Royal Caribbean talks changes to ship design, cultural shifts, millennials and more

By: Matt Hochberg

During Royal Caribbean's third quarter 2017 financial call with investors, the company shared some interesting anecdotes, facts, and insight into the ever changing cruising environment.  While most of the information discussed in these earnings calls deal primarily with financial indicators, cruise guests can glean some insight into how Royal Caribbean runs its business.

Cultural change to responding to major events

Royal Caribbean Chairman and CEO Richard Fain took a few minutes to talk about the response the company has noticed from the general public, when it comes to major events like a hurricane disrupting the flow and life of the islands visited, and the cruise itineraries planned.

"We've noticed a significant change in the way people in general seem to respond to unusual events, whether those events are weather, geo-political acts, or something else.

Years ago, a bad incident would have a bad and lasting impact.  Whenever something happened, our bookings would fall and they would stay down for an extended period. People seemed to curl up in a ball and obsess about whatever the issue was.  It could, and did impact bookings, for a really long time. Even after the event left the front page, people would persist in focusing on it.  Eventually, they would move on and bookings would recover, but that process seemed to take forever.

More recently, we have seen a much more sanguine response. Instead of the incident lingering for a long time, the recovery seems much quicker. People seemed to be more apt today to see such events as ordinary, with little impact. The events still aren't normal, but they are seen as less relevant to the broader audience.  In effect, the public appears to become inured to such one off events.  They are still interested in the event, and concerned about it, but people seem to continue living their lives with less change. They move on.

From a societal point of view, I have to say that it's discouraging that we've reached such a point. It's distressing that incidents are now so common, that society seems to have formed a thicker skin towards them. On the other hand, as a response to the actual events, it's probably more constructive if society doesn't allow such things to interfere with our normal day-to-day existence.

From a purely commercial point of view, this cultural shift is very helpful.  It's much better for us if the negative impact of such incidents are so much more fleeting than in the past. "

Design changes in ships over decades

Over the last couple of years, Royal Caribbean Chairman and CEO Richard Fain has been fond of noting a cultural shift among consumers, where they are tending to prefer buying experiences over buying things. In the past, consumers seemed to be focused on buying things like new televisions, appliances, or other items of the like. More recently, Mr. Fain believes the focus has shifted to people looking for experiences, especially ones that include the whole family.

This shift has made Royal Caribbean change as well, to meet the needs and habits of consumers.

"Over the years, as people's habits and tastes, we've shifted our product to take advantage of these new consumer buying practices. For example, in the 1970s and 1980s, there was a dramatic shift in the way ships were designed and built. Instead of ships being designed as a form of transportation, we shifted to ships that were designed specifically for cruising. Our aspirations at the time were for ships to be more yacht-like. Now, that change really brought cruising into the modern era.

But in the '80s and '90s, there was another change in people's expectations.  The public's vacation desires changed, and we needed to shift with them. We shifted our design focus from trying to be yacht-like, to be more like hotels.  We started to design ships with more spacious public areas, better outfitting, and more amenities onboard.  We wanted the ships to feel more open, to have more things to do and to have a more luxurious feel of a modern hotel.  Our design metaphor changed from trying to seem like a yacht, to feeling more like a full service hotel.  Again, that fit in nicely with trends in consumer interests, and it resulted in better sales.

Now, over the last decade or so, travel habits have further changed and our ship designs have shifted yet again. Consumers now want a more active vacation, a more things to do and to experience. In response, we changed our design metaphor, from trying to be like hotels to be more like cities. Today, our ships have more features of cities, with a cornucopia of activities, amenity, and design.  We don't simply check the box with bars and restaurants and discos, we talk about designing parks, and gardens, and neighborhoods and quiet spaces. We model our medical facilities on urgent care facilities. Our specialty restaurants compare to anything you will find on land.  We have every stripe of nightlife, you can sail with us for seven nights and never experiencing the same things twice.

And again, adjusting our products to suit the changing wishes of the consumer has paid off in a very nice way. Our guests really enjoy the broader choice and amenities that the new ships offer.  And again, accommodating these wishes has resulted in improved demand for our product. "

Winning the perception war

One of the "battles" that Royal Caribbean (and the cruising industry) has faced over the years have been old stereotypes about what a cruise experience is all about.  It has been a stumbling point for the cruise industry, but Mr. Fain believes things are changing now and consumers are far more educated than ever.

