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Aboard the new Celebrity Edge, I checked out its wow features

I peered through the open window of my stateroom and watched the lights of southern Florida grow smaller by the second and finally disappear.

We had left the dock about 15 minutes earlier. I usually celebrate the beginning of a cruise from my balcony, where I would do a happy dance as the land grew smaller and the sea grew larger.

But a major innovation in the design of this ship has eliminated standard balconies in favor of enlarged cabins with floor-to-ceiling windows. The top half of the window slides down with the touch of a button. I could still do a happy dance, but no one would see me.

More than a thousand of us had set sail earlier in the day on the maiden voyage of Celebrity Edge, the most ballyhooed vessel of 2018-19.

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The hype had been nonstop for more than a year before the December launch. Celebrity Edge, its marketing staff had said, would be “revolutionary,” “game-changing,” “visionary” and “transform how we experience the world.”

And then there’s the name: It had been chosen “to leave the future behind.”

An in-depth look at the luxury cruise ship Celebrity Edge
Warm up and relax on heated lounges with panoramic views in the Celebrity Edge spa.
(Rosemary McClure / Rosemary McClure)

How does the billion-dollar ship stack up?

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It’s a high-seas hit for Celebrity and its corporate parent, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. There are plenty of wow factors packed into its 1,004-foot length; the vessel will have people in the cruise industry — and travelers alike — talking about it for a long time.

The ship, Celebrity’s first in six years, is the initial vessel of four scheduled to launch through 2022. It’s aimed at people who aren’t necessarily cruisers.

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“People tell us they haven’t considered cruising before, but they want to be on this ship,” said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, Celebrity’s chief executive and president. “Edge is the future of cruising.”

Edge, selected in December by CruiseCritic.com as the best new ship, is as avant-garde as its name implies, a groundbreaking vessel that may convince non-cruisers — especially travelers who picture themselves as trendsetters — to hop onboard.

An in-depth look at the luxury cruise ship Celebrity Edge
Pool deck at night of Celebrity Edge
(Michel Verdure / Michel Verdure/Celebrity Cruises)

There are innovative design improvements throughout the ship, plus sexy new entertainment and culinary upgrades. But Edge may not be as popular with veteran cruisers and thrill seekers who prefer lots of top-deck toys; Celebrity’s persona is “modern luxury” — no water slides or climbing walls included.

Adventurers may be happier with Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, which hit the water three months ago and was the largest ship in the world when it launched, or Norwegian Cruise Line’s Bliss, which launched earlier in 2018 and often sails out of West Coast ports.

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The coming year will bring a host of other new ships to challenge Celebrity Edge, including vessels from Princess Cruises, Norwegian and MSC Cruises. Carnival Cruise Line will launch the Carnival Panorama, which in December will make its home port in Southern California.

An in-depth look at the luxury cruise ship Celebrity Edge
Passengers leave a shore boat at deck two to board the "Magic Carpet."
(Rosemary McClure)

All of these will have plenty of bells and whistles, but it may be difficult to best Edge in the near future in terms of trailblazing ideas.

Quick boarding

My introduction to the 2,900-passenger ship came during a three-day, round-trip cruise that sailed from Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades in Florida, where we boarded through a new, $125-million terminal built for Celebrity.

True to promise, we spent little time waiting in line. Lutoff-Perlo had said before the ship’s launch that the goal for passengers would be “10 minutes from car to bar” — and we made it.

The secret: Facial recognition teamed with an app that speeds the process for guests who have checked in, scanned their passports and taken a selfie. Even without completing these steps in advance, I was onboard within 10 minutes.

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Although the cruise was short, it was historic because it included the ship’s christening and naming party, a splashy event that included bagpipers; singer Andra Day; and the ship’s godmother, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, co-founder of the Malala Fund, which supports education for girls and young women.

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At 15, Yousafzai survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban, which targeted her because of her public stance on education for females. She is now 21 and a student at Oxford University. Lutoff-Perlo said she was chosen because she exemplifies Celebrity’s focus on women as employees and leaders.

Before the christening, passengers had a few hours to survey the ship. Many of us hustled up and down the 16-deck vessel, eager to get a look at its innovations. There were too many to see that day, and the hustling went on for the rest of the cruise.

That’s one reason short inaugural cruises like this one often don’t stop at a destination: We spent several hours anchored off the Bahamas but never went ashore. Cruise lines assume passengers are more interested in learning about a new ship than learning about a port.

