Episode 64: Celebrity Eclipse
Host: From the Cruise One mobile studios aboard the Celebrity Eclipse somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, I’m Matt Basford and I’m Doug Parker.Follow us on twitter and facebook on Cruise Radio, also sign up for our monthly newsletter at Cruise Radio dot net. Don’t forget about premium content giving you full access to her unedited interviews all the stuff that doesn’t make it to the free shows each week just to cruise radio dot net.
As Matt mentioned, we are aboard Celebrity Eclipse and what an amazing ship this is. The ship is over thousand feet long, a hundred and twenty feet wide, it’s got seventeen decks, holds over twenty-eight hundred people, and was just involved in some humanitarian aid earlier this year.
Following the eruption of the Icelandic volcano,which shut down a lot of that European airspace the brand-new eclipse which was fresh out of dry dock basically rescued two thousand British tourist who were stranded in Spain and shipped them back to Southampton as an act of goodwill. This is actually the third ship in the solstice class there is the equinox and solstice and now the eclipse with two more on the way.
We just came out of the press conference where president and ceo of Celebrity Daniel Hanrahan was speaking and I posed this question to him, basically with all the crazy stuff going on on new cruise lines like rock climbing walls, zip lines, and surf machines, I wondered if celebrity was feeling any pressure to keep up with the Jones’ and this is what he had to say:
CEO: We wanted to stay very consistent to who we are. We are very very lucky at Celebrity. They are a lot of brilliant people who started this brand twenty years ago and very smart people who have got it to where it was when we were able to build the Solstice class. So it’s kind of like standing on the shoulders of giants. So what we want to do is just take what all these really smart people have done and make it better. Which was not easy. It was really really difficult to come up with anything better to get a lot of smart people but you know, a lot of people who knew the business, we had a fabulous design team, and we used people inside and outside for that. We want to be this comfortable and sophisticated brand who delivers great service, food, and great entertainment. You won’t find rock climbing walls, Central Parks, and zip lines on here. There’s another brand that does that entirely to well. So we’ll leave that to them. (crowd laugh)
Host: The fact is Matt is that Celebrity Cruises doesn’t have to keep up with the joneses because Celebrity has set the standard for modern cruising. You notice that right away, the whole ship has the feel of a five-star contemporary New York or Miami hotel. Lleek contemporary modern design with a whisper of retro accents here and there. All that carries over into the public areas like the Ensemble lounge which is towards the back of the ship on deck five over by the Tuscan grill, you have the Sky Lounge up on deck fourteen which is pretty much a hundred and eighty degree unrestricted view of the ship.
One of my favorites is the Molecular Bar, I think I love it because the bartender has to wear lab coat and protective eye wear, they actually use liquid nitrogen into the preparation of their beverages. Thomas Connelly is here with us. Thomas, how cold is the liquid nitrogen?
Bartender: Minus one hundred and ninety six degrees and goes on the surface of some our cocktails like the dragonfly and lucky cat. It’s minus one hundred and ninety six to degrees. It bubbles, it smokes, it looks like a potion. We recommend customers do not touch it or lick it til it stops bubbling or they will risk tissue damage and their the tongue will freeze.
Host: Then there’s the martini bar, a great place to meet. What’s cool about it is there’s a thin coating of ice that you set your drinks on obviously to keep them very cold. You can also play tic-tac-toe on it if you want to and write your name in on it. It’s right there by the main dining room so you can stop by on the way to dinner guy grab a drink.
An amazing wine selection at Cellar Masters wine bar inspired by the vineyards of Napa Valley. Like the whole ship, very high tech,I hate to call them vending machines because it makes them sound cheap but they are a high-tech wine dispensers that you put your card in and you can select a small taste to a full glass and again an amazing selection of wines.
Does the expensive wine tastes better? Of course fourteen dollar glasses of wine taste better.
A very important man who helped put all this together is the manager of new build an architectural design mister Emilio Perez. Welcome to Cruise Radio, I guess first off, what was the criteria that went into designing the solstice class ships in order to separate them from the other class ships?