"Many consumers thought of cruising through the lens of outdated stereotypes. We in the industry often complained about the inaccuracies of such misconceptions and our marketing was geared to correct the image. This sense of not being properly understood pervaded our industry, and profoundly influenced all of our communications.

But then, a strange thing happened. The evolution of consumer's changing tastes, and of our changing product, converged. The prevalence of these old, erroneous perceptions has waned. In effect, we have won the perception war.  We have crossed a tipping point, and moving beyond it.

Yes, there are still many people out there who suffer from these old misperceptions, but their numbers are dwindling everyday. Today, while this issue remains an issue at the margin, cruising has now firmly established itself as a relevant and a desirable vacation option for consumers generally."

Rethinking retail spaces

With the shift in consumers looking for experiences instead of products, and the news that particularly higher guest spending on shore excursions and internet packages, an investor asked if Royal Caribbean was going to rethink its allocation of retail space onboard their cruise ships.

Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley spoke to this question, "When we talk about the two programs, Celebrity Revolution and Royal Amplified, really a lot of thinking going into that is really thinking  through how our guest spend is changing. You will start to see that when we bring these ships out of the moderinzation programs that we have really reallocated space to generate better revenues in areas that we see guests now naturally gravitating towards."

Millennial cruising is on the rebound

When asked about new to cruise guests, and millennial demand, Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley talked about the reversal in fortunes the cruise line has seen over the last few years, "In fact, if you go back before that three year period, we were actually in a situation where year over year we saw a decline in new to cruise and millennial.  Over the past three years, we've seen a very good increase year over year.  That's very much part of our marketing and communication focus on new to cruise and millennial, and we are seeing good progress."

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd Chief Financial Officer, Jason Liberty, provided a bit more feedback on what those numbers look like, "Over the past several years, we are carrying about 30-33% more millennials than we did several years ago."

Royal Caribbean announces new ship deployments for 2019-2020 cruise season

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean unveiled its big plans for 2019-2020 sailings with a major announcement of itinerary changes.

Short sailings from Florida on big ships

Family cruising is all about Royal Caribbean's decision to have two of its newly modernized Voyager class ships offer 3- and 4-night itineraries from Florida to the Bahamas.

Mariner of the Seas will sail from Port Canaveral, Florida, while Navigator of the Seas will be based in the brand new Terminal A port in PortMiami.

Royal Caribbean is hoping that with the onboard features that each ship offers, they will be perfect introductions for first-time guests and families, who are short on time, to experience the best of the Caribbean in a weekend.

Enchantment of the Seas will offer 4- and 5-night sailings from Galveston, Texas to various destinations in Mexico, year round.

Short Caribbean itineraries will be available to book the week of Nov. 20, 2017. All itineraries will be available to book by Crown & Anchor Society loyalty members one day prior to the general opening date.

Moving to Alaska

Royal Caribbean will debut a Quantum Class ship in Alaska in 2019, with the arrival of Ovation of the Seas for the 2019 Alaska summer season.

Ovation of the Seas will transition from Sydney, Australia to her new summer homeport of Seattle, Washington.

Ovation will sail 7-night itineraries to destinations from Juneau to Victoria, British Columbia, showcasing Alaska’s natural treasures and luring adventure seekers with stately spruce forests, island- studded waters, native wildlife and awe-inspiring glaciers. Ovation will join Radiance of the Seas in the Alaska market, which sails 7- night open-jaw itineraries between Seward, Alaska and Vancouver, British Columbia. Alaska itineraries will be available to book the week of Dec. 11, 2017.

Four Oasis Class ships in Florida

All four Oasis class ships, Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, and Symphony of the Seas, will sail from Florida in 2019 through 2020.

Oasis of the Seas will undergo a bow-to-stern revitalization before changing her homeport to Terminal A at PortMiami for the fall and winter seasons.  She will be joined in PortMiami by Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship, Symphony of the Seas.

