(12:38 p.m. EDT) -- One of the most highly anticipated new cruise ships of 2018 is moving closer to completion. Just six weeks from its debut, Celebrity Edge is getting its finishing touches at Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard in Saint Nazaire, France.
The ship is the first in Celebrity Cruises' Edge Class, which Celebrity has called groundbreaking. Indeed, features like its infinite balcony cabins, Magic Carpet elevator-style deck and panoramic top-deck ramp are genuinely different offerings that will get lots of attention once the 2,918-passenger ship launches.
We're visiting the shipyard to get a sneak peek of the ship, alongside Celebrity executives who are leading tours and talking about the spaces they love most. Here are our thoughts, live from Celebrity Edge.
The Magic Carpet is Actually Very Cool.
One of the spaces Celebrity has been hyping from the very beginning is the Magic Carpet. It's essentially a tennis-court sized multifunctional deck that juts out from the starboard side of the ship. It has the ability to move from deck to deck, though it won't transport people the way an elevator does. Instead, it will have different functions depending on which deck it's on; as a dinner/brunch/high-tea space on Deck 16, a party space on Deck 14, a restaurant on Deck 5 or a tender platform on Deck 2.
Seeing the space in person drove everything home. The bright orange, 90-ton addition to the ship will shine in combination with the ship's Destination Gateway on Deck 2 and completely reimagined tenders. (The Destination Getaway, accessible via the Magic Carpet, is a multipurpose area that serves as an embarkation station as well as hosts enrichment programming.)
"First and foremost, the Magic Carpet was designed to be a tender platform," Celebrity president Lisa Lutoff-Perlo said Thursday in France.
Celebrity Edge, though, could very well transform tendering from a pain to a pleasure. The Destination Getaway is large enough to accommodate roughly 500 people, moving them quickly through the Magic Carpet onto tenders that have comfortable padded seats and air conditioning. (When not used for transferring passengers, the Destination Getaway will host art auctions, port lectures, teen events and even crew parties.)
All three spaces are designed to work together, but the Magic Carpet is more than simply a gateway to tender destinations.
It has a bar, beautiful sofas and sophisticated seating, so it will thrill as an entertainment and dining venue. We enjoyed lunch on the Magic Carpet, which accommodates 100 people under its mesh ceiling. Designed by British architect Tom Wright, the venue is a showstopper that prompted audible gasps from agents and journalists touring the ship today.
"I walked on, and I had goosebumps all over my arms," said Richard Fain, Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Celebrity's parent company.
The Ship Feels Connected to the Sea.
In an era where cruise lines have built in so many activities and venues onto cruise ships, it's easy to forget you're actually onboard a ship when you're cruising. Celebrity intends to change that with Edge.
The biggest spot you'll notice this is in cabins, where the cruise line has created what it's calling "infinite veranda staterooms." These cabins, which comprise more than 60 percent of the accommodations onboard, have floor-to-ceiling glass windows. With the press of a button, they transform into balconies, as the top pane of glass slides down. This can be further closed off from the cabin via pocket doors.
While the concept isn't new to river cruise fans, it's revolutionary on ocean cruise ships. The structure required to make this work actually means cabins are more spacious than average, and you can feel it, especially in the bathrooms. (Cabins are 23 percent bigger than balcony rooms on Celebrity's Solstice Class, and bathrooms have 10 percent more space.) You can see the ocean from anywhere in the cabin, unobstructed.
Ceilings also are higher than is typical on cruise ships, thanks in large part to the fact the ship was designed down to the duct-work using 3-D modeling, according to Fain. Little changes in wiring, HVAC systems and even girder strength allow for more efficient use of ceiling space. The result: All spaces, especially those on lower floors, feel more open.
Additionally, designers Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku of Jouin Manku Studio have cleverly left elements of the ship exposed because they want passengers to feel the connection to sailing and the ship. This is evident in a corridor on Deck 3, where raw steel remains uncovered, as well as in the ship's spectacular Grand Plaza, where unadorned steel columns support the ceiling. (It's also worth noting the striking Grand Plaza chandelier, which stretches three decks and hangs over the ship's Martini Bar.)
At more than 5,000 square feet, the Grand Plaza will be home to a number of the ship's specialty restaurants, including the steakhouse, Raw on 5 sushi restaurant, a cafe that will serve fresh-baked breads, and the line's uber-popular coffee spot, Cafe al Bacio. (A second Cafe al Bacio is located within the ship's Oceanview Cafe buffet restaurant.)
That Resort Deck Concept is Beautiful.
Lutoff-Perlo refuses to call it the pool deck, preferring "resort deck" because it, well, feels like a resort. Whatever you choose to call it, it's shaping up to be something special. The walkthrough cabanas, panoramic ramp and martini-glass hot tubs had the potential to be style-over-substance, but seeing them IRL, you can understand the attention to detail and how the spaces smoothly flow together. The deck is open, and the private cabanas don't feel like they cut into the public space.
The pool deck also flows beautifully into the adults-only solarium, which features a glass ceiling over the pool and lounging area that's quite a hit on the cruise line's other ships.
So How Far Along is Celebrity Edge?
Six weeks from its debut, final details of the ship are coming into place. All major construction is complete, and shipyard executives say all that's left to do is cosmetic. Fain says it's 95.5 percent done. Carpets and flooring in some spots need to be installed, as do artwork, light fixtures, railings and final coats of paint. Some 1,200 cabins have been installed. (Most cabins are made at a separate cabin factory. Then, they are slid into place from the outside of the ship.) After all this is done, it's time for a deep clean and installation of the furniture and other soft goods, like bedding and curtains.
While the photos might look a little scary, this is pretty typical for a ship this close to sailing. Things move along quickly in the final stages, especially when crew get onboard and can help make the ship feel like home.
Planning to be one of the first onboard? Check out our tips for sailing on brand-new cruise ships.
Celebrity Edge will sail a series of Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, during its maiden season, which begins in December 2018. It will then head overseas to offer Mediterranean cruises out of Barcelona and Rome.
In other news: The line also revealed today its second Edge-class ship -- Celebrity Apex -- would kick off with a mini-season of sailing in the U.K. and Ireland, after launching in Southampton, England.
--By Colleen McDaniel, Senior Executive Editor