Celebrity Cruises boss Lisa Lutoff-Perlo says she is going to have to put her reputation as an “innovator and smart disruptor” in the cruise sector “into overdrive” as it prepares to come back into service.

The line’s president and first female chief executive of a publicly-listed cruise line, has been with Celebrity for 30 years, and spearheaded its diversity and inclusion drive, with Celebrity the first line to allow same-sex weddings on board.

Asked if she was going to have to challenge what we know about cruise even more to ensure its long-term future following the Covid-19 pandemic, Lutoff-Perlo, said: “Yes – and thank God I have that reputation.

“I’m going to need it now more than ever. We have been taking a lot of time to really think about this. When we come back, what are we going to say? What is our message? What is our brand? What do we stand for? Do we stand for what we did before in a bigger way or in a smaller way? Do we talk to the same people? Do we talk to them differently? How do you take a marketing message about this amazing, luxurious vacation and incorporate the health aspect into what we have to talk about?

“So yes, I do believe that I’m going to have to take all those things I’m known for and put them on overdrive, as we think about coming back.”

But Lutoff-Perlo said she had absolute confidence that the cruise industry would return stronger.

“I know it’s going to be difficult for all of us, but I know we’re going to do it because I see what everybody’s putting into this. And in that regard, even the people working with us believe in what we’re doing,” she said, noting that external experts in a ‘blue-ribbon panel’ had each “enthusiastically signed up”.

Lutoff-Perlo said the consumer press had made the recovery “harder” for the cruise industry, but that its history and reputation over many years before the pandemic would “serve us well”.

She urged travel agents selling cruise to “keep staying positive and keep making forward bookings”.

“Our travel advisor partners all over the world are anxious for travel to resume,” she said. “We’ve all given our career to this business and we all believe in it.”

Lutoff-Perlo added that while she “could not believe” she marked her 35 years at parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, and the 30th birthday of Celebrity Cruises “in this little room” in May, she said she was confident “it’s going to pass”.

“I did not imagine that as we celebrated these [milestones], our ships would be laid up all over the world with no guests,” she said. “This is a really tough time for all of us, but we’ve got to believe we’re going to come back. Our travel partners around the world need to understand we are doing everything we can, not only to get ourselves back in business, but to get all of you back in business, selling these amazing vacations and we want it as much as much as everybody else.”

Asked to predict when the return might be, she added: “I wish I had an answer. I wish I had a crystal ball. You’ve got different people throwing out when they think we’re going to come back but nobody says we’re not coming back. Everybody knows that we’ll be back and so my message to agents is keep moving forward and book those forward bookings and have faith that this too shall pass.”