A Conversation with Lisa
Senior Vice President, Hotel
Richard H. Wagner
In July 2009, Celebrity Cruises launched a new onboard
programming concept called "Celebrity Life". This concept is
being rolled out throughout the Celebrity fleet and is expected to be
in place by the end of November 2009. I spoke with Lisa
Lutoff-Perlo, Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations for
Celebrity to find out what this new program is all about.
In order to put Celebrity Life in perspective one has to take a step
back and look at what Celebrity Cruises is like. This premium
cruise line currently operates nine ships with three more ships to be
added by 2012. The ships fall into three main classes that vary
significantly in size and features. However, a unifying factor is the
attention to detail in design. The interiors are contemporary and
sophisticated with high quality art collections woven unobtrusively
into the overall decor.
"These are beautiful ships but if I could sum up in one other word
what Celebrity is, it is service. It is the people onboard that really
make Celebrity different - - the passion and energy they bring to
taking care of our guests. They bring it in an authentic and very
honest way, which our guests react very positively to. I think that
manifests itself in what the experience is onboard whether you are
on a Solstice class, Millennium class or a Century class ship.
There are things that transcend all ships regardless of when they
were built or how many venues or experiences that we are
offering. So, it is a special brand that takes special care of people
and offers them very special experiences. I think that sort of sums
up who we are."
The line targets its marketing to baby boomers with incomes over
$75,000. These people tend to be experienced travelers with a
leaning towards the sophisticated and intellectual side of life and
the onboard experience is geared accordingly. "I think we say
sophisticated but certainly not stuffy or arrogant. We try to be
sophisticated in a really comfortable way - - for everybody but we
are more about things that probably have a deeper meaning for
people than other brands which have either a fun or adventurous
appeal to guests. We go more for the experienced traveler who is
looking for slightly different experiences when they get on the
At the same time, the onboard experience attracts an international
clientele. "We have about 65 percent North American and 35
percent international and those are from all over the world. The
majority of that 35 percent right now is probably the UK, followed
closely by Germany and Mexico." Thus, the onboard lifestyle can
be summed as relaxed sophistication with an international flavor.
"The onboard experience for Celebrity is the biggest reason why
people chose it over other cruise lines." While Celebrity has
received high marks for this in the past - - the line was recently
voted "best mega-ship cruise line" by the readers of Conde Nast
Traveler - - Celebrity decided to review its onboard programming
in order to determine if the experience could be enhanced. This
involved researching what past Celebrity passengers had indicated
about the line's onboard programming as well as assessing what
other cruise lines were doing. The result was Celebrity Life.
"The reason that Celebrity Life came to life was so that we would
have a series of programming aboard our ships that was truly
reflective of our brand and what our brand stands for. It is all
around the pillars of Celebrity - - the things we have been known
for since our brand started."
Celebrity Life takes the line's onboard activities and places them
into three broad categories. Guests can pursue the track (or tracks)
of activities that are most attuned to their personal interests and
thereby have a cruise experience that will yield fruit to enhance
their everyday lives. Thus, the onboard programming has unifying
themes and is not just an amalgamation of unrelated events. "Some
[aspects of this program] other people might be doing, some
Celebrity might be doing now but there is nobody doing it as
comprehensively as Celebrity Life has been put together. It is a
brand differentiator for Celebrity because it is significantly better
and different than what other people are doing."
This is not a mere repackaging of Celebrity's existing onboard
offering. "Some of the things are existing, some are new. This is
the launch and we will continue to add amazing things even next
year. There is a whole menu of things that are going to be added."
The first broad category or "pillar" in Celebrity Life is called
"Savor" and focuses on food and wine activities. "Celebrity is
really all about savoring life and part of that is through wonderful
food created by extremely passionate and talented people and the
most extensive wine list in the industry to accompany that. We have
almost 500 bottles of wine on our wine list. You would think that
would be because our guests care about sampling wonderful bottles
of wine while they are eating this delicious food"
The Savor series includes three tracks. "Celebrity Vineyards" was
developed in partnership with the United States Sommelier
Association and involves guests in a series of events designed to
improve and expand their understanding of the world of wine.
"Signature Spirits" developed in cooperation with Bacardi focuses
on spirits and mixology.
"Food as Art" includes cooking demonstrations led by Celebrity
chefs as well as behind the scenes tours of the ships' galleys and
guest participation in cooking competitions. In addition to
Celebrity's own chefs, visiting guest chefs will be featured on some
A second major strong point for Celebrity over the years has been
its Aquaspa. Building on the fact that people often come to a
Celebrity ship "to relax, feel better about themselves, feel better
just in general," the second pillar of Celebrity Life is "Renew."
Once again, this category is divided into three tracks, each with its
own menu of treatments, seminars and workshops.
The "Ageless" series includes lectures on youth-enhancing lifestyle
activities, skin care and anti-aging facials, and "medi-cosmetic"
treatments such as Botox.
"Energy" includes nutritional information, wellness assessments,
fitness and exercise classes as well as "life prescriptions" intended
so that guests can incorporate these tips into their everyday lives.
"Longevity" includes seminars on stress management, lifestyle
enhancements and alternative healing systems. Classes include
yoga and tai-chi and guests can have a complimentary consultation
with the onboard acupuncturist.
"The third pillar, 'Discovery,' is all about intellectual curiosity and
enrichment. We have always been a brand that focuses on
enriching our guests. We have had guest lecturers and lecture
series for many years and now we have expanded that significantly
and we have partnered with the Smithsonian Institution so that we
bring it even more credibility."
The Smithsonian lecturers will give in-depth talks on history, art
and culture on selected sailings as part of the "Behind the Podium"
track. Another track will feature computer and Ipod classes. In
partnership with Stargeezers, Celebrity will present classes on
astronomy and guests will be able to participate in on-deck evening
star-gazing. Through a partnership with Rosetta Stone, guests can
attend classes designed to pick-up a few fun phrases of a foreign
language or participate in classes designed to give a more in-depth
language learning experience.
On a more physical plane, guests will be able to participate in
interactive dance performers along with the ships' production show
casts. This track will also include dance classes and competitions.
Finally, in partnership with the Story Tellers Club, Celebrity will
be offering classes on making scrapbooks.
.To prevent all of this from becoming just another laundry list of
activities, the line has appointed a "foodie" to lead the Savor
program, a "Guru" to lead the Wellness program and a
"Cosmopolitan" to lead the Discovery program on each ship. "We
wanted one person onboard to own every pillar, every group of
events. They are the hosts of the program. They bring the program
alive both personally and for all the people they work with and for
our guests every day."
Cruise ship interview - - Celebrity Cruises - - Lisa Lutoff-Perlo
A sommelier lectures on how the glass can affect the taste of
Waiters and staff greeting guests on Celebrity Constellation
|Its all about ships