Michael Bayley stepped into the top job at Celebrity Cruises at a transitional time. The last of five new ships in the Solstice class was about to be delivered, and the company’s focus was shifting to strengthening the market for the 11-ship fleet and updating the older ships rather than rolling out a series of new vessels.
But if anyone has experience navigating the cruise business, it’s Bayley, a 30-year veteran of parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises who has worked both on ships and in corporate roles during his tenure and has been on “hundreds and hundreds” of cruises. Past jobs include executive vice president of operations for Royal Caribbean International; executive vice president overseeing international development for the parent company and senior vice president of hotel operations for Royal Caribbean International.
Bayley took over at Celebrity in August. His predecessor, Dan Hanrahan, announced his resignation in July to move to the president and CEO position at hair salon company Regis Corp.
In an email interview, Bayley talked about his main priority for the brand, the challenging year that the industry has faced and Miami’s importance in the cruise world. The brand’s latest ship, the 3,046-passenger Celebrity Reflection, was scheduled to arrive at PortMiami on Dec. 1; the inaugural Caribbean sailing departs Wednesday.Q. It’s no secret the past year has been difficult for the cruise industry, with the Costa Concordia incident in January, Europe’s continued economic woes and unrest in the Middle East occasionally impacting itineraries. How comfortable (or uncomfortable) were you with launching a new ship this fall?
Somebody wise once said this business is a marathon, not a sprint. We had planned and designed Celebrity Reflection and her sister ships years ago, which is a reflection of the industry’s approach. We need to think long-term, and also deal with short-term cyclical challenges. Ours is a brand that consistently delivers a quality vacation to its customers, and can ride out cyclical challenges.Q. The fifth and final ship in the Solstice class debuted just a couple months after you took over as president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises in August. With that project wrapped up now, what is your main priority in this new role?
My main priority now is finding the sweet spot for the Celebrity brand in the American market.Q. The brand has a reputation as being popular with baby boomers and older adults; are you looking for ways to appeal to younger audiences as well?
Absolutely. Ironically, I’m both a Boomer and an older adult who has two young kids, so it’s not mutually exclusive. We know there are others like me and those who are younger, too, who have kids, and Celebrity offers a variety of family-friendly activities and experiences.Q. Celebrity Reflection is in Miami for the season, joining a host of other new ships. How does your product stand out in a crowded field?
One of many positive aspects of the growth of our industry is that brands are now more clearly differentiated. We’ve ensured the Celebrity brand has increasingly greater clarity, particularly with our modern luxury positioning.Q. How important is it for cruise companies to have a ship sailing from Miami, especially in the winter?
Miami is the cruise capital of the world for a reason. It offers phenomenal access to the Caribbean, which is one of the most popular destinations not only for North Americans, but the rest of the world, as well. It’s a fantastic location for exciting pre- and post-cruise vacation options, too.Q. What do passengers like most about the new ship? And is there anything they have complained about that you’ve been able to tweak?
What our guests like most about Celebrity Reflection — and every Celebrity ship — is our people, our service culture, and our attention to detail.Q. You’ve worked in the cruise industry for a long time; what still surprises you?
Whether it’s the Celebrity brand, the brands within our family, or in the competitive set, it’s the quality and level of innovation we bring to the design of our ships and the experience we provide to our customers that sets us apart.Q. What are Celebrity’s biggest untapped markets?
The USA!Q. What is your vacation of choice?
Staying at home with my kids.Q. Royal Caribbean Cruises’ offices are based at PortMiami; how often are you actually there and how much time do you spend traveling?
In this role, I’m in the office quite frequently. I’d say I travel about 25 percent of the time.Q. Best place for a power lunch in Miami?