Celebrity Edge cruise ship's Magic Carpet is an engineering marvel

Inspired by watching Aladdin about 1001 times growing up, I've always fancied riding a magic carpet. And now I'm, sort of, doing just that – not over the deserts of Arabia, mind you, but above the waters of the English Channel.

The Magic Carpet on Celebrity Edge isn't quite as thrill-a-minute as Aladdin's – swapping its wooden floor for a glass-bottomed one would definitely send more pulses racing – but it's still an engineering marvel, the first of its kind at sea, about the size of a tennis court and cantilevered over the ship's starboard side.

It can "float" between 14 decks, morphing into various functions, including a bar for sail-away cocktails, an exclusive restaurant and a tendering station for launches into small, hard-to-dock-in ports.

Designed by Tom Wright, mastermind of Dubai's sail-shaped Burj Al Arab hotel, the Magic Carpet, with its tangerine tinge, gives a distinctive look to Celebrity Edge, the world's most hyped new cruise ship, which has just begun a seriesof cruises in Europe before it returns to the Caribbean in November.

Celebrity says 2300 Australians have booked to cruise on Edge this northern summer and I am aboard this beautiful, 2918-passenger vessel on its premier European voyage from Southampton , where, in April 2020, sister ship Celebrity Apex will launch, the second in a planned set of five Edge-class ships.

Edge has been described as "rule-breaking" and "game-changing" by Celebrity Cruises chief executive, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo. And this US$1 billion ship, which was officially named last December by its godmother, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, certainly feels special.

Oodles of luxuriant vegetation, vibrant contemporary artwork and the fingerprints of renowned interior designers and architects such as Kelly Hoppen, Jouin Manku and Patricia Urquiola, permeate the eye-catching public spaces, ritzy bars and restaurants, smart staterooms, duplex villas and airy suites.

Celebrity is aiming to bring "modern luxury to the affluent vacationer" and Edge caters for a plethora of budgets, with sleeping options spanning 20-plus categories, from 17-square-metre inside cabins to the two Iconic suites. Each sprawl 176 square metres above the bridge – granting better views than the captain, it's said – sleep up to six people, have 64-square-metre balconies, 24-hour room service and a personal butler.

All suite guests have exclusive access to The Retreat, a private sanctuary on the 15th and 16th decks with a stylish sundeck, pool, lounge and the Luminae restaurant, which serves signature dishes by Daniel Boulud, who runs Daniel, a two-Michelin star restaurant in Manhattan.

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Most staterooms, including my AquaClass one, have an "infinite veranda", one of Edge's most talked-about innovations. A press of a button opens the top half of your outer floor-to-ceiling window. Shut the glass doors near the window to create a standard cabin and balcony – or open them to extend the room.

Edge's veranda rooms are 23 per cent larger than those on Celebrity's older, Solstice-class ships, with 10 per cent more bathroom space. You control the lighting and airconditioning from a touch-screen wall panel or via a smartphone app that also lets you make dining reservations, ponder shore excursions and send questions to a cyber-concierge. Using the app is free, but general Wi-Fi costs extra (one device, for seven to nine days, is $US249).

In your room, you'll notice there are recyclable aluminium water bottles instead of standard plastic ones. Celebrity is aiming to eliminate single-use plastics - one of the measures the company has taken to boost its environmental credentials. The Edge-class vessels, in fact, are said to be 20 per cent more energy-efficient than the Solstice-class ships. Incidentally, buoyed by Edge's successful launch, Celebrity has embarked on a "Celebrity Revolution" with over US$500 million being splashed out to upgrade its older ships. Celebrity Millennium and Celebrity Summit are already sporting dramatic face-lifts designed by Kelly Hoppen and Edge's other leading lights, and the rest of the fleet is expected to be fully modernised by 2023.A welcome addition to Edge - which is helmed by personable Californian captain, Kate McCue - is the choice of complimentary dining venues.

Many ships have one or two main a la carte restaurants as part of the cruise fare, but Edge has four: French-flavoured Normandie, Italian affair Tuscan, Mediterranean-inspired Cyprus and Cosmopolitan, which promises "new American with global influences".

There's also the Oceanview Cafe with its enormous diverse buffet and dishes inspired by regional ports of call. Speciality restaurants, most priced between $US30 and $US55 a person, include Fine Cut Steakhouse and seafood, sushi and sashimi purveyor Raw on 5. Both overlook the Grand Plaza, the ship's glossy three-storey centrepiece where musicians play by the Martini Bar. It's a good mingling spot where guests can enjoy drinks using their optional beverage packages (priced $US45 to $US59 a person a day).

