Infinity and beyond for Celebrity Cruises' UK ambitions

Infinity and beyond for Celebrity Cruises' UK ambitions

Celebrity Cruises has announced a second ship is to be deployed in the UK in 2013 operating a full season of departures.

The 2,100-passenger Celebrity Infinity, the latest Millennium-class ship to be 'Solsticised' (have features of the line's newest Solstice-class of ship added), will be based in Harwich from April until November operating 10, 11 and 12-night northern European, Baltic and Iceland cruises.

It will in part take over from Constellation, which in recent years has been deployed for a third of the season, but Celebrity bosses estimated the decision to bring Infinity to the UK represents up to a 70% increase in capacity.

Celebrity Eclipse has firmly established itself as a feature of Southampton's many cruise ship deployments over the last three years.

The decision by Celebrity, announced at the Vinopolis wine attraction in London tonight, is another significant boost for the UK cruise industry after Carnival Cruise Lines decision to bring a ship, Carnival Legend, back to British waters next year after a break of four years.

Dan Hanrahan, Celebrity Cruises president and chief executive, told Travel Weekly that the move had come a year earlier than originally planned largely down to the way the UK travel agent community and customers have embraced Celebrity.

"This Infinity idea has been worked on for some time and it's really the result of the great job the guys here in the UK have done,” he said.

"We are a little ahead of schedule, I did not think it would be 2013, but the UK response to Eclipse has been so strong, so positive, all the way from the trade support to the ratings from the guests.

"If not the highest rated ship in our fleet it is one of the highest, and they say British guests don't rate anything excellent - well that's not true."

As the lesser well known up market brand in the Royal Caribbean Cruises family, Celebrity has been steadily building up its profile in the UK since getting its own dedicated sales and marketing functions in the UK office in 2009.

The ships have also been tweaked to British tastes with kettles added to rooms and British-style entertainment, food and drink on offer.

This year Celebrity has gone out with its own UK-tailored brand marketing campaign for the first time, something Hanrahan said was paying dividends and was actually one of the better international variations of its Modern Luxury marketing push devised in its US homeland.

Hanrahan said: "Having two teams here has helped and the marketing has been very strong. I go to a lot of places and I don't know anywhere where we have a better relationship with the trade."

Eclipse currently attracts around 70% British guests and although Celebrity expects Infinity to attract a lot from the domestic market it is unlikely to match that level.

But Celebrity will take every opportunity to showcase the ship to agents and customers on turnaround days in Harwich and will be promoting the ship during visits to agencies and through its Cruising for Excellence agent training on which it will have its own module.

This will particularly focus on the work done to Solsticise Infinity adding features many UK agents are familiar with having experienced Eclipse and sister ship Equinox that was also came to Southampton for a naming ceremony.

Hanrahan said the decision to deploy Infinity in the UK was bolstered by research on the holiday market. "People are definitely concerned about the economy but one thing they are unwilling to cut back is travel and holidays.

"We feel we are well placed in the market now, the UK customer is looking for great value and we are uniquely positioned to deliver that.  We are perfect for people who have experienced cruising but are looking for that step up.”


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