Celebrity Silhouette Nears Launch Following Backward Cruise (Video)

July 1, 2011
(6:40 p.m. EDT) -- Following a backward river transit that involved the dismantling of a railroad bridge and several tight squeezes, the 122,400-ton, 2,884-passenger Celebrity Silhouette inched a step closer to its July 21 launch.

The backward cruise, termed a "conveyance," took more than 12 hours and covered 26 miles of the River Ems. A tugboat pulled Silhouette from Meyer Werft's inland shipyard in Pappenberg, Germany, to the North Sea port of Eemshaven, Netherlands, where the fourth ship in Celebrity's Solstice-class will undergo finishing work and sea trials.

"The scale of the vessel and the geography of the shipyard forces the Captain to steer the ship backwards out of the yard, assisted by tugboats fore and aft, and along the River Ems," said Celebrity in a statement. At points along the route, there were less than 5 feet of room to maneuver, and at the town of Weener, a railroad bridge was dismantled and a section lifted out by a floating crane to allow Silhouette to pass.

Silhouette completed the conveyance under ideal conditions -- at high tide and with little wind -- and traveled at a speed of less than four miles per hour.

The window for a successful transit can close quickly. Celebrity turned away a group of journalists scheduled to make the transit at the last moment after Silhouette was given the all clear several hours earlier than expected. "The timings for the conveyance have shifted a few times in the last few days. This is the nature of the beast as the weather conditions have to be absolutely right," said Celebrity spokeswoman Sarah Rathbone.

Here's a taste of the conveyance, courtesy of Celebrity Cruises.

Silhouette will be named on July 21 in Hamburg, Germany, and Cruise Critic will be on hand for the festivities. The ship will then sail a series of 12-night Eastern Mediterranean cruises from Rome, before repositioning to Cape Liberty, New Jersey, for a season of 12-night Southern and Eastern Caribbean cruises.

Grab all the details on the new ship, which features the grass-covered Lawn Club, a craft beer bar and some 10 restaurants, on our Celebrity Silhouette page.

For a blow-by-blow look at sister ship Celebrity Eclipse's 2010 conveyance, check out our photo essay.

--by Dan Askin, News Editor