The Celebrity Edge: A Tour of the New Pinnacle of Cruise Ship Design
Passengers: 2,918 at double occupancy
Total staterooms: 1,467
Length: 1,004 feet
Beam (width): 128 feet
Maiden voyage: November 2018
The atrium at the ship's heart, rising from Decks 3 through 5, the Grand Plaza is where you'll find several restaurants, a few casual cafés, and The Martini Bar, the circular watering hole positioned under a dramatic cone of vibrantly lit rods.
The main pool, which has both a shallow ledge for cooler sunbathing and a deeper section for swimming, is another nerve center for the ship. It's surrounded by multiple levels of chaise lounges (there are lots, unlike on some of the bigger Royal Caribbean ships) and, of course, helmed by an active pool bar with waiter service and counter service.
One true innovation on the Edge is its several ramps, which blend one deck into another without forcing guests to use stairwells. On the Resort Deck, one of the ramps doubles as a jogging/walking track. The two spa tubs are atop huge stems, like two goblets, affording bathers terrific views out to the sea beyond.
After dark, skillful and intensely theatrical lighting makes the Edge seem like another ship.
The butterfly at the aft end of the swimming pool is bound to become one of the Edge's Instagram emblems.
Like the Grand Plaza, the Solarium (Deck 14, forward of the main pool) is a triple-height space, but this one is a warm, glassed-in area with pool and spa tub that makes for a quieter (and hotter) alternative to the noises and breezes at the main pool. It has its own little poolside cafe serving healthier foods.
The Solarium, too, takes on a completely new character after sunset.
Way up at the front of Deck 16, the Retreat Sundeck is the third major pool area. It's reserved for guests who have booked suites, and its glass-fronted sunbathing area commands incredible views from the ship's prow.
Now for the ship's interior, where the design starts to get juicy. This dark, glittery passageway, near the stern on the port side of Deck 5, evokes a sort of enchanted forest of golden trees. It's your transition from the rest of the ship to the most unusual space on board, Eden.
This Eden. On most ships, the multilevel room at the stern might be for the main dining room, but the Edge doesn't have one of those—guests hop around the main restaurants on board instead. In many ways, Eden is a showplace: a restaurant for dabblings in molecular gastronomy, a bar for complex cocktails, a nook for healthy lunches and craft coffee, and a showroom for a lyrical but extremely weird ongoing floor show. That show, an avant garde atmosphere piece, unfolds over a few hours and features dancers and aerialists who loosely re-enact the fable of Adam and Eve while guests drink and chat among them.
As you drink and chat with friends, you may see a girl on a swing or a belting chanteuse on a metal crescent moon rise into view.
Eden's experimental cuisine, which comes with this fantastic panorama off the back of the ship, is unlike most cruise ships' cooking, so it books up early.
Eden's cocktail bar is by far the most aesthetic drinking space on board.
One of the concoctions, the Veldt, is served in a wooden box that, when opened, releases an aromatic puff of applewood smoke. Most of the headline cocktails have a similarly spectacular presentation, whether they're sipped from a glass apple or tasted under the haze of a burning swatch of sage.
Elsewhere on board, in the Grand Plaza, the Martini Bar is the ship's choice for traditional drinks. You can see the prices of the ship's most top-of-the-line quaffs (served in huge glasses) here in the menu.
At the back of Deck 15, the Sunset Bar may not have an original name, but with a view like this, it doesn't need one. It remains popular deep into the night.
Stroll the pool deck, and you'll walk through tour de force design embellishments like this series of six gateways, on the ship's starboard side. They look stunning, but they're also functional as windbreakers.
Now let's touch on the standard staterooms. The most common cabin type (512 rooms) is the Edge Stateroom with Infinite Veranda, which are 202 square feet, not including the veranda. Here's what they look like.
What's an "Infinite Veranda"? It's a fancy name for a glassed-in porch. Instead of outdoor balconies, as most modern cruise ships have, the standard Edge stateroom reclaims that space and brings it indoors, which, the cruise company says, bumps up available floor space by 23%. When you want to smell that fresh salt air, you press a button to roll down the upper sash, as if you're taking the ship through a fast-food drive-through. The veranda area otherwise remains in the air conditioned zone of your room, and if you want to use them, there's a pair of doors that can be unfolded to seal off the veranda area from the rest of the living space. The Infinite Veranda is touted as a major advance, but in practice, I thought it had the effect of making me feel a little more sealed into my private space, and therefore more likely to leave the room (and—it's probably no accident—go spend money). Still, the extra space takes the space crunch out of a tight cabin.
Standard staterooms don't have closets, which enable the bathrooms to be larger than the norm. You get a shower, and a pretty sizable one; don't expect a tub unless you spring for a more expensive room.
Poke around and you'll find some clever and well thought-out design touches, such as desks that slide away into the chest of drawers to make more space, and this "Jewelry Box" that hides unsightly outlets (220v, 110v, and USB). Careful when you close it—it slams and will wake your bedmate. Underneath, there's a minifridge that can be locked with a code. Over the bedside tables, there's a USB outlet and a standard 110v outlet for charging.
The Edge also makes huge strides in digital integration. You can control your room's temperature, lighting, and TV using an app on your smartphone. (Do it from across the ship if you really want to annoy your bedmate.) You can use your phone to open your door. The TV can also mirror your smartphone so you can stream Netflix or downloaded files to your room's screen—unfortunately, if you have an iPhone, that feature will require you to subscribe to the paid Wi-Fi package, but if you're on an Android, it doesn't. The app also captures your passport photo page so that the ship's entry system can recognize your face. This revolutionizes the painless boarding process—on my cruise, I boarded within 3 minutes of arriving at the terminal and going through security. To make all this work seamlessly, you must scan your information more than three days before departure. This tech will be expanded to all Celebrity and Royal Caribbean ships in time. Also in the works: The ability to order a drink from your lounge chair; your phone's GPS directs the server where to deliver it. You don't have to use your phone for any of these things, but there's no doubt that if you do, it speeds things up and requires you to deal with crew less.
