Royal Caribbean trademarks three cruise ship names to possibly be used for new ships

In:
27Jan2017

Royal Caribbean has filed to trademark three new cruise ship names this week, with two of them not associated with any ship yet.

On January 21, 2017, Royal Caribbean filed trademark applications with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for the following names:

  • Symphony of the Seas
  • Sunrise of the Seas
  • Valhalla of the Seas

We reported on Royal Caribbean registering Symphony of the Seas, which is rumored to be the name of its fourth Oasis class ship, but the other two names are yet to be tied to any rumors. 

There are currently six Royal Caribbean ships on order, with two of them tied to rumors of what its name will be (Symphony of the Seas and Icon of the Seas). That leaves four ships without any indication what they might be called. Royal Caribbean has not officially announced the name for any of these ships yet.

5 interesting facts from Royal Caribbean's fourth quarter earnings call

In:
27Jan2017

Yesterday, Royal Caribbean held its quarterly results phone conference with investors to go over the company's performance, and while most of the call is dedicated to fiscal results, there are some interesting tidbits of Royal Caribbean information that fans can appreciate.

After listening to the call, we came away with these five facts that we learned from the discussion that we think are pretty darn interesting. It is important to note some of these figures include sister brands Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises, but the facts speak for themselves.

1. Royal Caribbean has added a lot to its ships recently

Highlighting the improvements Royal Caribbean has made to its fleet, Royal Caribbean CEO and Chairman Richard Fain mentioned that since 2014, the company has have added over 1,000 over berths, 24 restaurants, 7 bars, refreshed our retail spaces fleet wide and added boutiques such as Kate Spade, Michael Kors and even Tiffany.

That is a lot of extra amenities for guests.

2. Royal Caribbean makes the most money from onboard revenue

When we think about the cost of a cruise, often the first thought is the cruise fare, however, onboard revenue is what is driving Royal Caribbean's financial success lately.

It was revealed that beverage packaging, high speed internet and additional onboard revenue venues drove up a 7.8% year-over-year increase in ship order revenue.

3. North American demand is very strong

Demand for Royal Caribbean cruises is definitely healthy, and only moving up.  In 2017, North American products will represent close to 60% of Royal Caribbean's portfolio.  In fact, Alaska is leading the charge with "exceptional demand building on a record season in 2016."

The Caribbean will account for close to 50% of the company's full year capacity, up from 2016, mainly due to a full year deployment of Harmony of the Seas and Celebrity Equinox in South Florida. Demand for the Caribbean has been quite strong with bookings trending well ahead of last year, with the kind of growth that tells Royal Caribbean demand from North America has certainly rebounded.

4. Empress of the Seas hurt Royal Caribbean financially in 2016

For the year, 2016 was very good for Royal Caribbean, but Empress of the Seas caused some financial trouble during the year.  The extended refurbishment got things off to a rocky start, and then the company could only roll out cruises for guests to book in a smaller period of time.

The good news is looking forward to 2017, Empress of the Seas should rebound nicely because of the elevated interest in the product and the challenges in 2016 should not be present in the coming year.

5. Royal Caribbean does not want to sell out too quickly (or too late)

Perhaps the most intriguing insight into how Royal Caribbean books its cruises came at the end of the call, when Mr. Fain went into detail about how the company manages bookings.

Essentially, the company does not want to take too many bookings right away, nor does it want to wait for the last minute to have bookings come in.  As a result, the revenue management team works to adjust cruise fares to help keep bookings at a steady flow. 

Mr. Fain explained, "Really what happens is if we take too many bookings today, it’s hard to imagine that. But if you take too many bookings today, what it really means is that somebody who decides a month from today that she or he wants to take a cruise. And frankly is willing to pay more, it's simply not available. But taking too many is just as bad as thinking too few and it's getting that balance, the price integrity program has probably extended out more to take earlier. "

"So if we feel that we're taking too many bookings at a point in time, we will raise our pricing. Obviously that will lower the pace of bookings. I think it's important for people to understand that while obviously more bookings is a good thing, we actually have a great deal of discretion. Our revenue management people have a great deal of control over that pace."

