This past weekend Celebrity Cruises took delivery of the fourth ship in its Edge-class series, Celebrity Ascent. During a press conference onboard the newly inaugurated ship, Jason Liberty, president and CEO of the Royal Caribbean Group, and Laura Hodges Bethge, Celebrity Cruises' president, shared insights into what's new for the ship, why the brand has increased its Caribbean focus, and where the Celebrity Cruises brand goes from here.
Speaking of the differences between Celebrity Ascent and the other Edge-class ships, Hodges Bethge emphasized the fact that the ship has a renewed emphasis on entertainment. Specific to Ascent, the brand launched three new shows, Awaken, Bridges, and Smoke and Ivories.
Also new on Ascent is an Annex Room, which is a small room near The Club, where guests can rent out the space with food and bartenders for private parties, karaoke nights, or team-building events. The casino floor was also redone with a completely new layout and The Club will now feature a new augmented reality element with live games for kids.
Celebrity is also renewing its focus on the Caribbean, both Hodges Bethge and Liberty said.
"Our guests want to sail on our ships in all corners of the world all year round," explained Hodges Bethge. "We’re in the Caribbean year-round for the North American customers who want an easy vacation."
Liberty added that "the Caribbean is one of our highest-rated destinations and demand in general has been very good and continues to be good."
Liberty also said the Caribbean is necessary to serve the drive-to market, which he called an "important" market for Royal Caribbean Group.
"We want to make sure that we are bringing the product to meet them [guests] where they want to be. For each one of our segments, we're looking to be relevant to what our customers want."
It's part of the reason Celebrity added Port Canaveral as a new homeport starting next year.
Hodges Bethge emphasized that overall the brand is looking to make it easy and accessible to all guests and this new port will allow folks to come in from Georgia and other nearby states.
"The reception to the announcement has been amazing and the Equinox will do amazing in the market."
"Port Canaveral connecting with Orlando has done a lot of great things to expand demand capabilities," she added. "Lots of things have positioned it to be very competitive as a homeport."
As for what's next for Celebrity Cruises, Hodges Bethe said the brand is already starting to dream up what the next series of ships will look like.
"As we start dreaming about the next class of ships, we're thinking about the modernization of the Solstice class and how the brand continues to evolve."
For now, she noted that the brand has seven new products and experiences on the next vessel.
"Our goal and our focus is to be the best premium experience full stop."
Speaking more broadly on what's next, Liberty offered insights into Royal Caribbean Group's sustainability mission. By the end of this year, he said the company will have reduced carbon emissions by six percent.
In the future, Royal Caribbean has committed to designing and building a net zero ship by 2035.
"It's a journey. This journey will be heavily dependent on alternative fuels but we have a responsibility to be ready for that when it happens."