Sirens wailing, lights flashing to clear the way, our motorcade of black vans surrounded by an escort of motorcycle police pulled up to a high-security laboratory in Miami where a deep secret has been kept for more than two years.
Celebrity Cruises was finally ready to reveal to a select media group what it is confident will be the most dramatic change in ship design in decades.
The name Celebrity Edge is not only a way of saying its new ship will be at the cutting edge of design and technology. It’s a statement that being on board will put you at the edge of the sea and the destinations that you’re visiting, said Richard Fain, chairman of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., which owns Celebrity.
The all-star design team beamed as they explained they were given free hands to innovate and nobody could say no without researching every way to make it happen and simulating it in virtual reality.
The result, as we will see, is a cruise ship design like nothing that’s come before. Here’s he first official look at the ship that will open a new era when it arrives in the fall of 2018:
The five big questions
Fain says the project started with the aim of answering the biggest questions guests ask about the cruise experience:
–-Why can’t I have a bigger bathroom?
–Why can’t I get a bigger bed?
–Can I have more storage space?
–Can you provide more living space?
–Can I get a closer connection with the sea?
To answer them with the new ship, they built a high security Innovation Lab in Miami where for the first time in shipbuilding history, 3D technology was used to plan every space and experience aboard the Celebrity Edge.
Rethinking the skeleton
To make the guest rooms bigger required a complete rethink of the way ships have been built in the past Fain said.
Traditionally, ships have always had heavy structural framing on the outside walls to support the decks within. That meant that rooms had metal beams at the edges of the balconies that limited guests’ view of the sea.
The project decided to turn the structure inside out, so the big support beams are on the inside. This allows more clear spans to provide sweeping views of the sea and destinations.
That gave the design team a bigger canvas to create more space both in suites and on the decks. British interior designer Kelly Hoppen of Kelly Hoppen Interiors and architect Tom Wright of WKK joined American designer Nate Berkus in designing a unique design for balconies. What’s called an Infinite Veranda has folding glass doors that allow the balcony to become part of the room in a seamless space all the way to the edge of the ship. Push button controls allow the veranda to be opened or completely glass enclosed. Other controls allow personalization of lighting, shades, temperature and even wake-up calls.
The 918 Infinite Veranda staterooms will average 23 per cent larger than comparable ones on Celebrity’s current Solstice class ships, which are currently among the biggest on any cruise ships.
Celebrity president Lisa Lutoff-Perlo highlighted two top-of-the-line Iconic Suites with about 2,500 square feet of living space and 700-square-foot balconies will sit atop the bridge. Entry-level suites will include 146 Sky Suites, triple the number on Solstice-class ships.
Suite guests will get to roam their own “private utopia” sundeck called The Retreat, with an exclusive lounge, pool and restaurants. Six duplex Edge Villas have direct walkout access to the Retreat Sundeck.
More space on deck
The Edge and two sister ships to be launched in coming years will have the first two-story jogging tracks at sea — a ramped design that loops in a figure eight around the pool. There will be a relaxation area to the aft of the pool deck called the Rooftop Garden. There will be six poolside cabanas for rent that have 20-foot ceilings.
Hot tubs will be perched atop stems in what Celebrity calls a “martini glass” design.
The Magic Carpet
Realizing that one of the least interesting features of any ship is the platform used for embarking and leaving the ship for shore excursions, Fain had the design team go through evolutionary research on how to make the platform an exciting part of the ship through the entire cruise.
After many iterations they came up with a 90-ton platform the size of a tennis court that will be cantilevered on a track at the side of the ship.
Called the Magic Carpet, it can be re-positioned at four different heights, to be a tender boarding platform on Deck 2 or raised as high as Deck 16, where it can become the venue for Dinner on the Edge, a 90-seat alternative restaurant.
Advance bookings for the ship have just been opened and the response has been encouraging, Lutoff-Perlo said. It’s been five years since Celebrity last launched a new ship, so the anticipation has been enormous.
Expect a lot more wow factors on the ship to be revealed in the months to come.
Meanwhile, special thanks to the Miami-Dade Police for turning rush hour Florida traffic into a non-stop magic carpet to and from Celebrity’s presentation.