Coffee Time with Industry Vets: Lisa Lutoff-Perlo

Lisa and her husband, Andre Perlo, visiting the Berlin Wall.
Lisa and her husband, Andre Perlo, visiting the Berlin Wall.

There’s more to Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, than meets the eye, so we decided to ask her those comical, personal and telling questions to reveal the woman behind the suit.

As the first woman to lead one of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.’s (RCL) cruise line brands—and the first and only woman CEO of a cruise line that’s publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange—Lisa is quite the exemplary individual. She’s led the development and launch of multiple, next-generation cruise ships, and has also created and lead RCL’s Global Marine Organization, which ensures that all of the corporation’s ships run safely, smoothly and efficiently. We’re not sure where she gets the energy to run one of the largest cruise lines in the world, but it may be found in one of the souvenir Starbuck’s mugs she collects from every destination she’s visited. Lisa’s passion for travel is evident by the fact that, after traveling for more than three decades, she still has a bucket list. We’ll let her explain in this edition of Coffee Time with Industry Vets Q&A series.

Where did you go on your first trip and how old were you?
The first trip I remember was going to the New York World’s Fair with my mother, father and sister in 1964. I was 7 years old.

What is your most vivid travel memory?
My most vivid travel memory is from my most recent trip to Israel and touring the Holocaust Museum. It was life changing and beyond heartbreaking.

What was the “Aha” moment that led you into the travel industry?
I really didn’t have an “aha” moment that led me to the travel industry. I was working in the hotel business in sales at small hotels in Massachusetts. I knew I needed a change and looked in the “Boston Globe’s” Help Wanted ad section and saw an ad for a group sales manager position with Crimson Travel in downtown Boston. It sounded interesting. I applied, got the job and the rest is history :-)

Where did you go on your honeymoon?
I did not go anywhere on a honeymoon, but my husband and I have more than made up for that during the 32 years I have been in this business and by visiting so many beautiful and wonderful places.

What was your favorite trip you took last year and why?
I took a few great trips last year, but my favorite was my trip to Israel. It was my 25th wedding anniversary, so that made it really special. Israel was a bucket list trip for both my husband and myself so that made it really special. And Israel is amazing; beautiful, historical, spiritual and diverse. It was magical.

Where would you like to go that you have yet to visit?
I have yet to visit Ireland and Iceland, but I am solving that by going in May of next year. My annual President’s Cruise is going to both places and I am very excited about the trip. I will be traveling with 2,000 loyal and wonderful Celebrity guests.

Lisa with her husband and friends in Moscow.
Lisa with her husband and friends in Moscow.

Do you always buy a souvenir the first time you visit a destination?
I ALWAYS buy souvenirs from every trip I go on—the first time and every time :-) Usually the souvenirs are beautiful and made where I am visiting and they go in my home so I can always look around me and be surrounded by beautiful things from magical places I have visited. I can’t tell you how many full sets of china I have from France, Italy, Austria, etc. My husband just rolls his eyes!

You can tell us – do you collect magnets from the destinations you’ve visited?
I absolutely collect magnets from the destinations I visit. They are all on my refrigerator in the garage (my stainless one in the kitchen won’t hold magnets :-). I also collect Starbuck’s mugs from every destination I visit. I might have to stop that as I have no more cabinet space.

What do you do to pass the time on the plane ride to your destination?
I sleep, watch movies or read mindless magazines to pass the time on plane rides. But the thing I do the most is work and when a flight I am on does not have WiFi it is REALLY, REALLY upsetting to me as I am just the type of person that needs to be productive every minute and no WiFi is very frustrating and then I just feel like I am wasting huge chunks of time, which are very precious to me.

Who is your favorite travel companion?
My husband is my favorite traveling companion. He loves to travel, he loves people, and he is like a little kid on every trip. He has never become jaded by all the opportunities we have to travel and seeing places through his eyes makes it really special.

If there were one hotel room in the world you could call home the rest of your life, which would it be?
It would be a room with a seaside view at the Hotel Villa Franca in Positano, Italy on the Amalfi Coast. One of the best places in the world that I have visited. I would live there in a minute!

Lisa meeting Nicolas Sarkozy, the former President of France.
Lisa meeting Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president of France.

If you were a destination, which would it be and why?
It would be Italy. Great food, great people, great wine, the sea, Rome, Tuscany, Sorrento, vineyards, and so on and so on and so on.  It really doesn’t get any better than Italy for me.

What is the best food you’ve had on a trip? The strangest?
I think I answered the best food with my Italy comments. The strangest has to be China. Mostly because I did’t know what [I was eating]. I also have to say that I am not a strange food fan. I am conservatively adventurous with what I eat. Otherwise I stick to what I know or I travel with bars so that I will always have something to eat regardless of where I am.

What can’t you travel without?
My own amenities; shampoo, conditioner, blow dryer, lotions, make up, you name it, I need to bring my own. No hotel provided amenities (in even the best hotels in the world) will do.

Who is the most interesting person you’ve met while traveling?
I met the former president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, completely by accident when we were having lunch in the same restaurant in St. Petersburg of all places! He was there for an economic summit and he and his entourage stopped for lunch in this little village restaurant that my party and I were dining at.

Tropical beach or snowy mountain?
 Neither. Not a beach person and don’t ski.

City or countryside?
Both…New York City or Napa, Rome or Positano, Paris or Provence…each have wonderful experiences that shouldn’t be missed.