Oasis of the Seas driving social media revolution in cruising

In:
07Jun2010

Technocrati posted a really interesting article about how social media (Twitter, Facebook, et al) were a great means of generating hype about their latest ship, Oasis of the Seas and how other cruise lines are taking notice now.

Travel trade publication Travel Weekly reported that as of a couple of weeks ago, 10 million unique visitors made their way to OasisoftheSea.com. Additionally, the publications reported that a whopping 200,000 people in a 24-hour period tuned in to watch videos of the Oasis captain, more viewers than Anderson Cooper drew on CNN in the same time period.

It's an axiom in social media marketing and public relations campaigns that the social web has an enormous capacity to bring mainstream media into the marketing and PR loop by generating deep consumer involvement in creating an on-line buzz. This, in turn, catches the attention of off-line media who are forced to take notice when they might ordinarily not — and the cruise industry apparently is getting this message.

I really think Royal Caribbean has been doing a great job with social media, especially on Twitter.  What contributes to their success is the fact they use Twitter not just as a one way means of letting their customers know when a sale or something is going on, but as a communication medium where they actually respond often to those who tweet to them.  In addition, you have the CEO of Royal Caribbean posting on a blog (and it appears to actually be him, not some intern) and it all contributes to making the customer feel like they have a connection to the company.  Bravo RCI!

Analyzing the CEO's Blog: Dreamworks Announcement

In:
07Jun2010

We're going to start a new series of blog posts that go through the latest blog entries by Royal Caribbean's CEO Adam Goldstein and give an opinion on them, as well as offer you an opportunity to share your thoughts.  Our first entry will deal with the post made on June 6, 2010.

First, the current Ultimate Value Books (a.k.a. coupon books) expire on June 30th and the new ones will arrive before then. In the interim, we’re giving our guests immediate access to the three most significant new or augmented benefits: Internet, laundry and photo. An insert will be placed in the coupon book onboard until the new ones arrive. On most ships the books will arrive in the next two weeks. Legend of the Seas will get her books in late June.

This move is pretty self explanatory and makes sense.  With the recent announcement of changes to Crown and Anchor Society benefits, it's smart of Royal Caribbean to not leave anyone "caught in the middle".

Second, some of our shareholders who are Crown & Anchor members are displeased that the shareholder benefit cannot be used together with Crown & Anchor discounts, including the new onboard booking bonus. We are sorry that this is the case but we cannot modify our approach in this area. In order for the onboard booking bonus to be as robust as possible and to be used together with the Crown & Anchor discounts, we could not allow the shareholder discount to also be used together with it. Please bear in mind that the reason to own our stock is that you believe the stock represents a good investment in connection with your personal investing strategy. The cruise benefit is a nice opportunity to have, if applicable, but not a reason to own the stock.

This was a really surprising response and I found it pretty honest.  He could have just thrown out marketing talk and ignore the issue of Royal Caribbean shareholders complaining about not being able to use their shareholder bonus discount on top of the Crown and Anchor discounts, but instead gave a pretty honest response of you own stock to invest in the company, not get discounts on cruises.  That being said, that isn't going to make those that were complaining happy but, the man has a point!

We have received comments from members who want the benefit of the new onboard booking bonus retroactively applied to previously made bookings. I hope most of you appreciate that we needed to pick a time to introduce this benefit and that there would always be customers who had booked not long before the implementation date. There is no way to draw a line on retroactivity and so the bonus is applicable for eligible bookings made on or after our June 1st announcement.

I think Adam made the fairest choice here by being fair to no one.  I can understand some would be upset if they booked onboard a future cruise a few days before this announcement or a few weeks, but the truth is you got the best deal possible at the time of booking.  If they went back to 2 weeks prior, then everyone who booked 3 or 4 weeks or longer would be up in arms.  There would never be a date range that would make everyone happy unless you went back really, really far and that doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Returning to DreamWorks, we are really excited about this major step forward in our entertainment and programming. DreamWorks is the leader in animated films and Royal Caribbean International is the leader in cruising. Although these companies have worked in very different spaces, they have in common vision, inspiration, creativity, scale and global reach. Not to mention that both companies’ products make people happy.

