Full disclosure: I am a long-time cruise sceptic, a fully-fledged victim of the prejudice that ships are for travellers who want a flop-and-drop holiday; the kind where the monotony of being stuck at sea is broken by little more than swift elbow action at a crowded buffet.
Who, I thought, would want to holiday with a bunch of strangers on a giant floating hotel? As it turns out, I do.
Much to my surprise, those preconceived notions of cruising fell to the ocean floor when I stepped out on to the sky-high Sunset Bar on Celebrity Edge – I’m on board for the ships inaugural voyage from Australia to New Zealand. With a birds-eye view of Sydney harbour, Aperol Spritz in hand and a plush rooftop armchair to soak up the scene, there is a palpable sense of cinematic awe as we float past the Opera House and ritzy waterside homes. It all feels far more bougie than I had expected.
Once past the heads, I retreat to my stateroom – surprisingly spacious and contemporary, the floor-to-ceiling ‘infinite verandah’ windows offer a full sea view (and, crucially, can be opened at the touch of a button to let in the fresh sea breeze). After weeks of hectic events and deadlines, the solitude was refreshing – no children, no distractions, just a far-as-the-eye-can-see blue. All those preconceived judgements about the boredom of being stuck at sea were drowned out by the joy of hearing nothing but the soft swoosh of water beneath the bow. With cabins designed by renowned interior designer Kelly Hoppen, this is the kind of enforced relaxation I could get used to.
Is Celebrity Edge a big ship?
It’s all relative – licensed to carry 2908 passengers (there are bigger ocean liners out there), it is like a floating hotel with everything from a giant pool deck to a gigantic performance theatre. With 29 restaurants, bars and lounges, a Grand Plaza and quite a few exclusive shops (think Cartier and Bulgari), it’s large enough to offer some anonymity if that’s your jam, but it does retain a certain sense of intimacy, largely thanks to the attentive service – just three days on the high seas and guests could be heard heartily singing happy birthday to a staff member in the Oceanview Café as if they had known her a lifetime.
By the time you disembark you’ll know many of the service staff by name. Chatting with Sharda in the bakery became my morning ritual – all the carb-ladden delights on offer are baked fresh right before your eyes and they’re good and plentiful. Whether dusting giant trays of almond croissants or shaping baguettes for the oven, Sharda radiates so much genuine enthusiasm for working with dough that it’s hard not to be entirely transfixed by the whole process.
It’s especially impressive when you consider the logistics of feeding that many mouths a day. Despite the volume required, even the buffet surprises – there are oodles of fresh options at all times of day from made-to-order omelettes at breakfast to fresh thin-crust pizza well into the night (a popular haunt after an evening in the Martini Bar). The Grand Plaza is a pleasant place to socialise over coffee and cake.
A foodie feast
Specialty dining, from the Steakhouse to a French bistro or sushi and sashimi at Raw on 5, expand the culinary variety but the four main al la carte restaurants that are already part of the cruise fare hold their own – take your pick from the French-flavoured Normandie, Italianate Tuscan, Med-inspired Cyprus or Cosmopolitan, which it tags as ‘new American’.
Outdoors, the al fresco option at Eden Dining is enticing on cloudless days but it still feels decidedly spacious and serene when the weather doesn’t oblige thanks to the three-storey windows. There’s even a living green wall so bar staff can pluck fresh herbs for your cocktail.
If you enjoy entertainment with your drinks, the bar staff at The Martini Bar enjoy showing off their bottle juggling skills as the evening sets in.
The Magic Carpet
This cantilevered floating platform the size of a tennis court is quite the engineering marvel – perched up to 13 storeys above sea level, the glass-bottom floor makes for an exhilarating way to enjoy a cocktail or have dinner (the latter is only available on special event nights). It’s a unique feature on Celebrity Edge and one that doesn’t disappoint.
Are there rooms to avoid on Celebrity Edge?
While the interior cabins don’t have the impressive ceiling height windows, most rooms have king-sized beds and the same contemporary muted tones. If budget is not a big issue, the show-stopping suites grant guests better views than from the Captain’s bridge (which, having popped by for an exclusive sneak peak, I can confirm are utterly breathtaking). All suite guests have access to The Retreat, a private sanctuary on the 15th and 16th decks with their own sundeck, pool, lounge and the Luminae restaurant which serves signature dishes by Daniel Boulud who runs a two-hatted restaurant in Manhattan.
Don’t miss the added luxuries
Surrounded by floor to ceiling glass, the spa offers expansive ocean views from every corner – even the sauna has ocean views. After sampling the menu (which includes everything from your regular facials to acupuncture and teeth whitening) I opt for a deep tissue massage. No regrets here – every knot is massaged into submission by Kehra, who has the firm hand required to release my tense muscles into relax mode. It seriously rivals the best mainland massages I’ve had in all my years as a beauty editor. There’s also a hairdresser (with sea view of course) and barber and the option of having your nails and makeup done.
Is cruising sustainable?
According to Captain Matt, the ship hasn’t had to take water on board for over 6 months because it has its own efficient water purifying system on board – the ship produces up to 90 per cent of the fresh water on board now. The new class of ships are becoming increasingly eco-friendly – around 85 per cent of the waste on Celebrity Edge is recycled, repurposed or sent to a waste-to-energy facility.
Where does Celebrity Edge depart from?
Sydney (for Tasmania, New Zealand, Great Barrier Reef and the Pacific Islands) and Vancouver (for Hawaii) and Seattle (for Alaska) cruises. Cruises run year-round but only depart from Australia between November and April.
Where is Celebrity Edge right now?
At time of writing, it’s off the coast of New Zealand, currently making pit stops around both islands, from Auckland to Milford Sound. In January 2024, it’s heading to the South Pacific but cruising really comes into its own for taking you to places that are otherwise hard to get to, such as Alaska (where it will be later in the year). If you haven’t yet tested the waters, think about booking – there’s a cruise for everyone but you’ll need to plan ahead as spots are filling up for 2025 already.
As one patron (on her 42nd cruise no less) said to me, “once you start cruising, you never look back.”