I Spent 9 Nights With Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop at Sea, Did It Change My Mind About Cruising?

Image: Getty

Let me begin by saying I come from a family of cruisers. No, I’m not talking about the fizzy and colourful alcoholic drink you used to (maybe still do?) down as a roadie. I’m talking about my parents, who as fully fledged cruise lovers, have spent much of their life trying to convince me to give it a go despite my resistance. Why would I cruise when I can fly? Is my usual rebuttal.

So when the opportunity came up to sail the south of France and the Italian Riviera from Barcelona, Spain, for nine nights with Celebrity Cruises to experience their goop at Sea with Gwyneth Paltrow, promising exclusive holistic wellness programming, there were a lot of reasons why I couldn’t say no. Obviously seeing Gwyneth in the flesh was high on the list.

After mine and my husband’s hopes of a European honeymoon were dashed by Covid, a second chance to take the trip was another. Celebrating my birthday in another country was the third. And yes, having the opportunity to see if what my parents had been raving about really did hold up was also a consideration.

So what was it like on board and did the experience really change my mind about cruising? Here’s what we go up to:

Day One

After spending an evening in Barcelona, we take a short drive to the dock in preparation to board Celebrity Beyond, the third ship in Celebrity Cruises’ Edge Series, at our allocated check in time. It’s far less busy than I imagine it to be, despite knowing there will be around 3,000 guests on the ship and about 45 of them Goopies.

Our luggage is swiftly collected and we’re told it will be dropped off outside our Stateroom soon. The check in is quick and seamless, as we had already done so much of the process in the Celebrity Cruises app so before we knew it, we had embarked.

The ship itself feels like a floating hotel, full of restaurants, bars, cafes, lounges, a spa, gym, pools, entertainment and much more. We head straight to the closest Martini Bar for a cocktail and as the ship starts to fill, you can feel the excitement from those on board starting to build in the air.

By the time we finish our cocktails we decide to swing by our room to see if our luggage has arrived. It’s already sitting outside our Stateroom and we use our Stateroom digital swipe card to get in. The room itself is incredible and being designed by sought after interior designer, Kelly Hoppen, you’d expect it to be. It’s light and airy with a coastal feel, and definitely big enough for two. It has a large bathroom with plenty of cabinet space, a double bed, concealed wardrobe, couch, TV, a desk, mini fridge and a balcony with a table and chairs for two.

The Stateroom on Celebrity Beyond. Image: Supplied

There is an automatic shutter that blocks out complete light if you’re wanting to take a snooze and the window also opens, letting in beautiful fresh sea air when you decide. You’d be content staying in the room and ordering room service (which we did on many occasions) if there weren’t so many fun activities to take part in on the rest of the ship.

Day Two

We wake up docked in Marseille, France, and start our day on the Rooftop Garden. We’re donning our workout gear standing in front of gym mats in anticipation of a movement session when trainer and Torch’d Founder, Isaac Boots, begins his high-energy class. Isaac needs no introduction with his celebrity clientele including Gwyneth Paltrow, Vanessa Hudgens, Lisa Rinna and Kelly Ripa, to name a few.

The music is pumping, the sun is shining and Isaac’s black miniature poodle is wandering happily between the Goopies. The class is intense, with minimal breaks in routine and only the boppy tracks and Isaac’s encouragement to keep you going and I begin to realise why the program is called Torch’d. By the end of the class sweat is dripping, my body is shaking and I’m thankful I didn’t watch the same video on YouTube that my husband did just an hour before, showing snippets of what would be involved.

After the class, we head to The Spa Cafe for a detox smoothie. It’s designed to further enhance the wellness experience on board, made with coconut water, kale, mango, mint, celery, parsley, chia seeds and spirulina. Does Gwyneth drink it herself? Probably. Does it make me feel like a Goopie? Definitely.

Day Three

As the ship moves from port to port, I forget I’m on water until I look out the window and am reminded we’re floating on the ocean. The next day as I open the shutters in our Stateroom and let the early morning sun in, I can start to make out the faint outlines of the brightly coloured coastline of Nice, France.

With my muscles still feeling it from yesterday’s workout, I’m thankful today’s morning class is set to be less intense as we make our way to the front of the ship via the Fitness Centre. The air is cool and we position ourselves in front of purple yoga mats. There couldn’t be a more perfect view to sit with your thoughts as we participate in a stretch and breathwork class. By the end of the class I feel both relaxed and at ease.

Ready for the Goopies. Image: Supplied

Following the class we spend the day exploring Nice, Monaco and Monte Carlo on an excursion we booked through the Celebrity Cruises app. After a day filled with sightseeing, we’re ready for a relaxing dinner. We dine at Blu, an exclusive restaurant which is also only available to AquaClass guests. The dining room is as you guessed it, filled with blue and white decor, and we’re sat at a big round table in large comfortable chairs that I’d be happy to have a nap in.

