Celebrity Xpeditions’ Celebrity Flora has been specifically designed and built for the Galapagos, with a focus on reducing its environmental footprint. Its builder explains how
The cruise operator – a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines – signed the contract for the expedition vessel with Shipyard De Hoop in August 2017. The contract marks the Dutch shipyard’s entry into the expedition cruise market and is also the first seagoing cruise ship built in the Netherlands for many years.
The keel of the first section was laid on in December 2017. Erecting this 49.2-tonne section on the longitudinal slipway marked the starting point of a 1.5-year building process.
In January 2018, the vessel was launched at the Lobith facilities of Shipyard De Hoop. After the launch, the ship was towed to Wiltonhaven, in Schiedam, to be further outfitted and to perform the test runs. Starting from Baltra, one of the smaller islands of the Galápagos, the expedition cruise ship will make year-round cruises to the Galapagos Islands.
De Hoop’s management are convinced that more than a decade building smaller seagoing cruise vessels, with the associated design development and investment in knowledge, has now paid off. De Hoop chief executive Patrick Janssens says “This was the ideal basis for entering the growing market of expedition cruise vessels – our designers were fully prepared when the Celebrity Cruises challenge arose. Furthermore, with many Dutch suppliers and subcontractors on the client-approved ‘makerslist’, this project presented a great opportunity for the Dutch shipbuilding industry as a whole.”
He highlights that Celebrity Flora is the first expedition ship specifically designed and built for luxurious cruises in the Galapagos area.
Designed for destination
Mr Janssens says “Celebrity Flora marks a turning point in the approach to ship design. The project, developed in close collaboration with the client and a number of co-makers and subcontractors, is a new approach to marine exploration of the Galapagos Islands: it aims to create the feeling of being immersed in the environment, rather than just visiting it.”
Therefore, the exterior deck areas are optimised for the best outdoor experience, offering features including a special railing design, protective sun awnings and hammocks for enjoying the scenery in full comfort. “To make the guests’ stay even more pleasant, the ship’s superstructure shape has been submitted to wind tunnel tests to ensure passengers on deck will not be subjected to exhaust gases,” adds Mr Janssens.
Classed by Lloyds Register, Shipyard De Hoop says Celebrity Flora will be the first vessel built according to the latest probabilistic damage stability regulations and complies with the relevant rules and regulations for 2020. Mr Janssens comments “The amendment, stipulating these regulations, was implemented by IMO in June 2017, under protest of many ship designers and builders, who considered these rules to be impossible. Moreover, along with compliance with future international rules and regulations, the vessel also commits to specific Galapagos National Park Directorate Regulations, whereby specific environmentally low-impact features were applied.”
To further reduce the environmental footprint, the cruise ship accommodates an enhanced sewage plant to improve quality and reduce the amount of wastewater; an improved HVAC system and improved thermal insulation, with energy-efficient low-emissive glazing leading to 50% less energy consumption. Shipyard de Hoop technical director and lead-engineer behind the vessel Fre Drenth says “It almost speaks for itself that the HVAC equipment is capable of handling the challenging environmental parameters, warmer seawater and higher outside air temperatures of the Galapagos.”
Within the electric system, measures have been taken to save energy – for example, using LED lighting and solar panels. Droste Elektro, a neighbour of the Dutch Lobith-based shipyard, are responsible for the complete electrical installation, including the design installation of all switchboards, drives, converters, power management system and alarm/detection systems.
Passenger comfort and crew logistics
Shipyard De Hoop has put a lot of effort into decreasing noise and vibrations, with floating floors, flexibly mounted equipment and anti-vibration panels in walls and ceilings. The practical implementation of this was supported by theoretical frequency analysis of the ship and its interior construction: De Hoop’s engineers subjected the ship to a design spiral with four stages, to achieve the optimum in terms of vibrations and sound levels. The ship has reached the highest possible Comfort Class notation – Comfort Class 1.
The raw materials for the carpentry, upholstery, finishing and decorations of all eight decks consist of sustainable, natural, regionally inspired materials. Mr Drenth says “To safeguard the passenger experience and ensure correct use of materials, a dedicated team of designers and ergonomists were involved during the final fine-tuning of the interior layout.”
The Marina, the embarkation area located aft on deck three, is the primary point of access to the ship and the guests will be brought on board over water, in one of the three available ridged inflatable boats (RIBs). Celebrity Flora’s transom features integrated aft stairs, combined with a foldout stern platform with special boarding facilities to allow safe and easy boarding for the passengers. The non-standard layout of Celebrity Flora is immediately expressed when boarding, as the only passenger entrance to the vessel is via the stern. Once inside, the route leading the passengers to their accommodation is focused on passenger experience.
