Celebrity Edge: An exceptional liner leaves Saint-Nazaire

Celebrity Edge: An exceptional liner leaves Saint-Nazaire

After 23 months of construction and 6 million hours of work for Chantiers de l'Atlantique, the Celebrity Edge said goodbye to Saint-Nazaire yesterday afternoon. The first of a new generation of particularly innovative cruise ships destined for the American company Celebrity Cruises, the ship, officially delivered on October 31st, was originally scheduled to sail on November 6th. But the formation in the North Atlantic of a very hollow depression, which will be unleashed at the beginning of the week from Ireland to Portugal, prompted the shipowner to anticipate the departure of 48 hours to avoid the bulk of the storm, that will also have to face the sailing boats of the Route du Rhum. The Celebrity Edge must take 9 days to reach the US, with a stopover in the Bahamas to disembark the few hundred employees and contractors of shipyards who continue to work on board during the crossing.

The Celebrity Edge leaving Saint-Nazaire yesterday (© BERNARD BIGER)

The Celebrity Edge leaving Saint-Nazaire yesterday (© BERNARD BIGER)

The Celebrity Edge leaving Saint-Nazaire yesterday (© BERNARD BIGER)

The Celebrity Edge leaving Saint-Nazaire yesterday (© BERNARD BIGER)

The construction in pictures:

End of assembly in January 2018 (© MER ET MARINE - VINCENT GROIZELEAU)

End of assembly in January 2018 (© MER ET MARINE – VINCENT GROIZELEAU)

Launch in January 2018 (© BERNARD BIGER)

Launch in January 2018 (© BERNARD BIGER)

First sea trip in July (© BERNARD BIGER)

First sea trip in July (© BERNARD BIGER)

Second tests in September (© SEA AND MARINE)

Second tests in September (© SEA AND MARINE)

Another three weeks before the first passengers

At the end of this first trip, without passengers, the new flagship of Celebrity Cruises will join its home port of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Rarely, it will still be nearly two weeks before the boat starts operating. A period that will perfect its preparation and that of its crew, which includes 1377 people of 69 different nationalities. Among them is Nicoline, the first woman of Ghanaian descent to become a bridge officer. "From the beginning, the company wanted to have a month between delivery and the first paid cruises to get the boat out and make sure everything was perfect the day the first passengers boarded," explains Laurent Castaing, general manager of the shipyards. Atlantic.

A women's rights activist as godmother

In the end, the Celebrity Edge will debut on November 26 with to begin presentation navigation reserved for travel agents and the press. His first commercial cruise to the Caribbean will begin onst December, while his official baptism is scheduled in Fort Lauderdale on December 4, with a very special godmother. It will not be, as is often the case, a star of the show business, an artist or a renowned sportswoman. This time, the company wanted to highlight a great cause through Malala Yousafzai. The 21-year-old Pakistani women's rights activist was the victim of an assassination attempt in 2012. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize two years later and became an icon of the struggle for emancipation. girls through education. Her story touched Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President of Celebrity Cruises, who wants to make her company a model of integration, living together and gender equality. "The Celebrity Edge is a revolutionary ship and, for him, we wanted a different godmother, in connection with the foundations of our company. On a boat like this, the crew is made up of 69 nationalities, with different religions, gender and sexual orientation. All can live together in harmony despite the differences, which is a good lesson for everyone. In this company, I have also struggled a lot for gender equality because there are not many women in positions of responsibility. But things are changing and I want women to be important in all areas of business. We have for example Nicoline, who is the first officer from Ghana to become a bridge officer, I hired the third female captain at Celebrity and women now make up 30% of the crew. In this perspective, Malala was the best possible godmother for this ship and we are all very proud that she has accepted this role, "says the boss of the company. Beyond the media aura that it gives to the fight of the young Pakistani, Celebrity Cruises "contributed significantly to the Malala Foundation which allows 130 million women to access education".

So it's a great cause that the Celebrity Edge is carrying for its launch and that the dynamic and tireless Lisa Lutoff-Perlo has a firm intention of sustainably supporting once past festivities.