We each order an entree and main from the menu that has clean cruise options, designed to provide a healthier alternative. I have the crispy crab cake and chimichurri flank steak salad while my husband has the beef tartare and pan-seared filet mignon. We each swap halfway through our meal so we get a taste of each and I can confirm, it was all delicious.

Day Four

The next day we find ourselves in Santa Margherita, Italy, and I begin to see the appeal in cruising. You don’t lose any time to travel when you wake up at your next destination each day. It makes it easier to pack in all of the things you want to on a trip, while still enjoying the in between parts.

We head to Eden, which quickly becomes my favourite space on the ship. It’s lush and green, full of real plants and giant chairs that remind me of lettuce leaves. It’s a backdrop that sets the tone for a group workshop with Jennifer Freed, Astrologer and author of numerous books including most recently, “A Map to Your Soul”.

We sit in a big circle on chairs with Jennifer at the centre when she begins to talk about our star signs and the elements associated with them. We’re then given chapters from her book to help guide the workshop, where we will be exploring our ‘support language’.

I’m glad when I’m split into a group away from my husband, curious to debrief about our separate experiences at the end of the session. In our groups we reflect on what is most important to us when it comes to the ways we like to be supported and when we come back to the group to share, Jennifer tells us how our needs relate to the traits common to our star signs.

Day Five

I wake up early and have a day of relaxation planned for my birthday when I head to The Spa for a Swedish Massage I have booked in. The space itself is decorated with grey and white marble and giant hanging crystal chandeliers. I can see the ocean outside as I settle into a lounge chair to fill in a consultation form. My friendly masseuse collects me from the foyer and directs me to our room and like the entry, it’s spacious and comfortable when I lie myself on the bed.

My masseuse asks me for any points I want to focus on when I direct her to my neck, back and shoulders, all common problem areas for most, especially those of us who work in an office environment. She tells me she will use the classical European technique to manipulate my muscles, using my choice as an aromatic massage oil. While the massage felt incredibly relaxing, I’m told it can also improve the function of the circulatory, lymphatic, muscular and nervous systems.

Following my massage I take advantage of the Sea Thermal Suite, which is complimentary for all AquaClass guests. There are eight different zones you can visit, each connected by the elements of sea, earth and air. You can move from room to room at your own pace, with the spaces including a crystalarium for natural energy healing, a desert infrared sauna and mist aroma steam, a hammam Turkish bath, rainfall water and salt therapy spaces, a floating zen zone filled with hanging basket chairs, as well as heated lounges.

Inside the Sea Thermal Suite. Image: Supplied

That evening I’m excited to have dinner at Raw on 5 as it’s said to be ‘every sushi connoisseur’s dream’ and with our go-to cuisine being Japanese, my husband and I definitely consider ourselves to be sushi connoisseurs so our expectations are high. On entry we see a huge buffet filled with fresh seafood ready for preparation and we know we’re going to be in for a good night.

The food designed for sharing is delicious as we fight the temptation to order one of everything on the menu when we settle on some fresh sushi rolls, assorted sashimi, crispy bok choy and miso-marinated ribeye steak.

The delicious food at Raw on 5. Image: Supplied

We order one too many of the Zen Milk Bath, along with our food, which becomes our favourite cocktail made with pure snow sake, vanilla vodka, green tea liqueur and milk. The night ends with a surprise birthday cake and candle brought over to our table and our high expectations are truly exceeded.

Day Six

The big day is finally upon us, it’s Gwyneth day. We head back to my second home on this ship, otherwise known as Eden, and the seats that were arranged in a neat circle for our workshop with Jennifer were this time arranged in rows in front of a stage that Goopies were already beginning to fill. We sit five rows back (not that I’m counting) and wait in anticipation for a conversation with Gwyneth and Dr Ellen Vora, integrative psychiatrist, acupuncturist and yoga teacher. Ellen takes to the stage and within minutes, Gwyneth has joined her from a set of stairs on the left of the room.

Fresh off her 50th birthday celebrations just two days prior, Gwyneth is wearing a relaxed grey suit and carrying a huge glass bottle filled with a green concoction. Is it the detox smoothie we’ve all been drinking? One can only assume. She settles into a giant green chair and the entire crowd claps, including Jennifer Freed, Isaac Boots, Lisa Rinna sitting a few rows back in big glasses and a bucket hat and a close friend of Gwyneth’s who is crying in the front row. She’s crying because ‘we’re everything that gives Gwyneth’s work meaning’, she tells the crowd which responds with a unified ‘awwww’.

