Of all the categories in the annual Surface Travel Awards, the one for Best Cruise Ship or Yacht can be the trickiest. Ocean liners haven’t been on the cutting edge of design since the midcentury when Gio Ponti and other masters lended their tasteful eye to the industry. (One of his commissions, Andrea Doria, would go on to sink though that is a story for another time.)
This year is different. Two strong candidates emerged from an unlikely place: mega-liner brand Celebrity Cruises. Flora resembles a sleek, sustainability-minded boutique hotel, whereas the brand’s wild, vibrant Edge is something like a resort dreamed up by a team of talented designers whose work you wouldn’t typically expect to encounter at sea. Here’s a look at the sister ships.
Smaller in draft than many of its compatriots, Flora offers accommodations for a mere 100 guests (even “small” cruise ships can carry as many as 700 guests these days). On offer are staterooms that would be generous on land, personal suite attendants, and private verandas. Ecuadorian-inspired fare at the main dining room is Michelin worthy, the fittings are luxury, the spaces are organic and elegant, and the overall vibe is relaxed, but smart, thanks to work by BG Studio International, Francesca Bucci, and Adriana Hoyos.
And there’s vision here: Designed specifically for tours of the Galapagos, Flora is energy efficient, stocked with eco-conscious and research-minded innovations, and covered in motifs relating to those islands interlaced with themes of discovery, both personal and scientific. Her architecture and layout stay in line with this; cabins and shared spaces point out, not in, with large windows being a constant. She stands in square opposition to the ongoing cruise trend that seeks to pull the guest into the ship—as if it were a casino—rather than expose them to the ocean.
Overall, it represents an interesting bridge between cruise ship and private yacht with a strong use of site specific themes.