|Passengers on Celebrity's Millennium voyage departing September 23 are in for a big surprise. They're the first to experience the company's new, quite comprehensive and many-pronged plan-for-onboard enhancement that, ultimately, will encompass the entire fleet -- and may genuinely position Celebrity as a legitimate Crystal competitor, albeit with a younger passenger demographic.|
The program is helmed by Celebrity's relatively new "catch." Dietmar
Wertanzel, formerly a long timer with Crystal, joined the company earlier
this year as senior vice president of fleet operations, overseeing both
marine-oriented and hotel-oriented functions. Wertanzel, along with a gang of relatively seasoned cruise industry executives, has developed a plan to enhance everything from relaxation services to enrichment possibilities to what he calls "connections" (i.e. chances to potentially make new friends while sailing). "We want to make it [a Celebrity cruise] a little bit more like a W Hotel concept -- hip and cool but without pretension," he says. The point, of course, is not only in differentiating Celebrity from other cruise lines but also in courting an increasingly upwardly mobile middle class traveler who, in many likely forms, may never have considered a cruise before.
Bottom line? When Millennium, the "test model" for the program, starts
rolling out bits and pieces of his team's program changes beginning with the September 23 voyage, they may notice a few funky features. There will be topless sunbathing (way, way up top where few of the non-intrepid care to venture). You can book a poolside massage. In hot locales, Caribbean and such, sunbathers will be presented with frosty towels. You can breakfast in the Cova Cafe and take a grand afternoon tea in the ship's hoity-toity alternative restaurant. Instead of elaborate midnight buffets the ship will instead focus on fabulous lunchtime spreads. Michael's Pub, a cigar bar and Celebrity fixture that, oddly enough, just didn't take with passengers, will be transformed into an intimate piano bar/cabaret lounge (no cigars, either).
Other test phases will roll-out on Millennium through the rest of the year
and highlights, among many possibilities, include enhanced adult enrichment programs, more interesting and tempting shops in its Emporium complex, welcome champagne on embarkation, a spa cafe dinner option, poolside fashion shows and wine tasting, and a revamped sports deck. The rollout will be overseen by a "mystery" staffer, one who Wertanzel admits will bear the Crystal Cruises stamp-o-excellence (and who joins the company Monday).
The company will tweak the offerings, based on customer feedback, through the fall, and plans to introduce the program, at least in beginning stages, on a fleetwide basis on or around January 1, 2003.