It is almost holy ground in the water. It’s unique in too many ways to count and requires its visitors to be respectful, almost reverential, because of its history and environmental sensitivity.
Celebrity Flora will be one of the visitors, a regular, beginning in May 2019. And it will be unique among ships permitted to tour the Galapagos Islands, the living lab where Charles Darwin formulated the theory of evolution and one of the most hotly desired ports of call around the world.
Flora’s all-suite accommodations – for a total 100 guests – will be large, innovative, posh and thoughtful, enclosed by wall-to-wall floor-to-ceiling windows. Beds will face the sea. It will, in essence, be a 333-foot luxury yacht.
What sets Flora apart from any other cruise ship will be its acknowledgment of the Galapagos’ singularly diverse and delicate environment. It is, in fact, purpose-built for the Ecuadoran archipelago, the first of its kind.
While anchors will be on board as required by law, the ship will use a computer-controlled anchorless system known as Dynamic Positioning that will eliminate damage to the Galapagos seafloor by using propellers and thrusters to automatically maintain the ship’s position.
“Our Millennium and Solstice class ships have it,” Bernardo Carrillo, managing director of Celebrity Vacations, explains. “However no ship in the Galapagos has it. The system uses various sensors and gyrocompasses to maintain its position.” Another first: Flora will be the only ship in the Galapagos designed to use Environmentally Acceptable Lubricants (EALs).
With soybean, sunflower and canola as base oils among other constituents, EALs are biodegradable, minimally toxic and not bioaccumulative.
Specially designed diesel engines, an advanced propulsion system and Celebrity Flora’s hull configuration will combine for a 15 percent reduction in fuel consumption and, with it, less emissions.
The special ship’s sustainable elements continue on board with the introduction of in-room water filtration systems, technology to convert seawater and air-conditioning condensation to fresh water, as well as a strict management system that includes recycling, reuse and donation of waste materials.
One of the voices of the Galapagos, which is maintained as a Natural Heritage of Humanity national park, lauds the ecological achievements that distinguish Celebrity Flora.
“We are very pleased with the announcement of Celebrity Cruises’ decision to build a cruise vessel with cutting-edge technology, designed specifically to operate around our wonderful islands,” says Enrique Ponce de León, Ecuador’s Minister of Tourism.
The ship will also have a permanent onboard laboratory for scientists to conduct research on the Galapagos, and expert seminars for guests to learn more about what they see, hear and feel on shore during their sojourn.
Once Celebrity Flora is launched it will berth year-round at Baltra Island near the center of the Galapagos.
While the ship is the smallest ever built by parent Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., the economics will work for a simple reason, according to Celebrity President and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo.
“The Galapagos is different,” she says.