PHOTO: Eden rendered at night aboard Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Edge. (photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises)

Admittedly, I was blown away by what Celebrity Cruises recently presented for Eden on its upcoming Celebrity Edge. The ship is still under construction, yet the mockup of the new restaurant experience was a stunner.

It’s also likely to be the first of many in an innovative line of new hybrid specialty dining and entertainment options at sea.

Up until now, specialty restaurants have been mostly about elevated cuisine, sometimes with a theme but usually without an entertainment element. If they have incorporated any sort of singing and dancing, they have fallen more under the dinner theater category that Celebrity Cruises is deliberately striving to avoid.

Alternatively, Eden is a transformative experience where the line between dining and entertainment is decidedly blurred. The evening’s setting takes inspiration from pristine nature and the Bible’s original sin narrative of good versus evil. It’s all very provocative and multi-sensory.

Whereas a previous specialty restaurant like Qsine could easily apply to several ships in the fleet thanks to a menu that’s easily repeated, Eden’s will include varied dishes, but with a more singular story that might not translate well to Celebrity Beyond during 2020 and Edge-class three and four in 2021 and 2022 respectively.

I suspect each ship will instead get its own variant venue and distinct theme, just as vessels feature their own unique headlining Broadway-style shows these days. Celebrity Cruises has effectively raised the bar on specialty dining so high that it has also essentially self-imposed a challenge to innovate more regularly.

READ MORE: Celebrity Takes New Eden to the Edge

Prior to Eden, specialty entertainment was primarily reserved for exclusive concert events available to guests at subsidized prices. Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival LIVE program is the most ubiquitous, but even Celebrity Cruises offered something similar when four of its ships came together in the Caribbean during 2016 for the chance to see Demi Lovato perform outside of Port St. Maarten.

Now, Eden is uniquely combining the worlds of specialty dining and specialty entertainment, and we currently have no idea yet what it will cost.

With a current surcharge of $95 per person for dinner, Disney Cruise Line’s Remy is up there in price for specialty dining. Even Celebrity Cruises’ corporate cousin Royal Caribbean International has a more traditional mystery dinner theater that costs $79. So, it stands to reason that Eden could come in somewhere near the two if not more.

After all, sea urchin is on the menu and that is ordinarily reserved for pricier luxury lines.

READ MORE: The Current and Future State of Cruise Specialty Entertainment

Of course, what goes around comes around, and surely other cruise lines will emulate Celebrity’s new model.

Might Carnival next consider expanding Carnival LIVE events with dining packages or expand it further to more closely incorporate the two? The brand’s sea day brunch initially featured periodic comedy sets, (for free, mind you), but the comedians were eventually pulled in favor of the food exclusively.

So, a more integrated approach might be better.

Will Celebrity’s closest direct competitor, Holland America Line, feel pressured to try its hand at something similar? It is also possible but less likely. The brand is now more focused on destination explorations with a renewed interest in updating its observation lounges accordingly. In time, more entertainment could be introduced, though Celebrity did not succeed when it combined Cirque du Soleil with its forward-facing venues.

Celebrity looks to have a winning formula in place for Eden now, and other lines will certainly follow down the rabbit hole eventually. However, they may take a wait-and-see attitude first before committing any of their own creative resources.

This post first appeared on TravelPulse.

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