Celebrity Edge Ship Visit - May 2019
GoCruise – 28th May 2019
It has been mooted that the innovative and refreshing design of this new ship is what led to its name – Celebrity Edge. It has been heralded as game changing and redefining the (ship) shape of the (cruising) future – starting with its hull, described as a blue 'parabolic ultra-bow' giving it a boxy, dreadnought-like look, but boosting speed and lowering fuel consumption.
All cruise lines are constantly striving for that secret ingredient to woo cruisers old and new to their ships. So Celebrity have involved land based hotel designers and architects in the design of Celebrity Edge, taking a leaf out of the book of ultra luxury cruise line Seabourn, whose association with Adam Tihany has created the interiors of Seabourn ships Odyssey, Sojourn and Quest. Tihany will also be the creative director for the new Cunard ship, due to be launched in 2022. Globally renowned designers who have contributed to Celebrity Edge include Tom Wright (better known for designing the Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai and responsible for The Resort Deck on Edge, including The Rooftop Garden, the pool deck and bar and the indoor adults only solarium, as well as the revolutionary Magic Carpet) and Kelly Hoppen (who designed the new accommodations on board including the Iconic Suites, the Edge Villas and the transformed Edge Staterooms with Infinite Balconies, as well as The Retreat – the indoor/outdoor suite guests only space and the Spa. She has also been converted to cruising as a previous non cruiser!)
The essence of Celebrity Edge can best be described as outward facing, not just with the new all glass infinite balcony cabins, which seem to bring the ocean into each room, but also the extensive use of live plants in the light and airy Eden and in The Rooftop Garden. Gone is the signature featured grass on the top deck of the Solstice Class ships and The Sky Lounge – replaced by The Retreat, an area which is now exclusively the domain of suite guests. Suites comprise a massive 22% of the accommodation on board Celebrity Edge (up from 12% on Solstice class ships) and signals Celebrity’s intent to further join the likes of MSC, NCL and Royal Caribbean in enhancing their offering of a more luxury, ship within a ship experience.
Not every feature on Celebrity Edge is unique to the cruise line or indeed ocean cruising – the infinite balcony cabins (see later) can be found on river cruise ships. The main restaurant has been deconstructed – as on Royal Caribbean Quantum Class ships – into 4 smaller, more intimate dining areas: Normandie (French), Cosmopolitan (enter via a walk through wine display for American fare with global influences), Tuscan (Italian) and Cyprus (Mediterranean food). 75% of the menu is available across all 4 restaurants with an additional 25% of dishes being exclusive to the individual restaurant and inspired by its name. Even the 3 deck high Theatre is also reminiscent of ‘Two70’ on Quantum Class ships – with a four piece stage that juts out into the audience, rotating staircases and a curved three piece, moving, 270 degree LED screen behind, allowing projections to enhance the performances in front. Celebrity describe it as the company’s most technologically advanced theatre.
Nevertheless, it is the newer features that make Celebrity Edge stand out as a potential cruising pioneer. Look at the ship and the first thing that draws the eye is the unique starboard positioned 90 ton Magic Carpet – the world’s first cantilevered platform at sea. It is bright orange, tennis court sized, multifunctional and movable, created to aid tendering, as well as port side embarkation and disembarkation. It can also be used as additional entertainment venues on higher decks. Its most useful feature is probably when on deck 2 where Destination Gateway vastly increases the space and therefore the ease of getting on and off the ship – there are even areas to just sit and watch your fellow passengers embark and disembark! So if you like a view of the port side when docked, choose a cabin on the Magic Carpet, starboard side. Its other uses can be more weather dependent for total enjoyment: on deck 5, it transforms into the lunchtime venue and speciality restaurant ‘Raw on 5’ which serves fish, seafood and sushi, al fresco style. On deck 14 it operates as a bar, enhancing the Pool Deck experience and stationed next to the Edge Cabanas there, whilst on deck 16 it transforms into an exclusive seafood focussed ‘Dinner On The Edge’ experience. Despite its name, for health and safety reasons you cannot actually travel on The Magic Carpet (as opposed to The Rising Tide bar on Royal Caribbean Oasis Class ships).
