A bil­lion dol­lar ship sets sail

Does the world’s newest cruise ti­tan live up to the hype? Teresa Machan gets aboard for a sneak pre­view of Celebrity Edge

The Daily Telegraph - Travel - - FRONT PAGE -

My first real “ahhh” mo­ment on the world’s newest cruise ship came as I eased my­self into a “mar­tini­glass” hot tub, a mere wrist-stretch from a piña co­lada. Hav­ing clocked up more than eight miles (al­most 14,000 steps) dur­ing my two-day run around Celebrity Edge it was a blissful junc­ture height­ened not only by the pres­sure jets pum­melling my feet, and the punch of the rum, but the un­ob­structed view of the penny-slot- Re­lax in the rooftop gar­den, top, aboard Celebrity Edge. The ship, above, is the first to fea­ture a mov­ing venue built on one side drop sun­set over the Caribbean Sea. The most hotly an­tic­i­pated cruise ship of the year ar­rived at her home in Flor­ida’s Port Ever­glades ear­lier this week ahead of her chris­ten­ing on Tues­day by No­bel lau­re­ate Malala Yousafzai. Although Malala won’t be set­ting sail (she has to be at Har­vard the fol­low­ing day to re­ceive an ac­tivist of the year award) her role as god­mother to the 2,918-pas­sen­ger ship is a coup for Celebrity Cruises.

As I wal­lowed in the tub I re­called that morn­ing’s ar­chi­tec­tural insight tour. Tom Wright (the W in WKK Ar­chi­tects), whose other projects in­clude the Burj Al Arab ho­tel, had ex­plained how his vi­sion for two bowl-like tubs perched on a stem had come to fruition.

Noth­ing is sim­ple when it comes to cruise-ship de­sign. Con­straints in­clude mo­tion, load dis­tri­bu­tion and the small mat­ter of where to hide un­sightly things like cool­ing sys­tems. Celebrity’s break-the-mould $1 bil­lion ship is the cul­mi­na­tion of four years’ to-ing and fro-ing be­tween cruise-line ex­ecs, the blue-sky think­ing of a stel­lar team of de­sign­ers and worker bees at STX ship­yard in France.

“You want to put a hot tub on a stick? For­get it!” was more or less the re­sponse to Wright’s idea. “Luck­ily for us,” he con­tin­ued, “STX had an en­gi­neer with ex­em­plary tal­ent for this type of struc­ture. He de­cided it was pos­si­ble and ran with it.”

“We’ve got store rooms of bril­liant ideas,” added Wright. “It’s just a case of mar­ry­ing the right ideas with the right ship.” And how. This is the first time a ship has set sail with a ten­nis-court­sized room can­tilevered off one side. The “Magic Car­pet” can be low­ered, raised and used in var­i­ous ways – from a posh ten­der-board­ing plat­form that hov­ers at sea level to a restau­rant, bar and live mu­sic venue on deck 14.

I loved see­ing it dan­gle, mid-air, when it did a fly-by past my room.

The rule book has also been ripped up in Eden, a three-storey glass-walled lounge-cum-restau­rant-cumper­for­mance space where de­signer Pa­tri­cia Urquiola has gone all out with a retro-cool pis­ta­chio-hued car­pet, acres of hang­ing plants, tof­fee­coloured so­fas, “tree-trunk” pil­lars and a botan­i­cal wall be­hind the bar that dou­bles as a store for cock­tail gar­nishes. All around are cosy seat­ing nooks to lose your­self in.

In the two-storey Edge Vil­las, which house a sea-view plunge pool, Kelly Hop­pen has in­fused warm and neu­tral tones with pops of “Hop­pen green”. There are plan­ta­tion rock­ers, beaded stools and New York-style sub­way tiles in the din­ing room. “It screams ‘woman’,” said Yolanda, the suite guide-cum-real­tor, who was do­ing a great job of jus­ti­fy­ing the £24,300-per­week price tag.

For bet­ter views than the cap­tain book one of the two-bed­room, two-bath­room Iconic Suites, which sit above the “wings” that ex­tend from the bridge. The whop­ping 2,500 sq ft suites spill on to a vast ve­randa with a hot tub and a shaded ca­bana. In­side there’s a but­ler’s pantry for en­ter­tain­ing and a rugby-team-sized bath­tub with more jets than a geyser.

In some parts of the ship stairs are no­table by their ab­sence. In Eden you per­am­bu­late to a mez­za­nine level via a me­an­der­ing ramp; on the pool deck a gen­tly slop­ing jog­ging track-cumwalk­way leads to the 14th deck where Wright has con­jured a Zen-like rooftop gar­den. Curvi­lin­ear seat­ing, hand-carved screens and tree­top sculp­tures that pro­vide wind pro­tec­tion as well as shel­ter from the sun are used to great ef­fect. Planters of salt-re­sis­tant shrubs are tended by a res­i­dent hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ist.

Prior to board­ing I had heard much about Edge be­ing the first ship to be de­signed en­tirely in 3D. I dis­missed it as a load of old waf­fle. But for the de­sign­ers, who could spend thou­sands of hours im­mersed in a “3D cave” re­view­ing, fine-tun­ing and per­fect­ing ev­ery sin­gle de­tail, it was noth­ing short of revo­lu­tion­ary. “This is prob­a­bly the 30th it­er­a­tion,” said Wright, of the gar­den. “We were able to put the en­tire deck in a wind tun­nel.”

In­sta­gram pos­i­tively purred. A post of the gar­den with its white sofa seat­ing, trop­i­cal cush­ions, carved trees and plants re­ceived 88 likes and gar­nered com­ments in­clud­ing, “That’s not a cruise ship!” and, “This is a ship?”. My mum nailed it: “It looks like a ‘room-’ at Chelsea Flower Show… and then you see the sea.”

Back in the mar­tini glass, I won­dered if my 360-de­gree view of the now redo­lent, tan­ger­ine hori­zon could be im­proved.

Prob­a­bly not.

CHILL ZONE

GLASS HALF FULLTake in the view from one of Edge’s ‘mar­tini glass’ hot tubs

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