Celebrity Cruises President
and CEO Dan Hanrahan
spoke about the line on the
occasion of Celebrity
Eclipse's entry into service.
Richard H. Wagner
For a photo essay on the Celebrity
Eclipse Naming Ceremony
Dan Hanrahan is in charge of a cruise line undergoing a dramatic
transformation. During its 20 year history, Celebrity Cruises, a subsidiary
of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., has developed a reputation for
sophisticated cruising on elegant ships that has earned it a loyal following.
Rather than rest on its laurels, however, Celebrity is in the midst of adding
five new and innovative 120,000 gross ton ships to its fleet, substantially
changing four others and saying farewell to some of its older ships. At the
same time, the line is expanding its footprint, entering new markets both
within and outside of the United States.
Leading the Way
At the forefront of the wave of change moving through Celebrity are five
new ships referred to as the Solstice class - - a $3.7 billion investement.
The first ship in the class, Celebrity Solstice, entered service in late 2008;
the second, Celebrity Equinox, premiered some six months later; and the
third, Celebrity Eclipse had her inaugural cruise in April 2010. Built in
Germany by Meyer Werft, the Solstice class ships have been haled for their
innovation both in their public spaces and in their use of technology.
The public spaces of the Solstice-class ships include 10 restaurants as
well as numerous entertainment alternatives. However, what most sets
them apart is the attention to detail in their design that makes them not only
visually interesting but also makes them spacious and conducive to good
passenger flow. "We think the public spaces that we worked so hard to
design with absolutely amazing designers have really turned out well and
have made these ships distinct and very different. There are also great
places to party."
The Solstice class also features guest accommodations that are larger than
on previous Celebrity ships. 90 percent of the staterooms are outside and
85 percent have verandas. While the ships also boast luxury suites, the
jewel in the crown from an accommodations viewpoint are a series of
staterooms that have their own restaurant. "The Aqua Class staterooms,
which are tied into the spa, have been a big success for us almost as much
because of the Blu restaurant as anything else. Obviously, the tie into the
spa and the amenities that we have in the rooms are important but a lot of
the feedback that I have been getting is that the Blu restaurant makes those
staterooms very, very special."
The newest of these ships, Eclipse, is not a mere clone of her two
predecessors. "The artwork is always different on every ship. We begin
with our art partner very, very early in the design process, talking about
what we want to accomplish on the ship. Our art partner comes back with
an in-depth presentation that is always scheduled for two hours but usually
takes four to six when we get through everything they have to show us. You
can tell why when you see the number of pieces of art on the ships. So art
is an important, an integral part of what happens on the ship."
"But we made some other changes. We have the addition of Qsine. We
wanted a new restaurant on this ship. We thought after two of them, we
should start to make some changes to the dining. Qsine is truly spectacular
looking but it is even more interesting in the food. Pick up one of the
I-pads and look at the menu and you'll see that it is something very different
and very interesting."
"We also made some structural changes. You'll notice that the grand
staircase in the foyer is changed. I think my favorite on the ship is the
entrance to the spa, which seems to be much more inviting. It separates the
gym from the spa so it makes the gym experience better and I think it makes
the spa experience better."
"We always look at what we can do to improve. But we have to strike the
right balance because we think that we have done a pretty good job on the
Solstice class of ships. We don't want to change for the sake of change.
We want to make sure that any changes we make have a real impact on the
experience of the guests."
Eclipse will be based in Southampton, England and so one set of changes
was made in order to make the guests who Celebrity anticipates will be
sailing on the ship feel more at home. "You'll notice that there are tea
kettles in the staterooms. We have changed some of the entertainment - -
one of our shows is really focused around British rockers. We have some
different foods in the Oceanview Café. We have also put on some different
wines, spirits and ales. So, we made a number of changes because we are
anticipating about 80 percent of our guests will be from the UK and Ireland.
Having said that, we run a pretty consistent product around the world and
all nationalities and all cultures gravitate to it and enjoy it pretty well."
With regard to technological innovation, Mr. Hanrahan noted that the
Solstice-class ships were designed with environmental considerations in
mind. "This ship was designed from the hull up. Normally, what we do is
design the public areas and we put a hull underneath it. But, we designed
this hull first to make the most fuel efficient hull. Then, we have a
Teflon-type of paint that goes on the bottom so the ship goes through the
water more easily. Many of the lighting points are LED fluorescents versus
halogens. If you go in the Solarium you can see those are all solar panels
[on the glass roof over the pool]. Those are just a few of the things that we
do to conserve energy."
