Cruise ship interview - - Celebrity Summit - - Celebrity Cruises - - Julian Bracenbury - - Solsticizing
Celebrity Summit’s Hotel Director
Julian Brackenbury outlines the
plans for enhancing this popular
Richard H. Wagner
Passsengers consistently give Celebrity Summit some of the
highest marks received by any ship in the Celebrity Cruises'
fleet. Nonetheless, in the Spring of 2010, Celebrity will invest
some $16 million to radically alter the Summit.
Completed in late 2001, Summit is about to enter her second
decade of service. However, the reason for this investment is
not the ship's age. Powered by gas turbines and utilizing an
azipod propulsion system, this Millennium class ship utilizes
cutting-edge marine technology. Similarly, with her extensive
art collection and understated décor, Summit maintains a
Rather, the objective is to take what is good and make it
better. In 2008, Celebrity launched Celebrity Solstice, which
ushered in a new class of ship. The Solstice class ships have
been praised by critics and passengers for the attention to detail
in their design and their innovative features. "Basically, the
company wants to take all of the popular aspects of the Solstice
class and put them on this class. They do not want to take away
the ambiance of the Millennium class but they want to add the
more popular facilities of the Solstice class," explains Julian
Brackenbury, Summit's Hotel Director.
Summit will be the second Millennium class ship to be
"Solsticized." Celebrity Constellation went through this
process in the Spring of 2010. "Constellation, you wouldn't
recognize inside. You will still know your way around, that has
not changed. But décor-wise, cosmetics, it is very different.
She is absolutely stunning."
The work to be done.
While Solsticization is a straightforward concept, taking
features from one class of ship and injecting them into a
different size ship with a different layout is a major
undertaking. Amongst other things, adding new features will
mean having to displace existing features. Accordingly, I asked
Mr. Brackenbury to outline what Celebrity is planning to do.
Beginning at the top of the ship, Summit's Conservatory, which
includes live trees and a florist shop, will be transformed into
an Italian-influenced steakhouse, the Tuscan Grille (See menu
from the Tuscan Grille on Solstice). This specialty restaurant
debuted on the Solstice and has been popular on both of the
subsequent Solstice class ships, Celebrity Equinox and
Celebrity Eclipse. But how can a restaurant fit into the
"[This area] is not far off the size of Normandie [Summit's
existing specialty restaurant]. The staircase that comes up the
middle [of the Conservatory] will be gone. The florist will be
gone. The galley will be where the table tennis room is and
there will be a dumbwaiter down to a room we have below that
will be the pot wash."
On Entertainment Deck (Deck 5), Summit now has a large
area that is the Martini Bar on the starboard side and the
Champagne Bar on the port side. In between the two is an
open space - - often referred to as "the hole" - - that looks
down onto the dance floor in the Rendezvous Lounge on Deck
4. "The Martini Bar will become Cellar Masters, which they
have on the Solstice. It is a wine bar. There will still be a bar in
there and there will still be a sommelier but in addition to that
you can get your own. It will have machines that are a wine
dispenser system. It is a way you can try a wide range of wines
by the glass.. You can choose [from] three sizes of glass. The
machines keep the wines at the right temperature. You just
swipe your card and off you go."
"The other side, where the Champagne Bar is, is going to be
Bistro on Five. It will be a little bistro restaurant there, the
same menu as on the Solstice class." On the Solstice class
ships, this venue features a variety of crepes and is a popular
alternative for a late breakfast, lunch or dinner. (See menu
from Bistro on Five on Eclipse).
To have sufficient space and to ensure that the ambiance of
the new venues is not disrupted, "the hole in the middle is going
to be filled."
Martini drinkers need not be concerned that their favorite
venue will disappear. "The Martini Bar that was is going to go
down into the Internet Café on Deck 4." Currently, that area is
separated from the ship's atrium by a glass wall. "It will all be
opened up; all of the glass frontage will be taken out." This
will make the bar more like the popular Martini Bar on the
Solstice class ships, which open out into those ships' atriums.
In addition, the bar itself will be transformed from the rather
nondescript bar it is today into an exciting bar as on Solstice.
"It will be a martini bar with the frozen ice bar."
Another room on Summit that is separated from the main
atrium by a glass wall is the Card Room. "The Card Room will
be opened up; you will still have the facilities to play cards but
it will not be a separate room. It will be all open."
Overlooking the atrium on Deck 5 is the Cova Café, which is
part specialty coffee house, part wine bar and part dining venue
with specialty sandwiches and desserts. “The Cova Café will
be renamed Café al Bacio, the same as on the Solstice class."
In addition, the venue will be upgraded to include a gelateria,
serving Italian ice cream. (See menu from Cafe al Bacio on
In addition to the changes to the public rooms, the staterooms
will be Solicitized as well. "Every cabin will be gutted totally
and totally redone with a much more Solstice-style
appearance. The cabins still are very nice but the choice of
fabric, the choice of carpet and curtains do not fit with current
trends. So that will all be changed. The bathrooms will be
changed, more updated. We will put in new carpet, new
bedding, new fabric, new curtains."
Beyond injecting features from the Solstice class into the
Summit, Celebrity will take this opportunity to spruce up the
ship in general. "A lot of cosmetic work will be done
everywhere. The entire ship will have new carpet. All the hot
tubs and Jacuzzis are being replaced. The penthouses are
having a lot of work done. They are lovely anyway but they
are being vastly modernized, much more clean lines."
A signature feature of the Summit is the marble staircase
leading from the Grand Foyer up to Deck Four. This is an
impressive feature with multi-deck high pillars draped in silk.