Burn off kilojoules at the ship's spacious fitness centre, which has Technogym facilities and for-fee boxing, HIIT and yoga classes. There's an outdoor jogging track with one lane for walkers, the other for runners. Sloping across two levels, it passes the lovely, plant-and-sculpture dotted rooftop garden, a giant bronze horse by Sophie Dickens (great,-great-granddaughter of Charles), whirlpools shaped like martini glasses and the main pool, which is quite narrow but long enough for swimming lengths.

Inside the 2000-square-metre spa you can pay extra to use the thermal suite, with its hammam, salt room and crystalarium, or book a pampering treatment, typically priced between $US145 and $US279. For my 75-minute Aroma Spa Seaweed massage, I'm smeared in seaweed cream, wrapped in foil (to help draw out toxins) and, after showering, given a firm, yet soothing back and shoulder rub.

While Edge is child-friendly – there's a "camp" with books, toys, games and Xbox consoles – the ship is mostly geared towards adults, with multi-generational families, couples and groups of friends particularly at home here.

Entertainment ranges from art auctions, cooking classes and stand-up comedy to interactive laser mazes, open-air cinema and silent discos (hit the dance-floor listening to songs through headphones). Edge also has a huge casino, high-end shops, a nightclub and a theatre showcasing productions such as A Hot Summer Night's Dream, an offbeat twist on Shakespeare. The actors are more acrobatic than your classic thespians, twisting and turning to tunes such as Physical by Olivia Newton-John.

Even more eclectic is Eden, for many guests, the most enchanting space on the entire ship. Set over three floors, including a speciality restaurant which serves an experimental five-course tasting menu, Eden is decorated with a "library" of living plants, cosy chairs and loungers and it changes personality as the day progresses.

Fairly normal in the morning and afternoon – chill here with a coffee and a book as sun pours through the large windows – the atmosphere becomes more whimsical after dusk. There's multi-coloured lighting, trance-like beats and the Edenists, resident performance artists that steal the attention with their rustic costumes and zany moves.

Dining at Eden, in fact, is one of the quirkiest experiences I've had on a cruise. Imagine tucking into morsels of lobster while a muscular, moustachioed young chap who resembles a Victorian circus strongman ambles past your table with a woman standing on his broad shoulders. Later, a fellow Edenist will start doing one-armed hand-stands.

This, though, is the kind of thing you can expect on Celebrity Edge – a ship that revels in the unexpected.

FIVE MORE THINGS TO EXPLORE ON CELEBRITY EDGE

BE APPY. Tech-savvy travellers should download the Celebrity Cruises app prior to your trip. You can check in online, upload a selfie and use the ship's facial recognition embarkation service, which is designed to cut queues and speed up the boarding process.

ARTY DRAWS. Dali sketches and Picasso ceramics are among the 4000-plus pieces of art sprinkled around Edge. Some of the most colourful exhibits can be found in the Park West Museum on deck five. It's the first of its type at sea by the Michigan-based gallery. You can make purchases and also browse the gallery's entire collection via an interactive media wall.

CAFE AL BACIO. Filter coffee is served for free at various places on the ship, but for espresso-fuelled caffeine hits (priced from about $US5 or included with your beverage package), make a beeline for Cafe al Bacio, which overlooks the Grand Plaza on deck four. Some of the baristas here know how to make a reasonable flat white, and the cakes and pastries are also rather tempting.

LE PETIT CHEF. Set in the deck four Le Grand Bistro, this cutting-edge speciality restaurant uses 3D projection mapping technology to make an animated character, Le Petit Chef, appear on your table-top. The "smallest chef in the world" buzzes around in front of you, preparing each course, before you're served the dishes for real. Cover charge is $US55 a head.

SOLARIUM. This adults-only, lounger-filled covered pool area is one of Edge's most tranquil spaces.

TRIP NOTES

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traveller.com.au/cruises

CRUISE

A seven-night Italy, France, Monaco and Spain cruise on Celebrity Edge, starting July 27, from Rome to Barcelona, is priced from $1949 for an interior cabin, $2429 for an ocean view/veranda and $4969 for a suite. See celebritycruises.com.au

FLY

Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways fly from Sydney and Melbourne to Barcelona and Rome via Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha respectively. see emirates.com; etihad.com; qatarairways.com

Steve McKenna was a guest of Celebrity Cruises.

See also: Cruise ship insider secrets revealed: 25 things you never knew about

See also: Jaw-dropping: On board the world's new largest cruise ship

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