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo and Laurent Castaing last Friday on the Magic Carpet (© BERNARD BIGER)

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo and Laurent Castaing last Friday on the Magic Carpet (© BERNARD BIGER)

"One of the most innovative cruise ships of all time"

As for the ship, it is very clearly a remarkable step forward for the cruise industry. Laurent Castaing, who is not the type to be poured into grandiloquence, is himself impressed by the result: "Thanks to the confidence that Celebrity Cruises has given us and the level of exceptional cooperation between our respective teams, we are proud of to have designed and built one of the most innovative cruise ships of all time. This achievement demonstrates once again our ability to provide our most demanding customers with high quality vessels on time. It has only been 16 months since this prototype was put on hold and delivered, and in 16 months, reaching such a high level of finish is exceptional. It is a very high-end ship, with a level of decoration and a work in the detail quite special ".

"Small" but very original

Although imposing, the Celebrity Edge, also known in Saint-Nazaire by its number of hull, the "J34", is however far from being the largest liner to have emerged in the estuary of the Loire. 306 meters long for a width of 39 meters at the waterline and a gauge of 129,500 GT, this ship has "only" 1467 cabins. It is greatly outclassed in terms of size by the new MSC or the giants of the class Oasis (362 meters, 228.000 GT, 2750 cabins) of Royal Caribbean International, subsidiary like Celebrity of the American group RCCL. But the J34 is clearly the most original cruise ship to come into service in a decade, since the launch of the first Oasis in 2009.

New design and outstanding performance

The ship adopts a completely new design, both outdoors and indoors. Seen from outside, it is distinguished by its slightly inverted bow, with a bulb built into the base of the bow. This is the most striking aspect of a hull optimized to improve the sea-keeping and the crossing of the waves. During the two test campaigns off Belle-Ile, in July and September, the Celebrity Edge also demonstrated remarkable performance, with an exceptionally low level of noise and vibration, to the point said the pilots of the Loire that they had the impression, when the ship was maneuvering, of being still at the dock (see our article on this subject).

The bow of the Celebrity Edge during its dry dock visit this summer (© MER ET MARINE)

The bow of the Celebrity Edge during its dry dock visit this summer (© MER ET MARINE)

This hull, as well as various technical improvements, have not only improved the boat's sailing capacity, but also significantly reduced fuel consumption. "We are on a decrease of about 20% compared to the ships of the previous generation (the four Millennium from Saint-Nazaire between 2000 and 2002, ed) and this ship is ahead of the regulations in terms of emissions, "explains Laurent Castaing. If the Celebrity Edge is not equipped with LNG propulsion, it has scrubbers (smoke washing devices) to treat sulfur oxides (SOx) but also new SCR systems, big pots Catalysts removing nitrogen oxides (NOx).

A completely asymmetrical boat

On the architectural front, the J34 is also a most original liner. "The structure is very open, with a maximum of light coming in, and it is completely asymmetrical, which represented a real challenge in terms of engineering". No more straight passageways or even longitudinally homogeneous half bridges, classic architecture of shipbuilding to distribute the masses more easily. Here, everything is off-center, from Eden, the large lounge on three levels at the rear, to the Edge Villas suites, located at the top, on the front. Four duplexes of this type are located on the starboard side and only two on the port side. "Eden's design is a good example of how complex this ship is. This space is laid out on several levels and curved, with a ramp against the bay window. Since it is not at all symmetrical, it was difficult to be aware of the result on classical plans. All project reviews were therefore conducted at the virtual reality center of Montoir-de-Bretagne. And when we finished this work of virtual reality, because it was a first and that in this kind of case there is always a doubt, we made a scale model 1 of all of this local. A wooden model in a large alveolus of paint on the site, which was decorated by the decorators and in which came staff and artists to test the proper functioning of the different spaces of Eden.

The Magic Carpet, one of the great novelties of the ship (© MER ET MARINE - VINCENT GROIZELEAU)

The Magic Carpet, one of the great novelties of the ship (© MER ET MARINE – VINCENT GROIZELEAU)

Lifting platform on starboard

The asymmetrical architecture of the liner is linked in particular to the presence, for the first time on a liner, of a large lifting platform evolving, depending on the needs and the time of day, between the waterline and the highest level overlooking the double central pool. Called "Magic Carpet", this large orange structure 30 meters long and 6 meters wide is an idea of ​​Nazi engineers, which Celebrity has taken over. The company was initially seduced by the possibility of using this equipment as a pier when the vessel is at anchor. The Magic Carpet will then be positioned at deck 2, where there is a large passenger reception area, named "Destination Gateway".

