As one of the most diverse and fragile environments on the planet, and as home to a wide array of native flora and fauna, the Galapagos Islands put sustainability and environmental protection above all. That can sometimes be a challenge—particularly as tourism to the islands continues to grow.
It’s with that in mind that Celebrity Cruises this summer launched Celebrity Flora, the first ship of its kind to be designed and built specifically for the Galapagos. Limited to just 50 suites (and 100 passengers total), the sleek, luxury megayacht reflects the region in everything from its décor and cuisine (with many materials and ingredients sourced locally) to its sustainable mechanics and practices. The list of the latter is long: In addition to being one of the most energy-efficient ships in the Galapagos (with a 15 percent reduction of fuel consumption and considerably fewer air emissions), the Flora employs stringent recycling, waste management, reverse osmosis and food waste programs, has reduced single-use plastics by 90 percent and features a first-in-the-area anchorless technology that helps maintain the ship’s position while protecting the sea floor and limiting underwater noise pollution. Celebrity Flora is the first vessel in the Galapagos to feature cutting-edge Oceanscope research equipment, which will track and map the region while measuring sea-surface temperatures and gathering other critical data. (All findings will be open-source, making them accessible to scientists and enthusiasts from around the world.)
Penthouse suite. Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises
Naturally, it took a small army to bring the state-of-the-art ship to life. Chief among them were these four women, who were instrumental in its design, development, programming and philosophy—and who not only met the challenges associated with creating such a vessel head on but helped elevate the project to new levels.
Lisa Lutoff-Perlo. Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises
PRESIDENT & CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, CELEBRITY CRUISES
Over her five years leading the multi-billion-dollar Celebrity Cruises brand, and her 30-plus years of experience in the cruise industry overall, Lutoff-Perlo has both seen the increased interest in the Galapagos from a tourism standpoint (the company has ferried some 75,000 passengers here over the last 15 years) and experienced the remote region’s magic firsthand. “Based on our commitment to this part of the world, we wanted to deepen our relationship with the Galapagos and design a ship that’s as beautiful as the place it visits,” she says. To do so, Celebrity “looked at everything differently, from testing every chair to custom-designing first-of-their-kind Zodiacs so we can approach tendering in a different way. When you design a new ship, you get to incorporate the latest technologies.”
In addition to creating the low-impact Flora, Celebrity also oversees an array of initiatives in the islands, including environmental training and education, organic farming (which has resulted in the creation of the Galapagos tomato), reforestation projects (with over 40,000 trees planted to date) and managing a fund that has donated over $1.5 million to the Galapagos. “We want to leave a destination in a better place than when we found it,” Lutoff-Perlo says. As a further example of Celebrity’s commitment to the conservation, the company chose as Flora’sgodmother—an honorific title given to someone who brings the ship good luck and protection—conservationist Yolanda Kakabadse, former president of the World Wildlife Fund and Ecuador’s former minister of environment. It also launched a partnership with EarthEcho International and its cofounder Philippe Cousteau Jr. to engage and empower the next generation of environmentalists.
Francesca Bucci. Photo courtesy of Francesca Bucci
A native of Italy and now based in New York, Bucci and her BG Studio team have crafted everything from high-end residences and trendy restaurants to over 25 large cruise ships. Few projects, though, came with the requirements of Flora, which had to not only be the most luxurious ship in the Galapagos but also meet the government’s stringent environmental requirements. For the interiors, Bucci created the largest staterooms and suites in the region, all featuring local materials, filtered water taps, spacious bathrooms, floor-to-ceiling windows (some of which retract for an “infinite verandah” feeling) and beds that face outwards, to take advantage of the views. (The ship itself also boasts the most outdoor spaces of any Galapagos cruiser, including a unique “glamping” set-up and a stargazing deck.) On the sustainability front, some of Bucci’s more unique challenges included painting the ship’s hull in a special silicone so it could move more efficiently, sourcing materials that could be cleaned without the use of harsh chemicals and designing outdoor lighting in specific colors and temperatures so as not to attract insects—as they could inadvertently be carried from one island to another and disrupt the native habitats.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Ellen Prager
MARINE SCIENTIST & AUTHOR
Following a career that has included such posts as chief scientist for the Aquarius Reef Base program in Key Largo, Fla. (which includes the world’s only undersea research station), assistant dean at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, chair of the U.S. government’s Ocean Research and Resources Advisory Panel and even a consultant for the Disney film Moana, Prager now devotes her time to helping to make science entertaining and accessible to all—which she does as a public speaker, an author (of books for adults and kids), a frequent television guest and science advisor to Celebrity in the Galapagos. Onboard the Flora, passengers can visit the marine lab, where the resident naturalists and a rotating staff of visiting researchers—including, on special sailings, Prager herself—will walk you through some of their current work. (While there, don’t miss a look at a variety of colorful Galapagos island sand through super-sized microscopes.)
Adriana Hoyos. Photo courtesy of Adriana Hoyos
INTERIOR & FURNITURE DESIGNER
With studios across Latin America and in Miami’s Design District and nearly three decades’ experience creating interiors and furnishings for residential, commercial and hotel projects, Ecuador-native Hoyos was a natural choice for crafting all the furniture and decorative elements to complement the Flora’s interiors. “I’m inspired by all my travels, but the Galapagos has always been a great inspiration for my work,” Hoyos notes. “The different islands have different elements—the sand, the volcanic ash, the leaves—and all of those textures put together are reflected in my furniture.” For the Flora, Hoyos worked with local materials and expert artisans to create one-of-a-kind pieces for the penthouse suites and multiple public spaces, including sculptural upholstered chairs inspired by native birds’ nests and actual sculptures depicting women from different regions of Ecuador. The overall aesthetic is sophisticated and residential, furthering the Flora’s overall celebration of sustainable luxury.