Allure of the Seas, which will have spent the previous year in Miami, will return to Fort Lauderdale's Port Everglades.  Meanwhile, Harmony of the Seas will move to Port Canaveral.  Harmony's arrival in Port Canaveral brings the latest in Oasis class offerings within driving distance of the Southeast United States.

All four Oasis Class ships will sail 7-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries, Liberty of the Seas will sail 7-night Western Caribbean from Galveston, Texas and Freedom of the Seas will sail 7-night Southern Caribbean itineraries from San Juan, Puerto Rico. The 7-night Caribbean itineraries are available to book the week of Nov. 13, 2017.


Anthem of the Seas will continue to be the focal point of the cruise line's operations in the Northeast.  Anthem will depart from Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, New Jersey, and offer 5-to-9 night summer itineraries to Bermuda, The Bahamas, and the Caribbean. In the fall season, Anthem of the Seas will offer 9-night itineraries to Canada and New England.  

Adventure of the Seas will join Anthem of the Seas, and offering 6- to 8-night itineraries to The Bahamas and Caribbean. Adventure also will offer select 6-night itineraries to Canada and New England during the summer, and longer 10- to 11-night fall foliage cruises beginning in September.

Northeast, Canada and Bermuda itineraries will be available to book the week of Dec. 4, 2017.

New Northern Europe and Mediterranean

For the first time since 2014, Oasis of the Seas, will spend her summer in Europe, sailing from Barcelona, Spain.  Oasis will sail 7-night itineraries, visiting Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Marseille, France; and Florence, Rome and Naples, Italy. Europe itineraries will be available to book the week of Dec. 11, 2017.

Royal Caribbean reports record third quarter earnings

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. reported today its third quarter results, of $3.49 per share, which includes a $0.20 negative impact from the recent hurricane.

US GAAP and Adjusted Net Income for the third quarter were $752.8 million or $3.49 per share, better than previous guidance. Last year, US GAAP Net Income was $693.3 million, or $3.21 per share, and Adjusted Net Income was $690.9 million, or $3.20 per share.

"Delivering record earnings during a period of such unprecedented disruption is a testament to the strength in demand for cruising and for our brands," said Jason T. Liberty, executive vice president and CFO. "Strong demand trends coupled with our continued cost discipline have put us in a strong position to successfully complete our Double-Double program. As a matter of fact, I am pleased to report that we have already achieved our Double-Double targets on a trailing twelve month basis through September 2017."

Financially, the hurricanes that devastated many people and places in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean, were unusually impactful because of when and where they hit and the net effect was a cost to the company in excess of $55 million or $0.26 per share. Most of this impact was from lost revenue, but there were also direct costs associated with the storms and with the company's humanitarian efforts.

The company expects full year Adjusted EPS guidance to be in the range of $7.35 to $7.40 per share. Excluding the cost of the hurricanes, Adjusted EPS would have been in the range of $7.60 to $7.65 per share.

Management is excited by the 2018 introduction of Symphony of the Seas in Europe next spring and Celebrity Edge in Fort Lauderdale in December of 2018. While still early in the booking cycle, the view for 2018 is encouraging and the company expects another year of solid yield and earnings growth.

The five most exciting Royal Caribbean cruises in 2018

By: Matt Hochberg

With November here, time is running out of 2017 and we cannot help but look forward to some of the exciting cruises coming in 2018.  By the looks of it, things are shaping up to be a big year for Royal Caribbean.

If you are considering booking a Royal Caribbean cruise for 2018 and want to be a part of Royal Caribbean taking a step forward, then consider these cruises (assuming there's still availability).

Return to New Orleans

Photo by Michael Hicks

In 2018, Royal Caribbean will return to New Orleans as a homeport after a number of years absence.  

Starting in Winter 2018, Vision of the Seas will offer weeklong cruises from New Orleans to the Bahamas, as well as destinations in the Western Caribbean.

Mariner of the Seas refurbishment and new home

Mariner of the Seas will undergo a six-week modernization program that will see Royal Caribbean invest over $100 million in upgrading the ship.  When she finishes her refurbishment, Mariner of the Seas will be a great ship for first time cruisers and those new-to-cruise.

If you are looking for a rather long sailing, Mariner of the Seas will take a "Global Odyssey" cruise, going from Singapore to Dubai, then on to Barcelona prior to her arrival in her new home in North America.

