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Celebrity Cruises boss Jo Rzymowska: ‘It’s so emotional to be back, and demand is strong for the future’

Celebrity Cruises vice-president and MD for EMEA Jo Rzymowska speaks to Cruise Trade News about the line’s UK return on Celebrity Silhouette and explains how Celebrity has refined its brand messaging.

What has been the reaction to being back on board?

Phenomenal. Welcoming them [guests] back was so emotional. They were in floods of tears and so were we.

We’ve got guests who have never sailed before. This is because international travel is going to be more complex this year, so a UK cruise is very attractive. Staycations this year are going to be the thing, and what better way to see the land than from the sea?

How have you coped professionally and personally in recent times?

Professionally, the strength of the team has been incredible. Pride is the word I would use. Pride from how Richard Fain, our chairman, to how all our management have come together and guided us. The level of communication has been incredible. The way in which we have put our guests as number one, then our crew, at the core of everything, that’s been outstanding.

Celebrity Silhouette is cruising the UK this summer.
Celebrity Silhouette is back in action, cruising the UK this summer.

What has Celebrity Cruises been doing while the ships haven’t been sailing?

It gave us all, as a team, time to look at our company and work on our branding. What do we stand for and how do we explain everything we’ve got? We know we offer the most incredible holidays for those who love the finer things in life.

We have looked at becoming all-inclusive before and we said now is the time to do it and it is proving to be the thing to do because the messaging now is so much clearer. Every guest, every room, every sailing, drinks, wifi and tips included. Yes, there are different packages you can buy on board but the basic package is very attractive. It is proving to be very popular with guests and trade partners, so we think that is a winner.

Which itineraries are you seeing people booking?

We’re seeing there are no qualms about going long haul next year and splashing the cash. And Europe is very popular too – Brits can’t wait to see that again. Celebrity Silhouette is doing very well for next year, and [so are] Alaska and the Caribbean.

Any surprises on the bookings?

We are shortening the cruises. We find that those who are still working tend to prefer seven-10-night port-heavy cruises. It’s a better length of time for them. So, we have started to introduce more of that. What has pleasantly surprised me is the strength of the demand for 2022 and even 2023. We feel very confident as an industry that cruising is back.

What are the highlights of the 2022 programme for Celebrity Cruises?

The launch of Celebrity Beyond, and let’s not forgot Celebrity Apex. It will have its first proper season in 2022 and its naming ceremony will be in November this year. We have extended Beyond by about 20 metres and that is based on the demand for space, predominantly in The Retreat area.

What do you see happening in general for cruise?

The demand is there but the cruise industry needs to have a good season, a safe season. We know Covid will be with us, so we need protocols in place to ensure our guests feel safe.

How impressed have you been by the trade’s resilience over the past 15 months?

They’ve been amazing. It’s been so tough for the trade and we have done everything we can to support the trade. Sadly, some of them haven’t made it but that’s why we now need to get going because the industry needs it.

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