I’m basking in the Caribbean sun, a glass of fizz in my hand, the sea gently lapping at my side. Just another day in a resort in the West Indies. Or at least it would be - except I am on a cruise ship. A big one at that because I am on the edge… Celebrity Edge.
To clarify, I am on the ship’s Magic Carpet, a platform the size of a tennis court that’s alongside the ‘destination gateway,’ (a spacious room on deck two used for port talks and presentations), watching fellow passengers board tender boats. Regular cruisers will know how tricky it can be to get in and out of tenders. On Celebrity Edge, it’s a doddle. From the destination gateway, you go down a few stairs (there is a chairlift for those who need it) and step from the Magic Carpet into the tender. These are not the usual lifeboats that whisk folk ashore in ports where ships are unable to dock either but specially-built tenders that are easy to sep in and out of and with comfy seats. All in all, pure genius.
Even better, once the rush to go ashore is over, the bar opens and the Magic Carpet becomes an ocean-side lounge, and that’s where I am now. It is magic indeed! As the platform ‘sits’ on the water, the designers had to find a way to raise it while the ship was sailing. Initially, the plan was just to lift it to deck five but then the question was asked: “If it can go to deck five, why not higher?”
Back at the drawing board, they found a way for it to ‘fly’ up the side of the ship, changing function as it goes. At its highest point, alongside deck 16, it becomes a speciality restaurant where up to 75 people at a time can have dinner on the Edge.
Celebrity Edge was really hyped up before she launched, and I confess, I suspect it was all a bit of good self-promotion on the part of Celebrity Cruises. That was until I got on board. Within half an hour, I’d decided she really is special with a fresh new look and sleek, modern decor alongside funky design features such as tree sculptures and hot tubs balancing on tall Martini glass-shaped stems.
There’s even a sloping jogging track on the top decks and a spiral walkway all the way around Eden. A vast three-deck-high venue at the back of the ship with floor to ceiling windows that serves as a bar, restaurant and entertainment hotspot. There are four complimentary restaurants, each serving the same menus but with their own themed decor and range of speciality dishes; Italian in Tuscan, French in Normandie, American in Cosmopolitan and Mediterranean in Cyprus. In a neat touch, an Art Deco panel that was originally on the ocean liner SS Normandie, that many may recognise from Celebrity Summit, now adorns the wall in Normandie Restaurant.
You can choose open seating and eat in whichever restaurant you fancy (bookings can be made in advance or just turn up and wait for a table) or opt for traditional fixed dining and dine in the same place at the same time and table each evening. Naturally, everyone can take their pick from the alternative, paid-for eateries. The steakhouse was good but Le Grand Bistro was definitely my favourite as you get a three-course dinner and 3D animation show with Petit Chefs preparing each dish right in front of your eyes. Baffled? That’s just another reason to get on board and see for yourself.
I was on Celebrity Edge during her maiden Caribbean season this winter but you don’t have to go that far to see her as she is sailing the Western Mediterranean and Greek Isles from Civitavecchia (for Rome) this summer, with a couple of departures also from Barcelona. If you can wait 12 months, sister ship Celebrity Apex will be sailing a mini-season of no-fly cruises from the UK in April and May 2020. She’ll be cruising to some of my favourite European cities including Lisbon, Oslo, Copenhagen and Amsterdam, and also sailing to the Norwegian Fjords, before relocating to Barcelona to spend the summer in the Mediterranean.
Most of the design changes I’ve mentioned so far are an evolution rather than a revolution. Not so the staterooms, which have what Celebrity Cruises has dubbed ‘infinite balconies.’ Modelled on the sun lounges on Scenic River Cruises and Emerald Waterways’ river ships, these have floor-to-ceiling windows that open horizontally with the touch of a button (you can also open them from an app!) The balcony itself is inside the room and can be separated from the cabin with glass doors.
The design means you can get plenty of fresh air but there is more usable space inside the cabin (I kept the glass doors open all the time) and you can sit on the balcony in any weather, even when it is blustery or wet. Those are both big selling points for me. If you prefer to feel the wind in your hair, the suites all have sit-out balconies. Go for one of the two-storey villas and you get a plunge pool on your balcony and direct access to The Retreat, a magnificent area reserved for suite passengers that has its own lounge, bar, sundeck and pool. Or, splash out on one of the Iconic Suites (there are only two). They are gorgeous, right above the bridge and surrounded by a wall of glass so you have uninterrupted views to the horizon. It’s just like being the Captain!