Making Waves: A New Breed of Stylish, Innovative Cruise Ship

SLIDESHOW: Inside Celebrity Edge — aimed at the discerning, design-forward cognoscenti who might otherwise charter a superyacht.

If you thought cruise ship holidays were limited to bingo-loving retirees in cramped cabins with retro carpets, you can think again.

Celebrity Cruises, a cruise ship company whose parent group is backed by the billionaire Pritzker family, has unveiled plans for what is claimed to be the most innovative ship of its kind, aimed at the discerning, design-forward cognoscenti who might otherwise charter a superyacht.

Due to launch in December 2018 from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Celebrity Edge has been designed to disrupt the traditional cruise ship industry with its futuristic design, sci-fi technology and sophisticated interiors.

A-list contemporary art by Anish Kapoor and Damien Hirst will fill walls and spaces, while private villas will have their own plunge pools and retracting glass roofs. Two double-storey 2,500-square-foot iconic suites sit above the ship’s bridge, designed with every conceivable luxury from a butler’s pantry to a walk-in closet to a 700-square-foot open-air veranda. A sleek private sundeck with pool bar and dedicated concierge is accessible only by villa and suite guests. Cuisine is overseen by Michelin-starred chef Cornelius Gallagher, while the so-called Magic Carpet, a tennis-court-sized cantilevered elevator, will transform from a 16th-floor restaurant into a sea-accessible jetty.

Cutting-edge technology includes walls with X-ray vision through a system of high definition cameras, to allow curious guests a view into certain closed rooms such as the bridge and anchor room. Other features include facial recognition software and keyless entry technology with the use of a digital key on a smart phone. Much of the prototype design has been carried out in Celebrity Cruise’s Innovation Lab in Miami, which includes a state-of- the-art immersive Virtual Reality Simulator, the largest and highest resolution 3-D virtual reality simulator in the world.

“Designing this ship was like putting a rocket on the moon,” said Tom Wright, the architect behind the iconic Burj Al Arab, who designed many of Celebrity Edge’s open spaces including the outward-facing deck and the ‘Magic Carpet’.

“Ship design is traditionally very conservative, every move is incremental. But every now and then someone really jumps a hurdle, like we’ve seen here today,” added Wright at the launch of Celebrity Edge in Miami.

“At the beginning, Harri Kulovaara [an executive at Royal Caribbean Cruises, the parent company] said, ‘this ship is going to be a paradigm shift in cruise industry design’. And we said, ‘I’ve heard that before.’ But actually, as it started to progress, we realised it really was going to be transformational.”

While Wright focused on the outside space, the skills of design doyenne Kelly Hoppen were enlisted for the interiors. Hoppen is famous for her work on private homes, luxury hotels and super yachts, but she said it marked her first experience on a cruise ship, both personally and professionally.

“I’d never done a cruise ship for a very good reason: because it wasn’t really my style,” she said. “But I’ve been in the business for 40 years, and I thought, you know what, it’s not often that you get the opportunity to do things that no one else has done.

“It’s the stuff of fantasy, and that’s what the world needs,” she continued. “Everyone can have luxury today at any level but what we need is more surprise, we need a difference. The world copies constantly and it drives me insane.”

She added that although she had never been on a cruise she is planning to take a holiday on Celebrity Edge. Some of her friends — who might otherwise holiday on a private yacht — are also considering Edge: “They’re saying they will give it a go.”

Under Hoppen’s expert eye, the near-1,500 rooms offer the same luxury you would expect from one of her five-star hotels. And that was fundamental to her involvement. “I told them [Royal Caribbean Cruises] I want it to be as if I’m designing a hotel or a private home or whatever. And they absolutely embraced it — 120 percent — from day one and they never said no to anything.” That much is evident as no expense has been spared: from the hypoallergenic cashmere Italian mattresses handcrafted by family-owned Matermoll, to the grey Carrera marble-clad bathrooms; from the walk-in closets to the seamless open-air verandas.

Edge is the first of a fleet of four sister ships that will be launched in 2020, 2021 and 2022. Richard Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises, says the new fleet will “establish a new baseline for ships from here on out”.

An eastern Caribbean cruise visits San Juan, Puerto Rico; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; and Philipsburg, St. Maarten. The western Caribbean cruise calls on Key West, Florida; Costa Maya, Mexico; Cozumel, Mexico; and George Town, Grand Cayman. Depending on the season, a week in one of the Suite Class offerings will cost between £30,000 and £52,000, inclusive of all F&B.

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