Captain Kate McCue went on her first cruise at age 12, and it left such an impression on her that she vowed to work on a ship when she grew up. She told her father that she wanted to be the cruise director and her father encouraged her to “drive the ship.” In a field dominated by men—she was only one of eight women in her graduating class at California Maritime Academy—she persevered. When Lisa Lutoff-Perlo became President and CEO of Celebrity Cruises in 2015—another accomplishment in a male-dominated field— Lutoff-Perlo appointed McCue to the position of Captain.
Today, Captain Kate (as she likes to be called) is fond of saying, “If you can see it, you can be it.” And, this phrase succinctly captures why her appointment was so important. She has been a role model for so many girls and women interested in a career at sea as well as for women striving for a higher rank. Captain Kate has 3.5 million followers on social media, and she uses her platform as an ambassador and mentor in the cruising industry.
Notes Lutoff-Perlo, “Captain Kate is a big part of the reason we have been able to expand the percentage of women working on the Bridge of Celebrity cruise ships from 3% in 2015 to 32% in 2022.” Having women in both the role of CEO and captain of a major cruise line is normalizing gender equality in a field that was previously male-denominated. Lutoff-Perlo notes that the Bridge department has been predominantly male for two hundred years and changing that by appointing Captain Kate as well as increasing the number of women working in the bridge is one of her biggest accomplishments as CEO. The industry average for women working on the bridge is only 2%.
Since the appointment of Captain Kate, there have been other important female hires, including Captain Nathaly, the first woman to take the helm of a cruise ship in the Galapagos.
Says Lutoff-Perlo, “Our partnerships and the high profile of our women executives and women on the bridges across our fleet also speak to a welcoming culture for those women who decide these are careers that interest them. They can see that they will be welcomed and given the same opportunities, regardless of gender.”
Cruising Post Covid
The cruising industry is seeing a rebound in bookings this year. “The removal of the re-entry testing requirements into the U.S. was a game-changer and has created increased momentum for this summer’s Europe sailings,” says Lutoff-Perlo. “Our Galapagos sailings are selling out. In addition, our suite accommodations in The Retreat are in high demand. After two years of living in fear, people are ready to live more boldly and make up for lost time.” That’s good news for travelers who are ready to start booking their vacations again.
Trends in Cruising
After two years of not traveling, the trend now is to upgrade. “Our guests are really treating themselves whether it’s upgrading their accommodations to our all-suites retreat, or booking specialty dining, or adding an extra spa treatment or shore excursion.” In fact, the retreat suite accommodations is the leading category of staterooms that are currently selling out.
Other trends include booking the all-inclusive package. Celebrity recently introduced Always-included pricing—which includes WIFI, drinks and gratuities.
The Latest Design
The newest ship in the Celebrity fleet is Celebrity Beyond, which was designed to create a boutique resort feel at sea. A variety of designers were brought in, including: British architect Tom Wright, who designed the Burj-Al-Arab hotel; British designer Kelly Hoppen; and American designer Nate Berkus. The result is an innovative feel throughout the ship, including the Magic Carpet a bar and dining establishment that moves between floors during the cruise; the multi-level sunset bar; the look and feel of the rooftop garden; and the three-story glass windows in Eden, a specialty restaurant.
Demographics of Travelers
Celebrity is popular among families traveling with tweens and teens; multigenerational travel and couples/girlfriend getaways. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the high percentage of new-to-cruise guests sailing with us – all ages – and I suspect this will continue to grow,” says Lutoff-Perlo.
In terms of the most popular destinations, Lutoff-Perlo notes that the European itineraries win awards regularly; Alaska is a fan favorite because many people want to see the final frontier by sea; the Caribbean has been especially popular over the past year because it’s nearby but still feels like it’s a world away. “And, we’re seeing growing demand for bucket-list destinations like the Galapagos, Antarctica and the Northern Lights of Iceland. Our Galapagos sailings are now selling out week after week,” says Lutoff-Perlo
A New Way of Dining
Travelers on the Celebrity Beyond will notice that the old way of having dinner aboard a cruise ship—a set time to eat and always at the same table—has been replaced with a more flexible option. There are four main complimentary dinner restaurants aboard the Celebrity Beyond and travelers can eat dinner at any of them and can go anytime during dinner hours. Each restaurant has dishes specific to that restaurant as well as menu items that are the same across all four main dining rooms. So for example, Cyprus has Greek items; Tuscan has Italian options; Normandie has French food and Cosmopolitan focuses on American cuisine. There are also specialty restaurants, including Le Voyage by Daniel Boulud, Luminae for retreat travelers, and the Fine Cut Steakhouse.
While cruise ships are returning to pre-covid levels, airlines have not been as lucky. This summer, airlines have been canceling or delaying many flights. A good rule of thumb is to fly out at least one day before embarkation, but two days would be ideal.