At dinner on the first night with the impressive Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, it was clear that she is a very proud President and CEO - and with good reason. I thought ;Lisa's pride might simply extend to the restaurants and the Retreat Lounge (and they did) but it went deeper than that.
Discovering her passion for rebalancing the gender divide in the most senior roles was a real pleasure. Lisa is committed to bringing more female captains to the company. Whatever the challenges she might face in realising that ambition – and there are many – she is determined not to fail. It was happening already, Lisa told me, and it was going to happen more and more often.
We also discussed plastic bottles (an issue about which I am passionate) and Lisa told the story of how her niece, on a work placement, tracked down the two women behind Open Water and did a deal to rid plastic water bottles from this – and soon other – Celebrity ships. Not without cost to the company, but a cost Lisa was content to shoulder. Single use plastics in the cabin bathrooms were also removed.
And to my other side at dinner that night, Ben Fogle. Why would a well-travelled adventurer who had climbed Everest and rowed across the Atlantic be working with Celebrity, I asked? It turned out, Lisa wants his ideas for excursions – adventurous ones – to present to passengers when they disembark in the port.
Apparently, some of his suggestions are so adventurous, Celebrity has to politely decline them – but I kind of liked the idea of passengers abseiling off the ship and then paragliding back on from the nearest mountain (I joke, but even Lisa admits that Ben’s most outrageous suggestions are often filtered out before they reach her desk!)
Once again that evening, my perceptions of the average cruise passenger, shifted.
The next day, I had a mild hangover. It was perhaps inevitable after dinner and my subsequent visit to The Club (to see what was an electric, impressive and unique interactive show). So I decided I would jog off the headache on the running track on the top deck.
As I struggled around lap number ten (it takes 4.8 of them to do a mile apparently), I looked across at the Isle of Wight on my left (or should I say port) side and Portsmouth Harbour to my right (starboard) side, and it occurred to me why it is that increasing numbers of people go cruising. When you’ve got facilities as good as this, food and cocktails as good as this and interesting places to visit every couple of days, it’s hard to see what’s not to like.
Some people say they would feel trapped on board a cruise ship, but on Edge it must be like having the best hotel you can find which miraculously changes location or country every couple of days. Others say they don’t want to see the same people day in day out. But when there are three thousand on board, it’s difficult to see how that would happen.
And the growth in the number of people doing this for their vacation explains why, as Captain Costas Nestoroudis told me as we wondered around his gleaming bridge, every shipyard that can build cruise ships is fully booked for the next 15 years. ‘Is Edge replacing any of your older ships?’, I asked him, as his monitors showed his ship was effortlessly gliding through the waters south of Lyme Regis at 9.8 knots. ‘No, she is an addition to the fleet’, he replied.
Celebrity Edge is a first in class (I believe that is the right phrase) so there are more like her coming – and that can only be the very best news for anyone thinking about trying out a cruise. And good news too, for an industry trying to dispel the myths surrounding a vacation on a cruise ship.
My biggest problem now is that my next ship - unless it’s Edge or one of her new sister ships – won’t be as good as this one. That, I suppose, is the trouble, when you lose your cruise virginity on Celebrity Edge.
Celebrity Edge will be sailing her first season in Europe in 2019 before moving to the Caribbean for the winter.