Designer: Well i think of Dan stated very clearly during the press conference, the sophisticated elegance is an understatement actually because it became part of our design process. We didn’t want to be over the top but we didn’t want to be under either, we wanted to be a balanced approach to all designed and the aspect too, and i may get a little technical now but ships are built basically in blocks pretty, much like Lego’s. Then we have compartments we call fire zones. This ship for instance has seven fire zones. Each of these fire zones are built with any number between ten to twenty blocks and when the yard produces the drawings, it’s exactly the same way for each of those fire zones. Generally the contractors work in the same fire zone when building the ship. So where am I going with this? The fire zones usually limit the views of the ship, you usually know when the fire zone starts and begins. That was something from the beginning that we said, we don’t want to see, we don’t want to see the fire zone. So in order to do that we had to take architect A and architect B, work together and marry the two. Merge their finishes merge their fabrics so it all flows. This is called the adjacency exercise, that in my mind is what makes the ship so unique, where you forget that you’re in a ship.
Host: Normally is it just one architect, one set of plans and building a ship?
Designer: Yes, that’s right. Sometimes two in a project of this magnitude to architect the project of this magnitude is that this size and in the intricacies. This is a ship that is moving, the code regulations are totally different, vibration is an element that doesn’t occur on land. Ships are constantly vibrating. That is an element that comes as a big challenge to many designers.
Host: Manager of new build and architectural design Emilio Perez, thanks for being with us on Cruise Radio.
Designer: Thank you for the opportunity, enjoy the cruise.
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Host: Oh, it’s always about the food isn’t it? One of the places you’re going to see a lot of aboard Celebrity Eclipse is the Ocean View cafe and bar next to the poolside dining, you can go there for breakfast and also the late-night snacking. Even during the day if your not sure where to go you can hit the oceanview café and bar for a lot of good selections of food. They have a lot of good stations set up too like a pasta station, salad station, Mexican, pizza, sushi. Now when it comes more formal dining there is the Moon Light Sonata main-dining room that serves a little bit of everything like broiled Atlantic salmon, there is your steaks and seafood items appetizers, buffalo style frog legs, and rack of lamb.
Also there’s a two-story wine rack that holds over fifteen hundred bottles of wine right in the very front of the dining room and if you ask the server nicely they’ll give you a guided tour. But it goes without saying, there’s two formal nights on these seven night sailings so don’t forget to pack your sports coat and formal wear. There is also Murano which is amazing I had steak and lobster there and it serves modern and classic continental cuisine.
We ate at Tuscan Grill last night, the Italian steakhouse and obviously some Italian items on the menu. I had a goat cheese salad to start.
Bistro on five, a crepery with table side service for lunch and dinner if you enjoy. One of the more unique and special venues on board which is exclusive to Eclipse is Qsine, a rather unconventional approach to the preparation and serving of food. If you’ve been on other Solstice class ships, this actually took place of Silk Harvest. With us is the brain child behind Qsine. Vice President of Culinary operations Master Chef, Jacques Van Staden, welcome to Cruise Radio. Tell us more about Qsine?
Chef: It is truly an unconventional dining experience. What that means is you look at fashion, cars,you look at computers today, everything is becoming ‘what is the next big thing?’ ya know? When the hamburger bar started, it was going to be whose gonna make the next best hamburger bar. What’s happening is people are looking for a different experience. You go to a steak house you get steak, you go to an Italian restaurant you get pasta, there is really no different experience. The music makes a different experience, all the ambiance and atmosphere. Lighting for example. There’s so many different lights, feature of lighting and what you can do with simple lighting. What I wanted to do was have food do that same element. How does become more of a different experience than sitting and eating it you know? So we started with that. How it was presented, delivered, presentation, etc. The delivery of the food. How was it going to be delivered and slowly it all started taking shape. Eighty five percent of it custom made. It’s not anything you haven’t had before, it’s just the way it’s presented. Yes, you’ve had meatballs before but you’ve never had a meatball trilogy before where each one has a liquid center. Yes, you’ve had fish and chips before but have you ever had popcorn fish and chips? You’ve had sushi but you ever have sushi lollipops? You’ve had spring rolls but ever served in a stainless steel spring. It’s that fun element or inner child that wants to say creating my own food here. It’s an interactive dining experience. That’s really the gist of Qsine.
