Celebrity Solstice: Friends and Frosty Fun

Top group is the most important. They are the spine and soul of the Hot Glass Stage on the newest ship for Celebrity, the Solstice. They are (from left to right) Steve Gibbs, Lewis Olsen, Carl Siglin and Annette Sheppard. Look for more on them.

Second from top is a cross section of part of the Solstice with the Martini Bar at the bottom and all the people and light. I like this image as its decorative (as in decorative illustration) and yet gives some verve of the moment.

Third image is a broad look at the Grand Epernay, designed by Adam Tihany. The jewel studded (or seemingly so) ceiling is baroque in it's expression and feel. The color (blue this day) changes throughout the room's uses.

Fourth image shows detail of the Martini Bar which has the ability to ice up quite thickly (think Zamboni and ice hockey games) having a chilly surface to place your drink. Things could get very dangerous this way.

Fifth image shows a pull back of the same Martini Bar. Like the vibe of this one too.

For more images, visit my Flickr site>>

Up in Blue

I like it that the word blue has taken on meanings these days. Very hip…or maybe just that I have been a consumer of the blue brands in the past few days. JetBlue, BlueStudio, et cetera having to do with skies or seas. Regardless, I like blue despite that fact that most clients want blue logos so they can take fewer risks and to some degree, fit in when standing out is more the place we should want them to be.

We got up early and are on JetBlue winging our way back to white (snow) in Syracuse which we should have the pleasure of encountering around noon thirty today. We spent an evening in Fort Lauderdale in the Courtyard by Marriott across the street from the National Swimming Hall of Fame (a very prime example of Post Modern architecture which R. surmises is an Architectonica design given it’s lovely whimsy and crappy construction—a winning and yet recognizable style). Abutting the National Swimming Hall of Fame is the Fort Lauderdale Swimming Club with many pools cordoned off for lap swimming that could easily accommodate hundreds of swimmers going back and forth finding either sport or focus in that lovely repetition of strokes, walls and markings on the pool.

We did a walk on the beach to see the rosy sunset, and to our surprise, there was the Celebrity Solstice going out for a bit of a spin for the evening. I took pictures of the palm trees (many and varied), the palm fronds and of course many green coconuts which seemed to be quite abundant on the beach. We passed a tree that we always qualify as a bird tree. You can have bird trees anywhere…and this bird tree was thunderous with the chirping and singing that emanated from its leafy branches. We caught a glance at boat tailed grackles (identified over the phone by Princess Kitty) who were happily gobbling up the fruit and beckoning their friends to come and join them. We saw pelicans and parrots –who cawed raucously as they flew by. I love the flora and fauna that seem to be so regular in South Florida. Granted, I love the flora and fauna regardless of where we go, but what with brilliant purple foliage and exotic birds, South Florida has much of the world by the tail.

We also walked down the River Walk in Fort Lauderdale which is a lovely park that follows the river. The river activity is wild with these enormous yachts and sea taxis steaming down the water, maneuvering some quick turns and narrow spaces as equally large yachts lined either side of the aqueous street, parked and waiting. The River walk was lined with a great selection of palms and plants one might see up north in shopping malls or tropical plant stores –great purple leaves, some polka dotted bright pink or green leaves, frosty blue round palm leaves etc. River Walk is very Fort Lauderdale and well worth the visit.

R took me to a wonderful place for dinner, the 15th Street Fisheries. There is an upstairs with fancier menus and downstairs, more bar and casual food. There is outside sitting and inside. But, beyond the yummy sandwiches with seafood, they have cut holes in the floor of the restaurant which is suspended over the river, and there right in front of you are scads of fish—flounder and other fish, in a silvery dance in the illuminated green water. They had pictures of people on the outside of the building feeding buckets of fish/chum to these enormous, big jawed tarpons. Primordial fish. One definitely felt on the top of the food chain as I glanced down at the frisky flounder and then at my hot plate filled with dinner. The 15thStreet Fisheries is situated in a boatyard, so we got an eyeful of all sorts of Boston Whalers—center console, ocean going etc. Loved it.