I posted my thoughts on the merger in an earlier post, but it makes sense that Adam would be playing up this major alliance that Royal Caribbean entered into.  I was reading some comments on the deal around the net, and there are people who say they don't care about characters and don't want their future cruises filled with the characters.  My response to that is simply if you've been on a Disney Cruise, you know that if you never want to see the characters, you won't.  The meets and other character events are held at specific locations and specific times, so it's not like you'll find Shrek roaming the halls looking to give out hugs.

Enter contest to become the next chef on Allure of the Seas

In:
07Jun2010

Are you an aspiring chef? Looking to combine your love of cooking with your passion for cruising? Well, Royal Caribbean has the contest for you.  The "Allure of the Seas Culinary Challenge" offers wanna-be chefs the opportunity to become the next Chef de Cuisine of 150 Central Park, the signature restaurant onboard Allure of the Seas, the cruise line's newest ship which will make her debut in December 2010.

If you are a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America with an AOS or BPS degree, then you can enter this contest by creating an original recipe you think could be the next signature dish at 150 Central Park restaurant and create a video of you cooking this dish.  Entries must be received by Sunday, June 20 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

For those of us who can't cook (hello fellow bad cooks!), Royal Caribbean will open the contest up to online voting, which begins on Monday, June 28 at 12:00 a.m. ET and ends on Sunday, July 11 at 11:59 p.m. ET. Consumers can vote once per day for his/her favorite chef.  The top five entries with the highest number of votes, as well as one entry selected by the contest judges, will become finalists and will be invited to participate in a final challenge held at The Culinary Institute of America's Hyde Park campus in New York on August 5 & 6.  The finalists will compete to cook a three-course meal for a panel of judges before a winner is selected to become the next Chef de Cuisine.

Full contest details, deadlines, rules and other important information.  Good luck to anyone who enters!

Royal Caribbean joins other cruise lines in adding toys to older ships

In:
07Jun2010
These days it seems all the focus is on the newest generation of mega cruise ships, such as Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, that Royal Caribbean and other lines are rolling out of the shipyards.  A recent article by the Orlando Sentinel shows that when older ships go in for rehabs, they are getting more than their carpets and upholstery cleaned and updated, cruise lines are investing more money in the big ticket item amenities to keep them as viable competitors to their own bigger and more glamorous ships.
 
One ship that is used as an example is Voyager of the Seas, a ship that was launched more than 10 years ago in 1999 and was the first ship in Royal Caribbean's fleet to feature a rock wall.  The rock wall was so popular that it was subsequently installed on all the other ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet.
 
Carl-Gustaf Rotkirch, chairman and CEO of Grand Bahama Shipyard, which has done much of the refurbishing of these older ships notes that these updates are integral in keeping older ships relevant,, "Quite a few novelty features have been included on the new ships, like champagne bars, Johnny Rocket, surf machines . . . and the old ships suddenly start to look very old because they don't have those features."
 
It's funny how the cruise line can have a perfectly great ship but the newer ships debut and you can feel like in a way that by going on the older ones, it's the cruise line equivalent of driving a green '72 Dodge around town.  These older ships are still wonderful vessels to vacation on, but they can be a little blurred behind the glitz of what's newer and prettier.  This is how the auto industry keeps consumers wanting to buy new cars when their older cars are still perfectly viable.  Cruise lines are adding fun things like giant movie screens and other upgrades to to keep the older ships still relevant and intriguing to consumers.

Royal Caribbean sending out mailers about new Crown and Anchor Society benefits

In:
05Jun2010

Royal Caribbean is putting on the full court press with it's marketing department by sending our mailers to inform their Crown and Anchor members about the recent changes to their loyalty program.