Friday Photos

In:
27Jan2017

Happy Friday and welcome to our weekly showcase of our readers' favorite Royal Caribbean photos. Each week, we invite our readers to send in their favorite Royal Caribbean photos so that we may show it off to the world.

Let us jump into this week's batch!

Our first photo this week is of Shawn Crossley's daughter, Emily, posing with their main dining room waiters on Voyager of the Seas.  

D J Epstein shared this photo of Brilliance of the Seas on the Amalfi Coast in Italy.  I love this vantage point!

Our next photo is from Vas, and it is of the Boardwalk on Harmony of the Seas.  Any photo with Sabor and a slide is good in my opinion!

Next is a photo of Navigator of the Seas in Labadee, by Lucas Freshour.  I am so ready to re-create this photo when I return there as part of the Royal Caribbean Blog Group Cruise!

Tews sent us this photo of "Paulchen" enjoying a day aboard Vision of the Seas. I have never been more jealous of a stuffed animal, than I am right now.

Stephanie Morgan sent in this photo of her and her daughter on the 3-night inaugural US sailing of Harmony of the Seas.  I was actually onboard this sailing too, although I was probably somewhere onboard eating somewhere while they explored Nassau.

We wrap up this week's edition with a special photo by Mark Reed proposing to his girlfriend  while on a stop in St. Thomas.  Mark took a private excursion to the deserted island of Hans Lollik and popped the question. I think I have some sand in my eyes...

Thank you to everyone who sent in photos this week.  If you would like your Royal Caribbean photo included in a future Friday Photos post, be sure to send them to us with this form. Have a great weekend!

Royal Caribbean files trademark for Symphony of the Seas cruise ship name

In:
26Jan2017

Royal Caribbean has filed a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for "Symphony of the Seas", which seems to confirm the name that has been rumored for the cruise line's fourth Oasis class cruise ship.

Royal Caribbean filed the trademark application on January 21, 2017 and it is currently active.

Royal Caribbean has not officially confirmed the name of its fourth Oasis class cruise ship, which is due out in Spring 2018.  There have been a few different convincing rumors this month that seem to point to the name of the ship being Symphony of the Seas, including a construction site photo taken of the ship's name being prepared.

Seven things that are totally free on a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
26Jan2017

Often we highlight experiences on a Royal Caribbean cruise that have an additional cost to them, but this post has seven things that are included in your cruise fare that you might not have known about.  If you are new to Royal Caribbean, you may not have been aware of some of these services, entertainment or food were included with your cruise fare.

To be fair, nothing is really "free" on a cruise.  You paid good money to get on a cruise, so in reality, the items on this list are "included" or "complimentary".  We apologize for the click-bait title of this post, but we promise the end result is the same: everything on this list will cost you nothing extra to enjoy!

7. Room service

My parents ingrained the notion that I should never, ever order room service because it was always so expensive.  On a Royal Caribbean cruise, however, room service is included in your cruise fare and you can make up for all those hotel stays where room service was denied as a child.

Room service is available 24 hours per day, although there is a service fee if you order room service very late at night.  Other than that, there is a good variety of choices to pick from in the room service menu, including breakfast.  Many guests opt to order room service breakfast so that they can enjoy their first meal of the day in the comfort of their room, or even on their balcony.

It is important to keep in mind that while the food is free, it is customary to tip the crew member that delivers your food a few dollars.

6. Ice cream

What better way to cool down on a hot day in the sun than with ice cream? Every day of your cruise, there will be soft-serve ice cream available near the pools.  The exact location varies depending on the class of ship, but the ice cream will be flowing and you can have as much as you like.

A pro tip that I learned from a RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader is to grab a drink cup from the Windjammer, and then fill that up with ice cream! 

5. Alcohol

Believe it or not, there is opportunity for complimentary alcohol onboard your ship. Seriously.

That being said, free alcoholic beverages are not available all the time, but there are a few times during every cruise where free drinks will be served.  On the first formal night, there will be complimentary champagne offered as part of the Captain's toast.  Likewise, complimentary champagne is offered as part of art auctions.