Gwyneth Paltrow on stage. Image: Supplied

Gwyneth begins by explaining she believes the way Ellen practices psychiatry is revolutionary and the way it should be practiced, in a holistic and functional way considering the whole person and addressing the imbalance at the root. While Ellen acknowledges we can’t do much about our genes and brain chemistry in terms of how they impact our mental health, she notes we can do a lot about determinants she deems within our control such as sleep, nutrition, movement, community, service and purpose.

Gwyneth believes we’ve been socialised to be scared of and ignore the uncomfortable feelings that are a natural part of being human, that we need to address in order to help us manage our anxieties.

“If we are sad, uncomfortable, anxious, going through something, where is the rubric for ‘wow, what do I do with all of this?’ instead of like ‘give me a coffee, give me my to-do list, give me my Xanax, give me a martini.’ I certainly wasn’t told ‘yep that’s just a bad feeling, you can sit with it and it’ll move through and try to think about when it started or what it might be pertaining to.’ It was ‘don’t think about it, you’re fine, smile, don’t cry, let’s do this, let’s get up and go’,” Gwyneth says.

“So I think through no fault of our parents obviously, we’re all doing the best we can, but I think we were taught to be so afraid of our feelings and now we’re just trying to create these distractions to layer on top. So as parents, I’m sure I already f**ked mine up, they’re 18 [Apple] and 16 [Moses], it’s probably too late for them by now. How does anxiety play into this? Because I also find anxiety is this weird lying layer between what you’re feeling and the real world.”

Gwyneth explains how a podcast she listened to where Ellen discussed the way in which anxiety can be seen as trauma that hasn’t been properly processed or expressed, led her to have a conversation with her daughter, Apple Martin, where she told her mum that she has anxiety.

“It led to an amazing conversation I had with my daughter where I said ‘I just heard this on a podcast, do you feel like you’ve had trauma in your life?’ and she [Apple] said ‘yes I have, you know, being the kid of famous people and people being mean to at school.’ So she has anxiety. But there is also this other thing in the culture where so many of these teenagers have this anxiety and I really think social media doesn’t help. It’s really hard for us and our generation of parents because we have given birth to the first digitally native generation. So we need a recalibration even if we know, the science says screen mess up our circadian rhythm, this is here to stay.”

Gwyneth questions how we can help this next generation who is going to ‘be disrupted’ and ‘feel isolated and judged’ to evolve.

“I can’t even fathom, I would have been a basket case if I had grown up in this era of scrutiny and no sense of privacy and judgment. So for a while I was like ‘get off the screens, no more video games, I’m turning off the Wi-Fi and I’m putting on parental controls’ and then I did recognise it was going to be a losing battle. They just are going to be on their phones 24/7 and there’s nothing we can do about it, except create those moments as parents, as long as they’re under our roof, that we have rules,” Gwyneth says.

“In our house for example, we eat dinner together every night, there are no phones at the table no matter what and we sit together. It’s also why I believe in summer camp now more than ever. I mean, you’re telling me you’re going to send someone to the woods of Wisconsin for eight weeks with no phone? That’s crucial so they don’t lose what we had which was boredom, daydreaming and thinking about stuff. What’s it going to feel like to be touched or fall in love and what am I going to do when I grow up? As opposed to input, input, input, porn, options, video games, it’s so scary.”

As a solution to this, Gwyneth looks for the moments where she and her family can connect to themselves.

“My son [Moses] loves to surf so I’m like ‘be on that surfboard all day where there is no phone and no judgment and you’re just competing against yourself.’ So whatever those interests are that your kids have that don’t require the phone, encourage them. Say ‘let’s go on a walk and leave our phone and be free’ and name it. ‘Let’s go daydream. Let’s go cut ourselves off.’ That’s my approach while being totally accepting on some level that they’re just going to be different to us, it’s just different.”

Day Seven

The next day, we head to The Club. No, not some exclusive group we have all been admitted to (though it feels a little like it), but the location of our workshop with Dr Ellen Vora. During the day The Club hosts trivia and interactive game shows, while in the evening it’s filled with live music and DJs. For the moment, it’s hosting Goopies waiting to hear from Ellen.

Ellen’s session, much like her conversation the day prior and as the author of “The Anatomy of Anxiety”, deals with mental health and the way we deal with anxiety. Her approach to anxiety is to think about it as though there are two types of anxiety, what she calls ‘false anxiety’ and ‘true anxiety’.

“False anxiety is avoidable anxiety, it’s based in the physical body, it pertains to something that tripped your body into a stress response, tracks up to the brain and we experience that state as anxiety or even panic. I call it ‘false anxiety’ not to be dismissive or invalidate the very real suffering of false anxiety, but it’s to point out the fact that there is a straightforward physical basis and a straightforward path out of it,” Ellen says.

