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Celebrity Flora

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Celebrity Cruises' prettiest ship is a perfect fit for one of the most naturally amazing spots on earth. Celebrity Flora, a 100-passenger ship -- really a mega-yacht -- blends in seamlessly with its surroundings, thanks to lots of wood colouring, stone accents and natural fabrics. Life onboard offers a relaxed pace and peacefulness derived from the beautiful scenery and a warm and friendly crew. You'll feel a kinship with your shipmates who are as interested in seeing, learning about and conserving the natural world as you.

A relaxed pace, however, doesn't mean you're not usually in motion. Most of each day is spent off the ship exploring one or more of the islands in the Galapagos archipelago. Passengers get back on the ship for a meal, a presentation from one of the naturalists or, if you can squeeze one in, a quick nap -- yet you never feel rushed or pressed for time.

In the evening, passengers connect and rehash their days over family-style meals in the dining room or at a seafood buffet under the stars on the top deck. It's the perfect way to end a day of exploration and discovery.

Celebrity Flora is also exceedingly comfortable with a large space-to-passenger ratio that is felt in the easiness you feel onboard -- never cramped, never vying for space in your cabin or the bathroom, always a spot along a railing when you want a view. There's even a lovely not-so-little alcove in the stairwell between Decks 3 and 4 with floor-to-ceiling windows and a cushioned banquette that feels like its own reading room.

The ship is decidedly adult; a cocktail and conversation, accompanied by a guitar soloist in the main lounge, is the main form of entertainment before retiring early enough to be ready for the next day's excursions first thing in the morning. Anyone looking to watch a movie under the stars or splash in a pool in the warm afternoon should skip Flora -- that's just not what the ship is about. Instead, it's a luxe basecamp whose sole purpose is to serve as a classy but tranquil spot to come back to for all the first-world comforts you can't do without in between your Galapagos explorations.

Daytime: The dress code on Celebrity Flora is casual throughout the day. Most of the time, people wear a variety of outdoor and adventure gear, with sun-protective items highly recommended. Celebrity provides a rain poncho for all cruisers, but quick-dry pants and tops are helpful as well.

Evening: At night, most people opt to go a bit dressier with slacks or skirts and blouses for women, and slacks and collared shirts for men. You don't need to pack a sport jacket or cocktail dress. There are no formal nights on a Celebrity Flora sailing.

Not permitted: T-shirts, swimwear, robes, bare feet, flip-flops, tank tops and baseball caps are not permitted in the dining room.

For more information, visit Cruise Line Dress Codes: Celebrity.

Celebrity Flora Inclusions

A cruise on Celebrity Flora is highly inclusive with all drinks, internet, shore excursions, dining, gratuities (though you're welcome to tip more) and pre- and post-transfers included in the price. The only extra expenses you'll incur are for a massage in the single massage room or purchases from the small shop. The currency onboard is the U.S. dollar.

Shore Excursions

A typical day on Celebrity Flora starts with breakfast, followed by a shore landing, before heading back to the ship for lunch and then another shore landing. Each time landings are offered, there are usually one to four choices of activities, but all require some level of effort and dexterity. For instance, you might have a choice of a beachside walk, kayak or snorkel trip in the morning and then more kayaking or a long hike in the afternoon.

Options are dictated by which island you're visiting and what there is to see and do there; one day per cruise (the day you visit Santa Cruz), you'll do a three-quarter day tour to see the giant tortoises. Most days you'll pick your excursions the night before, but some might require earlier registration. (All excursions are included; there are no optional, extra-fee tours available.)

Tours are limited to 12 people (the most that can fit in a tender at a time) and each has a dedicated naturalist guide to lead it.

Getting on and off the ship is done via speciality tenders that have been designed with a ramp and a set of stairs. (The ship never actually docks anywhere.) You'll use the ramp for getting onto and off land (usually a little hop). The stairs are for getting onto/off the ship, as the top of the stairs is flush with the marina and requires just a small step. It's one of the easiest tendering experiences you can ever hope to have. They can't accommodate anyone in a wheelchair, but if you've got limited mobility, you should be able to handle the tendering.

Wildlife Viewing

The Galapagos is one of the world's greatest places for wildlife viewing, made even more amazing by the fact that the animals show no fear of humans so will stay put even when you're right next to them. Depending on the season, you'll spot hundreds of sea lions, marine and land iguanas, albatross, blue- and red-footed boobies, frigate birds and a wide variety of sea life.

You'll have a couple of opportunities to snorkel off some of the beaches frequented by sea lions, and if you're lucky, a curious youngster may come in to play with you.

