I doubt you will find two cities representing builders of diametrically opposed modes of transportation that are closer together than Papenburg and Hamburg. The two German cities are about 180 kilometres apart.
In Papenburg, Meyer Werft is considered one of the finest shipyards in Europe and builds cruise ships for, among other cruise lines, Disney and Celebrity (all Solstice Class ships). Hamburg is the German headquarters for Airbus and builds several models of Airbus aircraft that are in service with major airlines all over the world.
My reason for being in Germany involved both cities. The latest Solstice Class ship, Silhouette, was built in Papenburg and launched in Hamburg and I spent a couple of days getting to know her.
The Solstice ships have been Celebrity's most successful brand and Silhouette represents No. 4 in the five-ship series. Reflection, the final ship, will emerge from Meyer Werft next year.
Michelle Morgan, a longtime travel executive, was selected as the ship's godmother. Like all Solstice godmothers before her, she is a breast-cancer survivor. The line's executives have long supported research in this type of cancer. To the crowd's delight, joining her at the launch were the godmothers of the previous launches. With champagne flowing, it was time to see what Meyer Werft and Celebrity had created.
While each new Solstice ship before her has been tweaked compared to its predecessor, Silhouette has more changes, especially to the Lawn Club area on the top deck. Yes, they do have real grass and there are no signs telling you to keep off.
New to that area is the Lawn Club Grill, where for $30 you can select a cut of meat, fish or chicken to grill yourself with the assistance of a chef, or to have cooked for you. You can make your own pizza, beginning with the dough, and choose from a wide selection of toppings. In the end, from start to finish, it's your creation. Fellow cruise writer John Honeywell and I were the first non-Celebrity people to select and cook a steak. Armed with new knowledge on how to grill properly, mine tasted better than any of my previous creations. I know, my friends can hardly wait.
Also distinguishing Silhouette from the other Solstice ships are eight private lawn cabanas named the Alcoves. They are comfortable enough for four, complete with picnic baskets, soft beverages, iPad, music, etc. All that pampering comes at a price: $99 a day while in port and $149 while at sea.
Here you also will find the Porch, which really does feel like a porch with its views of the lawn and the sea. The Porch offers a variety of sandwiches, soups, coffees and other light dishes. The Art Studio has replaced the glass-blowing feature introduced on Solstice ships and, with supplies provided and professional help, you can release your creative self.
Feeling tired after a big meal? Half a dozen hammocks on the lawn allow you to kick back and enjoy the day.
Dig deeper into the ship, down to deck 7, and you will find the Hideaway, located next to the Atrium. This room has a series of semi-enclosed, egg-like seating areas. Climb up one deck and look down on the room next to the Atrium, where a live tree is suspended, and you will find two nest-like, high-tech seating areas, complete with Wi-Fi.
Silhouette has started a series of 12- to 13-day Holy Land cruises out of Civitavecchia, Rome's port, and will become the first Solstice Class ship based in the New York area, sailing from Bayonne, New Jersey, this winter.
On the blog (www.portsandbows.com), I've compiled a generous list of Silhouette sailings from now until next spring, complete with prices, to give you a chance to check out this new ship while it's still new.
-- Postmedia News
Visit portsandbows.com for daily updates on the latest cruise news, best deals and behind-the-scenes stories from the industry. You can also sign up for an email newsletter on the site for even more cruise information.