On A clear and balmy evening, I’m standing on the top deck of the luxury liner Celebrity Summit as it slips its moorings and glides sedately out of Miami, Florida, towards open water.
It’s anchors aweigh for Goop at Sea, the latest venture by Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle and wellness company that promises a new kind of holiday experience with Goop workouts, Goop mindfulness sessions and Gwynnie-approved Goop fitness products on board.
Since 2008, when the Academy Award-winning actress founded it, it has been loved as well as loathed. Critics claim that it offers a rare lifestyle that most of us can’t afford and promotes alternative wellness methods based on pseudoscience.
In 2018, Goop was hit with a $145,000 (£104,940) fine in California for ‘unsubstantiated marketing claims’ that its jade eggs — designed for rather intimate use and still available for £47.49 via its U.S. website, in case you’re interested — could boost orgasms, prevent uterine prolapse, balance hormones and regulate menstrual cycles. Other controversies include the gimmicky This Smells Like My Vagina candle (£68) and its gaspingly expensive Goop health summits — tickets sell for £1,000 for a day.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop brand is set to offer a new kind of holiday experience with Goop at Sea. Pictured: Gwyneth Paltrow
The company’s latest Netflix show Sex, Love & Goop, which launched in the UK last Thursday, is proving to be equally provocative as it delves into the intricacies of erotic wellness, urging couples to be ‘sexually vulnerable’ and to use feather boas, whips and blindfolds to spice things up in the bedroom. Yet despite its critics, women all over the world remain intrigued by Goop and it’s certainly made the mother of two a staggering amount of money.
The brand is said to be worth $250 million (£181 million) and Gwyneth’s personal fortune, which takes into account her acting career, is estimated to be $150 million (£109 million).
No wonder fellow celebrities including Elle Macpherson (WelleCo), Halle Berry (re*spin) and now Holly Willoughby with Wylde Moon, are rushing to build wellness empires, too. Goop is expanding into luxury wellness holidays, but they are always ahead of the curve. So, what can you expect from the Goop at Sea experience which, when it is fully up and running, will cost $750 (£544) on top of the price of your holiday?
Over the next five days, sailing through the Caribbean with stops in Cozumel and Costa Maya in Mexico, I’m about to find out on a scaled-down trial run. Gwyneth is not on board in person but when I check out my living quarters on the sixth deck of the ship — my suite has a king-size bed, a seating area and a private, ocean-facing balcony — I find a welcome message from the Goopster-in-Chief on my TV.
Wearing a white dress that shows off her golden Californian tan and platinum blonde tresses, the 49-year-old talks about her new role as Celebrity Cruises’ wellbeing adviser.
‘We’ve always been curious about different ways to make our lives and our relationships more meaningful as well as things that bring a little more beauty into the world,’ she drawls. ‘I’ve worked with my team to curate holistic wellness programming and products that we hope will make your time on board even more restorative.’ She ends with a cheery ‘have a wonderful trip’.
My first class is an introductory intuition workshop with Deganit Nuur, a professional clairvoyant, and ‘intuitive healer’. She has been a Goop columnist from 2016, and has appeared on Goop podcasts as well as at Goop summits.
‘She’s not your run-of-the-mill spiritual healer . . . when she starts channelling — kapow!’ is how her Goop bio describes her. Wearing a gold Ulla Johnson gipsy-style dress and hoop earrings, against a backdrop of soothing music, Deganit tells the 12 people in our class that we’re going to learn how to trust our gut, stop overthinking and make better and faster decisions about issues like our love lives and careers.
Barbara McMahon revealed her five days sailing through the Caribbean began with an introductory intuition workshop with Deganit Nuur, a professional clairvoyant
Deganit asks us silently to think of a burning question we might have, such as ‘do I stay with my spouse?’ In the semi-darkness of the ship’s theatre, she guides us through a meditation and asks us to bring up a psychic TV screen in our mind’s eye and think of two plants representing different options. ‘Which plant is calling out to you? What will that plant look like a month or a year from now if you choose it?’ I’m having difficulty trying to visualise this. I sneak a glance at the other participants but they seem to be more focused than me.
My fellow voyagers are a mixed bunch — paying passengers who have been offered the chance to try the sessions for free. They are mostly single women and middle-aged, with a few couples added for good measure. Everyone is wearing holiday gear. While most people know the name Gwyneth Paltrow, not many are Goop devotees.
We finish with images of a sun hovering two feet above our heads that promises to fill us with positive energy and a ‘grounding cord’ to suck out the negative energy our bodies are hoarding. ‘Beautiful work. Yay!’ says Deganit gaily.
I’m trying to follow Goop’s philosophy of operating from a place of curiosity but I’m finding it hard not to giggle
My mind wandered wild during the session, but it had a different effect for a woman who was sitting with her husband at back of the theatre. ‘It’s been incredibly helpful,’ the woman gushes to Deganit. ‘It’s helped me make a decision I should have made a long time ago.’ Her husband looks stony-faced and I spend the next hour wondering what decision she has come to.
Hopefully, she was just thinking which of the ship’s nine restaurants she should book tonight.
After lunch, we’re back with Deganit to talk about heart chakras. ‘We have seven psychic centres in our body and the heart chakra is the one that’s responsible for compassion, connection and love,’ explains Deganit.
‘If you see a woman in a great dress with a great body, your heart chakra is healthy when you feel inspired and think, “I want to be like her, so I’m going to work out and get the same great body.” If you’re thinking, “she doesn’t look so great and why is she wearing that?” your heart chakra isn’t healthy.’
The Celebrity Summit is designed for 2,158 people and features 11 guest decks, multiple bars and restaurants, as well as a casino.
