The Magic Carpet has gone missing.
One of the most recognizable enhancements on Celebrity Cruises’ long-anticipated new ship, The Edge, this bright tangerine elevator-like platform is supposed to be on Deck 14, according to the elevator display. But nope, not there. An officer says it’s down on Deck 3, fulfilling its most basic function, as a spot to ease loading of the tenders that take passengers to shore when no pier is available. I head down and exit the elevator to mass confusion, hundreds of disgruntled passengers waiting to get off for their tours in Grand Cayman. My visit to the Magic Carpet will have to wait.
On this sparkling new ship’s first weeklong voyage in early December, it’s clear that not every little detail of creating a flawless vacation for 3,000-plus passengers has been perfected. Still, despite the early kinks, the ship — the first of four Edge class ships planned by Celebrity — has much to offer. It’s an intriguing effort at appealing to both cruise veterans and those who have steadfastly refused to set foot on a ship. Here are five of the most interesting features:
1. THE MAGIC CARPET
If nothing else, the bright orange structure on the starboard side makes it easily identifiable. When it’s not on one of the lower decks to help with tendering, the tennis-court-size structure, basically a giant elevator, can be found higher up, either as an extension to Raw on Five, one of the ship’s specialty restaurants, on Deck 14 as an extension to the pool area, or occasionally on Deck 16, where Dinner on The Edge, prepared by one of the chefs from locally sourced ingredients, takes place once a cruise. That event called to us, but unlike other specialty restaurants, reservations could be made only once on board. Since we were booked in a concierge-class cabin, we contacted said concierge, once we got settled. A day later, he called to say the dinner was completely booked, leaving us to wonder whether it was being held for passengers in suites. (Celebrity has doubled the number of suites on the Edge; they come with an exclusive pool area and restaurant.)
2. INFINITE VERANDAS
Much has been written about these new balcony cabins and how they expand the size of the basic stateroom by 23 percent. To my mind, the idea is better on paper than in practice. Instead of a true balcony, there’s a giant floor-to-ceiling picture window (similar to what you’ll find on river cruises), the top half of which lowers to allow in the breezes and sounds of the sea. But even with the window completely lowered, you never really feel like you’re outside. While some appreciate the extra space, reviews on social media and travel websites suggest a number of passengers aren’t impressed. “The room fails the balcony test,” wrote one passenger on Cruise Critic. If weather is iffy or windows are being cleaned in port, the bridge can override controls, closing and locking the windows.
A serene space occupying three levels at the back of the ship, this garden was a lovely place to spend an hour or two. Our favorite time to visit was in the morning, when the tiny cafe offered a welcome break from the massive Horizon Court breakfast buffet. With its lush greenery, inviting seating and lots of clever wooden puzzles, the garden was where a number of passengers spent their afternoons. At night, Eden transformed into the most innovative restaurant onboard, where dishes like Raindrops (lobster nuggets), Ashes (seared tuna) and Life After Death (rib eye) were served along with sporadic entertainment by a forgettable troupe of dancing nymphs. As dinners go, we had a better time at Le Petit Chef, with its playful animated cartoon showing how the food was prepared. Topping it all was dinner at Fine Cut, the best steakhouse we’ve found at sea. In keeping with Celebrity’s overall upscaling of this ship, we found prices for the specialty restaurants slightly higher ($55 per person at Le Petit Chef and Fine Cut, $65 at Eden) than on the line’s other ships.
4. THE SPA
The luxurious 22,000-foot sanctuary encompasses treatment rooms, salon, barber shop and fitness center, created by Kelly Hoppen, one of several designers Celebrity hired to give the ship a W Hotel-like vibe. While most Celebrity ships have Canyon Ranch spas, this one is by Elemis, and the British company turned up innovative treatments to lure those looking for the next new thing. The spa features three unique massage tables: a zero gravity table with eight different positions; the restorative MLX bed, filled with quartz and amber crystals that mold to the body; and my fave, the Spa Wave, a water bed of sorts on which you float while earphones play sea sounds that supposedly clear your mind. The spa also features an inviting thermal suite, with salt room, sauna, rainfall shower and more, but unless you’re booked in an Aqua Class stateroom, access is limited, and passes sold out by the second day.
5. PIER 25
Changeover day at busy ports like Fort Lauderdale can be a nightmare, as thousands of passengers disembark while thousands more prepare to board. Celebrity has built a state of the art terminal to alleviate the congestion — we were onboard only 15 minutes after arriving at the pier. No waiting around for keys — they were already in the staterooms and you’re allowed to head up, drop your hand luggage and go to lunch before they were “officially” ready for occupancy at 1 p.m. This is one of the many game changers promised by Celebrity, and a good one — even if I never once got to set foot on that elusive Magic Carpet.
IF YOU GO
Celebrity Edge sails seven-night cruises out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to the eastern and western Caribbean through April, then moves to the Mediterranean for the summer with cruises out of Rome and Barcelona, Spain.
The Edge is the priciest ship in the Celebrity fleet. Cruise prices change almost daily, but a recent check on booking site Orbitz listed a seven-day western Caribbean Edge cruise on March 3 at $2,699 for an Infinite Veranda cabin; by contrast, seven nights on the Equinox March 2 start at $1,049 for a standard balcony cabin.
Once you’re booked, pay attention to emails that allow you to register travel documents and book specialty restaurants, spa treatments and shore excursions. All seem to sell out fast, so book early. And download the app, but be aware that there may still be kinks. I couldn’t use it to open my door as promised, and it sent me to an event that wasn’t happening.
INFO 888-751-7804, celebritycruises.com