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The strength of close-to-home cruising has brought more ships to the Caribbean year-round, and Royal Caribbean International, Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and MSC Cruises are all keeping ships in the region. And now, Celebrity has announced that its 2,850-passenger Celebrity Equinox will not return to Europe next summer but instead will sail out of Miami year-round, with new programs for kids and foodies. Equinox will sail 24 Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings, with weeklong cruises between June and August and 10- and 11-night itineraries at other times.
Dondra Ritzenthaler, senior vice president of sales for Celebrity, says it was not the reaction to terrorist events in Europe that prompted the move, but rather demand from past guests, particularly families.
“We want to be the brand for affluent multigenerational clients,” she said.
It has been five years since a Solstice-class vessel — with its live-grass lawn, dedicated specialty restaurant for spa suites and industry-changing design — has been placed in the Caribbean year-round, and Celebrity is pulling out the stops to make booking nearly irresistible.
The line has introduced Summer Camp at Sea, pulling from its longtime Celebrity focus on edutainment, to teach young cruisers about the region and its culture and science with sophisticated tools. In Explorer Academy, Celebrity provides STEM-based interdisciplinary science, technology, engineering and mathematics programming, while the Creation Station immersive art program has 3-D technology. There are also iTake GoPro video projects.
“It’s like summer camp at home,” Ritzenthaler said. “Except that one day, kids may learn about marine biology, and another day, they’ll make a video or share the life of a chef.”
Adults aren’t being left out of the fun: There are new Taste of the Caribbean activities, from demonstrations featuring local cuisine to a rum and reggae party on the grass lawn topside. There are also classes (for a fee) in making fresh pasta and mozzarella at Tuscan Grill, along with a five-course tasting dinner with Celebrity’s chefs.
“Celebrity has always been huge in the culinary area, and we now have the biggest wine tasting at sea, Chef’s Market Discoveries on shore and much more,” Ritzenthaler said. “For dedicated foodies, there is a premium Taste of the Caribbean package that combines $1,000 worth of culinary experiences for $700, including unlimited specialty dining, a Riedel wine workshop, a mixology class, a wine-blending class and much more.”
Meanwhile, Celebrity is providing agents with new tools to sell its product. In mid-August, the line introduced new content inspired by the senses for its Five Star Academy for travel partners. Experiential video modules with interactive features cover subjects from presentation skills to social media marketing. More than 15,000 agents have become Five Star Academy graduates, and those who have graduated can take a condensed recertification course.