Celebrity Silhouette sailing Germany's River Ems from the Meyer Werft Shipyard in Papenburg, heading for her naming ceremony in Hamburg.
Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Silhouette: Unveiling a New Megaship

The World's Most Stylish Megaship
By Matt Hannafin

Where do you go from up? Celebrity already had the world's most stylish megaships in Celebrity Solstice, Equinox, and Eclipse but in introducing the fourth Solstice-class sister, Celebrity Silhouette, they've raised the bar even higher. New and better uses for signature spaces? Check. Small tweaks that make everything just a little more special? Check. Better entertainment, dining, and activities? Check. A finely balanced mix of high-toned elegance and playful, childlike fun? Check.

Sometimes it's hard to grade a new vessel when it's fresh out of the box, but not this time: On every level, Silhouette is one of the very finest megaships at sea.

Photo Caption: Celebrity Silhouette sailing Germany's River Ems from the Meyer Werft Shipyard in Papenburg, heading for her naming ceremony in Hamburg.
A private "Alcove" cabana looks out over Celebrity Silhoutte's Lawn Club.
Celebrity Cruises
The Grass Between Your Toes
Like her Solstice-class sisters, Silhouette is decked out with a Lawn Club, a half-acre of real grass growing 12 decks above the sea. Designed to provide a relaxing, lawn-party type of experience, the Lawn Club on Solstice and sister ships Equinox and Eclipse looked great but lacked a sense of focus. Once you were there, there wasn't a compelling reason to stay, save for lying on the grass, playing croquet, or -- in what was and remains for me a very weird juxtaposition -- taking in a glassblowing show put on at the adjacent Hot Glass Studio by artisans from the Corning Museum of Glass. (As entertaining as the shows are, featuring them on three ships seems like a stretch.)

Aboard Silhouette, the Glass Studio is gone, replaced by the Lawn Club Grill, a fun, interactive dining experience. Two other new spaces also flank the lawn. On the starboard side is The Porch, an indoor-outdoor dining spot offering light breakfasts and lunches. On the port side, the Art Studio offers casual classes in drawing, painting, etc. Out on the lawn itself, Celebrity has installed eight "Alcove" rental cabanas. Each is designed to pamper two to four guests and is outfitted with cushy seating and a telephone you can use to call for service. Guests who don't want to shell out for their relaxation can camp out for free just a few meters away in one of the eight comfortable hammocks set up under the Lawn Club's high partial canopies -- or, for an Alice in Wonderland-like experience, jump up into one of the two fantastically oversize Adirondack chairs that sit like sculpture at the lawn's aft end.

Photo Caption: A private "Alcove" cabana looks out over Celebrity Silhoutte's Lawn Club.
A ship of art: Anish Kapoor's "Mirror" sculpture and James Aldridge's painting "Superstition" on Celebrity Silhouette's Entertainment Deck.
Celebrity Cruises
The Best Art at Sea
Lots of cruise lines tout their ships' art collections, but Celebrity is the only line with real art world credibility, showcasing works by a range of A-list modern and contemporary artists. For Silhouette, art consultants ICart had the unique opportunity to not only assemble a new group of works but to mine Celebrity's past art glories via access to the collection from Celebrity Mercury, now gone from the Celebrity fleet and sailing as the German vessel Mein Schiff 2 for TUI Cruises.

To my eye, Mercury had the strongest collection in the Celebrity fleet, so it's a pleasure to see many of its outstanding pieces around Silhouette, mixed with a great selection of new works. Case in point: Anish Kapoor's Mirror, a large stainless steel sculpture that now hangs in the Specialty Restaurant Corridor alongside the newly commissioned James Aldridge mural Superstition.

