First look at Celebrity Solstice

The cruise industry is on the verge of another cycle of new ship releases. For the first time since the last cycle culminated around 2000, many new vessels will be new designs - not just sister ships or minor alterations of existing floor plans.

First look at Celebrity Solstice

The cruise industry is on the verge of another cycle of new ship releases. For the first time since the last cycle culminated around 2000, many new vessels will be new designs – not just sister ships or minor alterations of existing floor plans. When these new ships start coming out late next year, one major change will be a focus on veranda staterooms: Most ships will have 90 percent outside cabins, and the vast majority of those will have a balcony.

As the first ship of a whole new generation of cruise ships from almost every cruise line on the bsuiness. When Solstice is in late 2008 it will make the beginning of whole new era in cruising. The ship will carry 2,850-passengers and is the the first of four new builds for Celebrity Cruises. Two more sister ships based on the same design will come out about a year apart: Eclipse and Equinox. A fourth is under contract and yet to be named.

Because Celebrity is due to be the first to debut a new generation of designs, and its competitors are still in the design and building process for their ships, Celebrity is understandably keeping a lot of the details of its vessels under wraps.

Laying the Keel

The new class of Celebrity cruise ships, the Solstice-class, went from concept to reality Papenburg Germany where they laid the keel in a ceremony at the Meyer Werft shipyard. Pictured below are Celebrity President Dan Hanrahan painting the keel.

The ceremony includes a centuries-old tradition of laying coins permanently deep within the keel, for good luck. Newer traditions include ceremonially applying the first coat of paint. The reason for using the color green for the keel has not yet been identified, but reasons not given include the date being Saint Patick’s day or environmental friendliness.

Like many new ships, the Solstice will have a deck devoted to suites, centered on a private pool area just for those suite passengers. On Solstice they are known as the AquaClass suites. There are other suites available and some are just as beautiful as the ones on Celebrity’s current Millennium-class ships.

The Solarium areas on these ships, reminiscent of a glass-enclosed Winter Garden, are beautiful in the renderings, with soaring glass enclosures that will keep passengers warm in Alaska and cool in the Caribbean – while still getting plenty of invigorating sunshine.

Typically, the pools in these Solaria have therapeutic water jets and hot tubs. They usually offer special healthy-living cuisine as well. We expect this one will follow suit.

Speaking of cuisine, Celebrity has ended its decades-long partnership with master chef Michel Roux, and now is taking culinary cues from Elizabeth Blau, who gained fame bringing gourmet cuisine to many hotels in Las Vegas. Blau is not so much a chef or culinary designer as she is a facilitator. Her claim to fame is matching other well-known chefs to new venues — sort of a gourmands’ agent.

Beyond the Solarium, Blu and the spa area, we do not know much about how the ship will look, except for the staterooms. Many renderings have been released, and Celebrity is boasting that with this generation of vessels, the staterooms have plenty of features designed by — and sure to appeal to — women.

Designed by and for Women

Celebrity put together a team of women it refers to as its “Celebrity Leading Ladies.” They consulted with the company to make sure certain amenities were included in every stateroom. The five women included “a frequent cruiser, a travel agent, a travel writer, a hotelier and a cruise considerer.” Based on the language, we think the “cruise considerer” might be Laura Bush, but that is only a joke.

What did these women say they wanted in a cruise ship cabin that they weren’t getting? One thing is more space. Solstice’s cabins on average are 15 percent larger than the average stateroom size on other Celebrity ships, but it should be noted that brings them in line with the size of many ships of other lines. Still, Celebrity claims the space is well utilized and the cabins feel much bigger than others.

Other additions include muted colors, foot supports in the showers for easy shaving of legs, more closet space with modular design capabilities, and more space under the bed for storage.

The women did not forget their men! Thus 32-inch flat screen TVs will be in every stateroom, with even larger sets in the suites. For families, they’ve developed an interlocking floor plan, with double sets of doors connecting adjacent cabins; families traveling together can open them up for increased space.

The ultimate cabins for these women will be the AquaClass suites, which feature bathrooms with a fog-free mirror and a tall-jetted body wash shower. They can choose from an extensive menu of pillows, and another menu for aroma scents meant to relax, revive or re-energize. To provide guests with a multi-sensory experience, lavish AquaClass toiletries and refreshing daily teas, juices and bottled water round out the offering.

We hope Blau is honored that her first new assignment will be called “Blu,” a restaurant reserved solely for residents of the AquaClass suites. We are guessing it will have a healthy lifestyle theme, but if looks are any indication, it won’t be just tofu and wheat grass. The restaurant is tres elegant and will likely have a bit of something for everyone.

On January 18 of this year more details of Celebrity Solstice were revealed. Celebrity announced the ship will have live grass growing on a portion of the top deck, and not a small portion either, the “Lawn Club” is a half-acre or 7190 square feet of live grass. That is the equivalent of eight tennis courts, three times larger than the Rockefeller Center skating rink.

The lawn will be used to allow guests to enjoy bocce ball and croquet, practice their putting, picnic with a basket of wine and cheese, or simply feel the grass between their toes, while sailing the oceans of the world. The area also will feature the Hot Glass Show, another first in the industry, developed in collaboration with The Corning Museum of Glass. There will also be a sitting area called the Patio on the Lawn; the Lawn Club Shop, and the Sunset Bar.

They are currently looking to fill the position of groundskeeper, although this is not the first time the cruise line has grown flora aboard their ships. The Millennium class has had beautiful floral conservatories for years, greenhouses where they grow all kinds of beautiful tropical plants. This is the first non-artificial lawn at sea however.

Summing up Solstice Class

Celebrity Solstice will be the line’s first in a class of four 2,850-passenger vessels with an exceptional range of guest-inspired services and amenities. German shipbuilder Meyer Werft, which constructed the line’s Century-class fleet – Celebrity Century, Celebrity Mercury, and Celebrity Galaxy – is building the 122,000-ton ship.

Following several weeks of inaugural activities, Celebrity Solstice will make its maiden voyage December 14, 2008, on a seven-night Eastern Caribbean cruise roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, visiting San Juan, Puerto Rico; Basseterre, St. Kitts; and Phillipsburg, St. Maarten. The itinerary will be offered on Sundays through April 5, 2009, with an alternating itinerary calling on San Juan, Puerto Rico; Phillipsburg, St. Maarten; Tortola, B.V.I; and Labadee, Haiti, through April 12, 2009. Fares for veranda staterooms begin at $1,099 per person, based on double occupancy.

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