One of the tenders overwhelmed last Friday (© MER AND MARINE - VINCENT GROIZELEAU)

One of the tenders overwhelmed last Friday (© MER AND MARINE – VINCENT GROIZELEAU)

The tenders, boats used to transport passengers between the boat and the land, dock at the platform to board and disembark cruisers, facilitating flows but also the safety of operations and comfort of customers. During the waiting phases, they can indeed enjoy the sofas and armchairs Magic Carpet. "It's a real novelty, but since we could not always leave the platform in a low position, we found other uses for it," says Lisa Lutoff-Perlo. "Outside Deck 2, the Magic Carpet will be positioned at Deck 5, where it will serve as an outdoor terrace for the seafood restaurant. It will also come to deck 14 to form an extension of the pool deck with its bar and lounge. And it will be found at deck 16 in the evening to allow our passengers to experience a unique dinner experience with spectacular views. "

The Magic Carpet in dock mode for tenders (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

The Magic Carpet in dock mode for tenders (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

The Magic Carpet (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

The Magic Carpet (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

The Magic Carpet (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

The Magic Carpet (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

The Magic Carpet at the pool deck (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

The Magic Carpet at the pool deck (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Visit just before departure, but no photo inside

Since the announcement of the order of Celebrity Edge in December 2014 (with an initial contract of 1.2 billion euros for the first two copies), the communication around this project has been extremely controlled by the company. During the construction, only one press event was organized, a month and a half ago, which gave rise to the report that we broadcast last September 24th. Before the departure of the ship, Celebrity Cruises, at the request of the shipyards, agreed to welcome Friday, a handful of French media, including Mer and Marine and some local confreres. An exceptional visit led by Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, which allowed us to discover an almost completed ship. Unfortunately, the photos were prohibited, the shipowner wishing to spare the surprise until November 26. We therefore illustrate this article with synthetic images of interior spaces, which are ultimately very close to reality and sometimes even below the final result.

The Celebrity Edge Friday, in the Penhoët Basin (© SEA AND MARINE - VINCENT GROIZELEAU)

The Celebrity Edge Friday, in the Penhoët Basin (© SEA AND MARINE – VINCENT GROIZELEAU)

The Celebrity Edge Friday, in the Penhoët Basin (© SEA AND MARINE - VINCENT GROIZELEAU)

The Celebrity Edge Friday, in the Penhoët Basin (© SEA AND MARINE – VINCENT GROIZELEAU)

This visit was in any case most rewarding to apprehend the quality and the innovative side of this new product. And also, as a bonus, the discovery of certain spaces that, until now, had never been revealed and that the president of the company herself discovered that day.

The Rooftop Garden (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

The Rooftop Garden (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

The outdoor garden

At the back of the upper deck will be the "Rooftop Garden", designed by designer Tom Wright as an outdoor garden. Unlike the company's previous series of cruise ships, the Solstice class, there is no real lawn here. The floor is covered with teak but the space will be embellished with plants with real plants and shrubs. There will be more than 150. The plants will be planted only once the boat arrived on the other side of the Atlantic, in a climate more conducive to their development. This beautiful space, which is heavily wooded, is framed by stylized trees that, beyond the decorative aspect, are designed to cut the wind. The Rooftop Garden has a big screen that will allow you to watch movies under the stars in the evening, while the back has a barbeque grill.

Rooftop Garden grill (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Rooftop Garden grill (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

A pool deck redesigned

In the middle of the ship unfolds the pool deck with a double basin and, above all, an architecture very different from what is traditionally found on a liner. "This space is different from usual pool decks, so we named it Resort Deck because it's more like the resort than the pool deck," says Celebrity Cruises president. On the starboard side, the bridge includes six large cabanas, comfortable private lounges built in a large structure clad in wood, that passengers can book to enjoy this space in a more intimate atmosphere.

The Resort deck (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

The Resort deck (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

The Resort deck (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

The Resort deck (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Cabana on the Resort deck (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Cabana on the Resort deck (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

There are also two whirlpools, which are suspended in structures in the shape of Martini cups. There is also the traditional mezzanine pool deck with rows of deckchairs, but on the port side a gently sloping ramp which again breaks the usual symmetry. This bridge, which will be positioned during the day Magic Carpet (which will not accommodate passengers when it is in motion), also enjoys special attention in terms of lighting, to offer different atmospheres in evening. "There will be a lot of light plays," says Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, who is also waving the metal walls: "Usually the walls are white on the ships. Here, we wanted to dress them by involving artists, who decorated them.