Why Shrek isn't as important as George Washington

In:
04Jun2010

Earlier today, Royal Caribbean and Dreamworks announced their "strategic alliance" together to bring select characters from the Dreamworks film library to Royal Caribbean ships.  The obvious conclusion many have made from the deal is that the move is to counter Disney's character driven ships along with Norwegian Cruise Lines' addition of Nickelodean characters to their ship.  The idea seems great and obviously a push to convince families to sail on Royal Caribbean, but I think there's more here than just the characters and Shrek and his pals are merely the icing on a cake that has been baking for a while.

To the average observer, it seems like the Dreamworks deal with Royal Caribbean is a grand plan to add characters to the ships and get families to book with Royal Caribbean instead of other ships.  That makes sense....if all the cruise line prices were the same.  Considering that the Norwegian deal with Nickelodean was signed less than a year ago and in the press conference Royal Caribbean mentioned the deal with Dreamworks had been in discussion for longer than that, the move looks more like an attempt to counter Disney.  After all, Disney is the leader among children branding and what kid doesn't want to be on a ship with Mickey, Minnie, Donald and friends?

There's just one little problem for parents who want to take their kids on a Disney ship. Price! Disney cruises are almost always more expensive than a typical Royal Caribbean cruise of equal length.  Disney justifies the higher price by calling it "the Disney difference", where their premium branding commands a higher price tag.  If you're planning the next family cruise, it's hard to convince the kids that a cruise on Royal Caribbean is a better deal when the kids just care that the Disney ship has lots of characters and other fun related activities.  

With the Dreamworks deal, it gives Royal Caribbean some collateral to work with in the ever competitive task of marketing to kids.  Now, they can flaunt characters from Shrek, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda, films that have resonated with this generation of youth, and so when parents have to plan their next cruise, it's a far easier sell to kids with these contemporary characters and the price difference between Disney and Royal Caribbean should be big enough for most to look to Royal Caribbean.

The alliance has a lot of hype going with it as Royal Caribbean is proud of the deal, but I really see the deal as being that final piece in the puzzle that they needed to get families to choose Royal Caribbean over other lines that have traditionally done well to attract the family demographic.  If now you have the kids begging their parents to go on the ship that Shrek is on, I think it's a far easier sell for families to book it, especially given the price difference.  Disney's prices were decent when times were great, before the great recession.  Today, it's a different financial landscape and if you can save a few hundred dollars, it's well worth it and now, families don't have to sacrifice the things that kids love too.

Why we go Royal

In:
04Jun2010

It's always interesting to look back to the reasons why you become loyal to one brand over another.  Sometimes it's inherited, such as a car brand or cereal your parents bought when you were growing up so you simply followed the family tradition.  When it comes to which cruise line we choose, being fans of Royal Caribbean makes the choice a little more interesting to figure out why we "go Royal" when we choose our cruise vacation.

Above all else, I fell like Royal Caribbean offers a balance in nearly every aspect of the business.  Are there cruise lines that are cheaper? Yes.  Are there cruise lines that offer more? Yes.  But why do we end up with Royal Caribbean?  I think it goes to balance.  The cost of what we pay for what we go is the best balance in terms of value for the dollar.  Royal Caribbean cruises tend to be competitively priced but at the same time, the product we get doesn't make me feel like I've taken the cheap road.  Given the price I pay and what I get for it, I feel like there's that perfect balance of value.  I feel like the product (the ships, service, etc) are of great quality while the price is something I'm comfortable paying.  Even the brand new Oasis of the Seas, which carries with it a higher price tag for novelty, isn't really that bad a price when you consider the product you get.  

Beyond just what you pay, Royal Caribbean offers that balance of activities, both on board the ship and at its ports.  I can definitely tell that with the last few classes of ships to debut (Voyager, Independence and Oasis), there's been a focus on building ships that just aren't floating hotels.  They continuously are adding more entertainment, such as shows, physical activities, and more.  With the recent announcement of the Dreamworks deal, it's further proof that Royal Caribbean is not resting on its laurels but rather, trying to innovate in a highly competitive industry and as a consumer, I can definitely see that the fine folks behind the scenes are actively working on improving things.

