The Celebrity Solstice sets a new standard for both energy efficiency and inspired design.
Credit: Courtesy of Celebrity Solstice

Treating a state-of-the-art cruise ship is an exercise in hard-nosed engineering and starry-eyed romanticism: space is tight, safety is paramount, and yet somehow or other, the epic glamour of ocean liners past must come to life in the present—and without a whiff of nostalgia, either. That’s the trick, and Celebrity Cruises has achieved it with the Solstice, the first of five in a new class of ships.

Take the main restaurant, the Grand Epernay, a shimmering, monochromatic room designed by architect Adam Tihany to be the social center of the ship—it has 1,400 seats and a circular descending-staircase entrance. The theme is bubbles, as in champagne, evident in the carpet pattern and in the grand oblong chandelier overhead. There are a number of such theatrical gestures (the enormous 2,000-bottle wine tower, for example, is a showstopper), but it’s done in a modern fashion, with tapered, angular buttresses and minor-key recessed lighting. The overall effect is pleasantly retro-futuristic—a restaurant with a sense of humor and fun, but a grown-up sense of style.

The same can be said for the ship as a whole, from the dreamy, blue-and-white–tiled steam and sauna rooms in the spa to the clubby, dark-wood–paneled Ensemble Lounge and the proliferation of smaller restaurants (a sign of the times—passengers want choices), including the bright, 60’s-pop Blu. The specter of Las Vegas–style silliness lurks around every corner, but is vanquished in most cases by the exigencies of shipbuilding. Sure, a “water feature” can be found next to one of the pools, synced to music and tricked out with fiber-optic lights, but it’s small—amusing rather than over-the-top.

Finally, there’s the Lawn Club, in some ways the crown jewel of the ship: close to a half-acre of grass growing on the top deck. The lawn-at-sea is a technological feat, but is most remarkable for the unspectacular, quiet pleasure it affords—a combination of casual, old-school elegance (croquet, picnics, the putting green) and avant-garde eco-design (the green roof helps absorb heat and moisture). The lawn, like the ship, has the feel of the future.

The Solstice sails the Caribbean in winter and the Mediterranean in summer (; 800/437-3111; seven-night itineraries for two from $1,758).