The Resort Deck is extended to the front and back by a large buffet, as well as an indoor pool with a very original architecture under an amazing glass dome.

The indoor pool (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

The indoor pool (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

A superb VIP complex

The front of the ship, on its high part, hosts the space "Retreat", a magnificent complex designed by the architect Kelly Hoppen. It is reserved exclusively for the passengers of the 174 suites of the ship (12% of the cabins). This set includes a sun deck with pool and hot tub, a coffee shop, a lounge and a restaurant, all en suite.

The sun deck of the Retreat space (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

The sun deck of the Retreat space (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

The living room of the space Retreat (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

The living room of the space Retreat (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

The Retreat Space's Luminae Restaurant (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

The Retreat Space's Luminae Restaurant (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Sumptuous suites

At the level of the suites, we were able to visit the two most imposing categories and, clearly, they are like the rest of the boat at the height of what had been announced. First there are the six Edge Villas of 88 m², furnished in duplex with living room overlooking a large balcony with a jacuzzi. An imposing bay window over the entire height, up to the bedroom upstairs, offers a splendid view of the sea. These suites have been imagined as real apartments without vis-à-vis or opportunity to see inside.

Edge Villa (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Edge Villa (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Edge Villa (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Edge Villa (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Edge Villa (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Edge Villa (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Views of the dock the four Edge Villas located on starboard (© SEA AND MARINE - VINCENT GROIZELEAU)

Views of the dock the four Edge Villas located on starboard (© SEA AND MARINE – VINCENT GROIZELEAU)

Even more impressive, the two sumptuous Iconic Suites of 230 m² are located just above the wheelhouse. A huge living / dining room opens onto a large bay window with a spectacular 90-degree panorama to the bow and one side of the ship. The view is breathtaking from the master bedroom, bow-oriented bed that is embellished on the back of a luxurious and very large bathroom. To avoid blocking the field of vision, the large television retracts into the ceiling. The second bedroom, also with its own bathroom and a large dressing room, is located on the other side of the suite, with a door that opens onto an imposing terrace, also accessible from the living room. The terraces of the two Iconic Suites actually occupy the surface of the bridge flaps.

Iconic Suite Living / Dining Room (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Iconic Suite Living / Dining Room (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Master bedroom of an Iconic Suite (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Master bedroom of an Iconic Suite (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Iconic Suite secondary room (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Iconic Suite secondary room (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Terrace of an Iconic Suite (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Terrace of an Iconic Suite (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Very successful cabins

The Celebrity Edge has other categories of suites (Penthouse, Royal, Celebrity Sky) but also cabins, smaller but all very successful and comfortable. In soft tones, with lots of wood veneers in a very Nordic style, marble in large and very beautiful bathrooms or shower, these cabins are distinguished by their design and many small tricks. "There is a lot of attention to the small details. For example, in all the cabins of the ship, electrical outlets and connectors are hidden in what looks like a small wooden jewelry box. This avoids having the wires to drag everywhere and, in the process, facilitates the work of the cabiniers for the daily household.

Penthouse (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Penthouse (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Sky Suite (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Sky Suite (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Balconies replaced by verandas

A major novelty of this vessel lies in the Infinity Verandas, which are nearly 900 on board and therefore constitute the main category of cabins. In these, the traditional outdoor balcony has been removed and replaced by a veranda. The cabin extends de facto to the bay window, directly above the ship. The upper half of it, controlled by a switch, can be lowered and transform this space into a balcony open on the outside. "It's very innovative and it's an extension of the cabins and makes the whole ship outward. Thanks to this concept, the surface of the cabins is 23% larger and this will offer our passengers a unique experience of projection towards the sea with a completely clear view ", welcomes Lisa Lutoff-Perlo. Finished also the big curtains of cloth, place to a fine curtain integrated in the ceiling and which unfolds to order in front of the bay window, while the part balcony can be separated from the cabin by folding glass panels.

Cabin with veranda (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Cabin with veranda (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

This type of balcony is already used on river cruise ships but it is a first for a sea liner. This has also represented some technical challenges in adapting these retractable windows to the marine environment. "They have to be able to withstand 200 km / h of wind and have to be extremely reliable. We have already tested several tens of hundreds of times, including during sea trials, "notes Laurent Castaing.

