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Playing real-grass croquet on the Celebrity Equinox

by Samir Patel
photos courtesy of Samir Patel and Celebrity Cruise Line
Posted August 15, 2009

The engineering and maintenance of the real-grass lawn (below)
English Croquet Association Website report
Celebrity Cruises Website

It seems so very unlikely, but we've got the pictures to prove that it really happened on Deck 15 of Celebrity Equinox, the newest ship in the Celebrity Cruise Line. The intriguing details below on how to build a lawn on top of a solid steel ship deck will help convince you that such a thing is actually possible. But wait, there's more Next year the sister ship Celebrity Eclipse will be launched with an identical huge grass lawn for golf putting, lawn bowls, and our favourite lawnsport.

The new Celebrity Equinox at sea. The huge grass lawn in the rear of Deck 15 is barely visible from this distance beneath its partial covering.
On 20 July 2009 a new cruise ship sailed into Southampton. It is the only ship to be launched in the United Kingdom in 2009, with space for 2,850 guests. Nothing unusual so far, but the 122,000 tonne Celebrity Equinox had a surprise in store. On its 15th Deck was a lawn. Made from real grass, with the area of eight tennis courts.

A closer view of the lawn � Bermuda 419 overseeded with Rye.

And an even closer view.

Armed with that knowledge, there was no other option. Mallets in hand, a croquet party headed aboard during the launch celebrations on 25 July.

English croquet stars Chris Clarke, Samir Patel, and Stephen Mulliner.

First came a demonstration match of Golf Croquet between Jarrod Coutts and Jared Keeman, followed by a Pro-Am tournament, the first such competition held afloat. Rivals included a team of travel agents from Travel Weekly, representatives from breast cancer charity partner Walk the Walk, a team from the ship�s own Lawn Club and a group selected by the local paper, the Southern Daily Echo.

Looking really pleased with themselves and the games: Don Beck, Alan Cottle, David Gaitley, Daphne Gaitley, and Stephen Mulliner.

The game was Golf Croquet doubles, with each amateur paired with a "Pro", and a handicapping system designed to discourage the Pros from running away with the matches. In the end, places in the final were tightly contested, with Samir Patel and David Walters guiding Travel Weekly to the final against Walk the Walk, coached by Chris Clarke and Daphne Gaitley. The final was played between the best two amateurs in each team, but Stephanie and Michael from Travel Weekly, under Samir's and David's guidance, proved too strong to beat, quickly achieving a 7-1 win before the match was modified to best-of-19, and then eventually winning with a score of ten to three.

The winning team was presented with a glass croquet mallet made in the on-board glass blowing museum, also on Deck 15.


It's golf croquet, so they couldn't be worried about a roquet through the hoop.
It's engineered with all the elements of any well-designed croquet lawn, but compressed into a super-efficient six-inch layered profile built on top of the steelplate deck. The profile layers include a lightweight expanded calcium clay growing media blended together with washed volcanic pumice; a fully automated sub-surface irrigation system over 4 miles long; and finally, the pre-grown rolled turf (Bermuda-419 overseeded with Rye). All of that sits atop layers of porous filter fabrics, drainage boards and stabilizing grids to help hold the lawn surface in place.

The Lawn Club was by no means a snap to build. Its unique design, construction and installation required extensive engineering, agronomy expertise, and planning. A dozen different species of grass were tested in the U.S., Germany, and aboard two Celebrity cruise ships whose itineraries included the Caribbean, Baltic, Mediterranean, and an Atlantic crossing.

Regular quality improvement adjustments are made to the maintenance and care of the lawn based on its reaction and tolerance to the various climate changes and the requirements of the many onboard guest activities. Changes have already been made in the grass surface to accommodate the itinerary of the Celebrity Equinox, and further adjustments are expected throughout the construction of the next three vessels in this class, all to feature real-grass courts.

Because of the isolated island ecology of the Celebrity Equinox, no pesticides or herbicides are needed for care and maintenance. The non-organic and permanently porous growing medium eliminates the need for verticutting and limits periodic aeration. The lawn is mowed two or three times a week to maintain a height between 10 and 15 mm, with the clippings incinerated aboard ship. The lawn is designed to accommodate the more genteel lawn activities, including croquet, lawn bowling and golf putting. The most significant restriction applying to guests is to advise them against wearing high heels.

The designers and builders say the grass can withstand winds up to 115 miles per hour - during which, presumably, guests can view the weather from an adjacent restaurant and a bar overlooking the 15th Deck lawn.

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