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Cruise ship interview - - Celebrity Summit - - Celebrity Cruises - - Julian Bracenbury


A Conversation with
Julian Brackenbury,
Hotel Director,
Celebrity Summit


Richard H. Wagner
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As the Hotel Director on the elegant Celebrity Summit, Julian Brackenbury is
in charge of the services that shape the guests vacation experience including
the dining and the accommodations as well as the activities and
entertainment.  In addition to experience with other cruise lines, Brackenbury
brings to the job experience managing resorts in the Caribbean and in Africa.  
As such, he is well-placed to tell what Celebrity Summit is all about.

“The Summit is an elegant ship.  It is a very big ship with a small ship feel.  
Rather than big spaces, we have lots of small pockets of activity so it feels a
bit more cozy than some of the big ships.  It is an easy ship to find your way

Summit is also an uncrowded ship.  “Equivalent ships of this size on other
lines would hold 3,000 guests; we never have more than 2,300 - - a lot of

“It is very friendly.” With approximately “2,000 guests and a thousand crew,
there is a good [passenger-to-crew] ratio,” which translates into “great

“This ship does have an exceptionally exceptional crew.  Most cruise ships
have good crews but we really have an exceptional crew.  A ship is only as
good as its crew. We look after them.  We have a great captain [Captain
Yannis Berdos]; the management team is good, they communicate well with
each other; and the crew is one of our core focuses.”

Brackenbury sees Summit, which entered service in late 2001, as being in her
prime.  “New ships have their problems and it takes a year or two to iron them
out and then they are in their flow.  This ship is not old enough yet to be a
maintenance nightmare.  She is in good shape.”

Celebrity is a cultured and sophisticated and sophisticated cruise line, which is
reflected in the activities and entertainment onboard   Recently, Celebrity re-
designed its programming under the banner Celebrity Life, adding new
concepts and changing how the programming is presented.  “Celebrity Life is
a sensory experience.  It is meant to be enlightenment, enrichment and
education.  It is not just activities.  All the events are events that you will walk
away from having gained something from it.  It is not like a trivia quiz or a
pool game.  It is something you will gain something from.”

The Celebrity Life concept was first introduced when the company launched
the second ship in its Solstice class, Celebrity Equinox and is now being
introduced throughout the fleet.   “The only limitation we have is that we do
not have as many choices of venues.  The Solstice class are bigger ships. so we
have to be more strategic with our planning.  We can offer the same events - -
the core elements of Celebrity Life, we don’t have any restrictions.  It has
been very well-received [on Summit].”

Celebrity is also known for its sophisticated dining.  Although Brackenbury
came to Celebrity from Norwegian Cruise Line where flexible dining was
born, he recommends the traditional cruise ship dining system on Summit
because of the personal service and the relationship that develops between the
passengers and staff over the course of a cruise.  “On the face of it, some
people would say there is not as much choice [with traditional dining] and if
you look specifically at times to eat, there is not as much choice.  But in terms
of managing your experience and delivery of your expectations, it is a lot
more manageable.  We can better prepare and better ‘wow’ people when we
know they are going to be there at a given time.  It is a far better experience.”

“That said, we do realize there is an element of our guests that do like more
flexibility and that is why we have Celebrity Select Dining, which is slowly
rolling out [across the Celebrity Fleet].  On Summit, the restaurant is on two
levels.  One half of one deck will be turning into Celebrity Select Dining.  You
can dine between 6 and 9:30.   You make a reservation within that window so
we can prepare for you.  You could just turn up but then, of course, there is a
risk you won’t get in.  So that is coming but our core operation still will be the
main and the late seating.”

Because Summit is a more upscale ship, the line asks guests to maintain
certain standards so that all can enjoy the experience.  “We have a dress code
- - basically, smart casual and above.  We do try to encourage our guests to
adhere to that as much as possible.  Obviously, some people’s interpretation of
smart casual or formal may be different than your interpretation or my
interpretation, but we do have a dress code.  We do advertise the dress code -
- it is on the website, it is in the daily newspaper.  We enforce it as much as
we respectfully can.”

Celebrity Cruises is owned by the same company, Royal Caribbean Cruises
Ltd., that owns Royal Caribbean International.  However, Summit is a
different experience from the experience on the RCI ships.   “Royal is a great
product and serves its market well [but] it is a totally different product.  Royal
is about fun and adventure.  Celebrity is about food and service.  Royal is very
vibrant, very lively, very family.  We are very refined, very service-oriented,
very calm.  That is the difference.”

Even so, people who begin cruising with RCI as young families will often
cruise with Celebrity as they mature.  “You do see over the years a
progression.  You see the same couple or the same family will work their way
through the brand.”

As a cosmopolitan cruise line, Celebrity attracts diverse nationalities.  On
Summit, the mix of nationalities “depends upon the itinerary most of the time.  
This seven-day cruise we are doing right now out of Puerto Rico is mainly U.
S. guests.  [When the ship was cruising in Europe] that was much more
international - - a lot of British, a lot of Canadians, Europeans - - Germans,
French, Spanish.  Fifty percent American and fifty percent other.”

In a “nutshell,” Summit is a “well-established ship in a well-established
company with an excellent crew.”        
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