It’s been a long previous 16-months with the No Sail Order in effect because of the coronavirus pandemic, but Celebrity Cruises found a way to become the first cruise line to resume sailing from a U.S. port, in Port Everglades, Florida this past June. During a “fireside chat” with Doug Wheeler, immediate past president of the Florida Ports Council, Lutoff-Perlo explained to the Club how that happened.
“Nothing has been easy with whoever is putting laws, requirements, recommendations, and executive orders in place but we’re finding our way. And so while it hasn’t been easy, we’re still able to do exactly what we said we were going to do and provide a safe and healthy environment for our guests,” she said. And while the state of Florida prohibits businesses, including cruise lines, from requiring customers be vaccinated from the COVID-19 virus, Lutoff-Perlo said it doesn’t prohibit the cruise line from asking its prospective guests if they’re vaccinated.
“Working with the Governor’s Office, we have implemented different protocols for non-vaccinated guests and so many are opting not to cruise because of those additional protocols,” she said, adding that there are also ports of call that will not allow any unvaccinated guests into their ports, another barrier to unvaccinated guests who want to cruise.
“Right now, a cruise ship is safer than Main Street. If you look at the entire population of a Celebrity ship right now, 99% of the people are vaccinated. One-hundred percent of our crew are vaccinated and no less than 95% of our guests are vaccinated. That is how we’re operating and that is how we will continue to operate,” she said, adding that additional cruises are being added each week.
Celebrity Cruises is voluntarily following all CDC recommendations. Passengers are tested for the virus before boarding and while there have been a few cases of coronavirus among the various cruises while underway, “when you consider a population of 3,000 to 4,000 on board, crew and guests, I think those statistics are pretty good,” she said.
Lutoff-Perlo has been with parent company Royal Caribbean Group for 35 years, becoming the first woman to lead one of its cruise lines in 2014, as President and CEO of Celebrity Cruises. She has led the company into an era of unprecedented growth, including the introduction of the critically-acclaimed Edge Series of ships in 2018. She appointed the first American woman as Captain in the Celebrity fleet and ultimately increased Celebrity’s percentage of women on the bridge from 3% to 27% in just five years, exceeding the industry average of 2%.
“Our crews come from all over the world. They are different colors, they are different genders, they have different sexual orientations, they have different religious beliefs. And they come onto these ships as strangers and they very quickly become family. And they’re taking care of each other and they’re taking care of our guests. I think the world could learn a lot from cruise ships in that regard,” she said.