In the evening, while sailing, make sure to take a look off the side of the ship. You might spot a dolphin or reef shark.

Enrichment

There are plenty of opportunities to learn more about the Galapagos, whether during formal presentations in the main Discovery Lounge, hands-on demos in the science lab or chatting with guides in the small library-like Naturalist's Lounge. Celebrity Flora typically carries 11 guides onboard, each with their own speciality (marine biology, geology, environmental law, etc.).

Presentations might be about how to identify birds or how different water currents affect the wildlife in different ways, or a guide might offer a few photography tips. In the science lab on Deck 3, you'll be able to see how sand from different islands looks under an electronic microscope or see what type of phytoplankton and zooplankton can be found in a scoop of water. The space is used for hands-on learning and is also a place for visiting scientists to do actual research.

Across the hall is the Naturalist's Lounge, which is mostly a place for the guides to hang out and be available for anyone who wants to ask questions. The space can double as a library as it has a small selection of books as well. The Deck 7 Observatory can also double as a library, with books and small wooden puzzle games.

There's an occasional food demo or tasting on Deck 7 as well, and once the sun is firmly settled in the west, you'll find a guide up on the tiny Deck 8 most nights for a stargazing session.

Daytime and Evening Entertainment

You'll find very little entertainment onboard Celebrity Flora besides accompanying music in the lounge or on the top deck. One night it might be piano music in the lounge and a guitar player/singer on the Vista Deck, while another night a pan flute player will provide the backdrop for a cocktail.

Our preview cruise had a silent disco late one night (10:45 p.m. to midnight), but it was quite poorly attended and considering that most people retire early after a long day of exploring, we suspect the offering won't last.

Celebrity Flora Bars and Lounges

Celebrity Flora has one proper lounge/bar and one upper deck bar. The Discovery Lounge on Deck 4 is a large multipurpose space used for presentations, evening updates about the next day's activity and pre- or post-dinner cocktails and socializing. It's also the space onboard to get a speciality coffee any time of day. At the back, outside, is a space called the Sunset Lounge, but it's really just an outdoor extension of the Discovery Lounge.

Deck 7 is divided into three spaces: Ocean Grill, The Vista and the Observatory. Ocean Grill, which is where you'll find the ship's second bar, is an outdoor dining venue that serves casual lunches and dinners. The Vista Lounge is an outdoor relaxation area with comfy wicker armchairs, love seats and clam shells. A waiter from the Ocean Grill bar makes rounds every once in a while, but you're better off just picking up your drink from the bar first before settling in.

All the way at the front of Deck 7 is the Observatory. This small glass-enclosed space is a quiet nook for reading, playing small wooden puzzle games or taking in the scenery all around you. There's no bar here, just several comfy armchairs and sofas.

Celebrity Flora Outside Recreation

There's a small cold-water plunge pool on Deck 4 (technically in the Sunset Lounge), overlooking the marina, which can hold 10 to 12 people. There's also a smaller hot tub on Deck 7.

The marina, on Deck 3, is where you come on and off the ship and where you'll get kitted out for snorkeling with a wet suit, face mask and fins, but you'll never actually do anything off the marina (as in no jumping or diving into the water). It's just for getting into and out of the specialty tenders, as well as washing off when coming back from a shore excursion. (It's important to wash any traces of each island off your shoes before visiting the next island to avoid any type of cross-contamination.)

An unusual offering on Celebrity Flora is the nightly glamping experience, which is available for up to two couples per night. For $399, each couple gets to use two cabanas on Deck 7, one which is turned into a bed and the other a dining and lounging space. The experience includes an upscale dinner, cocktails and breakfast, as well as a private stargazing session with a guide. However, the cabanas, which are located across from each other on Deck 7, are not in a private area and anyone is free to pass by.

Celebrity Flora Services

All entrance to Celebrity Flora is via the marina and Darwin's Cove, which is what Celebrity calls the entire area on Deck 3 despite the fact that it is composed of several smaller areas. Once inside the double glass doors, you'll find the reception desk and a small shop with essentials and souvenirs (including delicious Ecuadorian chocolate).

There's an elevator that stops on every deck from Decks 3 to 7. The only area you can't reach by elevator is a small stargazing deck at the front of the ship (and technically on Deck 8).

Complimentary Wi-Fi is available from front to back on the ship. There's no self-service laundry, but you can send items out with your butler to be cleaned for you.

Celebrity Flora has a small fitness centre and a single massage room, both on Deck 5. Massages can be booked at the reception desk on Deck 3 and are one of the few extra expenses you'll find on the ship.