Mariner of the Seas will call Miami, Florida home in 2018, and will be the first Voyager Class ship to offer short Caribbean sailings. Mariner of the Seas will offer 3- and 4-night itineraries from PortMiami, beginning on June 21, 2018.

Symphony of the Seas European inaugural sailings

There is little doubt that 2018 will be the year of Symphony of the Seas, Royal Caribbean's next new cruise ship.  Symphony of the Seas is the fourth Oasis class cruise ship in the fleet, and will debut in Barcelona, Spain on March 31, 2018.

For her inaugural season, Symphony of the Seas will spend the summer in the Mediterranean and offer stops in Provence, France; Rome, Naples and Pisa, Italy.

Panama Canal sailings

Before making her way to New Orleans, Vision of the Seas will offer two 16-night sailings through the Panama Canal from Miami to Los Angeles, California. This will be the first time in three years that Royal Caribbean has offered a cruise through the Panama Canal.

The first of the trips, departing on November 13, 2018, will go from Miami to Los Angeles. It'll be followed by a voyage from Los Angeles to New Orleans.

Symphony transatlantic and new home

Following Symphony of the Seas' European debut, she will embark upon a transatlantic sailing that will bring her to new home of Miami in November 2018.

Symphony of the Seas will be welcomed to Miami with the brand new state-of-the-art terminal at Port Miami, known as the, “Crown of Miami.” This 170,000-square-foot Royal Caribbean terminal will be LEED certified and showcase the innovation and elegance travelers expect from our ships, with a striking “crown” design and facade lighting to illuminate the city’s night skyline.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: November 5, 2017

By: Matt Hochberg

Happy Sunday! November has arrived, and we hope you had a great week with friends, family, and plenty of food.  Each week we summarize all of this week's Royal Caribbean news, just in case you missed any of it.

The big news this week was Royal Caribbean's tease for a big announcement next week.

Royal Caribbean is promising to reveal something next Tuesday, with simply the tag line of, "Mark your calendars and tune in on November 7, 2017! The Thrills are about to get even bigger."

This has prompted a number of guesses from our readers, including enhancements to CocoCay, new itineraries, and other speculative ideas.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

On this week's episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast, Matt talks all about cruise sales and what they entail.

These days, there seem to be new Royal Caribbean sales promotions every week, and this episode is discussion of what the sales are all about, how lucrative the deals can be, and if you ought to wait for a sale.

Please feel free to subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and head over to rate and review the podcast on iTunes if you can! We’d appreciate it.

Royal Caribbean Around the Internet

Travel Market Report talked with Royal Caribbean's CEO about facial recognition and non-refundable cruise deposits.

Cruise Critic reviewed a recent sailing on what used to be Royal Caribbean's Song of America.

Mesophere shared how they collaborated with Royal Caribbean to bring microservices to cruise ships.

Eat Sleep Cruise reviewed Johnny Rockets on Majesty of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean tried to answer the question of which room to book for a cruise.

Travel Agent Central shared remarks by Royal Caribbean's CEO about hurricanes, travel agents, and more.

Friday Photos

By: Matt Hochberg

Welcome to this week's edition of Friday Photos, where we showcase our readers favorite Royal Caribbean photos.  If we all cannot be on a Royal Caribbean cruise at the moment, then the next best thing is to look at photos of a cruise longingly as a means of getting a "cruise fix."

If you want to submit your photos for a future Friday Photos post, be sure to send them to us via this form.

Our first photo this week is from Duncan McGregor, and it is of Navigator of the Seas alongisde in Amsterdam.

Next, we have a phot of the Boardwalk entrance taken by Kinny Lee.

Pamela spotted this red phone box on a beach in Antigua.

Here we have the man, the myth, the living legend... Captain Johnny on his motorbike on Harmony of the Seas.  Photo by Danny Paquot.

Justin Amrhein shared this photo of Anthem of the Seas in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

James Woodward took this photo on Grandeur of the Seas, while docked in Nova Scotia.

Our final photo this week is by Robert Fernandez of Adventure of the Seas docked in Curaçao, as seen from the pier.

That wraps up this week's edition of Friday Photos. If you want your Royal Caribbean photo featured here, use this form to send them in!

