Interest in Celebrity Cruises' first-in-class Celebrity Solstice -- one of 2008's most hotly anticipated ships -- has remained high as the line has methodically been revealing details on dining, cabins and other amenities. Celebrity has already delivered news on peculiar onboard diversions, such as a glass blowing show and cruising's first Lawn Club (with real grass and a bocce ball court).
Until now, however, all of these juicy details have come in the form of descriptions, renderings and other "second hand" means. That's the case no longer: Cruise Critic visited Papenburg's Meyer Werft shipyard in early June at for a real life look at the vessel, now about 80 percent complete (its float out is currently scheduled for August 10).
What were our impressions? Check out our photos and take the virtual tour!
Here are two of Solstice's standard balcony cabins, which at 210 square ft. (not including the balcony) are about 15 percent larger than the standard balcony cabins on Celebrity's Millennium-class vessels. You may not be able to detect this, but the cabin walls are curved (reminiscent of Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Epic accommodations), giving the impression of added space. The curved walls also necessitate the alternating bed scheme, with one near the door, the next closer to the balcony.
We were particularly impressed by the depth of the balconies. There was plenty of space for the comfortable looking deck chairs. Another unique feature was the ability to pull back half of the partition. We're not entirely sold on this feature, however. Seems like you'd want things open (to chat with friendly neighbors) or closed (to avoid strangers), and not halfway (to chat with stranger's outstretched legs?).
The bathrooms are huge! They're so big in fact that Richard Fain, Harri Kulovaara and Dan Hanrahan (executive trio) found themselves inside the space at the same time speaking about the design features.
Solstice's adjoining rooms feature a separate cabin corridor or "vestibule" (the brown door) in the hallway in lieu of one door connecting the two cabins from the inside. Within the corridor, you'll find two more doors, one to each cabin. Having separate doors in the hallway -- rather than one door in between the rooms -- may cut down on noise pollution.
The rooms on display had both traditional Pullman beds (from the ceiling) as well as trundle beds that emerge from under the couch -- giving third guests a nice sleeping option (floor or ceiling?).
This is one of the most intriguing -- and tallest at almost four decks -- solariums we've seen at sea. The beam in between the fixed window is an air-conditioning duct, which will alleviate the overheating issues sometimes suffered by the standard solarium. Additionally, it will have solar panels. While the panels (the ship will have about 80 in total spread through the top deck) won't power the whole ship, they will run small things, like the elevators for instance. Every gallon of fuel saved helps.
When completed, the sun deck, lined on either side by rows of white canopies, will certainly be striking. But incomplete, we noticed that the pools seemed a bit smaller than we'd have expected. It's interesting to note, however, that Solstice's top deck space -- with its Lawn Club and glass blowing show areas -- is quite diversified, and smaller pools may have been necessary to accommodate all the top-ship options.
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Chief Richard Fain, along with Celebrity's Dondra Ritzenthaler and Dan Hanrahan, are barefoot on the sun deck, where the Lawn Club will be located.
Here's a look at the tail end (or aft) of Solstice. Although the Maltese port Valleta is listed as a placeholder, the ship's place of registry is still undetermined. If the line does go with Malta, as with the rest of its fleet, onboard weddings will be allowed.