Offering our QC readers more coverage of Celebrity Cruises’ upcoming new build for the Galapagos, the 100-passenger Celebrity Flora, here is an excerpt from CruiseWeek, a respected cruise industry newsletter published weekly by reporter Mike Driscoll.
Closer to the Edge
A 100-passenger ship is not ordinarily a big news item, but Celebrity Flora is an exception, both for operating in a controlled-capacity destination and for tying in with larger going-ons elsewhere.
Flora will arrive in spring of 2019, about five months after Edge launches. Celebrity President/CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo details the first-ever cruise ship custom-built for the Galapagos. [Note: Celebrity Edge is the new super high-tech 2,918-passenger ship Celebrity’s launching in Dec 2018.]
Specifically, Flora is going to take over Xpedition’s itinerary. “In turn,” Lutoff-Perlo says, “Xpedition will take over the itinerary of the two smaller Galapagos ships which will more than likely move out of Celebrity’s Galapagos fleet.”
The end result will be a decline in ship numbers but an expansion in overall berths for the region. The Galapagos cruise customers may be few in number compared to those going to bigger destinations, but they give the highest average per diems for Celebrity.
“The Galapagos are also important to Celebrity because the islands have been part of our itinerary offering since 2004,” reports Lutoff-Perlo. “Tourism is very controlled for ships in the Galapagos, but it’s getting more popular and a bucket-list destination, which are a couple of reasons why we’re becoming the first company to ever build a ship specifically for the Galapagos.”
Stars Over the Galapagos
Celebrity Flora will only be 5,379 GRT, and it’s being built in the Netherlands at De Hoop Shipyard, a company better known for river boats than ocean cruise ships. Yet, even though it’s a stand-alone from the rest of the fleet, Flora reflects Celebrity’s concept of designing with the destination in mind.
For instance, Lutoff-Perlo said of the Galapagos, “It is the blackest and most beautifully starlit sky I’ve ever seen in my life, so we’re going to have a lot of opportunities for our guests to look at the constellations.”
The deck area is full of comfortable furniture to lay back in and stare up at the sky, and there’s a lounge with panoramic views that will at times have stargazing equipment, lectures, and guided stargazing activities.
“The most exciting new feature are the beautiful cabanas on the sundeck, where you can sleep under the stars at night for an additional charge,” adds Lutoff-Perlo. “There’s also a beautiful grill area where we will be serving dinner under the stars.”
Edging Toward Continuity
Flora is meaningful from a fleet perspective. “Given where we’re headed with the modern luxury profiling of our fleet in every market that we serve, we thought it was a great opportunity to build a beautiful new ship that looks very Edge-like,” she notes. “The different spaces were very inspired by what we’re doing with Edge.”
For instance, Flora is boasting “large outdoor living areas” for its two penthouse suites, the largest in the Galapagos, at 1,288 square feet.
“The outdoor living space outside the suite includes two beautiful chaise loungers,” she reports. “These two suites are at the top and the back of the ship, so the views of the sea and the sky are extraordinary. The rooms themselves are mirror images of each other, one on each side, and they have a tremendous amount of outdoor living space that is part of the suite.”
A plus is the floor-to-ceiling windows.
“It’s all outward facing, and there’s no better place than the Galapagos to do this outward-facing design, because so much of what you see in the Galapagos is happening in the water while you’re on the ship,” she notes. “One of the things that’s really wonderful is that no matter where you will be on Flora, when someone says, ‘Take a look at the dolphins starboard’ or “Take a look at the penguins port side,” you’ll see them.”
Another nod to Celebrity Edge is having the infinite verandas on one of the decks. “We couldn’t do it on every deck because of the ship design, so it’s slightly different in that regard from Edge,” says Lutoff-Perlo. “The ship is all-suites. They are the largest suites in the Galapagos, and we were able to get about 50% of them with infinite verandas.” On Edge, about 60% of the staterooms have infinite verandahs.
The big footage for Flora comes partly by adding the outdoor space to the indoor space. “With the infinite verandas, we’re able to create a larger living area and, again, bring our guests right up to the edge with the beautiful panoramic windows of the infinite verandas,” she contends.
Lutoff-Perlo continues that the Galapagos are one of those places where you spend more time in your room than most other cruises, because you need time to rest between activities: “You’re up very early in the morning, and you’re out and you’re extremely active. When you come back, there’s, like, two or three hours where you rest and have lunch.”
The rest is needed, she says, because you’re back out in the afternoon: “You’re on yet another island and you’re out for two to three hours, and you’re hiking, snorkeling and you’re trekking, and you’re seeing all of the beautiful animals and plants and volcanoes that are part of the Galapagos.”
Then you come back and, well, most likely rest yet again. “You need to rest a little bit before you go to dinner, and then you want to go to bed early because you’re up and at it again the next morning,” she notes.
Her point? “The accommodations in the Galapagos really matter, because you spend a lot of time in the staterooms due to the outside activities that you inevitably wind up doing on that particular itinerary.”
So space matters. For instance, 16 Sky Suites with infinite verandas onboard Flora are listed with total suite square footage of 330 sq. feet, but included in the count is the 75 square feet of the veranda. Even the bathroom footage (50 square feet) is broken out separately, something we’ve never seen listed as such before.
In line with the whole outward facing emphasis of this ship, the king-sized beds face the infinite veranda. And in another similarity with the mock-up suites we’ve toured on Celebrity Edge, the bathrooms in many of the suites are separated from the living/sleeping area by laminated glass. There’s even an outward view for many if you’re in the bathtub.
Flora will be using dynamic positioning, which means they don’t have to drop anchor. “We do a lot of dynamic positioning at Celebrity, but on a bigger ship it’s more of a combination with anchoring,” says Lutoff-Perlo. “For this ship, because it’s smaller, we are able to use only dynamic positioning, so we don’t have to drop anchor to the bottom.
“It’s perfect for the Galapagos, because the protection of the environment there is really important.”
Flora is still large enough to park six zodiacs on the side of the ship. “What we’ve done is we’ve freed up the entire top deck of the ship by building these garages on both sides of the ship,” Lutoff-Perlo reports. “You can stack three zodiacs on each side.”
Each zodiac will hold up to 36 people and will pull up to the Marina on the ship at water level. The Marina looks to be a design hit itself. It was developed in collaboration with BG Studio International, which did some amazing work with the Azamara Club Cruises redesign.
Piecing Together A Revolution?
Lutoff-Perlo calls Flora the third piece of the Celebrity Revolution: “I look at the totality of what Celebrity is doing right now in the market; we’re really experiencing a brand revolution.
“If you take a look at what we did with the transformative design of Celebrity Edge, and then we announced that we were making a $400 million investment into the other nine Celebrity ships, then we are building this amazing ship for the Galapagos. We looked at ourselves and we said, there’s a revolution going on at Celebrity, and the best part is that what we’re doing is revolutionary, not only for the brand but also the industry.”
What’s also notable is that the design of a 100-passenger ship in the Galapagos actually brings continuity with the 2,918-passenger Edge-class ships of the same brand, even if the former holds about 1/30 of the passengers of the latter.
Before, the Galapagos ships of Celebrity bore scant resemblance to the fleet’s other ships. Here there’s some cohesion in tone and features. Even if the ship is a different market than Edge-class, modern luxury defines both products. [Art Sbarsky contributed to this CruiseWeek article.]
Cruise Week is one of the industry’s most trusted sources for in-depth reporting and analysis of the cruise industry. For more than two decades it’s been researched, written and published once a week by journalist Mike Driscoll, a respected industry thought leader. Subscriptions are $125 a year for 50 issues. Click here for more details.
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