Canadian travel agents got a chance to live like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous in Florida this past weekend (Jan. 28-29) on a jet set FAM trip hosted by the Celebrity Cruises’ Canadian sales team.
The 48-hour jaunt began in the wee hours of Saturday morning on a chartered flight, operated by First Air, from Hamilton, ON to West Palm Beach, FL, from where 131 agents embarked on whirlwind tours of Celebrity’s production studios in Miami and, notably, the 122,210-tonne Solstice-class Celebrity Silhouette, which was docked at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.
“This is the first time ever we’ve done this in Canada,” Brenda Lynne Yeomans, strategic sales and market manager at Celebrity Cruises Canada, told PAX at the trip’s welcome reception, which was hosted by Discover The Palm Beaches and Palm Beach International Airport at the West Palm Beach Marriott.
“We thought, if [agents] are going to be able to sell our product, why not jet set them down to Florida for 48 hours to see our ships and experience what Celebrity is all about, modern luxury style?” Yeomans told PAX.
A key part of that goal was to fly agents from John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport directly into Palm Beach International Airport, a charter service Celebrity offers that carries many benefits, said Kenneth Brooks, director of market sales for Canada at Celebrity Cruises.
“There’s a whole population in southern Ontario who want to avoid the big airport,” Brooks said of Celebrity’s wine-and-dine air service, which is also offered at airports in London, ON and Edmonton, AB. “The service is faster, more efficient and you’re in and out very quickly…You pay one price and it’s done.”
Many agents agreed: there’s a sense of ease that comes with landing in small-scale Palm Beach International Airport, which is just under five kilometers west of Palm Beach. “I’ve never been to an airport where my luggage is already on the carousel before I’m off the aircraft,” Brooks remarked.
Sophie Greta, director of the air service department at the Palm Beach County Board of Commissioners Department of Airports, echoed that sentiment. “Our customs facility is very thorough, but very fast in processing people,” Greta told PAX. “It’s a stress-free experience for the passenger.”
Some cruisers flying into Palm Beach go directly to their ship at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, whereas others stay to experience local life, Eda Ruddock, director of leisure sales, North America at Discover The Palm Beaches, told PAX.
“We have 47 miles of pristine beaches and everybody who golfs should come here. We have 160 gold courses…this is the golf capital of Florida,” Ruddock said.
Upon landing in Palm Beach airport Saturday morning, agents were whisked off to Miami, via coach bus, for an exclusive tour of Celebrity’s sprawling 132,500 sq. ft. production studio, where the company’s on-board shows are produced and rehearsed.
The facility, which includes 14 dance studios, 15 vocal rehearsal rooms and two aerial training studios, revolves around “matching modern ships, with modern shows,” Melissa Mullin, a production and events specialist, told PAX.
Shows on Celebrity’s ships, which cost more than $1 million to mount, are typically refreshed every five years, depending on guest feedback, Mullin said, adding that Celebrity recently finished producing 18 shows in just 18 months.
The backstage experience came full-circle for agents the following day as they were given an exclusive tour of the 2,886-passenger Celebrity Silhouette at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, hours before the ship embarked to San Juan, Puerto Rico as part of a seven-night Caribbean cruise.
Celebrity Silhouette, which launched in 2011, offers many stateroom categories, including Celebrity Cruises' signature ConciergeClass and new AquaClass, in addition to spacious Penthouse, Royal, Celebrity and Sky suites, all of which agents got to see first-hand (for complete descriptions of each category, click here).
“When you come on board our ships, you’re part of our Celebrity family,” Yeomans said. “It’s about [offering] world-class service the moment you step on board.”
Stand-out features that won over agents included the heated ceramic loungers in the Persian Garden spa, The Lawn Club and Lawn Club Grill – a country club-like activity space with real grass on the ship’s upper deck that lets guests cook their own meal, the iced-topped martini bar and the modernly-designed restaurants.
“The ship is absolutely beautiful and I think it caters to a wide array of clientele,” Becky Kershaw, a travel consultant with The Travel Agent Next Door, told PAX. “It’s clean, very relaxing, and even though you have a lot of people on board, there’s still lots of space.”
The experience gave Sarah Battistelli of Marlin Travel in Bolton, ON, a chance to board a cruise ship for the first time her travel career. “The way they’ve designed the ship is incredible,” Battistelli told PAX. “It’s elegant, it’s sophisticated and the food was amazing.”
At the heart of it all, the FAM was ultimately about giving agents a taste of what Celebrity cruising is all about.
“Agents have a big role to play but a lot of our agents have never experienced our product,” Brooks said. The experience was about “giving them a taste of what it's like for their clients to go on a cruise.”
For more information, visit celebritycruises.com.