Celebrity shows off innovative features of Galapagos ship

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ROTTERDAM -- The Celebrity Flora, the first ship being purpose-built for the Galapagos Islands, is about two weeks from completion, Celebrity Cruises officials said during a tour of the mega-yacht here. 

The 100-passenger vessel is expected to be delivered by the De Hoop shipyard around the first week of May, and will then make its way toward its permanent home in the Galapagos for a maiden voyage scheduled for June 30.

At a yard tour of the vessel, Celebrity CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo said the ship will build on a foundation that Celebrity began when it launched operations in the Galapagos in 2003.

Guests have planted over 30,000 trees in the Galapagos in the 16 years Celebrity has been sailing there, which Lutoff-Perlo cited as one of Celebrity's many improvement projects in the Ecuadoran archipelago.

At 5,739 gross tons, the Flora will have nearly twice the volume of its predecessor, the Celebrity Xpedition, even though both ships carry 100 passengers, the maximum allowed on cruise ships in the Galapagos.

That gives the ship more room for public space, including two lounges and two restaurants -- a main dining room and an al fresco restaurant under a canopy on the upper deck. That space looked very appealing on a morning tour of the ship, which also covered most of the accommodations.

Celebrity also showed off one of the most intriguing amenities for Flora guests -- one of four cabanas available for rent for an evening "glamping" experience under the stars on the outdoor deck.

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Cabanas will be available for rent for an evening "glamping" experience. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

For $299 per-couple, guests will get two cabanas -- one for eating, one for sleeping -- cocktails, a gourmet meal al fresco, wine, s'mores and the services of a naturalist, who will provide stargazing guidance.

Also finished on the top deck was a large hot tub which will complement a plunge pool on the aft deck overlooking the ship's marina. The marina, which was designed to make it easy for guests to board and debark from Zodiac landing craft, looks finished and refined, as does the expansive Discovery Lounge one deck up.

The Discovery Lounge will be a staging area for afternoon lectures and evening previews of the next day's activities. It is lined with windows, part of an effort by Celebrity to orient the ship outward toward the ocean and allow for easy viewing of the wildlife in the Galapagos.

"Everywhere you look, we try to get the daylight in," said Kevin Douglas, Celebrity's vice president of newbuilds.

Douglas said the ship's lighting system is more sophisticated than most. It has to be toned in amber to keep the light distraction for wildlife to a minimum, but it also has to be bright enough to meet international safety requirements.

Keeping the light pollution down will also help Celebrity's stargazing efforts. There is a small forward deck one flight up from the outdoor deck that will be used primarily for stargazing at night.

Cuisine served onboard will be devoted half to regional specialties from the Galapagos, Ecuador, Peru and Argentina, and half to "greatest hits" type items from Celebrity's fleetwide menu, said Celebrity associate vice president of food and beverage Cornelius Gallagher.

Lutoff-Perlo said design on the Flora is in keeping with the "modern but comfortable" design that Celebrity debuted last year on the new Celebrity Edge. "This ship is an extension of that," she said.

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