Sea of sameness is always doing something different and Qsine is truly different. We have an iPad. We have a rubix cube as a desert menu. We have Taj Mahal that’s the Indian dish. Every single thing is different. We don’t have servers, we have culinary tour guides. So these are the elements that really establish Qsine and help make it different.
Host: Vice President of Culinary operations Master Chef, Jacques Van Staden, thanks for being on Cruise Radio.
I mentioned earlier that Qsine was exclusive to Eclipse but the truth is, I don’t really know. The truth is they don’t really want us to say what’s to come.
One thing I like about Qsine is the iPad. You use the iPad as a menu. One thing I like about the iPad is if you like one of the drinks you can access the recipe and email it to yourself.
More in a moment here aboard Celebrity Eclipse.
Host: We are actually in the martini bar aboard Celebrity Eclipse with a passenger. Where did you eat tonight?
Pax: We ate at the main restaurant.
Host: What’d you think?
Pax: Excellent, excellent.
Host: Have you been on other Celebrity ships, specifically Solstice, have you been on that ship?
Pax: No I have not. The last time I’ve been on Celebrity was Millennium which was ten years ago and I was on her inaugural season. I love this. I loved the Millennium then but this takes it up a whole another notch.
Host: What are the major differences between the Millennium class ships and the brand new Eclipse? The style is similar.
Pax: The interior. I think it will really hit the age 40 to 60 demographic well, maybe a little younger but it’s perfect for baby boomers. The aqua area is phenomenal. The relaxation, it’s very tranquil, a lot of water features. Just awesome.
Pax: I love it, if you had to sum it up in one word, it would be gorgeous.
Host: Have you been on other Celebrity ships?
Pax: Yea, I’ve been sailing Celebrity since it became Celebrity so it’s been a long time for me. You get to a ship like this and you walk around and your mouth keeps dropping open. What they have is in incredible.
Host: What are some of your favorite parts on this ship?
Pax: Boy, it’s hard to say. I’m taking photos and it’s hard to separate one from the other. You walk around and the stores are on your right and this on your left. We were in the Martini Bar a few moments ago and (bubble bubble bubble) that’s my favorite (laughing).
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Host: Each episode we feature Porthole Cruise Magazines ‘Pick of the week.’
When it comes to cruising from Miami, it’s nearly impossible to narrow down what to do before or after your cruise. Hopefully, you build in a few extra days to experience this amazing city, but here are a few quintessential Miami must-dos if you’re short on time: Shopping, people watching, and lunch on Lincoln Road for sure. Grab a table outside at one of the many sidewalk cafés and watch the characters walk, jog, or Rollerblade by. Then stroll among South Beach-chic boutiques and art galleries. Not far from Lincoln Road is the Delano Hotel, where visitors are welcome to explore the eccentric indoor/outdoor lobby. You’ll find strange quirks around every long, white-draped turn, and with its funky and unusual Philippe Starck-designed decor, accessories, and seating, you’ll wonder if you’ve stepped into a scene from Alice in Wonderland. Have a drink at the
trendy outdoor pool area, and take in views of the ocean — and maybe even a celebrity or two. If you’re staying closer to the port, head for Bayside Marketplace, an outdoor shopping mall on the waterfront where you can stroll, grab a bite to eat, or take a sightseeing boat tour around Miami’s exclusive islands for the rich and famous. And if you can afford the time and money for a meal you’ll never forget, head to Joe’s Stone Crab, a Miami staple since 1913 that’s only open during stone crab season from October through May. Get the claws (served cracked, chilled, and with mustard sauce), Joe’s famous cole slaw, and, of course, the famous Key Lime Pie for dessert.
Host: We just bumped into a friend of ours that we met on a previous sailing, Art Sbarsky, a retired cruise line executive and currently a travel writer. It’s nice to have you here. Is this your first time on Eclipse?
Art: This is my first time on Eclipse, I got on yesterday. I was on Solstice two years ago for the inaugural and sailed on her again for eleven nights in the med over the summer, round trip from Rome.
Host: Do you see any difference between Eclipse and Solstice?
