Posted on Wednesday, July 27, 2011 by Peter Knego
Peter Knego heads off to Celebrity Cruises’ latest SOLSTICE Class ship, the 122,000 gt, 2,886 guest MV CELEBRITY SILHOUETTE for her naming at the historic port of Hamburg and a two night inaugural cruise into the North Sea.
All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2011 unless otherwise noted. Please click on image to view a larger version.
Tuesday/Wednesday, July 20/21, 2011
What better apparition to start off this latest trek than LAX’s landmark 1961-built Theme Building, a daring, sleek example of MidCentury architecture that enjoys increasing acclaim with the passage of time. At the adjacent Bradley International Terminal, I boarded a series of flights to Hamburg, Germany, where the Theme Building’s modern maritime equivalent, Celebrity Cruises’ new CELEBRITY SILHOUETTE, was being named.
Upon arrival in Hamburg, I was transferred along with a group of fellow cruise media to the East Hotel, an edgy new venue built in the shell of an old factory in the heart of the Red Light District. Its handsome MidCentury-inspired decor was yet another preamble to the CELEBRITY SILHOUETTE.
However, unlike the SILHOUETTE and her SOLSTICE class sisters, the hotel was a maze to navigate and once I finally located my room (a striking space with a diagonally-situated island of a bed), trying to operate lights and air conditioning was enigmatic at best. No matter, after a quick refreshment in the lobby, I was off on a short walk down to the bustling River Elbe.
At Brücke 4 in the historic Landungsbrücken, I boarded one of the harbor cruise boats for a 14 Euro circuit of Hamburg’s waterfront. It was a warm, sunny day with a network of clouds that provided intermittent shade during the ninety or so minute tour of Europe’s second largest port.
At 4:20 PM, the departure sign was hoisted on board and the by-then-mostly-full vessel began to rumble into the the waterway.
One of my favorite attractions adjacent to Hamburg’s landing stage is the 1961-built Hamburg-Sud cargo liner CAP SAN DIEGO. The Georg Manner-designed vessel was equipped with luxurious accommodation for twelve lucky passengers on her regular sailings to South America. Rescued from a sale to the breakers in 1986, the CAP SAN DIEGO is immaculately maintained, serving as an hotel ship, museum and attraction that can still operate under her own power.
Soon, the spires of central Hamburg began to peek over the banks of the Elbe. The historic port was once home to some of the world’s most celebrated liners and remains Germany’s premier North Sea cruising hub.
Although my main intent was to get some footage and images of the CELEBRITY SILHOUETTE, I didn’t mind the collateral bonus of capturing the Concordia Class COSTA MAGICA at the Altona Cruise Terminal.
Our boat turned into the sheltered Kuhwerder Hafen container port and passed directly underneath the towering bow of the 10,000 TEU container capacity, 2008-built COSCO PACIFIC, one of the new generation of mega container ships.
And then, we were back into the main portion of the river, sailing past the impressive Blohm and Voss shipyard with its flotilla of massive drydocks.
Finally, our course was set for the CELEBRITY SILHOUETTE, tucked away at a cargo pier in the Kleiner Grasbrook section of the harbor prior to her scheduled move to the Hamburg Cruise Terminal that evening. Although this is the fourth in a series of five mega cruise ships in the Celebrity fleet, my awe for the SOLSTICE Class increases with the delivery of each vessel. The more I see and experience these inspired, monolithic beauties, the more convinced I am that they are the benchmark of what today’s Premium class post Panamax cruise ship should be. The competition would do well by studying these ships very, very closely…
Our craft sailed past at a reasonable distance and then circled back for a close up view of the SILHOUETTE’s multi-faceted and futuristic features. This would be my only chance to obtain unobstructed views of the ship since I would actually be spending the next two days on board.
Another unexpected bonus was being able to get some footage of Hapag-Lloyd’s top-rated MV EUROPA, which I had the pleasure of experiencing on an all-too-short cruise to the Black Sea last fall.
Some ten minutes later, I was disembarking the tour boat and heading back to the hotel for a delicious dinner and an early night’s rest.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Our relatively small press group was an hour or so ahead of the big crunch that would board the ship for the gala naming at 5:00 PM, followed by a two night inaugural cruise into the North Sea. It would be a tall order to try and document the entire ship in this short window but my plan was to cover the interior spaces from the bottom up and then head outside for the deck areas in the afternoon.
