Cruise ship interview - Celebrity Equinox - Hotel Director
Like her sister ships in Celebrity Cruises' Solstice class, Celebrity Equinox presents an atmosphere that is upscale, elegant and sophisticated while at the same time relaxed.
“For us as a company,we want to offer an experience that is luxurious but in a modern way meaning that it is not the traditional luxurious heavy experience. In terms of the service, it is very casual but casual does not mean that you can't have luxury service. It is maybe more tailored to each individual. We focus on the people.”
“A cruise experience is very personal. [Equinox and the other Solstice class] ships are designed [to accommodate you] if you want to be with your family or if you want to do things on your own; if you want to participate and be among a crowd, or [if you want to] be almost on your own. I think that is what is very pleasing to the guests.”
“At the end of the day, this is what the hospitality industry is all about. It's all about the people. There are so many places where you can go, very expensive five star hotels and you don't have any connection with the people. It is not genuine. It is something that we try and keep on the ship is to have people feel like they are being looked after by people who genuinely care.”
“It is all about sharing. We all come from different places. We have 60 different nationalities. The crew members get along with each other. Its a community and in order to work on a ship you have to be tolerant, you have to accept differences. It has to work that way for the guests coming aboard to have the feeling of being treated genuinely. This is what we want the people to share with us. We welcome you in our home and it is an international home. That is to me as a company what we want to share. That difference that we have is what can bring us together.”
When the Solstice class ships entered service, they had an upscale, contemporary look. In 2014, Equinox celebrated her fifth year of service. Yet, the ship does not look dated but rather still looks fresh and contemporary.
“When these ships were designed, the first one in 2008, they didn't look at designing a ship at a moment in time but they looked at the future, what are the trends and how those trends may develop.”
Also, “there is a lot of focus on maintenance. When you think about it, 3,000 guests every ten days is just a tremendous number of people who sit on the chairs, walk on the carpet, use the beds, you name it. So there has to be a lot of focus on maintenance.”
“You have to keep maintaining it. Maintenace is easier when you have something that was originally well-built. It is easy for a company to cut costs but we have never been cheap when it comes to maintenace. The hardware is very important especially when you have a luxury brand.”
In addition to ongoing maintenace work while the ship is in service, maintenace work was done while Equinox was in drydock in 2014. “These ships are designed to go into drydock every five years. So this ship had a drydock in April 2014. A lot of soft furnishings were replaced at that time. We changed a lot of the carpets, the fabrics, sofas and chairs.”
Beyond the maintenace work, several changes were made to Equinox's public rooms. “You have to try things. We look at the feedback of our guests, it is very important. People change. What they want today is not what they want tomorrow so you need to respond to that. If you want to have a successful business, you have to be able to read the trends and move fast.”
For example, the area that had been the Cellar Masters wine bar became a new venue, the Gastrobar. “Personally, I loved the place but it was not working as a business. It was a nice place for people to have a glass of wine but it was not working compared to the other bars and lounges.”
“Also, the Michael's Club became a venue that we use for our suite guests and so there was no place where people could enjoy a beer or a casual drink [while] watching something on a [video] screen. So people said why can't we utilize the Cellar Masters? So they decided make it into as place that is a lot more casual, where you can enjoy your sports, have a beer, have some food. Since we have had it, there has been a huge increase in revenue.”
In addition to changing the interior décor of the room, some of the walls that separated the room from the Deck 4 interior promenade were removed making the Gastrobar more of an open space. “A lot of the lack of use was due to the fact that it was closed - - it was quite intimdating for some people to get in.”
Besides being a sports bar, the Gastrobar offers comfort food items such as burgers. Guests purchase burgers here even though burgers are offered on a complimentary basis elsewhere on the ship (e.g. the Mast Grill). “We have to serve something which is different than upstairs. There is a difference in the taste and what you get in the burger, it is a more premium burger. And there is the service and the atmosphere of the place and that makes a difference.”
Another change was the Slush Bar by the main swimming pool on Deck 12. “We used to have a little shop there where we would sell sunscreen and things that you may use around the pool. Nobody was buying anything so there was this area that was underutilized. They decided to try a concept where people can get frozen drinks. The idea was that you are around the pool, it is hot in the Caribbean why not get a frozen drink - - something more fancy than the usual pina colatta that you can get at a bar.”
A third change was the addition of the Studio in the area that had been the Corning Glass Museum's display area on Deck 15. The addition of this professional portrait studio reflected the fact that “people's relationship with taking pictures in this digital era is completely different.” With the widespred use of digital cameras and camera phones, guests are less interested in the traditional photos taken by the ship's photographers on the gangway and in the dining rooms. The Studio offers guests something that they cannot do themselves.
“There is this artistic approach that you will have if you go to a professional photographer on land. Beautiful pictures, they do great work. Its a very good price because if you want to do the same quality of picture on land you will pay a lot more.”
Perhaps of greater significance than what was changed on Equinox was the decision not to make some changes to the ship. As the Solstice class ships were built, various concepts were changed and so the five ships are slightly different than one another. This gives each ship its own character.
“Some people wanted to add things like on the Silhouette and Reflection. Then there were people who said 'No, that is what makes this ship special and unique! So let's not try and copy the other ships. Enhance but keep what made that ship successful and liked by the guests. If you change too much and make a copy of the other ships, then you lose the idenity of this ship.”
One area where the propoents of standardization clashed with the propoenents of individuality was over a space by the lawn on Deck 15.Equinox, like Solstice and Eclipse, have the Hot Glass Show, a theater where guests can watch artists create fine glass items. On Silhouette and Refelection, a specailty restaurant occupies this space. “At one point, here was a discussion of remiving the Hot Glass Show and putting in a Lawn Club Grill. The Hot Glass Show doesn't [generate money]. But they looked at how much work would have to be done and there was no way they could do that during the drydock. They would have to do a way longer drydock and it was not worth it. Then again, [the Hot Glass Show is one of the reasons] why the Solstice, the Equinox, and the Eclipse are liked. The nice thing about the Silhouette and the Reflection is that they have something the other ships don't have. It is good to have those differences.”