Grand Plaza atrium (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Grand Plaza atrium (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Grand Plaza atrium (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Grand Plaza atrium (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

A portion of bare hull left in the sight of passengers

At the heart of the ship is the Grand Plaza, an atrium that unfolds on three levels, with on the sides access to the outdoor promenade bridge, but also restaurants, lounges and bars. He too is asymmetrical and has preserved spurs, some inclined, which contribute to the strength of the structure while giving a small industrial stamp. A desire of the French architect firm Jouin Manku, who imagined the Grand Plaza and other spaces of the ship, including an astonishing runway. The decor of this one was designed to give a glimpse of progressively, according to the direction of the march, the bare metal hull of the ship, which is revealed behind judiciously positioned panels. "It's a tribute to the construction of the boat and those who made it," says the president of the company, which one of the favorite spaces is also signed Jouin Manku. This is the magnificent staircase overlooking the restaurants, which wraps around a beautiful giant clock.

The clock and the stairs, even more beautiful in real life (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

The clock and the stairs, even more beautiful in real life (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Four main restaurants

The Celebrity Edge has many dining options, including four main dining halls, each accommodating approximately 350 passengers. "These four restaurants have their own design and a different theme. 75% of the dishes offered are identical and 25% are specific. There is the American-inspired Cosmopolitan Restaurant, the Tuscan dedicated to Italy where still Cyprus with its Mediterranean cuisine and dishes from the Greek gastronomy, which recall that before being American, Celebrity was a company Hellenic. It was founded in 1989 by the Greek shipowner John Chandris and taken over in 1997 by RCCL. The famous "X", symbol of the company, dates from this first life and comes from the fact that the "Ch" is written with an X in the Greek alphabet. This letter was traditionally placed on the chimneys of the company's ships. With the Celebrity Edge, it's the double fireplace itself that takes the form of an X.

The Tuscan restaurant with its Milanese style (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

The Tuscan restaurant with its Milanese style (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Cyprus Restaurant (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Cyprus Restaurant (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

The Cosmopolitan Restaurant (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

The Cosmopolitan Restaurant (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Decorative elements of the former liner Normandy

Finally, the fourth and last main restaurant of the liner is Normandy, which offers French-inspired dishes. This space owes its name to the former French ship, out of Nazi shipyards in 1935. Considered one of the most beautiful liners ever built, the mythical liner, which sank after a fire in the port of New York in February 1942, left only memories, but also collector's items, treasured by museums and collectors. This is the case of lacquered panels that adorned the smokehouse of Normandy and which had been acquired (as well as a bronze statue) by Celebrity Cruises for the decoration of the Summit, third of the four ships of the Millennium class, delivered in 2001 by Chantiers de l'Atlantique. His sisterships had also embarked on works inherited from old ships, namely the RMS Olympic for the Millennium, the SS United States for the Infinity and the Ile de France for the Constellation. "We had original panels of Normandy on the Summit and we took the opportunity to restore and integrate them in this restaurant of our new ship, which we decided to give the name of Normandy. It's a nice nod to the construction sites, "says Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, who reveals in passing that Laurent Castaing was particularly sensitive to this initiative, his grandfather having worked as an engineer on Normandy. In addition to these panels, beautiful replicas of Lalique glassware on the former French liner, as well as magnificent chandeliers and lamps in the form of candlesticks, contribute to give this place a very specific atmosphere.

Normandy restaurant (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Normandy restaurant (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Unique pieces

These four dining rooms are the image of the ship, with a very original and successful decoration, borrows a lot of taste and marked by a remarkable attention to detail, that to the ceilings. As for every space of the ship, most of the furniture, the decoration and the works of art were specially imagined and produced for the boat.

Like all modern cruise ships, the Celebrity Edge will offer many amenities and activities to its passengers. It features, for example, a new architecture theater, with an advanced stage to the public and huge video screens that will give a new dimension to the shows offered in the evening. There is obviously a casino, disco and concert hall on two floors or many shops, as well as a beautiful wellness center.

The theater (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

The theater (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

The disco (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

The disco (© CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Finally a Spa worthy of the name at Celebrity

A Spa that is a great success, which deserves to be highlighted because, so far, this type of equipment was not the highlight of Celebrity or elsewhere Royal Caribbean International. With Edge, the owner finally has a wellness center at the top level. Here again, the decoration is splendid, from the entrance where the designers have imagined a mineral reception desk, as carved in stone and whose rounded lines marry those of the staircase located in the background. "It's a very bright and luminous space, like the main part of the ship, for which we wanted to bring as much outside light as possible, including, wherever possible, large windows. Nous avons aussi passé énormément de temps avec les designers pour étudier les moindres détails et donner de perspectives visuelles différentes selon les espaces ».

