Celebrity Cruises aims to double its UK sales as a result of the cruiseline’s decision to offer ex-UK cruises for the first time in 2010.
Celebrity Eclipse will be based in Southampton for summer 2010, offering voyages to the Mediterranean and northern Europe, as well as short taster cruises.
The ex-UK cruises were unveiled to 75 top-selling UK cruise agents attending the launch of new ship Celebrity Solstice in Fort Lauderdale. Celebrity Cruises vice-president and managing director UK and Ireland Robin Shaw said the move will mark a step change for the company.
He said: “It will do for Celebrity in the UK what Legend of the Seas did for Royal Caribbean International when we first launched cruises from Southampton in 2005.
“The trade and consumers could see Royal Caribbean was serious about the UK market, and the same will happen with Celebrity.”
Shaw said sales for Royal Caribbean are about four times higher than for Celebrity, but added: “We can start to close the gap in the first season, from July to November 2010. By the close of 2011, after a full season ex-UK, we should at least have doubled volumes for Celebrity.”
Celebrity Cruises associate vice-president and general manager UK and Ireland Jo Rzymowska said the UK office has been pushing to get a Celebrity ship ex-UK, but admitted she never expected head office to allocate a new vessel.
Celebrity Eclipse will be the third of five Solstice-class ships. The first, Celebrity Solstice, was named in Fort Lauderdale on November 14. It will be followed in July 2009 by Celebrity Equinox, which will be named in Southampton after a week of ship visits by thousands of UK agents.
Celebrity Eclipse will sail from the shipyard in Germany to Southampton in July 2010. Another two Solstice-class ships launch in 2011 and 2012.
Rzymowska said: “People who know Celebrity love it, but not enough people know it. We are growing the cruise market with Royal Caribbean and this is the right time to have a luxury ship like this sailing from the UK. This is a vote of confidence for the market.”
Itineraries for Celebrity Eclipse will be announced in January and go on sale in March 2009. A Celebrity Solstice module will go live on the company’s Cruising for Excellence training programme early next year.