Celebrity Flora, the plush new expedition ship, was unveiled in Rotterdam a few weeks before setting off on a 25-day crossing via the Panama Canal to the Galápagos. Sara Macefield reports.
Little can compare with the thrill of exploring the Galápagos Islands’ diverse natural riches and extraordinarily tame wildlife. To sail through this remote Pacific archipelago is a treat on any level, but the launch of Celebrity Cruises’ ground-breaking new ship, Celebrity Flora, promises to elevate the experience even further.
More plush mega-yacht than expeditionary vessel, it is acclaimed as the first such craft to be specifically designed to sail around the Galápagos Islands.
With 50 suites accommodating 100 passengers (the maximum limit permitted in the islands) Flora doesn’t shirk in the luxury stakes. Yet with a line-up of special features that include glamping on deck and a stargazing platform, it’s clear this is no run-of-the-mill ship.
That rings true for its environmental credentials too, with a raft of state-of-the-art technical innovations that Celebrity says will make Flora one of the eco-friendliest ships on the planet.
First-rate design and facilities
And it is every inch a class act with rows of floor-to-ceiling windows designed to maximise the views of its surroundings for those on board.
The overriding feel is one of space and light that fills the public areas and highlights a muted palate of pale earthy shades of taupe and fawn, framed with liberal use of faux wood across floors, walls and doors.
It’s a combination that melds sophistication with understated luxury, yet there are local touches too thanks to the hand of renowned Ecuadorian interior and furniture designer Adriana Hoyos.
She was brought in by Celebrity to add organic elements that underline the ship’s connection to the islands and her signature pieces are dotted throughout.
While Flora carries the same number of passengers as its newly-revamped sister ship, Celebrity Xpedition, it is twice the size. This is evident in the airy Discovery Lounge, the hub of the ship where the team of onboard naturalists will deliver lectures and briefings, but the comfy seating make it a relaxing spot to grab a drink from the bar, and settle down in front of the stage to watch evening entertainment.
Next door is the impressively spacious Seaside Restaurant, which blends a contemporary casual vibe with Michelin star standard cuisine, incorporating fresh ingredients sourced locally, while full-length windows on either side guarantee far-reaching views.
That’s also true in the top deck Ocean Grill Restaurant, the second dining venue, where casual al fresco lunches and drinks give way to ‘Dinner Under the Stars’ where guests can admire sunsets as they dine on local specialities.
Aside from the compact gym and spa, on-deck plunge pool and hot tub, novel features include the star-gazing platform and cabanas promising the first sunset-to-sunrise glamping experience in the Galápagos.
For $299pp, couples can book a pair of cabanas with one designated for sleeping and the other for dining. After being served a three-course dinner, they are visited by the ship’s captain and a naturalist who will talk to them about the local surroundings, before drifting off to sleep under the stars and waking with breakfast in bed at sunrise.
With their space and opulence, the suites on Celebrity Flora also set it apart. Each one comes with a personal suite attendant and enjoys benefits that include a welcome bottle of bubbly, king-size beds with luxurious cashmere bedding and 24-hour room service.
A Sky SuiteIn keeping with Flora’s eco-credentials, there are no plastic bottles, but each suite has its own filtered water tap where guests can fill the reusable water bottles they are issued with on arrival. Other indulgent touches include a minibar and central panel that controls lighting, temperature and blinds at the touch of a button.
The top spots to stay in are the two 119-square-metre Penthouse Suites, each with their own balcony, followed in second place by two Royal Suites.
But it’s the Sky Suites that have taken their cue from Celebrity’s new innovative flagship Celebrity Edge, with ‘infinite verandas’ – a window which moves down at the touch of a button to become a Juliette balcony area – and they account for 50 per cent of Flora’s accommodation.
The Naturalist Lounge in Darwin’s Cove
Passengers wanting to learn more about the Galápagos can retreat to the Observatory which boasts a library of books dedicated to the islands and is the perfect place to curl up with a book, while those looking for a hands-on approach can visit the onboard research laboratory.
Here, they can study the data recorded on each voyage as Celebrity Flora is the first vessel sailing among the islands equipped with the latest oceanographic equipment to record air and sea patterns.
The lab can be found on the bottom deck as part of Darwin’s Cove, with its retail shop, guest relations desks and a lounge where the naturalist guides will be based.
Just outside is the ship’s marina offering easy access to six new 12-person Novurania tenders.
These have been specially-designed to make it easier for passengers to embark and disembark in small groups on trips around the archipelago during the two seven-night itineraries that Celebrity Flora offers.
There are onboard kayaks too, in addition to snorkelling equipment, while technical innovations have ensured unlimited wifi, making it easy to share special social media moments with family and friends back home.
This ship scores highly in the eco-friendly stakes, too, with a dynamic positioning system that makes anchor usage redundant, thus protecting the seabed, as well as increased energy efficiency to cut emissions.
By bringing such an impressive blend of evolution and revolution to the Galápagos, Celebrity Flora promises to perfectly complement the must-visit appeal of this unique corner of the planet.
For more information, visit celebritycruises.co.uk.