Ships

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

In:
Category: 
07Nov2017

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."

The differences between Royal Caribbean's ships

In:
Category: 
16Aug2016

Royal Caribbean has a fairly large fleet of ships, with 25 different elegant vessels that offer cruises around the world, and often those new to Royal Caribbean may be wondering what the differences are between them.  Understanding what each ship offers makes the decision of which ship to sail on an easier process.

Here is a guide to understanding the similarities and differences among Royal Caribbean's cruise ships and what each class of ship offers.

Royal Caribbean ship classes

Royal Caribbean defines its fleet of ships by the classes.  Think of this like the model of a car, where many ships have a common base among them, and that common base is the distinguishing factor from other classes of ships.  Each class of ships has a similar size, structure and signature offerings that separate themselves from the other classes of ships.  The ship classes are an easy way to group Royal Caribbean ships, and quickly know the basic differences.

Within each class of ships, there can be varying degrees of differences between "sister ships."  These differences vary, with some classes of ship having barely any noticeable differences to other ship classes having more noticeable features among the vessels.  The key concept to understand is that while each class of ships are a grouping, within that grouping there can be more subtle differences between the ships.  As an example, Liberty of the Seas offers water slides, whereas her sister ships of Freedom of the Seas and Independence of the Seas do not.  Royal Caribbean continuously works on and upgrades their ships, with regularly scheduled drydock sessions and these can result in new offerings onboard.

Today, Royal Caribbean has eight classes of ships in the fleet.

Oasis class

These are the largest cruise ships in the world, with seven distinct neighborhoods that help differentiate each area of the ship for easier navigation.  Oasis of the Seas launched in 2009, and was a revolutionary ship because of its overall size and offerings.  Oasis-class ships are known for the Central Park and Boardwalk neighborhoods, as well as the Aqua Theater and zip-line on the ship.   Because of the ship's enormous size, it offers pretty much everything Royal Caribbean is known for.

  • Oasis of the Seas
  • Allure of the Seas
  • Harmony of the Seas
  • Oasis IV
  • Oasis V

Quantum class

The newest class of cruise ships, the Quantum class ships are slightly smaller than the Oasis class, but have made their mark on the cruise industry by combining a large ship size with impressive tech. Quantum class ships have two main features that stand out, the North Star observation pod and Two70 theater.  Quantum class ships also feature a Royal Esplanade district, which offers dining, shopping and bars.  Being the newest class of ships, Quantum class ships offer the latest designs onboard and their integration of tech is unparalleled.

  • Quantum of the Seas
  • Anthem of the Seas
  • Ovation of the Seas
  • Quantum IV
  • Quantum V

Freedom class

The Freedom class ships are known for their size and offering a good mix of activities.  Freedom class ships were the largest in the world when they debuted, but have been dwarfed by newer ships in the last ten years. While no longer the biggest, they are still quite large and offer a lot.  Recent refurbishments have upgraded their offerings and they compare very well to their bigger sister ships.  Freedom class ships offer FlowRiders, a Royal Promenade and cantilevered hot tubs. In terms of value, Freedom class ships are in that "sweet spot" of offering many of the popular amenities Royal Caribbean is known for at a great price.

  • Freedom of the Seas
  • Liberty of the Seas
  • Independence of the Seas

Voyager class

Voyager class ships were the first class of ships by Royal Caribbean to offer amenities we know come to expect onboard, such as ice skating, the Royal Promenade, miniature golf and more.  In the past few years, Royal Caribbean has refurbished many of the ships in this class to offer even more options for guests.  New restaurants, water slides, entertainment and FlowRiders have provided even more fun onboard.  Voyager class ships are very similar in build and look to Freedom class ships, but slightly smaller.

  • Voyager of the Seas
  • Adventure of the Seas
  • Explorer of the Seas
  • Navigator of the Seas
  • Mariner of the Seas

Radiance class

Royal Caribbean designed Radiance class ships to be able to go anywhere, while providing views of the ocean all over the ship.  Radiance class ships are about half the size of the classes of ships mentioned earlier in this post, but they still offer plenty to do onboard. Radiance class ships offer a rock-climbing wall, pools, lounges and sleek design.  Radiance class ships are popular with Royal Caribbean veterans for their elegant offerings and relaxing atmosphere.

