by Claire Irvin, The Telegraph, October 28, 2019
It was a beach holiday that did it – that turned my risk-averse, boat-phobic, yet swimming-obsessed (albeit only in chlorinated, wave-free absolutely marine life-free water) seven year old into a cruise ship fanatic.
From the white sand idyll of our beach hotel, the ships that docked daily at the tip of the bay were matchbox minis against the skyline. Yet Charley marvelled at them, and begged to be allowed on board. I went one better.
I booked us on a mum-and-son new-to-cruise mini break on the inaugural Southampton sailing of Celebrity Edge. It was the perfect combination of unadulterated fun and adventure for him, and glitzy R&R for me. Up close, Edge was rather larger than the ships had seemed on the horizon, and accentuated how tiny my second born still is.
“Mummy, it’s MASSIVE!” he marvelled in a suitably reverential hushed tone, as the ship dwarfed us. And therein began a series of charming misconceptions that had me not only seeing the cruise through the eyes of a child, but the world in general.
Our stateroom suite was next – a spacious duplex with design-led textural soft furnishings in typically soothing Kelly Hoppen-esque neutrals (Edge is the first cruise ship whose interiors she has designed). It seemed to swallow us up immediately; from the kitchen and dining area to the chic living room with full-length windows that opened at the touch of a button onto a balcony.
Stairs led to a positively cavernous bathroom on the first floor as well as a light, bright bedroom with two full-length windows and a king-size bed which engulfed Charley the minute he was tucked up. The only mod con that was missing, with depressing predictability, was a kettle – although I have been assured that summer sailings out of Southampton will have them.
The balcony also housed a generous hot tub, which my son was very keen on trying out – at 10.30am. I, however, was equally keen to avoid getting wet first thing on a Monday morning. At least until after elevenses... So instead we started our cruise adventure by exploring the ship. Or trying to. Unfortunately for me, all roads lead to the expansive heated pool, and, rather inevitably, I ended up wet by 10.35am.
As our fellow passengers sat perched on stools around the stylish pool bar enjoying welcome cocktails, dressed in light jackets and jumpers against the early spring breeze, we bobbed in and out of the water, diving for sticks for what seemed like hours; until I caught sight of the ice cream stand. A mouth-watering pastel rainbow of every conceivable flavour – hazelnut, coconut, dulce de leche, strawberry, salted caramel – with tempting toppings to fulfil any child’s wildest dreams, it finally lured us out of the pool.
Ever keen to remain on the right side of risk, Charley opted for vanilla topped with hundreds and thousands.
Thus fortified, we began to explore our home for the next two days in earnest. Edge turned out not only to be an innovative vessel (one of the first to have been entirely designed in 3D), but also one that promised lots of good family fun.
We oohed, we ahhed and we dabbed. We discovered giant horse statues, we ate pizza and olives from the endless buffet options, we ran around the jogging track, we played table tennis and we took some pictures with Rubem Robierb’s iconic Dream Machine. Although Charley was less than impressed with this bit – apparently I should have brought his sister.
We also made it to the ship’s much anticipated Magic Carpet, the world’s first cantilevered, floating platform that reaches a heady 13 storeys above sea level. It was packed, and full of party-going passengers sipping sun downers as they literally went down with it. We were all suitably impressed, except Charley. “It’s not going fast enough!” he mused, visibly perturbed.
Photo by Celebrity Cruises
We exited quickly with Luminae, the exclusive Suite Class only fine dining restaurant, firmly in sight. “Kids don’t eat amuse bouche,” Charley told the waiter sternly before turning to his new obsession; photographing vast expanses of the Solent in the hope of capturing seals. This gave me ample time to apply myself to thoroughly testing the signature cocktails (the vanilla mojito won out), then to the first of the ship’s spaghetti bologneses. Not surprisingly, for someone who once ate 13 spag bols during a week’s stay in Portugal, Charley is a connoisseur. This one scored a thumbs up, and his ice cream (vanilla, of course) got the same.
And so to bed, but only after we had found someone suitably official who could reassure Charley that the ship would stop overnight, “so the captain can go to sleep”. The crew must have overheard his concern. The next day not only brought more swimming, dabbing, and, yes, vanilla ice cream, but an invitation to the Bridge – something he was surprisingly against.
“But I don’t want to go into the middle of the sea!” Charley finally shared. Suitable explanations were offered and he was finally coaxed to explore the ship’s control deck, learn about its innovative anchorless system, and see the red button which, explained a very solemn second officer, ejects naughty people into the sea. Charley was persuaded to press it and discovered that it was actually the ship’s horn.
As if this boy’s-own adventure couldn’t get any better, the afternoon had more delights up its sleeve, including a kids club which Charley was so charmed by, he demanded to be left there.
This left me time to explore spectacular Eden, the largest "window to the world at sea" with its Library of Plants towering 18ft above the bar.
The much anticipated grand finale at Le Petit Chef & Friends – a combination of entertainment and gastronomy – arrived with the realisation that it was a set menu. I cringed inwardly, steeling myself for a rejection of anything other than pasta. But the kaleidoscope of colour and mesmerising 3D cartoon animations that appeared on our plates charmed Charley not only into eating his salad starter, but a steak too – new favourites that have outlasted the cruise. The pudding was a course too far, so we left our new friends and we hot footed it to the ice cream stand before it closed.
“What’s been your favourite thing about the cruise?” I asked, misty-eyed at the thought that our mini adventure was about to end. If not all the new things he’d learned, tasted and seen, then maybe, just maybe, it was having his mum all to himself for a couple of days.
“The swimming pool!” he grinned with delight through drips of vanilla. “And the ice cream!”
Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Edge (0800 441 4054; celebritycruises.co.uk) departs on its 10-night Italy & Best of Greek Islands cruise from Southampton on June 5 2020. From £2,517 per person in an Ocean View Stateroom (based on two people sharing).