Redefining Celebrity Cruises 2013

| 2.4.13

Celebrity is out to remake its image as the "Modern Luxury" cruise line for cuisine, entertainment and service

Reflection is the newest cruise ship in the fleet

Celebrity Cruises has been a premium brand name in cruising since its inception by John Chandris in the late 1980s. The line has always tried to attract discriminating cruisers who wanted a more refined cruise ship, with more accent on fine food, drink, art and entertainment and less on the usual shipboard antics affiliated with other "Fun Ship"-style cruise lines.

Royal Caribbean International acquired Celebrity from its original founder, Greek Shipping magnate John Chandris, in 1997; just about the time the line was starting to reinvent itself with a fleet of new ships of the Millennium-class. Today, the fleet is dominated by two classes of ships, four from the Millennium and five from the Solstice family.

Building out the fleet the last dozen years was carried out under the direction of former president and CEO Dan Hanrahan, an executive who came to parent company Royal Caribbean International from outside the cruise business. Just last year, Hanrahan was replaced by long-time Royal Caribbean executive Michael Bayley, who has far more experience in the cruise business.

Under Bayley, the line is redefining itself with a number of new marketing slogans, sales initiatives, a planned change in itineraries and new affiliations with entertainment providers. Let's take a look at these new efforts.

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Modern Luxury

I was fortunate enough to be included in the inaugural sailing of the fifth and final Solstice-class ship, the Celebrity Reflection, in early December, 2012. With Michael Bayley, Dondra Ritzenthaler and several other Celebrity executives onboard, one phrase started popping up repeatedly, "modern luxury." By the end of the cruise it was almost like a Saturday Night Live skit where the phrase was inserted in regular conversations….

"We think the 'modern luxury' cuisine in the 'modern luxury' Qsine Restaurant offers our 'modern luxury' guests a chance to try 'modern luxury' gourmet food in a casual 'modern luxury' setting."

Now, that is just a joke, but it is true that the phrase was introduced to us somewhat stealthily -- there was no official announcement for this new defining phrase for Celebrity Cruises, much as "Fun Ships" is for Carnival or "White Star Service" is for Cunard. But since Bayley took over most press releases coming from Celebrity contain the phrase "Modern Luxury" in the first sentence, such as the press release from just last week entitled "Celebrity Cruises' Modern Luxury Stars in Top Chef Episode."

So, what is "Modern Luxury," and why are Celebrity cruisers having this phrase drilled into their consciousness? Apparently, according to SVP of Sales , Dondra Ritzenthaler, "Modern Luxury" is defined by everything you find on today's Celebrity Cruise Line ships, no more, no less. During one press conference it was almost as if there was a cheerleading team shouting out the phrase every time Dondra mentioned one of the shows or restaurants onboard.

How would I define modern luxury in cruising terms? I would say it is a cruise ship where the food is more than delicious, it is an experience. It is one where the entertainment is step beyond the usual song and dance to include the the style of performances usually offered by popular independent entertainment companies like Cirque D' Soliel. It is ships where the modern décor is not just eclectic, but it is also pleasing to the eye.

Modern Luxury Offerings on Celebrity

Part of Modern Luxury is the option to enjoy your cruise without worrying about the little details. Top shelf traditional luxury cruise lines, such as Seabourn or Silversea, include alcohol and specialty dining in the cruise fare, so you don't have to worry about signing for things during the cruise.

On Celebrity, this is now an option for the people who want that convenience. The line now offers drink packages where you can pre-pay for the right to drink as much as you want during the cruise. There are two packages - classic or premium; where the lesser offers any drink that normally sells for $10 or less, while the latter offers you a slate of premium beers, wines and spirits.

Additionally, there is a premium dining package where cruisers can save up to 31% over the cost of paying separately to dine in the ship's specialty restaurants (which carry per person cover charges of as much as $35 per person). There are packages at $85, $99 and $125 per person that each provide a different selection of meals in various restaurants.

Modern Luxury - Entertainment

To create new enteertainment options for Celebrity ships the line has joined up with Billboard Magazine (the bible of the music industry) to launch a series of what it calls "modern luxury musical programs" onboard. The new shows are based upon Billboard's charts that track today's most popular songs and artists. This new affiliation will also result in a new trivia series, new musically focused game shows and music-themed parties. Each will include chances to win prizes affiliated with Billboard Magazine.

Here are the details on the various shows:

Billboard: The Music Game Show - A "TV-style" interactive game show that tests guests' knowledge through multiple rounds of music challenges, with the studio audience able to join in the action through an audience response system.

Billboard: The Music Trivia Series - Teams participate in trivia contests comprised of questions based on various genres, such as Music Legends, Music in the Media, Decades, Country, British Invasion: Now and Then, '70s and '80s.

Billboard Music Card Prize Giveaway - Guests participating in the trivia series and game shows have the chance to win Billboard music cards, which can be used to redeem music from the website, featuring millions of downloadable songs.

Totally '80s Theme Party - Currently offered exclusively on Celebrity Reflection, the cast, activities staff and DJ transport guests back to the '80s in this fully produced and choreographed party, including Billboard Hits of the decade and encouraging dancing all night long.

In addition, two Celebrity guests have the chance to win a set of tickets to the 2013 Billboard Music Awards Show in Las Vegas, May 19, through the "Rock the Red Carpet" sweepstakes running from Jan. 7 through April 7, 2013. Each winner will be invited to bring a guest, and will have red carpet access, pre- and post-party access, premium seats at the show, and roundtrip air from a major gateway to Las Vegas for each winner and guest.

For more information, visit Rock the Red Carpet Sweepstakes .

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