Other standouts rescued from the Mercury collection include Dorothy Cross's photo series Close Your Eyes and Open Your Mouth and See What God Will Give You and Richard Serra's 1996 etching Allee. New knockouts include Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Nets paintings in the Ensemble Lounge; Troy Abbott's Immortal, a series of elaborate bird cages holding tiny LCD screens showing video of birds in cages; Christa Assad's Homage to Discards, a series of glazed stoneware pieces in the form of spray-paint cans; and Julie Heffernan's Self-Portrait as Host, a site-specific installation that takes up a whole foyer at the entrance to the Ensemble Lounge, immersing guests in an atmosphere of painting, sound, and texture.

Photo Caption: Anish Kapoor's "Mirror" sculpture and James Aldridge's painting "Superstition" on Celebrity Silhouette's Entertainment Deck.
A view across Celebrity Silhouette's atrium, where a living tree is suspended six decks above the lobby. Across the gap is The Hideaway, Silhouette's "tree house."
Matt Hannafin
Greenery on the Deep Blue Sea
There is art, too, in much of Silhouette's architecture, particularly up on Vista Deck, where the upper portion of the atrium showcases an installation of curved metal supports, at the center of which is a live, growing tree suspended six decks above the Grand Foyer. On one side of the atrium is one of Silhouette's most appealing new spaces, The Hideaway. Designed like an elaborate, modernist tree house, The Hideaway is a space where guests can commune quietly with themselves -- reading, surfing the web on an iPad, or even napping.

Photo Caption: A view across Celebrity Silhouette's atrium, where a living tree is suspended six decks above the lobby. Across the gap is The Hideaway, Silhouette's "tree house."
Looking out from one of The Hideway's "nests."
Celebrity Cruises
A Tree House for Grown-Ups
Able to accommodate about 30 people in comfortable high-backed leather chairs, pod-like white plastic chairs, and three private "nests," The Hideaway was conceptualized by four graduate interior design students from Florida International University's College of Architecture. In 2010, the students were selected for a special internship at Celebrity, during which they completed the initial design for the space. Celebrity then had longtime design partner RTKL Associates draw up the final plans, which resulted in what you see today.

"The space is intended to be a retreat, an escape," says RTKL's Greg Walton, "bringing back those childhood memories where we all used to escape to our own world in a tree house or a play fort."

Photo Caption: Looking out from one of The Hideway's "nests."
Entrance lobby of Silhouette's super-stylish AquaSpa.
Celebrity Cruises
Renovating Body & Soul
From its earliest days, Celebrity has been known for its spas, and those aboard Silhouette and her Solstice-class sisters are even better than their predecessors. The spa offers a huge range of treatments (from traditional massages and facials to acupuncture, Botox, teeth whitening, and cosmetic dermal fillers to smooth smile lines) as well as The Persian Garden, a series of small steam rooms and saunas that release aromatherapy-infused dry heat, steam, and mists into the air.

Spa-goers can wander in and out of the chambers or relax on heated tiled lounge chairs with views of the sea. Access is complimentary for guests booked into Silhouette's AquaSpa staterooms and suites; other guests must pay a per-day or per-cruise fee.

Photo Caption: Entrance lobby of Silhouette's super-stylish AquaSpa.
Celebrity Silhouette's Solarium.
Celebrity Cruises
Grab Your SPF 30 and Go
The Resort Deck on Silhouette and her Solstice-class sisters is one of the most serene in the cruise biz, with both the outside pool area and indoor Solarium designed for old-fashioned relaxation rather than the kind of theme-park fun you find aboard many other modern megaships.

Outdoors, the main pool deck is centered on two pools and four hot tubs. To port and starboard are 12 white A-frame canopies supporting cantilevered awnings that provide shade for chaise lounges on both the Resort Deck and the Lido Deck above. Down below, the wide base of each canopy creates a small alcove containing a day bed -- a great little semi-private nest for the 12 lucky couples who show up first.

Forward of the pools, the glass-ceilinged Solarium is a peaceful enclave for adults only, with a lap pool, two whirlpool tubs, a sea of cushioned teak lounge chairs, views all around, and a high-tech climate-control system that minimizes the overheating that's so common to glass solariums on other ships.

