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Smoke plumed up from my cocktail, the liquid nitrogen creating a stunning visual to an already glamorous cosmopolitan. Next to me a travel agent from Canada was giggling as she sipped her ginger mojito. Although complete strangers, we felt compelled to offer each other samples of our exotic beverages.
The Celebrity Equinox // (c) 2009 Celebrity Cruises
Launched this past July, the Equinox is the second in Celebrity’s Solstice class. Its sister ship named, aptly enough, the Solstice, was launched last year to much critical acclaim.
Travel agents familiar with the Solstice will already have a pretty good idea of what the Equinox looks like. Other than a few small design changes, a unique art collection and an additional 100 deck chairs, much of the ship bears a striking resemblance to her sister.
Agents may already know that Celebrity Cruises earned four of the top 10 positions in Conde Nast Traveler’s “Top Cruise Ships, Best Large Ships” list in 2009. I believe that it’s only a matter of time before the new Solstice-class ships also start appearing on this list.
The Equinox, like the Solstice, offers groundbreaking features, including the much talked about Lawn Club, an outdoor deck area with live grass, where guests can laze idly with a book, or participate in ship-organized activities, such as lawn bowling and bocce ball. The ship also offers the unique Hot Glass Show at Sea glass-making class, co-sponsored by the Corning Museum of Glass. Professional glassblowers create unique pieces of art, following the input of audience members. Later, the best pieces are auctioned to cruise passengers. There are 10 dining venues on board, including the popular coffee shop and meeting place Cafe al Bacio. Further, there is plenty of onboard entertainment, including a highly praised variety show starring a Cirque du Soleil-type aerialist.
Although the Equinox has the capacity to carry 2,850 passengers, it doesn’t feel like a large ship. The critically acclaimed design team was charged with building a line of large ships that retain an intimate feeling. The hallways, for example, were designed using cleverly placed angles, so passengers are never able to see more than one-third of the ship’s length at a time. This level of attention to detail is carried throughout the ship, creating a sophisticated, but relaxed environment for passengers.
Although Equinox does bear a strong resemblance to her sister ship, new with her launch is the Celebrity Life program, a series of “intellectually enriching” classes and programs. The drinks my new travel agent best friend and I were sharing were made during a “Signature Spirits” event, where we were encouraged to unleash our inner mixologist. This particular workshop, Molecular Mixology, was developed by the “Liquid Chef” Junior Merino, a world-renowned master mixologist who has trained the ship’s F&B staff to create healthy, attractive drinks using natural ingredients and unique flavor pairings.
The Celebrity Life program encompasses three distinct categories: Savor, Discover and Renew. Savor is all about food and wine. Courses include wine tasting, food preparation and the liquid mixology courses.
Renew, on the other hand, focuses on well-being. Its line-up ranges from unique spa programs — including a 24-karat-gold facial — to fitness seminars and workshops. Beginner programs such as an intro to yoga are available for first-timers, but courses range in intensity all the way up to a boot camp for the dedicated fitness practitioner.
The Discover series takes guests into new territories. Clients can learn a new language through Rosetta Stone or participate in interactive dance programs and travel seminars presented by Smithsonian Journeys.
After finishing our drinks, we promised to catch up with one another at the onboard gelateria later that afternoon. My new agent friend was in search of technological higher learning and headed off to the Photoshop techniques class. As an aficionado of “So You Think You Can Dance,” I considered watching the passengers in the interactive dance program. Worried, however, that I might end up being one of the passengers on the dance floor, I opted instead to burn calories by wandering through the Equinox’s two-story, Beverly Hills-style shopping galleria, enjoying the countless unique artworks for sale.
What really amazed me as I wandered through the opulent gift shops is that, even in these hard economic times, Celebrity Cruises continues to impress its clients. And while many lines are halting or slowing their new-build programs, Celebrity continues to steam ahead. The cruise line is planning to launch three more Solstice-class ships, one per year, until 2012.www.celebritycruises.com
Passenger Capacity: 2,850Crew Capacity: 1,255Staterooms: 1,426Verandas: 85 percent of inventoryOcean View: 90 percent of inventoryStaterooms for 3 or 4 guests: 418Connecting Staterooms: 121Wheelchair-Accessible Staterooms: 30
Click here to read more about the launch of the Celebrity Solstice.