Just delivered two days earlier at the Damen Yards in Schiedam, Celebrity Flora passes Hoek van Holland on her way to the Galapagos Islands. The date is the 15th of may in 2019.
In 2003, Celebrity Cruises formed a new venture when they bought the 2800-ton Sun Bay. At the time, the ship was laid-up although she was quite a new expedition-style vessel, built only in 2001 for Sun Bay Cruises. With the ship, that was renamed Celebrity Xpedition, the Celebrity Xpeditions brand was started up for cruises in the Galapagos region. It was meant for the explorations fleet to grow with two larger ships, as Celebrity's owner RCCL had just taken over the business of Pullmantur Cruises and announced that two of their ships, Blue Dream and Blue Moon, were going to be replaced in the Galapagos fleet as they seemed out of place with Pullmantur. But the ships proved to be too big for the small islands and instead, a totally new 100% Celebrity subsidiarycompany was started up for them, Azamara Cruises.
Of course a modern ship like her is propelled by pods, but this was the first time that I was able to get a good picture of those.
The Galapagos-fleet of the company became a very distinct one, so diffeent from the larger megaships in the main fleet. That this was something the big company suited too became clear when in march of 2016, the Equadorian company Ocean Adventures was bought, including their two ships Eclipse and Athala II. The ships were merged into the Galapagos fleet under the names of Celebrity Xperience and Celebrity Xploration and have the distinction of being the smallest cruiseships operated by a mayor company. Celebrity Xperience only measures 1610 tons and has room for 48 passengers and Celebrity Xploration only has space for 16 passengers and measures 319,5 tons. It was really a booming time for expedition cruising, with new ship-orders for this segment skyrocketing. This is also why Celebrity Cruises ordered two totally new expeditionships to strenghten their presence and they did so with a Dutch shipyard, far inland close to the German border. Shipyard De Hoop at Tolkamer has experience with river-cruiseships, day-tourboats and tugs, but ocean cruiseships was something totally new for them. But of course they were delighted by the order and so these ships became the first ocean-going cruiseships built in The Netherlands since Holland America's first Prinsendam in 1971. Eventually, after RCCL aquired a mayor stake in Silversea Cruises, the second order was allocated to this company and will enter as Silver Origin for Galapagos cruises in 2020.
Construction and general statistics
The summer of 2018 was the hottest summer in Europe in recorded history. That also was the reason this picture could be taken at the 28th of october from the Rhine riverbed in front of the slipway where the Celebrity Flora was built. Here, she is some 65% complete.
The order for the Celebrity Flora was officially placed at the 17th of november in 2017 and the ships keel was laid at the 13th of december of that same year. With a tonnage of 5739, she will become the largest ship in the Celebrity Expeditions fleet and she is also the largest ship yet built by De Hoop in Tolkamer, where she was built under yardnumber 488. On a two passengers per cabin basis, the ship will be able to sail with 100 passengers in 50 cabins and 80 crewmembers who will share 52 cabins, offering the same semi-luxury standards known for the larger ships of Celebrity Cruises. One hunderd passengers is the maximum amount of people that are allowed to cruise in the region on a ship, issued by the authoroties of the National Park and for every 12 passengers that are sailing, one guide will be present to give a very personal touch to the voyage. The ship does require an age-restriction as only persons older then 18 years of age are able to sail her.
As the largest ship ever constructed at this yard, her bridge also towers above the buildings on the shipyard and is already easily recognizable.
Celebrity Flora is 101,50 metes long and 16,9 meters wide. Her draft is only 4,26 meters so she will be able to get around in the shallow waters of the Galapagos region. Also her projected speed is quite modest, some 10 to 12 knots. She will fly the flag of Equador.
