Celebrity Cruises, along with all CLIA-member ocean-going cruise lines, has extended its temporary pause in operations to Dec. 31, 2020. Meanwhile the CDC has in place its framework for a Conditional Sailing Order. No one knows what the future will bring, but along the lines of ‘prepare for the worst, hope for the best’, Celebrity Cruises’ Director, Market Sales – Canada, Allan Brooks, shares his thoughts on Celebrity’s potential return-to-sail date, commission protection for its valued agent partners, and more in this edition of Take 5.
1. These have been an extremely challenging months for the travel industry, and cruise lines in particular. What’s your best estimate for a timeline when Celebrity will be able to return to sailing?
“It certainly has been a challenging year for our beloved industry. We have been able to stick together throughout and even learn a little about ourselves and our brand. With regards to an estimated timeline, I would optimistically say we will have a ship sailing in early March.”
2. How has Celebrity handled refunds throughout this crisis and, more importantly for travel agents, how has it handled commissions?
“We have been leading the way in this very important area since day 1 of the pause. We came out with the ‘Cruise With Confidence’ in March to ensure we were and are protecting our guests and ultimately our travel partners. We have strategically waited to announce further pauses to our fleet to protect our travel partners and guests. The bookings have been protected and we are even paying commission on the rebooked cruises when using the cruise credits. We owe this to the travel agents as they have been on the front lines throughout and have been amazing partners.”
3. Why are travel agents so important to Celebrity?
“Our travel partners have remained by our side throughout this event and it shows how strong our bond has become. We have stayed in close contact with updates and used this time to train and realign. We have also learned how to better support, communicate and also created more user friendly tools to support and empower our travel partners. Now more than ever Travel Agents are crucial when booking travel, they will have an arsenal of up-to-date information and will be ready to represent our industry and brand with ease.”
4. Has the pandemic brought anything into sharper focus for Celebrity, in terms of how the company wants to operate and position itself going forward?
“We have always known we are different and having the opportunity to look inward has allowed us time to bring these very unique differences to life. We have broken the glass ceiling into the luxury market with the introduction of our Edge Series ships (Celebrity Edge & Celebrity Apex). We have redefined the look and feel of luxury. Celebrity Cruises offers everything found on the luxury brands and more. The Retreat experience is a great example: it is basically a cruise within a cruise. Our Retreat guests have all of the luxury amenities (suites, private dining, private sun deck, private lounge) and also the benefits of a medium size ship, that offer a main theatre, a casino, a full spa and a high end shopping experience to mention a few.”
5. Some cruise lines have announced ‘trial cruises’ where travellers can sign up to take part in test sailings with new health and safety protocols. Will Celebrity be looking at doing these types of sailings?
“We are very excited to get back to sailing and welcoming guests back onboard our beautiful ships. We have been given guidance by the CDC to conduct clinical trials and are happy to oblige in preparation for a healthy return to service. While some cruise lines are accepting volunteers, we don’t have plans to offer the same as we feel we need to this time to properly implement the new protocols and train our crew.”