This week's commentary by TravelPage.com's European Cruise Editor, Malcolm Oliver reflects on the announcement by Celebrity that they have asked a panel of five women to help design the staterooms on their newest cruise ships.
Miami - (September 20, 2007 ) - Some things just need a woman's touch. To design a larger stateroom that is also intuitive and stylish on its extraordinary new ship, Celebrity SolsticeSM, Celebrity Cruises has gone right to the source: ladies who cruise.
Celebrity engaged a panel of five boomer women, identified by the line as "Celebrity's Leading Ladies," specially selected for their distinct points of view – a frequent cruiser, a travel agent, a travel writer, a hotelier and a cruise considerer.
Call me old fashioned, but when I first read this I was a little shocked. Women designing cruise ship cabins (sorry ‘Staterooms'), whatever next, the vote? Isambard Kingdom Brunel, engineer of the Great Easter and Great Western, was not a woman. Bruce Ismay, architect of the Titanic, was not a woman. Stephen Payne designer of the Queen Mary 2 is not a woman either.
Joking aside (…yes ladies I was only joking, if you are still reading) ship design has traditionally been a male dominated world. In fact the interior design team for the ‘Solstice class' interiors is architectural firm RTKL, led by Greg Walton (a man).
So why did Celebrity pick five women? Celebrities Senior Vice President of Marketing, Ellen Taffe (a woman) said that woman: "…are the most discerning guests when it comes to the stateroom. Their standards are high and Celebrity is committed to exceeding them, while also creating a great experience for the spouse, family or friends with whom they may be travelling."
Apparently women are the ‘primary cruise planners', so obviously the ‘Spice Girls' were right all along about ‘Girl Power'. Interestingly I am the primary cruise planner in my house, but my wife does of course have the right of veto.
I used to get quite a lot of mail from cruise lines, such as brochures, flyers and special offers, all addressed to me. This was probably because I am always the lead ‘booking' name. However, I noticed that most of this material is now addressed to my wife. The cruise lines have obviously realized that the fair sex wears the trousers and the male role as head of the family is purely symbolic.
As a man I am interested in cabin design, although my lack of respect for the cabin might lead one to think otherwise. OK, I admit that I occasionally leave my clothes on the bedroom floor and forget to clean the bathroom sink at times. Still, at least I can leave wet towels on the cabin's bathroom floor and say in my defence that it is cruise line policy that passengers are encouraged to notify the cabin steward if you want them replaced. (Strangely enough that policy does not apply at my home).
So what did our ‘Leading Ladies' tell Celebrity that they "really really want"?
Here are the main recommendations: colour schemes will reflect muted colours and a softer ambience. There will be 265 pairs of staterooms that connect - ideal for families. Veranda furnishings will be adjustable so you can choose between a straight back chair and a reclined one. The bathrooms will be 24 percent larger than those on Millennium-class vessels, with fog-free mirrors and extra storage space. The beds on Celebrity Solstice will be raised slightly higher, so the luggage can fit under.
So I wonder then what type of cabins Celebrity would have made if they had picked team of men to advise them?
I can't speak for the entire male cruising population, but here is what I'd like: In terms of decor I don't think I would even bother with deco - magnolia paint would do. Soft furnishings such as cushions and curtains would be irrelevant. I often forget to draw the curtains anyway; I just get changed in the far corner of the room. A fridge for beer would be standard. No wardrobe space or draws would be required, just space for an open suitcase at waist height, so I could live out of it, without the need to ever unpack.
A big TV with a sports and free adult channels must viewable from the bed. There would be ‘his' and ‘hers' bathrooms in every grade of cabin. There would be a TV in ‘his' bathroom, viewable from the throne and a rack of newspapers. His shower would be big enough for him to be able to bend down pick up the soap if dropped, it without needing to be a contortionist. His shower would also have a glass door rather than a shower-curtain, which always seem to stick to his back like Superman's cape. There would be hot air-dryers in the ceiling so he did not have to bother to towel himself dry.
The cabin wall would be acoustically well insulated preventing the neighbour's sex, kids, arguments and snoring from disturbing my sleep. His bathroom would also have a new innovation, a urinal, which would abolish the "leaving the seat up" arguments forever. Finally his toilet would have three toilet roll holders for maximum convenience. This would save the embarrassment of having to phone housekeeping for additional supplies after a heavy performance.
Of course all this talk of cabin design is immaterial for some. There are those passengers that are of the opinion that if it's a good cruise you will not be spending much time in your cabin anyway. It's just a room to sleep, shower and get changed in.
Back to Celebrity: I have now seen an artists rendition of one of the new Celebrity Solstice ‘Aqua-Class' cabins. I must admit that on the face of it they do not look particularly different in layout from those any other modern ship. Maybe the devil is in the detail? It's probably unfair to make a judgment without actually cruising in one of the new cabins but then again, that has never stopped me before. Anyway, as a man I don't suppose I'd be discerning enough to appreciate the subtle differences. Still if my wife enjoys the cabin and I get what I need, that's two satisfied customers.