Celebrity Cruises holds its first gay wedding at sea

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Celebrity Cruises said a gay couple was legally married on the Celebrity Equinox, a first for the line and perhaps the industry.

Francisco Vargas and Benjamin Gray were wed in a ceremony officiated by Capt. Dimitrios Manetas.

Celebrity is billing the event as the first same-sex couple to be legally married at sea on a major cruise line.

Celebrity said an October 2017 liberalization vote in Malta, where its ships are registered, opened the door for Celebrity to legally recognize same-sex marriages performed onboard while at sea.

“Words cannot express how proud I am to congratulate Francisco and Benjamin at this truly historic moment, both for them and for Celebrity,” Celebrity president Lisa Lutoff-Perlo said.

Vargas, a manager in the group’s department at Cruise Planners in Coral Springs, Fla., said, “We are grateful for the outpouring of support from our Cruise Planners family and hope our story brings strength for others in the LGBTQ+ community,” he said.

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Celebrity’s sleep-focused spa treatments are long overdue

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Celebrity Equinox

Anyone who isn’t sleeping well, or sleeping at all, knows that there’s nothing more important than a good night’s rest. And who hasn’t had problems getting to sleep at some point, or suffered along with a partner who couldn’t sleep?

So the new Celebrity Cruises wellness program that focuses on sleep is a fantastic idea and long overdue in the cruise industry.

Celebrity launched its “Mindful Dreams” program on the Celebrity Equinox and the Celebrity Summit this month, with the rest of the fleet to follow in September.

The program was developed in partnership with Canyon Ranch, which has been Celebrity’s spa concessionaire since 2014.

How many spa treatments have the potential to change your life more than one that improves the amount and quality of sleep you get?  How many would affect so many people?

According to the American Sleep Association, 50-70 million US adults have a sleep disorder of some kind. About 10% of adults report chronic insomnia. Nearly half the population has problems with snoring.

When unable to sleep, far too many people turn to pharmaceutical solutions as a first option, rather than a last. A 2013 study from the National Institutes of Health found that 4.1% of Americans use a prescription sleep aid, with the number rising to at least 5.5% for those aged 50 and over.

“Mindful Dreams” instead offers a combination of a relaxation treatment, massage and meditation, and access to expert lectures and classes on a “holistic approach to mindful sleep both on land and at sea.”

There is also a nutrition component.

While many cruise lines promote the relaxing quality of the mattresses and beds onboard, that relaxation lasts only as long as the cruise. This program could have an impact long after the cruise is over.

Royal Caribbean loosens restraints on Empress cabins

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Empress of the Seas

Inventory for Empress of the Seas will not be released a few months at a time in 2017 as it has been in 2016, Royal Caribbean International president Michael Bayley said on Friday.

The Empress has been sailing short itineraries to the Bahamas and the Caribbean since it returned to Royal Caribbean’s fleet in June. It had been renovated at a cost of $50 million with the intent to use it on itineraries to Cuba.

However, Royal Caribbean has yet to gain approval from Cuban authorities to begin those cruises.

“We really were holding it late and hoping for the itinerary change,” Bayley said during Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.’s third-quarter earnings call.

With cabins available only a few months ahead of time, travel agents have difficulty making group bookings that typically require longer to organize than individual ones.

Empress cruises are currently available through April 2017.

Royal Caribbean was also delayed in launching the Empress into Caribbean service by unexpected construction obstacles after the ship was returned from Royal’s Spanish subsidiary Pullmantur.

During the call, Royal Caribbean said projected earnings in the current fourth quarter have been pared by an estimated $13 to $15 million by the delay in getting Empress sailing again and the resulting lost sales momentum.

For the third quarter, RCCL reported net income of $693.3 million on revenue of $2.56 billion. Results are not directly comparable with last year’s third quarter because of a huge write-down on Pullmantur.

Executives said the company is in a better booked position for next year than it was last year at this time, with both loads and pricing ahead of pace. North American demand for Europe is returning in the absence of recent terrorism incidents, they said, although Europe will account for 15% of Royal’s overall capacity in 2017, down from 20% this year.

The Caribbean will rise to 50% of overall capacity with the addition of Harmony of the Seas, which will not sail in Europe next summer as it did this year, and the shift of Celebrity Equinox from Europe to the Caribbean year-round.

After a pause in bookings following Hurricane Matthew, Royal Caribbean began some promotions to restart consumer demand.