On a recent tour of Celebrity Cruises newest ship, I went swimming, took in ocean views and met famous interior designer Nate Berkus, all without leaving my couch.
The cruise line launched a new virtual experience this week, which allows guests to test out its newest ship, Celebrity Beyond, from the comfort of their computer before booking their sailing.
The experience, dubbed the Wonderverse, was designed with virtual event platform architects Surreal Events, and allows prospective guests to tour the ship’s common spaces, play games and ask questions, among other features.
“Celebrity Beyond is the newest, most luxurious and most innovative ship in our fleet and I can’t think of a better ship to showcase its state-of-the-art design than in our state-of-the-art Wonderverse,” Celebrity’s president and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo said in a news release. “Celebrity has always been at the forefront of consumer desires, literally creating resorts at sea with the design of our ships and the onboard experiences offered; and now we’re bringing this to life in new ways to inspire and connect with travelers.”
Planning a cruise?:Here are the documents and costs to keep in mind
What is the metaverse?:Everyone wants to own it, including Facebook and Microsoft
Here’s what it’s like to tour a cruise ship in the metaverse.
Celebrity Cruises’ Wonderverse is immersive
When I boarded the vessel in the Wonderverse, I was able to customize my avatar to look more like me, making the tour feel more personal. Clothing options ranged from Silicon Valley Couture (featuring a zip-up hoodie) to Tropical, but I opted for a casual t-shirt look. As I made my way from the ship’s Magic Carpet – a cantilevered platform on its Edge Series ships – to the Resort Deck, I was struck by the sweeping views and sound of seagulls that placed me firmly in the virtual world of the ship.
While I was aware the experience wasn’t real, I may or may not have said, “Wow” out loud when I saw the view of the Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier in Alaska from the ship.
Using the arrows on my keyboard to explore, I ran around at a faster pace than I might usually have – my avatar seemed to move at only one jog-adjacent speed – exploring different spaces on the vessel from various angles, including the Grand Plaza and the Sunset Bar.
There are also meeting places throughout the ship, allowing users to interact with one another.
The metaverse had sunshine and blue skies, showcasing the outdoor spaces travelers can enjoy in good weather. The ship’s luxe finishes and entertainment, such as live music from a pianist, were also on display.
The Wonderverse offers info for travelers
As part of the experience, guests can take their cruise questions straight to the experts, whose avatars are also on board. By choosing from a selection of listed inquiries, I asked Lutoff-Perlo what activities Beyond offers on sea days – her answer included options like watching a movie on the rooftop garden or hitting the silent disco – and got ship Capt. Kate McCue’s recommendations on where new cruisers should visit first.
I even listened to Berkus, who is a travel ambassador for the line’s Edge Series and designed Beyond’s Sunset Bar, speak about the design elements in the space.
Meet Captain Kate:In the cruise industry, she’s a trailblazer. On TikTok, she’s @captainkatemccue.
From over the edge of the ship, I also got a glimpse of some of the destinations Celebrity visits, including Tokyo, Japan and Santorini in Greece, with a menu of facts about the places and Celebrity’s offerings there. There was a Book Now button conveniently located at the bottom of the screen.
Celebrity Cruises’ Wonderverse is limited
Despite its name, Celebrity’s Wonderverse is limited to just four main areas of the 17-deck ship, in addition to games set on a running track and at sea driving one of the ship’s tenders. Those areas do not include any staterooms, the theater or other key spaces, limiting what guests can try out. Beyond is also the only ship in the line’s fleet available for the experience.
And while the virtual ship featured a number of bars, my avatar was not able to order a drink or snack, and could only stand and stare – perhaps hungrily – in front of them.
Celebrity has plans to add spaces and experiences to the Wonderverse in the future, according to a spokesperson for the line.
What kind of food is included on a cruise?:Here’s how to take advantage on your next sailing
New tech and ocean views:Take a look at MSC’s new flagship Seascape
The technology also brings its own limitations. At one point, I tried to go up a set of stairs at the Resort Deck to get a different view of the ocean and hit an invisible barrier without explanation. I was also able to go swimming there in the ship’s main pool, but my avatar had trouble climbing the ladder to get out of the water, and I had to use the Wonderverse’s teleport feature to escape (I eventually learned that I could have also jumped out by hitting the space bar, but that knowledge came too little, too late).
Overall, the experience felt like part virtual tour, part video game and I came away feeling like I got a taste of what a vacation with Celebrity might be like.