Friday, March 12, 2010

Celebrity Eclipse, The “Conveyance”

The village of Papenburg, Germany has one less “high rise” at the edge of town today.

Celebrity Eclipse sailed from the Meyer Werft shipyard on schedule Thursday morning at 9:00am for its “conveyance”—backwards—up the River Ems. The tugs were in place and, from our viewing area on the outside deck aft of the Oceanview Café on Deck 14, we could hear the sounds of “Time to Say Goodbye” as the Eclipse’s horn signaled our departure.

It was an exciting event and one that was actually moved forward a day due to the weather forecast. We boarded Celebrity Eclipse on Wednesday night and, while Thursday was a somewhat overcast morning, the crisp air was perfectly still, as it has to be for a successful conveyance. Ships the size of Celebrity Cruises’ Solstice-class, of which the Celebrity Eclipse is the third, move at a sedate 4 knots up the river to dock in Eemshaven, The Netherlands to prepare for sea trials. Winds and tide levels are crucial to a successful 22 kilometer conveyance.

Asked how wide and how deep the river must be, Mr. Bernard Meyer, the managing partner of Meyer Werft smiles and responds, “Wide enough and deep enough.” He notes that the absence of wind is critical because a ship the size of Celebrity Eclipse acts like a giant sail in heavy winds on the river. When you see how truly narrow the locks and bridges are—with mere feet on either side of the ship’s hull—it’s easy to admire the skill of the tugboat captains and Celebrity Eclipse’s captain.

And so, with thousands of spectators lining the riverbanks, and bicyclists actually “passing” us on the roadway, we reached our destination on time and with the paint on Celebrity Eclipse’s hull intact.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience as you can tell from the images below. Who’d have ever guessed my first river “cruise” would be on an ocean-going cruise ship?

On the river, with a tug guiding Celebrity Eclipse stern first:

Below: Celebrity Eclipse passes through Meyer Werft lock

Below: Passage of the bridge in Weener, where a section has been removed temporarily

Below: Passage of Jann Berghaus Bridge (drawbridge), Leer

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