In the new cruise world of instant gratification from your cell phone or other techy hardware at sea, don’t forget that someone, somewhere, may be watching. Such is the case when you allow an app on your smart phone to send and receive information. Many of the new cruise ships are moving swiftly in this direction. No problem, unless you prefer to keep your whereabouts private.
The possibility of a need to retreat alone or to hide an occasional indiscretion came to my attention on the sparkling new Celebrity Edge, cruising to the Caribbean out of Fort Lauderdale. My convoluted mind kept wandering back to the feeling I was being followed by a master computer connected to the Celebrity Edge app that I downloaded onto my phone, as instructed pre-cruise.
The app button is programmed to engage in all sorts of tasks and missions, starting with an easy boarding in Fort Lauderdale using check-in through facial recognition technology. Once onboard, not only does the app know your schedule, your account balance, and your restaurant reservations, but it also can open your cabin door, draw the drapes, and change the temperature.
Coming soon: Order a drink, the Edge will find you
Soon, the Celebrity Edge app will be programmed to allow you to order a drink from your phone to be delivered wherever you happen to be on the ship (though, I would assume, not in the men’s room). The drink feature is a reminder that when you carry your cell phone, somebody always knows where you are.
For some cruisers, one of the great freedoms on a big ship is anonymity — wandering around an exciting city at sea where nobody knows your name and those who do are not privy to your exact location. Asked about privacy and how to make certain your cell phone doesn’t give you away, officials on Celebrity Edge replied that passengers could just turn off their phones. You might want to tuck that information away, just in case.
The 2,918-passenger Edge is a techy wonder, designed to provide out-of-the-box experiences, especially for young vacationers and those who never have cruised due to a fear of boredom. Stow the fear: Celebrity Edge is off the charts, full of vim and trim, and ready to entertain.
Consider the gardenesque Eden, three stories of glass, high at the aft end of the ship.
While news reports about Celebrity Edge tend to focus on the odd tangerine-colored, tennis-court-sized platform called the Magic Carpet — it hangs over the side of the ship as a bar and occasionally is available for dinner — my recommendation for a titillating experience is to book a meal (fee of $65) and spend an evening at Eden. This earthy playground triples as casual breakfast spot, daytime hangout, and scene for a night of edgy performance art that slides in, out, and around the huge room. Arrive early, heading to the bar about 6 p.m., stay late.
My second techy restaurant choice would be dinner at Le Grand Bistro, for Le Petit Chef ($55 fee) where four animated chefs dash around your dinner plate.
In addition to being a venue for consuming a beverage in the breeze, the ballyhooed Magic Carpet does have an appeal if your cruise includes a port stop during which the ship does not dock but anchors offshore, dropping some smaller boats into the water to ferry you into town. On most cruise ships, these “tenders” are cramped, hard-seated boats that can be steamy and stuffy inside and difficult to board, often involving some sort of ladder or steep steps.
Celebrity Cruises has one-upped the competition by building three special tenders for Edge that are pleasant to ride and substantial enough in size — they carry their own inflatable lifeboats — to be called launches.
With plush seats and air conditioning, they belly up to the Magic Carpet for boarding after the platform is lowered from its lofty perch to the water’s edge, making the transition from ship to tender much easier. The ride to shore is a cruise within a cruise.
Royal Caribbean International, which owns Celebrity Cruises, also has based its other new, high-tech ship in South Florida. Symphony of the Seas, world’s largest cruise ship (for now), sails to the Caribbean out of Miami with my new favorite techy attraction — an awesome game of glow-in-the-dark Laser Tag.
Laser Tag is an intense, fast-paced competition set up during the day in Studio B, which is the same venue used in the evenings for the spectacular “1977” ice show (make sure you attend this performance, which, like Laser Tag, does not charge a fee).
According to the Laser Tag back story, my wife and I were participating in an epic battle for control of a planet between a robot civilization and aliens from another solar system. As a first-time laser tagger, my own epic battle was learning how and where to aim my weapon while dodging lasers shot at me from around corners and through windows in a dimly lighted, multi-colored maze of hallways. As aliens, we aimed at the robot vests with red lights, not at our colleagues with the yellow lights, during a 10-minute battle, while constantly moving, shooting, and dodging.
At the end, a lighted board displays the winning team and number of hits for each robot and alien. My wife and I had such fun that we returned the next day for another battle.
A tip for laser tag novices: If you are cruising as a couple you may want to consider your competitiveness and comfort level in shooting at each other during the competition that can be rather intense. My wife and I chose to play on the same team, which turned out well, though we seriously compared our individual scores displayed on the big board after each match.
Story and photos by David G. Molyneaux