Packed with innovative features, the new Celebrity Edge has been called the cruise ship of the future. Will it offer enough to entice you aboard?
Sitting on my floating platform, 13 storeys above the sea, I’m drinking chilled pink champagne as dusk gently smudges the sky.
If this is the future of cruising, I think to myself, then I’m more than happy to sit back, soak up the atmosphere and sail off into the sunset.
As keen cruise-watchers may have guessed, that’s a snapshot from my taster cruise aboard Celebrity Edge, where I was lucky enough to enjoy an aperitif in the much talked-about but previously unseen Magic Carpet.
This is the extraordinary, tennis court-sized pod that moves up and down the starboard side of the ship, serving as a bar, a restaurant and even a tender embarkation point, depending on which deck it stops at.
Magic Carpet is something entirely new in cruising, but Celebrity wants the whole Edge experience to be futuristic from the moment you board.
And thanks to a dedicated terminal at Fort Lauderdale’s Pier 25 that’s equipped with facial recognition technology, I’d have to say they’ve succeeded.
Embarkation is easy, frictionless and all over in less than 10 minutes. But the fun is only just beginning, because this 2,900 passenger ship – aimed at new-to-cruisers, millennials and families – offers innovations round every corner.
Not that you’ll notice the corners, thanks to the seamless flow of all the public spaces (a result of the ship having been designed from scratch in 3D).
Technology is nothing without the human touch, however, and that’s why Celebrity recruited a top team, including Tom Wright – architect of Dubai’s iconic Burj Al Arab hotel – to create the Magic Carpet, and international design guru Kelly Hoppen, who oversaw the ship’s accommodation.
Kelly’s eye is immediately obvious when you walk into any suite or stateroom – all are tasteful and contemporary, their taupe palette enlivened by dashes of bold colour, a typical Hoppen touch.
Suites account for no less than 12 per cent of Celebrity Edge’s accommodation, and they have to be seen to be believed.
Given the budget, I’d book the Iconic Suite – all 2,500sq ft of it, positioned over the bridge for a view that’s better than the Captain’s – or perhaps one of the split-level Edge Villas, with private plunge pool. Either could rival any boutique hotel room.
Even the comparatively modest Infinite Veranda Staterooms are nearly a third bigger than elsewhere in the Celebrity fleet, and they’re packed with features that technophiles will love.
Press a button and the top half of your window lowers to create a balcony. Then you can either separate off the balcony with the bi-fold doors, or keep them folded back for more space.
Whichever configuration you choose, it makes a lovely place to sit and watch the ocean go by.
Speaking of tech, there’s a free-to-download guest app that includes a daily planner, deck maps and info about dining and onboard activities, plus a chat function to help you stay in touch with friends and family elsewhere on the ship.
And it doesn’t end there: other ‘smart home’ features allow you to control your stateroom’s lights, blinds and ambient temperature, and even unlock the door, all with your phone.
Walk into your bathroom and you’ll note that it’s pleasingly spacious – again larger than elsewhere in the fleet – with a luxury feel thanks to super-soft towels, Italian bathrobes and powerful showers.
And this kind of attention to detail is evident everywhere you look, from the clever box containing a selection of international plug sockets situated on the dressing table to the complimentary bottled water, presented in sustainable packaging.
The culinary offerings, presided over by Michelin-starred chef Cornelius Gallagher, are equally state of the art, with no fewer than 29 restaurants, cafés, bars and lounges, including four first-class complimentary main dining restaurants – instead of the one or two you’ll find on most cruise ships – and seven speciality restaurants.
Following my sky-high drinking experience, I dined at Cosmopolitan, one of the main restaurants, where the cuisine is billed as ‘new American with global influences’.
I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I can tell you that my lamb was cooked to perfection, and my coconut sorbet dessert was a creamy, moreish treat.
When it comes to the speciality options, Fine Cut Steakhouse is one of the few cruise-ship restaurants to serve dry-aged USDA-approved beef, while Luminae is a picture of elegance (credit again to Kelly Hoppen).
My personal favourite, however, was Le Petit Chef. Here, in another example of technology used to brilliantly entertaining effect, a tiny animated character appears beside your plate and puts on a show, virtually preparing each course while you await the actual dish (great unless you’re ravenously hungry).
Elsewhere on board, the palatial spa – also designed by Kelly Hoppen – has no fewer than 23 treatment rooms offering a number of first-at-sea therapies.
There’s the only Kerastase Institute on a cruise ship, as well as teeth-whitening, salt stone therapy, and a selection of treatment tables including the hi-tech MLX Quartz (warm sand – bliss!) where you can enjoy the muscle-relaxing benefits of a ‘zero gravity’ inversion massage.
There’s also the SEA Thermal Suite, consisting of eight spaces offering distinct sensory experiences, each harnessing a different natural element (AquaClass guests have complimentary access, while others can purchase passes).
My brief taster cruise was nowhere near long enough to discover all the relaxing spaces on board this amazing ship, but I did manage to make the most of the Rooftop Garden, an urban ‘playscape’ offering treetop sculptures, comfy loungers and movies under the stars.
Another impressive outdoor space is the Resort Deck, where the wow factor is provided by a 25-yard lap pool and two-storey ‘martini glass’ hot tubs that – unsurprisingly – proved very popular.
The onboard entertainment is innovative, too, surprising you at every turn with contemporary, edgy and immersive performances.
With four stage areas, the hi-tech theatre features a circular rotating platform and wraparound projection screens.
Then there’s multi-level venue Eden – a chameleon-like space where by day you can join a cooking class, savour cocktails made with ingredients from the herb wall, or just admire the view.
After dark, Eden morphs into a nightlife and performance art venue, peopled by ‘Edenists’ who interact with the guests and perform acrobatics.
Sounds a bit much?
Well, all I can say is that it’s truly theatrical and like nothing I have ever seen on a cruise ship.
You can further embrace the concept by dining at the speciality Eden restaurant, where the Edenists will take you on a ‘choreographed culinary journey’ with a menu of ‘experiential’ dishes, designed to please all five of the senses.
While there’s a definite adults-only flavour to the above, Celebrity certainly hasn’t forgotten its younger guests.
Admittedly there are no waterslides or splash parks, but Camp at Sea offers youngsters interactive experiences and learning opportunities, along with a menu of 500 activities.
There are also collaborations with entertainment companies including Anturus, which offers scientific and destination-focused adventures at its Explorer Academy – so wherever you go in the world, you can be sure your kids will be making the most of it.
Whether you’ve cruised before or not, this pioneering ship is packed with temptations for guests of all ages, and it’s already setting new standards of innovation at sea.
So are you ready to live life on the Edge?