One week cruising on Celebrity offered a change of scenery, plus stops at two never visited Caribbean islands, St. Thomas and St. Martin. Expectations were reset. The cruise industry was firing back up after the COVID shutdown. The Celebrity Edge, our vessel, was the first cruise ship to resume travel in the USA, just one month prior to our Bon Voyage.
Little Known Fact
The Celebrity Edge captain is Kate McCue. Kate was born in 1978 and is the first American woman to captain a cruise ship. Kate’s cat, who accompanies her on board, is a hairless sphynx named Bug Naked. You can follow CaptainKateMcCue on Instagram.
Good to Know
Why I Cruise
Ships make great mobile hotels, and cure the “planes, trains, and automobiles” travel hangover. We have used ships to explore regions in Northeastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Mediterranean, allowing us to get a flavor for many countries and cultures, while sleeping on one pillow and packing one bag. Many ships offer childcare, kids camps, and teen clubs. Ships are great for weddings, reunions, and family gatherings. Some ships capitalize on special interests that are as varied as a ship’s buffet. Speaking of buffets, this one on the Celebrity Edge serves up power drinks at the Spa Cafe.
Cruise Line & Ships
A travel professional specializing in cruise travel is worth their weight in gold. Beware of booking a cruise without doing the research. Cruises are not one size fits all. US News and World Report rankings and cruise line categories offer a good place to start. Celebrity has always been our go to brand for our family of four. Celebrity, by the way, shares ownership with Royal Caribbean, Silverseas, and Azamara. Our adult kids caught the bug when they were little on a Disney Cruise and jump at every chance now to travel by ship.
Size of Ship Matters
When evaluating a cruise ship closely consider size. Here’s a good guide:
Mega-Ships: 3,500+ Passengers
Large Ships: 2,500–3,499 Passengers
Midsized Ships: 1,500–2,499 Passengers
Small-Mid Ships: 800–1,499 Passengers
Small Ships: 799 Passengers or Fewer
The Celebrity Edge is a large ship for 2,918 passengers. Our week the ship was only half full. Timing, brand, and limited cost were the driver for the booking. The Celebrity fee, by the way, was paid for with my Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, and 3 points were earned for each dollar spent. Travel reward cards are a big deal for frequent travelers. Reward points lock in business class, lie flat seats, for my international flights. More on that in Strategy Workshops for the Expert Traveler.
The Celebrity Edge was just placed in service in December, 2018. Exploring a new ship with modern features was a plus. These chairs in Eden, a bohemian inspired space, are not the usual cruise prototype.
Age & Refurbishment Matters
When researching a cruise, don’t get hung up on the age of the ship, but pay attention to refurbish date. Upcoming Cruise Ship Refurbishments by Cruise Critic offers one guide. When booking a 2021 Japan Cruise on the Oceana Nautica, prior to the COVID travel shutdown, I booked knowing the ship was scheduled to get a 100M refurbishment in 2020, well in advance of my sailing. The old Nautica was one to avoid, but the new Nautica will be a diamond. By the way, Oceania shares ownership with Norwegian and Regent Seven Seas Cruise Lines.
Cruise Attire & Room Location
Pay attention to two more cruise variables, attire and room location. Celebrity Cruise Attire is “smart casual” with occasional “evening chic” nights. Evening Chic is generally a cocktail dress for women and optional sports coat for men. Next, study deck plans closely before choosing your room. I use CruiseDeckPlans for research. Consult an expert for advice in this area if you are not one. Here are two terms you will need to know when studying deck plans. “Aft” is rear of the ship, and “forward” is the front. You will see these referenced often once on board too. Also, when facing forward “port” is left and “starboard” is right.
Embarkation is “ship talk” for getting on the boat. Always arrive at your embarkation point one or more days before sailing. We did not do that for the Celebrity Edge sailing, and instead flew into Ft. Lauderdale the same day we sailed. That is risky. Don’t do it. My back up plan was to reschedule on another Celebrity cruise departing the next day from Ft. Lauderdale, if my flight failed. The Celebrity Edge sailed out of Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale. We made it on time.
In fact, we arrived at the cruise terminal several hours before our scheduled embarkation time and were turned away. CDC requirements prevented earlier stand-by boarding to avoid crowds at the terminal. We jumped in an uber, with carry-on bags in hand, and spent our gap time at the nearby Ft Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort.
Our mojo on cruise ships is to be the first to disembark, or to get off the boat, with carry-on only bags in hand. The process for passengers that have more than carry-on only luggage is a complicated one. Large bags are tagged and set outside rooms the night before. Those folks have carry-on luggage too. That’s a bunch of bags. Ship staterooms are small. Closets are small. Keep it simple and arrive with only the essentials. Bullseye Packing is a 60-minute workshop for the Expert Traveler that includes secrets for carry-on on only packing.