The fitness centre has a small selection of fitness machines, Yoga balls and free weights. Group fitness classes are not offered.

Overall, the dining experience on Celebrity Flora ranges from good to excellent, but there are quirks you'll want to note. Due to Ecuadorian regulations, no fruits with seeds can be brought into the Galapagos, which means you won't find any berries to go with your cereal onboard. Oranges and other citrus fruits are also hard to come by unless they've been sourced directly from the Galapagos. Watermelon, cantaloupe, papaya and pineapple, for instance, are all grown locally.

Similarly, in order to bring beef into the country, it must first be cooked and then frozen, and while there is some beef for the line to purchase in the archipelago, it's not of the finest quality. We heard from others to avoid the hamburgers at the grill.

Seafood, on the other hand, is plentiful in the region and quite tasty, with tuna and red snapper of particular note.

Every meal offers vegetarian options, and other special needs (gluten- or lactose-free, vegan) can be accommodated with prior notice.

Service in the dining room is friendly, if not always five-star, but the all-Ecuadorian crew tries their best. If you have a little patience, you will eventually get you what you've asked for with a genuine smile.

Other than room service, food is hard to come by when the dining room is not open. There is always a small selection of pastries and quick bites in Darwin's Cove when excursions return to the ship in the afternoon, and we've been told cakes and pastries will be put out in the Discovery Lounge in the afternoons but that had not yet been implemented when we were onboard.

Seaside Restaurant (Deck 4)
Meals: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Dinner (D)

Yet another spacious area on the ship, the Seaside Restaurant has more than enough room for 100 passengers, with tables spaced far enough apart that you'll never be bumping elbows with anyone else. Two full sides of the restaurant are floor-to-ceiling windows so you pretty much have a view from anywhere you're sitting.

Meals are all open seating, with usually a two-hour window for each (hours depend on the excursion schedule). Breakfast and lunch are buffet style, while dinner most nights is waiter-served a la carte.

Breakfast offers most of the usual morning fare, including an omelet station; feel free to ask a waiter if you want your eggs cooked some other way. Lunch varies by day, but you'll always find a make-your-own salad station, plus a variety of hot and cold items. At least one lunch per cruise will feature a full array of Ecuadorian-inspired fare.

Dinner offers a mix of Ecuadorian- and Galapagos-inspired dishes along with "favourites" from Celebrity's fleetwide menu. Most dinners feature four appetizer choices (including one soup and one salad) and at least five main choices, including one pasta and one vegetarian option each night. Desserts are more limited, with just two choices most nights.

At least two nights per cruise, including the first night of each sailing, dinner is served family-style, with large plates of each menu item placed on the table for everyone to share.

Ocean Grill (Deck 7)
Meals: B, L, D

The casual, outdoor Ocean Grill offers simple items for lunch and dinner most days. You'll find snacks like guacamole and chips, hummus with grilled flatbread or a local fruit plate, as well as heartier options including a Galapagos burger (beef is sourced in the Galapagos), quesadillas, grilled chicken and a fish of the day. (On our three-day cruise, it was red snapper every day.) There's also a mixed green or Caesar salad on the menu with toppings that include local fish, chicken breast and local lobster tail.

Twice per sailing, the Ocean Grill is also used for the main dinner, with a seafood buffet Dinner Under the Stars.

Breakfast is also served here, but it's more continental in style with cereal, yoghurt and parfaits, and baked goods.

Room Service
Meals: B, L, D

Room service is available all day long.

Celebrity Flora offers 50 roomy suites, though only the four Royal and Penthouse suites (two of each) are true suites in the sense that the bedrooms are separated from the rest of the space. All have either a true balcony or what the line calls an "infinite veranda," a solarium-style space with comfy seating and a floor-to-ceiling window that can be lowered half-way to bring in fresh air. (Note that with the window open, the A/C in the room does shut off.)

Each room is assigned a butler who can help with a variety of tasks, including tidying up and folding any clothing you leave lying around.

All suites have a capacity of just two people, but feature beds that can be separated into two or pushed together to form a king-sized bed. Life jackets are stored under the beds, so there is less room for a suitcase than usual. You'll be able to fit one under one side of the bed, but you'll have to put a second suitcase in a closet.

