Of course there’s only one thing to write about this month … my summer holiday. I have just returned from two weeks bobbing about in the Mediterranean on a big boat. The big boat in question was the Celebrity Eclipse, a 122,000 gross tons floating luxury hotel cum resort catering for nearly 3,000 demanding passengers.
This wasn’t the first cruise ship my wife and I have been on – over the past 8 years we have been happy to spend as much of our children’s inheritance as we can on cruise holidays, alternating between P&O and Princess Cruises, but this year we fancied a change.
We chose the Celebrity Eclipse not necessarily for the itinerary, the service, entertainment, bars, restaurants, gym, casino, pools, cabins or the cost. The other cruise ships we have been on all offer similar facilities and services. What did it for us was the attraction of the Celebrity brand – and in particular the contemporary, genuinely exciting and unique design of the ship itself.
From the fully grown tree suspended in mid-air in one of two 12 deck atriums, the modern art and sculptures that adorned the stairwells and The Lawn Club (it really was grass) on deck 15 where we played boules each evening before getting ready for dinner, the only way to describe the on-board experience was “cool”.
I think it was Tom Peters who once said, “Design, as I see it, is arguably the #1 determinant of whether a product-service-experience stands out … or doesn’t”, so making something “cool” seems like a pretty good marketing strategy to me.
But if you are really going to win hearts and minds you have also got to deliver exceptional customer service as part of the whole package. This is where Celebrity Cruises also excelled – or to be more precise, redeemed themselves.
The second part of our cruise experience story relates to the Pool Butler “service”. On the basis that there were not enough sun beds for every passenger Pool Butlers would remove towels from any beds that were unoccupied for more than 30 minutes – freeing them up for other passengers to use.
Not a problem if you are taking a quick 10 minute dip in the pool, but what if you want to take more than 30 minutes for lunch and don’t want to have to search for another premium spot on the sundeck when you get back? You are on holiday – you don’t need this stress! Why should you have to leave a note on your bed saying “Gone to lunch, back soon” (yes, I actually tried this).
To cut a long story short, on two occasions my wife fell victim to over-zealous Pool Butlers removing her towel from her sun bed even though she had not exceeded the 30 minute limit, and when she complained to the officer in charge of the sundeck she got little sympathy.
Fortunately, guest relations were more understanding and not only apologised but also instantly provided us with two large, extra-soft gold coloured bath towels, normally reserved for passengers occupying suites, to use on our sun beds for the rest of the cruise. We were assured that the Pool Butlers, or “Pool Bullies” as we nicknamed them, wouldn’t dare remove them, even after 30 minutes. That evening they also sent a note of apology to our cabin accompanied by a bottle of champagne.
So next year we will be cruising on the Celebrity Silhouette, the newest ship in the fleet – essentially the result of a luxury brand living up to and exceeding its promise. We just need to buy a couple of large, extra-soft gold coloured bath towels and we will have another stress-free holiday.
If you are interested in the subjects of Customer Experience Management and Design keep your eyes peeled for two CIM events taking place in London. The first is on 29 September when leading customer experience consultant Mike Ashton, former Senior Vice President, Marketing & Brand Management of Hilton International and Anthony Thomson, Chairman of Metro Bank take to the podium. And early next year the CIM Creative Communications market interest group hope to run a session on Design in partnership with the Design Business Association.