When Celebrity Edge launches in November, it will be headline venues like Eden and the Magic Carpet that catch our eye. But peel back the layers of the first new Celebrity Cruises ship in six years and you’ll discover it is as innovative as it is attractive.
When we arrived at the Chantiers d’Atlantique shipyard on the north-western coast of France on a mid-September morning, Celebrity Edge was standing proud against grey skies, having sailed through its first sea trials. From outside, the first Edge-class ship looked good to go but the hard hats and goggles we had been issued suggested otherwise. According to Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, the $1billion ship was 95.6% complete. However, on a project of this size, that last 4 or so percent isn’t just a matter of shipping in the crockery and touching up the paintwork. Inside Edge’s gleaming navy exterior, hundreds of workmen and women – more women than Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, has ever seen on a build before she says – are working frantically to get the ship launch-ready. Yet see past the scaffolding and the dust sheets and it is already glaringly obvious that Celebrity Edge is going to be a game-changer, not just for Celebrity Cruises but for the industry as a whole.
Celebrity Edge is the first ship designed entirely in 3D, traditional shipbuilding concepts left behind in favour of new thought processes borne from a determination to bring something totally new to the seas. The use of 3D renderings in shipbuilding isn’t especially new but in Edge it is unprecedented, allowing its creators to totally rethink the traditional structure of a cruise ship. By shifting from a standard exoskeleton design, which effectively requires the sides of a ship to be closed off, and replacing it with a cutting-edge endoskeleton that moves the spine of the ship to its centre, Edge’s designers have created a vessel that feels twice its size. Every new ship promises panoramic views but few have ever delivered it quite like this, all uninterrupted floor-to-ceiling windows, walls of glass and those revolutionary ‘infinite veranda’ staterooms capable of impressing even with a building site backdrop. Edge’s two-storey villas weren’t quite ready for their close-up in time for the preview, but we were told that they are everything designers envisioned they would be and more.
Celebrity Edge was never intended to be one of the biggest ships at sea but painstaking attention-to-detail has gone into making sure she feels like it in terms of space. Ramps replace stairs in Eden to create a seamless transition between levels and balconies are minus handrails for uninterrupted views. The serene venue is cocooned at the aft of the ship, ensconced in a huge glass wall that at almost 7,000sq.ft is one of the largest of its kind at sea. Nothing happens by accident on a ship of this size and expense, and Lisa Lutoff-Perlo explained that this expanse of glass alone required hours upon hours of consideration and consultation processes to determine how its size and positioning would affect the noise and movement of the ship. It isn’t just a lot of thought that goes into creating light and lofty spaces like Eden but a lot of money too, including a substantial sum just to make the gap between decks larger and in turn the ceilings higher. Even areas that might feel a little like a means to an end on other ships feel anything but utilitarian on Celebrity Edge, thanks to the extra space and careful use of lighting. Only 15-20% of the ports on her itineraries will require tenders but when you do board the state-of-the-art, custom designed boats (complete with air conditioning, flat-screen televisions and plush leather upholstery) you’ll do so in the ‘Destination Getaway’, a softly-lit spot that’s so cool it has already been earmarked for teen parties and crew get-togethers.
Celebrity Edge is ground-breaking from a marine engineering and energy efficiency point of view too. While we had been too busy snapping the first shots of the ship when we arrived at the yard to notice, Richard Fain pointed out later that there is something a little different about its bow. Known as a parabolic ultrabow, another Celebrity Cruises innovation, it will use hydrodynamics to cut through the waves more smoothly and more efficiently, lowering energy consumption and helping the Edge-class ships to become 25% more energy efficient than those in the Solstice-class. Propellers have also been moved to the front of the vessel to reduce drag and make for a much smoother sailing too.
Edge is the complete package, a combination of brains and beauty that has what it takes to convert even the most loyal land-based holiday lover. Our tour lingered in the Grand Plaza but even hours wouldn’t have been long enough to take in everything that is going on here. The space is the brainchild of architectural design duo Jouin Manku and partner Sanjit Manku’s pride was palpable as her escorted us through the ship’s piece de resistance, or as he describes it ‘both the heart and the belly button’. In the Grand Plaza the duo, completed by Patrick Jouin, set about fusing ultra-modern design concepts with classic inspirations gleaned from the ocean liners that commanded the seas during the golden age of transatlantic travel. So, while there is a sweeping staircase, it is a sculptural creation that wouldn’t look out of place at The Guggenheim. And while there is a chandelier – it isn’t an atrium without one – it’s design is more akin to an art installation, complete with 765 pipes of LED light and not a single crystal droplet in sight. Just as Celebrity Edge breaks tradition with its engineering, Jouin Manku have broken the mould with their designs, so much so that some of the most striking features blended seamlessly with the building site around them. In place of the usual polished marble and gleaming chrome is raw plaster and exposed steelwork, the bare bones of the ship’s structure left exposed behind illuminated fabric panels on the walkways. It isn’t a reproduction either but the real deal, complete with chalked measurements and such left behind by the shipbuilders.
Celebrity Edge is different. The first of four Edge-class ships – the second of which, Celebrity Apex, will sail from Southampton in 2020 – it takes everything we love about Celebrity’s ‘Modern Luxury’ cruising and merges it with engineering and design that is totally unique. Almost 28 million of us cruise today and new ships are launching more frequently than ever to accommodate us. Standing out is hard to do in an ocean of firsts but Celebrity Edge is set to not only move the industry forward but change it too.