On Norwegian's ships, the single cabins are inside and deprive you of a view. But on Edge, they face the ocean with those floor-to-ceiling Infinite Veranda windows. At last, dignity! All single people really do without is a couch—they even get a full-size bed. Unfortunately, there are only 16 of these on the ship, so they book up early. (For that matter, there are only 17 Inside cabins. This is very much an outward-facing ship.)
On the other end of the accommodations spectrum, the two Iconic Suites, located above the bridge and featuring outdoor balconies that jut over the sides of the ship, are the best staterooms you can pay for. And pay you will: About $30,000 for a week's Caribbean cruise. So let's not dwell too much on this class of cabin, or on this view you'll get from the foot of your bed. It'll just make us bitter.
So what is that strange orange rectangle (the company calls it "tangerine") on the starboard side of the Edge? From a distance, it looks like the ship has sprouted a carry handle. But in fact, it's another one of its innovations, the Magic Carpet. It's a platform that juts over the sea and slides up and down to perform different functions depending on the time of day. In the morning, it might be lowered to the waterline to function as a loading dock for multiple tender boats at once (speeding up the port disembarkation process). On sea days, it might rise to the pool deck, where it performs as a second bar with panoramic views over the waves. And at night, it might be found in between, hosting dinner or cocktails in the open air.
When you're on the Magic Carpet, it feels as sturdy as the rest of the ship, and it makes for a breezy place to sip a drink and chat.
You're not allowed to ride it when it moves—this is a practical twist, not a thrill ride—and it's so quiet you don't even realize it slid somewhere new until it's already there.
Among restaurants, one of the most fascinating is Le Petit Chef, where each course receives its own animated introduction and presentation that's projected from the ceiling. This one's not included; you have to cough up an extra $55 for the pleasure. It is very cool, though.
Now, a quick tour of a few of the other spaces, so you can get an idea of the variety and creativity of the décor everywhere on board. This is Tuscan, one of the main restaurants that comes free with your cruise fare. As you might expect, it does Italian dishes.
Cosmopolitan restaurant, also included in your base fare, has a New American menu.
Also included: Normandie, which serves contemporary French cuisine.
Open during the day, Le Grand Bistro also does French fare, but in the style of a Parisian brasserie. You can be served at a table or grab a baguette sandwich to go. By night, the space hosts the animated meal Le Petit Chef.
Off the Grand Plaza, Café Al Bacio is a nook for sitting with a coffee and a freshly made pastry.
And how is that pastry? Take a look. Whereas most cruises these days cut corners at the restaurants that don't charge customers extra, I thought the Edge served very good food no matter where I ate. There are a few additional restaurants besides the spots pictured here, including one for steak, one for sushi, and two that are only open to customers who book a higher class of cabin. The only bad food I had was at the Oceanview Café, the main buffet, which has stations for multiple genres of food and stupendous views from the back of Deck 14. There, I had pad thai made with mealy noodles that were more appropriate for a spaghetti dish, and the "midnight" buffet wasn't much more than a selection of cold cuts and a salad bar—and it closed at midnight. These days, though, a lackluster buffet seems to be a common thread between all the major cruise lines because they want you to spend more for a specialty reservation. The food in the free waiter-service restaurants wasn't as mediocre, though, and the stuff on the tables at the up-charged places was downright delicious.
Naturally, there's a fitness center where passengers pay for all those calories with a banner view of the ship's forward course through floor-to-ceiling windows. It's huge and up-to-date, with all the latest equipment and three classrooms for spinning, bungee exercises, and other scheduled workout sessions.
Of course there's a massive and luxurious spa, too—spas make so much money for cruise ships that these days, the most expensive suites are located near it. Standard options such as massages and facials are offered, but so are some interesting sessions you don't see on every ship, including acupuncture, Chinese medicine, and programs that are specialized for people undergoing cancer treatment. There's a salon and barber, too.
The casino is also a big moneymaker for the cruise lines. Of course there's one here, replete with its own bar where you can continue to wager from your stool on screens installed in the counter.
Celebrity wants you to lose the maximum amount of cash in its stores, too. The choices are very heavy on jewelry and watches, with onboard branches for Bulgari, Cartier, and Tiffany & Co. If casualwear and sundries are more your budget, you won't find much to please you in this department.
Celebrity Edge does have kids' programs, although they don't take up as much deck space as they do on other ships. The teen club, The Basement, is stashed way down on Deck 2, but to compensate, there is a busy slate of fresh activities—hundreds of choices—including laser tag, an escape room, and a digital wall where your kids can safely leave graffiti. It also installed the largest Xbox One X system at sea.
All in all, the Edge has more visual surprises than any major ship now at sea, and its efforts at digital integration have smoothed the entire process, from check-in to making your stateroom more comfortable. Some things may not end up standing the test of time—the odd environmental performance in Eden is a valiant effort that is unlikely to catch on with a wide audience—but so many other aspects of an Edge vacation, from eye-popping design to the ability to eat and play wherever you want, are a clear pitch to millennial travelers with money to spend. The ship is already shaping the industry. After the best features of its mobile app and its facial recognition technology are fully tested on it, they will be rolled out across Celebrity and Royal Caribbean lines. If its odd name is meant to be a play on the phrase "cutting edge," the Celebrity Edge is living up to its self-image.