Royal Caribbean offering up to 30% off Cruise Planner purchases with weekend sale

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is offering up to 30% off select Cruise Planner purchases this weekend, with its Sip, Tour, & Save sale.

The weekend Cruise Planner sale promises savings on certain shore excursions and drink package purchases.  Guests can check which discounts, if any, are available for their upcoming sailing by visiting the Cruise Planner site.

Based on the countdown timer, the sale will expire at midnight on Sunday night.

Royal Caribbean hints at big reveal next week

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has posted a new teaser hinting at an announcement coming next week.

Royal Caribbean alerted travel agents to the news that will be announced next Tuesday, with simply the tag line of, "Mark your calendars and tune in on November 7, 2017! The Thrills are about to get even bigger."

A couple of observations that may or may not have any relationship to the announcement:

  • The teaser image does not have a cruise ship in it, just land (although there is a beached boat on the left side).
  • The image file is named 17059107_Deployment_Tease_1024x640.jpg.
  • The word "thrills" is prominently mentioned.

What do you think this announcement will be about? Share your ideas in the comments!

Royal Caribbean UK sponsors Chorley shirts ahead of FA Cup

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean UK and the Chorley Football Club announced today a new shirt sponsorship deal.

The shirt sponsorship has been agreed for the Emirates FA Cup First Round game with Fleetwood Town, which will be screened worldwide on Monday 6 November. Royal Caribbean will also take TV arc advertising, programme advertising and hospitality as part of the sponsorship agreement.

Ben Bouldin, UK Managing Director, Royal Caribbean, said: “We are very excited to be sponsoring the shirts for Chorley FC’s biggest game in the club’s history. We wish Chorley FC all the best and look forward to a positive result!”

The FA Cup game will be screened on BT Sport in the UK and throughout Europe, North Africa, USA, Russia and China by FA official broadcast partners.

Royal Caribbean's Double Up Sale offers up instant savings and onboard credit

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's Double Up Sale rolled out today, which offers combinable instant savings and money to spend at sea.

The Double Up Sale is valid on cruises booked November 1-5, 2017 11:59 p.m. EST on sailings departing on or after December 1, 2017.

The Double Up Sale includes

  • Instant savings
    • 5 Nights or Fewer
      • Interior / Ocean View: $25 USD per stateroom
      • Balcony: $50 USD per stateroom
      • Suite: $75 USD per stateroom
    • 6 Nights or Longer
      • Interior / Ocean View: $25 USD per stateroom
      • Balcony: $75 USD per stateroom
      • Suite: $200 USD per stateroom
  • Onboard credit
    • 5 Nights or Fewer
      • Interior / Ocean View: $25 USD per stateroom
      • Balcony: $50 USD per stateroom
      • Suite: $75 USD per stateroom
    • 6 Nights or Longer
      • Interior / Ocean View: $25 USD per stateroom
      • Balcony: $75 USD per stateroom
      • Suite: $100 USD per stateroom

The Double Up Sale is combinable with the November BOGO Offer(Cruise must be booked between November 1, 2017 through December 8, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. EST), which also includes

  • 50% off cruise fare of second guest who must be booked in the same stateroom as a first guest who books at full fare
  • 25% cruise fare savings for 3rd guests and higher booked in the same stateroom as the first two qualifying guests
  • Northeast Bonus
    • Kids age 12 and under sail free on select Anthem, Adventure and Grandeur of the Seas sailings.

BOGO offer is combinable with NRDB OBC, promotional OBCs and instant savings, NextCruise offers, restricted discounts (for example, Senior, Resident, Military), Crown and Anchor discounts and Shareholder Benefits. Deck the Holidays and Double Up Sale are combinable with NextCruise offers, NRDB OBC, Kids Sail Free and restricted discounts (for example, Senior, Resident, Military) but is not combinable with Shareholder benefits and Crown and Anchor discounts. BOGO50 bookings made for China departures are combinable with NextCruise offers and Crown and Anchor balcony/suites discounts only. All offers are not combinable with any other offer or promotion, including, but not limited to, Standard Group, Interline, Travel Agent, Travel Agent Friends and Family, Weekly Sales Events, Net Rates.

Offer available to residents of United States and Canada.