The Celebrity Solstice // (C) Celebrity Cruises
It might take a talented explorer to find a touch of modern elegance in the rough and tumbled frontiers of Alaska, but with the repositioning of one of Celebrity Cruises’ Solstice-class vessels, the Celebrity Solstice, there is new modern luxury to be found on the open waters of the Far North.
In late May, Celebrity hosted a two-night “cruise to nowhere,” embarking from the port of Seattle, for travel agents to preview the ship before its inaugural Alaska cruise. Once onboard, Jeff Clarke, Celebrity’s vice president of sales, talked about how to identify and attract prospective clients that would be a good fit for the brand.
“Our market has changed with the introduction of the Solstice class,” Clarke said.
Clarke went on to recite a list of qualifiers: the typical Solstice-class cruiser is over the age of 35, they have a house, an income of more than $100,000 and they are “confident in their own skin.”
In other words, Celebrity’s passengers “have reached the level where they are comfortable with themselves, they know who they are, they know what they want,” according to Clarke.
These customers are also tech-savvy and brand-conscience. Travel agents can easily spot these clients: They are more likely to drive an Audi than a BMW, and they also own the latest PDA device.
What affluent cruisers want is a fresh take on luxury — they are drawn to clean bright contemporary spaces filled with crystal and silk, rather than the dark, heavy, richness of velvet and mahogany found in most traditional luxury settings. Clarke said this is especially true when it comes to the multigenerational cruiser.
“The family is changing… and traditional luxury does not fit that multigenerational travel,” he said. “Such groups include everyone from grandma and grandpa to 6- and 7-year-olds. The kids would not like that type of luxury, the 25-year-olds would not like it and the 45-year-olds would not like it.”
Beyond the look and the feel of the ship, Clarke also talked about the onboard service.
“You have your traditional luxury feel, but our luxury is on a different level,” he said. “It’s knowing when you need what you need before you know what you need… It’s not intrusive service levels. There is a difference. We don’t want to interrupt your vacation, but we want to provide service and help increase the value of your vacation experience.”
Over the years, Celebrity has invested over $5 billion to bring the Solstice-class ships to market— building new ships and “Solsticizing” Millennium-class ships with amenities such as the specialty restaurant Blu and new Aqua-class staterooms. With these upgrades, Celebrity hopes to add additional value to their passengers’ experiences.
Clarke said bringing a Solstice-class ship to Alaska has been a long time coming.
“Every inaugural we had for the Solstice class, we always had somebody from the West Coast raise their hand and ask when we are going to bring a Solstice-class to Alaska. [Celebrity Cruises president] Dan Hanrahan would always walk his way through it and would always say maybe, but quite frankly we didn’t even think about it,” Clarke said. “In hindsight, if we had to do it all over again, we would have probably brought this ship here a lot faster, because this ship is doing phenomenally.”
With the vast majority of Celebrity’s sales coming through travel agents, the company is wagering that with the introduction of the Solstice class to Alaska will hopefully spur a new Alaskan gold rush for the cruise line and their travel partners.