Celebrity Solstice's Next Innovation is Grass

January 18, 2008

There's nothing like a picnic in Central Park -- even on a snowy day in January. Last night, Celebrity Cruises brought fried chicken, pastel polo shirts and bocce ball to New York's famous Tavern on the Green to announce an industry first for its upcoming Celebrity Solstice: a 1/2-acre lawn for sports and relaxation. "The Lawn Club," on the top-most deck, aft, will feature live growing grass (not artificial turf) and a full-time groundskeeper. It will be the central element of the ship's outdoor experience.

The 118,000-ton, 2,850-passenger Celebrity Solstice, the cruise line's biggest ship ever, debuts in late 2008.

The area is three times larger than Rockefeller Center's ice skating rink (and more than two times the size of Centre Court at Wimbledon's All England Lawn Tennis Club). Among its features are:

Cruising's first bocce at sea. There will be two courts for bocce ball, a game of skill imported from Italy. It's similar to lawn bowling and very popular in places like Napa Valley.

A putting green, with areas of slight unevenness for more challenging play.

The Patio on the Lawn, next to the glassblowing studio where the Hot Glass Show will be held, will serve snacks and coffee al fresco.

Passengers can also use The Lawn Club for simply soaking up sun or reading a book. There will be no charge to utilize the putting green or any other area of The Lawn Club, though there will of course be a limited number of putters available for borrowing.

On hand for the big reveal were Dan Hanrahan, President and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, and Richard Fain, Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. (Celebrity's parent company). Both spoke from a podium lined with grass -- Fain removed his shoes and socks to stand on it barefoot.

It's not as easy to build a lawn onboard a cruise ship as you might think. First of all, the grass and the water and irrigation systems used to sustain it weigh a ton -- 150 metric tons in total to be precise. To support the extra weight, the ship was widened slightly during the architectural phase.

Also, the rigors of cruise travel (saltwater, sun, wind and foot traffic) necessitated the search for a particularly hearty type of grass. To that end, Celebrity brought in "grass experts" -- landscape architects, irrigation specialists, and turf and soil scientists from the University of Florida -- to help select the specific variety that could best withstand day-to-day cruising.

Other uses for the lawn are yet to be determined; the dramatic night lighting seen in the rendering above, for example, could be the backdrop for outdoor concerts. We'll keep you posted as more details are revealed.

Celebrity Solstice is currently under construction at Papenburg, Germany's Meyer Werft. Siblings Equinox and Eclipse, due out in 2009 and 2010 respectively, will also feature The Lawn Club.

--by Melissa Baldwin, Managing Editor