Trip and I booked a Caribbean cruise for March 2020. Yep, remember early 2020? Our cruise was scheduled to depart the day the “do not sail” order came out. We had already cancelled a few weeks before because we knew Covid was going to be bad, and we eventually rescheduled for last month. We love to travel. We aren’t “cruisers” per se, but we do love being on a ship, though we tend to do small ship cruises (such as Seabourn). This time we booked a larger ship because we found a very good value, and I have cruised with Celebrity in the past and have always had a pleasant experience. Read on for my thoughts on the trip (I want to be one of those travel YouTubers so badly). Our ship was only 60% full, so there were hardly any crowds or waits and we could pretty much walk into any venue at any time without a reservation, though the suites were completely full, so our experience there would be typical.
Trip: 10 night Carribean Cruise on board the Celebrity Edge
Embarkation: A lot has changed in the cruise world since our last cruise 7 years ago. Embarkation was always a bit of a pain, but no longer (at least with Celebrity). We did all our pre-boarding checklist and checked in on the Celebrity app (more about this later), including uploading a selfie that would be linked to our cruise card. Even the muster drill, that time honored experience that all cruisers dread, was done on the app. We were assigned a boarding time. We showed up at the appointed time, were asked if anything had changed (it hadn’t), and we were invited on board. That’s it! Maybe 5 minutes tops. Once we boarded, our cruise cards were waiting in the cabin. We only had to go to our muster station to check in to complete the tasks, and we were done. It was the easiest, fastest embarkation ever. Note: we were retreat guests and had a separate check in area (more on that later), but the main check in line appeared short.
Ship: Celebrity Edge was launched in 2018, the first of the new Edge class, now including Beyond and Apex, with Ascent due this year. At 131,000 tons with a capacity of 2900 guests, she would have been considered a mega ship not that long ago, but is now considered modestly large, particularly compared to something like RC Oasis of the Seas , a 227,000 ton monster carrying 5600 passengers. From the first sight of her tumblehome X-bow she looks unlike any other cruise ship. The new parabolic bow design is said to make her 8% more efficient. But the bow isn’t the only difference. The ship has been completely reimagined and is stunning. Interiors are modern and sleek, with thoughtful touches like a re-orientation of the elevators so that there are 2 full banks of full sized lifts (something anyone crammed in a typical half size elevator can appreciate). As you walk along the passageway, the lighting changes as you approach the fore and aft lobbies. LED lights completely surrounding the elevator light up red or green when the lift arrives, giving an easy visual clue as to which has arrived and which direction it is going (cool and very useful). There are thoughtful features like this everywhere, leading me to wonder why no one thought of them before. There are 16 decks, with most passenger facilities located on Deck 3 and above. Signage was prominent and easy to follow (you can get lost on this ship). Maps are available in the app. Notable features include the rooftop garden, a 2-decked running track, an enormous main pool, 2 large hot tubs, a flashy casino, an (overpriced) spa, a large well equipped gym, a solarium with indoor pool and spa, the 3 deck central atrium with a massive ever changing LED chandelier, and the magic carpet, a cantilevered platform that protrudes from the starboard side and moves from deck 2 (as an enormous tender platform, all the way up to deck 16 as another lounge/deck area). The ship has been reimagined, with almost all areas maximizing views of the ocean. The vibe is definitely cool and chic. While large, the space is thoughtfully designed to provide plenty of quiet and private spaces throughout.
Cabin: we booked an aft suite. All suites on board are now part of a ship within a ship concept called “The Retreat”. This gives premium passengers a more exclusive experience, rather than just a larger cabin, and subsequently comes with a large bump up in price. However, our 335 sq ft cabin was comfortable, well thought out, and spacious with tons of storage. Our 80 sq ft verandah was large enough for 2 chaise lounges and a table with 2 chairs. The mini fridge was stocked daily with beverages by the butler. Yes, suite guests get both a cabin attendant and a butler. The cabin functions were all controlled via a touch screen panel, or via the app on your device (which was wicked cool). Even the tv can be controlled from the app. Suite guests get the premium beverage package, premium WiFi, and gratuities included in the fare. In addition, suite guests have their own lounge with concierge, their own private sundeck and pool, and a private dining room called Luminae. Suite guests also receive 24 hour room service at no extra charge.
