It has been a busy year for Celebrity Cruises, as work continues on bringing the first ship in a new class to life.
“We have put our heart and soul and best thinking into the ship design,” says Lisa Lutoff-Perlo. “The fact that we had not designed a ship in 10 years gave us the opportunity to make a big statement. Three years ago when I started in this role, we challenged ourselves to rethink how Edge was currently being thought about. We took two years to redesign the ship and made lot of design changes from the originally intended ship. The challenge was: how do we transform our brand and the industry at the same time? When we finally introduced Celebrity Edge, we realised we were good at both.”
For Lutoff-Perlo, one of the most transformative things about Edge is the three-deck, 368,640 cubic-foot Eden cuisine and entertainment concept, the design of which will break records for the largest expanse of outward-facing glass at sea. Other highlights will include the infinite veranda and state room concept and the innovative Magic Carpet, which will move up and down the side of the ship to serve different functions.
“It’s an architectural marvel at sea that will make Celebrity Edge quite unique,” Lutoff-Perlo says. “It’s also designed and developed to improve the guest experience when going into ports where we have to tender. That only happens about 20-25% of the time, but tendering in general is not the most pleasant experience for our guests. We really wanted to up our game in that respect, and that’s how we came up with the Magic Carpet.”
The decision to deploy the Magic Carpet for other uses such as entertainment was inspired by a desire to make the best of the technical necessity of lifting it to a safe spot when at sea. “We said, as long as we have to do that, why don’t we create other wonderful experiences along the way as the Magic Carpet transitions from one point on the ship to another?” explains Lutoff-Perlo. The result: a variety of pop-up poolside and restaurant experiences including ‘Dinner on the Edge’.
Lutoff-Perlo cannot speak highly enough of designer Kelly Hoppen, MBE, who is creating interiors for the ship. “She is a wonderful designer with a style that truly makes people feel welcome, and creates an environment of tranquillity and beauty, but she is a force to be reckoned with in terms of her focus and attention to detail. When you see what she has done on the ship, that has come from a place of respect for the project and love for the ship. It’s been a beautiful partnership and match.”
Celebrity is continuing to invest in the existing fleet, with upgrades on the Millennium-class ships and continued evolution of guest facilities. This includes ‘A Taste of Film’, which is held on the upper deck in a resort-type environment with culinary experiences that are themed and created to go with the movies.
There have been continued enhancements to the suite experience too. “There are more inclusive elements, which is what our suite guests want,” says Lutoff-Perlo. “We are calling our guests in certain categories, asking how we can customise or enhance their experience, through shore excursions, onboard experiences, or spa packages. If they’re having a celebration onboard, we make sure we find out so that we can take care of them onboard.”
Celebrity constantly revisits itineraries to ensure it is meeting guests’ requirements, basing deployment decisions on passenger feedback. This targeted approach is paying dividends, Lutoff-Perlo says. “Our guest ratings are higher than they have ever been on our fleet and we are winning more awards.”
Recent redeployment decisions have resulted in more itineraries to Iceland and Ireland. Another major new destination is India. “I look at India as a great opportunity from two perspectives: one is the fact that so many people want to visit,” Lutoff-Perlo says. “It is also an important market for sourcing guests. A large number of affluent vacationers in India are perfect for Celebrity and we are looking at increasing our sales and marketing efforts there.”
As Celebrity’s first-ever female president and CEO, Lutoff-Perlo is particularly excited about the brand’s extraordinary coup of establishing a partnership with Malala Fund and its founder and education activist Malala Yousafzai, for the new Celebrity Edge. “We thought that a heroic ship needed a heroic godmother and the first name that came to us was Malala’s,” she says. “She fights for young women and girls to have access to safe education. She has committed her life to it, and almost gave her life for it. That would probably rank at the very top of my list as one of the most proud and meaningful parts of my entire career and my life.”
Lutoff-Perlo acknowledges that the impact of global politics on the cruise industry has become more noticeable in recent years. “The world is getting smaller, just because there are more places we are unable to take our guests right now, such as the Middle East and Turkey,” she says. “These are very popular places and our guests love them. But if you look from a ‘glass half full’ perspective, our industry and our brand are interested in people who still care about the world and each other and want to experience other cultures, even when some of the rhetoric and some of the governments suggest otherwise.”
On the subject of the current political climate in her home country, Lutoff-Perlo says: “I believe that America and Americans are still very open to travel, experiencing the world, and making the world a better place. I continue to have optimism for the world and the country. Our bookings are suggesting that I’m correct, and that is a really good thing.”