A Not-So-Magic Carpet Ride
They’re at it again, you know. No sooner do we turn our back on the modern cruise designers than they come up with some new devilry, otherwise known as a cruise ship gimmick.
It seems like only a few weeks ago (it was – Ed.) that we were bemoaning the fact we find the likes of go-kart tracks and bumper cars as anathema to a great cruising experience. You will certainly never find us ziplining, rock-climbing or go-karting anywhere on the Seven Seas.
And now comes news that Celebrity Cruises – one of the more traditional of the big-ship brands – are joining in with a ‘Magic Carpet’ that is “cantilevered from the side of ship and can rise all the way from sea level to Deck 16.”
Now, we’re not sure about you, but the idea of being ‘cantilevered’ anywhere, let alone off the side of our peripatetic holiday home, is one that fills us with horror. It’s like, nine out of 10 for providing a sea view, but minus 10,000 for common sense. Are they really saying you can have a tennis court-sized platform that acts as a lift up and down the outside of the vessel?
We’re sure it looks wonderful on the designer’s drawing board, but in operational terms, it looks like a nightmare-in-waiting. We love the idea of a sea-room with a view, and we even love the external lifts on Celebrity’s Millennium-class ships, with their pure ocean vistas.
But something that size being dependent on a hydraulic system that is exposed to the briny just doesn’t make sense to us. Celebrity will certainly test it to the nth degree, but you will never convince us that it is a good idea and, more to the point, that it is perfectly safe, even allowing for the fact passengers will not be permitted on it while it’s moving.
It is a shame, really, because, with the exception of the ‘Magic Carpet,’ the proposed look and other features of the forthcoming Celebrity Edge – maiden voyage due in late 2018 – are not at all unpleasant.
The idea of Infinite Verandas – an extension of the cabin that blends with the balcony to mix the outdoor with the indoor in a seamless way (perhaps not ‘Infinite’ so much as simply innovative) – is definitely appealing, while the Resort Deck (no mere ‘pool deck’ for these architects) is also stylish and creative, applying forward-thinking design ethics as opposed to sheer gimmickry.
Celebrity should also be applauded for one other startlingly original facet of the Resort Deck – sun-loungers positioned behind two-storey windows to face the sea, and not the pool. Doesn’t it make more sense? You’re at sea to enjoy the ocean-going vibe, not turn your back on it, and anything that is geared towards enhancing that effect is to be celebrated.
Equally, Celebrity’s evolution of its top-deck open-air concept, which started with the Rooftop Terrace aboard the Millennium ships and morphed into the Lawn Club in the Solstice-class vessels, takes another big leap forward with the Edge’s Rooftop Garden area, a delightful mix of sophisticated gathering spot and performance space.
Showing classic films with dinner is immensely appealing to us (but then it would be, wouldn’t it?), and it harks back to a different cruise era when entertainment was all about movies, live music and good conversation, and not bowling alleys, bumper cars and elaborate stage shows. If we want Mamma Mia, darlings, we’ll go to the West End.
But we digress. What we should really be talking about are the many wonderful reasons for taking a cruise, not the latest headline-grabbing ploy from Planet Gimmick.
Enjoying that visceral connection to the watery horizon is one of cruising’s quintessential joys, a complete break from land-bound cares and worries. We go to sea to forget about the mundane and the everyday, not to be reminded of them.
Plus, of course, we want five star service and dining.
Celebrity has its version of that, too, and here they are taking definitely cruising into familiar territory, a province that has been pioneered in rather unlikely fashion by the likes of Norwegian Cruise Line.
When Norwegian introduced the ship-within-a-ship concept of The Haven aboard their Norwegian Epic in 2011 (a development they had been moving towards for a few years), it highlighted a trend towards an alternative class of cruise experience, at once more distinguished and privileged.
Both Holland America and Disney Cruise Line have edged towards it with the Concierge-level accommodations aboard their most recent ships, but only The Haven marked a fully-fledged nod towards this new class distinction.
Now Celebrity will introduce The Retreat on the Edge, a completely separate area with private pool, sundeck, lounge and restaurant. For all suite passengers, it offers a 24-hour concierge service as well as its own daily happy hour.
But we know it by another name, don’t we? It’s a truly charming development, but we’ve seen it all before. In fact, all the best ships used to have it, and we always happily signed up for it as that essential of all good travel – First Class.
The next thing you know, they’ll be re-introducing bouillon and afternoon tea dances. Now those would be gimmicks we’d happily sign up for!
Treadwell & Tenny
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