Celebrity Cruises has postponed the naming ceremony of new ship Celebrity Apex this month in response to the coronavirus outbreak, but two planned inaugural sailings are still to go ahead.
Apex was due to be named in Southampton on March 30 – the event would have been the first time Celebrity Cruises named a ship in the UK for ten years.
The Edge-series ship’s naming ceremony will be rescheduled to take place later this year in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from where it will sail to the Caribbean this winter.
The line’s two two-night inaugural sailing events, which around 1,000 UK and Irish agents have been invited to, are expected to go ahead as planned on March 28 and March 30.
A Celebrity Cruises spokeswoman said it would be insensitive to the wider industry for Celebrity to host the event when companies are dealing with the fallout of the coronavirus outbreak.
She added: “We [the UK] are still getting the ship first out of the shipyard, and we can’t wait to show her off to all our trade partners.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to celebrate our ship in the UK market, but it’s times like these where we have to be sensitive to the environment the wider industry is working in.”
In a letter to guests due to attend the naming ceremony, Celebrity’s president and chief executive Lisa Lutoff-Perlo said: “We always expected Apex to be an extraordinary ship, but the extraordinary times we’re living right now have come as a surprise.
“Those who know me, or even know of me, know that I’m not much of a traditionalist. One tradition I do cherish, however, is the tradition of launching a new ship with a groundbreaking naming ceremony, and a groundbreaking godmother [technology activist Reshma Saujani]. I believe the karma and energy around the naming of a ship and its godmother are important to its future, its guests and its crew.
“To that end, we believe that continuing with the naming ceremony in the current environment would be inconsistent with the spirit and intention of such an important and meaningful event. We have therefore made the difficult decision to postpone our formal naming ceremony until later this year and will name Celebrity Apex when she arrives in Fort Lauderdale to begin her Caribbean season.”
Additional health and safety measures have also been implemented on Celebrity ships, which have been subject to “special sanitising”, Lutoff-Perlo said.
Any guest, or crew member, who has travelled to, from, or through China, Hong Kong, Macau, Iran, South Korea, or Italy within 15 days of departure will not be allowed to board, including those who had connecting flights in affected countries.
For the inaugural sailings from Southampton, all guests and crew are to receive a pre-boarding health screening and anyone with a temperature of 100.4 or higher will receive additional medical screening and/or be denied boarding.
Lutoff-Perlo added: “While we find ourselves in uncharted territory and, as our captains will tell you, sooner or later everyone who sails into rough seas eventually sails into calmer waters. I know we are all anxiously awaiting those calmer waters.
“The health and safety of our guests and our crew are now, and have always been, at the forefront of everything we do every single day. These protocols are attached for your reference.”