If you are a member of Royal Caribbean's Crown and Anchor Society, there are welcome back events in which complimentary rum punches and other alcoholic drinks are served.  When you make it to Diamond level or above in Crown and Anchor Society, drink coupons are provided each evening to be used for free drinks. Also, suite guests can get free drinks from the concierge lounge.

4. Broadway shows

Royal Caribbean offers full-length Broadway shows on its newest cruise ships for guests to enjoy during the cruise.  Broadway shows are not known for being inexpensive, so considering these performances are included in your cruise fare when they usually run hundreds of dollars to see the same show for a family on land, that is a great benefit!

Six ships offer five different Broadway shows and will offer multiple performances during the cruise. 

3. Surf, sky dive and ice skate

When you watch a Royal Caribbean television commercial, very likely you will see guests riding a FlowRider surf simulator, or going 300 feet in the air aboard North Star, or even sky diving in Ripcord by iFly.  All those activities (and more) are included in your cruise fare!

Ice skating at sea, going on a zip line, taking a ride on a carousel and rock climbing are just some of the really fun activities you can do on Royal Caribbean ships and there is no additional cost to enjoy them.

2. Souvenirs 

If you want to bring home a Royal Caribbean trinket or two, then try your luck at the trivia games offered onboard.  Each day, there will be a few different trivia games held, where guests compete in small teams to answer questions on a variety of questions.

The team with the most correct answers will receive a small prize, usually something like a Royal Caribbean pen, bag, zip-ties or something else of that nature.  These prizes may not fetch a lot on eBay, but they are the kind of souvenirs that cost you nothing extra and are fun to win, too.

1. Pizza

If you, or your children, are anything like my children, then free pizza is going to sound like you just won the lottery.

Royal Caribbean ships offer a lot of food that is included in your cruise fare, but Sorrento's Pizza is one of the more popular food choices and it is available throughout the day for absolutely nothing extra.

You will find a few varieties of pizza available by the slice, as well as the option to custom order a small pizza pie to your liking.  Either way, it is free and the kind of food my kids never can never resist ordering.

Royal Caribbean sheds more light on its new smart phone app plans

In:
26Jan2017

Royal Caribbean revealed some additional information about its new smart phone app that will debut later this year.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard Fain spoke to analysts earlier today about the company's fourth-quarter 2016 results, and provided more detail on the company's plans to roll out new technology initiatives.

Fain mentioned its new smart phone app, which is being called internally, "Excalibur".

Mr. Fain provided more detail on when guests can start using the new app, "We would expect to be coming out this summer with a new and upgraded, new app, that does reflect the technologies that are available today. Over this next year we would expect to roll this out to 6 to 11 new vessels. And then the next year we would expect to be rolling it out at a rate of 1 to 2 a month over the period."

"Technology can be used to help attack what is really our biggest single problem, which is not enough people understand about cruising. Anything we can do to make the experience better and particularly easier for our guests and for the people who haven't yet been our guests, is very helpful."

News of a new smart phone app was first announced earlier this year, when Royal Caribbean CIO Michael Giresi mentioned the development. It was unclear at the time whether this would be a new app or a continuation of the Royal iQ app, but Mr. Fain's comments suggest this will be a brand new endeavor.

The comments on Excalibur came as a result of financial analysts inquiring about Royal Caribbean's response to Carnival Corporation's Ocean Medallion program, which garnered a lot of media attention earlier this month.

"We started a project with what we call our WOWbands a couple of years ago that's been extremely effective in simplifying the process for our guests," said Fain.  He continued, "But it's also obvious that the technologies improved a lot in the last two years, and what we can all do today is much better than we could do two years ago. So I think you will continue to see us, and I hope the rest of the industry, continue to move forward with that."

"I remember at the time that we rolled out WOWbands, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo's comment was we wanted to give people their first day back. And I think that's a really very good way to look at it. The more that we can do to ease that process, not only makes it more comfortable for them, but gives them the time to do the other stuff. One of the benefits is not only more in ticket revenue, but also on the onboard revenue because we facilitate those kinds of processes. "

"So I think this is a trend that is happening in our industry, but is happening throughout industry and I think it will enhance the cruise experience and therefore, be good for all of us."