  • Brilliance of the Seas
  • Jewel of the Seas
  • Radiance of the Seas
  • Serenade of the Seas

​Vision class

Like the Radiance class, Vision class ships are on the smaller side and offer a great pool deck, casino, themed dining rooms.  Just like the Radiance class, recent refurbishments have brought many new restaurants and entertainment to these ships.  Combined with the great value of a Vision class ship, guess can enjoy cruises to nearly anywhere.

  • Enchantment of the Seas
  • Grandeur of the Seas
  • Legend of the Seas
  • Rhapsody of the Seas
  • Vision of the Seas

​Sovereign Class

The Sovereign class defined the term "mega ship," when they first debuted and over the years, Royal Caribbean has transferred some of the ships out of the fleet, with just Majesty of the Seas left. While she may be an older ship, she makes up for her age in offering great getaway cruises the Bahamas at low prices.  Do not judge these ships by their age alone, because they still offer a fun atmosphere onboard, with an impressive pool deck and dining choices.  Majesty of the Seas was refurbished in 2016 and many new family amenities were added.

  • Majesty of the Seas

Empress of the Seas

Royal Caribbean brought Empress of the Seas back into its fleet in 2016, to also offer 4- and 5-night getaway cruises to destinations in the Caribbean and Bahamas.  Like Majesty of the Seas, Empress is on the smaller side, but Royal Caribbean spent a considerable amount of time and money to upgrade her offerings and make her a compelling choice.  

What is important to know between the classes

When you compare ships to each other in order to pick one that will be the best fit for your vacation, there is a lot to consider.  Ship size is not the only factor, with many details contributing to the overall decision.  Every Royal Caribbean ship offers a lot to see and do, but if the main features are not of interest to you or the ship is missing something that you want, then it will not be a good fit.  Having a good understanding of the key factors between the ships will make the decision much easier.

Kids

All Royal Caribbean ships offer the award-winning Adventure Ocean program, which provides complimentary supervised programming for children between the ages of 3 and 17. Many families look to Adventure Ocean to be the center piece of their family's day, and cruising with children is at the heart of the Royal Caribbean cruise experience.

The important difference among Royal Caribbean's ships when it comes to kids is knowing that the larger (and newer) the ship, the more wide-ranging facilities and activities there are for kids.  With each new class of ship, Royal Caribbean has placed a larger emphasis on kids facilities and the newest ships certainly offer the most impressive experiences. 

Families should by no means avoid smaller ships.  There is plenty for kids to onboard, but it is important to know the scope of facilities and activities for children is considerably different between a Quantum class ship and a Radiance class ship.

Cost

A very noticeable difference between Royal Caribbean ships is the price.  In general, the price of a cruise on a given ship will go down as newer ships are introduced.  Royal Caribbean charges a premium for its newer ships, and the effect that pricing strategy has on its older ships is prices tend to go down over time.

I believe all of Royal Caribbean's ships offer a tremendous value, but the value of the not-as-new ships provide is hard to overlook.  The newest ships will usually come with a higher price tag, but depending on your desire for the latest and greatest, the price you pay will be affected by it.  Price should not be the sole factor in determining which ship you sail on, but we recognize that it is a powerful factor.

Itinerary

Not all Royal Caribbean ships can visit the same ports, and which area of the world you have in mind to visit may dictate largely which ships you will want to sail on.  It has been hotly debated over the years whether the ship or the destinations are the primary decision making factor, but it is difficult for anyone to overlook the ports a ship will visit because where your ship goes is a major part of the vacation.

Cruises to smaller ports, like Northern Europe, East Asia and the South Pacific may require smaller ships since the docking facilities there are not able to handle larger ships.  Some ports, like those in Alaska, have additional environmental regulations that limit the kind of cruise ships that can visit.

The more popular cruising destinations of the Caribbean and Mediterranean can handle much larger ships, and ports around the world are upgrading their port facilities to be able to handle larger ships.

