Celebrity Cruises is enhancing its ship visit programme for 2019 with 100 agents invited for an “immersive Edge-class experience in Europe”.

Speaking ahead of this week’s naming ceremony of new ship Celebrity Edge in Fort Lauderdale, UK sales director Claire Stirrup revealed agents would be flown to Barcelona and Rome for a “full consumer experience” on board the 2,900-passenger vessel.
“Previously, we have only done ship visits in Southampton and Ireland and agents have just got on for lunch and a look around,” she said.

“Next year we are taking it to the next level for our trade partners. They will have lunch, a tour, time to experience the ship on their own. They will have day rooms to change for dinner, they will eat in one of the restaurants, see a show, then we’ll take them into the city for the evening before overnighting on land and flying back the next day.”

Jo Rzymowska, managing director for the UK, Ireland and Asia, said the longer visits came in response to Celebrity’s latest research that found more affluent consumers want to book through an independent third-party agent than they did in 2014, when Celebrity last did the research.

She said: “Travel advisors are more important than ever – and more and more [customers] say they want that agent to have experienced the product.”

More than half of consumers now want to book via agents, up from just under 50% in 2014.

Between the ship visits and the three-day ‘Festival of Edge’ in the UK from May 13-15, 2019, more than 1,000 agents will have experienced Edge by the end of 2019, Stirrup revealed.