On December 1, Celebrity Cruises will make the public debut of the coolest cruise ship at sea, Celebrity Edge, followed by a naming ceremony on December 4. Celebrity poured a reported $1 billion into creating this game-changing new ship.
It’s making waves, thanks to cutting-edge design features like the Magic Carpet, an open-air platform that floats up and down the side of the ship; a clever space-enhancing stateroom feature called the infinite veranda; not to mention a parabolic ultra-bow that is transformative in terms of comfort and fuel consumption.
But it’s also a game changer due to its impressive pedigree. Its godmother is none other than Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist and youngest Nobel Prize laureate. Its design is the work of superstars such as Kelly Hoppen and Patricia Urquiola. And the driving force behind the launch is Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, the first and only woman CEO of a publicly traded cruise line.
An innovator in the cruise space, Lutoff-Perlo is known for championing diversity of all kinds and for inspiring and supporting women in the workforce. In a groundbreaking move, she hired the first American woman captain of a cruise ship; Celebrity now has an unprecedented three female captains.
With the launch of Edge, Lutoff-Perlo is elevating women to new heights. We caught up with Lutoff-Perlo right before the ship’s debut to find out why this is the ultimate ship by women and for women.
Malala: “We thought about our purpose as a brand. We thought about our gender equality as a brand. We talked about all of our diversity inclusion efforts. We talked about this heroic and transformational shift. And then we said, ‘Who should be our heroic and transformational godmother?’ says Lutoff-Perlo. The 21-year-old Malala Yousafzai — a human rights advocate and cofounder of the Malala Fund, which fights for women’s education — was a natural choice, but getting her onboard wasn’t easy.
“As you can imagine, the last thing that Malala or her team at the Fund would have thought would be a natural fit would be a cruise line. But their minds changed completely after they realized that we weren’t just a cruise line,” says Lutoff-Perlo. “We were a cruise line that really cared. We were a cruise line that had a purpose bigger than just offering vacations. And we were a cruise line that was all about gender equality. And when Malala saw that, especially the makeup of our crew and where they come from around the world, she decided she would be as honored to be our godmother as we are honored to have her.”
The Crew: Women make up 30% of the crew onboard Celebrity Edge versus the industry average in the high teens. And 37% of the guest-facing crew on the ship are women. “Gender equality and gender balance is really important to me and all the people I work with, but probably because I live it every day and really try to be purposeful about it,” says Lutoff-Perlo. “As we think about how the crew is made-up across our fleet, we really want more women. It creates a better culture. If society is 50/50, then everywhere you go it should be 50/50. That’s why I’m always amazed by the imbalance in corporate America and in politics, although we just had a lot of good things happen in the midterms where a lot of women were elected. So as I think of Edge as the pinnacle of that balance, it’s really exciting that we’ve come so far.”
Women at the Helm: “We’ve just hired our third woman captain at Celebrity, which is a big deal,” says Lutoff-Perlo. “Captain Kate McCue will be taking over this ship as captain in 2019. And we have Nicholine Tifuh Azirh, who is on Edge’s bridge. She’s the first woman from Ghana to work on the bridge of a cruise ship, part of a unique partnership with the Regional Maritime University in Ghana.”
Women Designers: In creating Edge, Lutoff-Perlo worked closely with Kelly Gonzalez, Celebrity’s senior vice president of design. Together, they employed some of the hottest names in the design space, and two of the stand-outs are Patricia Urquiola and Kelly Hoppen. “We’ve been able to create these unique environments by these amazing women designers who have made tremendous names for themselves in the design world. And even that’s not always so easy for women, because, like chefs, most of the top designers have historically been men,” says Lutoff-Perlo. “As you walk around and as you think about the most transformative spaces, transformative design and even transformative furniture, it’s because of these women.”
Women Product Designers: Throughout the retail spaces on Edge, women are showcased, from fragrance designer Jo Malone to clothing designer Melissa Odabash to jewelry designer Kallati, who created a selection of Edge-inspired jewelry. “We have digital signage for some of our shops, and one of the digital signs that rotates through is called ‘Women with an Edge,’ and it’s all the women that are part of our retail experience,” says Lutoff-Perlo. “We’ve partnered with a lot of women who, historically, have not been part of our brand because we believe that they are the future, they are very modern luxury, they are brands that are up-and-coming.”
The Women Behind the Water: Noteworthy aboard the ship are the signature aluminum water bottles from Open Water, which are used in place of plastic bottles. It’s part of the line’s commitment to leaving less of a footprint and saving the oceans — and it’s part of Lutoff-Perlo’s commitment to working with women-owned companies. Lutoff-Perlo’s niece, a college student, helped find the Chicago-based company, which is run by two women. “They graduated from the University of Miami and decided to go to Chicago on a shoestring and start up a company with no money because they knew eventually the trend would move away from plastic water bottles,” says Lutoff-Perlo. “I’m really proud and excited that we’re able to work with these two women with the sole ambition of helping save the oceans. The ironic thing is there is no plastic that leaves our ship — ever. So, we didn’t replace our plastic water bottles so that we would put less plastic water bottles in the world, because we’re zero landfill. We incinerate everything. We did it because we didn’t want to buy the plastic water bottles that keep being down-cycled. It was a statement that we cared.”
Girlfriend Getaways: “When you think about why this is a great ship for women, number one, girlfriend travel is huge. I think women would love this ship, from the design of the staterooms by Kelly Hoppen to the spa — which is absolutely glorious and again designed by Kelly Hoppen — to all of the wonderful restaurants and the attention to detail.”
On Supporting Women: “I really believe in sponsorship and advocacy because I think I can help women a lot more by helping them achieve what they’re trying to achieve versus giving them advice. So I try to model every day helping women achieve their career aspirations and their personal aspirations.”
Advice for Other Women: For other women who are trying to achieve a similar level of success, Lutoff-Perlo has some tips: “Work hard and smart and never give up because I think anybody that’s aspiring to this could get derailed at any time on the path. But I think women have a tendency to give up and not ask for things as much as men do. Unless and until that changes, we’re not going to significantly increase the percentage of women that have broken the glass ceiling.”
Shattering the Glass Ceiling: Lutoff-Perlo recently received a text from her sister, who has two daughters (including the niece who helped find Open Water). “One day, I opened up a text from my sister and it was something that she found on Facebook. It said: ‘Teach your daughters to worry less about fitting into the glass slipper and more about shattering the glass ceiling.’ And then she said, ‘Thanks to you, my girls know all about shattering the glass ceiling.'”….
Source: www.forbes.com (Laura Begley Bloom)
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