Royal Caribbean spends a great deal of energy in planning refurbishments, upgrades, new ship construction and a lot of other initiatives, but sometimes these projects can slip behind schedule.
Despite our best efforts, sometimes delays and unexpected problems will occur in any project, including cruise ships.
With the recent news of Odyssey of the Seas encountering issues at the shipyard, I wanted to take a look back at some other Royal Caribbean projects that also dealt with their fair share of setbacks.
Empress of the Seas return to the fleet
In 2015, Royal Caribbean announced it was bringing back Empress of the Seas to the fleet, following a restructuring of sister company Pullmantur cruises.
In order to get the ship back to service, it would need to undergo an "extensive refurbishment" in Spring 2016.
Unfortunately, the additional work needed took much longer than expected in order to bring the vessel back up to Royal Caribbean's standards, and as a result, the first six sailings in 2016 were cancelled.
Then another seven more sailings were cancelled because Royal Caribbean discovered more significant infrastructure and physical improvements across the ship's multiple galleys and provisioning areas were needed.
In the end, Empress of the Seas rejoined the fleet in May 2016, following two months of cancelled sailings and $50 million in upgrades.
Navigator of the Seas Amplification
In early 2019, Navigator of the Seas had her turn for a much anticipated Royal Amplification, which would add new water slides, restaurants and experiences onboard.
The $115 million shipwide refurbishment was scheduled to be complete by February 2019, but poor weather conditions at the shipyard in the Bahamas caused delays to the progress of the ship’s outer decks.
As a result, the February 24 sailing was cancelled.
Luckily, the delay only impacted one sailing, and Navigator was able to resume service in March 2019 without any other impact.
Galveston cruise terminal delay
The global impact of the current health crisis took its toll on Royal Caribbean's plans to build a brand new cruise terminal in Galveston that could accommodate Allure of the Seas.
In December 2019, Royal Caribbean and the Port of Galveston signed a long-term agreement to build a $100 million 150,000-square-foot cruise terminal, which was scheduled to open in November 2021.
In March 2019, Royal Caribbean asked the Port of Galveston for a one year delay in starting construction of its new terminal.
Royal Caribbean cited the new terminal delay was caused by the closure of shipyards along with the disruption to the supply chain. Thus, the cruise line decided to postpone construction of a new terminal in an effort to cut costs.
The Galveston Wharves Board voted on the proposal a month later and approved the one year delay to begin construction of Cruise Terminal 3.
As it currently stands, Royal Caribbean has shifted Allure of the Seas' sailings from Galveston until the terminal is ready.
Oasis of the Seas crane accident
Despite the best everyone's best efforts, accidents due occur from time to time, including last year when a construction crane collapsed on top of Oasis of the Seas.
The incident occurred in April 2019 while Oasis was at the Great Bahamas Shipyard near Freeport, Bahamas for scheduled maintenance work. A construction crane hit the ship, and ended up laying against the vessel.
After assessing the damage, Royal Caribbean found damage to the Aqua Theater and some suites, and was forced to cancel the next three scheduled sailings that followed in order for the ship to be fully repaired.
Perfect Day at CocoCay timeline
Perhaps no project has had as many changes to its timeline than Royal Caribbean's ambitious makeover of its private island in the Bahamas.
At a ceremony in March 2018 in New York City, Royal Caribbean announced its plans to expand its private island in the Bahamas, CocoCay.
The $200 million transformation (later it increased to $250 million) originally had a multi-phase timeline, with the completion of a new pier in September 2018, and a Spring 2019 date for most of the island's experiences to be open. The final phase, Coco Beach Club was set to open November 2019.
Royal Caribbean broke ground on the new pier on April 27, 2017, and added the pier would be complete in June 2018.
The pier took much longer than anticipated, with multiple delays that lead to it eventually taking the first ship docking there in March 2019.
Luckily, the rest of the project moved forward at a better pace, with Oasis Lagoon pool and some dining venues also opening in March. Splashaway Bay and Skipper's Grill followed in April 2019, and the Grand Opening of Perfect Day at CocoCay was held in May 2019.
The Coco Beach Club was delayed a few times, but opened in late January 2020.
The European Union released 49 pages of general guidance for cruise ships that could be applied once cruise lines resume cruises following the COVID-19 pandemic.
The guidance covers a variety of measures that seek to reduce the risk for introduction of COVID-19 onto the ship, transmission during cruise ship voyage, embarkation and disembarkation, and further provides options for preparedness to respond to potential COVID-19 cases among crew and guests.
