Celebrity Cruises’ much-anticipated new expedition ship Celebrity Flora, which will be based in the Galapagos Islands, was finally unveiled in the Dutch shipyard where it was built at the end of April.
Finishing touches were still being added in advance of its mid-May departure for the remote Pacific archipelago, 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, but there was no disguising the swish style of this latest addition to the Celebrity fleet.
It’s already been heralded as the first ship specifically built and designed to sail around the islands, and will be the most luxurious too with novel features such as on-deck glamping, a stargazing platform and onboard research laboratory.
Celebrity Flora also boasts the latest technical innovations that are set to make it one of the most environmentally-ships on the planet with a dynamic positioning system that replaces the need to anchor (thus protecting the sea-bed) and reduced emissions thanks to increased energy efficiency. It will also be the first ship of its size in the Galapagos, equipped with solar panels.
Where to eat
The Seaside Restaurant is the main venue for all meals and serves up a contemporary casual vibe thanks to the modern understated décor and spacious feel, complemented on both sides by a wall of floor to ceiling windows that guarantee far-reaching views. Menus drawn up by Celebrity’s Michelin-star chef focus on fresh ingredients sourced locally and sustainable seafood. This is also true of the outdoor Ocean Grill Restaurant on the top deck, which has a more casual feel for al fresco lunches and Dinner Under the Stars where local cuisine combines with sunset dining.
Where to sleep
The all-suite accommodation on Celebrity Flora is another opulent plus that sets it apart. There are 50 suites in total, each accommodating up to two guests, and there are eight inter-connecting suites that are ideal for family groups. All are designed to face outwards, with king-size beds aimed at the large windows that allow wonderful wake-up views.
Each suite has its own personal attendant who will help passengers to unpack and will also keep their personal minibar stocked. There’s 24-hour room service too, while in-suite luxury touches include cashmere bedding and a central control panel to adjust lighting, temperature and blinds at the touch of a button.
Another key feature is the filtered water tap, where guests can refill the reusable water bottles they are issued with on arrival. The two Penthouse suites are the cream of the crop, measuring 119 square metres, down to Sky Suites at 30.5 sq m. However, 50 per cent of the suites have “infinite verandas” – a window that lowers at the touch of a button, creating a Juliette balcony – a new category of cabin that debuted on Celebrity’s innovative flagship Celebrity Edge, which launched last December.
What to do
During the one-week round-trip sailings from the Galapagos isle of Baltra on two different itineraries, Outer Loop or Inner Loop, there’s a full programme of activities that include hiking treks, snorkelling adventures, kayaking outings and boat tours.
Such is the natural appeal of the Galapagos, the activities off the ship are the focal point of each sailing and a string of fascinating lectures and briefings in the main Discovery Lounge accentuate their appeal.
Guests can also immerse themselves in the Observatory lounge at the front of the ship with its library of books about the islands, while the research laboratory gives an insight to the data recorded on each voyage as Celebrity Flora is the first ship equipped with the latest oceanographic equipment recording air and sea patterns.
The compact onboard gym has a range of up-to-the-moment fitness equipment, while the adjacent spa offers a more relaxing alternative as does the plunge pool at the al fresco Sunset Lounge deck area with its tempting loungers.
The Vista, on the top deck, offers another open-air relaxation spot with a hot tub and cocoon-style loungers. And wherever passengers are on the ship, they can take advantage of the complimentary wifi to share special moments with friends back home.
What I loved
The spaciousness and light that envelopes you on stepping aboard. Celebrity Flora takes the same number of passengers as its sister ship Celebrity Xpedition, but is twice the size and feels more like a plush mega-yacht than expeditionary ship.
Staying overnight in deck cabanas that promise the first “sunset to sunrise” glamping experience in the Galapagos. There are four in total and for $299pp, couples book a pair as one cabana is used for dining and the other for sleeping. Following a three-course dinner, guests are visited by the ship’s captain and naturalist to talk about the surroundings, before slumbering under the stars and waking up to breakfast in bed at sunrise.
The marina area at the ship’s aft, which is the main embarkment point, and adds to the feeling of being on a private yacht, with plush 12-person tenders that have been designed to allow easier embarkation and disembarkation for passengers.