We do another meditation, imagining a green orb of light in our chests with dark spots that represent bad experiences we’ve been unable to let go. Deganit suggests that we talk to these dark spots before they melt away. I’m trying to follow the Goop philosophy of operating from a place of curiosity but I’m finding it hard not to giggle.
One woman described how her spots were covered in giant veins when she opened her eyes. ‘You’re super-psychic,’ pronounces Deganit.
Colette Dong is an expert in muscle shaping, and we have a workout together. She is also co-founder of The ness, a trendy New York gym and another trusted Goop guru. With low-impact movements and a 30-minute to an hour class, she challenges the body and brain. We jump and sweat to the beat of Beyonce. It’s a tough workout but great fun. Day three sees us dock at the Mexican island of Cozumel. There are no sessions and this allows me to go to the ship’s Spa Cafe and linger over the detox smoothie created for the cruise. It has kale and coconut water as its ingredients. It tastes great!
Celebrity Summit has 11 guest decks, multiple bars and restaurants, a casino, swimming pools and a casino. It is intended for 2,158 people, but only 340 passengers and 780 crew are allowed aboard. This is due to social distancing and the slow return of cruise passengers, but mostly the U.S.’s travel ban — fully vaccinated travellers are only allowed back from November 8. All passengers must be negative tested on board and everyone on board must be double-vaccinated. Crew members wear masks, but passengers don’t have to.
When she doesn’t want to be noticed, the healer tells us she can contract her aura like an invisibility cloak
As an additional precaution, crew don’t go ashore on excursions and are tested every four days. Passengers cheer when crew members are informed that they have all tested negative.
Goop has selected the most popular in-room tools that guests can take home. There’s a $65 (£47) acupuncture mat and head rest set designed to press hundreds of acupuncture points across the body and help with neck and shoulder tension release. Ouch. It’s like lying on a giant pin cushion. There is a Sunday Citizen meditation cushion containing thousands of clear quartz, rose quartz and amethyst crystals, mixed with buckwheat hulls which costs $80(£58).
It sounds uncomfortable but it’s lovely to sit on. There’s a few extra crystals to hold in my hand whenever I want ‘extra good vibrations’. Perfect for getting me in the right frame of mind for Deganit’s aura workshop. Many believe auras are the unseen field of energy surrounding a person’s body and they can be affected by our emotional state and that of others.
Barbara had the opportunity to go to the ship’s Spa Cafe and linger over the detox smoothie created for the cruise after docking at the port of Mexican island Cozumel
‘Most auras tend to hover about two feet off your skin, like an egg-shaped bubble and usually the bigger your aura, the more impact you create. When I don’t want to be noticed, I can contract my aura almost like an invisibility cloak,’ Deganit says. She asks us to close our eyes, look at our auras and then instructs us in aural pushups.
‘You’re going to imagine your energy field hugging your skin and then we’re going to push it out til it expands two feet, three feet, all the way to eight feet and then we’re going to bring it back in,’ she intones. ‘Scan your aura for any holes that might be there, you’re going to smooth them out so you see a consistent bubble.’ We try to see each other’s auras. Everyone except me seems to be seeing them.
Auras come in seven colours, but some are more dominant than the others. My aura is composed of yellow, orange and green. This indicates that I am creative, charismatic and independent. Deganit claims that she can see my aura expanding. ‘It’s almost like Barbara’s offering us a group hug,’ she says excitedly.
Later, the women use their newly-honed intuitions against each other. This is the exercise I’m most uncomfortable with.
Isn’t it dangerous to ask strangers what you should do about your love life or career and then possibly act on it?
One of the youngest says she has been texting a boy for nearly a year, but he doesn’t want to meet up. Although I believe she is free of such a manic, the group deals with the problem in a gentler manner. They tell her that her aura is bright and effervescent, and that she deserves better. She is delighted.
Barbara said the most uncomfortable session involved the guests using their newly-honed intuitions on each other
Another woman is looking for a more spiritually fulfilling job and wants to quit her corporate job. To limit the risk, everyone agrees that she should make changes gradually. Is this all about seeing auras or sharpening intuition? It might be, but it’s also a group of women simply being supportive of each other.
Later, I confess to Deganit that I remain a sceptic and am yet to feel that ‘kapow!’ She chuckles that I should keep giving it a go.
She surprised me by telling me John Lennon was her spirit guide. ‘He gives me advice about my career and how to use my platform for social justice — I communicate with him only for seconds . . . maybe three minutes at most,’ Deganit says solemnly.
Deganit owns Nuurvana, a business she runs, and is the resident spiritualist and healer at Four Seasons hotels in New York City and Los Angeles. ‘People don’t want more stuff, they want experiences and spirituality. I have celebrity clients I can’t name, and even with them, it gets to a point where all the fortune and fame isn’t satisfying unless you’re living a life of purpose.’
At the end of Goop at Sea’s maiden voyage, I haven’t reached a state of higher consciousness, but the whole thing has been harmless, albeit slightly ridiculous, good fun. If you booked with a group of female friends, I can see you’d have a blast.
Gwyneth seems to have a point. ‘She’s lovely, really curious,’ says Deganit. ‘She takes her work seriously but doesn’t take herself seriously.’ As if to prove the point, when I walk ashore, my phone pings with a last Goop missive announcing the arrival of its latest device for female pleasure — a self-heating G spot vibrator, photographed as if it’s on a ship.
The next Celebrity Cruise is a seven-night Western Caribbean round trip from $839 (£609). Goop at Sea onboard experiences are free. Celebritycruises.com