In the build-up to a new ship launch, it’s all too easy to wonder whether the final result will match the hype.
Having toured Celebrity Edge in the STX France shipyard, though, and seen the 117,000-ton, US$1bn ship just weeks from launch, I reckon it’s going to be even better than promised.
Edge isn’t short of gimmicks but rather than mere headline-grabbers, these are actually really cool. The Magic Carpet, for instance. This is a bright orange platform attached to the starboard side of the ship, the size of a tennis court. It moves up and down and serves a different purpose according to where it is. Down on Deck 2, it’s a spacious tender embarkation platform (and the tenders themselves are positively luxurious, created by a yacht designer, with big, padded seats). When it’s up on Deck 16, the platform will take up to 100 for dinner. On a balmy night in the Caribbean or the Mediterranean, it should be fabulously romantic, with a stylish lounge area and tables facing straight out to sea. If you have a head for heights, that is.
Edge is an unusual shape. Its slender bow aside, designed to cut through the water more efficiently, there are far fewer balconies visible than you’re probably used to on a big, modern ship. This is because 60% of the accommodation comprises Infinite Veranda Staterooms, not unlike the concept you see on river cruisers, where the top half of a wall of glass slides down to create a balcony, accessed by concertina-style glass doors. Open the doors and the ‘balcony’ and the whole cabin is flooded with light, letting the sea breezes in. Ceilings are higher than usual, too, thanks to sophisticated 3D modelling, and the bathrooms are spacious and stylish, with marble-effect flooring and big, glass-enclosed showers. We didn’t see the 176 suites, with their chic, contemporary Kelly Hoppen interiors, but they promise to be gorgeous, especially the duplex Edge Villas with private plunge pools.
On my visit, Celebrity executives revealed the Grand Plaza, a vast, light-filled atrium with a striking, modern chandelier as its centrepiece, towering over the Martini Bar, which already looks like the place to be seen at night. What’s interesting in the Grand Plaza is the detail. Designers Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku have left small areas of steel uncovered, so passengers feel a connection with the structure of the ship (you can see yard workers’ graffiti on one panel). The slender pillars supporting the ceiling are shaped like Maltese crosses, just for interest, and dramatically lit from below. Instead of ceiling tiles, smooth (and expensive) plaster ceilings create organic shapes. The whole ship, in fact, feels curvy and sensuous, with surfaces you just want to touch.
This theme continues in Eden, a light-filled triple-deck space aft that will be a lounge, bar and restaurant and entertainment venue with one whole side of glass and a living wall of greenery. And while there’s no Lawn Club on Edge as there is on Celebrity’s Solstice Class ships, the Rooftop Garden and Grill promises to be a soothing al fresco space, done out with live plants, curved wooden benches and big sofas and metallic ‘tree’ sculptures in which musicians will perch. If you can bear to go inside, the theatre, too, is breath-taking, designed in the round, with a backdrop of floor-to-ceiling HD screens and not a bad seat in the house, thanks to a complete lack of pillars.
The Resort Deck, Celebrity’s posh name for the pool deck, curves round an impressive, 25m main pool that can be divided into two if the momentum of the waves gets too much. You’ll have to climb up one deck to get into the oversized hot tubs, which sit on slim stalks, but the view down over the pool should be worth it.
Edge was 95% finished when I saw it and despite being partly swaddled in industrial bubble wrap and largely unfurnished, it is going to be stunning. A game changer? Absolutely.