The brand new Celebrity Equinox is very much an American-style cruise ship, with “wow” factors including a half-acre of real grass on top. But as the vessel left shipbuilder Meyer Werft in Northwestern Germany, it was Germans who did the cheering. Thousands of people lined the banks of the River Ems to watch the conveyance, some parking their RVs on the banks for the event.

It’s a slow thing, pulling a 122,000-ton ship by tugboat backwards on a river. After hours of maneuvering, around 1 a.m., the Equinox squeezed through an exceptionally narrow passage to begin its 26-mile, 13-hour journey to the Netherlands and out to sea. People on shore raised toasts as pop music played.

Even though the Equinox was not quite furnished (its official maiden voyage isn’t until late July), it was clear Celebrity Cruises knows not to mess with a good thing. Its sister ship, the stunningly cool Celebrity Solstice—which debuted last year—has been a huge success with cruisers for its innovation. (It’s my favorite ship of the past decade.) Some favorite features of both ships are:

  • The Adam Tihany-designed dining rooms with a striking two-deck high glass wine tower
  • The topside lawn for croquet, golf putting, picnics, concerts (below)
  • The “Hot Glass Show” featuring blowers from The Corning Museum of Glass
  • The restaurant selection (10 options, including a creperie and Asian fusion)
  • A luxurious spa and huge gym with wide ocean views
  • Resort-like pools, including one in a solarium

Also, expect “liquid nitrogen” cocktails at Equinox’s Tastings bar (not exactly a selling point for booking a cruise, but a novelty just the same) and artwork by Lichtenstein and a Sol LeWitt, as well as video art installations. There’s even a live tree as art, too; the huge ficus sits in a massive, sparkling pot suspended below the skylight of the impressive 12-deck atrium. Yup, it’s a wow.

Guest blogger Fran Golden writes about Cruising for