Eden, found at the back of the ship, is a three deck, all glass spiral, inspired by the Fibonacci sequence, a naturally occurring repeating spiral found throughout nature. As a complex it includes an immersive theatre, restaurant and lounge. Looking into it, from deck 7, it could be the atrium of a plush international hotel (think the Hyatt Regency in Dallas perhaps) but with changing moods throughout the day and evening depending on its uses. It is filled with plants and flowers and lit by streaming sunlight, thanks to the glass wall that runs the entire width of the ship. Walking in during the day is reminiscent of stepping into a large greenhouse complemented by a colour scheme of greens (including pistachio, avocado and other retro shades), blues and browns (beige and toffee). Celebrity have carefully chosen 3 words to describe the evolving themes in Eden: in the morning it is ‘Chillful’ – a quiet space to relax in a secluded corner in one of the many different configurations of seats, watch the ocean from a hanging hammock style chair or just take in the air which is filled with the scent of flowers from what is described as its ‘Living Library of Plants’. Pop in to The Eden Café for complimentary breakfast bites, brunch, salads, panninis and signature chocolate chip cookies. During the afternoon ‘Edenists’ arrive – 8 actors and actresses who embody the essence of Eden – flitting from guest to guest like bright, pollinating birds, offering tours of the area, a juggling lesson or just interacting with guests in a quirky way. Think ‘Avatar’ meets ‘Cirque du Soleil’ – this is ‘Playful’ and in a way sets the scene for the evening entertainment. Alternatively you could take a cookery or cocktail making class in the afternoon or even try a specialty cocktail from the impressive cocktail bar, complete with a 20ft 'living wall' of botanicals from which bartenders pluck garnishes for drinks. Each of the cocktails is exclusive to Eden with a unique element inspired by nature. For example ‘Pea’ is a cocktail of Hendricks gin, basil syrup, virgin olive oil, blanched spring peas, sherry, aquafaba and lime juice. In the evening Eden turns ‘Sinful’. Start the night by walking down the slope to where the specialty restaurant offers an open kitchen for its 5 course experiential menu (£50.05 pp), created by Michelin-starred chef, Cornelius Gallagher. It includes sea urchin with shiso leaf which arrives in a dry ice, smoke-filled dome set over a bowl of life fish or bonito flakes mysteriously wiggling on top of braised Mangalitsa pork. Around 10pm each evening the Edenists re appear to continue their periodic performances of dance, acrobatics and music, again involving guests. The show has been created by the company that produced the New York popular dinner theatre experience ‘Queen of the Night’ and has been described as ‘Never Never Land’ meeting ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. Reputedly, every visit to Eden will offer a different experience!
Although I saw The Rooftop Garden whilst I was in Southampton, it is the type of area reminiscent of the East Village Rooftop Gardens in New York City, an urban landscape inspired by childhood playgrounds, without the swings.Situated on the top deck it is an area full of plants and shrubs (many of them necessarily salt resistant), which section off more private areas for small group relaxing and dining. There is a stage for live bands and the almost compulsory large screen, as well as slightly quirky rose gold metallic trees, reportedly used by performers to perch in or acting as speakers for live music. The screen is used to show films (among other things) as part of a concept called ‘A Taste of Film’, whereby you are served the same food that they are eating on the film, at the same time – an interesting concept! The Rooftop Garden Grill serves a wide range of BBQ dishes at both lunch and dinner time. You can choose from pizzas, smoked chicken wings, pulled pork sliders, Rooftop Angus Porter Burgers or Hickory Smoked Brisket, saving room for the Mason Jar ‘S’mores’ to finish and even custom choose the ingredients for your salad when the Mobile Salad Cart rolls round to your table. Just outside The Rooftop Garden is the walking track, with a full deck incline, where 4.5 laps is 1 mile and where a large black horse stands, courtesy of Sophie Dickens, the great, great granddaughter of Charles Dickens - just one of the thousand or so pieces of artwork on Celebrity Edge, from abstract pieces to Picasso ceramics.
One deck up from The Rooftop Garden and forward, is The Retreat – the exclusive sanctuary area just for Suite guests and much vamped up to my mind, when compared to similar areas on other Celebrity ships. There is a personal concierge at The Retreat Lounge (formerly known as Michael’s Club on other Celebrity ships), offering complementary refreshments 24/7 and live entertainment, private dining in Luminae at The Retreat, transformed from (just) Luminae (and the highest rated restaurant in the Celebrity fleet, with signature dishes created by chef Daniel Boulud, as well as daily changing menus exclusive to the restaurant) and on deck the similarly exclusive Retreat Sundeck, Pool and Pool Bar area with a wide assortment of cabana style seating, hammock type chairs, comfortably padded sunloungers and funky tree trunkesque side tables.
