Solstice Returns to Dry Dock in Hamburg

October 17, 2008

Celebrity Cruises' hotly anticipated Celebrity Solstice had some minor hiccups during sea trials earlier this week -- so it's back to the dry dock for the 2,850-passenger, 122,000-ton ship for final tweaking. But though adjustments are needed, the sea trials were an overall success, and the ship remains on schedule for its October 24 delivery date.

Minor problems were reported with Solstice's bow thrusters (responsible for powering the vessel) and its stabilizer fins (balance during rough seas). The ship, which was built at Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany, will stop at Hamburg's Blohm + Voss shipyard on October 20 for additional work, and it's likely to stay there for three days. If all goes according to plan, the ship will then sail to the port of Eemshaven in the Netherlands, where it will be officially delivered to Celebrity on October 24.

"The original plan [for Solstice] was to skip the final dry-docking -- but there is always buffer time built in," Teijo Niemela, editor and publisher of Cruise Business Review, an industry publication, tells Cruise Critic. He added that it's not altogether uncommon for small problems to surface during sea trials.

In spring 2006, Freedom of the Seas (built in Turku) required additional dry-docking to fix problems with its Azipod propulsion units. Coral Princess, which launched in 2003, needed further dry-docking (and extra sea trials) -- and delivery was ultimately postponed. Just as Celebrity Solstice is a brand new prototype for Celebrity, both of these ships were the first of their ship classes.

Niemela noted, however that "it used to be the case for a long time that Meyer Werft-built cruise ships always stopped in Hamburg for the dry-docking.
But, in recent years, they have tried to avoid that if there wasn't a necessity." For Solstice, there were problems enough to merit the stop.

Solstice is the first of five of a new prototype for Celebrity Cruises, all boasting innovative onboard features like a hot glass show, the Lawn Club, an onboard bocce/putting venue with real grass and special spa cabins.

--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor