Celebrity Silhouette debuts to rave reviews

Celebrity Silhouette debutsCelebrity Cruises new 2,886 passenger Celebrity Silhouette debuted this week in Hamburg, Germany. Initial reviews indicate the line’s fourth new ship in less than three years offers far more than a cookie-cutter version of her three older sisters.

“The most striking change was replacement of glass blowing with the Lawn Club Grill, allowing more passengers to enjoy 1/2 acre of real grass in an engaging and tantalizing culinary experience with views of the lawn and the best oceanviews available” cruise expert Stewart Chiron, CEO CruiseGuy.com, told Gadling late Thursday from Hamburg.

Fans of Celebrity Silhouette’s three sister-ships will find familiar features including the signature Lawn Club, an on-deck area with actual growing grass. New in this part of the ship is the 48-seat Lawn Club Grill, replacing the Corning Glass Works feature on earlier models. The open-air outdoor restaurant allows guests to select and grill their own meats, barbecued pizza or fresh vegetables by themselves or with the help of the ship’s chefs at night for an additional fee. Accompanying beverages include wine, frosty buckets of beer and pitchers of sangria.”I’ve been on the new ship for about 12 hours now, and already love the few changes Celebrity has made to this ship” said Linda Garrison of About.com.

Another change, a new complimentary breakfast and lunch venue called The Porch, serves lighter fare including sandwiches and soups. Not far is The Art Studio where guests are invited to explore the artist within them with a Master Artist from the ArtCenter South Florida via a variety of activities including jewelry making, learning to sketch, make a mosaic or travel journal of their vacation.

“The enhancements on Silhouette over her three predecessors are striking. The Lawn Club received six cabanas and hammocks” said Chiron.

Those cabanas can accommodate up to four guests and are WiFi-enabled in what the line calls “your own cabana-styled haven” called the Alcove. Cabana rental includes the use of an iPad, continuing a partnership/program with Apple offered on other Solstice-class ships that also enables self-guided tours of the ship’s extensive art collection.

“Celebrity Cruises’ Solstice Class ships were game changers when Solstice debuted in 2008” concluded Chiron “With the introduction of the fourth ship in the series, Celebrity further changed the game into uncharted territory.”

Celebrity Silhouette joins her three older sisters Celebrity Solstice, Celebrity Equinox, and Celebrity Eclipse. Thursday’s naming ceremony of the 122,000-ton ship, the largest to be officially named in Germany, was streamed live on Celebrity’s Facebook page and officially named by US travel agent and Cancer survivor Michelle Morgan following a Celebrity tradition in supporting breast cancer charities.

Compared to her younger sisters, Celebrity Silhouette was also built with 17 additional cabins. Upcoming Celebrity Reflection, due in 2012, will add 89 cabins on an entire extra deck, increasing capacity to 3,030 passengers. New 251 square foot Aqua Class suites will be added with all the current amenities plus butler service.

Celebrity Silhouette debuts
with sailings to the Holy Land and eastern Mediterranean from Rome’s port of Civitavecchia before repositioning to Bayonne, New Jersey to sail Caribbean itineraries through the winter. New Yorkers can enter to win a free ride on the new ship in the line’s NYC Celebrity Silhouette Sweepstakes through August 31, 2011.

Flickr photo by madle-fotowelt.de

Cruise with the stars, if you dare

Cruises come in all shapes and sizes. There are big ships, little ships, long cruises and short ones too. On board we find everything from fine dining to luxury bedding and a pampering staff. Some travelers are not interested in any of that though. They want the immersive experience that only a themed cruise can provide. Themed sailings featuring bands are popular with Captain Kid Rock leading the pack for at-sea metal entertainment. Let’s take a look at a couple of other themed cruises, perhaps a bit more subdued, coming up soon.

Sixthman, the people who bring us Kid Rock’s Chillin’ The Most Cruise, and the KISS Kruise have lined up award-winning actors Ernest Borgnine, Tippi Hedren, and Eva Marie Saint, along with distinguished filmmaker Norman Jewison who will set sail on the first-ever TCM Classic Cruise, a new, one-of-a-kind event taking place Dec. 8-12, 2011.