“True anxiety, very much on the other hand, is not something to pathologise, it’s not something we get to gluten-free and decaf coffee our way out of, it’s our inner compass and our true north and it’s nudging us. It’s telling us to slow down, get still, pay attention, there’s something here to listen to. There’s usually a call to action baked into it. It’s asking us to course correct and get back in alignment. This can relate to trauma, it can relate to we know we’re supposed to take a step into some form of activism, it can be you really haven’t called your grandma in a while. It can be grand, it can be small, it’s something where you feel uneasy and your body is saying slow down and pay attention, we’re out of alignment in some way.”

Ellen explains that for her and in her practice, it’s important to start with ‘false anxiety’ as it can cloud our understanding of the truth.

“I go through this list, I call it the ‘false anxiety inventory’ and I intend for people to print this out and put it on their refrigerator or carry it in their bag because when you’re in a moment of peak anxiety, everything feels doom and gloom and we don’t think that clearly in that state, so we just think everything is terrible. It’s helpful to have something cue you and it’s not to invalidate the story we tell ourselves, we tell ourselves a story when we’re anxious. We say ‘well I’m anxious because of this thing going on at work or this thing going on in my personal life.’ There’s always truth to that but it sometimes feels more overwhelming than it needs to because of the state of stress in our physical body,” she says.

“So this list can be like your problems are real and are you hungry? Is it possible you might need a snack right now? It can remind you, your problems are real but you got a bad night of sleep last night and everything is feeling heavier. It relates to, did you have an extra cold brew coffee today? Are you hung over? Are you just coming out of a TikTok rabbit hole? So basically you start to check in with yourself and you’re like, actually, there is a false mood in my body right now and it doesn’t change the stressors but if you can identify what is making everything feel harder and address it, then you can meet your stressors with a lot more resilience.”

This is where Ellen begins with patients to get more clarity, believing once you’ve addressed these ‘false anxieties’ you can more clearly see ‘true anxieties’ and “roll up your sleeves and get to work on that.”

Ellen shares her ‘false mood inventory’ with the group and explains how each of the items could be related to making us feel anxious in our day to day lives and what can be done to address them. She is also a big believer of moving the energy from our bodies when we’re in an anxious place.

“Move the energy, that can be dancing or shaking or crying. Or processing, journaling, writing about it. Being outside being in nature. Exercise. Some way to shift the nervous system out of this stress response into a parasympathetic tone and to really discharge what we’re carrying in our fascia,” she says.

Dr Ellen Vora presenting her workshop. Image: Supplied

With that, Ellen ends the workshop with a shamanic shaking session. She asks for the music to be turned on, for us to close our eyes and not look at what those around us are doing, and shake or dance for one minute in an effort to release the tension from our bodies. As someone who admittedly doesn’t like to sit with their own discomfort, particularly in a group, when time is up I’m grateful that it’s over and looking at the Goopies around me, they seem relieved too.

Day Eight

The following day we find ourselves in Sicily, Italy. Today we’re putting our culinary skills to the test in a cooking demonstration. We arrive in the kitchen of Eden’s restaurant to see a bench filled to the brim with fresh produce.

As the chef takes us through the demonstration, we eat spirulina popcorn and drink margaritas. If this is what’s involved with working in a kitchen, I could get used to it. We watch as the chef prepares kale and sweet potato salad with miso and miso ginger roasted chicken. We then lend a hand to help prepare the dessert of frozen cherry bonbons. When the demonstration is finished, we get to the best part, sitting together to enjoy the meal.

Lunch is served. Image: Supplied

Day Nine

On the final day of the cruise, we arrive in Naples, Italy, and leave the ship early to take a tour of the ancient city of Pompeii. Like our previous day trips, we’ve booked the experience through the Celebrity Cruises app which does all of the hard work for you. For each day of the cruise, you can scroll the offering in your app and book in excursions and activities to do on shore immediately.

Following a big day of sightseeing, we arrived back at our Stateroom to pack, in preparation of disembarking the next day. We packed all of our luggage and placed it in the hallway at 10pm at night for collection, so there was no need to worry about our luggage in the morning. The next day when we arrived in Rome, Italy, it was easy to locate our luggage after disembarking the ship.

So the big question is after nine nights at sea, did the experience actually change my mind about cruising? I can hand on heart say that it did and I would definitely book more cruises in the future. So I guess my parents have Gwyneth to thank for that.

To find out more about Celebrity Cruises and their wellness offering, click here. Valentina was a guest of Celebrity Cruises.

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