"I think one of the things we are most proud of - - because we are the
leaders in the industry - - is our advanced waste water purification
systems. We have spent well over $100 million as a company just to make
sure that any water that we put back in the seas is absolutely as clean as
Two more Solstice-class ships, Celebrity Silhouette and another as yet
unnamed ship, will be joining the fleet in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
"What we will do with the other two ships is still in the design process but
for the most part they will be very similar to what we have here. There
may be décor changes but we think that we have hit on a pretty good
formula here and we don't want to spend a lot of money re-inventing the
wheel. We will do an art package for each of those ships that will have its
own unique character but for the most part you'll see what you see [on
Eclipse] and you'll see some changes in décor."
Revitalizing Award Winners
While delighted with the success of the Solstice class, that success also
caused Celebrity to review the rest of its fleet. Prior to the entry of
Solstice into service in 2008, the mainstays of the Celebrity fleet were four
90,000 ton ships built between 2000 and 2002, collectively referred to as
the Millennium class. These ships had been very successful with
passengers and critics alike but would the public perception of them pale
as their newer, larger and more spectacular fleetmates entered service? To
ensure that these ships would not suffer by comparison, Celebrity has taken
the bold step of committing $200 million to a substantial transformation of
these four ships.
"The Millennium class has been a very decorated class of ships - -
consistently in the top 10 of the Conde Nast reader's poll. We had what
were arguably the highest rated ships with the Millennium class ships and
then we came out with something that was very new and exciting. One of
the things we thought was that it was really important to build upon the
Solstice class ships - - they have been so successful; they have gotten so
many accolades - - so we said 'why not take some of the best things that are
on Solstice and [put them on the Millennium class ships]?' Solsticizing is
what we are calling the project to convert the Millennium class ships to
have some of the best features of Solstice."
"When Millennium went into dry dock last year, we sort of stuck our toe
into the water and we did a little bit. We did carpets, fabrics and things
like that. Then, we [implemented] Celebrity Life [the line's new onboard
programming concept] across the entire fleet."
"Constellation just went into dry dock and we are going to be doing a
number of things to Constellation. For example, the Martini Bar that you
see here [on Eclipse], we are going to move into the Grand Foyer on
Constellation. So the Martini Bar as you know it that is on Deck 5 [on
Constellation] is not going to be there anymore. [As on the Solstice class
ships] there will be an ice bar. There will be a Crush where you see the
vodka bottles lined up in the center in the ice. We are going to move the
Internet Café that is [in the Grand Foyer on Constellation] to a different part
of the ship. The Cova Café will turn into Café al Bacio - - so same place
but it will be designed very similar to the Al Bacio that we have here.
There will be a Gelateria in there. Then, on Deck 5 [on Constellation],
where we have that opening down to the Rendezvous, we are going to close
that off. We are going to put Cellar Masters in there and we are also going
to put Bistro on Five in there. We think when we are done with that and
taking the similar decorations that we have in the staterooms [here] into the
staterooms and suites [on Constellation] that we will have really
transformed that ship."
"If you have been on the Millennium ships you will remember [the
artificial flower shop], which is up on the very, very top of the ship. For
the eight years Constellation has been in existence, I think we have sold
three flowers in that time we moved that out and did something different.
So, we are going to put Tuscan Grille up there. We think by the time that
we have done all that we have really taken the best from the Solstice class
and it will tie the brand together in a much more powerful way."
Celebrity Infinity and Celebrity Summit will be Solsticized in 2011.
Celebrity Millennium will receive the rest of her Solsticizing in 2012.
In addition to the Solstice and Millennium class ships, Celebrity has two
smaller ships built between 1995 and 1997 from the Century class. It was
recently announced that one of these ships, Celebrity Mercury, will be
leaving the Celebrity fleet in 2011 and following Celebrity Galaxy, which
left the fleet in 2009, to TUI Cruises. Whether the remaining ship, Celebrity
Century, will be Solsticized is an open question. "Four years ago now we
spent $55 million on Century, which seems to have been a very good
investment on our part. We are about to embark on this huge investment on
the four Millennium class ships. We want to see how it goes Solsticizing
[them]. If Solsticizing goes as well as we hope it will, we will take a look
at the Century as well."