Royal Caribbean reports over 25% increase in earnings on fourth-quarter results and beats expectations

In:
26Jan2017

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL) released its fourth-quarter 2016 financial results today, with US GAAP and adjusted earnings for 2016 of $5.93 and $6.08 per share, respectively, resulting in more than a 25% increase in both US GAAP and adjusted earnings over 2015.

The company reported fourth-quarter earnigs if $261.1 million. On a per-share basis, it had net income of $1.21. Earnings, adjusted for restructuring costs and non-recurring costs, came to $1.23 per share.

For the year, the company reported profit of $1.28 billion, or $5.93 per share. Revenue was reported as $8.5 billion.

The results beat Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of eight analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $1.22 per share.

Looking to 2017, the company sees favorable conditions with foreign exchange and fuel prices creating headwinds. The company's booked position for 2017 is better than last year's record high, and at higher rates. Strength from North American consumers is driving exceptionally positive trends for North American and European products. These trends, along with a positive outlook for Australia and a solid booked position in China for the first half of the year, are positioning the company for robust growth in 2017.

How to get closer to an all-inclusive Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
25Jan2017

A common question first time cruisers ask is if a Royal Caribbean cruise is all-inclusive, and that usually leads to a conversation about the modularity of a cruise vacation and how you can pick and choose which experiences appeal to you, and not pay for others that do not.  Thinking about the question some more, it lead to our own question, "how close could a guest get to an all-inclusive Royal Caribbean cruise?"

What is all-inclusive?

Depending on your definition of "all-inclusive", the answer to that question can vary.  For our purposes, we referenced the Sandals Resorts definition and looked up what is not included in their vacations. After all, Sandals has made a name for themselves as a leader in all-inclusive land vacations. Here is what is not included

  • Spa treatments
  • Optional tours
  • Golf caddies
  • Medical assistance
  • Gift shop items
  • Transportation
  • Phone calls
  • Scuba certification or refresher courses

Using this list as our frame of reference for what we can leave out of the all-inclusive categories, it stands to reason these Royal Caribbean options could also be omitted.

  • Vitality Spa treatments
  • Medical attention
  • Souvenirs from any onboard shops
  • Transportation to/from airport
  • Phone calls onboard

Otherwise, we would need to include everything else in our all-inclusive Royal Caribbean experience.  Moreover, the idea would be a guest could go on a Royal Caribbean cruise and never pay a dime on their SeaPass account, unless they selected to do one of the experiences listed above.

What is included in your Royal Caribbean cruise

All too often, guests get hung up on what is not included, but the reality is your cruise fare includes quite a bit. The value offered by a cruise is unparalleled, and here is a good breakdown of what activities, dining venues, entertainment options and experiences are included with your Royal Caribbean cruise fare.

  • Entertainment & Nightlife
    • Broadway shows
    • Live music and comedy shows
    • Aqua shows and ice-skating shows
    • Parades and parties on the Royal Promenade
    • Comedy and live jazz club
    • Nightclubs, karaoke and sing-along piano bars
    • Lounge games and contests, such as trivia, Puzzle Break, Battle of the Sexes and more
  • Signature Activities
    • FlowRider® surf simulator
    • Rock Climbing Wall
    • Quantum Class
      • RipCord® by iFLY® skydiving simulator
      • North Star observation capsule
      • SeaPlex play space with bumper cars, roller skating, trapeze school, video games and more
    • Oasis Class
      • Zip Line
    • Multi-level waterslides and slides on select ships
  • Meals, beverages & room service
    • Main dining room
    • Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in various venues throughout each ship
    • Windjammer casual buffet on every ship, open for every meal
    • Variety of juices, teas, coffees, soft drinks and water throughout the ship and with meals
  • Kids & Teens
    • Adventure Ocean Youth Program
    • DreamWorks Experience
    • Fuel teen club
    • Teen lounge area with movies, games and live DJ
  • Fitness Center & Sports Activities
    • State-of-the-art fitness center
    • Table tennis
    • Full-size basketball and sports court
    • Group fitness classes, such as sunrise stretch, fab abs, dancing, meditation and more
    • Seminars on topics like weight loss, reflexology, stargazing and more
    • Deck Games — Volleyball, pool games, tug of war and other active challenges
    • Running / jogging track
  • Pools & Outdoor amenities
    • Outdoor poolside movies
    • Adults-only Solarium
    • Multiple whirlpools
    • Traditional swimming pools plus beach ambience areas and sports zones
    • H2O Zone and Splashaway Bay for kids

