Bringing Celebrity a Taste Of Luxury

Dietmar Wertanzl Celebrity Cruises new senior vice president of fleet operationsEyebrows raised and rumors abounded when Celebrity Cruises announced the hiring of longtime Crystal Cruises executive Dietmar Wertanzl. Was parent Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCC) planning to build up Celebrity’s Mil-lennium class as a new luxury line? Were major brand repositionings imminent as a result of RCC’s intended merger with P&O Princess Cruises?

In an interview with Cruise “ Industry News soon after arriving at his new offices – and before the RCC-POC merger had been sorted out – Wertanzl offered a simpler answer to why he was brought aboard: “To bring a taste of luxury to Celebrity’s premium product. We want two brands – Royal Caribbean in the contemporary sector, and Celebrity in the premium – that are the ‘best in class.’ If Royal Caribbean is the Volkswagen, then we at Celebrity would be the Audi,” said Wertanzl.

New Responsibilities

As senior vice president of fleet operations/total guest satisfaction, Wertanzl – for the first time – oversees both the hotel and marine side of a cruise operation. Directly reporting to Wertanzl is Senior Vice President of Fleet Operations Angelos Argyropoulos on the marine side and Vice President of Total Guest Satisfaction Robert Keesler on the hotel front, while Wertanzl himself reports directly to Celebrity President Jack Williams.

“First on my list of things to do is orientation,” explained Wertanzl, when interviewed in May, “to get to know the key people, to know the existing strengths and weaknesses.” At the same time, Wertanzl is committed “to instilling the Three S’s’ – safety, service and style – in every crewmember, whether in hotel or marine. That’s our strategy.”

On the hospitality front, Wertanzl admits that one simply cannot transform a Celebrity into a Crystal. “We have limitations, but what we can do is offer the best premium experience on the market,” he said.

In general, moving in the direction of greater quality will become increasingly important in the future, believes Wertanzl, as the consumer base itself evolves. “What I see in the future is vacations becoming a much more important decision for people. As time becomes more and more precious, people will be increasingly willing to pay more for better service, rather than just focusing on the best price.”

But what exactly makes a cruise premium or luxury – particularly as analysts claim the industry as a whole is increasingly homogenized? “It’s a different target audience between the two,” said Wertanzl. “It’s a difference in time and money. The luxury group is paying much more and spending more time aboard, and the premium group is younger in general.”

Yet such definitions are not so clear-cut. Wertanzl sees gradations of the premium brand even within the Celebrity product itself. “There are really three classes of ships, and there’s a following for each. The Zenith is great for going to Bermuda. The Millennium class is great for week-long cruises. The Century class also has a following.” And back to the murky question of what is premium and what is luxury, Wertanzl noted that there are areas aboard Celebrity’s Millennium-class vessels capable of delivering a luxury-class cruise experience.

While Wertanzl admits that hardware issues differentiate brands such as Celebrity and Crystal, the concept of luxury cruising is also defined in terms of service – and one assumes Wertanzl was brought to Celebrity in an effort to bring aboard Crystal- quality service to his new line. Asked about his service philosophy, Wertanzl explained, “It’s all about the attitude of the staff, being motivated and committed – and at the same time being innovative and dynamic.”

Full Circle

There’s a certain sense of deja vu about Wertanzl’s recent appointment a Celebrity.

After more than six years at Royal Viking Line, and becoming the youngest hotel manager in the history of that company, Wertanzl was enticed by the owners of a then new luxury product, Crystal Cruises, to become its first hotel director in 1989 and to sail on its first ship, Crystal Harmony, as it left Nagasaki.

In 1991, Wertanzl joined yet another newly created brand, Celebrity Cruises, as vice president of hotel operations, overseeing the Horizon and Zenith – which at that time were the company’s newest, most upscale ships.

Then it was back to Crystal in 1994, as preparations were made to launch the company’s second vessel, the Crystal Symphony. Wertanzl remained at Crystal as senior vice president of hotel operations until earlier this year, when, once again, he has found himself back at Celebrity, where the ships he first oversaw, over a decade ago, are now the oldest in the fleet.

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