What’s Next for Cutting-Edge New Cruise Ships

The two-level Edge Villas on Celebrity Edge will have private plunge pools, two stories of window views and direct walk-out access to The Retreat Sundeck.

When Celebrity Cruises welcomed journalists and travel partners to its PortMiami headquarters in March for a Celebrity Edge program, everyone expected a few razzle-dazzle “reveals” that typically precede a new ship launch. After all, the line is welcoming its first new class of ship in a decade. But the presentation revealed incredible ship structural and design changes.

Looking ahead, “The new features and refined design will establish a new base line for ships from here on out,” says Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Celebrity’s parent company, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. “Overall, the technology is impressive — from the technology they are using to design the ship to the technology that will be on the ships for the guests,” adds Debbie Fiorino, senior vice president of Cruise-One, Dream Vacations and Cruises Inc.

Designed completely in 3-D, the 2,918-guest Celebrity Edge — launching in late 2018 with home porting at Port Everglades, FL — will reflect design and architecture by A-listers, including interior designer Kelly Hoppen of Kelly Hoppen Interiors and architect Tom Wright of WKK. American designer Nate Berkus serves as Celebrity Edge’s design ambassador. Throughout the design, the goal was to bring the sea closer. “Our guests don’t want to just skim the world like a magazine — they want to feel a human connection with it,” says Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO, Celebrity Cruises. “Every element of Celebrity Edge is meant to make that connection intense and unforgettable.”

Innovative Suites and Staterooms: Celebrity Edge, when compared with the line’s Solstice-class vessels, has double the number of suites onboard — moving from 5 percent to 12 percent of the ship’s capacity, according to Lutoff-Perlo. In addition, two new suite categories have been added. Celebrity Edge’s new Edge staterooms with Infinite Veranda have 23 percent more square footage and 10 percent larger bathrooms than the Solstice-class ships, plus the line is adding new single cabins for the first time.

Let’s start with what’s most intriguing. Those Infinite Veranda staterooms have significant structural changes. What’s a stateroom and what’s a veranda? Well, on most ships that’s clear, but on this new vessel the border between the two will essentially appear or disappear. The line is scrapping the fixed steel beams and glass between the staterooms and balcony and moving that structural support further into the ship’s interior, opening up the sea views. 

Between the Infinite Veranda’s balcony and stateroom, guests will find bi-fold glass doors that fold away. Essentially, if guests desire, the balcony space with its seating becomes part of the stateroom. It’s the guest’s choice. Also, by pushing a button, the upper half of the balcony’s outer glass wall will “drop” for an open-air balcony (as with several newer river vessels). So, in good weather, or bad, guests will sit along the water’s edge.

“The Infinite Veranda truly blew me away,” says Fiorino. “I love, love, love the blend of the inside and outside. It is clear, and to me the right move, to present the guest with an enhanced connection to the sea.” In these new staterooms, guests also will take control of lighting, shades, temperature and service — even choosing a setting to tuck them in or gently wake them — with the touch of another button. 

Norwegian Cruise Line has placed an order for four of the new 140,000-grt Project Leonardo ships, with deliveries — one per year — from 2022 to 2025.

Space-wise, the 918 Infinite Veranda staterooms will be 226 square feet without the balcony space, 269 square feet with it. A typical cruise industry balcony stateroom ranges from 172 to 183 square feet. Other Infinite Veranda perks will include larger bathrooms, king beds with exclusively designed cashmere mattresses and extra storage. For the solo traveler, 16 single-occupancy Veranda staterooms will feature queen beds.

Also on Celebrity Edge, a new, private ship-within-a ship enclave, The Retreat, will offer a private pool on The Retreat Sundeck, a Retreat Lounge and the exclusive Suite Class restaurant Luminae @ The Retreat.

New suite categories? Two new 2,600-square-foot Iconic Suites feature two bedrooms and two baths, and are nestled into an expansive space above the ship’s bridge. Light and airy in design, they also have mind-blowing views, as the panoramic windows span the dining room, living room and bedrooms. They also have a 700-square-foot veranda with 270-degree ocean views.

Another new suite category is the two-level Edge Villa. Six of these high-end units will have private plunge pools, two stories of window views and direct walk-out access to The Retreat Sundeck. Two-bedroom, two-bathroom Penthouse Suites will have large soaking veranda tubs with dual, walk-through showers. The ship will also have 146 Sky Suites. All suites and double occupancy Edge staterooms will have cashmere king mattresses, personal butler services and access to The Retreat.

Magic Carpet & More: Within public spaces, the top “revolutionary” design element of Celebrity Edge is the Magic Carpet, a 90-ton elongated, covered platform that’s cantilevered off one side of the ship; it’s about the size of a tennis court and will move vertically between decks along the outside of the vessel. How did the concept begin? Fain emphasizes that the design team wanted the tender boarding experience to be far better for guests. While boarding a tender has improved over the years, it simply isn’t good enough, he believes. 

