Celebrity Cruises reveals details about the Apex

SAINT-NAZAIRE, France — Celebrity Cruises revealed new menus, entertainment and spa/wellness programs for the Celebrity Apex during a hard-hat tour at Chantiers de l’Atlantique on Tuesday.

Celebrity Edge first floated in 2018, has been a wildly successful ship, according to Vicky Garcia, COO and co-owner of Cruise Planners. But, for this second in the series, Celebrity didn’t rest on its Edge laurels.

“They tweaked things to be even better and different,” Garcia said during a walk-through of Celebrity Apex, which is scheduled to debut in Europe in March. 

Celebrity president and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo said that as the company builds ships, “We make a lot of changes along the way. We do it because we want it perfect.”

The biggest changes with Apex, she said, involve the entertainment. 

Three new stage shows are set for The Theatre, along with new technology such as towering LED screens that curve around the stage to make the performances more immersive and exciting. 

The new productions include “Crystalize,” Which Celebrity’s new vice president for entertainment Lisa Lehr called “our eye-candy tech show.” It employs lasers, video, aerial acrobats and an underwater ballet sequence made possible by one of those new tech marvels: a towering scrim with eight 20K laser projectors that create a 360-degree, wraparound picture for the audience. 

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“Rockumentary” stars classic rock moments from Wembley Stadium to Woodstock. In a twist, audiences get to decide the finale by voting in advance using the Celebrity app.

And “Tree of Life,” a “feel-good show,” in Lehr’s words, features a 20-foot tall “tree” with more than 3,000 LED leaves. 

Meanwhile, Eden, the triple-deck, glass-walled lounge in the aft of the ship, will have a theme that changes daily, with daytime activities that are carried through in the nighttime entertainment. For example, a daytime guided meditation will be followed by a “Night of Chill” ultra-lounge concept with acoustic music. 

Another day, interactive art experiences will lead into “Night of the Arts,” with interactive performances. 

“Eden is beautiful, one of the most stunning spaces I’ve seen on a ship,” said Tawnee Sons, a Cruise Planners agent. When Edge came out, Eden had a “unique, artsy concept” that enthralled some but put off others, she said. Sons think the revamped programming there should appeal to a wider range of people. 

The ship’s nightclub, The Club, will provide more intimate, cabaret-style entertainment such as new takes on classic circus acts with aerial acrobatics. During the day, The Club will host all kinds of activities, from live-band karaoke to archery and dance classes. 

When it comes to dining changes, new and expanded menu offerings are planned in many Apex venues. 

Cornelius Gallagher, vice president of food and beverage at Celebrity created fresh signature dishes for each of the four main dinings rooms: Cosmopolitan (new American with international influences), Cyprus (Mediterranean), Normandie (French) and Tuscan (Italian). An enlarged galley enables expanded offerings in Raw on 5 and the Magic Carpet, the movable, a cantilevered platform that is the hallmark of the Edge series

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The Fine Cut Steakhouse, which Gallagher said is Edge’s busiest speciality dining venue, will be getting upgraded proteins. And items will be added at the Rooftop Garden Grill, as well. (There, additional canopy coverings and screens will calm the wind.)

Gallagher also revamped the Eden menu, with an emphasis on flavour and local sourcing. For example, when the ship is in Spain, one dish could be fresh-caught, blazing-red carabiniero jumbo prawns.

A new storyline for Le Petit Chef, the 3-D digital animation in Le Grand Bistro, is also coming. Plus, Celebrity Apex will be adding the Craft Social Bar, which debuted on Celebrity Equinox. This casual spot offers draft cocktails, wines on tap and more than 50 craft beers served by a cicerone (a certified beer sommelier). Celebrity-style comfort food will be available  —  think mac and brie or Kobe beef sliders.

When it comes to the spa, a new collaboration with OneSpaWorld is creating broader wellness programming. Apex will offer F45 training, popularized by the actor Mark Wahlberg. The 45-minute sessions involve cardiovascular, strength and interval training. 

A new Women in Wellness program will highlight practices by noted influencers like Katie Brauer, yoga master and founder and CEO of The Yoga Professional, and Ruth Zukerman, co-founder of Soul Cycle and Flywheel Sports.

Local ingredients from visited destinations will be incorporated into a new Destination Wellness program. 

Joyce Landry, CEO of Landry & Kling Global Cruise Events, a meetings specialist, liked what she saw on Apex. 

“Edge is a beautiful ship, but when you create something new, you can have these little adjustments that elevate it to the next level,” she said. “Celebrity has done that with Apex.”



So close yet so far: Disappointment on the Norwegian Sun

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Lori Osgood’s clients were eager to visit Cuba for the first time this week when they were to cruise into Havana aboard the Norwegian Sun. The group had been planning their family cruise since last November.

It was not to be.

The Trump administration’s new regulations implemented on Tuesday forced cruise lines to immediately remove Cuba from all itineraries.

“They were excited to soak in all that Havana had to offer — the sights, sounds, people and culture,” said Osgood, a Cruise Planners travel advisor in Jacksonville, Fla. “They are disappointed that they missed their chance.”

Instead of Havana, the Norwegian Sun’s passengers headed to Nassau, Bahamas. Norwegian informed passengers with an announcement on the ship.

“I sell a fair amount of Cuba and am saddened that many of my clients who were planning to travel there will not have the opportunity to do so, at least not in the foreseeable future,” she said.

As for cruise travellers already booked for Cuba, she will spend “a few extra hours to make sure our clients who were supposed to go to Cuba are well taken care of.”

Carnival makes higher commission levels easier to reach

Carnival Cruise Line said it will lower the number of cruises agents have to sell to reach a higher tier in its commission structure.

The move will make it easier for agents to earn more selling Carnival and reverses a move the line made three years ago in the opposite direction.

Adolfo Perez, vice president of trade sales and marketing, said the move was his top priority since being promoted to his new job in June.

“Essentially what we’re doing is reducing each of the thresholds for each of the commission levels, so anywhere from the 11% to the 15% commission level we’ve reduced the number of sailed cabins required to hit that tier,” Perez said.

For example, agents who previously had to sell 400 cabins to earn the 15% level will now have to sell 250. To earn 14%, the threshold goes from 300 to 175.

The 13% level is now reached at 125 cabins, down from 200, while the 12% level is reached at 50 cabins, down from 100.

Small or beginning agents will need to sell 40 cabins, down from 50, to boost their commission rate to 11% from the starting rate of 10%.

Agencies already earning the top rate of 16% are unaffected. Perez said he feels the structure for those commission levels is already adequate.

In a statement, Vicky Garcia, chief operating officer of Cruise Planners of Coral Springs, Fla., said Carnival’s moves to recognize the value agents bring to the bottom line is a step in the right direction for the competitive landscape.

“It is obvious the company has reprioritized travel agent relationships and this trend should continue to keep the brand top of mind for travel agents,” she said.