New builds are an opportunity for cruise lines to use new technology, innovative design and enhanced facilities to give their ships the competitive advantage and the longevity that drive profitability. Cruise lines face external pressures in the form of new regulations and growing expectations among passengers.

As a result, in designing new ships, cruise lines must look to not only surpass passengers’ expectations in terms of facilities, but also improve the performance in areas such as energy efficiency. Many new developments in these areas will no doubt be revealed when the Celebrity Solstice begins operations in December 2008, as part of Celebrity Cruises’ growing fleet.

The new vessel, which will be built in the Papenburg shipyard of Meyer Werft, will be a post-panamax ship and will therefore be too big to pass through the Panama Canal. However, the Celebrity Solstice is expected to incorporate many advanced features in its large hull.

So far, Celebrity Cruises has kept its cards close to its chest and it plans to gradually reveal the ship’s advanced technology and facilities in the run up to its launch. However, we know already that the ship will incorporate high-quality passenger staterooms and energy efficiency technology. It will also comply with regulations that will come into force over the next few years.

AIMING HIGH

The design of the Celebrity Solstice has certainly focused on creature comforts, and not only because the staterooms will be larger than in many cruise ships. The standard rooms will also be more spacious, 90% of rooms will have outside cabins and a similar proportion will have their own balconies. Some 85% of all staterooms will have verandas, and all of them will feature flat-screen TVs and smart storage. Wireless internet access will be available to passengers throughout the
ship.

The ship will offer a new category of veranda accommodation: AquaClassSM. This is targeted specifically at spa enthusiasts. Covering 130 of the ship’s 1,425 staterooms, AquaClassSM will allow passengers unlimited access to the vessel’s new AquaSpa relaxation room and the Persian Garden, an exotic aromatherapy and steam room, as well as complimentary dining in the 130-seat speciality restaurant, Blu. Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

The process of innovation on the Celebrity Solstice extends right down to the engine room. At the laying of the keel ceremony in March, executives from Celebrity Cruises described the Celebrity Solstice as the most energy-efficient ship the cruise line had ever built. Energy efficiency has certainly been a key consideration in the design process.

The Celebrity Solstice will use diesel engines and pod propulsion systems, which makes the vessel more manoeuvrable. These will provide a total output of 63,000kW or 86,000hp.

The design of the ship will ensure that the vessel is compliant with the new rules on stability that will come into force in 2009, with the revision of the SOLAS regulations. Bernard Meyer, CEO and managing partner of Meyer Werft, says: “Together with Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, we have developed a truly innovative ship of this size, and we really appreciate that we can build these ships for the Celebrity Cruises brand.”

EXPANDING FLEET

Meyer Werft already has significant experience in building ships for Celebrity Cruises, having built its Century-class fleet, which includes Celebrity Century, Celebrity Mercury and Celebrity Galaxy. The yard has built a total of five cruise liners for Celebrity Cruises, three of them above 70,000gt.

At the time of their construction in the mid-1990s, the Celebrity Mercury and Celebrity Century, at 77,713gt, were the largest passenger ships ever built in Germany.

The Celebrity Solstice is considerably larger at 122,000gt. Since the agreement for the first ship was sealed in 2005, Celebrity Cruises has ordered a total of four ships in the Solstice class, all to be built by Meyer Werft. The latest order was placed in May this year. The Celebrity Solstice’s sister ships will include the Celebrity Equinox, due for delivery in 2009, and Celebrity Eclipse, due in 2010. The fourth ship is yet to be named.

“Ordering a fourth Solstice-class is a testament to the demand we’ve received from travel agent partners and travellers alike for more cruise vacation options with Celebrity,” says Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd chairman and CEO Richard Fain. “This expansion is yet another vivid illustration of the incredibly exciting growth and momentum behind the Celebrity brand.”

The vessels marks a notable step up in size. Each new ship will accommodate 2,850 guests in 1,425 cabins. They will be 1,033ft long and 121ft wide. The cost for Celebrity Cruises, which is part of the Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd group, is estimated to be in the region of $280,000 per berth.

“Together with Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, we have developed a truly innovative ship of this size, and we really appreciate that we can build these ships for the Celebrity Cruises brand.”

In June, when booking opened for the first voyage on the Celebrity Solstice, the immediate response from would-be passengers suggested that the ship’s advanced technology and design have helped it to successfully tap into its target market.

“We are thrilled with the early interest and enthusiasm we’re receiving from our guests and travel partners about Celebrity Solstice. As a special gesture of appreciation to our loyal Captain’s Club members, we are pleased to offer them the first opportunity to set sail in the ship’s inaugural season,” says Celebrity Cruises’s president, Dan Hanrahan.

Celebrity Cruises has a great deal of confidence in its new series of Solstice-class vessels and will no doubt reveal more of its secrets in the coming months. Much is promised, so much is expected of the ships, but the acid test will come when the first in the series takes passengers on a seven-night cruise in the eastern Caribbean. Only then will Celebrity Cruises know if its innovations have hit the right note with its guests.