Elegance and Class Defined:
The New Celebrity Solstice
By Susan J. Young
The launch of a ship somewhat equates to the birth of a baby.
You wait for months while the infant project develops, watch the structure and its features grow and burgeon, and then look longingly as the vessel readies to begin a new life of its own.
Such it is with the 122,000-ton Celebrity Solstice, which I visited -- and stayed overnight onboard -- at a Celebrity press event in late September in Papenburg, Germany.
As our bus pulled up to the dock at Meyer Werft, the ship looked much as any new ship does.
In this case, it was the size of the ship that impressed, as the 2,850-passenger ship is Celebrity's largest ever.
Using a freight elevator, we were escorted by shipyard workers in hard hats to our standard balcony staterooms.
But the line still infused the Celebrity premium experience, with friendly wait staff serving champagne (see photo at right*).
We were the first guests to stay onboard. While our corridor on Deck 10 was essentially complete, other staterooms on other levels still had doors and others essential items to be added.
Then it was off to a reception in the Oceanview Cafe and Grill, where I got my first inkling of the classy look and feel of this 16-deck ship.
Unlike typical "cafeteria-style" dining lines in a buffet restaurant, this cafe features large, expansive serving islands with plenty of space in between. So guests can freely flow in and around them, and you can jump right to the island that has what you're seeking -- without waiting behind a slew of others.
The lighting, the blue glowing ceiling panels and bright white coloring was superb, giving the area a sense of airy crispness.
This look was one that continued throughout the ship -- classy, elegant, yet not stuffy.
Soon, media guests were led out of the cafe on a ship tour. My group, led by Dan Hanrahan, Celebrity's president and CEO (shown in the photo above*), headed off to see many of the ship's most prominent areas.
Following are our impressions after a brief tour of the public areas of the Celebrity Solstice.
The Lawn Club
If different strokes are for different folks, this area will delight many guests. Certainly, the aptly named Lawn Club (shown above*) doesn't resemble top-deck offerings we've seen on other ships.
Encompassing 23,000 square feet, the sea of specially cultivated grass is comprised of Agrostis Stolonifera or Creeping Grass.
The space is transformed into a lovely park on Deck 15.
It's maintained by a greenskeeper whose previous background included a stint at a PGA golf course.
The grass was just taking shape at our visit. I walked gingerly across it. Yes, it's real grass and feels as such under your feet.
Hanrahan (shown at far right in the photo at right*) explained to media touring the site that the grass area has multiple uses.
Guests might enjoy bocci ball, try three holes of golf putting, savor a picnic on the lawn or enjoy a concert in the park.
High above a portion of the lawn area are white sail-like tented coverings.
They'll keep out intense sun, and afford a bit of shelter from light rain showers.
Surrounding the grass are the Patio on the Lawn and the Sunset Bar. But perhaps the most amazing features of this top-deck area are the glass firing ovens.
Here, artisans from The Corning Museum of Glass will showcase their glass blowing skills.
The line has installed electric - rather than propane -- ovens to meet U. S. Coast Guard safety requirements for oceangoing ships.
The ovens vary in temperature for various stages of firing.
Hanrahan told us that not only will the artisans demonstrate their skills for guests in glass-blowing shows several times per cruise. Some guests may also have an opportunity to participate if they so choose.
No word yet, however, on whether this invite applies to children, or just adults.
Main Pool Area
Moving across the top deck, we came to the main pool area. It boasted a large pool, a large canvas-covered two-level area with cabanas on the lower level.
One neat feature? We liked the Bellagio-like dancing waters. Kids and adults alike will find this a fun, cooling experience on a hot summer's day.
AquaSpa and Solarium
The soaring Solarium has a roof open to the sky. (At right, you can see the roof, which reflects much light into the large space*).
The Solarium is home to a large pool, another water element -- shooting semi-circular streams, and a large wall of water.
Below left is a photo* of the Solarium wall.* Right in front, but difficult to see on this photo, are small semi-circular streams of water that dart from the floor adjacent to the wall. And, you can see the pool area not yet filled with water.
Below right, just inside the AquaSpa is the lavender-hued skin conditioning room.*
In addition, the AquaSpa entry with its Grecian-themed sculptures is shown below.*
The Persian Garden -- an attractive blue and white themed room with heated tile loungers and views to the ocean -- should be a popular place for guests to relax.
