Celebrity's Luxe Life

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It shouldn’t shock you to learn that Celebrity Cruises has once again clinched a couple of Recommend’s Readers’ Choice Awards—after all, 2010 marks the cruise line’s 10th straight win in Best Cruise Line—Spa and sixth straight win in Best Cruise Line—Cuisine. But though these wins aren’t a surprise, they continue to be an honor, says Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, senior v.p., hotel operations.

“It’s really nice to be recognized in these two areas consistently by readers of Recommend because these two areas are so important to our brand,” she says. “The acknowledgement for all the time, energy, passion and focus on the primary pillars of our brand is really rewarding for us.”

This year, the pillars of spa and dining enjoyed additional focus with the expansion of the line’s Celebrity Life program, a series of events, amenities and other offerings designed to bring wellness, fine dining and other luxuries into all areas of clients’ experiences on board. Among the additions this year, Lutoff-Perlo says, are culinary cruises. “With Savor-themed cruises we bring on celebrity chefs throughout the year on our different ships. Guests responded really well to that. The chefs are very engaging with guests. They not only do cooking demonstrations but also give interactive lessons and pairing dinners in our restaurants, where guests can purchase a dinner prepared by the celebrity chef and our team in the galleys.”

Another boost for Celebrity’s onboard culinary experience was the launch of Qsine (pronounced “cuisine”), an innovative restaurant and dining concept. “We wanted to create an experience that is not just ‘come to eat,’ but really go through the culinary journey and experience it,” explains Jacques Van Staden, v.p., culinary operations. “It’s a 180-degree approach on what you might perceive [as cruise cuisine].” The dishes often take traditional meals and give them an upscale twist. For example, Van Staden points out, Qsine’s meatball dish is a trio of meatballs featuring flavors from around the world, rather than the expected pasta and tomato sauce combo. Qsine has also innovated using technology, offering its menus on iPads, and has bumped service up a notch, too. “Instead of servers, we have culinary tour guides,” Van Staden says, “who literally guide you through the dining experience. It’s a uniquely unordinary concept.”

In the wellness realm, Celebrity’s team continues to perfect and expand the Aqua Spa experience. “We create new and, at least when they’re launched, exclusive experiences,” Lutoff-Perlo says, pointing out the medi-spa services and famous 24-karat facial, a service using real gold, that launched on board Celebrity ships in recent years. “We were also the first to do the Brazilian blowouts [hair treatment] on board, which has been very popular and which is new on the market. We try to stay ahead of the curve and offer unique experiences.” In 2011, she says, the strategy for the spa will be similar to that of the dining team: bringing on well-known speakers to expand the effects of spa living beyond the physical walls of the spa itself. Though names weren’t available at press time, Lutoff-Perlo promises, “We will have popular and well-known wellness speakers discussing live, living, and loving, healthier eating—some of the really topical things on people’s minds related to well-being and spa.”

Celebrity’s spa and culinary teams are also teaming up to create a menu of dishes for wellness-conscious cruise-goers—the perfect intersection of its two most awarded traits, due to debut in February or March. “That way, guests will have healthy dining options, for at least part of their cruise,” Lutoff-Perlo says. “I say it’s not a vacation unless you have a little decadence.”