Celebrity Cruises is putting the final touches on Celebrity Flora, the first ship in the world built to sail to the Galapagos.

While Celebrity has been gliding through the wildlife-rich archipelago sitting roughly 600 miles from the coast of Ecuador since 2004 with its Xpedition ship, the spacious Flora will debut as the largest vessel in the destination. Both ships hold up to 100 passengers (the maximum allowed by the local government), but Flora is twice the size of its predecessor. And with 81 crew members onboard, Flora puts a premium on service as much as space.

“Our guests love to immerse themselves in the destinations we travel to, and they like to do so in a modern luxury way,” said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises. “Building Celebrity Flora from the ground up allowed us to create a ship that brings industry-first eco-friendly innovation, sustainability and national exploration to the region. The guests will feel as though they are boarding a high-end yacht for a week of unparalleled adventures. The all-suite accommodations offer guests the opportunity to see one of the most beautiful and untouched areas of the world with the comforts and level of service they can expect from Celebrity Cruises.”

“From my personal experience, I can say that not only is this a bucket-list destination but it is a life-changing trip as well,” Lutoff-Perlo added. “You gain an appreciation for this world in a way that only the untouched Galapagos can do.”

Although Flora won’t make its inaugural voyage until late June, Forbes Travel Guide visited the Rotterdam shipyard where it’s being constructed for a sneak peek. Find out what’s in store for adventurers who set sail on this megayacht.

Flora Sky Suite

The Design

Flora found design inspiration in the sleek, modern look of Edge, which joined the Celebrity fleet in 2018. Notably, Flora adopted Edge’s Infinite Veranda, which means that in a number of the cabins, the balcony is incorporated into the interior: the press of a button allows you to open a window and transform it into an indoor-outdoor space.

Celebrity Flora’s 50 suites have a contemporary palette of gray, sage and pale yellow; a mix of wood and stone; outward-facing beds; and high-end details like leather straps as knobs on its bureaus. We’re partial to the Ultimate and Premium Sky Suites, which offer a shower and roomy tub facing the floor-to-ceiling window.

Glamping on Flora

BG Studio did the ship design and Ecuador native Adriana Hoyos infused a sense of place with the interiors and furniture. The designer, who splits her time between Ecuador and Miami, added sustainable, local elements like sculptural birdcage chairs to the penthouse suites, marina and the Discovery Lounge, which is the ship’s main gathering hub.

Sensitive to the Galapagos’ delicate ecosystem, Flora was built as one of the world’s most eco-friendly ships. State-of-the-art technology allows for the vessel to stay in position without an anchor, which protects the precious coral and sea floor; solar panels generate some electricity; organic toiletries come from Ecuador; Celebrity helped create a local fishing co-op whose fresh catch is served onboard; it funded greenhouses that provide the ship’s produce; and S’well bottles and in-room filtered water stations eliminate the need for plastic water bottles.

Darwin’s Cove Naturalist Lounge

The Experiences

Flora’s aim is to get you out there experiencing the Galapagos. One way to do that is to take part in the world’s first glamping-at-sea offering. For an upcharge, you can reserve Flora’s teak-slatted pair of cabanas on the top deck for an evening. One cabana comes with a double bed, and the other holds a lounging and dining area. A naturalist will point out the constellations visible from the cabanas, and you’ll savor campfire-inspired cocktails, wines and a meal (s’mores included) under the night sky. The next morning, you’ll enjoy breakfast in bed and sunrise vistas.

The vessel will have 11 onboard naturalists who have been certified by Galapagos National Park. They also receive additional training from Ellen Prager, a marine scientist who curates the onboard programming (Galapagos lectures, presentations and more) and excursions (which include hiking, snorkeling and coastal tours).

The two daily excursions will be more accommodating to young and elderly passengers along with those with mobility issues. A marina lowers from the back of the ship and allows you to easily walk onto the custom-designed tenders. This makes the notoriously cumbersome process on other ships seamless here. The marina also will be equipped with lockers and showers.

Flora Spa

Aboard the ship itself, there is a stargazing platform, a one-treatment-room spa, an outdoor Jacuzzi and plunge pool, a research lab helmed by the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and an observatory with 180-degree views. Planned activities include a silent disco, movie nights, live guitar performances, and wine and Ecuadorean chocolate tastings.

There are two dining venues and two lounges. Ocean Grill is the more casual alfresco option that will host Dinner Under the Stars, a onetime cruise event where everyone gathers for a locally sourced feast. The indoor Seaside Restaurant has top-to-bottom windows and a menu that’s split between Celebrity favorites (popular fleetwide dishes like escargot à la bourguignonne) and Ecuadorian-inspired fare. During our tour, we tried the latter and savored the flavorful shrimp ceviche with avocado chunks and citrus segments as well as the tender lobster tail with garlic-chili butter on a bed of quinoa.

The Gorgeous Flora

Setting Sail

Flora cruises will set sail from Baltra, Ecuador. Choose among 10-, 11- and 16-night packages, all of which include meals, drinks and shore excursions. All itineraries give you a night at JW Marriott Hotel Quito and at least a day exploring the capital city before embarking on the cruise. The 16-day option adds on post-cruise time in Peru for trekking through Lima, Machu Picchu and Cuzco.

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