Celebrity Cruises just delivered the fourth ship in its Edge-class series: the Celebrity Ascent. I was the first to see it — take a look inside.
This week, I was one of the first to see the brand-new Celebrity Ascent as it was delivered from the shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France. It's the fourth ship in Celebrity Cruises' Edge class and will sail the Caribbean this winter. On the same day, the cruise line announced that Edge-class ship No. 5, coming in 2025, will be called Celebrity Xcel.
Saint-Nazaire, a small coastal city in France, is one of the few places in the world where cruise ships are born. Cruise ships aren't built by cruise lines themselves, but rather by specialized manufacturers. In Saint-Nazaire is the Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard, established more than 160 years ago. They've just completed construction on Celebrity Cruises' newest vessel.
The day started quietly with the simple act of signing paperwork, which transferred control of Celebrity Ascent from Chantiers to Celebrity. Then, the fun began. More than 1,000 crew had already taken residence on board to prepare the ship for its departure from Saint-Nazaire, and they were joined by VIP guests, including government officials, Celebrity executives, and of course, the captains of the ship: brothers Dimitrios and Tasos Kafetzis. We all gathered on the sun deck to witness the traditional changing of the flag, from the French flag representing Chantiers to the American flag representing Celebrity.
"We have a lot of ceremonial affairs in our business, some of it superstitious in nature. The ability to kind of celebrate events like this is very special to us," said Jason Liberty, the president and CEO of Royal Caribbean Group, in an interview with Travel + Leisure.
The 3,260-passenger, 1,073-foot-long Celebrity Ascent is the fourth ship in the cruise line's Edge class, following Celebrity Edge, Celebrity Apex, and Celebrity Beyond. I sailed on Celebrity Edge after its launch back in 2018, and noticed right away that Celebrity Ascent was not a twin, but an evolution of the class. And that's by design.
"On the guest side, we're very, very grounded in what our guests are telling us, understanding what were things that worked as we had expected, better than we had expected. And what are things that we might want to tweak? That's a constant journey that we're on," Liberty said. He notes that over time, guest interests and needs change, too, so the design of the ships must always consider both the passengers of today and of tomorrow — as well as the needs of the crew. "Operationally, our crew gives us a lot of feedback. Sometimes you design what you think is a perfect space, but operationally, it can be a little bit challenging," he said.
As I toured Celebrity Ascent, I certainly saw elements that have carried over from ship to ship in the Edge class, like the grand Eden space in the stern, an immersive multifloor, multipurpose venue that changes from restaurant to entertainment venue over the course of an evening. Some smaller design elements remain the same, too, such as the black rattan hanging chairs in the spa's thermal suite, surrounded by greenery and black-and-white tiles.
But perhaps more noticeable were the design changes. From the get-go, Celebrity tapped world-class designers to devise striking interiors throughout the ship, from Nate Berkus to Kelly Hoppen. That deeply rooted design focus hasn't changed, but the look of some of the spaces has. One particular change that caught my eye was the addition of Le Voyage, a restaurant by Daniel Boulud, which was first introduced on Celebrity Beyond. On Celebrity Ascent, the space is awash in a Champagne palette dominated by striking lighting embedded in the ceiling and the walls. A semi-private dining room is cocooned by scalloped green walls and anchored by a bold marbled table, mirrored by a marble-pattern rug.
But the changes between ships go far beyond what's visible to guests. The engines on Celebrity Ascent, for instance, are designed to be easily upgraded for future innovations in greener fuels — namely, a transition to methanol, an alternative that emits far less carbon than traditional fuels, and eventually to an even more sustainable fuel called green methanol. As I learned earlier in the day, that transition is on its way.
Before we celebrated Celebrity Ascent's delivery, we were treated to a special steel-cutting ceremony for the next Edge-class ship, Celebrity Xcel, due to be delivered in 2025. That ship will have the first tri-fuel engines in the Royal Caribbean Group fleet. "These engines will allow us to burn traditional fuels as well as methanol," Liberty said. "And then as we can get methanol from its current state to be green methanol, then that ship is able to be net zero." The company hopes to achieve net zero by 2050.
The steel-cutting provided a rather poetic sentiment to the day. Shortly after the celebrations, Celebrity Ascent departed Saint-Nazaire for a transatlantic journey to the Caribbean, where it will spend the winter season. But there's little rest for the builders at Chantiers — the cycle now begins anew with Celebrity Xcel.
Seven-night Caribbean itineraries on Celebrity Ascent start from $767 per person; book your voyage at celebritycruises.com.
For more Travel & Leisure news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!
Read the original article on Travel & Leisure.