As the Director of Hotel Development and Housekeeping, I oversee all new build and revitalization projects, including the Solsticizing of our Millennium Class. In my 15 years with Celebrity Cruises, I have overseen nine new ships and six revitalizations from the set up and operational side. This includes an endless list of details such as crew movement, on board signage, and the selection of many items you see on board. One of the most important responsibilities I have (for both new builds and Solsticizing projects) is to conduct our Practicality Studies. Before we introduce any new concept, venue design, fabric, or piece of furniture, we study it to see how it might impact the hardware, the crew, and the guest experience.
The AquaClass stateroom concept received no less focus. I was involved in creating and implementing the AquaClass stateroom experience when we introduced it on the Solstice Class. As you heard in an earlier blog, when we later began thinking about Solsticizing our Millennium Class ships, the Operational teams rallied to determine if it was feasible to include the AquaClass concept in the Solsticizing scope. While Blu restaurant, one of the core experiences offered, was challenging to implement for my fellow F&B colleagues, converting the staterooms was much easier. With some special modifications like the addition of the Hansgrohe® shower panel and fog-free mirrors, our custom blended bath products and spa inspired amenities, and design changes to the carpet and upholstery, we were able to easily convert the staterooms.
I’ve traveled in AquaClass during my own vacation, and I find that the spa-inspired amenities and services, Blu restaurant, and access to the Persian Garden create a uniquely relaxing and therapeutic way of traveling. AquaClass staterooms have been a welcomed addition for our guests who have recently sailed on the Solsticized Celebrity Infinity and Celebrity Summit, and I have no doubt our Celebrity Millennium guests will feel the same way!
Roswita Arnet Director, Hotel Development & Housekeeping
Shortly after the launch of Solstice, it became clear that Blu restaurant (and the Aqua Class experience) was a big hit with our guests. We also knew it would be a welcome addition to the “Solsticizing” of the Millennium class ships. However, as is often the case with complex projects, the question of “How do we do this?” was a bit tricky. As it turned out, it was all about the galley.
We consider each of our restaurants to be a “unique destination unto itself.” As a result, we typically require both a dedicated “Front of the House” (dining room) and a “Back of the House” (kitchen or galley) space to make a restaurant a success. The highly refined and detailed nature of the cuisine in Blu requires a dedicated galley space, so the idea was originally discussed for the Constellation “Solsticizing.” However, the idea was abandoned when, after multiple attempts, we couldn’t find a solution for a dedicated galley. And believe me, it wasn’t for a lack of trying! So, as we began discussions for the Infinity “ Solsticizing ,” we rallied the team and once again asked the question, “How do we do this?”
It is often said that those closest to the problem have the best solution, and this situation is a perfect example of where this rings true. It was actually our shipboard team of Chefs and operations managers—led by our Corporate Food and Beverage Operations Manager, Edi Kevorkyan, and our Senior Traveling Executive Chef, Thomas Szymanski—that came up with the solution to dedicate a section of the main galley for Blu. They were confident that, with a few simple equipment modifications, we could execute the entire Blu menu on the Millennium class just as we do on the Solstice class. And while there were some hesitations amongst our team, we decided to give it a shot.
Not surprisingly, it has worked beautifully; as a result, the process has continued on Celebrity Summit and will move on to Celebrity Millennium later this month. Every member of our team has a voice to help us solve our problems and deliver solutions. After all, “All of us are smarter than any one of us.” And now, many more guests will be able to enjoy the Aqua Class experience, and Blu, as a result.
Scott Steenrod Associate Vice President Food & Beverage Operations
One of the most exciting things that we do at Celebrity Cruises—particularly in our food and beverage department—is create new things. We are constantly pushing the limits of our guests’ experiences further and further from what they would normally expect on a cruise vacation. We find great joy in the “a-ha!” moment where we’ve revolutionized expectations of what dining on a cruise ship can be like.
And, I will admit it—I’m probably the least creative person on our team. This is why the opportunity to be surrounded by the creative minds of Chef Jacques Van Staden and the other members of our team everyday is so much fun for me. I simply never know what they will come up with next!!!
Never was this creativity more alive than when Jacques developed Qsine. With amazing support from our leaders and a blank slate to work with, Jacques literally locked himself in his office (aka the culinary laboratory) with a collection of sketchbooks, an open mind and an iron-will to develop a restaurant that people had never seen before. For him, the opportunity to break through all misconceptions of cruise ship dining was the perfect calling. For several months, he divulged little about his plans to me. He really only consulted me to provide occasional glimpses of prospective service items or to bounce a quick idea off of me about possibilities.
