"The Celebrity Solstice has been transformational for the brand," said Dan Hanrahan, president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises.
What sets the brand apart is its service, crew and hardware. Not only is the new Solstice getting rave reviews, the Millennium- and Century-classes of ships are also doing well, according to Hanrahan. He noted that Celebrity had been named "Best Cruise Line" by British newspapers and travel publications and is consistently rated among the top 10 large-ship cruise lines in North America.
"The Solstice is the perfect manifestation of a premium ship," Hanrahan said. "The accommodations are spacious and the public rooms are warm and inviting.
"The Solstice has proven to be right for so many reasons," Hanrahan said. "The ship offers a great – tremendous – guest experience. Our guests are telling us that we have given them want they want in terms of the onboard experience."
Since Celebrity has won top honors in Britain, it may not be a coincidence that the Equinox will be introduced and christened in Southampton by a British godmother in late July.
To be introduced in the summer of 2010, the Eclipse will be dedicated to the UK market. It is the first Celebrity ship to be dedicated to passenger sourcing outside of the U.S.
While Celebrity has not introduced newbuildings for six years until the Solstice, other efforts have been underway including the continuous upgrading of the existing fleet; the installation of a diesel engine on the gas turbine-powered Millennium class (to make them more fuel efficient); and the introduction of a new sister brand, Azamara Cruises.
The period leading up the Solstice gave the company time to clarify its brand position, Hanrahan explained. "We wanted to be a comfortable premium product, and we wanted to fortify what we were already doing onboard."
As the construction of the Solstice moved along, Celebrity also started to prepare for the crewing of the ship
Celebrity plans to build up its capacity where the brand already is – Europe, Alaska, the Caribbean and South America. "The new tonnage may allow year-round cruises in the Caribbean, which will be a change for us," Hanrahan said.
His key to running a cruise line successfully is "the combination of having the right people and the right leadership both ashore and on the ships.
"Then there is consistency – doing the same things right and over and over again.
"And when you get a curveball, that you know how to handle it. How you handle what is outside the normal, is what sets you apart," Hanrahan said.
Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Spring 2009