Simone Biles Shares What Being the Godmother of the Newest Celebrity Cruises Ship Means to Her

The greatest gymnast of all time is now the godmother of Celebrity Beyond, the newest ship in the Celebrity Cruises fleet.

Aerial exterior view of the Celebrity Beyond

Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

Once upon a time, those selected to serve as the godmothers of ships — figureheads chosen to bring good luck and protection to a vessel — were actual deities. With the appointment of Simone Biles as godmother of Celebrity Beyond, the newest ship in the Celebrity Cruises fleet, it seems we’re not far off from that old maritime tradition.

Following other barrier-breaking women (Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai is godmother of Celebrity Edge and Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, is godmother of Celebrity Apex), the greatest gymnast of all time was a bold choice for the brand in this redefining moment. As the most decorated American gymnast in history — she’s a seven-time Olympic medalist and a 19-time World Champion — Biles is perhaps the definition of going beyond, which is also the aim of the ship.

The rooftop garden onboard the Celebrity Beyond

Michel Verdure/Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

“Obviously, her accomplishments are just extraordinary, but we didn’t select her because of her gold medals,” Jason Liberty, CEO of Royal Caribbean Group (parent company of Celebrity Cruises), told Travel + Leisure. “We selected her because of her courage to go out into the public eye with incredible strength to talk about her journey. She’s a force, and she’s got incredible discipline, [but] to do what she did on a public stage — that’s a pretty rare breed.”

And, he said, that’s exactly the kind of bravery and pluck you want to see in a godmother: “Somebody who’s willing, regardless of what the winds are, or the waves that are hitting you, to have the courage to be able to rise above and do what you think is best," Liberty explained.

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, shared a similar sentiment. “Our selection of godmothers is very intentional, and I really wanted them to match what our intention was in building these ships: game-changing, transformational, category of one — you know, separating ourselves,” she told T+L. “[Simone] is courageous, highly decorated, accomplished, and look what she has done and what that says to young women all over the world."

Humble despite her unparalleled track record, Biles was flattered to be asked. “For me, it was just a huge honor,” Biles said in an interview immediately before the naming ceremony on the ship’s inaugural American sail. “I was like, ‘Okay, why me? Are you sure?’ But we were super excited about it. [My] family was super excited. Because I’ve been cruising since I was younger, I think it’s super exciting for me to be in the same realm of all the other girls that have been godmothers on the previous ships. It’s really an honor.”

Helmed by Captain Kate McCue, the first and only American woman to be named captain of a mega-ship (not to mention a social media sensation along with her equally famous hairless cat, Bug Naked), Celebrity Beyond is the latest example of Celebrity’s commitment to uplifting women and prioritizing industry firsts.

The Celebrity Beyond Simone Biles gold medal ceremony

Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

The brand also introduced the first all-female bridge and officer team and — after petitioning the International Maritime Organization to recognize the Ghana Maritime Academy so they could hire its graduates — the first West African woman to work on the bridge of a cruise ship. Celebrity also lays claim to the first use of solar panels on a cruise ship and was the first line to eliminate the use of plastic water bottles on board.

It’s a line you can feel good about sailing, but what Biles — who was joined on the cruise by her parents, brother, sister, and best friend — was most looking forward to was sailing with her loved ones.

“[We have] quite a crew,” she told T+L, laughing. “They allowed us to bring however many people we wanted. [It’s] kind of a vacation to nowhere to get away, to have fun, to celebrate, to just be a part of something bigger than all of us and to come together."

The Celebrity Beyond Simone Biles ceremony

Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

Biles added that she was excited to bring aboard both first-time cruisers and seasoned cruisers looking for something different. “My parents are here, and they’re already trying to plan another Celebrity cruise,” she laughed. “My fiancé hasn’t been on one, so we’ve been looking at one to get him on in his off-season. He’s really excited, but he’s a little nervous. He’ll be a first-time cruiser.” Biles is engaged to NFL player Jonathan Owens. Lutoff-Perlo hinted at a honeymoon sail aboard Celebrity Beyond following their wedding in May 2023.

Of course, the next best thing about a cruise is the unlimited access to top-notch restaurants and bars. Biles told T+L that she’s a big fan of the food aboard Celebrity ships. “We have a reservation for Raw on 5, so I’m really excited about that.” Raw on 5 is Celebrity Beyond’s Japanese specialty restaurant with a menu of sushi rolls, nigiri, and sashimi, plus enticing desserts like caramelized gingerbread with wasabi gelato.

Biles, whose first Celebrity sailing was aboard Celebrity Infinity, was floored by Beyond when she first embarked. “As soon as we boarded, my jaw literally hit the floor,” she shared. “It is stunning.”

The pool deck onboard the Celebrity Beyond

Ryan Wicks/Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

With its 32 food-and-beverage venues, a "Magic Carpet" floating deck, and sprawling suites, she’s exactly right. While it’s not possible to dramatically alter the second ship in a series due to shipyard timelines, changes can be made to the third and subsequent ships, and that’s what passengers will experience aboard Beyond, the third in Celebrity’s five-ship Edge series. Beyond feels familiar to anyone who has sailed Edge or Apex, but subtle tweaks improve the overall experience.

Interior of the Iconic Suite onboard the Celebrity Beyond

Ryan Wicks/Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

By stretching the ship 20 meters longer and one deck higher, Celebrity was able to let more light in, expand the rooftop garden and suite-exclusive Retreat space, perfect the Grand Plaza and Sunset Bar, and add a World Class Bar and Le Voyage, a specialty restaurant by chef Daniel Boulud. And by moving all Wi-Fi to Elon Musk’s Starlink, the first streaming-strength internet on cruises, you can share every last bit of it with your friends and followers.

The next ship in the series, Ascent, will be a carbon copy of Beyond upon its 2023 release. But Celebrity has “a few more surprises” in store for the yet-unnamed final ship of the Edge series, expected in 2025, said Liberty, who also promises an even greater focus on sustainability.

Celebrity Beyond is sailing the eastern and western Caribbean out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, now through April 2023, when it will cross the Atlantic to sail Europe for the spring and summer.

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