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Celebrity EclipseCelebrity Eclipse: The "Conveyance" Journey
The Sham-WOW of Cruise Ship Experiences

by Linda Coffman

March 2010: It's cold in Germany in the winter. It's really cold, damp, and the wind can be brutal. So it was no surprise when I received a call on Monday, March 8 from Celebrity Cruises asking if I could fly to Dusseldorf a day early for the "conveyance" journey of their new ship Celebrity Eclipse from Papenburg, Germany to Eemshaven, The Netherlands. The weather forecast called for a storm with high winds on the date originally scheduled for the ship's conveyance up the River Ems—and you'll see from my photos why winds and tide levels are crucial to a successful 22 kilometer conveyance.

And so, last week I hurriedly packed to spend a full day and two nights on the world's largest "river boat" as Celebrity Eclipse made her way at a sedate 4 knots up the river from the Meyer Werft shipyard to the sea in preparation for sea trials.

Our group of invitees, including a select group of travel agents, media members, and winners of Celebrity’s “Eclipse of a Lifetime” sweepstakes (which drew more than 200,000 entrants), met in Dusseldorf for the three-hour motorcoach ride to Papenburg on Wednesday, March 10. The rural landscape was less than compelling, so some of us took the opportunity to catch a nap until the entire group sat bolt upright when Celebrity Eclipse was spotted in the distance. It was quite surreal to see the huge ship all lit up at dusk in the middle of... nowhere! Not much water in sight from the autobahn.

Celebrity EclipseOf course Celebrity Eclipse is floating in the shipyard and we were all anxious to cross her gangway, but our first stop at Meyer Werft was a building in the yard where we donned hard hats for a look around. Our hosts, Celebrity Cruises President & CEO Dan Hanrahan and Bernard Meyer, the managing partner of Meyer Werft, had a surprise for us—our group participated in the next all-important step in the progress of Celebrity Cruises' Solstice Class as the first steel was cut for Celebrity Silhouette. Building of the fourth vessel in the series had officially begun. Then we were off to what we'd all been anticipating, boarding the third Solstice-class ship, Celebrity Eclipse.

Hold on though, let's back up a moment to when I was packing. Our instructions were that attire was casual and we were to wear closed-toe shoes. No high heels allowed. You see, Celebrity Eclipse is unfinished and some of the flooring still consists of plywood, with plastic covering areas that have already been carpeted. In effect, we were entering a construction zone. However, we were still met by smiling crewmembers who handed us flutes of champagne and escorted us to balcony staterooms on Deck 10. After all, this is a Celebrity cruise ship. The accommodations were more complete than not, although a few things were missing, such as a hairdryer and the usual line up of bathroom toiletries. However, it was far from "camping" out and I was delighted to be the very first passenger settling into #1091.

Celebrity Eclipse Celebrity Eclipse
Carpet rolls outside elevators Plastic covered stairs

The next item on the agenda was dinner, which some of us expected to be a spartan affair, possibly in the crew mess. No way! After making my way down plastic covered passageways and up plastic covered stairs, I was pleasantly surprised to enter the completely furnished Oceanview Café on Deck 14. Those who've sailed on Celebrity Solstice and Celebrity Equinox would recognize it as the "buffet" restaurant. Cleverly designed with serving islands instead of buffet lines, it's one of the most attractive and efficient designs at sea. I learned later that only two hours before we boarded there wasn't a stick of furniture in the Oceanview Café. As the Sham-WOW pitchman says on television, "Made in Germany and Germans make good stuff." It was an impressive feat to have the area complete for our arrival. Even more impressive was the lavish buffet, complete with carving station.

Spectators line the river bank

With the weather forecast in mind, Celebrity Eclipse sailed from the Meyer Werft shipyard on schedule Thursday morning at 9:00am for its conveyance—backwards because the ship cannot be turned around at the shipyard—up the River Ems. The tugs were in place, one aft and one forward, and from our outside viewing area on Deck 14, aft of the Oceanview Café, we could hear the strains of “Time to Say Goodbye” as the Eclipse’s horn signaled our departure. The lock we were to squeeze through looked positively tiny. With only feet to spare, crowds on the river bank waved goodbye and cheered us on as Celebrity Eclipse made her way through the narrow opening.

When asked how wide and how deep the river must be for the conveyance,  Bernard Meyer, who accompanied us, smiled and responded, “Wide enough and deep enough.” He noted 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 and that positioning during the conveyance is aided by a sophisticated GPS system. In spots, mud churned up from the river bottom was clearly visible.

Celebrity Eclipse Celebrity Eclipse
The Meyer Werft Lock Looking down over the side, just a few feet to spare

Thousands of spectators lined the river banks for the entire 22 kilometers, and bicyclists were actually “passing” us on the roadway. With a helicopter overhead, we approached the second test a few hours later, the railroad bridge at Weener. An entire midsection of the bridge was removed for our passage and could be seen on a barge floating alongside. Quite possibly the bravest spectators of the day were those standing on the stationary portions of the bridge to watch Celebrity Eclipse pass that hurdle.

Celebrity Eclipse Celebrity Eclipse
The railroad bridge at Weener Even less room passing this one

It would be a while before the next bridge came into view so it was time for, what else, a wine tasting. Tea and cake were also offered during the afternoon lull. When our next obstacle came into view, it was the Jann-Berghaus Bridge in Leer. The drawbridge looked like a squeaker, but each side opened straight up and Celebrity Eclipse passed through without incident.

Celebrity Eclipse Celebrity Eclipse
Jann-Berghaus Bridge in Leer It's a squeaker

With five hours to go until reaching the sea, the tug boat captains and Celebrity Eclipse's Captain Panagiotis Skylongiannis had successfully overcome the major challenges of the conveyance and it was time for a ship's tour led by our Celebrity Cruises hosts and a meeting with VP of Culinary Operations Jacques Van Staden.

There's more to see inside as well,
Join the ship tour in
Part Two of the Conveyance

From Cruise Diva's Blog, cutting the steel: Celebrity Silhouette Takes Shape  

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