Here’s a quick look at some of Edge’s innovations:

Infinite Veranda staterooms

An in-depth look at the luxury cruise ship Celebrity Edge
Balconies have been turned inside out on Celebrity Edge cruise ship. Called Infinite [cq] Verandas, they feature floor-to-ceiling windows that can be opened half-way. The new design opens up the stateroom, adding 23% more space.
(Rosemary McClure)

In the 1970s, balconies were relatively unknown on ships; today, some high-end ships advertise that all cabins have balconies. Edge has flipped this trend inside out by expanding rooms right to the edge of the ship, almost like an infinity pool — thus the Infinite Veranda moniker.

The design adds about 23% more space to the cabins. Floor-to-ceiling windows open, offering panoramic views. At night, passengers can close bi-fold doors to shut out light and sound.

Edge has more than 900 Infinite staterooms, most of which are 243 square feet. A smaller version, at 131 square feet, is available for single travelers.

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I like the design and the extra space, but some fellow passengers complained that opening a window — even a cabin-wide window — isn’t the same as going outside.

Will we see this type of room on other ships? I got a quick “Yes” when I asked Richard Fain, chief executive of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. They will next appear on a new Royal Caribbean ship, he said.

Magic Carpet

An in-depth look at the luxury cruise ship Celebrity Edge
One of Celebrity Edge's most talked-about innovations is the tangerine-colored "Magic Carpet" on the starboard side that can be lowered to deck 2 -- for use with tenders to shore or raised as high as deck 16, where it becomes a lounge.
(Rosemary McClure)

A 90-ton platform, called the Magic Carpet, hangs over the side of the ship, slides up and down from Decks 2 to 16, and acts as an open-air restaurant or lounge on the higher floors. On Deck 2, it becomes a transit area for passengers waiting to board tenders that will take them to shore.

The Magic Carpet is the size of a tennis court and offers great views from the higher decks. It also makes access to a tender much easier because there are no stairs to descend. Passengers who use wheelchairs can make the transition without much trouble.

The tangerine-colored platform is being called the world’s first cantilevered venue at sea and makes the ship recognizable from miles away.

It’s a fun place to have a drink and socialize. On the flip side, some passengers complained that the wait to board a tender is longer using the Magic Carpet.

New spaces

As the Edge was being designed, one of the goals was to increase passengers’ connection to the sea, Lutoff-Perlo said. Consequently, floor-to-ceiling windows can be found in the fitness center, spa and many other areas.

An unusual open-air Rooftop Garden, featuring metal sculptures and live plants, has ocean views during the day; at night it changes into a dining room and club with live music.

An in-depth look at the luxury cruise ship Celebrity Edge
Rooftop garden on deck 15 at Celebrity Edge
(Michel Verdure / Michel Verdure/Celebrity Cruises)

The Club, another day-to-night venue, offers daytime activities such as a Laser Maze that passengers can try to navigate. (Think “Oceans 12.”) At night Undercover at the Club takes over, a space-age venue with a bar and live music.

But the edgiest — there’s that word again — venue is the Eden bar and dining room at the back of the ship.

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It’s a stunning space; three decks tall with enormous windows, incredible views and a terraced lounge that begins on Deck 3 and ends on Deck 5. In between, there’s a bar with a 20-foot-tall wall of plants and day-to-night entertainment that includes aerialists and performance artists who interact with the audience.

Dining

There isn’t one main dining room on Edge. Instead, there are four new-to-the-line themed dining rooms: Normandie, inspired by Murano, Celebrity’s French specialty restaurant; Tuscan, featuring dishes from southern Italy; Cyprus, offering Mediterranean dishes; and Cosmopolitan, with choices from the line’s other main dining-room menus.

An in-depth look at the luxury cruise ship Celebrity Edge
Tuscan Restaurant on Deck 3 at Celebrity Edge has pastas prepared with a rustic flare.
(Michel Verdure / Celebrity Cruises)

Other specialty restaurants and a host of bars bring to 29 the total number of places to dine or drink.

There’s much more to explore on Edge — two-deck-tall, martini-glass-shaped hot tubs, a Grand Plaza with a combination bar/light show, and two-story suites with plunge pools.

But try the ship for a week: a three-day cruise isn’t enough time to see it all.

If you go

To book, contact your travel agent or Celebrity Cruises, (888) 751-7804. Edge is currently sailing in the Caribbean; rates for a weeklong western Caribbean cruise (Feb. 17 and other dates) start at $1,299 per person, double occupancy, for an inside room; rates for the Infinite Veranda cabin start at $2,699 per person, double occupancy.


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