As Celebrity Cruises prepares to launch its new ship Celebrity Edge, we talk to Jo Rzymowska, the cruise line’s MD, UK & Ireland and Asia, and winner of the Outstanding Contribution to the Cruise Industry award
Jo, you’ve been in the cruise industry for 14 years. What have been your highlights so far?
I joined Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd from a non-cruise background and had never cruised before.
Working with Royal Caribbean, Azamara and Celebrity Cruises, my eyes were opened to how wonderful a cruise can be and just how much it can bring you closer to destinations across the world unlike other holiday experiences out there. It’s so exciting to see an increasing number of people on that same journey as the industry attracts more “new-to-cruise” guests.
I’m so proud to see the brand truly on the map now, especially with the launch of our Edge class ships over the next four years. The innovation in ship design, guest accommodations and onboard venues as well as shore excursion offerings is fast and furious and keeps me on my toes – exactly where I like to be.
I’m really lucky to work with a fantastic team of dedicated colleagues who have worked tirelessly to put Celebrity Cruises at the forefront of this innovation. Celebrity Edge is our pride and joy; I cannot wait to be there to welcome guests on board the new ship in December. And winning the Outstanding Contribution award is an incredibly proud personal achievement, but it really is down to the work of my team.
How would you recommend someone who is new to cruise choose their first holiday on a ship?
There are so many myths around cruising that just do not stand up to scrutiny. I tell people about the bright open spaces on board our ships, the array of Michelin-quality food, the high-end design and authentic destination experiences that we offer. Above all else, I tell them about the award-winning service we offer, delivered by our amazing crews.
Cruising offers value for money like few other holidays, as you travel from city to city throughout a continent without having to repack your bags.
There really is a cruise to suit everyone; different tastes, different ages, different budgets, different bucket lists. At Celebrity Cruises, our point of difference is welcoming guests who are willing to pay more for the finer things in life, whether it is modern luxury design, fine food and outstanding service. We are a more expensive cruise option, but we proudly believe that the quality of our holidays is worth every penny.
Can you tell us more about Celebrity Edge? What will make this ship different from the others in the Celebrity Cruises fleet?
Celebrity Edge isn’t just different from the ships in the Celebrity Cruises fleet, but is a complete departure from cruise ship design; there is no ship like Edge anywhere.
The designer Kelly Hoppen, MBE, had never cruised before taking on the challenge of the suite and stateroom designs as well as The Retreat, a private sanctuary for our Suite Class guests. Kelly’s style and aesthetic are a perfect fit for our brand, and the subtlety and sensitivity of our collective designers will forever change what our guests expect from a Celebrity Cruises ship.
The staterooms with Infinite Balconies mean we can grow the size of our staterooms by 23 percent and bathrooms by 10 percent. With just the press of a button, guests enjoy a closer connection to the ocean and their destinations.
At every stage in the design process, we have tailored Celebrity Edge to be outward-facing, giving our guests a greater connection with the sea and their destinations than ever before. The Infinite Veranda is designed to bring the outside world in to the guest accommodation. This outward-facing, destination-focused ethos is visible across the ship, with more views and vistas than ever before.
The Magic Carpet, cantilevered on the side of the ship, ascends and descends to change function and surprise guests with new venues and experiences through the day. It moves from being a luxury embarkation station, to an extension to the pool deck and, most thrilling of all, it becomes a restaurant like no other, “Dinner on the Edge”. It’s an architectural first for a cruise ship and will capture guests’ imaginations when they step on board.
The activist Malala Yousafzai is the godmother to Celebrity Edge. How did this come about?
Choosing a Godmother is never easy, for us it was important that we had a meaningful relationship with Edge’s godmother that went further than simply being a ‘name’.
Our president and CEO, Lisa Lutoff Perlo, has been at the forefront of promoting diversity in the industry. Thanks to her brilliant leadership, Celebrity Cruises is the first line to have not one but two female captains, Kate McCue and Nathalie Alban.
We’ve also partnered with the Regional Maritime University in Ghana to see increased numbers of female bridge officers from the region graduate, including new recruit, Nicholine Tifuh Azirh, who joined Celebrity Cruises last year.
It was because of our tangible and real-world commitment to promote women in the industry that we approached the Malala Fund and that Malala agreed to be Celebrity Edge’s new godmother.
There are few people in this world as extraordinary as Malala Yousafzai. Her incredible bravery and tenacity in the pursuit of education for girls around the world, is a true inspiration.
Will the new concepts that are being introduced on Celebrity Edge be rolled out across the Celebrity Cruises fleet?
Absolutely. We recently announced the Celebrity Revolution, a $500-million investment to take the entire fleet to the Edge. Over the next five years, it will transform all of Celebrity Cruises’ ships and bring many of the designs and features found on board new ship, Celebrity Edge to the rest of the fleet. Once again, we will be collaborating with Kelly Hoppen to bring her signature style to the other ships, beginning with Celebrity Millennium in early 2019.
What are you looking forward to most about Celebrity Edge?
I’ve booked and paid for a cruise on Edge, staying in one of the two-storey, Kelly Hoppen designed Edge Villas. I’m so excited, as is my partner, Lynne, who’ll be with me to enjoy every moment of it.
What is your favourite thing about being at sea?
At sailaway, I go to the Lawn Club, listening to the ocean, feeling the freshly cut grass of the lawn between my toes and sipping on a large G&T. It’s a surreal experience the first time you find yourself on a real grass lawn while at sea, but it’s wonderful, and for me, the moment I know a holiday has properly begun.
Celebrity Cruises also won Best for LGBT Cruisers at the British Cruise Awards. What initiatives has it taken to become more inclusive?
I’m so proud to be part of an industry that leads the charge in so many areas and embraces diversity.
Like so many of my cruise sector colleagues, I am a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion, and I’m proud of the steps that we all continue to make in ensuring that cruise is a rich and rewarding world to work in.
We simply want all our guests, whoever they may be, however they self-identify and whoever they may or may not fall in love with to experience the same level of
service as any other guest might expect on their cruise.
Celebrity Cruises is recognised globally as a vocal and active leader in LGBT+ equality and celebrates the diversity of all of its guests, crews and staff.
We became the first US cruise line to offer legal same-sex marriages at sea in October 2017. We celebrated Pride Month with our second annual Pride Party at Sea – a worldwide inclusive party that took place in tandem across the fleet.
On the first night of a Celebrity Cruises holiday, we hold a meetup and silent disco for LGBT+ guests in the Martini Bar. It’s by far one of the best parties on the ship – if I’m able to, I love to join in the fun.
Is there anywhere still on your cruise wishlist?
Next May, Celebrity Flora sets sail in the Galápagos Islands. Flora is a 100 guest all-suite ship specifically designed for the region and sharing the same design ethos as our Edge class ships. I’ve booked my place on board in 2020 to celebrate my next big birthday. I cannot wait.
Where are your personal favourite destinations? Do you have a favourite city, for example?
I loved Iceland; I was only there for a very quick trip, but what I did see of the country took my breath away, it’s like travelling to another planet. I can’t wait to go back there some time soon.
Dublin also has a very special place in my heart; it’s such a fun city to spend time in.
My final choice has to be Majorca, it’s where I married my partner, Lynne. We are coming up to our tenth anniversary very soon, and so it holds so many special memories for us both.