Our cruise editor Susan J. Young sailed on a two-night cruise of Celebrity Edge last week. Here are her personal impressions of the ship during this quick preview cruise.
Let’s just say Celebrity Edge definitely lives up to its pre-launch "hype."
From my perspective, in talking to people onboard and in experiencing the ship a bit myself, the innovative spaces and experiences both reached, and in many cases, exceeded expectations.
Here are a few personal "takeaways" from this experience:
This Ship Elevates the Brand: Much as the line's Celebrity Silhouette did when it debuted a decade or so ago with multiple Silhouette-class vessels that followed, Celebrity Edge elevates this brand's experience.
Over the past few years, the brand has promoted itself with the monicker, Modern Luxury, but while I always viewed the product as very good, I never was quite sure it had truly made that leap to luxury.
To me, it seemed to be a very good premium product. Until now.... when I feel it's edged just a touch higher.
Celebrity Edge offers a slew of innovative high end-suites; exclusive spaces for suite guests including an enticing Retreat; cutting-edge entertainment that's unlike anything else at sea; and innovative Edge Staterooms with Infinite Verandas, creating something new for the typical oceangoing balcony stateroom on a big ship.
It also has a full-service spa, unusual spaces including the Magic Carpet and Eden, a range of new dining options including no-added-cost enhancements and high-quality specialty dining, and upscale shops managed under the Starboard Cruise Services umbrella bearing such names as Cartier and Bvlgari.
Service levels were excellent on our sailing, as 85 percent of the crew were hand-picked from Celebrity's other ships.
Whether that continues and whether more inclusions (important for luxury guests) and the continual evolution of the onboard experience will take the brand farther up the ladder between premium and luxury remains to be seen.
But from my perspective, the new ship on first blush admirably delivers a "big ship luxury" experience.
Experiencing the Infinite Veranda: Stepping into #6163, my Edge Stateroom with Infinite Veranda, I encountered a crisp modern stateroom with lovely bi-folding doors that separated the main stateroom from the interior veranda, which was a bit tight in space but adequate in holding two nice balcony-style chairs and a small table.
What was really neat? With the push of a button, one could lower a room privacy shade (see the slide show for a view of how it looks when lowered) up or down.
Then, of course, the exterior glass also dropped with the push of a separate button -- creating an open-air balcony. In some ways I missed the regular outdoor balcony, but in other ways, I also appreciated the added interior space.
While my stateroom had a few technical issues with the privacy shade, I'll attribute that to the normal start-up tweaks that develop on any new ship launch. Bottom line: The issue was addressed and fixed.
Does the Infinite Veranda seem to bring the water closer, per the hype? I guess that's a matter of opinion, but for me -- even on a deck with lifeboats visible just below -- it did seem to do so.
Case in point? I could see the water area adjacent to the ship more clearly from the bed, rather than what is typically the view with an exterior balcony cabin and the superstructure blocking that to some extent.
Bedding in this stateroom was very comfortable, the lighting was well planned, a humongous flatscreen TV hugged the wall and the stateroom had several really nice, creative touches.
For example, the writing desk surface essentially pulled out of the chest of drawers next to it. So, if guests prefer to not have the desk, they can simply push the desk countertop back into the cabinetry and then place the desk chair there for more living space seating.
I also like the decorative box on top of the chest of drawers, which turned out to be a nifty power box with two U.S. plugs, one European plug and two USB plugs. Guests can pull the electric/power cables down in narrow vertical slots and shut the top of the box, keeping everything very neat.
My stateroom had a nice upholstered couch/lounger with pillows and what I'd describe as an "adequate closet" (although it could have been bigger) with bars on several different levels for hanging clothing, a few shelves, drawers and a safe.
The bathroom was relatively spacious, with a single sink, well-equipped shower, toilet and such touches as a decorative wall element that curved out to become the towel holder.
Interior decor was soothing, with clean lines and a modern, yet comfortable, feel. Overall, I liked this stateroom and could envision myself relaxing here during a week-long cruise.
Entertainment that Wows: The two-deck Theater on this ship isn't the typical Broadway-style stage found on most big ships. For the performance I watched, "Hype," the show was presented in a semi-circle fashion with a curved wall behind that created an amazing light show.
During Hype, akin to a Bruno Mars-style concert, the drummers were up top on the platform, the guitar players down one level, and the singers and dancers on mid-level or stage level. The lead male singer was exceptional, but the two other singers were also quite good. Dancers were energetic and talented.
Check out the slide show above for two shots of the shows with the bold lighting effects quite evident. I was seated in the upper level of the theater.
Overall, the Theater has four stage areas; three giant, moving projected backdrops offering a canvas for the productions; a main stage that extends into and above the audience; rotating spiral staircases; 18 synchronized projectors; aerial rigging; and a sound system that's amazing.
Elsewhere around the ship, I was dining at the specialty Fine Cut Steakhouse, on Deck 5 just above (and open sound-wise to) the atrium, when suddenly a short rock performance with very loud music erupted from the lower level of that atrium.
As the loud music wafted upward, guests seemed to love it. "You won't hear that on another cruise ship," one of my tablemates said.
The entertainment on this ship -- like many other things -- can be described as creative but disruptive. There is no doubt Celebrity hopes to keep its loyal past guests but is also looking to a new demographic of younger guests.
