Celebrity Cruises, which sails roundtrip out of Abu Dhabi this coming cruise season aboard revamped Celebrity Constellation, has celebrated the ceremonial keel laying for its new luxury expedition ship, Celebrity Flora.
Celebrity Flora is a newbuild for the cruise line, the latest in its expedition fleet. She has been specifically designed for sailing around the Galapagos Islands and features a range of cutting-edge environmentally-friendly features.
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As a part of the keel laying, which took place at the shipyard in Tolkamer, the Netherlands, a 49.2-ton block was lifted in the air and a lucky coin was placed in the dock before the block was lowered into position.
The practice of placing a coin beneath the keel is believed to date back to ancient Roman and later Venetian shipbuilding traditions and was intended to bless the ship with goodluck, during a time when taking to sea was considerably more dangerous than it is now.
The coin laying is distinct from the later coin welding ceremony, where two coins are welded to the ship’s mast for the same purpose. The practice goes back to the days of sailing ships, when coins would be welded beneath the main mast before it was ‘stepped’ (raised and fixed in place). Although the coins were originally placed under the main-mast of a ship, they are now generally welded under the radar mast.
The coin laying ceremony, which coincides with the placement of the first ‘block’, the modern equivalent to the laying of the keel, is a hugely important ceremonial occasion and marks the official start of the ship’s construction.
Celebrity Flora, which Cruise Arabia & Africa has explored in depth already, will sail from Baltra year-round, with her maiden cruise expected to take place on May 26th, 2019. She will alternate between seven night inner and outer loop itineraries, enabling guests to fully explore the Galapagos on ‘butterfly itineraries’.
Celebrity Flora will feature an outdoor Ocean Grill, serving fresh local ingredients and seafood; an upper-deck observatory with cozy seating and a library; The Vista open-air lounge with cocoon-style chairs, private cabanas and a hot tub; and a marina stocked with Zodiacs.
Her environmentally-friendly systems include anchorless technology that can maintain the ship’s position while also protecting the sensitive sea floor and advanced ‘scrubbers’ in her funnel that will limit harmful emissions from the engine.
Thanks to an advanced propulsion system, unique hull and engine design and low-energy lighting systems, the ship will also use 15% less fuel than other ships of her size.
Celebrity Flora is the first cruise ship ever built specifically for cruising in the Galapagos Islands, a cruise destination that Celebrity Cruises feels holds huge potential for niche passengers.
“Expansion in the Galapagos is really important to Celebrity,” Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, told Cruise Critic after the new ship was announced. “Celebrity has been sailing in the region since 2004, but while the cruise line has previously used older, refurbed ships for its Galapagos fleet, new hardware made more sense this time.”
Celebrity Cruises currently has three other expedition ships sailing in the Galapagos, the current flagship Celebrity Xpedition and Celebrity Xploration and Celebrity Xperience. The two latter ships were acquired as part of Celebrity Cruises’ purchase of local operator Ocean Adventures and are expected to be phased out of the fleet in the coming year or two.
Celebrity Cruises bought the company for its medallions, which are needed to operate cruises around the Galapagos, and not the for the ships themselves. “Those two ships aren’t in our long term strategic profile for the Celebrity fleet,” Lutoff-Perlo has previously said.