So when the Magic Carpet is positioned on Deck 2, at the water line, it will become part of a “Destination Gateway” embarkation center, essentially a wide platform for guests boarding multiple Edge Launches (tenders). It will also be positioned at other decks. Alongside Deck 16, the Magic Carpet will become a specialty restaurant offering “Dinner on the Edge” for 90 guests, while at Deck 14, it will become an open-air expansion of the main pool area. On Deck 5, it will extend one of the ship’s specialty restaurants into an al fresco experience. However, it’s not an elevator that guests will ride up and down; it will be positioned by crew.  

Silversea’s newest cruise ship, Silver Muse, will set sail this month.

Another new public space is the Rooftop Garden, tended daily by a resident horticulturist. It’s a spot for guests to play games and enjoy activities throughout the day, while at night it’s the place for live music and the line’s outdoor movie-and-meal pairing of  “A Taste of Film.”

During its inaugural season, Celebrity Edge will operate two seven-night Caribbean itineraries, which guests will combine for a 14-night vacation. The eastern Caribbean cruise will call at San Juan, Puerto Rico; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; and Philipsburg, St. Maarten. The western Caribbean route will visit Key West, FL; Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico; and George Town, Grand Cayman. Sister ship Celebrity Beyond will launch in 2020, joined by two more Edge-class ships in 2021 and ’22.

In addition... Norwegian Cruise Line’s next big development is Project Leonardo; it’s placed an order for four of the new 140,000-ton vessels with deliveries starting — one per year — from 2022 to 2025. Options, if exercised, would mean deliveries in the following two years. “It could be a six-ship order extending all the way to 2027,” said Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, during a press briefing last month. To bring the sea closer, the vessels’ design, at the lower decks, has a huge expanse of area where guests will find infinity pools, restaurants and beach-like elements so people can connect with the sea.

These Project Leonardo vessels will carry about 3,300 passengers, they’re smaller in capacity than the Getaway-Plus class ships, including Norwegian Bliss being delivered next year. Many lines think bigger when building a new class of ship, but “well, we’re famous for always going against the grain,” quipped Del Rio. He points out that the vessel is still large, but “not all destinations in the world can handle 4,000- or 5,000-passenger ships effectively, so we believe these vessels are the perfect size. They’re also going to be highly energy efficient.”

MSC Cruises will have three ships sailing from PortMiami by late 2019, including the new MSC Meraviglia. Others will include MSC Divina, currently sailing year-round to the Caribbean from Miami, and the new MSC Seaside, a vessel purpose-built for warm weather cruising, which will home port in Miami after its launch later this year.

“Thanks to our 11 new mega ships investment program and the new capacity that we are adding to our fleet in connection with it, we are now in a position to significantly expand our global presence in North America,” says Roberto Fusaro, president of MSC Cruises USA. The deployment entails three of the line’s newest, most innovative classes of ships. MSC Meraviglia and MSC Seaside will be first in the Swiss-based line’s fleet to introduce the line’s new “MSC for Me” digital concierge program, including everything from digital way finders to interactive wristbands, virtual reality elements and a digital personal advisor.

The 2,600-square-foot Iconic Suites on Celebrity Edge will have two bedrooms and two baths.

As for MSC Seaside, Pierfrancesco Vago, the line’s executive chairman, says the new Miami-based ship will have three catwalks “unlike anything else at sea with glass balustrades and a glass floor, which will give guests the feeling that they are walking on water.” In addition, he noted that MSC Seaside will have more outdoor space for passengers than any other MSC Cruises’ ship. A unique waterfront promenade wraps around the 1,060-foot ship; it will come with places to shop, eat and sunbathe. The line’s newest ships aren’t just copies of earlier blueprints, Vago emphasized: “They are built off revolutionary new designs, unseen in the cruising industry.”

Also launching in 2017? Silversea CruisesSilver Muse sets sail this month and Viking CruisesViking Sun launches in fall, plus a handful of ships will set sail for non-English source markets. For 2018, a strong crop of new ships, both big and small, will set sail: Royal Caribbean International’s Symphony of the Seas; Seabourn Ovation; Norwegian Bliss; Carnival Horizon; MSC Seaview; Hurtigruten’s Roald Amundsen; Ponant’s Le Laperouse and Le Champlain; Viking Spirit; Scenic Eclipse; Holland America Line’s Nieuw Statendam; and Star ClippersFlying Clipper.

In late March, Virgin Voyages celebrated steel cutting for the first of its three new 110,000-grt ships. Only a few brand details are known, but the new line promises a non-traditional cruise. Its first 2,700-passenger ship will begin sailing from PortMiami to the Caribbean in 2020.