Finally, Jacques emerged like a mad scientist that had just made a new discovery. As we spoke, he quickly rattled off idea after idea—“We call this the food palate pleasers. There are no courses. Guests are taking a culinary journey. The music will be vibrant and upbeat, the ambiance a bit whimsical and mysterious…. And it’s all about the food. Not avant-garde cookery, but real food delivered in ways that most people haven’t seen before. And when it’s all done, we turn your perception of dining upside down.”
The brilliance of the concept was instantly visible, and as Jacques spoke, my enthusiasm for Qsine grew. And, it was all a bit terrifying. Would the guests like it? Was it too creative? Would our crew embrace and understand what we were trying to accomplish? However, from the moment we welcomed our first guests into Qsine on Eclipse, we knew these fears were unfounded. Not only did Qsine represent a breakthrough restaurant concept, but it also came to represent a new standard in creativity and innovation from Chef Jacques and our Food and Beverage team. What’s interesting is that the first guests in Qsine were the senior management from Celebrity and the shipyard, Meyer Werft, dining together at the large communal table in the center of the restaurant. I will never forget how I watched them go from skeptics to believers, particularly as they shared their “palate pleasers” and finished their experience comparing the cupcakes they’d decorated.
With this instantaneous success on Celebrity Eclipse, we were thrilled to be a part of the decision to not only include Qsine on all future Solstice class ships, but also as part of our Solsticizing efforts on the remaining Millennium Class ships. And with our first Millennium Class Qsine on Celebrity Infinity, we saw the restaurant take on an even more dramatic presence amidst the two-story, top deck setting.
It’s a thrill that even more guests will now get to enjoy the “Uniquely Unordinary” experience that is Qsine. And for our team, it’s powerful reminder of how Chef Jacques’ creativity and empowerment leads us on our “Uniquely Celebrity” journey of delivering treasured guest food and beverage experiences with pride and imagination.
Scott Steenrod Associate Vice President Food & Beverage Operations
Updating our fleet with a new level of luxury required a new term: “Solsticizing.” This ambitious, $140-million revitalization brings the best modern luxury venues and experiences from our Solstice Class ships back to our popular Millennium Class ships.
Hello, I am back! This is the Hotel Director Ryan, with my final blog post from the new Solsticized Celebrity Infinity. As my colleagues have shared their insight into some of the other aspects of the project that were accomplished as well as commentary about their experiences during our return to service, I am pleased to share some news of the on board experience since we left Ft Lauderdale for South America.
First of all, December 3rd was the milestone we were all working toward and it proved to be a very demanding run to the finish line. All I can say is the crew is absolutely amazing! They are the reason we were able to transform the ship from a construction zone into a world class cruise ship, literally overnight. Our departure from Grand Bahama and transit to Florida was an incredible experience. We had a crew of 1000 working day and night to prepare the ship, right up to embarkation. Then everyone donned their brand new uniforms and went back to doing what they enjoy and do better than any group I have ever worked with—welcoming our guests with a big smile on their face!
Yes, we are back at sea and it feels great! Our guests have been enjoying all the new venues and their new staterooms. One of the most talked about restaurants is Blu. The food and service is fabulous and of course you need to be staying in AquaClass, so I would suggest you book that as soon as possible! The Martini Ice Bar is also very popular in the evenings, as well as the Constellation night club. Guests have commented how much they like the changes in the night club, because it has more of a “night club feel”. Qsine is busy every night and the feedback is terrific!
The ship has been Solsticized and many guests have compared the décor and style with the Solstice Class and comment how much they love the new Celebrity Infinity. We threw a party the other night to celebrate our first guests with the new Solsticized Celebrity Infinity. The theme was a White Night party, and we held it throughout the ship with a hosted bar from 10:30 to midnight. That’s right, free drinks at every bar for an hour and a half! This allowed everyone to engage with all the venues and party with live music throughout. The evening was a blast. Take a look at some comments and photos from some of our guests I have included here.
"I can’t wait to tell my children that I’ve been solsticized" Carol R. “Oh my God…Love it..” Alexandre C. “Qsine is over the top” Dorothy & Michael J. “Love it” Cynthia M. “Greatest experience ever” Marcela D. “Muy Bien…..’ Maria R. “Two thumbs up..” Eduardo S. “Muy inovadora.” Miguel H. “Exceptional…” Marcelo D. “greatest experience by far…” Sarah C. “We like it… the food is fantastic” Robert M.
As the Hotel Director, I would also like to thank everyone who made this project possible and a tremendous success. It has been a sincere pleasure sharing my experience with all of you via this blog. I hope you enjoyed it and I look forward to seeing you all back on the ship very soon.
Finally, Let me take this opportunity to introduce Sheldon Thompson, Hotel Director for Celebrity Summit. He’ll be signing on shortly to share stories and a behind the scenes look at the upcoming “solsticizing” of Celebrity Summit, beginning 1/7/12.
