Celebrity Shines Again

When it comes to brands devoted to indulgent guest experiences, it’s hard to beat Celebrity Cruises. This year, the cruise line takes home its ninth consecutive Readers’ Choice Award celebrating its diverse and all-encompassing spa product, and its fifth consecutive award for cuisine—making it a travel agent pick for the most delicious, decadent experiences at sea for years.

According to Susan Bonner, director, onboard revenue, Celebrity Cruises, this year’s awards mean that the company’s strategy is working. “Health and wellness is a pillar of the Celebrity brand,” she explains. “As part of the commitment, we concentrate on delivering the most complete spa experience.” That, she says, means going above and beyond what clients expect at a cruise ship spa—and, in fact, exceeding the expectations that they’d have at any luxury spa facility on land. “From the time an appointment is made, through the completion of a treatment, our teams focus on providing the most peaceful and tranquil environment for our guests, and on exceeding expectations.”

For example, she says, who could expect a treatment as lavish as Celebrity’s 24-karat Gold Facial? The treatment is exactly as indulgent as it sounds: a blend of medicinal plants, rose quartz and, yes, pure 24-karat gold leaves used in a facial mask designed to nourish, brighten and clarify the skin’s texture and complexion. And that’s just the most recent of the innovative treatments that Celebrity has launched with its ships throughout the years, Bonner says. The line’s new Medi-Spa program has been one of the most successful spa programs since its launch this year. “Our onboard doctors now offer Botox, Restylane and Juviderm treatments to help guests regain some of their youthful appearance,” Bonner explains.

“We are constantly evaluating new treatments that will bring our commitment to health and wellness to life for our guests,” Bonner continues. “At Celebrity, the fact that we recognize the importance of both the big and the small could be the reason we were singled out by travel agents.”

That same philosophy—exceeding clients’ expectations—drives Celebrity’s chefs as well, says Scott Steenrod, the line’s director of food and beverage operations. Steenrod says that the addition of Master Chef Jacques Van Staden has helped keep the cruise line ahead of its competition, cuisine-wise, since he arrived two and a half years ago.

“He injected a new vision into our culinary experiences, building on our previous reputation,” he explains. “He’s really taking up more global influences in the menus, making them a blend of classic and contemporary cuisine.”

That evolution goes beyond mere menus and into brand-new restaurant experiences, particularly on Celebrity’s Solstice-class ships, where even seasoned cruisers will find something new. Specialty restaurants here include an Italian-inspired Tuscan grill, a casual bistro, and dedicated dining areas for Aqua-class cruisers—all driven to “creatively evolve Celebrity beyond what dining was recognized for in the last class,” Steenrod says.

Paired with Celebrity’s highly trained waiters and service staff, Steenrod says, it’s an unbeatable combination. After years of difficult training, the service staff emerge with a “highly intuitive, highly personalized sense of hospitality,” he explains. “It’s difficult to describe, but guests definitely know it when they see it.”

sailing ahead The evolution of Celebrity’s spa product will continue in 2010 with the Celebrity Life program, which debuted in July. Made up of “pillars” of the client’s onboard experience, Celebrity Life encompasses food and wine programs (“Savor”); education and fun activities (“Discover”); and “Renew,” or spa and wellness programs and facilities. Within the past year, the “Renew” pillar debuted a series of treatments and classes focused on giving guests greater energy, improved health, and an ageless appearance. ”Savor,” the dining pillar, presents “food as art,” Steenrod says. One of the most popular tours available to guests in 2010 will be an interactive galley tour, letting guests participate in marzipan demonstrations and fruit-carving instructions with chefs in areas of the ship that most guests never see.

April of 2010 will mark the debut of another Celebrity benchmark: the Celebrity Eclipse, the third of the line’s Solstice-class ships. “While I thought that we had achieved the ultimate spa experience on Celebrity Solstice and Celebrity Equinox, the design and ambiance of our spa on Celebrity Eclipse will take relaxation to a new level,” Bonner predicts. The company’s staying quiet about the specifics of the new ship, but judging from Celebrity’s history of bringing indulgent experiences to new heights, there’s really nowhere to go but up.