Celebrity's new ship, Solstice, is as simple, and as sophisticated, as walking barefoot in the park. Literally.
One of the hallmarks of the first in Celebrity's new series of ships is a broad carpet of genuine grass, developed over a half-dozen years to withstand the salt and wind of a sea voyage. And while it may seem like a gimmick, the Lawn Club, as it's been dubbed, is a symbol of the kind of getaway that time-pressed urbanites yearn for: A respite into a simple moment when the demands of daily life simply cease to matter.
Hey, it worked for Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in
Add the frosty martini bar, chic specialty restaurants, a whimsical lofted library, an airy atrium opening onto lounges and casual restaurants, cabins with cream-colored leather sofas, a disco that's completely shagadelic, baby, a deck-top hot glass-blowing studio, a $6 million art collection, and a Cirque-du-Soleil-style acrobatic show, and upscale travelers are likely to feel right at home on this stylish 2,850-passenger ship.
After all, it looks like the homes they live in - or hope to live in when the economy recovers.
"I think it is the finest ship I have been on," says Tom Baker, president of CruiseCenter.com, recognized by Conde Nast Traveler as one of the nation's top cruise agencies. "It is incredibly well laid out, extremely spacious given her large passenger complement of 2,800 guests, and is excellently decorated with a feeling of high-quality residential/resort furnishings," he wrote in an e-mail after a recent introductory cruise.
From overall flow to the real cream-colored roses set into the entry wall outside the Blu restaurant, Celebrity Solstice is all about design. Unlike many ships that seem to have gotten a memo from your doctor - "Place bars and nightclubs as far apart as possible for maximum walking distance" - Solstice groups similar spaces together. All four specialty restaurants are in one district. Bars and clubs are grouped together, and the one atop the ship - yes, there's always one - actually sits just above the theater/bar area, so you can simply go vertical instead of traversing a pool deck first.
That's the function part of design. As for the form part - well, there's lots to love, and little to crab about.
Celebrity Solstice presents a seagoing universe of contrasts that could be jarring - but isn't. Instead, the ship seamlessly blends contemporary with comfortable, intimate with spacious, elegant with inviting. Ceilings are coffered and detailed, so they feel taller than they often are. The atrium has a glass ceiling and is circled by coffee shop, creperie, bars and other public spaces - including the Internet cafe and lofted library - that, on other ships, are often closed spaces. Lounges and even cabins feature creamy leather sofas that feel sumptuous.
Even the public bathrooms have a sense of upscale style, thanks to Adam D. Tihany, one of several designers who helped create Solstice's flair. Best known for restaurants created for star chefs Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud and Charlie Palmer, Tihany has designed a Tuscan grill entered through a contemporary barrel-shaped vault and an elegant, Old Hollywood, 1,500-seat two-story dining room that looks both oval and cream-colored - but isn't. (Don't miss the two-level wine tower, an engineering feat in a space that wobbles and sways nonstop.)
Staterooms have a residential feel, with doors that open into the hallway (so you don't clobber your partner trying to edge out of the bathroom), those creamy leather daybeds, larger-than-average bathrooms with closed cabinet storage, and balconies wide enough for a breakfast table.
Nothing is perfect, and if there's one significant quibble, it's with the cramped closets and drawers.
Here's the rundown on some notable features:
Included with the regular cruise fare are meals in the spectacularly designed Grand Epernay main dining room and the casual Lido-deck Oceanview Cafe and Grill. For an extra fee, guests can dine in specialty restaurants: Bistro on Five ($5), featuring crepes and light fare; Tuscan Grill ($25), with steaks, chops and Italian fare; Silk Harvest ($20), with Asian dishes; and Blu, offering healthy cuisine for spa-class and suite guests.
There are more than 4,700 works by 98 artists valued at $6 million. They include a Jim Dine sculptured heart; a Nancy Friedmann installation,
of a foyer featuring painted walls, inlaid floors and audio; John Baldessari's
Stonehenge (With Two Persons)
; and Carlos Betancourt's sculptural installation, featuring a live tree suspended inside the atrium.
Like several other new ships, Celebrity Solstice features 130 AquaClass spa staterooms. Guests get upgraded cabin amenities and free nightly access to Blu, the specialty restaurant dedicated to healthy cuisine. They also get complimentary use of the relaxation room and the Persian Garden thermal beds in the spa. What they don't get: Complimentary spa services. For those, everyone pays extra.
Most have verandas, and more than 120 can be connected, for families who want more closeness. Celebrity invited five women - including a cruise writer and a woman who had never cruised - to consult on the ship. Many of their recommendations are offered on other ships, but new is the bar in the shower where you can rest your leg while you're shaving it. (It's a girl thing.)
Features both the Lawn Club (for croquet, bocce, putting and picnics) and the Hot Glass Show, a glassblowing exhibition presented several times daily by experts from the Cornell School of Glass.
The elegant Ensemble Lounge, near the specialty restaurants, is your pre-dinner drinks venue. During the day, you might head to the bar behind the Lawn Club or to the panoramic Sky Lounge. Cellar Masters focuses on wines; Michael's, once a cigar and whiskey bar, retains its clubby feeling sans the smoke. The frosty Martini Bar is raucous and chic. In the Quasar disco, Bond meets Austin Powers and Barbarella.
Think diamonds - Celebrity has commissioned its own cut. There's artisan jewelry by Miamian Elaine Silverstein, glass art from the Cornell School, fine watches, cosmetics and perfumes, luggage and travel accessories. Artwork leans toward art photography, though other media are offered. Don't worry - you'll also find some fun, less expensive souvenirs.
The ship incorporates solar power, energy-efficient lighting, heat-reducing window glass, and a hull coating that reduces resistance.
2,850 passengers, double occupancy
1,426; 85 percent with veranda; 121 connecting cabins.
After a winter-spring season of seven-night Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale, the ship moves to the Mediterranean for the summer and early fall.
In January, seven-night cruises start at $829 inside, $909 for an oceanview cabin.