by Mark Tre’ – "The Cruise Examiner"
As 122,000-ton Celebrity Eclipse sails on her maiden voyage from Southampton, some are still pondering what will be the effect that having four ships of this size based in Europe in 2011.
Certainly, Celebrity seems to be doing better as a brand now if we can judge by its management bonuses last year. Meanwhile, the Eclipse‘s emergency trip to Spain last week to pick up tourists stranded by the Icelandic volcanic ash clouds set the scene for her christening on Saturday.
Celebrity Eclipse Will Be One of Six Celebrity Ships in Europe
Not long before Celebrity Eclipse was delivered earlier this month, her owner, Celebrity Cruises announced that it would be basing all four Solstice class ships in Europe in 2011. This will include Celebrity Solstice, now in year-round Caribbean service, Celebrity Equinox, christened in Southampton last year, and Celebrity Silhouette, which will enter service in July 2011.
With Celebrity Mercury and Celebrity Constellation in Europe as well, the summer of 2011 will mark the first time the line has had six vessels in Europe since the 1960s and 1970s, when predecessor Chandris Cruises operated ships out of Southampton, Amsterdam and Piraeus, among other ports.
The new Southampton-based Eclipse was named on Saturday by celebrity yachtswoman Emma Pontin, a woman who has not only sailed around the world and crossed the Atlantic fifteen times, but has also recently beaten breast cancer and written a book about it.
As well as Eclipse, which starts from Southampton this year, Celebrity Constellation will introduce a new series of 7-day alternating Mediterranean voyages from Piraeus in 2011.
Silhouette then enters service in July 2011 with her maiden voyage from Hamburg to Civitavecchia, after which she will operate a 9-night Mediterranean cruise before a series of 12- and 13-night Holy Land sailings from Civitavecchia. Equinox will also sail from Civitavecchia, offering 10- and 11-night round-trips.
Thereafter, Silhouette will become the first Solstice ship to serve New York when she positions to Bayonne’s Cape Liberty cruise port for 12-day Caribbean cruises during the winter of 2011-12.
Constellation‘s week-long Med cruises will leave Piraeus on alternating Holy Land and Greek Isles itineraries. Constellation is now being "Solsticized" to bring her services into line with the four new ships. A new four-night Greece land package will also be available with the Piraeus programme while other cruise-tour choices will include Madrid and Barcelona; Venice, Florence and Rome; Paris and London Paris and Amsterdam.
Solstice is based in Port Everglades for weekly Caribbean cruises throughout 2010, and will return to Europe for 12-night cruises from Barcelona in 2011. Eclipse, now running from Southampton, will be offering cruises from Barcelona in 2011 after the new Celebrity Silhouette is delivered.
Celebrity Must Be A Success
Success seems to breed money, even in a recession, and if we are to judge by the latest executive compensation figures from Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, then Celebrity Cruises must be a success. Celebrity president and ceo Dan Hanrahan’s compensation last year reached $2.4 million, up from $2 million, mainly due to a bonus award increase of nearly 88%, reflecting the strong performance of Celebrity relative to budget. His bonus was $723,000, up from $385,000, and his salary rose by $40,000, to $600,000.
Chairman and ceo of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, Richard Fain received $5.4 million in compensation in 2009, down from $5.8 million in 2008, partly due to a lower bonus based on company results. In a company filing, Mr. Fain’s $1 million salary was the same, but his bonus of just under $1.2 million was 18% lower than his $1.4 million bonus in 2008. He also received stock awards valued at $2.1 million, down from $2.4 million, and option awards valued at $715,000, slightly lower than 2008. Other compensation of nearly $175,000 included auto, life insurance and other benefits.
Meanwhile, the other brand Royal Caribbean International’s president and ceo Adam Goldstein saw his compensation decline. It was down to $2.7 million from $3.2 million because his company results bonus dropped nearly 55%, to $532,000, compared to just under $1.2 million in 2008, while his salary was $700,000, roughly the same.
So the boss of Celebrity now makes more than 85% of the boss of Royal Caribbean (compared to 77% the year before) and he received almost 90% in overall compensation (compared to 62.5% the previous year), both signs that the Solstice class ships must be a real success.
Volcanic Ash Brings About Unusual Cruise Ship Schedules
Celebrity Cruises made the news in a good way last week when instead of taking 2,000 travel agents on a free 2-day cruise from Southampton Eclipse went south to Bilbao to rescue more than 2,000 stranded clients of Thomson, First Choice, Thomas Cook and Co-Operative Travel, tour operators that work with Celebrity, and about 100 priority passengers from the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office in Madrid. While the tour operators covered Celebrity’s port costs in Bilbao, Celebrity chief, Mr. Hanrahan, said this voyage was not really about cost.
Meanwhile, one of those tour operators, Thomson, brought its own Island Escape all the way north to Falmouth last Friday to land passengers who had been on a fly/cruise, along with 300 non-cruise Thomson passengers from Madeira, and then boarded passengers for what was to have been her next fly/cruise from the Canaries to Palma de Mallorca.
Meanwhile, it sent its newly-introduced Thomson Dream from Palma to Barcelona to land a number of her own fly/cruisers for overland transport back to the UK. One wonders whether some of them may also have been on Celebrity Eclipse when she arrived back in Southampton last week.
European travellers stranded in the United States were lucky enough to be able to catch one of the many cruise ships that are operating positioning voyages towards Europe at this time of year, although many were already sold out. North American travellers stranded in Europe had a harder time however as RMS Queen Mary 2’s first two trips of the season to New York were already sold out, but some did manage to book passage on cargo ships, although such space is very rare.