The specialty restaurants on Celebrity Edge have changed quite a bit from those found on the Solstice Class ships, gone are Murano (although Normandie does offer a passing nod to it, in terms of the cuisine served), Tuscan Grill and Qsine (although it could be argued that Le Petit Chef is the next generation Qsine, in terms of a food technology interface). There are 7 new specialty restaurants in all, with either fixed price or a la carte pricing. These include Le Grand Bistro, a French inspired bistro serving food all day, including plat du jour items and boulangerie/patisserie selections. Continuing the Edge theme of outward facing, there is a choice of planter edged sidewalk seating or in the inner café with ocean views. On select nights Le Grand Bistro transforms into Le Petit Chef and Friends at Le Grand Bistro (£43.25 pp). A bit like an automatic Scalextric map route on your tablecloth, four animated chefs: Le Petit Chef (French) and friends Pecaniya (Spanish), Piccolo (Italian), and Chizana (Japanese) seemingly stroll across your table, in 3D fashion, creating the courses that are then served to you! Created by Skullmapping and presented by TableMation, check it out on Youtube. The Fine Cut Steakhouse is on the other side of the Grand Plaza to ‘Raw on 5’. As with Le Grand Bistro, there is a choice of views to complement your dining: overlook the three deck open design on the inside of the ship or go for an al fresco seaview table on a hedge lined terrace overlooking the sea. Steak lovers have a choice of 8 cuts of steak, ranging from the 50 oz Australian Wagyu Tomahawk Ribeyes (for 2) to the 25 oz 30-day Dry-aged Prime Bone in Ribeye (each with a choice of seven toppings). There are also non steak options like Grass Fed Lamb Chops, Split Roasted Maine Lobster and even Barley Bourguignon Risotto.
There are the usual bars on board too (11 in total) including a well positioned Sunset Bar with ocean side seating and the Martini Bar at the base of the huge LED chandelier in the Grand Plaza (3 decks worth of Italian piazza inspired public space for gathering, people watching and listening to live music). Other places to bag a drink include the Spa Café and Juice Bar, Café Al Bacio in the Grand Plaza (for specialty coffee and hot chocolates, sweets and artisan cupcakes) or little sister, Il Secondo Bacio in the Oceanview Café.
If fitness is more your thing, there are 3 swimming pools including a 25 yard outdoor lap pool (the largest in the fleet) with 2 tall martini glass shaped hot tubs seemingly standing sentry nearby and the adult only indoor pool in The Solarium which has a three dimensional art wall behind it, representing the colours and movement of the sea. The Fitness Centre can be found at the front of deck 15, offering the usual range of cardio equipment and free weights as well as classes in indoor cycling (RYDE and Peloton), high and low intensity interval training (THE HIT and LIT Bungee Fit), yoga performed in a heated room, group boxing and group strengthening and conditioning classes. The Spa is on the deck below and is inspired by the sea, earth and air, creating SEA - an exceptional wellness journey. It spans more than 22,000 sq ft and offers 124 different therapies in 23 treatment rooms with 31 therapists. When designing the area, Kerry Hoppen used a neutral colour scheme and lighting, along with a dramatic Zen sculpture as the reception desk, to evoke a sense of calm. The popular Persian Garden has evolved and expanded into the SEA Thermal Suite, offering 8 distinctive therapeutic experiences. Described as a ‘revolution in relaxation’, access is complementary to Aqua Class guests (and along with exclusive dining in Blu (serving spa inspired dishes) and other in room enhancements, one of my favourite category types). The experiences include Hamman (a contemporary style Turkish bath), a Salt Room, a Rainfall Water Therapy Room, an Infrared Sauna and a Crystalarium. There are also heated tile loungers and floating basket chairs in the Float Room if you would rather meditate with views of the sea. Although Celebrity is partnered with Canyon Ranch on its other ships, Celebrity Edge is exclusively using the Elemis product brand and is also the first ship at sea to feature ‘MedSpa’ treatment tables like the WellMassage4D Table (featuring a Zero Gravity Immersion massage) the Spa Wave MLW Amphibia Table (water filled cushions contour to the unique anatomy of the guest for the ultimate in comfort) and the MLX Quartz Table (warm crystals mold and shape the body releasing muscle tension and promoting a deeper state of relaxation). It will also offer Salt Stone Therapy, the Poultice Powered Muscle Release and Oncology Massages, as well as the more usual botox, acupuncture, massages (including the Thousand Flower Detox Wrap) and postural analysis treatments. Celebrity’s Kérastase Institute (The Salon) is also a first at sea.
It is probably obvious by now that Celebrity Edge is not a ship built particularly for young children – although ‘Camp At Sea’ is the Kid’s Club programme on board. It is fully customisable with over 500 activities to choose from, including the largest Xbox One X experience at sea. Age groups include Toddler Time (under 3 yrs with a parent), Ship Mates (3-5 yrs), Celebrity Cadets (6-9 yrs), Captains (10-12 yrs), Junior Teens (13-15 yrs) and Senior Teens (16 -17 yrs). Activities take place in The Fun Factory for 3-12 year olds and The X Club for 13 – 17 year olds.
