ONBOARD CELEBRITY APEX — Celebrity Cruises celebrated the long-awaited inaugural U.S. sailing of its flagship Celebrity Apex with a naming ceremony and ceremonial christening in Port Everglades this week, and Travelweek was there.
Like so many events delayed due to the pandemic, the festivities were better late than never. Celebrity Apex’s inauguration was originally scheduled to take place in the UK on March 30, 2020. Delayed 581 days from that original date, this week’s ceremony was definitely worth the wait.
Travel advisors gave Celebrity Cruises’ President and CEO, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, as well as Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO, Richard Fain, a standing ovation for their support and appreciation.
In turn Lutoff-Perlo gave a shout-out to Celebrity’s travel agent partners. “What a journey we’ve been together over these past 19 months with the trade. I don’t think our bond with you has ever been stronger as we’ve weathered this storm together. Thank you for supporting our comeback, which I promise you will be stronger than our setback,” she said.
She also praised Celebrity Apex’s Captain Dimitrios Kafetzis and his crew.
“I’m often asked what’s been the best part about returning to service,” Lutoff-Perlo told agents. “I say it’s bringing our crew back to their livelihoods, back to their careers that love and back to the wonderful relationships that you build with our guests. They are the heart and soul of Celebrity Cruises. Throughout these 19 months they inspired me every single day, with their positivity and perseverance and that drove us even harder to get our ships back into service.”
Lutoff-Perlo led the Celebrity Apex ceremony with the ship’s Godmother, the inspiring Reshma Saujani, who founded the ground-breaking nonprofit organization, Girls Who Code, and wrote the bestselling book, ‘Brave, Not Perfect.’
“Reshma is a trailblazer who embodies all that Celebrity Apex. And our brand stands for pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and challenging the status quo,” said Lutoff-Perlo. “Her work championing the advancement of women in the tech industry through her nonprofit Girls Who Code was already something I greatly admire. And during this pandemic, she pivoted like so many of us to advocate for policies to support impacted moms, which she recognized first-hand while working from home and caring for her two young boys, Shawn and Syed. Thank you, Reshma for going on this journey with us and for sticking with us. This ship is very lucky to have you and your brave spirit watching over her as she sails forward.”
As part of Saujani’s work with Celebrity Cruises, Girls Who Code and the cruise line will collaborate to offer educational coding programs as part of the Camp at Sea S.T.E.M. experiences onboard Celebrity Apex and sister ship Celebrity Edge.
THE EPITOME OF NEW LUXURY
Touring and experiencing the ship, it’s clear that Celebrity Apex is the epitome of New Luxury, with innovative and visionary spaces from world-renowned designers. Unique features include:
- The exclusive The Retreat with its stunning accommodations, a private restaurant, and an exclusive lounge and sundeck to rival any high-end resort.
- The Magic Carpet, soaring cantilevered above the sea and offering guests uninterrupted vistas while sipping cocktails or having dinner.
- An unrivaled culinary repertoire of 29 distinct restaurants, bars, and lounges including the brand-new Craft Social Bar, connecting guests to the destinations they will visit like never before.
TRAVEL ADVISOR PANEL DISCUSSION
Day 2 of Celebrity Apex’s ceremonial sailing included a ‘Conversation with Celebrity’ open forum for travel advisors to voice their thoughts, feedback, concerns and positive reinforcements to the Celebrity Cruise leadership panel, featuring Lutoff-Perlo, Fain and more.
Questions ranged from how advisors should navigate the next 12 months, to carbon offsetting, to agency co-marketing and challenges they are facing, to long hold times for Celebrity’s call centre.
Executives on the Conversation with Celebrity panel confirmed they have currently hired or are training 100+ new employees who will be all be in place in reservations in the next couple of weeks, with an eye to alleviating the issue of long hold times.
The overwhelming message during the panel discussion? The need to continually market the safety of cruising. Celebrity is reporting just .09% cases on their sailings and it’s crucial for the public to know and understand just how safe cruising is, with a long list of COVID-19 safety protocols in place.
Celebrity Cruises has indicated that it will continue its policy of accepting double-vaccinated guests only and does not have any intention of dropping this policy in the immediate future.
And talking about the future, get ready for a strong 2022 Europe season with all three sister ships – Celebrity Edge, Celebrity Apex and Celebrity Beyond – offering sailings abroad.