Consider disembarking before the cruise ends to explore an area in exchange for sea days, or to skip ports, that are not a draw. Sea days are days not in port. Check early disembarking rules with your vessel before payment. The last port on the Celebrity Edge seven-day cruise was St. Martin on day five. St Martin offers a 60-minute ferry and 15-minute flight to the French island of St. Bart. We could have disembarked in St. Martin, bags in hand, and visited St Bart on our own. We would have given up the two sea days returning to Ft. Lauderdale. In exchange we would have gotten St Bart, a popular upscale island attracting visitors at record speeds.
The Celebrity Edge Experience
Cabins on the Celebrity Edge
Balcony rooms, or verandas, are what we choose on cruise ships, on a high floor, near a staircase, and close to the fitness room and swimming pool. Getting that room generally requires upgrading to Concierge Class on Celebrity. Here is the good news on the Celebrity Edge cabins. The bathrooms were the best we have had on any cruise ship. There were ample shelves and room to move around, however, a make-up mirror was noticeably missing.
For the bad news, Celebrity Edge changed their veranda design and we are not a fan. The balcony is gone, and instead passengers have the option of lowering the top half of one large window. The cabin assumes whatever temperature and humidity is outside. With the valued balcony gone, we avoided our cabin, and used it exclusively for sleeping and showering.
Another room quirk is that power was offered on only one side of the king bed. We travel with an extension cord, that provided a fast fix. You should too.
Dining on the Celebrity Edge
The Celebrity Edge offered four small scale restaurant options for evening dining: Tuscan, Cypress, Cosmopolitan and Normandie. The Edge does not have a grand scale dining room with hundreds of ten top tables. A potluck option to dine with other passengers was not offered for our sailing. I loved all four restaurants, along with the new small scale concept. Each of the four restaurants had its own décor and style.
Menus included “exclusive” selections specific to that restaurant, plus “classic and celebrity signature” options served at all restaurants. Vegetarian menus were available on request.
Other dinner options were available, for a fee, including a steakhouse, a raw bar, plus others. The Oceanview Café offers large-scale breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets. This space mirrors a shopping mall food court, but with nicer food. There is one of these on every ship. The Eden Café, my go to smaller spot, serves breakfast and lunch with ample indoor and outdoor tables.
Bars on the Celebrity Edge
The Celebrity Edge, along with most cruise ships, has bars aplenty. The one that seemed to be the most popular was the Martini Bar, in the grand atrium in the center of the boat. Piano and live music were always playing. Bartenders have swag. Sometimes they juggle. If people watching is your thing, catch a bird’s eye view from this upper level. The image here is bright and early, but at night time the place was on fire.
Entertainment on the Celebrity Edge
Evening showtime in The Theatre did not skip a beat and was a perfect 10. Shows average one hour, and were offered twice nightly, giving folks a before or after dinner option. The talent, stage, lighting, music, and costumes were incredible. After a COVID void, with no visits to live stage, theatre performances on the Celebrity Edge filled my bucket in a big way.
The Club offered other evening entertainment options that rolled late into the night. Karaoke, a Rock & Roll Dance Party, and live Game Shows were the line-up one night.
Celebrity Edge Cruise Ports
The Celebrity Edge, for our sailing, stopped in Nassau, St. Thomas, and St Martin. We chose not to get off in Nassau. Research showed a closed island due to COVID and past hurricanes. This was day one of seven, and we welcomed a day to chill and regroup. A visit with others who got off the boat confirmed the town was entirely closed. Good choice.
St. Thomas is part of the US Virgin Islands. English is the spoken language. In St. Thomas, I booked the Cas Cay Kayak, Kayak, Hike and Snorkel Tour with Virgin Island Ecotours, found on Trip Advisor. A short shuttle took us from the ship to a shopping district, adjacent to the port. From there, we grabbed a taxi van to Cas Cay. Vans are the shared kind and pick up and drop off along the way. Ride shares were not available. The excursion provided a great experience, with great people, off the boat. Kayaking was cool.
Marine life was limited while snorkeling. That was OK. A nursery of baby sharks was visible from a distance. Seeing their mom was not on my list. The crop of hermit crabs on the island was one you don’t see every day. According to our guide, a hermit crab can support up to 300 pounds of weight.
Merchants were abundant near the port selling watches, diamonds, and t-shirts. No thanks. The Iguanas chilling just past the ship’s gangplank were a hit, and were our first and last experience in St. Thomas.
The island of St. Martin is governed by The Netherlands, and is half Dutch and half French. French and English are spoken on the island. We had the good fortune of spending the day in St Martin with friends vacationing there too. One of the friends lived in St Martin, years back, and took us to her favorite stops. This one here is a popular view of the harbor.
