“This ship is a celebration of the Galapagos,” said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, during a sneak peek event introducing the new Celebrity Flora to a group of media and travel advisors.
Celebrity Cruises has offered itineraries sailing in the Galapagos Islands since 2003, but a few years ago when presented with the opportunity to expand its operations in the region, Celebrity decided to take its commitment to the next level by becoming the first cruise line to build a new ship purposely designed for this unique UNESCO-listed archipelago.
With this vision in mind, Celebrity Flora was born and will make her debut on June 30, 2019 as she starts year-round sailings from Baltra.
“The opportunity to celebrate the Galapagos in a really powerful and meaningful way was enabled because of building Celebrity Flora,” said Lutoff-Perlo, “but what makes Celebrity Flora special is what makes Celebrity special. It epitomizes everything we stand for as a brand.”
As I explored the new vessel at the shipyard in Rotterdam, where it is currently under construction, I saw firsthand how certain Celebrity brand pillars—design, accommodations, culinary, and service—come to life aboard Celebrity Flora.
From the moment guests embark on the custom-made Zodiacs that bring them to the ship, they’ll find that thoughtful design elements are incorporated into every aspect of Celebrity Flora that make it feel more like a mega-yacht than a cruise ship. In an homage to the work Charles Darwin completed in the Galapagos, a public space known as Darwin’s Cove will welcome guests on board. Located on Deck 3 and home to the Guest Relations area, Darwin’s Cove feels like an extension of the nature that surrounds Celebrity Flora. Wood paneling lines the walls and parts of the ceiling; windows are surrounded with wallpaper depicting detailed photos of the corals guests might see on a snorkeling trip; and the beige carpeting with its misshapen and uneven blue polka dots resembles a map of the Galapagos archipelago itself.
This design concept is seen throughout the entire ship—extending to the accommodations and other public spaces— complemented with floor-to-ceiling windows that bring the outdoors in, and a Stargazing Deck offering unobstructed views of the night sky. “We took our design pillar and we really amplified it in the right way for the Galapagos,” said Lutoff-Perlo.
In keeping with Celebrity’s commitment to preserving the local environment, Celebrity Flora includes an advanced waste water system, solar panels, and eco-friendly engines. Guests are also given Swell water bottles upon arrival and water filtration systems are placed on every deck, allowing guests to stay hydrated while eliminating the need for single-use plastic bottles.
Aboard Celebrity Flora, all guests are suite guests and will be treated to Celebrity’s premium services and amenities such as a personal suite attendant, full in-suite meal service, unlimited WiFi access, and more. The ship accommodates 100 passengers—the maximum allowed per vessel in the Galapagos—in a total of 50 suites that fall into one of six categories: Sky Suite with Veranda; Sky Suite with Infinite Veranda; Premium Sky Suite with Infinite Veranda; Ultimate Sky Suite with Infinite Veranda; Royal Suite; and Penthouse Suite. As guests approach their suites, a plaque reading “Welcome Home” will set the tone for the cozy setup they’ll find inside highlighted by a soothing earth tones color palette and wood and stone detailing. All suites feature smart TVs with both ship and destination information, plus organic bathroom amenities made by an Ecuadorian company, a water filtration station for refilling bottles, and organic fabrics that are also locally made.
“No matter where you are [on the ship], you’re close to the Galapagos and connected to the destination,” said Brian Abel, senior v.p. of hotel operations for Celebrity Cruises, in reference to the detailing of the accommodations that makes a stay aboard the Celebrity Flora an immersive adventure.
The ship’s culinary programming also plays a role in creating a cultural experience for Celebrity Flora guests with its two onboard restaurants—Seaside Restaurant and the outdoor Ocean Grill—offering guests meals prepared with fresh, local ingredients and produce, including seafood from Ecuadorian fisheries that is less than 48 hours old.
“We try not to compete with the environment. We want to be in harmony with it and that starts with quality sources and quality ingredients,” said Cornelius Gallagher, associate v.p. of food and beverage operations for Celebrity Cruises.
Breakfast and lunch will be served buffet style, while at dinner, guests will be presented with two menus—one that changes daily with various Ecuadorian dishes and the other featuring fan favorite dishes from across the Celebrity fleet. Travelers will also have the opportunity to sample the local cuisine at a Dinner Under the Stars experience that gathers guests to share a meal on the top deck.
“It’s the ingredients and the culinary expertise that really bring the experience to life,” Gallagher added.
Sailing aboard the all-inclusive Celebrity Flora means all guests can expect superb service in a stress-free environment where everything is planned and included from food and beverages to shoreside adventures and more. Programming includes hiking excursions, snorkeling, and discussions with expert naturalists ready to share their knowledge of the Galapagos with guests.
One amenity guests can take advantage of for an additional fee, however, is the Glamping at Sea experience. Kicking off at 6 p.m., glampers will head to the top deck for aperitifs with the captain, a private chef meal, and a one-on-one talk with a naturalist. For the rest of the evening, they’ll have two cabanas to themselves as they sleep under the stars only to be awoken by the sunrise and a private chef breakfast.
“For the traveler who loves luxury, this is the ship for them. Celebrity has thought of everything,” said Mary Clifford, marketing director of Valerie Wilson Travel, who also attended the event. “This all-inclusive ship will provide travelers with a sense of personalization that will guarantee them the most memorable visit to the Galapagos Islands before even touching land.”
Celebrity Cruises: celebritycruises.com
What’s In it For Travel Advisors
“We treat travel professionals like the entrepreneurs that they are and make sure that we’re not just cookie cutting everything that we do,” says Keith Lane, Celebrity Cruises’ v.p. of sales for North America, in reference to the company’s new pricing strategy and other tools that help advisors boost sales. Launched in early April 2019, the Sail Your Way pricing strategy, which does not apply to Galapagos sailings, allows advisors to book clients with the cruise-only price or bump them up to two perks or four perks such as a drink package or unlimited WiFi. This pricing structure also applies to inside and transitional cruises, and advisors receive full commission on all perks booked.