It is important to note these recommendations by the European Union have not been approved or accepted by Royal Caribbean. These measures are a look at what policies are being proposed by health organizations.
Interestingly, 22 different Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. employees provided input in the formation of this policy, including a number of Senior Vice Presidents.
While there is a lot in this document, here are the major highlights.
Short sailings to start
This end-to-end plan also notes that it recommends cruise lines take a "gradual approach" to resuming cruise ship sailings.
Specifically, it recommends sailings between 3 to 7 nights in duration, and perhaps limit the number of port visits in the itinerary.
In addition, each country that is visited on a cruise should be evaluated for their capacity to accept possible or confirmed COVID-19 cases from cruise ships.
Forced social distancing
In order to make social distancing rules effective, the EU recommends reducing the number of guests and crew onboard.
Limiting the amount of people onboard allows measures related to physical distancing on board ships can be maintained, and that temporary isolation and quarantine of passengers and crew can take place individually in cabins.
Physical distancing of at least 1.5 metres (5 feet) should be maintained at waiting areas and during boarding at transport stations, by adopting special markings and controlled entry measures.
A number of hygiene measures are recommended to be employed onboard: hand washing with soap and water or hand hygiene with alcohol based hand rub solution (containing at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol), respiratory (coughing and sneezing) etiquette, disposal of used tissues, physical distancing (including the elimination of handshaking), use of face masks, avoiding touching the nose, eyes and mouth without previously washing hands (38) etc.;
The word "mask" appears 100 times in the document, and it encompasses using masks while onboard.
When physical distancing cannot be maintained, the use of face masks should be required.
Crew members are recommended to practice physical distancing and wear face masks.
If a passenger does not arrive with their own face mask, face masks could be made available for passengers at the terminal.
The document also recommends wearing masks in the following areas:
- Interacting with other guests when closer than 5 feet apart
- On buses
- Walking/passing in narrow corridors on board
- Excursions (countries that have rules about requiring them)
- Visiting the medical facility on board
No indoor swimming pools
Indoor swimming pools are not recommended, but indoor pools that can be converted as outdoor pools (by lifting/removing roofs or walls) could be allowed.
Bathers should be strongly advised to shower before entering the pools. The cruise ship should provide all necessary items for showering (e.g. soap, shower gel, etc.).
Sunbeds, chairs and lounge chairs should be positioned so that they are at least 5 feet apart from each other.
In addition, the maximum number of guests in a pool should be limited, including in hot tubs.
Each cruise ship operating in Europe must have a ship contingency plan/outbreak management plan.
The EU document outlines 11 parts to this plan, including:
- Monitoring of epidemiological situation, rules and restrictions worldwide
- Written contingency plan/outbreak management plan for COVID-19
- Arrangements for medical treatment and ambulance services
- Arrangements for repatriation
- Arrangements for quarantine of close contacts
- Arrangements for isolation of asymptomatic/ pre-symptomatic travelers
- Adequate testing capacity
- Crew training
- Immediate reporting to the next port of call of any possible case
- Estimation of maximum number of passengers and crew on board cruise ships
- Focused inspection on COVID-19 prevention and control for resuming cruise ship voyages by EU HEALTHY GATEWAYS
Prohibiting higher risk guests
Not surprisingly, there are recommendations to prevent anyone who may be at a higher risk of having contracted COVID-19 from going on a cruise ship in the first place.
These measures mirror some of the policies that went into effect before Royal Caribbean shut down operations in March.
Any person experiencing symptoms compatible with COVID-19, or if identified, anyone who has been in contact during the last 14 days with a confirmed case of COVID-19, or anyone who is tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 by RT-PCR would not be accepted on board cruise ships.
Passengers in high risk groups including people over 65 years of age or people of any age with underlying medical conditions (chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory diseases and immunocompromised individuals) should be advised to visit a doctor for pre-travel medical consultation to assess if they are fit to travel.
Activities and services on board cruise ships could be organized according to age group, so that older individuals are separated from other age groups.
No self-service buffet
In addition to a number of protocols recommended for keeping the ship clean, the recommendation is for only designated crew members be allowed to serve food.
Crew serving food should wear face masks & disposable gloves.
Under no circumstances should crew or passengers who will be served food use any commonly shared utensils or other items. These should be removed from the service so that only a designated crew can distribute them.
Self-service of dispensed items, plates, cutlery, utensils by passengers or crew should not be allowed. Food handlers should serve any dispensed items (for example water, coffee, juice etc.).
Room service is recommended in order to avoid overcrowding in restaurants and other food service areas.
