Pepper on the Port Side

I got to Fort Lauderdale with time to spare and got off the plane to balmy,hot and humid weather that only South Florida can produce. There on the horizon, in the Port of the Everglades was the gigantic, shiny, white Celebrity Solstice, our treat for the next two nights and three days. We rushed around to get pressure bracelets, sun screen and lightweight shorts prior to embarking on the ship. Once on board, the whole pace and pitch changed. First off, the Solstice is a remarkable vessel. You can read about it…but to experience it is another thing. We were shown to our room ( a cozy space with duvets and cotton bedding, iTV, and a balcony overlooking the sea. The bathrooms are bigger, and nicely appointed, there are plugs where you need them, nice bedside lights and side tables. As always, the storage and closets are beautifully thought out, with places for shoes, hanging space, a flip down for your suitcase—everything to make travelling easier and fun.

We toured the ship from the AquaSpa with tiled steam rooms with reclining benches (images in the next post) with tiled floral patterns—large scale. We admired the hot pink beauty salon, the natural products boutique, the amazing gym with equipment galore and plenty of it. I treated myself to a facial which was a wonderful experience, allowing your brain to turn off and float on a pink cloud—while a lovely girl massaged by arms as well as putting masks and gels on my face with a lovely aromatic, herbal smell. The massage table was heated and calming. I can see how one could get into this treat. My only criticism is being called “dearie” by a waifish Irish girl. But it was endearing in a way too.

There is a pool outside with high tech cabanas integrated into a series of tent structures. There is also an indoor pool with big basket chairs for at least two, with drapery and a light waterfall on the backwall that changes color above a water installation (also on the outside) with water and color play by Wet, the same group in California that created a water event for the Museum of Glass as well as tour de force fountains in resorts and entertainment centers throughout the world. And, despite my words which could sound just this side of over the top, its not. It is beautiful and memorable. I love the outside showers and foot showers which had photographs of feet above them to “sign” the activity. Lots of teak…everywhere. I adore it. And they are not shy using lots of it with linen, canvas and the homerun color combination (cobalt blue and white).

The dining spaces are beautiful and not overtly glitzy—just nice—with different food pods versus the amazingly long lines that we experienced on the Century. There is the traditional food enhanced by lots of fruit and vegetables with an asian offering (and an asian breakfast), and a brazillian offering as well (which is very Miami and very fab). The desserts are small with lots of ice cream offered on every level. And there are always lines for the confections. There is the large Adam Tihany dining space called the Grand Epernay which is very swanky with white leatherette chairs, white table cloths, lots of drapery and sparkly lights. It is tasteful—but big living in a sort of Las Vegas aesthetic. I originally thought the Grand Epernay was more about chandeliers--at least that was the first impression, but upon the second visit,the sparkly ceiling felt like a crown for the new Queen of the Celebrity line, chock full of sparkle and reflection, light and texture..a diamond encrusted topper to go with the dining experience.

There are several special dining rooms that you need to be invited to partake of (I am assuming that these are for the big time cruisers, and VIPS on their cruises)—or maybe just for this inaugural cruise. There is the Tuscan grille, a steakhouse, Silk Harvest, Asian Fusion, Blu (part of the AquaClass suites, clean cuisine), Murano, described as having a classic and modern Continental Cuisine along with iced cream and pastry shops, a creperie, coffee bars, bars, and burgers. Tihany designed many of these spaces which are whimsical, interesting colorways, use of dark woods with silver highlights, interesting draperies and patterns. There are bars everywhere you turn…with the best being a Martini Bar that actually freezes with ice on the top to keep everything nice and chill along with trenches dug down through the bar chocked full of ice with bottles of flavored vodkas nestled in. I am disappointed, however, that there is no significant watermelon carving that we experienced on the Century. We were amused by our museum friends who are members of the Solstice Crew that the pepper is always put on the port side. Why? We asked—well…just because. It’s a Celebrity thing.

We had dinner last night with all of the Corning Museum representatives and fun glass team at the large Grand Epernay dining room. It was delicious and not too much. We were offered sea bass or lamb, a beautiful salad or a seafood bisque (hold the cream), and tiny little pastries good for a bite or two. There must have been well over a dozen of us around the table with lots of laughter and talk. I don’t know how I got to be so lucky, but I sat with Carl and Lewis Olsen (see blog) who are part of the team who knew the ropes to how to do things on the ship as they ordered one of everything while they told me of their one plate rule. Only one plate…no second go rounds etc. They are wild men…who go to the discos and clubs and have a lovely time along with long days demonstrating glassmaking, making huge shells and vases, mugs and candlesticks. It was great fun.

Prior to dinner, we had the treat to go to the Naming Ceremony in the Solstice Theater. There were bagpipes and scotch drummers with the swinging of the drumsticks and carrying of flags. There was a string quartet. Singing of the Greek and American anthem. Speechifying and recognition of all the people who made this happen.

And, interestingly enough, the description and presentation of the ship’s Godmother, a tradition of bringing good luck to the ship. Celebrity selected Professor Sharon L. Smith, a biological oceanographer who studies ecosystems and zooplankton, the biggest source of protein in the oceans. Sharon served 15 years at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. In 11993, she joined the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science as professor of marine biology and fisheries. In addition to her professional achievements, Sharon has conquered cancer twice.

Godmother Smith spoke movingly about her delight in being honored by her being the Godmother of this magnificent ship and broke into tears over the collaboration of Celebrity and the National Cancer Society to generate over a hundred thousand dollars to pay for mammograms for needy women. She is a remarkable woman who is a perfect fit with a company who live what they believe.

There was a ribbon cutting with acrobats a la Cirque Du Soleil bringing the ribbon in through the top of the theatre with all sorts of twisting and flipping in painted costumes, bringing it to Chairman Richard Fein and Sharon Smith to cut. At the cutting, the blue magnum bottle made by the Corning Museum of Glass team, was smashed against the hull of the ship.

After dinner, R and I went to look at the retail areas and bumped into the Steuben Glass pieces—with several he had designed and one that I provided an illustration for. We introduced ourselves to the staff manning that gallery and offered to sign any piece we had designed if they sold anything over the weekend. It was fun to see these sweet girls light up as we talked about some of the pieces they have, which ones sell better than others…and tell them little tales about the glass.

I could go on and on…and will, but need to sign off with my schedule of being Mrs. Cassetti is encroaching. I need to meet R. at the hot glass stage and onwards to another appointment. Dinner with a team from Celebrity and maybe some carousing with our fellow glass folks.

More later>>