Art: There’s evolutionary differences is installing Qsine for dining and the other is they went from an internet cafe to installing the iLounge, with all the Mac Books and iPads as a retail outlet along with a place for the internet. Everything else is pretty much a design or decor function.
Host: You mentioned Qsine, which is an unconventional dining experience and as you mentioned the iLounge and Celebrity’s relationship with Apple, they’re including the iPad in Qsine, using them as menus.
Art: I think they’re very forward thinking. It really started as far as Im concerned in the mid 90’s when they brought in (Celebrity) Century as the first of their newer ships. They Century was an amazing ship. As you walk around the ship and see the art work, the genesis of that was with Century. It was really the first time any ship has done that. The next stage up was Millennium, which came in 2000. The reason it was named Millennium by the way was because it was going to be the first ship to come into the industry after the new Millennium. The Solstice class have taken the Millennium class ships to a whole different level, thinking light years ahead. These ships are so architecturally and decor beautiful that like right now, we are standing in the middle of the bars, casino, and shopping and you really have no idea that you’re on a ship. There’s no vibration, the ship is big enough where you don’t feel anything, and it’s a totally different experience now.
Host: All these Solstice class ships are like this. Like we were saying a few minutes ago off mic, it feels like you really are in a hotel. What’s your favorite part of this ship?
Art: I think my favorite part of this ship is really the coffee bar. Well first of all, on this cruise right now everything is free (laugh) so there’s something nice about that but they’re not that expensive, and because where it really is on mid ship, deck 5, virtually everyone walking to the forward or aft of the ship has to walk past there. So you can sit there for four or five bucks for a cappuccino and get to see everyone walking past.
Host: I’ll close up and say thank you for being with us on Cruise Radio.
Art: My pleasure
Host: When you sail on Celebrity, you experience Celebrity Life, which refers to their enrichment programs which are three fold: Savor, discover, and renew. Savor would be the food and wine part of the cruise. Discover is the enrichment speakers and learning new foreign languages from Rosetta Stone. Lastly you have renew, which is yoga and spa
Speaking of spa, let’s talk about the staterooms. We are in the Aqua-class, which is right next to the aqua spa. There’s such an attention to detail in the aqua spa staterooms like the bathroom with the shaving bar or the curved acrylic shower door instead of the cumbersome shower curtain. There’s upgraded lines, slippers, robes in your room, the carafe of infused tea delivered every day, and oh the shower. The shower is a massaging shower and it has like five heads on it. You’ll also expect bigger towels in the bathroom and a special room service menu for the aqua spa rooms.
But if you’re not staying in the aqua spa (suites), every room on this ship is completely awesome. In fact, 85% of the staterooms on this ship are balcony rooms. Every room has a 48″ LCD TV, powered by a mini mac hard drive. These things are mac daddy. You can book room excursions, dinner reservations, check out your folio, movies and music on demand, check your email or facebook instead of going upstairs to the iLounge.
Speaking of apple, they have an Apple enrichment center. The first ever Apple retail store at sea. You can not only use the Apple computers but also take classes. If you work out and realize that you forgot your iPod back at the house, you can actually pick on up there at the retail store.
We gotta wrap up here but we can not say enough about Eclipse. It’s a really special ship and Doug, you know that Celebrity is one of my favorite cruise lines. Hopefully you’ll be able to sail aboard the Eclipse and experience all the unique features on this ship like the lawn club on the top deck, a half acre of live grass up there. You don’t see that on cruise ships. You know, it was funny watching the people, they acted like they’ve never seen grass before. People were taking their shoes off saying ‘oh this is amazing’ and taking pictures. But it is really really nice. Right there on the lawn club they have the glass blowing. Those folks are from the Corning Museum of glass in NY. Once they finish the glass, they don’t sell them, they put them on display and I believe they actually give some away.
Thank you everyone in the Celebrity Cruises public relations office for helping us set up this broadcast.
Watch out for Cruise Radio Premium Content at CruiseRadio.net.
From the CruiseOne mobile studios aboard the brand-new eclipse somewhere in the Atlantic ocean right now, I’m Matt Basford and I’m Doug Parker, and THIS is Cruise Radio.