Royal Caribbean is offering bonus instant savings during its July 4th weekend sale.
The Sun Soaked Savings Sale runs between July 3 - 5, 2020 on select sailings departing on or after September 16, 2020.
If you are looking for a sale on cruise add-ons, such as drink packages, shore excursions or wifi, check out their Summer Sale on those items.
The Sun Soaked Savings includes:
30% off cruise fare for all guests in the stateroom.
Kids Sail Free: Free cruise fare for 3rd guests and higher who are 12 years old or younger as of cruise departure date, booked in the same stateroom as the first two qualifying guests in a triple or quad-occupancy stateroom. Kids Sail Free applies to select 4-night or longer Alaska, Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, Caribbean, CaribNE, Coastal, Europe, Hawaii, Repositioning and all 2020 Serenade of the Seas sailings departing between September 16, 2020 – December 17, 2020 and January 8, 2021 – May 17, 2021 and September 1 – December 17, 2021, and QN in Alaska May 10 – September 21, 2021. Offer excludes 2020 Thanksgiving sailings (Sailings between November 21 - 28, 2020), 2021 President’s Day Sailings (Sailings between February 12 – 15, 2021), and 2021 Spring Break and Easter sailings (Sailings between March 13 – April 4, 2021), 2021 Thanksgiving Sailings (Sailings between November 19 – 26, 2021.
2021 Kicker Sale: Instant savings of up to $150 USD per stateroom on select sailings departing between January 1 – December 31, 2021. Savings amount determined by category booked and sailing length:
- Sailings 5 nights or less, $25 savings for Interior and Ocean View, $50 for Balconies and $75 for Suites
- Sailings 6 nights or longer, $50 savings for Interior and Ocean View, $75 for Balconies and $150 for Suites
Sun Soaked Savings: Instant savings of up to $200 USD per stateroom on select sailings departing on or after September 16, 2020. Savings amount determined by category booked and sailing length:
- Sailings 5 nights or less, $25 savings for Interior and Ocean View, $75 for Balconies and $75 for Suites
- Sailings 6 nights or longer, $50 savings for Interior and Ocean View, $100 for Balconies and $200 for Suites
30% Off Every Guest, Kids Sail Free and 2021 Kicker are combinable with each other as well as promotional OBCs, NextCruise offers, instant savings, restricted discounts (for example, Seniors, Residents, Military), Promo Code driven offers, Free Upgrades, Crown and Anchor discounts and Shareholder Benefits. Sun Soaked Savings is combinable with 30% Off Every Guest, Kids Sail Free and 2021 Kicker as well as with promotional OBCs, NextCruise offers, Instant Savings, restricted discounts (for example, Seniors, Residents, Military), Promo Code driven offers, Free Upgrades, and Shareholder Benefits, but not combinable with Crown and Anchor discounts. Offer 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, and Net Rates. Promo Code driven offers are based on select ships and sail dates and must be applied at time of booking; limit one promo code per booking.
Offer available to residents of United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and select countries in the Caribbean
The first week of July means some major holidays in North America, including Canada Day and Independence Day, which means lots of cooking meats to celebrate these holidays.
When you are coming up with your party grill menu, you can bring the "fall off the bone" BBQ Ribs from Portside BBQ on Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas to your home with this easy recipe.
Royal Caribbean Vice President Food & Beverage, Linken D'Souza, shared how to make these super tasty ribs and home, which means you can not only get a great meal for your family, but also bring back some cruise memories from onboard.
Dry Rub Ingredients
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 2 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp coriander
- 2 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp celery salt
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp kosher salt
"Fall off the bone" BBQ Ribs Step-by-Step Instructions
Step 1: Put all dry rub ingredients into a bowl and mix well with a spatula.
Step 2: Time to prepare the ribs. Flip the ribs over to the back side.
Step 3: Take a sharp knife from one side and run it all the way down the center.
Step 4: Use your fingers to get underneath the membrane. Peel back until completely removed.
Step 5: Time to rub the ribs. Bring the ribs to room temperature, and then generously sprinkle the seasoning over the ribs and use your hands to rub into the meat.
Step 6: Flip the ribs and repeat the sprinkling and rubbing until the rubs are completely covered.
- Applewood: 0.75 lb
- Hickory 0.75 lb
Making the Wood Pouch:
Step 1: Take half of each wood flavor and soak in water for 20 minutes.
Step 2: Take remaining dry wood flavors and mix together.
Step 3: Place half of the dry wood mix on 2 pieces of aluminum foil.
