Having been an integral member of the Celebrity family for the last decade, Celebrity Cruises’ UK expert Leon Hand sure has some wonderful stories and insights to share.

During his recent trip Down Under we spoke to him about all things Celebrity from Eclipse’s upcoming arrival to Melbourne to the ship’s amazing rescue sailing back in 2010.

Leon Hand

Read on for our fascinating chat with Leon Hand.


What are the latest exciting developments in the Celebrity Revolution?


We have already taken three of our ships, Millennium, Summit and Equinox, to the edge as part of The Celebrity Revolution – a $500 million investment in ship-wide upgrades and breath-taking reimagined spaces.

And we’re aiming to have four more sailing as new next year – Constellation, Silhouette, Infinity and Eclipse.

Most exciting for Australian travellers is the highly anticipated arrival of Celebrity Eclipse in Melbourne. Fresh from a multi-million dollar modernisation, Eclipse will mark Celebrity’s first ever season sailing from Victoria, bringing local holidaymakers modern luxury design and award-winning culinary experiences right to their doorstep.

What’s more, local favourite and Sydney-based, Celebrity Solstice, will follow her sister’s lead with a modernisation planned for 2021.


Can you dish any cool details about the new Celebrity Apex launching in April next year?


Much like her stunning sister, Celebrity Apex will exude modern luxury with its innovative outward-facing design and visionary spaces unlike anything else at sea.

From the transformational accommodations, revolutionary features and culinary adventures, guests can expect to experience a world of extraordinary onboard Celebrity Apex.

While some details are yet to be revealed, I’m personally very excited that Apex will be officially launched from the UK, in the port of Southampton where she will offer five sailings from the UK before sailing to Barcelona.

One of the new itineraries from Southampton is the 10-night northern Capital Cities cruise, with our first ever overnight call to Oslo, as well as calls to Amsterdam, Stockholm and Copenhagen.


Ahead of Eclipse’s upcoming arrival to Melbourne, we’d love to hear about your history with the ship, in particular, the rescue she was involved in.


Eclipse has always had a very special place in my heart. In 2010, Celebrity Eclipse was set to be the first ship in the fleet named and operated from the UK, so the lead up to her inaugural season from Southampton was beyond exciting and we had spent months planning what was going to be an incredible launch event.

But. That launch event soon turned into something very different, and even more memorable!

As many people remember, 2010 marked the ‘ash cloud’ when the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland awoke after 100 years dormant to disrupt flights around the world.

So just days away from our event, the ash cloud left travellers stranded all around Europe. So we made the decision to cancel our launch events and instead, Celebrity Eclipses’ inaugural voyage was a rescue mission to Bilbao, Spain to help 3,000 stranded British holidaymakers return home.

This background story of Eclipse’s first journey epitomises what the Celebrity brand is all about – opening up the world to make people’s lives better and inspiring others to do the same.


Why should Aussies not miss Celebrity Eclipse when she comes Down Under?


She is a stunning, sleek ship, and the third of the world-famous Solstice class, which was ground-breaking when launched because of industry-first features such as the Lawn Club (half an acre of real grass on the top deck) and 85% balcony and above accommodation.

Eclipse’s revamp will see her accommodations, culinary programme and public spaces completely modernised by a formidable line-up of world-renowned experts, including famous UK interior designer Kelly Hoppen.

Other exciting new features include cool cabanas on the Lawn Club and an open air movie screen to enjoy the latest blockbusters under the stars. Stay tuned as more details will be announced.


What are the top reasons passengers should book a Celebrity cruise?

Modern Luxury as a concept is all about luxurious, high-end holidays that aren’t formal, traditional or stuffy.

Instead, we’re about creating experiences that broaden horizons, challenge the ordinary and go beyond expectations of a luxury holiday.

From unique sensory experiences such as the revolutionary Le Petit Chef where guests can enjoy the immersive, mind-blowing fusion of entertainment and dining; to the innovative and stylish spaces such as the Magic Carpet – the world’s first cantilevered, floating platform that reaches heights of 13 stories above sea level; to the intuitive service and extraordinary entertainment – not to mention the incredible destinations to be discovered along the way.

This is unique in the cruise industry and Celebrity Cruises wins awards and recognition because we have proven that we are leading innovators in design, accommodation, culinary offerings, destinations and service.

This is even truer now, with the introduction of Celebrity Edge which, as we say, leaves the future behind. It is utterly revolutionary and transformational in every way.


What is your favourite cruising memory?

Celebrity Infinity - Liverpool

Image: Cruise Liverpool

I think my best memory is boarding Celebrity Infinity in my home city of Liverpool and seeing an amazing firework display over the River Mersey in honour of our overnight call there five years ago.

I was so proud and emotional to be there in the city I grew up in, working onboard one of the most beautiful ships in the fleet.

I was out on deck to watch it all, then the captain did a 360-degree turn, tooted the horn and sailed out of the port and into the Irish Sea to go to Cork, Ireland. It was amazing and unforgettable!


What is your favourite Cruising destination?

That is a tough one! I love Kotor in Montenegro, as it is a tiny and unspoiled port in a really gorgeous country.

Sailing in and out of Kotor is just breath-taking as the ship glides between hundreds of little islands in a set of fjords before it can get into Kotor.

The port is so small that the ship tenders a few miles out to sea, and the views of the old city and the landscape are utterly stunning.