Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Celebrity Equinox Navigates Narrow River Ems En Route to Official Launch

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 ofthe 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. 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.

“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.”

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. Cruise Diva will be on board for the festivities, so watch here for blogs from the ship!

The 122,000-gross-registered-tons Celebrity Equinox is scheduled to enter service July 31 from Southampton, England, on an 8-night cruise through the majestic Norwegian Fjords, followed by a series of romantic Mediterranean sailings from Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy, beginning August 8. Celebrity’s fleet, including the new Celebrity Solstice, is joined by Celebrity Equinox this year, Celebrity Eclipse in 2010, a fourth Solstice-class ship in 2011, and a fifth in 2012. For more information, visit Celebrity.com.

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