Cruise with the starsThe four film legends will join Turner Classic Movies primetime host Robert Osborne, TCM weekend-daytime host Ben Mankiewicz and a bunch of classic-movie fans for the four-day voyage aboard Celebrity Millennium. While sailing from Miami to Key West and Cozumel, guests will enjoy a variety of movie-themed events including screenings, panel discussions, trivia contests and parties.

Also on the TCM Classic Cruise will be the Alloy Orchestra, a three-man musical ensemble that has written and performed live accompaniment to classic silent films for more than two decades.

Whatever your passion, odds are there is a themed cruise planned with you in mind. ThemeCruiseFinder.com can help narrow down the list with a comprehensive searchable theme cruise web portal available on the internet.

Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas is host to a cruise where guests can Dance With The Stars. Stacked on top of the regular cruise experience, those on board also get to see a private dance finale performance by star dancers Tony & Chelsie, dance parties with your fellow guests, Q&A sessions with Tony & Chelsie, photo and autograph sessions, welcome and farewell receptions and a bunch of Cruise with the Dance Stars’ goodies.

“Included in this amazing week of dance are exclusive master dance classes for all ability levels, dance parties, photo and autograph sessions, private theme parties, Q&A sessions, dining and socializing with fellow Dancing fans, not to mention a very exciting cruise vacation!” says DanceStarsCruise.com.

Expect to pay a premium price over and above what that sailing might normally sell for to cover onboard events, activities plus up-close-and-personal time with the stars. The Dance With The Stars cruise has prices starting at $1535 per person while today’s starting price for someone not included in the fun is $821. For some, that’s a steep premium to pay. For others, its worth every penny.

Hard rock, movie stars of yesteryear or dance stars of today, there is a theme cruise for everyone. If I had to guess who will be delivering the most bang for the buck, I’ll have to go with the Captain though.

No telling what he might think we should get included for that price.

Flickr photo by jimg944

Grill your own dinner on new cruise ship, get free apron

Grill your own dinnerCelebrity Cruises new 2,886-guest Celebrity Silhouette will debut soon with all the bells and whistles of her previous 122,000 ton Solstice-class sister-ships. Look for iPad art tours, a “trendsetting onboard experience and larger than normal staterooms. Sailing from New York, a whole lot of New Yorkers and tri-state area residents will be on board, starting their vacation without taking a flight, maximizing their vacation time. Also on board will be something new and unique to this vessel; the industry’s first interactive, open-air grilling restaurant The Lawn Club Grill.

“People tend to associate grilling with the relaxing, carefree mood of summer – exactly what a Celebrity vacation is all about,” said Jacques Van Staden, Vice President, Culinary Operations. “What can be better than experiencing something that’s popular among so many cultures around the world, while relaxing near a lawn of growing grass, surrounded by an endless view of the sea?”

The highlight of the dining experience at the 58-seat Lawn Club Grill will be the opportunity for guests to serve as their party’s “Grill Master,” by being paired with a Celebrity Cruises chef to assist in preparing the menu for their table over custom-built, ventilated grills. This unique, one-on-one interaction will give the Grill Master a one-of-a-kind, firsthand lesson in proper grilling techniques and other tricks of the grilling trade.
“Our guests consistently tell us that fresh, exciting culinary experiences are essential to their enjoyment of their vacation, and we are always looking for new ways to deliver that to them,” said Van Staden.

All guests will have the opportunity to choose from a gourmet salad bar, a la carte “build your own” pizzas and more than 12 grilled specialties. “Grill Masters” will receive a complimentary apron as a memento.

“Just as we introduced the ‘uniquely unordinary’ experience of using iPad-based menus to design individual culinary journeys featuring dishes presented in unexpected ways in Qsine on Celebrity Eclipse, we are introducing customized, open-air grills to the cruise vacation dining experience.”

By combining a premium culinary experience with the sensation of relaxing on the top deck of a ship, surrounded by live grass and cool ocean breezes, Celebrity’s aim is to celebrate the passion people have for grilling, as they enjoy their precious vacation time.

I think they might just get that done when guests grill their own dinner at The Lawn Club Grill.

Cruise news rodeo roundup

Cruise News rodeo roundup
Sometimes there are little nuggets of information floating around out there that are not quite enough for a post but surely worthy of consideration if you are in to cruise vacations. Here are some from this last week, in-your-face rodeo style, just so we keep up to speed.

