With less than 20 feet “breathing room” on either side, the 2,850-guest Celebrity Equinox – the eagerly anticipated sister ship to the widely heralded Celebrity Solstice -left shipbuilder Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany on Saturday, June 20, to make the over-26-mile transit – an event known as the “conveyance” – down the River Ems… backwards. At its tightest point along the course, there are as few as 13 feet between each side of the 1,040-ft-long, 121-ft-wide ship and the riverbank.
During Celebrity Equinox’s transit from Papenburg to Eemshaven, Netherlands, the ship navigated the passing of a railway bridge in Weener, a highway bridge in Leer, and a narrow passage in Gandersum. The journey takes between 12 and 15 hours to complete, and is likely the most complicated ride the ship will encounter in its life.
Due to the size and scale of the ship, the transit can take place only during absolutely ideal weather conditions: when the river is at high tide, when winds are extremely calm, and when tidal barriers are closed, in order to ensure there is enough water to accommodate the draft of the ship.
“The conveyance is an interesting challenge for any Captain,” said Celebrity Equinox’s Captain Apostolos Bouzakis. “The limited space available for navigation, the nature of sailing in reverse, and the number of narrow passages and bridges to traverse are all factors that cruise ship captains normally do not have to contend with. But, a real benefit of this event is the opportunity to test the maneuverability of the ship at reduced speeds. With an average channel breadth of 364 feet, it is a bit like taking a brand-new sportscar down winding country lanes: It’s exhilarating, but not without its share of trepidation.”
Tens of thousands of spectators are estimated to have lined the banks of the River Ems to watch Celebrity Equinox make its challenging and historic transit. Together with sister ship Celebrity Solstice, the two are the largest ships ever to have sailed on the River Ems.
After provisioning and loading activities in Eemshaven, followed by sea trials, Celebrity Equinox will be officially delivered from Meyer Werft to Celebrity Cruises July 16. The ship then will sail to Southampton, England and complete a series of inspections, followed by eight days of launch celebrations, including the maritime tradition of a naming ceremony over which the ship’s Godmother will preside.
The 122,000-gross-registered-tons Celebrity Equinox is scheduled to enter service July 31 from Southampton, England, on an eight-night cruise through the majestic Norwegian Fjords, followed by a series of romantic Mediterranean sailings from Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy, beginning August 8.
Like Celebrity Solstice, Celebrity Equinox will present guests with brand-defining, industry-first features, including a half-acre Lawn Club with real, growing grass; a glassblowing show and studio developed with The Corning Museum of Glass; 10 unrivalled dining venues, and widely varied entertainment, including shows with breathtaking aerial acts.
Celebrity’s Solstice Class also boasts warm and inviting, spacious staterooms with a host of contemporary amenities inspired by a panel of five women – dubbed “Celebrity’s Leading Ladies” – each with unique travel and hospitality insights. The ships also offer Celebrity’s new AquaClass category of accommodations designed for spa enthusiasts, with a host of spa-inspired amenities, and including exclusive access to “Blu,” the ships’ intimate, Mediterranean-themed specialty restaurant.
Celebrity Cruises offers comfortably sophisticated, upscale vacation experiences with highly personalized service, exceptional dining, and extraordinary attention to detail. Celebrity sails in Alaska, California, Canada/New England, the Caribbean, Europe, Galapagos Islands, the Pacific Coast, Panama Canal and South America. The line also offers unique cruisetour vacations in Alaska, Canada, Europe and South America. Noted for four of the top 10 “Top Cruise Ships in the World” in the large-ship category, as voted by the readers of Conde Nast Traveler (February 2009 readers’ poll), Celebrity’s fleet – including the new Celebrity Solstice – will be joined by Celebrity Equinox this year, Celebrity Eclipse in 2010, a fourth Solstice-class ship in 2011, and a fifth in 2012.
Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.