Navigating New Waters
At the same time that the Celebrity fleet has been changing, the line has
also been broadening its footprint, sailing on new itineraries from more
ports. In addition to the traditional cruise destinations of the Caribbean
and Alaska, Celebrity ships now sail to South America, Europe, the
Mediterranean, the Panama Canal, Bermuda, the Galapagos Islands and
Canada/New England on a regular basis.
With Celebrity Eclipse, the line is making a substantial commitment to the
British/Irish market. "One of the things that we are very excited about is
that the ship will be sailing throughout the season out of Southampton. This
is the first time at Celebrity that we have done this. We have always had
good response from guests from the UK to the Celebrity fleet We see a
market that is growing where cruises are an important part of holidays but
still only three percent of total holidays and 10 percent of packages. So it is
a market that still has lots and lots of room to grow and we would like to
be in on the ground floor of that as much as we possibly can. Depending on
how this goes, I can see the UK market becoming more and more important
to us. All indications are - - especially based upon the way Eclipse has
been received - - it seems to be an environment in which Celebrity can
grow and grow pretty dramatically over the next few years."
In the United States, Celebrity's style of cruising has been embraced by the
professional classes and successful urban sophisticates. Cruising has not
penetrated the corresponding groups in the UK to the same extent.
Therefore, Celebrity sees a need to adapt its marketing. " At
Celebrity, our marketing focus as a whole is on people who have cruise
experience and that's the majority of the people we get. Between 20 and 25
percent are first time cruisers but the vast majority are people who have
cruised before with us or with another line. When we were talking about
coming [to the UK], one of the things we said we had to do because the
market is under-penetrated is that we had to cast a little wider net. We
have to look at the kind of folks who this type of décor and this type of
experience would appeal. We think there is an opportunity to attract
first-timers here in the UK market just because of the size of the market and
because this product in particular would appeal to them."
The other major cruise lines have also recognized the potential of the UK
and European markets and are also deploying their ships to Europe.
However, Hanrahan sees Celebrity as positioned to meet this competition.
"There will be a lot of capacity in Europe next year, that is a fact, Having
said that, as a company, one of things that I think we have done quite well
over the past few years is broaden our sourcing. So, we are not sourcing
entirely from the United States, we are not sourcing entirely from the UK - -
we have really grown our sourcing worldwide. As a result of that, I think
we are well-positioned to not have to worry about dropping prices down."
Aside from Europe, Celebrity has been using its smaller ships to develop
less traditional homeports in the United States. Even with the departure of
Mercury from the fleet, Celebrity plans to continue to develop these ports.
"We will continue to serve some of those smaller markets like Baltimore as
we go into the future. We still have Century, which is one of the smaller
The line is also on the lookout for new opportunities. "We are always
looking for new ports of call and a world cruise is something we have
talked about many times. Our sales organization is very bullish on it. I
have been the one who has stood in the way. It is a very expensive cruise
to operate and I haven't seen for us that the indications are that we could get
the kind of prices that we would need to make it a profitable effort for us.
But, it is absolutely something that I want in our future. We need to be in
the world cruise business."
"We would like to expand our footprint. We are going maybe too slow for
some but I think this move to here was a big one. But we would like to go
to more places. There is a lot of interest in a world cruise. We will be
doing some research in the fall with our Captain's Club members as well as
people who do not sail with us to get a better feel for what markets we can
expand to in the future."
Recognizing Old Friends
Although change is a watchword at Celebrity, the line is mindful of the
support that it has received over the years from its repeat passengers.
Accordingly, Celebrity re-launched its loyalty program in 2009 with
enhanced benefits. "The changes that we have made at the 10 plus [cruises]
level are pretty dramatic and have been extremely well-received. I know
that we have given away a lot of free drinks in Michael's Club between
four and six in the afternoon, that has become very popular, but it makes
sense for us. We have been able to justify that. Our guests are happy. I
have gotten a lot of positive feedback and letters on that. Obviously, we
have the award-winning ships but we are very focused on the onboard
experience and making sure [that the guests] come home and [say] that it
was a terrific experience onboard. And with the loyalty program, we want
to be sure that they feel that they are being recognized when they come
Cruise ship interview - - Celebrity Cruises - - Dan Hanrahan
Hanrahan answering questions from travel
agents and the press onboard Eclipse.
Celebrity Eclipse in Southampton, England
|Its all about ships