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  • Writer's pictureJason Leppert

Celebrity Takes New Eden to the Edge

PHOTO: Eden rendered on Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Edge. (photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises)

Tuesday night at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in New York City, Celebrity Cruises revealed its latest dining and entertainment concept for its upcoming Celebrity Edge.

Due to launch in December 2018, Eden will transport guests to a unique multipurpose venue inspired by nature, populated by “Edenists” and filled to the brim with tantalizing tastes and enthralling experiences.

Emerging from the famed Fibonacci sequence’s golden spiral will be the massive triple-decker space at the new ship’s stern complete with a 90-meter meandering ramp. It will be enclosed in 7,000 square feet of glass overlooking the wake.

According to Celebrity, that’s more outward-facing translucent surface than any other room at sea before it.

Volumetrically, Eden comes in at an astounding 368,640 cubic feet, larger than New York’s own Hayden Planetarium.

Charged with designing the space are veteran Scott Butler of Wilson Butler Architects and acclaimed designer Patricia Urquiola, who is tackling a cruise ship for her first time. As for the entertainment element, Director David Ley and Variety Worldwide are crafting what Richard D. Fain, Chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. points out is not dinner theater but rather “performance dining.”

Just like Eden’s three stories, its concept is segmented by three descriptions: Chillful, Playful and Sinful.

The space is also multifaceted with a Tree of Life sculpture as the central focal point surrounded by an Eden Bar and 18-foot Library of Plants behind it where fresh ingredients can be plucked from.

Of course, the expanse of windows will also let it serve as an observation lounge—quite similar to Two70 on corporate cousin Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum class ships. (Here’s hoping the Celebrity Edge has a traditional forward-facing observation lounge as well.)

By day, a cafe will serve complimentary breakfasts and lunches. Early activities will include everything from yoga to reading a book prior to interactive enrichment seminars, tastings and live sitar and aerial performances. Come time for Eve at Eden, prime time dinners will be available for an as yet undisclosed surcharge where Edenists—not to be confused with hedonists Fain jokes—will engage with and serve guests.

The reveal event at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden actually gave those in attendance a much fuller preview of what to expect than was initially anticipated. In fact, it seemed all the elements were represented save for the final venue itself. At the very least, there was a narrow canvas mockup of the restaurant’s actual 32-foot height, which fellow Apple Store fans will be interested to note matches the exact height of the glass cube outside the flagship Manhattan Fifth Avenue shop.

Celebrity has always been an innovator of culinary spaces, particularly with its Qsine specialty restaurants that in many ways influenced Royal Caribbean’s recent Wonderland dining rooms.

It would seem that Eden is a fusion of the two, bringing the design evolution full circle back to the brand where it all began. There are elements of whimsy and surprise familiar to fans of Qsine, and then there are again references to the literary work of Lewis Carroll.

Where Eden is completely new, however, is in its take on the Bible’s creation narrative.

The cast of characters includes representations of Adam and Eve as well as the serpent plus a potpourri of playful angels and harmless demons. Meanwhile, the devil and God look on.

Are we to interpret the curious, out-of-place Mad Hatter-like roller skater as a deity? In either case, the interactions among guests are intriguing, such as a man with a conch shell placing it on your ear only for the sound of the ocean to unexpectedly conclude with a ringing bell.

Pre-dinner cocktails are wonderful.

The Passion & Poison with house mandarin-infused vodka, simple syrup, lime juice and passion fruit is a refreshing splash with a surprisingly spicy kick. Also, Mary’s Rose with Jamaican rum, Fernet-Branca, cola syrup, fresh lime, rose water, Mexican coke and soda is a sparkling delight that goes down a bit smoother.

The Edenists call guests do dinner with bells and ethereal music as they pantomime and invite them to their tables.

Celebrity’s Associate Vice President, Food and Beverage Operations, Cornelius Gallagher is equally a part of the event with incredible food creations that match the elevated performances.

I mean, a Descending Frost starter of sea urchin, fluke, shiso leaf and spicy melon alone would impress, but the fact that it is served atop a transparent bowl of live goldfish as dry ice is grated over the dish is simply amazing. The balance of flavors and textures was also just superb.

Next, I was invited by one of the Edenists to stand up and close my eyes.

She asked me to slowly follow her as bells continued to ring—a recurring theme. Admittedly, I was a bit nervous as I’m not one to enjoy being on stage. But I went with it, and I’m glad that I did.

I was actually equally relaxed as well. There is a spa-like atmosphere to the whole experience with performers occasionally gently touching your back as they pass you. With my eyes still closed, she let me be for a moment before the ringing escalated louder around my ears as they asked me to open them. I was at the center of the restaurant space, with a few others who were invited up, in a zen calm before returning to the table to finish my meal. Altogether, the trust exercise was a freeing experience.

My entree of the night was Life After Death, with aged prime beef, carrot emulsion, red wine and bonito. The latter interestingly is a bit of dried fish that, as a garnish atop the steak, appears to creatively move and breathe with the warm temperatures.

The preparation was excellent, and the meat and mashed potato accompaniment were very tasty. However, the bonito combined with mushrooms gave a bit of an off-putting aroma of earthy hay that I could have done without.

All the while entertainment continued with the likes of an amazing wandering magician, who earlier in the night appeared to levitate in a seated position, cantilevered off a single bamboo pole. Another balancing act later had a seriously talented woman placing giant reed upon reed in an endless linking weave that will be an enormous challenge to pull off on a moving cruise ship, (though I can’t wait to see it in action).

The final culinary sendoff for the evening was Orchid In Blossom: red dragonfruit, dark chocolate and vanilla encapsulated in a white chocolate sphere. As warm chocolate sauce is poured over the enclosure, it magically opens into four petals, revealing the sweet insides.

The entire effect of Eden is very different than anything ever seen before on a cruise ship.

It is thus unlike any other specialty restaurant and can almost be classified as metaphysical. The Celebrity Edge is sure to be a very cool vessel, and there is still so much more to be revealed.

This post appeared first on TravelPulse.

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