Just fifteen feet. You would think it was fifteen yards.
When the Celebrity Solstice was launched in Fall of 2008, she was a bit of a dare. Her beam, or width, was 121 feet. This was 15 feet wider than the maximum width, (“Panamax”), allowed in the Panama Canal. It meant the Solstice and her four sisters would never go through those narrow locks. All because of 15 feet.Was it worth it? What did they get for their gamble? When she was introduced, I was working for archrival, Holland America Line. I read the reviews and always wanted to check it out for myself. Yesterday, thanks to the hospitality of Senior Vice President, Dondra Ritzenthaler, I was finally able to tour the ship.
The ship is beautiful. You would expect nothing less from a premium cruise line like Celebrity. The Solstice Class ships represented a re-invention of this brand and the ships have been a huge hit. Even with 2,850 lower berths, the passenger ratings of these sister ships are enviable. Celebrity is definitely delivering a premium cruise experience.
Did the gamble pay-off? My impression is: “In spades!” For the additional footage, they get a stunning ship with roomy public spaces, soaring ceilings and a sense of light and spaciousness. There are a number of places in the public areas where you get a view across the full width of the ship, like standing at the Guest Relations counter. The other side of the room seems twice as far away as on a Panamax ship, though it cannot actually be so. Add a vaulted ceiling, like in the Shops on the Boulevard, the Epernay Dining Room, the Solarium, or the open pool area, and the impression of space is immediate.
Though blessed with lots of square footage, Celebrity has also created a number of cozy, distinctive ambiances, particularly in the bars and specialty restaurants. Murano, Blu, and Silk Harvest all have unique styles that are inviting and polished. I could see myself hanging out with friends far too often in the Cellar Masters Wine Bar.
The Solstice avoids the Panama Canal by alternating between Alaskan summers and Australian winters. As it turns out, to accommodate the huge new oil tankers and container vessels, the Panama Canal is being expanded to create wider lanes that should allow the Solstice Class ships to use the short cut by mid-2016. That’s a bonus for Celebrity that will help make that gamble pay off even more so.
My special thanks go to Senior Vice President, Dondra Ritzenthaler, and her Executive Administrator, Carolina Casanova, for arranging my tour. Please see the Cruisereader.com Facebook page for photos of the beautiful ship.