However, it is surprisingly dark for an area that has so much
glass surrounding it. "They are going to make the whole place
lighter. On the Constellation, all the silks have become white
silks. There will also be a lot of changes with the lights. The
structure, no, that will remain - - the staircase will remain, the
tiling will remain. I think you will probably find that by the
time we are finished, it is going to be brighter."
Maintenance work will also be done on the ship. For example,
the hull "will be completely cleaned off,..scraped and it will be
re-painted with silicone paint, which is more fuel efficient. A
lot of our back-of-the-house systems are going to be upgraded;
our databases, things which the guests do not see."
Preparing the ship.
The bulk of these changes will be made while the ship is in dry
dock in the space of three weeks. However, the work has
In fact, one of the Solstice-class features has already been
incorporated into Summit and is being used by guests. A new
feature included on Celebrity Eclipse when she debuted in May
2010 was the iLounge, which features products made by Apple
Computers. The iLounge offers internet access and has
computer classes on Apple Computers. It also sells Apple
products. Summit has already converted its computer
classroom into an iLounge and its Internet Café now has Apple
computers. (The Internet Cafe will be merged into the iLounge
during the refit).
"It is proving popular. It is all part of the modernization of the
brand.without losing what we are known for. As a line we are
known for service and for food, and for a bit of tradition, which
we like to keep. But we obviously need to move with the times
at the same time. That is the Solstice class; that is the
investment in updating this class of ship as well."
A great deal of preparation is required in order to do all that is
desired during the three weeks allotted for the dry docking. As
the time for the dry docking approaches, "I will be working
with the corporate office on a lot of check lists and double
check lists to make sure that everything is covered. Does the
yard really have items A through Z ready for when we arrive?
Why doesn't it have it? When will it be there? Will it be there
on time? Raising red flags - - my 1,000 new sofas are not in the
yard, where are they?. A lot of preparation is needed to make
sure that the people we need, the tools we need, and the
materials we need are where they are supposed to be."
Once the dry docking becomes imminent, the preparation will
move beyond planning. "Without impacting the guests'
experience - - we will have guests onboard right up to before
we go into the dry dock- - we will start to remove, mostly back-
of-house, redundant equipment and redundant carpet. For
example, carpets say in the crew areas. Materials that we do
not need will be off-loaded. They will be landed ashore for
either recycling, disposal or for use on another ship. We may,
for example, have spare tables that we will not need anymore
because all of [that type of table that are in use] are going to go
[during the refit]. So we will off-load the spares because we
are going to have a completely new range. Any surplus carpet
we will off load to another ship, partly to create space for
everything that will be coming on."
. "On the last voyage, as the guests are leaving, we are
going to be right behind them covering everything. Anything
that is not being ripped out will be covered in plastic, covered
in cardboard or taken down to protect it. Everything gets
locked down - - all the bars are closed, the bottles get locked
up, the glassware gets removed and stored. Whatever we can
store in lockers and locked away in cabinets behind the
counters is done. The shops will be emptied. Everything will
be cleared, ready for the refit."
Who will do the work.
Once Summit enters the dry dock, "most of the work will be
done by technicians who will come onboard in the dry dock.
We will have about 500 technicians onboard, some of whom
will stay onboard, some of whom will stay in hotels."
However, this does not mean that there will be no work for
Summit's crew. "The majority of the crew will stay onboard
and assist. A dry dock is a huge amount of work for the marine
team - - engineers and sailors - - because it is a lot of work on
But there also is a lot of work for the hotel staff. "At the start,
the first few days, we will bring everything on, unpacking and
off-loading garbage and bringing in equipment. Then there will
be a lull"
"During the first two weeks, a lot of crew will be given the
option to work in other areas. For example, bar staff, dining
room staff or housekeeping staff may do work on a cleaning
team or we may have special projects that they would work on
as a separate task. The spa staff, casino staff, gift shop staff
may take two of the three weeks off and either go home or go
stay in a hotel and have a break or whatever they chose to do."
"Generally speaking, they will be on reduced hours until that
last week, then it will be all hands on deck. Most of the crew's
work will be done in the last week of the dry dock. Once the
technicians are finished with the Tuscan Grille and the Martini
Bar [etc.], we will then go and reset them, clean them up. As
the cabins get done, the stateroom attendants will go back in
their sections and clean them and make them ready. [The shop
staff will] re-stock the shops. [The casino staff will] set the
casino up. The bar staff will come back and re-set the bars.
We will be receiving a lot of new furniture and the ship's crew
will be bringing it on, unwrapping it, bringing off garbage - - all
of that process will be done by the ship's crew. The last week
is always a massive push to finish and get ready."
* * *
The Solsticization of the Summit is a massive project.
Nonetheless, Brackenbury is confident that it will enhance
rather than change the character of this popular ship. "Each
ship has its own heartbeat. They develop their own pulse. And
that applies across a class of ship - - the Millennium, the
Constellation, the Summit, the Infinity, we all have our own
pulse. You can move the ships around and they still have that
pulse. Once it gets its pulse, it is hard to change its pulse. The
Summit, fortunately, has always been one that has been a
highly thought of ship and that is reflected by our guests “.
Solsticization will enrich and enhance the passengers’
experience on Summit. “If we can keep doing that, the ship will
keep going into the next level.”
The Conservatory will become
the Tuscan Grille specialty
Above: The Martini Bar will be
replaced by a Cellar Masters wine bar.
Below: The "hole" will be filled.
Above: The Internet Cafe will be openned up and
be the site of a transformed Martini Bar.
Below: The Card Room will also be openned up.
Above: The Cova Cafe will be upgraded to the
Cafe al Bacio.
Below: Summit's grand staricase will be
Summit has already been equipped with Apple
computers and the computer classroom has
become the iLounge.