But unless you are vaguely smart phone savvy you may need the expertise of someone younger to steer you through the minefield of face recognition for boarding and the vagaries of using said phone to control your cabin features - like opening the door and controlling the lights and temperature. Even the new Edge stateroom with Infinite Balcony (to give it its full title) has push button control to lower the top window. There are 918 Infinite Balcony rooms (across Aqua (106, sleeps 2) & Concierge (284, sleeps 4) Classes and Edge (528) stateroom categories) as well as more traditional (94) balconies. Additionally there are 8 classes of suite/villas, 3 classes of oceanview (panoramic, deluxe oceanview and oceanview) and both deluxe and interior inside cabins. Kelly Hoppen has been responsible for designing the new accommodations on Celebrity Edge – starting with one of the new categories, the Iconic Suite. This is now the most luxurious and spacious suite (1892 sq ft) in the fleet, situated above the bridge, with sweeping panoramic views all round. There are 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a huge living area, with a dining table and a 689 sq ft balcony. There are 2 Iconic Suites on Celebrity Edge, sleeping up to 6 people each. She has also designed the 6 Edge Villas – another new category to the fleet – with two storey, split level accommodation over 950 sq ft, there is one bedroom (upstairs), 2 bathrooms and sleeping accommodation for 4 people in total. Other suite classes include 2 Penthouse Suites (1378 sq ft + 197 sq ft balcony), 4 Royal Suites (700 sq ft + 74 sq ft balcony), 16 Celebrity Suites (460 sq ft + 51 sq ft balcony) and 146 Sky Suites (313 sq ft + 163 sq ft balcony). Sky Suites and Sunset verandahs cab be combined to make a Sky Family Unit. The Edge Infinite Balcony staterooms are a new introduction to ocean cruising too. They can function as an ocean view cabin with a small solariumesque effect or a more traditional (albeit glass fronted) balcony with the lowering of the top window. Although the cabins are the same size as a more traditional balcony, there is up to 23% more available space when the inner doors to the balcony are left open. However, do be aware that some of the balconies (both infinite and traditional) are listed as having an obstructed view. This can vary between 5 and 50% depending on position. Also, some of the 1A and 1B balcony cabins, both forward and aft on the ship are more like sheltered balconies on Cunard ships, with a circular opening in the hull of the ship acting as the balcony front. Balcony cabins are 202 sq ft + 42 sq ft balcony (approx), whilst the Sunset balconies, which overlook the back of the ship, are larger at 228 sq ft + 89 sq ft balcony. Ocean view (148) cabins are 200- 242 sq ft and inside (131) cabins 181 – 202 sq ft, depending on the grade of cabin. There are accessible cabins available across all grades. The only dedicated single accommodations on Celebrity Edge are the 16 Single Staterooms with Infinite Balcony (131 sq ft + 45 sq ft balcony). They have a double bed in them, can sleep 2 people and so useful to combine with other accommodation for multi generational cruising.
Celebrity are a cruise line at the fore front of championing diversity, equality and inclusion, as well as ocean change. Celebrity Edge continues adding landmarks for women in shipping, not only with the female designers involved in her creation, but also with Kate McCue being the 3rd female cruise ship Captain of a Celebrity ship. Joining her on the bridge will be Nicholine Tifuh Azirh, the first woman from Ghana to work on the bridge of a cruise ship, as part of the Celebrity partnership with the Regional Maritime University of Ghana. Indeed 37% of the guest facing crew of Celebrity Edge are also women. The choice of Nobel laureate Malala (Yousafzai) as godmother for Celebrity Edge is therefore not surprising, nor the fact that the traditional bottle of champagne breaking over the bows of the ship was replaced by an 18 litre bottle of Badoit mineral water.
Celebrity Edge weighs in at 130,818 tonnes and carries 2918 passengers. She is the first of up to 4 Edge Class ships and reputedly cost $1 billion to build. Since her launch she has been described as ‘the coolest cruise ship at sea’ by Forbes magazine and indeed is unique and rather ‘edgy’, with many non ‘cruise ship’ features. In total there are 29 restaurants, cafes, bars and lounges and in my opinion enough other attributes, both new and old (and excluding all the on board add ons), to appeal to both ardent cruisers and contemporary travellers, contemplating a first cruise. She is a modern, stylish ship for a modern age and I can’t wait to sail on her!