Use ex-UK sailings as ‘gateway’ to booking further-flung destinations, advises Celebrity boss

Agents should use ex-Southampton sailings as a “gateway” to booking cruises to more far-flung destinations, advised Celebrity Cruises’ managing director and vice-president for the EMEA region, Giles Hawke.

Speaking to Travel Weekly onboard Celebrity Apex, which is homeporting in Southampton in summer 2024 and 2025, Hawke urged agents to recommend ex-UK departures to customers who are either new to the Celebrity brand or are not keen on flying.

He emphasised the value of homeporting an Edge-class ship in the UK to target those customers, but described Southampton as “part of a whole picture” of the brand, which has ships sailing in destinations around the world.

He highlighted Asia as a popular market for UK customers and encouraged agents to suggest the destination once their customers have returned from an ex-Southampton cruise, claiming once someone has been on board they will “definitely” want to return, saying: “Once they’ve booked, they’re hooked”.

“There’s a group of people who don’t want to fly and would rather sail out of the UK’s national port of Southampton which is why it’s important for us to have some of our best hardware here so we can attract those people, but we also have a massive part of our fleet on fly-cruise,” said Hawke.

“[Agents should] get those who don’t want to fly or maybe haven’t been on Celebrity before to try a cruise out of Southampton, but then encourage them to go further afield and sail on one of our other ships in the rest of the world.

“We don’t want to be solely focused on Southampton. It’s an important part of what we do, but we know people want to get straight to the Mediterranean, the Caribbean or Alaska, plus we have a massive programme in Asia and big demand from British passengers to go there. Southampton is part of the whole picture.”

Hawke said demand for Apex sailings is “massive” for both 2024 and 2025, with British passengers making up 60%-70% of the passengers on board, followed by “strong” demand from the North American market.

He urged agents with customers who know the specific sailing or cabin-grade they wish to book to secure their cruise for the 2025 season now as some cabin categories are sold out on sailings departing this year, with the ship’s highest-grade cabin, the Iconic suite, “pretty much sold out” for the whole 2024 season.

Hawke went on to say the line is welcoming 1,000 agents onboard Apex this summer, but has plans to invite more on next year, as well as some other “exciting” opportunities for the trade in 2025.

“We’re having over 1,000 agents coming on ship visits this summer on Apex, and next year we’ll do more,” he said.

“We’re also looking at some exciting options for 2025 to see how we can get more agents on. We haven’t finalised the plans yet, it’s a work in progress, but we’re looking at what we can do.”

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