves in a way that guaranteed a delightful Seaworld-like spray of water dampened everyone inside the boat through its open hatches.

Bottom line

Celebrity Ascent’s outer decks. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

Celebrity Ascent is a nearly identical quadruplet to its Edge Class siblings but with some minor adjustments that make it even better than previous iterations.

Although there are no major changes in cabins or dining, The Annex and all of the vessel’s new productions represent an evolution of the class’ entertainment offerings.

Above all, Celebrity Ascent is sure to provide a terrific vacation for everyone from fun-loving but refined couples, families, friend groups and solos, all of whom will appreciate the premium, upscale vibe and cutting-edge onboard amenities.

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