As the ship is especially built for the precious surroundings which are the Galapagos Islands, she is one of the most environmentalfriendly expedition cruiseships in the world. The ships fuel consumption is 15% lower then standard and even so are her harmfull air emissions. Also, she uses anchorless technology so she will not damage the seabed while staying in position using GPS. The ships hull is pained with silicone to move her more efficient through the water. The outdoor decklights were also specially designed with a colour and warmth that would not attract local insects. Not just to keep the passengers free from insects, but to take care of the fact that insects would not travel with the ship to other pristine regions where they do not come naturally. Onboard, educational seminars will be given about the ecology of the islands, so passengers can really learn about their surroundings. In-room water filtration systems aboard have the ability to re-use airconditioning condensation to provide water to the shipboard laundry fascilities. Also, reverse osmosis equipment is installed to process seawater into fresh water up to 100 percent of the ships needs.
Above, the Celebrity Flora is seen on the slipway, just an hour and a half before her launch.
There is a lot of open, outside spaces giving a 360 degree view of the islands and also the balconies give a very good view. The ship also offers a extended marina at the back of the ship, which will be able to dock three zodiacs at once to spare some time. Overal, the decor is very modern and light, with many windows so natural light can enter the ship almost everywhere. On the top deck, the ship has a space named The Vista, where cocoon-style loungechairs and private cabanas can be used to see the world pass by. Here, there is also a hottub where guests can really relax after their experiences on shore. Furthermore, the ship offers a relaxing lounge named the Discovery Lounge, where movies can be seen and a drink can be enjoyed in a real homy livingroom space. Aboard, there is also a library stuffed with books about the Galapagos Islands themselves and the animals and plantlife in the region.
The cabins are all suites and come in six categories with a standard of 30 square meters, although the two largest Penthouse suites measure some 120 square meters. All will also feature personal suite attendants and all have floor to ceiling windows, even in the bathrooms. All the furnature, in the suites but also in the rest of the ship, is produced locally by local craftsmen, creating a unique interiour feel. Many design-elements within Celebrity Flora are equal to those introduced on the far larger Edge-class of ships.
Again, below are two pictures showing her at the slipway on the day of the launch, now from somewhat closer by. I was really surprised that it was possible to attend the launch and enter the wharf without some sort of invitation and must say that the personell of the wharf is very helpfull and friendly towards visitors. Big compliments to how this all was organized.
Breakfast, lunch and diner are served in the bright Seaside Restaurant which is designed with inspiration taken from the region. As an alternative, the Ocean Grill is an outdoor restaurant at the top deck, offering limitless views during the Diner Under The Stars.
All food aboard is sourced from local farms and fishermen and the chocolates that guests will find at their pillows coma also from a local company that sources their cacao from small, nearby producers.
The ship the first in the Galapagos which is fitted with oceaonographic research equipment, known as Oceanscope. This was developped with the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science from the University of Miami. In this program, because the ship only sails one region, it is possible to measure the long-term status of the ocean circulation dynamics around the Galapagos islands. Data can be used to predict the El Nino and La Nina weather phenomenons and all data provided by Celebrity Flora's research will be open source data, available to anyone.
Overseeing the ships design was the New York-based BG Studios International, headed by Francesca Bucci. Her company was already involved in 25 of the ships within the Royal Caribbean group of companies.
Celebrity Flora is seen here just after her launch at De Hoop Shipyard in Tolkamer, The Netherlands.
The ship was launched at the 19th of january in 2019, and a video of her launch can be seen at the Castles Of The Seas YouTube channel. She was then towed over the river Rhine towards the port of Schiedam near Rotterdam, where she was fitted out and finished. This could not be done at Tolkamer, due to restrictions with several bridges over the river. At Schiedam, her upper decks and funnel were added, her interiours were finished and of course she was painted. The ship was handed over at the 13th of may in 2019 to Celebrity Cruises after succesfull trials and left The Netherlands two days later. At the 27th of may, the ship set sail for her fist Galapagos Cruise from the port of Baltra and will offer a series of 8-day cruises in the region.
The naming ceremony took place at june the 24th at Baltra, where the ship was blessed by her godmother Yolanda Kakabadse, environmental advocate and former World Wildlife Fund International President. Also a partnership was announced with EarthEcho International, headed by Phillipe Cousteau Jr.. Also Celebrity Cruises CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo and Royal Caribbean chairman Richard Fain were present.
Closing in at the Hoek van Holland at the 15th of may in 2019.