The Design is the Star, and the Art Shines: Simply put, there is something unusual or one-of-a-kind around every corner. In fact people spent so much time just looking "intently" at this and that on the ship, or having conversations with others doing the same, that a sense of time and place seemed to disappear.
I do a lot of two-night cruises and typically see everything. On this ship I found myself lingering at this or that spot, checking things out, and just wandering to see what was next. I missed a lot of spaces I'd hoped to see, just because I was taking more time to soak in what I was experiencing or seeing.
We typically say that every new ship has a cutting-edge design, but in some ways, Celebrity Edge seemed to go beyond the present -- more what one might see two or three years from now.
In addition, the interior design is complemented with artwork and sculpture that truly shines. All new ships have pretty decent art or a few key signature pieces, but on this ship they really delivered the unusual that was gorgeous.
Check out our slide show, which includes life-size sculptures of people in the area of the shops; a main pool hot tub with an upper level hot tub resembling a tall champagne glass; the atrium-area ship created from strings of pearls; and the pretty sea creature sculpture in my stateroom.
Magic Carpet: This moveable platform, cantilevered off the side of the ship, was a hit with guests and also is becoming a catchy brand hook for Celebrity at the same time.
At the media press briefing onboard, Richard Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Celebrity's parent company, and Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, the line's president and CEO, answered reporters' questions about why it was painted an orange-like color.
Bottom line: That color held up under the intense Florida sunshine, while some other colors faded in testing. Also, it seems Fain wanted the unusual, off-the-side-of-the-ship feature to be spotted by everyone everywhere.
It does draw one's eye. During a previous trip to Port Everglades the same week as my sailing on Celebrity Edge, I noticed four ships in port from various lines, but my eye immediately focused on that orange Magic Carpet. Celebrity hopes potential guests do the same; it's a hook to draw them in.
One fact that most people don't know: while the Magic Carpet is an elevator of sorts that can travel up and down between decks, it doesn't do so with people on it. The "carpet" is positioned on a particular deck, such as the water level for tender service or for entertainment or enrichment activities on a different level.
I saw it when it was hosting a private party on one of the upper decks. You can see some of the photos in the slideshow. It has room for a small band or singers, a nice bar, high top tables and comfortable seating for groups.
Expanded Dining Choices: In attracting younger guests and in listening to loyal Celebrity clients who filled out feedback forms, the line opted to forego the humongous main dining room concept for four individual restaurants, Cyprus and Cosmospolitan on Deck 4 and Normandie and Tuscan on Deck 3.
Personally, I like that concept. People who don't wish to pay extra for specialty dining can opt for Celebrity's version of independent/anytime dining and pick and choose where they wish to eat nightly. They will feel they have a custom experience onboard.
Each of those main restaurants offers 80 percent of the same dining room menu, with 20 percent of each restaurant's menu reflecting the region or style of cuisine for which it's named. So, for example, Cyprus has 20 percent Mediterranean-style fare.
For traditionalists, Celebrity still offers two nightly seatings for guests who prefer that; if so, they're assigned to one of the four dining rooms and stay there with the same waiters throughout the cruise.
That said, Celebrity told reporters that if a table of fixed seat dining guests wishes to dine in another of the main restaurants one night during the cruise, just to try it out, they likely can arrange that.
I dined in Fine Cut Steakhouse one night, and the cuisine was very tasty. I opted for a crab cake appetizer (very good) and a six-ounce filet mignon, which was extremely tender, plus a side salad and baked potato.
One tablemate had a creative salad and it looked fabulous. But the granddaddy of all entrees in this restaurant is a 50-ounce steak -- which is either a robust meal for two or perfect for a macho guest out to prove his or her mettle to fellow tablemates. No one at our table ordered it, but it was a conversation topic.
An Enigma - Eden: If you have imagery in your head about the Garden of Eden ... but then think about that placed on a seagoing ship, it's time to head for Celebrity Edge's three-level venue of the same name.
The space blends nature with design, performance art, cool drinks and culinary offerings (as there's an Eden Cafe within this venue's lowest level).
The entire experience is sensory-focused, designed to allow guests to relax and chill out during the mornings, relax and be playful in the afternoon, and then there's the night-time...
Particularly at night, which is when I visited, guests will discover something truly eerie and almost indescribable. From my end, it wasn't scary -- just a bit weird and yet so enticing at the same time.
In seeking a younger demographic, Eden clearly checks off the boxes. It's disruptive, trendy, cool, interactive, and different than anything guests will see at sea or elsewhere.
You enter through what almost seems a hall of mirrors with shiny human figure sculptures, and most people can't resist taking selfies.
Once inside, the nightly performance involves costumed, highly animated performers who are as much within the guest crowd as performing in front of them.
I observed both vignette-type performances and one-on-one interactions with guests. It's a very dreamy experience, almost "out of this world." Go and you'll know exactly what I mean.
Overall Impression: This ship delivers on what the brand promises. It's also so different, from my view, from other ships.
I spent so much time just walking around and looking at this and that on this ship, enjoying the experience of that, time almost seemed to float by.
Overall, I thought it was a differentiated product for agents to sell -- and one that lives up to the pre-launch hype.
In another online story this month, we'll look more carefully at the ship based on expert feedback from travel advisors who've sailed on cruises this month and late last month, including their views on the ship's top suites.