CELEBRITY CRUISES IS ONE BIG TEASE. THE LINE HAS BEEN DIVULGING DETAILS OF its next ship, Celebrity Solstice, through a series of "reveals," which whets people's appetites and leaves those who work in or follow the cruise industry yearning for more.
"We have designed Celebrity Solstice to offer a range of authentic and sometimes unexpected experiences for our guests," says Dan Hanrahan, president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises. "To that point, we decided to add an element of playfulness to our strategy for announcing these features in a way that we hope builds excitement and momentum leading up to the ship's launch."
So far it's been an effective ploy by the cruise line, whose parent company is Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Inasmuch as some lines favor unveiling information about new ships all in one salvo, Celebrity's plodding approach keeps Solstice fresh, relevant and, most importantly, under public scrutiny. The ship, the first in Celebrity's Solstice class, enters service in December.
Back in September, media and travel agents alike were presented Act 1 in New York. There, Celebrity (www.celebritycruises.com) gave a glimpse of the staterooms that would house the ship's 2,850 passengers. Though many design features were unveiled—including muted coloring, 15 percent more space per cabin than on previous, Millennium-class ships, higher beds for underneath storage and larger bathrooms with glass shower doors—all that many remember is who had been called on to help decide the new layout. x
It wasn't a brain trust of interior designers, or a group of space consultants. Celebrity instead relied on the recommendations of five ordinary baby boomer women—Celebrity calls them "leading ladies"—who offered a variety of opinions from what the staterooms should look like to how they should be equipped. (Is it chauvinistic to say that if men had been chosen for the task, the agreed-upon 32-inch flat-screen TVs would be larger?)
"It's amazing," says Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises. "Nobody remembers much about the room design; they only want to talk about women designing it."
Woman's intuition also played a role in the creation of Solstice's AquaClass, a set of staterooms linked to the ship's spa that will feature amenities such as fog-free mirrors, jetted showers and different scents tied to guests' specific vacation goal (relax, revive, re-energize, etc.). In keeping with the spa theme, Solstice will also offer spa guests an exclusive dining room called Blu.
Private to Public
Two months after Celebrity's reveal about the staterooms, it leaked word of Solstice's entertainment venues. Lounges and nightspots will run the gamut from sophisticated to whimsical, and include a couple of fleet mainstays.
There's a wine bar called Cellar Masters; Ensemble Lounge for jazz lovers; Quasar, a nightclub whose decor reflects futuristic style from the 1960s and 1970s; Passport Lounge, which greets embarking passengers in the ship's Grand Foyer; and Sky Observation Lounge, a dance lounge with panoramic sea views. Old standbys will include a martini bar and Michael's Club, a signature space across the Celebrity fleet, which evokes a British charm with dark tones and leather seating—the perfect place to sip a cognac or any after-dinner drink.
Innovation Takes Shape
The curtain rose on Act 3 only days after the entertainment venues were announced; this time, Celebrity introduced an industry first: glassblowing at sea. The line is collaborating with the Corning Museum of Glass in upstate New York on a venue to be called the Hot Glass Show. The area will be located on the ship's upper deck, within an outdoor glassmaking studio, and supervised by three resident "gaffers"—skilled glassblowing artists—who will educate and entertain passengers with live shows and workshops.
Then, in January, Celebrity dropped in another piece of the Solstice puzzle, which made glassblowing look like child's play. Yes, Celebrity Solstice is going green, and not just environmentally. The line is adding real grass to a half-acre area on the top deck and calling it the Lawn Club. It is promised to summon a country club atmosphere, with putting greens, croquet, bocce and patches of grass for picnicking or just relaxing. The Sunset Bar will enhance the area, as will the glassblowing studio.
Fain says artificial turf was first considered for the space that would become the Lawn Club, but that was quickly dismissed. "It had to be authentic," said Fain, who had the funniest line the night the Lawn Club was introduced: "I had no idea how many types of grass there were, and I went to Berkeley." The line settled on Bermuda grass and will employ a full-time groundskeeper.
The Lawn Club creates an onboard amenity to appeal to male passengers. "We talked to women in focus groups about how to get men to sail," said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, Celebrity's vice president of hotel operations.
Celebrity has said that all four of its Solstice-class ships will have Lawn Clubs, with Celebrity Equinox the next to join the Celebrity fleet in summer 2009.