Shown at a recent press reception hosted by the Port of Miami onboard Celebrity Eclipse; left to right, Stewart Chiron, @CruiseGuy on Twitter; Dan Hanrahan, president and CEO, Celebrity Cruises; Bill Johnson, director, Port of Miami, and Bill Talbert, president and CEO, Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau
While the 1935-era song “Moon over Miami” exalted south Florida’s romantic aura and seaside setting, the new Miami boasts all that plus a decidedly luxurious persona. The destination is home to new high-end hotels, trendy clubs and eclectic dining. And now, the destination has an upscale cruise ship to match.
The new Celebrity Eclipse, the third in Celebrity Cruises’ highly popular Solstice-class, will sail this winter from the Port of Miami. Officials at a press briefing earlier this week onboard the ship stressed that the ship could be a catalyst for more upscale visitation.
Participating in that media session were Bill Johnson, director, Port of Miami; Bill Talbert, president of the Great Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau; and Dan Hanrahan, president and CEO, Celebrity Cruises. Stewart Chiron, @CruiseGuy on Twitter, moderated the discussion.
Officials collectively made it clear that “this isn’t the old Miami,” that the new Miami is high class, and that the Celebrity Eclipse isn’t just any ship. “Our guest mix matches up very well” with Miami’s draw of upscale visitors, said Hanrahan.
One in every seven cruisers worldwide sails from the Port of Miami. The port is coming off a world record year with nearly 4.2 million annual travelers and Johnson is projecting another strong year ahead. In addition to Celebrity Eclipse, Oceania Cruises' new Marina will arrive in February 2011, and the Costa Atlantica in January 2011.
The trend toward more cruising options for upscale travelers was enhanced with the introduction of Norwegian Epic this past summer. While Epic is a contemporary vessel, it also has an key-card access only “Villas” area with high-end suites, an exclusive lounge and restaurant, a concierge area and a private courtyard pool and sunning area -- essentially a “luxury ship within a ship” concept.
Dan Hanrahan, Celebrity's president and CEO, addresses reporters at the line's product press briefing onboard the new Celebrity Eclipse, third in the line's popular Solstice-class series of ships
But the stunning Celebrity Eclipse is a premium ship throughout and it will sail the entire winter season from Miami. “This has been an amazing class of ship for us,” Hanrahan said of Eclipse, the third of five Solstice-class ships the line will operate. “It’s broadened our reach considerably.”
“They’ve done it again,” stresses Michelle Fee, CEO, Cruise Planners, who sailed on one of the preview cruises: “Celebrity has done such a great job of combining style and elegance -- but at the same time adding a bit of ‘hip.’ The martini ice bar is always happening, and the specialty dining is an amazing experience. Combined with other special touches, I’m ready to send more customers their way.”
The Celebrity Eclipse features a modern, cutting-edge interior design; high-end amenities; trendy upscale shops; and an appealing complex of alternative restaurants including the new, fanciful Qsine, which replaced Silk Harvest and serves the creative cuisine of Chef Jacques Van Staden.
Beyond the new Qsine concept, Hanrahan said the ship is different from its predecessor Solstice-class ships in modest ways. Eclipse has new decor in the main dining room, a reconfigured mid-ship staircase, and a signature atrium tree that’s in a bit different setting. Hanrahan also said the entrance to the spa was dramatically changed to provide more separation between the gym and the spa. Cellar Masters was updated, and a new living room area in the Sky Observation Lounge was made more welcoming and positioned starboard.
The skyline of Miami towers over the nearby Port of Miami, with Terminal G's soaring tent-like design; the new Celebrity Eclipse is home ported in Miami this winter
During the press briefing, Hanrahan also gave journalists a hint of what was to come on the two future Solstice-class ships. He said that changes would be more dramatic, and that a new crafted beer venue was on tap.
As for luxurious accommodations available for guests to book now onboard Celebrity Eclipse, two 1,291-square-foot Penthouse Suites feature 389-square foot verandas. Guests might also opt for eight 590-square-foot Royal Suites with a 153-square-foot veranda. And there are a plethora of other suites and cabin configurations including pampering AquaClass staterooms with special pampering amenities.
Celebrity’s new persona, “Designed for You,” is also attracting more international guests than in the past. Hanrahan said 30 percent of the line’s guests now originate from outside North America. Thus, Celebrity is salivating at the thought of a wide selection of nonstop international flights to Miami International Airport from major cities worldwide.
That, coupled with the city’s image as an upscale, trendy destination, could build even more international visitation for Eclipse. “Being here in Miami helps us,” Hanrahan said.
Ships aside, what sets Miami apart from many U.S. cruise home ports is how long cruise visitors stay in the destination pre- or post-cruise. In most U.S. home ports, cruise visitors fly to the city, stay a night or slightly more and fly home. But officials said the average Miami cruise passenger stays 2.4 days on land pre- or post-cruise, much higher than the norm in most ports around the nation.
Those cruise visitors spend $600 million annually on dining, shopping, entertainment, sightseeing and hotel stays. With such new luxury properties as the JW Marriott Marquis, visitors might now couple an upscale city visit with a premium cruise experience. Opened just three weeks ago, the high-end Marriott boasts 313 new rooms and suites, two floors of entertainment options and a Daniel Boulud restaurant.
In addition, the new EPIC, a Kimpton property is just across the street. Both are in the heart of Miami, just blocks from the port, with spectacular city and bay views.
At a separate Celebrity Cruises press conference during one of two brief preview sailings this week for travel partners and journalists, Hanrahan acknowledged that Celebrity definitely was intrigued by Miami’s longer length of stay for cruise visitors. While the line hasn’t done anything yet to capitalize on that, he noted there could be good brand tie-ins, because “there are so many interesting hotels in Miami…there’s an opportunity.” And, he noted that one of Miami’s top hoteliers was sailing on the ship during the preview cruise.
Talbert told the media that the CVB, the Port and Celebrity would work together to market and promote the new Celebrity Eclipse service, as they did at the recent World Travel Market in London. He said it’s all about the “shared” customer and making sure that the entire destination teams up to garner more tourism business.
Johnson told journalists the cruise Port of Miami separates its cruise and cargo traffic, so the flow into the port is good, and “it’s relatively easy [for cruisers] to get on and off ships.” He said any brief delay in exiting, at times during busy periods, will be alleviated totally in a few years when the port’s new tunnel to the city is completed.
The port director made it clear that cruising is a massive economic engine for the destination. The cruise industry generates $2 billion annually in direct and indirect economic benefits. That includes everything from flowers coming off airplanes and bound for the ships, to local hotel stays, and purchases of food and liquor by the lines for use onboard.
“Thousands of people are gainfully employed” as a result of the cruise industry in Miami, Johnson stressed. One of those is Hanrahan, who quipped that he liked walking over to Eclipse to see it, given that Celebrity Cruises’ corporate offices are just across the port property. He added: “It’s nice to have Eclipse in the backyard.”