(7 a.m. AEST) -- Celebrity Edge is spending the summer cruise season in local waters this year, the first time one of the Edge class ships has been seen in our part of the world.
The successor to Celebrity Cruises' incredibly popular Solstice class vessels wowed cruisers when it debuted in 2018, with a host of flash features such as the Magic Carpet, Infinite Balconies, Eden and a sinuous pool deck complete with Martini-shaped hot tubs, it's safe to say it took a little getting used to.
Five years on, (and two successors later – Celebrity Apex and Celebrity Beyond, with a third Celebrity Ascent launching in November) and this game changer is finally headed Down Under, offering 6- to 16-night itineraries from Sydney from November 2023 through April 2024.
We joined Celebrity Edge on a seven-night Mediterranean sailing to see what Australians and New Zealanders can expect and here's our take on what worked – and what didn't.
We were keen to check out Celebrity Edge’s infinite verandas as the new balcony design seemed to divide cruisers when it debuted on the ship. If you've ever sailed on a river cruise, this design is nothing new, but if you’re not familiar with the concept, imagine a sunroom with a top window that slides down to create a balcony. When the window is down, the room’s air-conditioning shuts off, similar to when a balcony door is open in a regular cabin.
When the new design was launched, some cruisers weren’t keen on the new concept but we were converts by the end of our cruise. The design provided almost four extra square metres of floor space in the cabin with the windows closed. This is a major bonus for those sharing a cabin with a third person like we were as it made our accommodation feel noticeably more spacious.
When the top window is open, we found the infinite veranda very similar to a traditional balcony, with the bonus of a frosted sliding bi-fold screen to provide additional privacy for those sitting outside. While it’s not possible to enjoy the breeze while another person relaxes in the air-conditioning, this didn’t bother us although it may be an issue for some passengers.
The one downside we experienced was the loss of an outdoor area to hang wet swimmers and other beach gear to dry quickly in the sun. While you can still drape swimmers on the veranda seating, they need to be drip free to stop water seeping into the room’s carpet.
Celebrity Edge steps it up several notches when it comes to pleasing passengers of all ages. In fact, the kids club facilities were so good they had our 19 year old wishing he was a few years younger so he could take advantage of the state-of-the art teens area.
The four complimentary main dining rooms are classier than those we’ve seen on other ships but also welcoming for younger diners. If you don’t mind spending a little extra, the for-a-fee Le Petite Chef dining experience is enjoyable for the young and the young at heart.
Celebrity Edge will also debut Magic Carpet tender boarding (pictured above) in our region, making shore access easier for everyone, but particularly those managing young children or passengers with mobility issues. Stepping onto the ship’s large tender boats from this stable platform is a breeze and make it easier for the crew to load folding wheelchairs and other walking aids onto the tender.
We weren’t the only Celebrity regulars scratching our heads and looking at the deck plans on the first few days of our cruise. Celebrity Edge has a different layout to the line’s Solstice and Millennium class ships, and it will almost certainly trip you up if you’re familiar with the other vessels.
For example, on Celebrity Solstice which previously sailed in our region, Café el Bacio is on Deck 5. On Celebrity Edge, you’ll find it on Deck 4. Some popular venues can only be reached from one end of the ship as well, like Eden which is only accessible from Deck 5 but spans multiple levels.
The suite restaurant, Luminae, and a suite lounge debuted in our region on Celebrity Solstice years ago, but there wasn’t much else on offer for those travelling in a suite. This changes dramatically on Celebrity Edge, which features an expanded version of The Retreat, a ship-within-a-ship area that takes up a large part of the ship.
There’s a separate pool deck that has a dedicated swimming area (a bonus when the main pool is packed, which happens regularly when the weather is good), sun loungers, a pool bar and a hot tub. The Retreat Lounge is more modern, and Luminae on Celebrity Edge is much larger.
Whether you’re excited (or not) about The Retreat on Celebrity Edge will likely come down to whether you’re entitled to enjoy its extensive facilities.
Celebrity Edge has a number of new-to-Australia restaurants and bars onboard, including Eden which is the cruise ship version of paradise for lovers of delicious dining and entertainment. We particularly enjoyed this space which spans multiple levels and had lots of nooks and crannies to call our own, together with floor-to-ceiling windows that make the most of the sea views.
Whether you’re after a fine dining experience in Eden Restaurant, want to curl up with a book or would prefer to catch a live band, this innovative venue delivers.
Top tip: head to one of the multicoloured swing seats on a sea day to relax and enjoy the view.
Australians and New Zealanders will need to keep an eye out for cruise fares with inclusions like complimentary Wi-Fi and drinks or brace themselves for a hit to the hip pocket.
US dollars as the ship’s onboard currency, a poor exchange rate and an (understandable) increase in prices for things like specialty restaurants such as Le Petit Chef (pictured above) due to rising costs mean onboard costs can add up at an alarming rate once you convert your onboard account from $US to $AU or $NZ.
That said, it’s easy to enjoy this ship without paying any extra on top of your cruise fare (provided you stay away from the bars, for-a-fee restaurants, high-end shops like Bulgari and the casino and of course the Spa).
We've no doubt that this ship will be a game changer for the Australasia market, with a huge number of features that we think locals will love when they get to experience Celebrity Edge in November.
With exceptional complimentary dining available in multiple venues, appealing public spaces and free entertainment galore, this ship can be enjoyed by travellers on any budget once they’re onboard.