Step 4: Mix the soaked wood and dry wood on the aluminum foil sheets.
Step 5: Place the wood in the middle of the foil and fold each side to the middle. Make sure it is tightly wrapped and flip over.
Step 6: Use a knife to poke 6-8 one-inch holes to allow smoke through.
Preparing to grill
Step 1: Remove one of the grates while grill is still cold.
Step 2: Place one wood pouch with holes facing up on the side with the grate removed.
Step 3: Turn on grill only, heating up the side with the pouch and close the lid.
Step 4: Turn down the grill down to low once you reach 300°F and the wood starts to smoke.
Cooking the Ribs
Step 1: Place the ribs on the side where the heat is off and close the lid.
Step 2: After 1.5 hours, place the 2nd pouch of wood over the heat. Let cook for 3 hours.
Step 3: To get the ribs to "fall of the bone", remove the cooked rubs and place on a foil sheet.
Step 4: Add one chopped white onion around the ribs.
Step 5: Take 1/4 cup of BBQ sauce mixed with 1/4 cup of water and pour over the ribs and evenly baste.
Step 6: Wrap the ribs in foil and place over the grate.
Step 7: Turn the heat under the rub to medium and continue to cook for 1 - 1.5 hours.
Glazing the ribs
Step 1: Remove the rubs from the foil and place over medium high heat.
Step 2: Use your favorite BBQ sauce glaze to glaze the ribs with as little, or as much, sauce as you like to caramelize.
Step 3: Remove from grill after 3-5 minutes.
Enjoy the ribs and have a great holiday weekend!
Many cruise fans have been wondering what Royal Caribbean's plan will be for keeping guests healthy while onboard their ships, including what the fate of the Windjammer buffet will be.
It seems we have a definitive answer from the head of Royal Caribbean's food and beverage: there will be a buffet.
Royal Caribbean Global Vice President Culinary, Dining & Beverage, Linken D'Souza, spoke on the fate of the buffet in a webinar question and answer with travel agents on Wednesday and confirmed the buffet will remain.
Mr. D'Souza was asked about if there will be a buffet on Royal Caribbean's ships, and while Royal Caribbean has not divulged its plans for which policies and changes will be made onboard its cruise ships, he was able to dispel rumors and concerns surrounding what will happen to the buffet.
"Windjammer is one of my favorite spots, and we will continue to have a buffet at Royal Caribbean. We have worked through a variety of different scenarios, from employee service to individual portions to individual tongs for self-service, to finger koozies that you can pick up hot dishes with that can be washed and sanitized. So we continue to work through a lot of the details."
"But rest assured, the buffet will exist. There may be some small modifications that allow us to ensure that we have a really great, healthy return to service. But your favorites and what you're used to at the Windjammer will still be there."
"So I'll I'll put that to rest. We will absolutely have a Windjammer with all of your favorites in a very similar fashion to what you've had previously and maybe some different service steps to ensure healthy service."
The origins of the idea that the Windjammer might go away started in May, when Royal Caribbean President and CEO Michael Bayley mentioned the cruise line was working on their plan to keep guests healthy and the buffet experience came up.
"I think in the beginning, there will not be a buffet in the beginning, that's how I see it. It depends again upon the timing. We will utilize the space, we will utilize the Windjammer, but in all probability it won't be a classical buffet. It will be something more akin to a restaurant."
While Mr. Bayley did not say the Windjammer buffet was gone, it opened up the idea that significant change could occur. A week later, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard Fain had a different take on the buffet's fate.
"It doesn't mean that you don't have a buffet. I think it's very likely that you're not going to see that on land or sea."
The changing nature of recommendations by health professionals, as well as the organic discussions Royal Caribbean has had internally likely caused the answer to change depending on the week.
With Mr. D'Souza's affirmation today, it appears guests will have a buffet experience to look forward to once cruising resumes.
Not just Royal Caribbean with buffets
If the idea of a buffet remaining on a cruise ship when cruises resume sounds odd, other cruise lines are keeping theirs as well.
When Norwegian Cruise Line announced their new policies for guests, they indicated buffets and beverage stations will be full service with staff available to serve guests.
Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line announced while self-service buffet stations have been suspended, all food and beverage will be served by crew members wearing face masks, hats, aprons, and gloves.
Royal Caribbean has been diligently working on getting its crew members home, and reported on Wednesday that it has repatriated 95% of its crew members.
Royal Caribbean Senior Vice President of Sales and Trade Support & Service Vicki Freed told travel agents in her weekly webinar that among its corporate brands, Royal Caribbean has repatriated 95% of its crew members so far, and that number will climb to 97% by July 15.
