Celebrity Cruises' next ship, Celebrity Solstice, is due out in just over six months and will represent the first of five new ships in the line's 122,000-ton, 2,850-passenger Solstice class.
With it, Celebrity is introducing innovative features including its grassy Lawn Club and entirely new night-time drinking spots -- such as Cellar Masters, a wine bar stocked with more than 200 different wines, and the Ensemble Lounge, which will adapt its tipples as it sails through different regions.
Celebrity's been trickling out information like this a bit at a time, but an exclusive "show and tell" event today in London added a hands-on, visual component to the excitement. We got to see firsthand how the ship is shaping up -- and learned a few new things being planned for Solstice in the process.
Cruise Critic and 15 other invitees, largely from the travel trade, attended the event at the swanky Hyatt Regency London. Just to set the scene, upon arrival at the Royal Suite on the ninth floor of the hotel we were greeted by hotel director and cheery Brit Simon Weir, who led us through a huge suite transformed to give a taste of life onboard Solstice.
Here is a snapshot of what we experienced today and a sneak peak at a few of the latest Solstice offerings to be revealed:
An entire room in the Royal Suite was dedicated to the art of shopping, and rightly so. Shopping on Solstice will be completely different than on Celebrity's other ships. According to company reps on hand, the line is moving away from its "flea market" feel into more upscale territory with 18 unique shops.
We're told Deck 4 will have a "Macy's" vibe (think John Lewis or House of Fraser), while Deck 5 will be like London's trendy SoHo district -- a more intimate, one-on-one experience. Deck 4 will also feature 10-ft. glass displays near each shop akin to the department store window displays along Manhattan's famous Fifth Avenue. The glass will enclose images, statues and colours that illustrate what will be in each shop -- gearing customers up before they even step inside.
Here a few ways we're most excited to splash our cash:
To tie in with the Hot Glass Show, there will be a shop selling all-things glass -- including two sculptures by Steuben Glass designer Taf Schaefer created especially for Solstice.
Celebrity is currently in talks with Chanel to put a "beauty bar" onboard, which will replicate the concept made popular in upscale department store Saks Fifth Avenue (so stay tuned!).
For anyone who likes all-things sparkly, Celebrity has secured an exclusive star-cut diamond, The Solstice Diamond, thanks to ship supplier Harding Brothers. (In case you don't have a bulging wallet there will also be a cubic zirconia version available!)
Spa and Fitness
First up, Solstice's spa will have a number of new treatments including Elemis grooming for men, skin-mapping (the face is photographed to identify concerns, which can then be worked on during a facial), a relaxing Thai Herbal Poultice massage and a bamboo massage (bamboo shoots are rubbed along the body with essential oils). There will also be barber facilities.
On to fitness, Celebrity, like its sister line Royal Caribbean, has said it is looking for new activities to give passengers more choice when in the gym. Solstice's answer is adding Kinesis -- it works on a pulley system that allows you to use gravity and your own weight to exercise.
The second, and we think more exciting, activity is Tour De Cycling -- the concept is to have a flat-screen TV in front of an exercise bike so people can race against the real professional, Lance Armstrong.
Though we've previously covered the various restaurants planned for the ship, we were able to eye at the event some of the china and furnishings that will dress up the dining areas. Many of the china pieces are square or oval -- very modern and elegant. Here are a few photos:
Being on land in a London hotel, it was challenging to get a true sense of just what a typical cabin on Solstice will look like. However, we did learn more about some of the amenities that will be in the cabins.
Most impressive? The interactive television system. The paper directory has been made smaller, because more will be online -- passengers can turn on the TV to find out the general info they used to thumb through a book for. The system has been developed with Nanonation (a spin off from technology giant Apple, which also worked on Royal Caribbean's Freedom-class ships) and also features in-room keyboards so passengers can use the Internet whenever they like -- for a fee, of course.
Passengers can also watch the usual entertainment and news channels on the 34-inch flat-screen televisions, view photos of the ship, and book restaurants and shore excursions. A selection of iTunes playlists will also be available, a reveal that was met with particular enthusiasm. This technology will be rolled out across the fleet next year.
Celebrity Solstice is scheduled to debut on December 14. If we hear any more juicy details, we will keep you posted.
--by Kelly Ranson, Associate Editor
Artist's rendering of ship appears courtesy of Celebrity Cruises; images of china appear courtesy of Kelly Ranson.