Imagine being able to walk onto a floating luxury hotel, from shore to your suite's door, without having to pull out your passport or swipe a key card. Controlling everything — from your room's lighting to a reservation at a restaurant or club or booking a tour of the next destination you're sailing to — from your phone. And all of this on a ship designed from sea level up using the most modern construction techniques both within and without. When the Celebrity Edge launches at the end of next year, it'll be the most advanced cruise liner on the seven seas.
Edge is Celebrity's first new ship design in a decade, and the cruise company is pulling out all the stops. Although the ship itself is still being built and the technology still being refined, we were given a tour of a mock-up where the entire passenger experience was controlled from a guest's smartphone and an installed Celebrity Edge app. A chatbot using artificial intelligence and natural language processing, for example, can direct a guest to a restaurant they haven't tried before, or could task a crew member to deliver a fresh cocktail that the chatbot remembers the guest ordering before.
A smartphone could let Celebrity unlock a guest's suite or stateroom door automatically as they walk up to it, too, with RFID and low-energy Bluetooth in the doors tied to that same guest app. Room settings — from air conditioning to lighting — is all controlled from the app, and synced between phone and the touchscreen panel in the interior of each stateroom. Celebrity means for the phone to be a replacement for the now-outdated keycard — even to the point of including dedicated USB charging points in each room for guests that forget a wall charger and only bring their phone's cable with them.
The most high-profile innovation on the Celebrity Edge is an oversized gadget called the Magic Carpet. It's something that, according to Celebrity chairman Richard Fain, is the logical conclusion of a concept that the company worked up to improve upon the existing method of passengers disembarking the ship on launches to visit new on-shore destinations. Instead of a platform that only sits at the water's edge or slightly above it, the Magic Carpet is a giant elevator that can move from the Edge's top 16th deck down to sea level, stopping at four decks along the way to pick up passengers. It's not just for shore visits, either — Celebrity says the Magic Carpet will be a luxury restaurant for dinner service, too.
Moving from the old-school door in the bulkhead through which passengers would walk onto tenders and launches in the past, to the new Magic Carpet, is a quantum leap. It's a big improvement for anyone less able-bodied to make shore visits, and it adds even more deck space for passengers to explore at different times throughout the cruise. We visited a 1:1 scale mock-up of the Magic Carpet, and it's something you have to see to believe — it's an entire leisure space of its own, and Celebrity will kit it out with seats and tables and a full bar for guests.
The most important upgrade that the new Edge class vessel brings to the cruising world, though, is something that you can't even see. Not unless you're a proper ship nerd, that is. Where all other current cruise liners use an external frame to reinforce the hull of the ship, with vertical H-bar steel running down the edge of every single window and balcony of a ship's thousand-plus staterooms, the Edge brings that exoskeleton inside the hull. Instead, the Edge's endoskeleton construction — despite being every bit as sturdy — allows for those balconies to be significantly wider, with an uninterrupted flow from the cabin itself to the balcony area.
When we toured a mockup of the Celebrity Edge's stateroom with the 'infinity veranda' design — 512 of which will be on the ship when it launches towards the end of 2018 — and compared it to the existing setup on current Solstice-class ships, the difference was massive. Not having those vertical steel pillars at each side of the sliding door between the balcony and stateroom opens up the space so much more, and contributes to the new staterooms having 23 per cent more space than the current ships. That space means that all bedrooms on the ship now have king-size beds, too — a first for any cruise liner.
That structural design means that it's been possible for Celebrity and its duo of designers on Edge — Kelly Hoppen for the interior, and Tom Wright for the exterior — to orient everything from passenger beds to the chaise lounges around the pool on the ship's top deck outwards. That uninterrupted view of the ocean and of the destinations that the Edge class of cruise ships will travel to is a properly unique selling point. Celebrity Edge, the first ship in the class, will operate around the Caribbean out of Port Everglades near Miami, and tickets are already on sale for its inaugural cruise on December 16, 2018.
Gizmodo traveled to the announcement of Celebrity Edge in Miami as a guest of Celebrity Cruises.