Launch of cruiseship Celebrity Solstice

Sarah Bolton on 13 November 2008
The launch of a cruiseship is always a special occasion, but this time was the first one I'd attended in the US. Firstly I was very surprised just how close Port Everglades cruise terminal is to both Fort Lauderdale airport and good hotels in the area for pre and post cruise stays. Even flying in and out of Miami airport, as we did, was an easy 40 minute taxi journey.

Solstice is the newest ship in Celebrity's 5* fleet, and definitely lives up to their reputation for elegant and stylish ships with 1st class service. Solstice is the first of a new class of ship, and will be sailing in the Caribbean for winter 2008/9 before moving to the Med for summer 2009. Her 2 sister ships will be Equinox (Med summer 2009) and Eclipse (launching in 2010 and sailing to the Med from Southampton). Although these ships are the biggest yet for Celebrity, Solstice has lost none of the attention to detail and intimate feel of the other ships. I really was blown away at just how romantic this ship is - the use of gauze curtains in bar areas; sunbeds for 2 on the pool deck, cozy hide-away chairs for 2 and large hammocks in the solarium area all added to this effect.

The cabins on Solstice are extremely comfortable, and have been re-designed by women! Bathrooms are now larger than in most cabins at sea, with more storage space, larger shower with screen rather than a stick-to-you shower curtain.. even down to little details such as a foot rest in the shower for shaving your legs! A new class of cabin has also been developed, the AquaClass stateroom, which has unlimited access to the AquaSpa relation room, Persian Garden aromatherapy and steam room and its own exclusive speciality restaurant, Blu - all designed for people looking for the ultimate Spa getaway.

The facilities are outstanding, with innovative features such as The Lawn Club - a large area on the top deck of REAL grass. Taking your shoes off and feeling real grass under your feet on a cruise ship was a most surreal experience. This lovely area is used for lawn games such as quoits and croquet. Next door to this is another "first at sea" - the Hot Glass Show. This show is produced in conjunction with the Corning Museum of Glass, and is a wonder to watch. Experts demonstrate the art of glass-making, coming up with beautiful items before your eyes. (I just wonder how the glassblowers are going to survive in the height of summer standing beside the hot furnaces!)

As expected, the dining onboard is outstanding. With 10 dining venues in addition to the dramatic dual level Grand Epernay dining room (complete with wine tower), there is something for all tastes on board. Although we ate in the main dining room on both nights, we were lucky enough to enjoy tastings at each of the main speciality restaurants - Silk Harvest (exotic Asian), Tuscan Grille (steakhouse), Murano (continental) and Blu (healthy). Cafe al Bacio is a great coffee shop with gorgeous cakes and biscuits, and its own gelataria.

The bars on board have different themes and specialities, with our group's favourite being the Martini Bar & Crush. For wine connoisseurs, Cellar Masters, is the place to be, with a wide selection of wines from around the world, set within a Gentlemen's Club atmosphere. The nightclub, Quasar, goes to the other extreme and looks like something from out of space, with globe-like seats hanging from the ceiling and a DJ booth that looks like a newly landed spaceship.

The entertainment on board is excellent - from professional shows in the theatre to pianists in bars to a capella quartets. My favourite show by far was the modern circus style performance - along the lines of Cirque du Soleil. It was wonderful also to come out of the theatre and wander through the atrium to discover a jazz band playing with people jiving in the open space.

The ship itself is stunning - although it is large you really don't feel it, and the space ration is excellent so that you don't realise how many other people are sharing YOUR ship! I honestly can't wait to cruise on her properly (ie for more than 2 nights!) and enjoy all she has to offer. "I'll be back!"