How to get to an all-inclusive Royal Caribbean cruise

Over the last few years, Royal Caribbean has added more choices for guests to make optional experiences onboard simpler to consume and understand. The advent of pre-purchased packages have largely been a win-win for cruise line and guest a like.  Guests enjoy the convenience of having a variety of package options that offer seemingly limitless choices, while the cruise line has seen a resounding increase in onboard spending.

Here are the various means to have an all-inclusive Royal Caribbean cruise. All of these options can be (and should be) purchased prior to your cruise via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner, or via your travel agent.

Pre-pay gratuities

Every guest on a Royal Caribbean cruise will be charged a daily gratuity, which goes towards rewarding the services of the wait staff and stateroom attendants.  Normally, this daily gratuity is charged to a guest's SeaPass account automatically with the final charges being paid at the conclusion of the cruise.

Instead, guests can have their travel agent pre-pay the gratuities. This provides two advantages. First, it breaks up the total cost of the cruise, because the gratuities will be paid earlier than the cruise fare. Second, if the recommended gratuity amount changes after pre-paying gratuities, Royal Caribbean has traditionally grandfathered in guests who had already paid their gratuities upfront.

Cost: Junior Suite, Balcony, Ocean View, and Interior staterooms: $13.50 per guest, per day. Suite guests (Grand Suite & Above): $16.50 per guest, per day.

Photo packages

Royal Caribbean photographers will be looking to capture memories throughout your cruise vacation, from the dining rooms to the pool area and even on the dock at each port.  These photo opportunities are complimentary to engage in, and then you can decide later if you want to purchase those photos. A standard 8x10 photo onboard the ship commonly costs about $20 per print.

Guests who want to be able to take as many photos as possible and take them home later, can take advantage of a photo package at www.ourcruisephotos.com.

The cost will vary, but it is generally cheaper to pre-purchase the photos on the site before your cruise, instead of buying a package on the ship.  A common choice is to have all photos digitally saved to a USB drive, which can then be printed when you get home or just shared to social media. 

Cost: $249.99 for all photos on a USB Drive.

Internet

Royal Caribbean offers high speed internet in the form of its branded service, Voom.  Voom internet offers substantially higher speed connections than other cruise lines, and is available fleet-wide anywhere onboard.

Regardless of if you look to make your cruise all-inclusive or not, it is a good idea to pre-pay for your Voom internet service because Royal Caribbean offers a significant discount compared to purchasing it onboard. There are a variety of plans available that provide unlimited Voom internet throughout the cruise.  There are plans that support one through five devices, with the average cost per device dropping with the more devices that are added to the plan. And yes, you can sign out of one device and log in with another device without requiring a 2-device plan.

Cost: $11.99 per day for one device at a time, up to $41.97 for 5 devices at a time.

Unlimited beverage packages

Perhaps the most popular packages of all are any of the unlimited drink packages. There are a variety of drink packages that offer unlimited alcoholic beverages and non-alcoholic beverages that can fit the needs of any guest.  Of course, any unlimited drink package is best served for guests that will drink enough each day of their cruise to make the purchase worthwhile.  If your goal is to have an all-inclusive cruise experience, then these packages are a must.

It should be noted that the drink packages offer a very wide range of drinks, but there are certain beverages exempted from being included in any drink package.

