Two hours was barely enough to visit all of the stations, from a photography kiosk showcasing Celebrity's all-digital onboard portrait system to a blackjack table featuring the jazzy new LCD monitor to be found throughout Solstice's casino (we won a key chain for beating the dealer two times out of three). All the while, servers circled with Champagne and samples of the eats likely to be found onboard, such as spring rolls (Silk Harvest) and light and healthy seared tuna (Blu, the specialty restaurant dedicated to AquaClass guests). A miniature version of the Lawn Club was the centerpiece of the room, and it was real – we could smell the fresh blades of grass and soil.
Below are a few more verbal and visual highlights from the event:
One of the major focuses of today's event was Solstice's unique retail program (which Celebrity gave U.K. media a sneak peek of back in May). The boutiques will tie in to other onboard offerings, and several tables were set up today with sample products. For example, there is going to be a special shop tied in with the Lawn Club that features, among other novelties, (fake) grass-covered flip flops.
The Artisan Studio will feature visiting artisans' pieces; Serendipity will offer local crafts depending on sailing region. And though it's not the kind that will be blown on the ship at the Hot Glass Show, there will be glassware such as a jewelry and vases sold onboard at a very attractive price point -- bracelets start at $5.
The first sample menus for all of Solstice's 10 restaurants were on display. Though they're still subject to change, we were intrigued by Thai red duck curry at Silk Harvest, monkfish osso buco at Murano, and classic fare such as creme brulee and New York strip steak at Grand Epernay. A crepe station dished up savory and sweet concoctions similar to what will be on the menu at Bistro on Five; we tried a hot crepe filled with grilled chicken, raspberry sauce and melted cheese. Word to the wise: Crepes will be offered here around the clock, and if you sail, you may find yourself going back for more (and more)....
Spa & Fitness
One rumor we heard at the "Show and Tell" in London was confirmed today in Miami -- following in Norwegian Cruise Line's footsteps, Celebrity will begin offering Botox injections in Solstice's spa. A physician will be available at all times on all sailings to perform the procedures. Look also for new low-impact fitness equipment called "Gravity Reformer," designed to improve range of motion and circulation.
The big-ticket boutique item will be the Solstice Diamond, a 10-sided diamond cut exclusively for Celebrity by Harding Brothers in London. Its unique cut (which allows for 86 facets compared to the usual 58) creates a sparkling star in the diamond's center. Though prices haven't been set in stone yet, we're told pieces will probably start at about $2,000 -- but the sky's the limit, and special orders will be entertained. I'll probably have to stick with the cubic zirconia version, should they decide to offer one!
The casino is going hi-tech, with wide-screen high-definition slot machines, LCD monitors at blackjack and roulette tables, and two automated dealer-less Texas Hold 'Em tables (which, we're told, can be converted to Baccarat). A whopping 70 percent of the machines will be unique to Solstice -- including a 2 cent machine with a "Win a car" jackpot. Solstice will be the first Celebrity ship with a completely coinless operation -- all of your winnings are tracked on your stateroom card so you don't have to lug around a bucket of coins. Or, as is usual in my case, a piddly handful....
We also caught up with a representative from POET Theatricals, a Cirque-style production group, to discuss the original shows being planned for Solstice: "Ghost Light" is set in an old theater with cast members reminiscing about shows they've performed in, roadhouse-style. "Pulse" is a "Blue Man Group" type of show with a heavy emphasis on dance, percussion and audience participation. The headliner, "Solstice," is a theatrical circus that will include aerialists flying above guests' heads (POET's worked with Celebrity to install special railings in the theater's ceiling)!
As we're seeing in other areas -- with the introduction of the Harding Brothers' diamond -- Celebrity's aligning itself with big-name brands to add an extra layer of sophistication to the cruise experience onboard Solstice. The ship's coffeeshop, Cafe al Bacio, will serve not only Lavazza coffee but also a designer tea called Tea Forte (the ship's signature flavor, Solstice, will have a bit of spice to it). The loose leaf tea is brewed in silky pyramid-shaped infusers. Also, there will be tastings driven by well-known, highly regarded spirits -- such as an Irish whiskey flight that includes tastes of Jameson, Jameson Gold, Jameson 18 Year and Midleton Very Rare.
Though the AquaClass was one of the first concepts announced for Solstice way back when, it is certainly not passe -- even to Celebrity President Dan Hanrahan, who told us that the new AquaClass cabin design is the Solstice feature he's most excited about. A mockup of a stateroom showed off soft linens, an interactive and (more importantly) user-friendly TV powered by Apple's Nanonation, and a thoughtful assortment of in-cabin amenities including lip balm and a sewing kit.
Remember, these staterooms were designed by a team of five women and feature smarter storage and more spacious bathrooms. In fact, Hanrahan, who left his desk mid-event to join the festivities and say a few words, joked that he, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard Fain and RCCL Executive Vice President Maritime Harri Kulovaara could all fit in one shower -- but none of them could figure out what the foot railing was for (easy leg shaving, ladies).
Keep talking Solstice on our Celebrity forum -- and stay tuned to Cruise Critic for more information as it's announced!
--by Melissa Baldwin, Managing Editor