At Sea on the Celebrity Edge

Set sail on a norm-busting new ship

BY T.J. OLWIG — Spring 2019

or a place of such mythical status, getting to Eden proves quite simple. From the aft elevators on Deck 5, I turn left at the Bulgari shop, wind through the dark-mirrored corridor of bronze trees, walk by the shimmering blue restaurant, and it’s a straight shot past the Tiffany boutique. The only hitch: I needed to first book a cabin on board Celebrity Edge, Celebrity Cruises’ new billion-dollar flagship vessel — but some things are worth a peek at Paradise.

Midway into a weeklong voyage through the Caribbean, I find myself in Eden, a three-level concept lounge and restaurant that looks like Neverland and feels like The Matrix. With a mezcal cocktail in hand, aptly garnished with fresh herbs from a towering wall known as the Library of Plants, I’m in the front row for Revelation, tonight’s show, when a nymphlike dancer lies across my chair. “Do you know who that is?” she asks, pointing to an acrobat and fellow “Edenist” in a white leotard. “That’s Gaia, goddess of the Earth. She has been split in two, but shh … don’t tell her she’s a god yet.”

Eden Entrance

Between the trippy music and the aerialists swinging on a crescent moon suspended from the ceiling, I wouldn’t know who to tell or what to say regarding any of this. The performance is unlike anything I’ve seen, save for a big-city show. No wonder the young British woman beside me, on a ship with wide-ranging entertainment, has returned for the third time in as many nights. “Eden is mind-blowing,” she tells a curious senior couple. “I learn something new every time.”

Remarks like these, exuberant, if not over the top, follow me from one venue to the next during my sail aboard the 2,918-passenger Edge, Celebrity’s first new ship class in a decade, one it promises “will leave the future behind.” Slick to be sure, but I haven’t a clue what the slogan means. How do you surpass what’s yet to happen? As a “big-cruise-ship” skeptic, I’m eager to find out.

In November, after a two-year build-out and trans-Atlantic crossing from a French shipyard, Edge arrived at Terminal 25 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., its new state-of-the-art hub. Crafted for the ultimate guest experience, and to complement the ship itself, the terminal’s aesthetic reminds me of The Jetsons, the old futuristic cartoon. There’s no flying transportation, but attendants provide speedy, smooth service. Fifteen minutes after drop-off, I’m unpacked and ready to cruise.

o build a billion-dollar anything requires assembling an A-team of creatives, and that Celebrity did. Kelly Hoppen, a design-world brand name, oversaw the ship’s accommodations. Tom Wright, architect of Dubai’s Burj Al Arab, shaped its outdoor spaces. For good measure, TV personality Nate Berkus, best known as Oprah’s favorite interior designer, served in an ambassador’s role. The result proves that a ship can be a mountain in size and still flow like a stream.

Celebrity’s creative team designed every element of Edge with a single, overarching theme in mind — take the ocean and bring it closer. Multiple rounds of engineering resulted in an outward-facing ship. In Edge Staterooms With Infinite Verandas, one of the ship’s industry firsts, guests can touch a button to open the veranda window and bring the balcony inside. The upshot? A 23 percent increase in size from traditional cruise cabins. Out on the balcony, with the touch of another button, a glass wall drops from the ceiling, blurring the line between the room’s end and the ocean’s beginning.

Throughout the ship, not only do I see the connection to the ocean — more water views and copious natural light — I feel the connection. In the mornings, a quiet nook in Eden becomes my favorite spot to sip coffee and watch the world slip away. Here, panoramic windows snake through a contemporary space based on the golden spiral of Fibonacci’s sequence, a mathematical pattern connected to nature (and a concept far beyond my pay grade). Even in the fitness center on Deck 15, an endless stretch of Caribbean blue during a punishing cardio boxing class softens my elbow pain from a punch gone wrong.