For adults, the Deluxe Beverage Package will include most alcoholic and non-alcoholic refreshments, while the Refreshment Package includes most non-alcoholic beverages for children and adults. Any of the drink packages should be pre-purchased online via the Cruise Planner, especially since Royal Caribbean regularly offers a discount on the Deluxe Beverage Package when purchased prior to the cruise.

Cost: Depends on sailing. Deluxe Beverage Package will range between $41-48 per guest, per day. Refreshment package costs $26 per guest, per day. 

Specialty Dining Package

Perhaps no experience onboard has become as popular and prevalent as specialty dining on a Royal Caribbean cruise.  More and more specialty restaurants have been added to Royal Caribbean ships, which offer guests cuisines and experiences previously unavailable onboard for an additional cost. To encourage guests to try more specialty dining while offering a discount, Royal Caribbean has begun offering dining packages.

The dining packages are simple: guests experience 2, 3, 4 or 5 specialty restaurants on their Royal Caribbean cruise with up to 40% off the price if they were purchased individually. By purchasing a dining package, guests can be assured of enjoying plenty of specialty dining during their cruise.

Like the other packages, dining packages can be purchased via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner prior to a cruise.

Cost: 2 Night Dining Package costs $30 per adult, 3 Night Dining Package costs $75 per adult, 4 Night Dining Package costs $90 per adult, and 5 Night Dining Package costs $105 per adult.

Shore excursions

Royal Caribbean does not usually offer shore excursion packages (although they have experimented in the past), however, guests can pre-purchase all of their shore excursions prior to the cruise on Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner. 

Just like the packages listed earlier in this post, pre-purchasing ensures no additional costs once on the cruise. 

Cost: Varies depending on excursion.

Or just stay in a suite

It is worth noting that Royal Caribbean's suite offerings do include quite a bit of these services and packages already, provided you opt for their elite Star Class accommodations.

Royal Caribbean's Royal Suite Class combines amazing service with first-class amenities. The Royal Suite Class is only available on Oasis and Quantum class ships, but offers the very best in what Royal Caribbean can offer.  Moreover, nearly all of the options listed above are included with the Star Class, including some options above and beyond what a guest in a non-suite room could even purchase.

As you might imagine, Star Class suites are not inexpensive.  Then again, suites are not about providing a value proposition to guests, but rather, an indulgent vacation that rewards oneself.

If you want the closest thing to an all-inclusive Royal Caribbean cruise experience with the greatest simplicity (and money is no object), then go straight to booking a Star Class stateroom and consider this an easy win.

Your thoughts

Does the idea of having an all-inclusive Royal Caribbean cruise vacation sound appealing? Did we miss anything that should have been included in this post? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Dealing with being sick on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

In:
25Jan2017

Our newest podcast episode is out to help give you a quick "audio escape" to a Royal Caribbean cruise!

Episode 182 is available for downloading, where we share a recent cruiser's experience with being sick while on her cruise.

No one wants to get sick on a cruise, but sometimes it just happens, and this week, we share what Halee's experience was like being sick onboard, and discuss lessons learned from her ordeal.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 182. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast via RSSStitcher or on iTunes!

Take a listen and as always, let us know what you think! Please rate and review the podcast on iTunes and leave your comments below!

Royal Caribbean announces 2018-2019 deployment opening schedule dates

In:
24Jan2017

Royal Caribbean's eagerly awaited deployment opening schedule appears to be available for its world wide cruise itineraries.

A new Royal Caribbean document points to when Royal Caribbean will post the deployments for regions around the world.

UPDATED March 6:

  • Week of March 6, 2017
    • Europe (Phase I) & Bahamas
  • Week of March 13, 2017
    • Alaska, Cruisetours, Year-Round Caribbean & Bahamas
  • Week of March 20, 2017 
    • Europe (Phase II)
  • Week of March 27, 2017
    • Northeast & Seasonal Caribbean
  • Week of April 3, 2017
    • Australia & Singapore
  • Week of April 24, 2017
    • China

All itineraries and openings are subject to change without notice. 

Deployment schedules gives consumers an idea of when to expect particular cruise schedules to become available to start looking at future cruises.

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