Onward to home. Onward to our dear ones who need us. K had a series of interviews with art schools over the weekend at SUNY Purchase (which she quickly labeled as a prison for art), and had negative responses to her work with Fine Arts departments (which she thought was where she was interested) with input such as “do you want to be an illustrator and do things like Hallmark Cards or Children’s books?”). So, poor K got the first taste of the Fine Arts sneer at illustration. It was a bit of a shock, tip of the lash for her as she didn’t see it coming. She is quite disheartened as am I as her work is beautiful, genuinely good, and as she is just on the front end of this process, it is (as we all know) hard to scrape yourself off the floor, sew your ego back in place, pick up the portfolio and proceed. But, we will get her all put back together again. A. seems lonely—and needs some hugging. Shady Grove is mope-y so she will need time hugging us and taking a deep doggy deep breath.

This coming weekend is a baby shower we are doing with friends…so I will need to engage in this. We have Christmas to start focusing on, Thanksgiving to plan along with the writing of our papers for Hartford and getting back on track with the project work. Need to check on ski bus before it is too late. And of course, it’s the last quarter of the year, so the business needs a bit of TLC along with the steady stream of work we have the opportunity to do. So, back to the whirl at Two Camp Street.

Winter awaits in Syracuse.

More later>>

Standing Still and Moving Forward

Our cruise was not really cruising. We went out a bit and then sat…with the stabilizers and motors on to keep us in one place. Even a big boat drifts, which gave the impression we were moving when really, the skyline of Miami stayed pretty much in the same place all day. It was a beautiful puffy cloud day, with clouds that would shame baroque painters all sculpted, grey and gold, cream and white, paynes gray and blue. With the breeze blowing, it was a perfect moment.

Steve Gibbs, Annette Sheppard, Lewis Olsen (note rave about Lew at Art Basel Miami last December), and Kurt all put on some amazing glass demonstrations throughout the day from making an enormous conch shell to a delicate, orange footed vase with bits and applied decoration to an off hand, blue crab with wit and gesture. They drew good crowds of people—many coming back for each show—with cheering and questions and real curiousity about the medium and the making. I like that, medium and the making—save that idea for later. The set up for the show is on the 15th floor of the ship. The tippy top, next to the lawn club where Celebrity’s Richard Fain insisted there would be grass…and there was. So, glass and grass. There was an overspill of people..which may suggest a slightly different programming for the future vessels (next one to launch next year. The Solstice is the first of five of this class of ship…and the glass show goes with this class. I was very proud of the home team from the Museum of Glass. They gave a good presentation with solid messages that linked the vision of the Solstice to that of the Museum.

I did a bit of hopping around and chatting with people yesterday. I walked the shops which could be tweaked to my thinking insofar as product mix. Celebrity knows their customers…but the low end tees and visors flanking conservative high end necklaces and bracelets along with a liquor store seemed to be the mix. Not many paperbacks, nor mid range art objects to reinforce the art experience this ship offers. I think they may be missing some easy money. But hey, thankfully I do not run the universe.

I had a nice chat with the person who runs their art enterprise. Solstice has a new vendor for art—a gallery that has Dale Chihuly glass and drawings, some interesting glass artists represented, painters, digital artists and some encaustic works (works in wax). They are a bit flashy, but the real deal –and new, contemporary practicing artists. It was disconcerting to me in our former cruising experience to see tons of Leroy Neimans and painters of that ilk showcased along with uncertified, real Rembrandt and Chagall prints/etchings etc. It seemed like art that was good for you, not necessarily art that spoke to you, that you want to live with, that makes you happy. This new gallery seems to understand this and appeals to a wide range of people without dumbing the assortment down—respectfully showing work that is affordable for collectors, easy to get into, and guides that person to select something to remember their trip that has artistic integrity and merit which matches with their experience aboard the Solstice.

We got off the ship after meeting a bit with the team, and ended up in Fort Lauderdale which is very small townish, nice with beautiful beaches, great tropical plants and trees (took a bunch of reference for my garden of Eden work), with pink sidewalks, parrots flying and screeching, bird trees filled with birds eating plump fruit. We walked down the beach and saw the Solstice steaming out of Port Everglades with another load of guest for another two night tour to sharpen up the staff prior to their first paying gig, thanksgiving week. She was elegant and to our happiness and delight, we saw the hot glass glory hole on the 15th floor at a distance...the brightest light on the ship. And to my thinking, the Museum is a bright light for this new class of ships. We are very excited about the future.

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>>