FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Celebrity Edge isn't just another new ship for Celebrity Cruises.
The soon-to-debut, 2,918-passenger vessel is designed to be transformational for the brand, says president and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo.
"We wanted to really catapult (Celebrity) forward with this new design," Lutoff-Perlo tells USA TODAY in an exclusive interview in the ship's soaring Grand Plaza.
Debuting this week at Florida's Port Everglades, Edge is the prototype for a new class of vessel that will transform not just the line but the industry, too, Lutoff-Perlo suggests. Celebrity already has ordered four of the ships to roll out between now and 2022. The line currently operates nine large ships, not including Edge, and three tiny vessels in the Galapagos.
"We believe there will be a lot of people talking about it," she says.
Offering a striking profile when seen from a distance, Edge boasts outward-facing cabins that are fronted with wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling glass – a new concept for ocean cruising made possible by redesigning the internal architecture of the ship.
"It took a lot of re-engineering (and) ... a lot of different thinking," Lutoff-Perlo says. "It took a lot of people telling us 'I don't think we can do that.'"
Dubbed Edge Staterooms with Infinite Verandas, the new cabins have balconies that are incorporated into the main cabin area. Bi-fold doors in the rooms either can be completely closed, creating a traditional room area separated from a balcony area, or left open, creating a wide-open indoor space that is about 23 percent larger than traditional balcony cabins.
The glass walls at the end of the Infinite Veranda cabins slide down from the ceiling at the push of a button, descending to the level of a traditional balcony to create a balcony-like feel.
Lutoff-Perlo says outfitting Edge with the Infinite Veranda cabins required adding about 2 percent more volume to the vessel than otherwise would be needed.
"That was a big deal," she says.
The creation of the Infinite Veranda cabins was just one of several major initiatives designed to orient Edge to the sea to a greater extent than traditional cruise ships of its size, Lutoff-Perlo says.
Also noteworthy was the creation of a three-deck-high, plant-filled lounge, dining and entertainment venue at the back of the ship called Eden that is partially encircled in glass. Offering unusually wide-open views of the ocean, it's full of seating nooks facing outward to the sea.
Another innovative new feature of Edge is Magic Carpet, a 90-ton platform the size of a tennis court that is cantilevered over the ship's starboard side. Painted tangerine, it moves up and down the side of the vessel serving functions that range from a lounge to a restaurant to a tender-boarding platform. When used as a lounge or restaurant, it offers stunning views out to sea and back to the main part of the vessel.
Lutoff-Perlo says cruisers are demanding more interaction with the sea.
"Everyone tells us the one thing they would like is a closer connection to the sea, and a closer connection to the ports that we visit, which is why we made the ship more outward-facing," she says.
Lutoff-Perlo notes lounge chairs on the ship's top decks face toward the ocean and not the inside of the ship as is typical in the industry. It's a little change that makes a big difference in how passengers experience their surroundings while at sea, she says.
At the top of the ship, another unusual new space, the plant-filled Rooftop Garden, offers passengers a garden-like outdoor venue to watch movies under the stars. It also is home to a grill where passengers can grab a bite while enjoying the sea breeze.
"All these things that we have done are purposeful in that regard," she says of the efforts to orient the ship to the sea in a greater way.
The focus on giving passengers more of a connection to the sea was the impetus for Edge's name. The idea is passengers are taken to the "edge" of the point where the ship meets the ocean like never before.
Scheduled to sail with paying passengers for the first time on Saturday, Edge is Celebrity's first new ship in six years and the first prototype for a new Celebrity vessel to debut in a decade.
Lutoff-Perlo notes the line went back to the drawing boards for a lot of the ship's onboard offerings. Nearly everngle restaurant on Edge – and there are nearly a dozen of them – is a new concept.
Instead of a single large main dining room, Edge offers four smaller main dining rooms, each with its own decor and culinary theme. Named Tuscan, Cosmopolitan, Normandie and Cyprus, the eateries serve a common menu augmented by a handful of specialty dishes that are unique to each venue. Tuscan serves some Italian dishes, for instance; Normandie's specials have a contemporary French flair.
Lutoff-Perlo notes the theme of each of the four restaurants offers a nod to the older ships in the Celebrity fleet. Cosmopolitan has elements that evoke the main dining rooms on earlier vessels. Tuscan draws inspiration from the Tuscan Grill eateries found on some Celebrity ships. Cyprus, which serves Greek cuisine, is an homage to Celebrity's Greek heritage.
"We've taken much from the fleet," Lutoff-Perlo says. "Yet we've transformed the experiences in a unique way." Edge arrived at Florida's Port Everglades last week after a 15-night journey from the shipyard in France where it had been under construction for more than a year. It's scheduled to sail its first cruise with paying passengers on Saturday and be christened in early December. Edge initially will sail to the Caribbean out of Port Everglades before moving to the Mediterranean for summer 2019.
In the Caribbean, the ship will operate seven-night trips starting at $1,049. In the Mediterranean, it'll mostly offer 10- and 11-night voyages starting at $1,899.
By Gene Sloan, USA Today
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