Rooms are spacious -- the smallest is 330 square feet -- and feature neutral colors, wooden accents, lots of glass and shiny chrome, stone countertops and built-in faux-wood cabinetry (plus desk-side drawers and bedside cubby and drawer) that provides more than enough space for two people traveling in the Galapagos for a week. Inside the closets, you'll find a safe, binoculars to use while on the ship or a shore excursion, plush robes and slippers. The rooms are immensely comfortable with a divan-style couch and wicker-style chairs (including an oblong, bowl-like chair) to sit in and just stare at the amazing scenery.

Each room also has its own water fountain, and cruisers are given a reusable water bottle that can be filled from the fountain, which has a filter underneath it so the water is perfectly safe to drink (and not bad tasting either!). There's also a mini-bar in every room stocked with complimentary sodas and beer.

The desk area provides one 110 and one 220 outlet, as well as one USB port. There's also a 110 outlet on one side of the bed, but no bedside USB port. There's a large flat-screen TV with a variety of programming, including several on-demand movie choices (for an extra fee).

Bathrooms are also oversized, with most having large sinks with a faucet on each side, plenty of counter space and drawers (one of which has the hair dryer) under the counters, and small wall shelves. There's a bar of soap by the sink, as well as a pump bottle with body lotion. In the glass-enclosed shower are pump bottles with shampoo, conditioner and shower gel. There is also plenty of hanging space for towels and two chrome pegs in the shower for wet items.

The biggest problem with the rooms (at least in the 46 Sky suites) is the glass divider between the bathroom and the rest of the space. Though the lower half of the divider is frosted (the higher the frosting, the streakier it is so as to give it an artsy modern look), you can see directly from the living/bedroom area into the bathroom and right into the shower. For anyone traveling with someone other than a significant other, it makes for a very awkward situation.

The room temperature, plus the blinds by the infinite veranda or balcony are controlled by a touch-screen panel by the door. It can be a little confusing, so ask your butler to show you how to do everything. You can also move the blinds using buttons by the verandas, infinite or otherwise; another button in infinite verandas lowers and raises the window. The bathroom has a nightlight, which we never did figure out how to turn off.

There are a handful of connecting rooms for families traveling together.

Sky Suite: The bulk of the cabins (46) are one of four variations of the Sky Suite. Of these, most are a Sky Suite with a real balcony (22) or a Sky Suite with an infinite veranda (16). These are all 330 square feet including 75 square feet of balcony space. The seven Premium Sky Suites have infinite verandas as well but are slightly larger at 337 square feet, but with only 65 square feet of "balcony" space. The single Ultimate Sky Suite is 365 square feet including an 86-square-foot infinite veranda.

Sky Suites are one large room, with the bathroom and bedroom/living room space divided by a partially frosted glass wall that permits anyone in the living space to see pretty much straight into the bathroom and, more importantly, the shower.

The Premium and Ultimate Sky Suites have the bathroom off to the side, while the standard Sky Suite and Sky Suite with balcony have the bathroom closer to the entrance of the room. The Premium and Ultimate suites also have a spa tub in addition to the shower, both of which face the floor-to-ceiling veranda window.

Royal Suite: The second largest rooms on the ship are the two Royal Suites, each sized at 559 square feet including a 129-square-foot balcony. The bedrooms is around the corner from the small living area and has almost a full wall of closets; the bed faces a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows, with a door leading out onto the balcony. The living area is cozy with comfortable furniture for watching TV and floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the balcony.

Even the bathroom, which is directly connected to the bedroom (and separated by frosted glass), has floor-to-ceiling windows with a jetted hot tub located right alongside one window that faces the outdoors.

Penthouse Suite: There are two Penthouse Suites on Celebrity Flora (one each on Decks 5 and 6), each with about 1,288 square feet of space, including an approximately 321-square-foot balcony. (Square footage varies slightly between the two suites.) The separate bedroom is massive, with a king-sized bed, and is surrounded almost entirely by floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the front of the ship. There's even a golden telescope if you want to see the stars at night or see what's on shore without moving from your bedroom.

The bathroom, located right behind the bedroom, is similarly large (nearly 200 square feet) with so much closet space we don't know how anyone could fill it up -- and there's even more storage space in the living area. Inside the bathroom, you'll find dual sinks, a glass-enclosed shower with body jets and a jetted hot tub with a view looking out.

The living area has a large couch, a dining table with room for up to six people and a wet bar. There's also a powder room with toilet for guests. The enormous balcony offers plenty of space for wildlife viewing and stargazing, as well as comfy loungers.

The one problem with these gorgeous rooms is that with all the floor-to-ceiling glass (nearly 87 linear feet of windows), you need to keep your drapes closed to keep the room from getting too hot and to protect your privacy.

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