The preservation of Mother Earth and the importance of women’s health issues took center stage as the 122,000-ton passenger Celebrity Solstice was christened at Port Everglades, FL, on November 14. Professor Sharon L. Smith, a biological oceanographer whose scientific specialty is ocean physics and investigating the effects of global warming on the planet’s food supplies, christened the 2,850-passenger ship.
For decades, Smith has traveled the world on scientific research expeditions from the polar regions to the Arabian Sea. The godmother quipped that, after spending much of her life on research vessels, she greatly appreciated the many creature comforts onboard Celebrity Solstice. Smith is currently dean of the undergraduate program of the University of Miami’s Rosenthiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. She also co-directs the university’s Oceans and Human Health Center.
In one emotional moment during the Solstice Theater naming ceremony, Smith— a survivor of both breast and uterine cancer— briefly teared up while applauding Celebrity and the United Way for partnering to raise at least $100,000 to fund breast cancer screenings for low-income women.
Assisted by Richard D. Fain, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.’s (RCCL) chairman and CEO, Smith then snipped a red ribbon, which had been partially pulled into position by an aerial acrobat. The ribbon itself ran throughout the ship to the top deck Lawn Club, where it held a champagne bottle. When cut, the ribbon slacked, causing the bottle to crash into the ship’s structure— thus christening the ship. Seated in the theater, agents, media and industry VIPs watched the top deck bottle smashing “live” via the theater’s huge screen. The christening bottle was produced by the Corning Museum of Glass, which operates the industry’s first glass blowing kilns at sea on Celebrity Solstice.
Themed around the music of U2’s “A Beautiful Day,” the naming ceremony also featured Dan Hanrahan, president and CEO of both Celebrity and Azamara Cruises; Captain Panagiotis Skylogiannis, Celebrity Solstice’s master; and Arne and Gjert Wilhelmsen, RCCL founders. The St. Andrews Pipe Band of Miami marched into the theater with pomp, pipes and spectacle. World-class violinist Lucia Micarelli; the Solstice Orchestra; vocalist Antonio Sol, and other performers entertained. A local rabbi and a seaman’s pastor offered blessings. Both the American and Greek national anthems were played; the Celebrity Solstice’s officers are Greek.
Smith’s role as godmother was an astute match given Celebrity Solstice’s new Deck 7 “Team Earth” area, created in cooperation with Conservation International. Designed to raise environmental awareness, Team Earth boasts large touch-screen monitors that outline environmental issues. It’s also home to comfortable couches, Wi-Fi access, and a massive illuminated globe. Suspended just feet away in the midst of the open atrium is a live tree planted in a massive artistic pot in the shape of an inverted pyramid.
As the first in the Solstice-class, Celebrity Solstice is an environmental ground-breaker. It’s the cruise industry’s first ship to use solar energy; 216 solar panels divided into five areas on the ship feed into the ship’s power grid. Solstice’s silicon hull coating will reduce frictional resistance and trim fuel consumption. Fleetwide, Celebrity is installing advanced wastewater purification (AWP) systems, which are already on Celebrity Solstice.
The new ship also has new guest features including new AquaClass staterooms that boast such perks as Blu, a dedicated specialty restaurant, and complimentary use of the Persian Garden and AquaSpa relaxation room. The ship offers a Lawn Club at sea allowing guests to enjoy “real grass” for picnics, bocci ball and golf putting; the first Hot Glass Show at sea; multiple new venues including Crush, Cellar Masters, Ensemble Lounge, Passport Bar, Quasar, Galleria Tastings, the Sky Observation Lounge and Celebrity Center; an expanded retail area; three new production shows; and staterooms 15 percent larger than on other Celebrity ships.
During the naming ceremony, Fain commended Port Everglades for continuing to enhance the cruise experience for guests. On November 14, Port Everglades cut the ribbon to open Phase I of Passenger Terminal 18. This two-part expansion project will transform Terminal 18 into the largest cruise terminal in the world, dedicated to servicing a single ship. Once the expansion project is complete in fall 2009, the terminal will be home to the largest cruise ships in the world, Royal Caribbean International's Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas.
More than 8,000 travel partners plus media representatives have toured or will tour Celebrity Solstice at Port Everglades this month. The trade response seemed far more robust than the norm. Throughout the preview cruise, every agent Travel Agent encountered simply gushed about every facet of the ship’s creative design and stylish, contemporary, elegant feel.
In his naming ceremony remarks, Fain equated first seeing the new Celebrity Solstice ready to welcome guests as a somewhat similar experience to seeing his daughter dressed for her prom. He knew she was beautiful but she still took his breath away.
Celebrity Solstice— which Hanrahan said is garnering cruise fares approximately 20 percent higher than those on other Celebrity ships, based on high customer demand— will operate seven-night roundtrip eastern Caribbean voyages from Port Everglades this winter. The ship will reposition to the Mediterranean for summer 2009, operating roundtrip voyages from Rome.