Onboard offerings

I always share the story of a cruise I took on Brilliance of the Seas to help prove a point about the differences between ship classes.  I was lounging in the Solarium when a guest next to me started vocally complaining to his wife about the lack of things to do onboard.  Into his rant, he mentioned that compared to his recent Oasis of the Seas cruise, there was nothing to do onboard.

The takeaway from this experience is it is important to know what each ship offers (and does not offer) onboard in terms of activities, entertainment, dining and more. If you want a never ending array of "things to do," then lean towards taking a cruise on the larger ships.  If your idea of a good time is lounging by the pool and exploring the ports of call you visit, then any size ship will be fine. The key is knowing if there is a FlowRider, particular specialty restaurant or something else important to you onboard the ship you are considering.

Lost Royal Caribbean ship names

In:
Category: 
11Aug2014

Royal Caribbean has 21 ships in service today along with another handful of ships on their way and each has a name that help make each ship unique.  Did you know Royal Caribbean has had other names for ships that never got used?

When Royal Caribbean builds new cruise ships these days, they register for a trademark for many possible ship names but not all names get used for reasons we may never know.  Searching through the Trademark Electronic Search System, we found a list of ship names Royal Caribbean registered that never used and it got us dreaming about the "what if's" with these names.

Endeavour of the Seas

First up is Endeavour of the Seas, whcih was registered on September 17, 2004, which was the same day they registered for Freedom of the Seas. 

In fact, Endeavour of the Seas was originally the name of the second Freedom-class ship before ultimately being named Liberty of the Seas.  Even to this day, www.endeavoroftheseas.com redirects you to Royal Caribbean's web site.

Journey of the Seas

Royal Caribbean registered the name Journey of the Seas back on February 16, 2001, which was also the same day it registered Jewel of the Seas.

Traveler of the Seas

Traveler of the Seas was also registered on February 16, 2001

The other Quantum class names

In late 2012 Royal Caribbean applied for six trademarks for new cruise ship names but ultimately only used two of them (Quantum & Anthem) so the other four names appear to be abandonded as well.

  • Vantage of the Seas
  • Ovation of the Seas
  • Passion of the Seas
  • Pulse of the Seas

Which ship name do you think Royal Caribbean should have used? Add your suggestion in the comments below!

Cruise Line and Ship Review

In:
17Jun2010

AllVoices wrote up a review of the Royal Caribbean cruise line as a whole, as a means of introducing the line to others and comparing it against other cruise lines.  Based on it's review, here are the conclusions it drew about Royal Caribbean...

  • Royal Caribbean tends to build the biggest ships first.
  • This cruise line usually wins the race for new on board amenities
  • Of the four cruise lines reviewed, Royal Caribbean was by far the most efficient at embarkation
  • The food on Royal Caribbean is about standard fare for cruise ships
  • The cabin and dining room service were top flight
  • The cost of a Royal Caribbean cruise is slightly higher than some of the competition

The other 3 cruise lines compared were Costa Cruise Lines, Carnival and Norwegian cruise lines.  I don't have much experience with Costa, but in terms of Carnival and Norwegian, I found the review to be about what I expected to read.  There's a big debate about the food on Royal Caribbean versus Carnival and the price issue, well, you do get what you pay for in many cases.

By in large, Royal Caribbean fared well in the review and came off sounding like a high quality cruise line.

AllVoices also posted a review of Enchantment of the Seas and it's a pretty favorable one at that.  The review covers many aspects of the ship from it's dining options to entertainment to its rooms.  If you have a cruise coming up on Enchantment or are considering a cruise on her, this might be a good read.

The dining room staff is top notch. They are personable as well as professional. The quality of the food is superior, and it is served in a timely manner. When multiple appetizers, entrees, or desserts or ordered, there is no delay in their arrival. Like all cruise ships, Enchantment of the Seas will provide some entertainment most nights during the dining experience.

The reviewer seemed mostly positive on Enchantment and only mentioned a few negatives such as, "The entertainment is good but not exceptional unless you happen to draw a particularly funny comedian or really enjoy musicals".  Overall, the review seemed to be highly favorable.