Hello. Kevin Douglas —VP of Technical Projects for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd here. I am very fortunate to be a part of the team that takes the Celebrity vision—as seen on the Solstice Class—and translates that into the recently completed “solsticizing” of Celebrity Infinity. Being able to offer our guests a constantly upgraded experience is important to our development as well as to the experience of you, our guests.
The project for the four Millennium Class ships actually commenced back at the end of 2009 as we planned to add some of the successful Solstice Class features to Celebrity Constellation during her upcoming drydock in Hamburg in the Spring of 2010. These features—Tuscan Grille, Crush, Bistro on 5, etc—proved to be such a hi that they became the core for the remaining three sister ships during their next scheduled drydocks. However, as we studied the project and began to develop it, it became clear that we had an opportunity to add even more enhancements to the ships, such as Aqua Class staterooms.
As such, the planning and detailed design work began in earnest at the end of 2010. A dedicated team continued from their work on Constellation to develop the project scope for Celebrity Infinity, Celebrity Summit and Celebrity Millennium, with the interesting twist that there is only a small gap of time between the completion of Celebrity Infinity and the start of Celebrity Summit at the beginning of January! The team is now ensuring that all of the lessons learned are being applied from the execution phase. Already, the staterooms have been manufactured and are ready for installation along with the associated aluminium superstructure for deck 11. For each of the areas, we have designated space managers performing under the watchful eye and guidance of the project manager. They work with each of the contractors to ensure that each part of the job is planned and coordinated so that completion can be effected in the time frame that we have.
The out-of-service time is also an opportunity for the ship teams to undertake their projects, so there is also a great deal of internal cooperation and coordination that is needed. It truly requires a huge team effort to carry out these projects successfully.
We look forward to sharing the progress on Celebrity Summit once we commence in early January.
Greeting from your Celebrity Social Guides aboard the Celebrity Infinity. Today the Celebrity Infinity arrived in Fort Lauderdale from the Bahamas outfitted with her new “solsticized” additions as well as the splendid favorites that have kept cruisers delighted throughout her years of service. The Infinity is just magnificent and festive today as she receives visitors for the first time since her dry dock. The atmosphere is electric with excitement and awe as the “solsticized” areas are marveled at by guests and travel agents alike. We’ve supplied some photos from today’s tour for you to enjoy. Take a look and consider joining us aboard this beautiful ship soon. Congratulations to our incredible crew on this monumental accomplishment.
This is Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, Sr. Vice President of Hotel Operations for Celebrity Cruises. I am a guest blogger today! We thought it would be fun for me to send my thoughts and observations from Celebrity Infinity as we start to count down our last 20 hours before our first guests arrive tomorrow in Port Everglades.
As you have heard from Ryan Kingston, the Hotel Director of Celebrity Infinity, it has been quite a few weeks. So much has been done to the Ship; it has been an amazing and all-encompassing “Solsticizing”!! Over 483,000 man (and woman) hours have gone into this project. Pretty impressive, huh?
Well, what’s even more impressive is the outcome. I have been involved in the building of the Solstice Class, specifically the Solsticizing of Celebrity Constellation and now Celebrity Infinity. However, I never stop being amazed, inspired and in complete awe of the men and women who make all of this happen.
The ship is stunning. The venues are even more beautiful than we thought they would be. The new staterooms on Decks 11 and 3 are terrific, and, additionally, Blu is going to be a wonderful experience and a big hit for our AquaClass guests. For anyone who is really interested in experiencing these amazing changes for themselves, the ship is currently open for bookings.
The Food & Beverage team has been “practicing” for a week preparing all the new dishes in Blu, Qsine, Bistro on 5, and the new items in the Main Dining Room. The contractors and crew are eating very well, I must say, as they are invited to daily “tastings”.
And, speaking of the crew—they couldn’t be more excited! I had one of the first cups of latte served in the just-opened Cafe al Bacio this morning. The coffee was delicious and the service was even better. The finishing touches are being added as we speak. We have over 100 cleaners on board making the ship “shine” for our guests tomorrow.
The crew has been getting ready for the “re-launch” of Celebrity Infinity for many months, and they couldn’t be more excited, proud, or ready to welcome our guests.
And I couldn’t be more excited or proud of them. They are truly wonderful, and they are the reason Celebrity Cruises is such a special brand and place to work.
We will enjoy and relish tomorrow because we have all worked hard getting ready for this day. And then, we will immediately switch our focus and get ready to do the same to Celebrity Summit in just one short month!!
Thank you for reading along, and I hope I get to meet all of you on board one of our ships very soon.
Happy Holidays to all!
Lisa Lutoff-Perlo Senior Vice President Hotel Operations, Celebrity Cruises