But first, I would need to drop off my luggage at Aquaclass Cabin 1635, a very handsomely furnished and sensibly laid out 194 square foot abode on port Deck 11. More on all the accommodation categories in the upcoming CELEBRITY SILHOUETTE Decked! feature but it boasted floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors, a sitting area with sofa, 32 inch LCD TV, queen-sized bed and vanity.
The 54 square foot verandah was furnished with lounge seating and a glass balcony for unobstructed views.
The spacious bathroom was fitted with a Hansgrohe shower, wood-toned cabinetry and tile surfacing.
Massaging side jets and a rainforest shower head as well as a bar for leg-shavers are all part of the Aquaclass shower experience on the SILHOUETTE.
Systematically, I worked my way up from the Grand Foyer on Deck 3 through all of the public spaces. One of my very favorite rooms is the Blu Restaurant on aft Deck 5, with its rose-embossed molding, colorful honeycomb of a room divider and elegant table settings. The deep blue and white color scheme is more like the Blu on board the SOLSTICE versus the turquoise hues in the same room on the ECLIPSE.
In the Grand Lobby, the staircase enjoys a curvaceous descent to the bottom level and the addition of a crystal chandelier is meant to evoke the grandeur of liners past. But the liner-like ambiance is not exclusive to just the SILHOUETTE’s Grand Lobby.
As with all of the SOLSTICE Class ships, the SILHOUETTE features intriguing, sometimes interactive artwork, such as the cages of virtual canaries just outside of the Bistro On Five on the Deck 5 terrace of the Grand Foyer.
Overlooking the Deck 7 and 8 balconies of the Grand Foyer, there is the tree house-inspired Hideaway Lounge, which complements the ficus tree suspended in a double helix-shaped planter in the heart of the atrium.
The open air lidos on the SOLSTICE Class Deck 12 have two large pools that are surrounded by both shaded and exposed seating. Architectural surfaces are multi-faceted and angular, with an almost Mayan or Egyptian symmetry. On the SILHOUETTE, the dancing fountains at the foot of the bandstand have been eliminated to provide more deck space.
The vast AquaSpas on these ships occupy the forward portion of Decks 11 and 12. Dual levels are linked by a helix-shaped staircase with exotic, Persian-inspired mosaics.
In the Lawn Club area with its authentic grass (the concept sounds a bit silly until it is actually experienced underfoot), magnificent canvas wings that would make Eero Saarinen (or even the Theme Building’s architect, Paul Williams) proud, add a dynamic twist.
In lieu of the Corning Museum of Glass attraction on the three prior SOLSTICE ships, the SILHOUETTE has the Lawn Club Grill, a new extra tariff ($30) eatery where guests have the option of selecting, seasoning and grilling their own cuts (under the tutelage of a “guide”) or having it done for them. More on that later….
The SILHOUETTE also introduces handsome, cabana-like, inward-facing Alcoves to the Lawn Club area.
The portions of the Lawn Club that line either side of the aft funnel casing are similar to those on the prior ships.
Miraculously, by 3:30 that afternoon , I had completed about ninety percent of my photography. In need of some revitalization, I headed to the Garden Cafe, where I was delighted to find SeaTrade Insider’s charming and intrepid Anne Kalosh chatting away with Sharon Smith, the Godmother of the CELEBRITY SOLSTICE. Professor Smith, a biological oceanographer and humanitarian, was kind enough to pose for a quick photo with yours truly.
Celebrity’s Garden Cafe salad bars are pure ambrosia to my uninhibited grazing sensibilities, offering an impressive variety of well-presented ingredients and large cruets of olive oil and balsamic vinegar to douse it all in.
The pasta bar is also a mini-nirvana of choices, from cream, pesto, bolognese and tomato sauces to a couple dozen toppings and select herbs and spices as well as bountiful amounts of freshly grated parmesan. You select and they cook it up…
When I rejoined Anne, her newest table companion was none other than Royal Caribbean International’s CEO and President, Richard Fain. I was thrilled to tell Mr. Fain (who insists on being called “Richard”) just how much I am in awe of the SOLSTICE Class ships. He credited his design team, headed by the uber-brilliant Harri Kulovaara, for all the magnificence enveloping us. We then enjoyed conversing about architecture in general, the Fibonacci Sequence, gardens and gazebos before it was time to go “spritz up” and don formal attire for the naming ceremony. On the way out, I could not resist a delicious scoop of caramel pecan ice cream…
Alas, instead of “11”, where my cabin was located, my finger pushed “5” on the elevator panel, allowing me to make a quick beeline to the ever-buzzing Cafe al Bacio for a jet lag-defying cappuccino pick-me-up.
End Of Part One.