One expert driver is breathing a big sigh of relief after completing the initial stages of a 26-mile navigation – in reverse – on a luxurious, multimillion-dollar cruise ship, Celebrity Cruises’ sleek new Celebrity Silhouette.  With less than five feet of room to maneuver at certain points, the challenging exercise began today under the direction of Captain Dimitrios Kafetzis, in order to move Celebrity Silhouette from shipbuilder Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany, to the open sea in Emshaven, Netherlands.

Celebrity Silhouette will take more than 12 hours to complete the journey, the most complicated it is likely to ever encounter. The scale of the ship and the location of the shipyard require the Captain to steer the ship backwards from the yard, assisted by tugboats fore and aft, through the River Ems.

Preparations for the journey – termed a ‘Conveyance’– include removing power lines and railway tracks that normally pass over the river to allow the ship to traverse through. The journey also must be precisely timed to take place at high tide to ensure ample depth beneath the hull, and when weather conditions are calm enough to avert the possibility of wind causing the ship to touch the ground. The route along the River Ems includes various locks and other tight squeezes, traveling on an aqueduct over an autobahn (motorway).

Cruising at less than four miles per hour on the journey, Celebrity Silhouette joins three sister ships, also built in Papenburg, which made the same complex trip. After finishing work is completed in Emshaven, the Netherlands, Celebrity Silhouette will sail to Hamburg, where it will be named in formal ceremonies on July 21, 2011.