Another cool stop was Coco Beach. We loved the pristine stretch of quiet beach. Dining service is available at the loungers or tables.
We lunched at a French restaurant, Les Temps des Cerises. The Open Table link is here. Hearing another language, and observing another culture was exciting, after spending the last year and a half stateside in the USA. Fingers crossed the world is safe to reopen soon.
The single day in St. Thomas and St. Martin filled my bucket for those Caribbean islands. However, I’ve got my eye on nearby St Bart for a longer stay.
Tips on Planning Days in Port
We book our day in port independently from the ship, when possible, to get a more intimate experience, and often at a lower cost. View the cruise options as a first step in your research. I use travel professionals, Trip Advisor, and Instagram to plan itineraries for days in port.
Check distance from the port to the destination. For example, Rome, Italy is accessible by ship, but the port of Civitavecchia is approximately 2.5 hours away round-trip. That is not ideal for one day in port. Many stops disembark at their destination. No car or bus is needed to get to the destination. I like those ports. Some cruise itineraries offer an overnight, two, or three-night stay for certain ports, and I really like those. Smaller ships often service smaller ports closer to the destination.
The Good about the Celebrity Edge Cruise
Celebrity Edge enforced a strong COVID protocol and sailed with greater than 98% of passengers vaccinated. Proof of vaccine was required when boarding. Once on-board masks were not required. For unvaccinated passengers, masks were required at all times, and COVID testing was performed before going to each port and before disembarkation. Seating was in designated areas for unvaccinated passengers. This was one.
Absence of Crowds
There were no crowds on our Celebrity Edge sailing with the ship operating at about 50% capacity. That eliminated wait time for dining. Pool loungers were abundant.
Spa appointments were available, and there were no waits for the treadmill in the gym.
The Not So Good about the Celebrity Edge Cruise
A Limited Crowd
Travelers were primarily an older crowd, with fewer families and young travelers. Parents steered unvaccinated children clear of cruise ships. International travelers did not sail. Young professionals were sparce. All in all, the passenger diversity I have valued on past sailings was missing, entirely due to COVID’s impact on travel.
Hours for cruise services and amenities were limited. For example, there were no food options available at 11:00 a.m. just before arriving in St. Thomas. Cruise ships are normally a cornucopia of 24-hour food, but not this time. Purchase of toothpaste had to wait until 7:30 p.m. when the ship’s store opened.
The closure we disliked the most was the one for our favorite, centrally located, outdoor seating area, curiously named the Magic Carpet, during the “sail away” from St Thomas and St Martn. The “sail away” is a favorite time to relax outside after an active day in port, and take in a great sunset over a beautiful destination. Celebrity closed the Magic Carpet at peak interest times.
Bingo and ballroom dancing lessons were not in the lineup. Sea days were spent with a good book in a quiet nook, like this one on the upper level, near the walk/run loop.
The Very Bad About the Celebrity Edge Cruise
The internet on our Celebrity Edge sailing was a failure. This was a first, and has never happened on any cruise. Wi-fi calling, remote meetings, and other functions requiring internet could not take place during the 7-day cruise. There was ample time to work, with only 2-3 days in port. Internet, by the way, comes at a steep price at $20/day per device or $280 for two devices for a 7-day cruise. Edge management lacked transparency on this big issue, and provided no information to passengers.
One passenger shared that she had planned to work remotely on the entirety of the cruise, but had to take Paid Time Off (PTO) tied to the internet failure. After arriving home, I voiced my concern in the email survey, and I complained to customer service by telephone. Celebrity refunded the $280 payment for internet services.
The Celebrity Edge uses satellite technology for internet. If internet is critical while sailing, the Celebrity Edge and/or other cruise ships may not be a viable travel option for you. Vet this issue closely before booking your cruise.
Workspaces & Game Tables
Multi-functional workspaces were noticeably absent on the new boat. Plug in power was offered in the staterooms only. The Celebrity Edge punted the library, generally my go to work spot, on this new ship. Most tables around the ship were low, or coffee table height, making mahjong or bridge difficult for the gaming crowd too.
Final Tips on Cruising the Celebrity Edge
Reset your expectations when traveling now, to include travel on cruise ships. Service staff is inexperienced, and is in short supply most everywhere. Be patient and forgiving.
As for the Celebrity Edge, I’m not a fan of this big new ship. The missing balconies and missing workspaces were a drag. I’m also a boutique hotel gal, and will continue to go for the smaller ship that requires less walking, and steers clear of a Las Vegas vibe. Remember, cruise ships are not one size fits all. The Celebrity Edge might be a perfect match for you.
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