Le Spa ( © CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Le Spa ( © CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Le Spa ( © CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Le Spa ( © CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Le Spa ( © CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Le Spa ( © CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Le Spa comprend notamment 24 salles de soins pour des massages, traitements du corps et du visage ou encore des séances de blanchiment des dents. Il y a également de très beaux thermes, avec vue sur la mer, panneaux verticaux et fauteuils de pierre chauffants, plusieurs hammams, une salle de traitement par le sel (Salt Room) et une autre par cristaux (Crystalarium), un sauna à infrarouge et une enfilade de douches avec différentes fonctions (brumisateur, pluie tropicale…). Le centre de bien-être est agrémenté d’un coiffeur, un barbier et un espace de manucure et pédicure.

Un espace non prévu créé en quelques mois

Clou du spectacle, Eden, sur l’arrière du paquebot. L’idée d’intégrer un grand salon panoramique à la poupe a été inaugurée avec la série des Quantum of the Seas, dont le premier exemplaire est sorti en 2015 des chantiers allemands Meyer Werft. A l’époque, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo travaillait d’ailleurs chez Royal Caribbean International. Avec la classe Edge, Celebrity pousse le concept encore plus loin, avec l’ambition de propulser les passagers dans un autre univers. L’expérience débute dès la coursive donnant accès à ce salon. Un espace qui n’a pas encore été révélé publiquement. « Nous l’avons baptisé Voyage vers Eden, c’est un espace immersif avec une ambiance mystérieuse et magique ». Longue d’une dizaine de mètres, cette coursive a vu ses parois recouvertes de vitres et accueille une série de sculptures laissant imaginer des troncs d’arbres dorés. Le sol et le plafond, très sombres, ainsi que les jeux de lumière et les reflets dans les vitres, qui engendrent un effet visuel de grande profondeur, donnent l’impression de traverser une étrange forêt. Pour la petite histoire, cet espace n’était pas prévu dans les plans initiaux. « Il y a six mois, c’était un simple corridor mais, lors d’une visite, Lisa et Richard Fain (le président de RCCL, ndlr) ont dit qu’on ne pouvait pas laisser cet espace en l’état, il fallait imaginer quelque chose », confie Laurent Castaing.

Eden ( © CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Eden ( © CELEBRITY CRUISES)

Eden, le joyau du navire

L’arrivée dans Eden, encore un vaste chantier il y a quelques semaines, est à la hauteur des espérances. Imaginé par les designers Patricia Urquiola et Scott Butler, ce salon sur trois niveaux est réellement unique, avec ses différentes plateformes et sa décoration très originales. Là aussi, il y a énormément de végétaux, tous naturels, y compris des cascades de plantes intégrées dans les murs principaux, constitués d’éléments formant de gigantesques panneaux de ruches, dont les alvéoles ouvertes laissent s’échapper la verdure. « Toutes les plantes et les végétaux à bord sont vraies. C’est un choix que nous avons imposé, même si les designers nous ont proposé des plantes synthétiques, nous avons préféré le naturel », souligne Lisa Lutoff-Perlo. Eden, évidemment inspiré du jardin merveilleux de la Genèse, se veut comme un lieu de détente et de relaxation. Il pourra aussi accueillir des spectacles en soirée. On pourra aussi y prendre son petit-déjeuner où venir s’y restaurer à midi. L’une des particularités de ce lieu est, encore une fois, son asymétrie, qui se voient jusqu’à l’extérieur du navire où l’immense baie vitrée est penchée. Derrière, on trouve une grande rampe en pente douce qui part du niveau du pont promenade sur tribord pour s’élever trois étages plus haut. Tout le long se trouvent des banquettes et autres sièges permettant de profiter de la vue.