Norwegian Cruise Line entered into an agreement with Special Needs Group Inc. for them to be the exclusive mobility and oxygen equipment supplier for the line. Norwegian and pretty much all cruise lines do a good job of handling the needs of guests with disabilities. Locking in to one supplier will surely give them the consistency and reliability that one single company can offer. That’s also a score for ship security too. With one supplier delivering equipment to their ships, that could reduce the number of different vendors entering the security cloud that surrounds all ships in port.

Speaking of handicapped people, the battle rages on at CruiseCritic.com (@CruiseCritic) over a passenger who booked a suite thinking “butler service” would be the same as “I brought my nurse with me” and was terribly disappointed when not only uncared for but put off the ship about as fast as the cruise line could.

This week we also brought you a series commemorating the 99th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic which occurred April 15, 1912. Today’s cruise industry exists and operates in many ways as a result of the Titanic tragedy. This week we took a look at the legacy left behind that affects cruise passengers on every sailing of every ship.
Carnival Corporation ships from Princess Cruises and Cunard Line will be plugging in at the Red Hook pier in Brooklyn soon as all parties in the matter came to an agreement on how it would get paid for and have finalized plans. The bulk of the $15 million price tag for cleaner air because plugging in means turning off ships engines in port, will be paid for by a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. One reader commented “Sure, just like the government, if they can’t fix it, throw money at it” but local residents, happy to not wear gas masks around the house, are thrilled.

“It’s deal time at Celebrity Cruises” says Gene Sloan (@CruiseLog) of USA Today’s Cruise Log. During the line’s Mediterranean Fly and Sail Event, running right now which “includes reduced rates on both cruises in the region and the airline flights needed to reach them” adds Sloan.

Over at Celebrity sister-line Royal Caribbean International (@RoyalCaribbean), things are heating up over their new all-you-can-drink program. Apparently, a good number of takers on the deal thought/interpreted/scammed that to meaning all-me-and-my-friends-can-drink. The cruise line was not amused. New rules for the plan call for everyone in the stateroom to pay the $29 per person, per day charge to get it.

The UK’s John Honeywell (@CaptainGreybeard) notes “Surely they must have anticipated only one half of a couple signing up and then attempting to buy drinks for his or her partner?” You would think so. The line has been offering all-you-can-drink packages for group cruises for quite some time but requires “all or nothing” compliance with all members of the group taking the package in order to get it.

Captain Greybeard was also onboard the new Carnival Magic which sets sail on May 1st for a first-hand look at how the ship is coming along. Gadling will be on board for that inaugural sailing bringing you information on the latest, greatest ship from Carnival Cruise Lines. We will also be bringing you port-of-call reports ala Gadling which will no doubt be something entirely different than you might have seen elsewhere. Here’s a preview

Tanganyika Wildlife Park gets a helping hand

Tanganyika Wildlife Park gets a helping hand Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Wichita, Kansas is a non-profit specialty zoo charged with educating the public about endangered species. At the park, visitors are invited to get up close and personal with kangaroos, giraffes and other wildlife not exactly roaming the plains of the great Midwest on a normal day. Today, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Azamara Cruises employees are on the scene as volunteers making a difference.

Over 150 volunteers will spend today cleaning, planting and handling other projects as part of Royal Caribbean’s 14th annual “G.I.V.E.” Day (Get Involved, Volunteer Everywhere) and this year will help prepare the wildlife park for its summer season, assisting the park’s small staff with such laborious tasks as erecting fences, laying sod, cleaning animal enclosures and tackling other landscaping projects in the wildlife park.

What is a cruise line doing in Kansas? Royal Caribbean maintains a remote call-in center in Wichita that travel agents and consumers might get connected to when inquiring about a cruise vacation.

“Our company is committed to supporting and helping the communities in which we live and work,” said RCL’s Director of Trade Support & Services Mike Semler. “We hope the personal satisfaction and fun of assisting our neighbors on G.I.V.E. Daywill help inspire our participants to pursue volunteer and public service opportunities throughout the year.”

Indeed, it was not all that long ago that Gadling reported ongoing efforts by Royal Caribbean in Haiti where the line is making a difference.

Flickr photo by Jobar6721

Related Stories