Another link to nature: the Spa and its Sea Thermal Suite, an eight-room space described as a “playground for the senses.” In the spa, I opt for the Ocean Spa Wave massage, an algae-lathering treatment that wraps me like a burrito on a water-filled bed. On other days, I clear my sinuses in the salt room, designed to mimic a salt cave and its respiratory benefits, and while docked in Puerto Rico, I watch the American flag blow atop San Juan’s fort while sweating out last night’s cocktail in the infrared sauna. There’s also a crystalarium with its giant amethyst rock and supposed healing properties. Additional services include teeth whitening, advanced haircare treatments, and if midvacay Botox appeals to you, a guy in a snazzy white lab coat stands ready to combat Father Time. Despite three onset wrinkles brought to my attention, I slurp a carrot-ginger elixir at the juice bar instead.

One of the most visible (and marketed) novelties of Edge’s exterior: the Magic Carpet, a cantilevered platform about the size of a tennis court that can be an extension of the main pool, a bar, or scenic dining experience, depending on its location. The tangerine-colored terrace slides up and down like an elevator on the starboard side. I admit the mechanics impress, but no Aladdin or wish-granting genie appear on my happy-hour visits, just a stiff breeze.

In another avant-garde move, Celebrity makes full use of technology shipwide. Through the Celebrity Cruises’ app, I can open the door to my room, adjust the light and temperature settings, and exchange messages with other cruisers. The add-ons are a clear attempt to woo a younger crowd. Call me “old school,” but a standard light switch suits me fine; I’m not looking for another app while on vacation, and I’m a so-called millennial. While I appreciate the innovation, the features don’t shine with me or the cruisers I speak to on this voyage, a decidedly older demographic.

What does impress me is Celebrity’s attention to detail where detail isn’t required. Striking and often provocative artwork — more than 4,000 pieces — consistently stops me in my tracks. An abstract plywood sculpture fills an otherwise empty corner, large-scale photography jazzes up staircases, and a massive statuesque horse adorns the jogging track. Actual Picasso linocuts hanging outside the theater go unnoticed by many.

Rooftop Garden and Running Track. PHOTO BY STEVE DUNLOP.

y biggest reluctance to big-ship cruising is directly related to food, with freshness and quality my chief concerns. Starting with Edge’s complimentary dining, I taste my way through its main restaurants, where, for the first time, Celebrity divvied up its concepts — American, French, Italian, and Mediterranean — into separate spaces, each with its own design and flavor. Think Salmon Roasted With Wild Lavender at Normandie (très délicieux) and Lemon Dill Chicken Souvlaki at Cyprus. Even the selection at the Oceanside Café’s giant buffet is fresh and tasty, proving that “complimentary” and delicious aren’t mutually exclusive.

It helps when you have a chef with a Michelin-starred pedigree and made-from-scratch philosophy in Cornelius Gallagher, meaning local sourcing and breads baked daily. Regarding the service staff, Celebrity took the cream of the crop from its existing fleet and planted them on Edge, with good results. Whether eating or vegging out, I’m addressed as Sir Thomas, a title I’ll attempt to export home.

Guests can up the ante at specialty restaurants for an extra fee, and, boy, do I! For lunch, I like hanging out at my favorite spot on the ship — the Rooftop Garden Grill on Deck 15, an outdoor eatery with greenery, sunshine, and an in-house horticulturist. Here, I chow down a short-rib chili so good it would put grandma out of business. Elsewhere on the ship, I’ve never tasted a better bone-in fillet than the one I savor at the fine-dining Fine Cut steakhouse. And though I typically object to dinnertime technology, I laugh heartily at the animated tabletop show at Le Petit Chef and Friends, a real-life Ratatouille moment that projects tiny 3D chefs around my dinner plate.

Le Petit Chef and Friends. PHOTO BY TABLEMATION STUDIO.

On my last afternoon aboard, I opt for a book and an oversize chaise on the Retreat sundeck, a private oasis for suite guests with pool butlers and a five-star feel. Somewhere between the Bahamas and Florida, it hits me: Maybe quality can scale. After all, it’s Day Seven of my adventure and I’ve discovered my Eden on Edge — this hushed sanctuary on Deck 16.

Where It Sails: Edge cruises the Caribbean through mid-April, the Mediterranean from May to October, then returns to the Caribbean for the winter. 800-751-7804; celebritycruises.com

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