Vendredi soir dans le bassin de Penhoët ( © MER ET MARINE - VINCENT GROIZELEAU)

Vendredi soir dans le bassin de Penhoët ( © MER ET MARINE – VINCENT GROIZELEAU)

Une superbe réussite

Au final, le Celebrity Edge constitue une très grande réussite pour les chantiers nazairiens et leurs sous-traitants, par exemple les agenceurs tels Paul Champs qui a réalisé en particulier Eden ou Ateliers Normand en charge notamment du Spa. Avec ce navire, Saint-Nazaire revient de manière remarquable sur le marché des paquebots haut de gamme et participe du même coup à l’écriture d’une nouvelle page dans l’histoire de l’industrie de la croisière. Grâce à cette prouesse technique et architecturale, Celebrity Cruises va en effet impulser de nouveaux standards et a osé, ce qui n’était pas arrivé depuis bien longtemps, lancer un navire au design réellement différent, qui tranche radicalement avec les bateaux mis en service depuis plusieurs décennies. Un choix audacieux, qui à l’image des nouveaux styles en matière d’art fait rarement l’unanimité à ses débuts. Avec son allure si particulière, si inhabituelle, le Celebrity Edge ne manque évidemment pas de provoquer l’ire des « puristes » et autres nostalgiques des paquebots d’antan. Ceux-là même qui n’imagineraient pas une seconde voler aujourd’hui en DC-3 ou rouler en Traction Avant… L’armateur n’en a cure et assume sa décision, d’autant que l’essentiel de ces critiques proviennent de gens qui ne connaissent pas la croisière et par principe refusent d’envisager des vacances sur un tel navire.

Gros succès commercial pour le lancement

Ce qui importe en revanche pour la compagnie, c’est la manière dont son nouveau fleuron est reçu par le marché. Et de ce point de vue, le succès est au rendez-vous. Ainsi, avant même sa mise en service, l’engouement pour ce nouveau bateau, traduit par un niveau de réservation très élevé, prouve que la compagnie a eu raison d’innover et de briser les codes habituels. « Nous avions des attentes commerciales très ambitieuses pour ce navire mais les réservations sont encore plus importantes que ce que nous espérions », se félicite Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, qui désire que cette nouveauté, au-delà de la clientèle habituelle, suscite des vocations chez les vacanciers. « Ce que je souhaite avec un navire comme celui-ci, c’est qu’il donne envie à des gens qui n’ont jamais navigué d’embarquer et de vivre l’expérience que nous leur proposons ».

Le Celebrity Edge après son départ de Saint-Nazaire hier après-midi ( © BERNARD BIGER)

Le Celebrity Edge après son départ de Saint-Nazaire hier après-midi ( © BERNARD BIGER)

Un produit haut de gamme mais accessible

Celebrity Cruises est positionnée sur un segment particulier, le « Modern Luxury », c’est-à-dire un produit haut de gamme, « premium + », mais qui ne se range pas, du fait de sa taille et de sa capacité, dans la catégorie du luxe. « Nous avons un positionnement unique sur le marché. Un navire comme celui-ci est très moderne, luxueux et confortable, mais il est aussi accessible ». La taille et le nombre de passagers à bord permet en effet de réaliser des économies d’échelle et donc de proposer des prix très attractifs (à partir de 1350 euros par personne actuellement pour une semaine à bord du Edge vers les Caraïbes en janvier 2019). Cela, dans un environnement qui n’a rien à envier aux compagnies de luxe en matière de design, Celebrity étant également très réputée pour la qualité de son service et de sa gastronomie.

Développer le marché européen

S’appuyant sur une clientèle majoritairement anglo-saxonne, Celebrity Cruises souhaite développer ses parts de marché à l’international. C’est la raison pour laquelle le Celebrity Edge, après sa saison hivernale aux Caraïbes, sera repositionné en Europe, où la compagnie veut continuer de développer sa clientèle. A partir de la fin avril, il sillonnera la Méditerranée avec comme ports d’embarquement Barcelone et Civitavecchia. Quant à son premier sistership, le Celebrity Apex, dont la mise sur cale est intervenue le 31 octobre à Saint-Nazaire, il sera proposé dès sa livraison au printemps 2020 au départ de Southampton.

Alors que Celebrity Cruises a entrepris de rénover le reste de sa flotte, qui comprend notamment les quatre Millennium et les cinq Solstice, la compagnie devra au cours de la prochaine décennie remplacer les premiers, qui vont bientôt atteindre la vingtaine d’années d’exploitation. « Pour construire, il faut être sûr que le marché réagisse et l’on ne peut pas prédire l’avenir. Il est encore trop tôt pour dire si les Millennium seront remplacés par une nouvelle classe de navires », explique la présidente de la compagnie. Celle-ci a en effet encore quelques années devant elle pour prendre sa décision, qui pourrait aussi consister à voir la série des Edge allongée pour succéder aux Millennium.