This latest custom-built addition to the fleet of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines features 50 staterooms divided over decks five and six, with a capacity to host 100 passengers.
A further characteristic of this vessel is the large variety of public areas on decks three, four, seven and eight including a choice of seven seating locations. There is a floor-to-ceiling glass-wrapped observatory and an open-air hideaway: the Vista on deck seven – with 360° views, cocoon-style loungers and private cabanas. Passengers can go to the Sunset Lounge or enjoy naturalist presentations and excursion information sessions in the Discovery Lounge, both on deck four. On deck three, Darwin’s Cove and the Naturalist Centre, are home to the tourist offices providing information about the destination, wildlife and environmental efforts. There is the Stargazing platform on deck eight where guests can participate in a guided astronomy tour.
According to Celebrity Cruises, eating and drinking on board Celebrity Flora is an important part of the total cruise experience. Mr Drenth said much attention has been paid to the 'logistics of food'. Careful attention was paid to the layout of the dry, cold and freeze stores, galleys, pantries and eateries up to and including the scullery and the waste/sewage management.
The number of people on board is completed with 80 crew members, including personal suite attendants to cater to guests. Mr Janssens says “The sophisticated layout of the cruise vessel allows for a separate routeing for crew behind the scenes, to keep disruption to a minimum and not inconvenience the passengers.”
On the lower deck, an RIB garage with hydraulic hull doors, hatches and dedicated cranes is provided for storing the tenders. To allow for swift and unseen provisioning logistics by the crew, a loading bay is on the starboard side near the dry, cool and freeze stores in the fore ship.
Mr Drenth says “The custom-built Novurania RIB tenders feature stairs with a metal railing that fits flush against the open aft of Celebrity Flora, creating a seamless ship-to-shore transportation system that makes it easier to go exploring the islands.”
Each tender also features a hydraulic ramp that makes wet landings in the islands more convenient. This ramp can also be used as a platform that makes getting on and off for snorkelling much easier.
Reduced environmental footprint
As this vessel is expected to be stationary, in a bay or near one of the islands for 66% of the operational time, considerable thought went into designing and selecting engineroom equipment, allowing the ship to perform efficiently under dynamic positioning (DP).
Combined with a zero-speed stabiliser system, the DP2 system will choose a heading to minimise the roll and heave motions on the vessel, significantly improving passenger comfort. To achieve a high level of redundancy and to meet the Class requirements (PSMR and DP1/DP-AM notation), the power and propulsion plant of Celebrity Flora is duplicated and housed in two separate enginerooms.
The power supply for two rudder propellers and two bow thrusters is supplied by four Caterpillar C32 diesel generator sets. The diesel engines are equipped with an selective catalytic reduction installation, whereby NOx emissions are greatly reduced. The rudder propellers, type 20 CRP of 1450kW each, were supplied by Steerprop from Finland, while the 400-kW bow thrusters are provided by Veth from the Netherlands. Mr Drenth says “With this configuration, a 12-knot cruising speed can be achieved, and a high-manoeuvrability is guaranteed.
“One glance at the ship’s profile reveals the sophisticated bow shape, featuring a straight, wave-piercing stern, with an integrated bulb. This characteristic bow both reduces resistance in waves when in transit and saves energy when staying in position, similarly due to the higher efficiency of the bow thruster.”
Mr Drenth says this advanced propulsion system, the hull configuration improved with CFD calculations and the specially developed diesel engine arrangement, guarantee an average 25% reduction in hull resistance, 15% reduction in fuel consumption and equivalently fewer exhaust emissions. “These characteristics make this cruise ship one of the most energy-efficient ships in its class, in addition to being IMO Tier III compliant,” he sums up.
The ship is protected against fires by a Technoship Ultra-Fog system. Their high-pressure, 100-120 bar water-mist system is designed to kill fire by suppressing two of the three vital variables required for fire: heat (by cooling with a cloud of tiny droplets) and oxygen (tiny droplets block access to O2).
Builder Shipyard De Hoop, Lobith, the Netherlands
Owner Celebrity Cruises/Xpeditions, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Florida, United States
Length oa 101.50 m
Length bpp 97.43 m
Beam moulded 17.00 m
Depth moulded 6.50 m
Draught moulded 4.50 m
Speed 14 knots
Gross tonnage 5,635 gt