In the forward port corner, the AquaSpa Café serves light snacks and drinks. Amazing fact: Solar film applied to the Solarium roof and elsewhere on the top decks generates enough juice to power about 7,000 LED bulbs, or the ship's passenger elevators.

Photo Caption: Celebrity Silhouette's Solarium
Celebrity Silhouette's "Shops on the Boulevard" walkway, with boutiques on one side and Fortunes Casino on the other.
Matt Hannafin
A Sense of Proportion
Inside, the majority of Silhouette's restaurants, lounges, shops, and other public rooms are located on the Promenade and Entertainment Decks, spreading out fore and aft from the Grand Foyer atrium.

Like her Solstice-class sisters, Silhouette boasts one of the most logical arrangements of public rooms in the cruise biz, with rooms grouped by type.

Three evening entertainment outlets, for instance -- the Silhouette Theater, Quasar disco, and Celebrity Central comedy club -- are located forward, all entered from the Entertainment Court, which also provides a direct elevator link to the Sky Observation Lounge, nine decks up. Pre- and post-dinner entertainment -- the Ensemble Lounge for pre-dinner cocktails and after-dinner jazz, Michael's Club for a gourmet beer selection and quiet solo performers -- is located immediately adjacent to the ships' specialty restaurants.

Photo Caption: Celebrity Silhouette's "Shops on the Boulevard" walkway, with boutiques on one side and Fortunes Casino on the other.
The Michael Kors shop aboard Silhouette, selling handbags, watches, jewelry, sunglasses, and other luxury goods.
Celebrity Cruises
It's All About the Handbags
At mid-ship on the Promenade and Entertainment Decks, Silhouette offers a collection of shops with a distinctly upscale vibe. Headlining the lineup is the first Bulgari shop at sea, vending the company's portfolio of jewelry, watches, sunglasses, and accessories.

The Michael Kors shop, the first at sea for the U.S. designer, offers handbags, watches, jewelry, small leather goods, sunglasses, and sandals. Other shops offer a range of upscale products from brands like Mad Bags, Soybu, Eileen Fisher, and Mar Y Sol, some of which employ eco-friendly materials.

Photo Caption: The Michael Kors shop aboard Silhouette, selling handbags, watches, jewelry, sunglasses, and other luxury goods.
Silhouette's gorgeous Grand Cuvée dining room.
Celebrity Cruises
Dining from Grand to Grill
In all, Silhouette offers guests 12 dining venues, from grand and formal to flip-flop casual. At the formal end, the main Grand Cuvee Dining Room is the fourth created on the original Solstice-class design by preeminent restaurant designer Adam Tihany (creator of Aureole, Bouchon, and Seablue restaurants in Las Vegas and Per Se in New York City).

At the ultra-casual end, diners can choose between Bistro on Five, a 68-seat crêperie with tableside service for lunch and dinner; The Porch, serving casual breakfasts and lunches plus views of the sea and the adjacent Lawn Club; the Oceanview Café & Bar, the ship's multi-station buffet restaurant that's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner; the poolside Mast Grill & Bar, serving the usual grilled and fried treats; the AquaSpa Café, offering light, healthy fare in the Solarium; and Café al Bacio & Gelateria, serving pastries, traditional gelatos and Italian ices, and specialty coffees.

Photo Caption: Silhouette's gorgeous Grand Cuvee Dining Room.
Qsine, one of the most original specialty restaurants at sea.
Celebrity Cruises
Where Dining Becomes Theater
As an alternative to the large-scale formality of her Grand Cuvee Dining Room, Silhouette offers five specialty restaurants that run the gamut from continental elegance to casual barbecue to the culinary equivalent of modern art.

Four specialty restaurants are clustered aft on Entertainment Deck, opening off the Ensemble Lounge. The Tuscan Grille is a high-style spot that spreads across the entire width of the ship's stern, offering remarkable views and a menu heavy on steaks and pastas.