In addition, the spa area is adjacent to a fitness area with plenty of the latest machines and an aerobics/Pilates room.
Theater of Fun
Entertainment on Celebrity Solstice will be different than on Celebrity's other vessels and different than on ships of other lines.
Seeking to find a new twist on entertainment - yet not abandoning song and dance numbers some guests enjoy is the task of POET Theatricals, the company Celebrity hired to revamp the onboard entertainment.
Guests will enjoy performances in the Solstice Theater (shown at right*) and Celebrity Central.
Three new shows written by POET Theatricals include:
1. Solstice: This European-style theatrical circus is built around the clash of day and night; it includes vocalists, physical comedy, group acrobatic and aerial performances and specialty acts.
2. Ghost Light: This is a celebration of Broadway favorites, past and present.
3. Pulse: The show's central character, Rhythm Man, drives a motion and vocal spectacle driven by music and instruments.
In addition, Celebrity will debut specialty acts such as ring jugglers, fairy characters, still performers, and acrobatic artists.
The Grand Atrium (see photo at right*) continues Celebrity's look of multi-deck curtains.
The sweeping staircase, attractive floor and the subdued, elegant styling create an ambience of comfortable elegance.
Grand Epernay Dining Room
This is the epitome of elegance on this ship. It also boasts innovative elements. See the photo below*
Your eyes can't help but focus on the massive, two-story wine tower; here the sommelier and waiters will navigate inside the structure to pick just the perfect bottle for your table.
The elegant ceiling sculpture (shown at left*) also is a stunner.
It's hard to describe, a combination of bulbs and artistic appointments in a silver-like substance.
Alternative Dining Venues
Guests will enjoy drinks in a lounge that serves all the alternative dining venues. This Celebrity ship boasts multiple options.
Murano will serve a blend of classic and modern continental cuisine. The Tuscan Grille (its entry with wine bottle compartments lining the entry is shown below*) is a steakhouse with an Italian flair; look for the antipasti bar!
The Silk Harvest Restaurant is the spot for exotic Asian fusion with a twist. It's designed as a family style restaurant, so guests will receive food in huge bowls designed to be passed, as at the family table.
Cuisine ranges from Thai to Indian, Pakistani to Vietnamese and Chinese. The goal is to sample as many new dishes as possible.
Blu is the dedicated restaurant for guests staying in AquaClass accommodations; suite guests also will be able to dine here based on availability.
Our standard balcony stateroom was roomier than those on other Celebrity ships and featured a nice sized balcony.
An attractive armoire that doubles as an entertainment center and dressing table unit (shown at right*) graced one side of the stateroom.
A large cream couch - doubling as secondary sleeping accommodations -- occupied the other side (see photo at left. *).
We very much liked the stateroom; it was easy on the eyes.
That said, we felt the double closet was a bit too close to the couch. We had to bend over the couch to open one side of the closet.
The bathroom, however is where the Celebrity Solstice truly shines.
We loved the little nooks and crannies, including several small drawers, and shelves behind a glass door.
We liked the tile, the large mirror, and the cabinetry's wood-like appearance, more akin to a vanity at home than a cruise ship.
The large shower had semi-circular panels that the guest could pull shut around them; ladies will appreciate the foot rack in the shower for shaving their legs.
Over the years, we've traipsed through many ships under construction and have sailed on many more newly finished ones. The Celebrity Solstice has a certain refined look about it -- elegant, classy yet still cutting edge in design.
Loyal Celebrity cruisers should love the ship. Plus, this ship is likely to attract new cruisers eager for a premium product that's tasteful - not garish.
For those who perceive cruise ships as too over-the-top in decor, this ship will delight.
The ship will be christened on November 14, before beginning revenue service on Nov. 23.
This winter it will operate a series of alternating seven-night eastern Caribbean cruises roundtrip from Port Everglades, FL, with calls at San Juan, St. Maarten, St. Kitts, and Tortola.
Starting in spring 2009, it will begin a series of Mediterranean cruises from Rome, Italy.
The day we left the shipyard by motorcoach, we spied the ship rising out of the morning fog (see photo at right*).
That same day the ship sailed from the shipyard up the River Eems. It's now in the midst of sea trials and final outfitting.
We can't wait to see Celebrity Solstice when all the appointments are complete. Our sneak peek left us wanting to see more!
*Photos taken, owned and copyrighted by Susan J. Young. All rights reserved. Please do not link to nor copy these photos.