Dining: Edge boasts 15 dining venues. There are 4 main dining restaurants (while we could eat there, we didn’t). They are each themed differently (French, Italian, Mediterranean, and contemporary) and while each have the same menu, each features a few special starters and mains. The Oceanview cafe, celebrity’s signature buffet dining experience featured double height ceilings and tall windows. Food is set up in different stations and generally punched above its weight for a buffet. There was ample seating both inside and outside. At the back is a pizzeria that was popular late at night. Blu is the dining room reserved for aqua class cabins. Suite guest can dine there on a space available basis. Trip ate breakfast there one day and enjoyed it, but we otherwise can’t comment on the cuisine. The menus looked good. We ate most dinners in Luminae, the private suite restaurant. The space is beautiful and elegant. Having heard raves about it, we were looking forward to amazing food. We were, honestly, a bit disappointed. While food was solid and of generally excellent quality, and there were some serious home runs, there were way too many misses than there should have been. Flavors were off on occasion and dishes were over-sauced or generally lackluster far too often. We were expecting to have our socks blown off, and they weren’t. One night for dessert I ordered a Napoleon. What I got was a basically a brownie. I don’t know exactly what it was, but I know what it wasn’t, a Napoleon. I’m pretty sure I had the same dessert on the plane. Specialty dining (extra cost) venues we visited were Fine Cut Steakhouse ($60 pp), which was exactly what you would expect and was quite good, Le Petite Chef ($60 pp), an animated table top dinner experience was fun and the food was delicious, but I wouldn’t do it again. Kids would love it. Eden ($60 pp) at the aft of the ship, was amazing. Featuring an open kitchen in a 3 deck high space and a fresh, modern menu, we were absolutely knocked out by it. It was so good we went back again. Honestly, I’d skip all the other extra charge restaurants and just eat here. The chef is absolutely going for a Michelin star. We did not go to the sushi restaurant or rooftop barbecue restaurant, though other cruisers were impressed. The Mast grill serves up your typical burgers and dogs, with outstanding fries (seriously). Eden cafe (in the bar area of the 3 deck Eden space) offers sandwiches and soups at lunch (pretty good, but I was still hungry). It is strangely only open on sea days. For those who need caffeine, Cafe Il Bacio served up all your espresso drink desires and had lovely desserts as well. Specialty coffees and teas are included for Retreat guests naturally. There is also a spa cafe with healthy items as well as smoothies, none of which we tried.
Entertainment: you will not be bored on this ship. Along with a massive, high tech, multi-level staged main theater where shows occurred twice nightly, there is a disco (The Club), acoustic entertainment in the Eden bar, and bands in the atrium around the martini bar every night. It’s a high energy ship. Shows were either artists brought on board , or stage shows by the large in house entertainment staff, including 4 singers, 8 dancers, and 3 acrobats. Bands varied by style but were all excellent. We particularly loved the Brazilian singer/guitarist. Entertainment went into the wee hours. My only complaint is that there actually wasn’t a bar or cafe where you could have a quiet drink at night. There was always some music, often loud. Movies were shown under the stars on the top deck. For those Vegas lovers, the glitzy casino featured many table games and all the typical slots. Trip and I don’t gamble much, but we both won a little.
Staff: I cannot say enough about how amazing the crew were. Every crew member we interacted with went above and beyond. The service level was as good, or better, than the luxury cruise lines we’ve been on. Staff can make or break your trip, and these folks were definitely trying (and succeeding) to impress. From the cabin steward to the Captain, the crew was warm, welcoming, eager to please, and generally exceptionally friendly. It didn’t matter if you were in the grandest suite or an inside cabin, the crew were there to make your trip wonderful. The wait staff in particular were attentive, engaging, and happy to go the extra mile to make you happy.