Murano offers the ship's most high-end dining experience, blending classic and modern Continental cuisine in an elegant, romantic setting inspired by Venice's famous Murano glassmakers. Elaborate, multicourse meals often include tableside cooking, carving, and flambé.

Blu concentrates on healthy "Clean cuisine," but be warned: You can only dine there if you're booked into one of the ship's AquaClass staterooms. Suite guests can also get in, if there's availability.

The high-style Qsine serves eclectic international cuisine with a theatrical twist: Menus are loaded onto iPads; décor is Alice in Wonderland quirky, and dishes are artfully prepared and presented, some delivered in a kind of open-sided suitcase with individual slots containing 12 small plates -- or maybe you'd prefer the wire tower that holds five cones of French fries? Or the "Disco Shrimp" that come in a bowl with a built-in strobe light?

Photo Caption: Qsine, one of the most original specialty restaurants at sea.
Barbecue time at the Lawn Club Grill.
Matt Hannafin
Barbecue & Beer
Silhouette's fifth specialty restaurant, and the only one that hasn't appeared before on a Celebrity ship, is the new Lawn Club Grill. Perched at the forward edge of the Lawn Club and designed with an open-air feel (albeit with a protective glass roof and wind breaks), the 58-seat space turns casual into interactive, with diners invited to strap on an apron and help prepare their meals.

Like Qsine, Murano, and the Tuscan Grille, the Lawn Club Grill is an extra-cost option ($30 per person), which means Celebrity has replaced a free attraction (the Hot Glass Shows presented on Solstice, Equinox, and Eclipse) with a revenue attraction -- but I'm OK with that, because it just makes more sense.

Which would you rather do on a cruise ship? Watch guys twirling molten glass into a vase for a half hour -- or spend two hours hanging out with family and friends, eating barbecue and drinking beer? Case closed.

Photo Caption: Barbecue time at the Lawn Club Grill.
The bar and beer case at Michael's Club, with art in the background by John Baldessari.
Celebrity Cruises
The Evolution of Michael's Club
Since the mid-1990s, every ship Celebrity has launched has included a lounge called Michael's Club. Named for Michael Chandris (part of the family that founded Celebrity in 1989), the club was originally a cigar bar -- back when cigars were hip -- and featured all the requisite cigar poofery, including an elaborate humidor and even an artisan hand-rolling cigars.

Then, suddenly, cigars weren't hip, and Celebrity had to repurpose the room, first into a piano lounge and now, aboard Silhouette, into an upscale bar dedicated to craft beers and premium spirits. Along one wall, a cooler displays 65 different brews, from the prosaic to quality brews like Stone, Rogue, Belhaven, Samuel Smith, Duval, and Chimay. Two stealthy TV screens are mounted in the walls, looking more like mirrors when turned off but available to broadcast sports when the mood is right.

Photo Caption: The bar and beer case at Michael's Club, with art in the background by John Baldessari.
The très European Silhouette Theater.
Celebrity Cruises
A Night at the Theater
Much as I've always liked Celebrity (and I have), they've consistently failed to impress me when it comes to large-scale entertainment. While their more intimate entertainments have been often innovative and fun (the a cappella groups that roam around the ships and perform in various lounges), their shows have consistently left me cold. I'm pleased to report, then, that Silhouette's signature stage show, named simply Silhouette: The Show, is a vast improvement.

Set up as a kind of multicultural fantasy circus, it's a mix of acrobatics, aerialism, music, dance (much of it in an Indian Bollywood mode), and physical comedy, with a bow-tied everyman providing the running thread that ties it together. Notably (and appropriately, considering Celebrity's ever-growing international clientele), the show is language-free: Even the singers appear to be singing in a made-up language.

