By including drinks, WiFi and gratuities in its base cruise fare starting this month, Celebrity Cruises provides a differentiation from other premium and luxury brands that CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo says will put the line in “a category of one.”
Starting Nov. 17, under what Celebrity calls Always Included pricing, standard rates include those three amenities. From there, passengers can upgrade to one of two higher-level price packages that add inclusions such as shore excursions, onboard credits, premium liquors and streaming WiFi.
Lutoff-Perlo called the move more evolutionary than revolutionary, since Celebrity has for the past several years offered pricing and packaging with a choice of perks and inclusions. The three things included in the base fare pricing, she said, were the most popular of those perks.
“It’s not a complete departure for us. It’s a natural step toward how we have been building Celebrity over the last four to five years and really positioning ourselves as more of a luxury brand and less of a commodity and promotional brand,” Lutoff-Perlo said. “In addition, we thought about how we want to segment our brand and the guest we want to go after and what they’re looking for in vacations. Simplicity is the new luxury, and we wanted to make sure we were a simple brand to book.”
Danny Dobrott, senior manager of Avoya Travel’s Mastermind program and a former agency owner, is spearheading Avoya’s education around the Always Included pricing plan. He agreed that its simplicity “makes it a lot easier from a sales perspective.”
“Celebrity was always partially all-inclusive with the choice of perks,” he said. “Honestly, it became kind of confusing for some clients. … As one advisor said to me, it’s so much easier to explain now. You don’t have to choose your perks, you’re just getting all the perks.”
Dobrott thinks the move will make Celebrity more attractive to a younger clientele, such as people like him in their 30s, who like all-inclusive resorts in Mexico, where there are parties and activities and “everything is taken care of.”
Celebrity offers all of that now, he said, “the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas and all-inclusiveness of a Mexican resort, and it’s a high-end resort that moves every night. ”
Lutoff-Perlo said that Celebrity’s research also found that more inclusivity and simpler pricing is important to the affluent, Gen X vacationer the brand wants to target, with 75% of them saying they “wanted inclusive cruise packages and that the things they valued most were gratuities, beverages and WiFi.”
The ‘category of one’
Cruise lines over the years have continually blurred their segmentation, with the contemporary, premium, upper-premium and luxury categories often being challenged by luxurious ship-within-a-ship areas in mass-market ships or some luxury lines offering more in the way of inclusions than others.
“We’ve tried to carve a really unique position within the industry with this new luxury positioning,” Lutoff-Perlo said. “We continue to go down the journey of this ‘category of one’ for our brand that really defies all the other categories.”
Advisors agreed that the move doesn’t push Celebrity into any one segment.
Sharon Fake, director of operations at Travel Experts, said that the line’s positioning is a “bump up from upper premium, but not in direct competition with the ultraluxury segment.
“Including drinks, WiFi and tips in all levels of cabins seems a perfect match in establishing the brand as moving further into the premium-plus category,” she said.
Dobrott said that for people who like the high-end product of an ultraluxe cruise but complain that the ship “kind of turns off around 9 p.m.,” Celebrity’s move into “new luxury” makes it a good alternative.
Fake also noted that with the inclusions and corresponding pricing, “commissions for advisors will also increase.”
Lutoff-Perlo also said the travel trade will benefit from the better commissions.
“They’re earning a lot more money, and the consumer is getting a better value for these things than what they’d pay for them,” she said. “For me it’s a win-win for everyone.”
She added that Celebrity thought the pandemic pause was the perfect time to launch something as significant as this.
“We didn’t want to come out of this place we’re in now the same way as when we left it,” she said. “We thought it was time once again to elevate and move our brand forward.”
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