When you finish any vacation, there's definitely a difference between thinking "that was a good vacation" and "that was a good vacation. I can't wait to go back again!" and I definitely think those of us who call ourselves Royal Caribbean fans fall into the latter category.  We have great times on board the ships and even in the middle of a vacation we're on, we're already thinking about how we can book our next vacation back on a Royal Caribbean ship.  The only way that sort of thought pattern occurs is when that balance of product is just right and clearly Royal Caribbean  has left a lot of cruisers thinking the very same thing, "let's go again!". 

Shrek and other Dreamworks characters coming to Royal Caribbean ships

In:
04Jun2010

Royal Caribbean announced today a strategic alliance with Dreamworks Animation studios to provide the Dreamworks characters such as Shrek, onboard select Royal Caribbean ships.   Characters from Dreamworks Animation's most popular feature films will be featured, including the films – "Shrek," "Madagascar," "Kung Fu Panda" and "How to Train Your Dragon".

The new characters will first appear on the soon-to-be-launched Allure of the Seas, which debuts in December 2010.  Following Allure, Oasis of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas will receive characters on board their ships as well.

The move comes as an answer to the Disney Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line that feature their own assortment of characters for guests to meet with during their vacation.  As the number two cruise line in the world, Royal Caribbean felt a need to add their own assortment of characters for their guests to meet.

Throughout the year, characters including Shrek, Fiona and Puss In Boots from Shrek; Alex, Marty and the Penguins of Madagascar; Po of Kung Fu Panda and Hiccup of How to Train Your Dragon will appear on board the ships at select times.  Activities that the characters will participate in include parades, special events, special character meals andphoto meet-n-greets.  Characters also will appear in an AquaTheater show on Allure of the Seas, and in an ice skating show on the ship.

There will be no additional cost to guests to experience any of these character activities.

Analysis

The move by Royal Caribbean to bring characters on their ships is interesting, although not completely unexpected.  Disney introduced the idea of having characters on their ships and once Norwegian brought the Nickelodean characters, it only made sense for Royal Caribbean to make a move to counter that.  Obviously this announcement will resonate most with families although the Shrek characters especially seem to resonate beyond kids.

Dreamworks characters rumored to be coming to Royal Caribbean

In:
04Jun2010

According to a tweet by Stitchkingdom, the characters from DreamWorks Animation will be appearing as characters to meet aboard Royal Caribbean ships.  This could be the announcement promised at 11am eastern today by Royal Caribbean.  In a few hours, we will know more!

Update: USA Today is confirming the rumor.  Characters will first arrive on Allure of the Seas and then spread to Oasis of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas.  The characters will include Shrek, Fiona and Puss In Boots from Shrek; Alex, Marty and the Penguins of Madagascar; Po of Kung Fu Panda and Hiccup of How to Train Your Dragon. The characters will appear as part of exclusive special events, parades, character breakfasts and photo opportunities. Characters also will appear in an AquaTheater show on Allure of the Seas, and in an ice skating show on the ship.

Norfolk Virginia still a popular port

In:
03Jun2010

We all tend to think of states like Florida or Texas when it comes to the state we leave from for a cruise, but for those in the mid-Atlantic states, there's still lots of activity out of Norfolk, Virginia aboard Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas.  Enchantment of the Seas serves Bermuda as well as other Caribbean ports of call and WAVY-TV 10 is reporting many who frequent Norfolk as their departure port are loving it.

"Cruising from Norfolk is a hit with local passengers like Tom Anthony who finds it a bargain too. He is just returning.

"We live in Chesapeake so to be able to be dropped off here and get on a cruise ship and not having to travel a whole additional day to and from makes it a lot better value for us. But also the price is about what you would spend on a hotel and they throw in all the food you can eat for free and drop you off at a beautiful place like Bermuda," Anthony said."

With so many ships heading to Europe to chase the high demand there, it's good to hear smaller ports like Norfolk are still generating demand to keep ships serving that port and making it easier to get to your next Royal Caribbean cruise.

Pages