When Celebrity Equinox was launched in Southampton in July there were 10 days of inaugural events during which the ship was shown off to the cruising public, travel agents and the media.
The cost of flying over a substantial posse of American journalists, providing free food and drink for thousands of guests all day, every day, and taking the ship out to sea every night must have been astronomical.
I tried to get the figures, but Celebrity Cruises’ president Dan Hanrahan was reluctant to go into detail and his boss, Royal Caribbean’s chairman Richard Fain, would say only that it was “an unconscionable amount.”
He even joked that the longer he could keep us in a Press conference, the more he would save on the bar tab, although we did our best to catch up afterwards.
Sister ship Celebrity Eclipse will be launched at Southampton next April and will sail out of the UK for the rest of 2010. Construction at the Meyer-Werft yard in Papenburg, Germany, is ahead of schedule and the ship is going to be delivered early. So to help recover some of those “unconscionable” costs an extra cruise for paying passengers is to be squeezed in ahead of the official April 29 maiden voyage.
The “pre-maiden,” announced today by Royal Caribbean’s UK managing director Jo Rzymowska, sails to Le Havre in France and is billed as a “Paris short break” – although with the caveat that the drive to Paris by coach is two-and-a-half hours each way.
I hope the switchboard is ready for the protests from passengers who have already booked to sail on the real maiden.