La commande d’un cinquième Edge à l’horizon

Pour l’heure, quatre de ces nouveaux paquebots ont été commandés. Après le Celebrity Edge, son premier jumeau, le Celebrity Apex, sortira comme on l’a vu en 2020. Il y a quelques mois, nous vous révélions que des discussions étaient en cours pour ajouter une cinquième unité à cette classe. Un projet qui semble prendre corps puisque dans le communiqué diffusé au moment de la livraison du J34, Celebrity Cruises a bel et bien mentionné l’Edge 5 : « Celebrity Edge sera rejoint par son sistership, le Celebrity Apex, en 2020. Trois autres navires de la série Edge suivront en 2021, 2022 et 2023 », écrit la compagnie. Aux chantiers, on indique cependant que le contrat pour ce cinquième navire n’a pas encore été signé.

Confiance retrouvée entre Saint-Nazaire et RCCL

Quoiqu’il en soit, après la réussite des Harmony of the Seas et Symphony of the Seas, livrés en 2016 et 2018 (voir notre reportage à bord), puis maintenant le Edge, Saint-Nazaire est parvenu à renouer des liens très forts avec RCCL. C’est avec ce client historique que le chantier a pris le tournant de la croisière dans les années 80, avant de se brouiller avec l’armateur américain au début des années 2000 suite aux problèmes de propulsion rencontrés par les Millennium à leurs débuts. Une page aujourd’hui définitivement tournée, comme en témoigne la confiance affichée par l’armateur. « Vous pouvez être très fiers qu’un navire comme le Celebrity Edge soit construit en France. C’est un chantier qui fait des navires merveilleux et nous avons établi une relation formidable », se félicite Lisa Lutoff-Perlo. Quant à Richard Fain, il n’a pas non plus été avare de compliments lors de la livraison du J34 : « Je ne saurais trop remercier l’équipe des Chantiers de l’Atlantique d’avoir mené à bien la construction de ce navire révolutionnaire, et du partenariat qui nous lie. Leur travail continue de transformer la manière dont nos clients perçoivent le monde qui les entoure ».

Le Symphony of the Seas juste avant son départ en mars dernier ( © MER ET MARINE - VINCENT GROIZELEAU)

Le Symphony of the Seas juste avant son départ en mars dernier ( © MER ET MARINE – VINCENT GROIZELEAU)

Nouvel âge d’or pour les chantiers

L’aventure commune va donc continuer avec la poursuite de la série des Edge pour Celebrity, mais aussi celle des Oasis de Royal Caribbean International. Un nouveau géant de ce type sortira des chantiers nazairiens dès 2021 alors que deux autres sont en négociation pour des livraisons en 2023 et 2026. Sans oublier les réflexions en cours pour de nouvelles classes de paquebots. En plus de RCCL, Saint-Nazaire peut aussi compter sur son autre client principal, l’armateur italo-suisse MSC Cruises, pour lequel il doit livrer en 2019 deux navires, les Bellissima et Grandiosa, puis six autres entre 2020 et 2026. Vont s’y ajouter les nouveaux bâtiments logistiques de la Marine nationale, avec quatre ravitailleurs en perspective dont les deux premiers doivent être opérationnels entre 2022 et 2025. Et les Chantiers de l’Atlantique travaillent sur d’autres projets, qu’il s’agisse de navires ou de sous-stations électriques pour des champs éoliens offshore en France et à l’étranger. De quoi garnir durablement un plan de charge à un niveau historiquement élevé. « Après le départ du Celebrity Edge nous aurons quatre navire simultanément en construction et un cinquième s’y ajoutera d’ici la fin de l’année. Saint-Nazaire est sans doute l’endroit dans le monde où l’on construit actuellement le plus de paquebots. L’activité atteint un niveau jamais vu depuis une cinquantaine d’années, mais à l’époque le chantier était rempli de pétroliers », souligne Laurent Castaing. Conséquence directe de cette bonne santé retrouvée et de cette vision à long terme, le dernier grand constructeur civil français, dont les effectifs sont remontés à près de 3000 salariés, multiplie les embauches. Quelques 150 recrutements annuels sont prévus pour les années qui viennent dans une cinquantaine de métiers différents, du soudeur à l’ingénieur.

( © MER ET MARINE - VINCENT GROIZELEAU)

( © MER ET MARINE – VINCENT GROIZELEAU)

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