The big squeeze for Southampton-bound Celebrity Eclipse

The big squeeze for Southampton-bound Celebrity Eclipse

Travelling through 40-45 metre-wide locks normally reserved for canal boats, and on aqueducts over an autobahn (motorway), several roads and railways - all backwards and early in the morning - is just the first day of work for new 2,850-guest ship Celebrity Eclipse.

The 122,000-GRT ship travelled 42km along the River Ems from the inland Meyer Werft ship yard in Papenburg, Germany; began preparations to set sail just after dawn and pushed back from the ship yard’s pier on 11 March to commence sailing through the day on the way to the sea in Emshaven, the Netherlands.

Following sea trials and the addition of finishing touches, Celebrity Eclipse will arrive in Southampton on 20 April 2010 for its launch celebrations and naming ceremony ahead of being the first ever new Celebrity Cruises ship to be based from the UK.

Tight navigation and a total dependence on high tide and extremely still wind conditions make the journey a nervous experience for Celebrity Cruises. The 42km transit – termed a ‘conveyance’ – takes between 12 and 15 hours and sees the ship travelling at speeds that never exceed more than 4 km per hour.  At the tightest points along the way, there are as little as 0.6096 metres (2 foot) between the locks and each side of the 317 metres-long (1,040-foot), 36.88 metres-wide (121-foot) Celebrity Eclipse.

Captain Panagiotis Skylogiannis explained:


“No cruise ship Captain ever expects to encounter the challenges that the conveyance presents – whilst I am accustomed to docking in tight ports, I prefer to be chasing sunshine in the open sea. Celebrity Eclipse is only a few metres slimmer than the narrowest lock we have to navigate which really isn’t much room, particularly when the president of company is onboard and keeping a close watch!”

As the most complicated trip the ship will ever encounter, the conveyance allows the Captain to test its manoeuvrability at low speeds to the limit. Due to the tight gaps navigated, the bends of the river and the volume of water required to accommodate the draft of the ship, the conveyance can only take place when tidal barriers are closed at high tide and winds are extremely calm.  Celebrity Cruises and Meyer Werft carefully monitor the position of the moon and tidal conditions to identify the precise moment when the depth of the river is ideal for the ship – sometimes with only mere centimetres between the ship and the river bed.

As third of five in Celebrity Cruises’ $3.7-billion Solstice Class fleet and along with sister ships - Celebrity Solstice in August 2008 and Celebrity Equinox in June 2009 – Celebrity Eclipse is the largest ever ship to sail on the River Ems. The occasion draws spectators from Germany and the Netherlands who also set up campsites along the banks of the River Ems to witness the historic event.

Celebrity Eclipse will be based from Southampton throughout the summer of 2010 and offer cruises throughout the Mediterranean, Canary Islands, Scandinavia and Russia as well as short options to Le Havre in France and Cork, Ireland. Prices for a 14-night Spanish Mediterranean cruise start from £1,549 per person including meals and entertainment.

The ship – the first time a new build from Celebrity Cruises has been based from the Southampton in the UK – includes onboard attractions such as a real grass lawn at the Lawn Club, 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.

New additions to the ship include tweaks to accommodate the tastes of a predominately British market include new menu options as demanded by travellers such as beef wellington, mushy peas and steak and kidney pies, in addition to china tea pots and digestive biscuits. Celebrity Eclipse will also be the first ship to feature a Celebrity iLounge internet café is the first official Apple Reseller at sea and the café will offer access to Apple MacBook Pros plus the opportunity to learn how to use Macs, iPods, iPhones and programmes such as iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD and iWeb.