by Don Church and Tony Schillaci 1 February 2011
By Don Church & Tony Schillaci
When something is exceptionally well-designed and made from the finest materials – an Armani suit, a Valentino dress, or Louis Vuitton luggage – it’s truly a work of art.
In the world of cruise ships, Celebrity Cruise Lines, selected by Conde Nast as the world’s top-rated premium brand, has achieved design and comfort dominance with its Solstice-class ships. These magnificent floating resort hotels are in a class by themselves on the seas.
Known as the ‘Xceptional’ series’ – the ‘X’ referring to the logo on the ships’ funnels, three Solstice ships are currently in operation – the Solstice, Equinox, and Eclipse, with two more to be launched: the Silhouette in July, 2011 and the Reflection in November, 2012.
Last January Celebrity Cruises marked its 20th anniversary at the Manhattan Museum of Arts and Design with its ‘Designed for You’ presentation. Dan Hanrahan, President and CEO of the line, spoke of the Solstice “firsts,” including The Lawn Club, complete with real growing grass that is trimmed daily; The Hot Glass Show, a glass blowing demonstration by Corning; the AquaClass Spa and suites and BLU restaurant; the industry’s first application of solar technology; stylish staterooms whose designs were influenced by a panel of travel-savvy women; and public spaces adorned in rich color palettes and energizing natural light.
We’ve luckily sailed on both Equinox and Eclipse, each with 2800 passengers and 1200 in crew. Gay men and lesbians are treated with the same enthusiastic attention and service as everyone else aboard. There is always a ‘Friends of Dorothy’ (LGBT) get together in Michael’s Club.
We have never felt overwhelmed by the size of Solstice ships, a happy surprise that’s the result of brilliant 21st-century marine architecture and interior design. You can’t stand in any corridor and see from one end of the ship to the other because passageways bend and curve through a series of distinctive “neighborhoods” and quiet reflective spaces, including the magnificaent multi-story library and the Celebrity iLounge.
You immediately get the sense that the suites, Aqua-Spa accommodations and staterooms are on a large yacht, rather than on a massive vessel – the flow is relaxed and never frantic. Although the Equinox and Eclipse were at full capacity, we had a sense that it was never ‘rush hour’ any time of day or night.
The innovatively designed cuisine of Chef Jacques Van Staden is featured in the dining room as well as in the specialty restaurants. The Equinox and the Eclipse feature a two-tiered main dining space that has a Hollywood aura. The mezzanine circles above the lower floor with a full view of the two-story glass wine tower and dazzling chandeliers. The “Select Dining” option offers dinner whenever you please, as well as traditional seating reservations.
Chef Van Staden invented the techie-friendly “Qsine,” the first seagoing restaurant to feature a menu and wine list on an iPad. This is a play-with -your-food experience, where the visual design of the fare competes with the food itself.
Exceptional design elements delight passengers at every turn. Throughout the ships the world’s largest permanent collections of original contemporary art can be appreciated via the industry’s first self-guided, iPad art tours.
Sophistication at sea continues with the Quasar nightclub, Fortunes Casino, the Tuscan Grille, a creperie, a gelateria, martini bar, and the CellarMasters wine bar complete with the industry’s first installation of the innovative state-of-the-art wine by-the-glass system.
Theaters aboard the ships are equipped to launch dazzling aerial-effects (“Wicked” or “Spider Man,” anyone?) and feature three different shows with a full cast of professional singers and dancers on every seven-night cruise.
Easy to read maps are available at elevators, but, as in every city, for the first few days it’s easy to get lost. The helpful crew is always in evidence to give directions – even though getting directionally confused is half the fun!
Take the grand virtual tour at www.celebritycruises.com to see how it will indulge you in every luxury, impeccable service, dozens of activities and attractions, and world-class cuisine. Welcome aboard!!!
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All Images courtesy of Celebrity Cruises
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