The show is very much a product of its venue, the 1,115-guest, opera-house-style Silhouette Theater, which was built with multiple seating levels and complex ceiling rigging for aerialists. The rounded stage juts out into the audience, giving greater intimacy. It's one of the prettier cruise ship theaters I've seen in years.

Photo Caption: The très European Silhouette Theater.
Balcony staterooms are designed consistently across Celebrity's four-ship Solstice class.
Celebrity Cruises
Spacious Staterooms
If you sail Celebrity Silhouette, this is probably what your digs will look like, because some 1,160 of the ship's 1,443 accommodations are variations on the basic Deluxe Ocean View Cabin arrangement -- and that's a good thing. Introduced aboard Celebrity Solstice in 2008, these cabins are some of the most innovative in the cruise world, breaking the standard shoebox-shaped mold in ways big and small. To start with, they aren't even shaped like a shoebox. Instead, one wall of each cabin bulges slightly, interlocking with the cabin next door in a sort of squared-off yin-yang format and giving you more maneuvering room around the foot of the bed. The cabin is also about 15% larger than cabins on earlier Celebrity ships.

The rooms' design is open, airy, ergonomic, and modern. Beds and cabinets have rounded corners (the better to not bump into) and beds are higher than normal to give more storage space underneath. Headboards that frame the beds are topped with a narrow, completely unobtrusive storage unit that's perfect for handbags, shopping bags, and other knickknacks. Some couches offer trundle beds for kids and other additional guests, while closet doors slide shut automatically -- which isn't so unusual on land, but is a hard thing to accomplish on a moving ship.

Cabin bathrooms and showers are substantially larger and roomier than aboard most other megaships. For example, showers are equipped with a foot rail that makes it easier for women to shave their legs. Outside, cabin balconies are large and deep, with plenty of room for two reclining deck chairs and a table.

AquaClass Staterooms, grouped together on the Penthouse Deck, take the basic balcony stateroom and spiff it up with added amenities, such as a pillow menu, Frette bathrobes and slippers, an expanded menu of personal care products, complimentary bottled water and a carafe of flavor-infused iced tea, an upgraded room service menu, special music/sound and aromatherapy options, and jetted bodywash showers from Hansgrohe, which shoot water from multiple heads. AquaClass guests also get special perks around the ship, including unlimited access to the spa's Persian Garden aromatherapy suite and relaxation room and guaranteed complimentary dining at the Blu specialty restaurant.

Photo Caption: Balcony staterooms are designed consistently across Celebrity's four-ship Solstice class.
Silhouette transiting Germany's River Ems.
Celebrity Cruises
Bon Voyage, Don't Forget to Write
Following her July 21 naming ceremony in Hamburg, Germany, Silhouette began her career with a 7-night inaugural cruise from Hamburg to Rome/Civitavecchia, Italy. For the remainder of the summer and early fall she'll sail 12-night Eastern Mediterranean and Israel cruises, sailing from Civitavecchia and visiting Athens, Santorini or Mykonos (Greece), Jerusalem/Ashdod and Haifa (Israel, both for overnight stays), Naples/Capri (Italy), and either Ephesus (Turkey) or Palermo (Sicily).

On Oct. 22, Silhouette will sail from Civitavecchia to New York, berthing at the port of Cape Liberty, New Jersey, across the Hudson from Manhattan. From there, she'll sail 12-night Eastern and Southern Caribbean cruises. Eastern itineraries will visit Labadee (Haiti), San Juan (Puerto Rico), St. Maarten, St. Croix, Antigua, and St. Thomas, with some cruises adding Nassau. Southern routes will visit St. Thomas, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Antigua, and St. Maarten. Currently, prices for 12-night 2011 European cruises are starting at $899 for inside cabins, $1,099 for outsides, and $1,709 for balcony cabins. Prices for 12-night 2011-12 Caribbean cruises are starting at $1,139 for inside cabins, $1,249 for outsides, and $1,449 for balconies.

Photo Caption: Silhouette transiting Germany's River Ems.