Lisa Lutoff-Perlo is the first and only female CEO of a publicly traded cruise line.
And by extension, she is also the first and only woman to lead a Royal Caribbean Cruise line. The fact that it took until 2014 for a woman to take such a role can also be construed as a delay.
Lutoff-Perlo does not shy away from the trailblazer title. She may not have asked to be the first female cruise CEO, but she has
delivered a legacy in just three short years.
That legacy can first be seen in the ships she has spearheaded. Celebrity Edge is touted as the ship to transform all ships, with cabins and communal spaces that face outwards to the ocean.
Ever wondered why the sunloungers all face in on a cruise ship? So did Celebrity.
The Edge design, and the entertainment garden space of Eden, will change all that.
“We never wanted Edge to overshadow the fleet, we wanted it to lift the fl eet and it is doing that – more people are interested in Celebrity, which is the reason we have done all of this,” Lutoff -Perlo explains.
Celebrity is investing $400 million into the rest of the fleet to ensure they remain relevant.
But beyond the pioneering technology and design, Lutoff -Perlo is motivated by purpose. That purpose is equality and inclusion.
“When we were thinking about the heroic ship that Celebrity Edge is, we needed a heroic godmother. Probably one of the
proudest moments of my life – not just my career – was when Malala Yousafzai agreed to be the godmother,” Lutoff -Perlo says.
Celebrity have partnered with Yousafzai for two years, with a donation to the Malala Fund, to help with the education of young girls all around the world.
This approach to equality trickles through from ambassador to crew.
“A female CEO can’t just have one female captain on the fleet,” Lutoff -Perlo said.
Celebrity Cruises now boasts two female captains, the highest of any cruise line contingent.
In the last year and a half Celebrity’s head of marine operations, Patrik Dalgren has taken the number of female officers on Celebrity bridges from 5% to 20%.
They have the first female captain in the Galapagos and the first Ecuadorian woman to be a captain.
Celebrity has also appointed the first woman from Africa to ever work on the bridge of a cruise ship, as Celebrity had to work for a year to get the Ghana maritime academy recognised by international maritime regulators and organisers.
Now there are five women in Ghana’s Regional Maritime University.
Celebrity also supports the LGBT community, and are the first cruise line in the world to allow same-sex marriages on board.
Lutoff-Perlo is not concerned that this social conscience might alienate some of the demographic.
“If inclusion, acceptance and tolerance alienates people then that’s a reality and an unfortunate part of life.
It may alienate some people, however, I believe that it does the opposite.
I believe that it helps more people understand what we stand for and makes them want to cruise with celebrity as we share the same values.
I look at it in the positive way of what it does for our brand and the world versus some of the people who it may alienate.”
Lutoff -Perlo has strong ambitions for the brand.
Celebrity wants to increase the number of international guests that cruise out of Australia to take cruises in Alaska, Europe and Asia. And there’s a desire to expand their offering beyond the seas.
“We really want to be a fly-cruise brand again. About 50% of the guests that sail out of Australia need to take a flight and we’re hoping that percentage increases over time. We’ve had a lot of conversations about that recently,” she says.
Challenges still remain for Celebrity – chiefly around penetration and first time cruisers.
“I’ve been doing this for 33 years and I’m still trying to convince people this is a great way to take a vacation.”
“That gets a little frustrating and it’s a big challenge still for the industry.”
“Look at the penetration in any market, even here, it’s 5% and that’s pretty low of all the travelling public and I have this optimistic hope that people are going to really get it and decide cruising is for them,” Lutoff -Perlo states.
Lutoff -Perlo wants to see Sydney’s cruise infrastructure grow too, not just for Celebrity cruises, but for the industry as a whole.
Although, she adds, they do need somewhere for Celebrity Edge to park. “If inclusion, acceptance and tolerance alienates people then that’s a reality and an unfortunate part of life.”