The App: the app is central to your cruise experience. Not only could you open your cabin door, you can control the a/c, the drapes, the lighting, and the television. You can also message other cruisers in your party. Looking for something to do? The app lists all shows and events going on every day. Hungry? The app tells you what dining is available at the time you query it. Check your on board account? Absolutely. Need medical help, the app has you covered. Want to book a dining reservation or a shore excursion? It can do that as well. In addition to all the functions, it also has a deck plan to help you navigate to where you want to go. It really has revolutionized the way you cruise, much to the better. Celebrity has this technology nailed.
WiFi: premium WiFi was included with “The Retreat”. Connectivity was solid in most parts of the ship but dropped occasionally, particularly in our bathroom and in the veranda. There was a WiFi receiver in our cabin, so I don’t know why it dropped out in spots. It was fast enough to stream video with only occasional lag. Uploads were painfully slow, particularly video. Celebrity uses Starlink satellite WiFi. But for most needs, it was more than adequate, and honestly I tried to avoid too much screen time, other than to upload envy pics and check emails.
Magic Carpet: the standout feature of this ship design is an enormous cantilever movable platform. It is designed to be moved all the way down to deck 2 to to serve as a large tender platform. We had no tender ports so did not get to experience what I imagine is a significant improvement. The platform in fact didn’t move once from its spot on deck 14, despite being advertised as moving to deck five for an outdoor dining experience at the sushi restaurant and moving to deck 16 for a “unique” (extra charge) dining experience called “Dinner on the Edge”. It never budged. Not once. Still, it had ample seating (couches and chairs) and a full bar, and was a very pleasant place, though as retreat guests, we generally stayed in our private deck area, which had a wide variety of seating, a full bar, the lounge, and waiter service for both drinks and lunch.
Dress Code: there were no formal nights, though there were 2 nights where people who wished to put on fancy duds were encouraged to do so. I wore dockers and a button down shirt every night. I would call the dress code “Country Club”
Disembarkation: no one likes the end of their vacation, especially one as top notch as this one. Disembarkation was handled smoothly and easily. Bag tags were delivered to our cabin on the second to last night. Bags were collected by 10 pm of the final night and reclaimed after the ship cleared customs the next morning. Groups were called to exit by bag tag color, generally starting around 8 am. Restaurants were open for breakfast on the final morning.
Fellow passengers: looking at their marketing materials, Celebrity is aiming for a younger demographic. There’s nary a grey hair seen in the brochure. On this cruise, the crowd skewed older. Trip and I were among the younger passengers. Still, the old coots got their boogie on. Most passengers were American (many from Florida where apparently taking a Caribbean cruise is a hobby). There was a sizable group of Canadians and a few Brits. The following cruise (I was told), was full with 270 kids on board.
Smoking: The last time I sailed with Celebrity, cigars were all the rage and they had a cigar bar, called Michael’s club. Smoking was allowed in the casino and on the port side of the ship. The cigar bar is gone and smoking is relegated to 2 areas that are neatly tucked away where you will neither see nor smell it. Otherwise, the ship is non-smoking.
The final score: Ship 5/5, Service 5/5, Entertainment 4/5, Dining 4/5, Cabin 5/5. 23/25 is a winner.
This ship will not be everyone’s cup of tea. If you’re a traditional cruiser who likes formal nights, set dining, and doesn’t like lots of choice, this ship is not for you. There are also no roller coasters, water slides, or climbing walls, so if you want that, find another ship (see aforementioned Oasis if the Seas). My only (minor) gripe was about how loud it could get (noise was not an issue in the cabin). There were a few nights where I wanted to whisper sweet nothings to Trip over cocktails rather than shout or (during one particular raucous event) text. My only other minor gripe is that the desserts in the buffet all tasted exactly the same. They would have 6 or 7 types of cake, which I swear other than the color, were identical. I found that amusing. Still, we enjoyed it so much we booked another cruise for later this year. We still prefer the small ships, but Celebrity in general, and the Edge in particular, gave us an outstanding experience.