"We have about 40,000 crew members from our corporate collective efforts, of which 95% have now been taken home, either via our own ships or be a chartered aircraft. By July 15th, 97% will be repatriated to their home. So no crew left behind."
"We're happy for them that they get to spend some time with family until we know that we're ready to start service again and we can bring them back and we're excited to bring them back."
In order to get crew members home, Royal Caribbean had to overcome significant legal and political hurdles countries have set up that prevent crew members on a cruise ship from returning home.
Countries around the world, including the United States, have added complex new regulations and travel restrictions meant to protect its citizens at home, while making it extremely difficult for citizens abroad to return simply because they are on a cruise ship.
Getting crew members home has been a hot topic in the news, and Royal Caribbean made it a top priority to get its crew members home.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman Richard Fain noted in the company's first quarter results call with analysts that crew repatriation is its first priority.
"In the two months since we suspended operations, we've been working tirelessly to safely repatriate our guests and crew members to their homes," Mr. Fain elaborated, "Our crew come from more than 100 countries around the world with widely different safety protocols and travel restrictions. This has turned, what should be a simple task into a monumental one."
"It's really hard to convey the complexity of the process to somebody who's used to making simple travel arrangements. But, our teams are working around the clock with the multitude of governing bodies to repatriate our crews as soon as possible. We've even gone to the extent of using our ships as transport vessels and currently have nine ships carry more than 10,000 crew members back to their home countries. It's a complex and expensive way to do it. But it's a most reliable way to get these men and women home to their families as quickly as possible. And therefore, we've undertaken to do it this way."
"Obviously, our industry and our Company are undergoing unprecedented challenges, and we are having to quickly adapt to this new and evolving environment. But, our priorities are clear, we will work to protect the safety of our guests and crew, we will proactively enhance our liquidity, we will protect the Company's brands and our travel partners, and we will define and prepare for a new normal."
While Royal Caribbean has not officially announced its new policies procedures aimed to limit and prevent the spread of COVID-19 on its ships, one possibility is having a lower occupancy on ships to promote social distancing.
Royal Caribbean Senior Vice President of Sales and Trade Support & Service Vicki Freed told Travel Weekly that a lowered capacity is one strategy that is in play.
Freed spoke on the nature of cruise pricing, and alluded to the fact cruise lines will have less than full ships, and in order not to compromise on quality, will not be reducing prices.
"We know that initially we're not sailing at 100% occupancy and we'll have to have lower load factors. I think all the cruise lines are planning that. And we're going to need to have more staff onboard and still offer the quality people expect from Royal Caribbean. If suddenly we downgrade the product onboard people will say, 'they're not the same brand I thought they were ' So you do keep your price integrity up in order to fund what we need to fund."
Limiting the amount of passengers on a ship below the regular capacity could be one of Royal Caribbean's health and safety protocols that is forthcoming.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard Fain has mentioned many times the cruise line is working behind-the-scenes on their plan, which has not been announced yet.
"Looking forward to restarting, health and safety are absolutely paramount as I've said before, what was fine just a few weeks ago is no longer adequate. Good enough just good enough. We need to raise the bar to new heights, and we have teams of doctors, of scientists, of epidemiologists, and teams of people who know our business, all looking hard and charting the safest and surest path forward that we can."
In terms of profitability, Royal Caribbean told Wall Street investors that its newer ships break even on costs with less passengers, than its older ships.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chief Financial Officer Jason Liberty answered by saying the company could break even with use of fewer, but newer cruise ships, in lieu of older ships.
"For our newer ships, you need about 30 percent load factors to kind of break even. And then they skew to about 50 percent load factor on onto our older ships."
How would they limit capacity?
If Royal Caribbean does have lower load factors, how would they determine which rooms would not be sold, and would there be any cancellations if someone was already booked?
These are among the many questions left unanswered at this time, and Ms. Freed did not comment on the logistics involved with reducing ship capacity.
UBS Analyst Robin Farley said in a recent note the cheapest staterooms are likely candidates to be excluded.
"We note that since cruise lines are taking so much capacity out of service and not pricing to fill what is in service, they could potentially eliminate some of the lowest-margin demand that they might normally turn to when filling a ship."
There is no clear indication what Royal Caribbean may or may not do, nor is there any signs if they would cancel certain reservations that are already booked.
There is plenty of speculation, including perhaps leaving specific cabins unbooked between reserved staterooms, as well as only allowing cabins with access to fresh air to be booked.
Other cruise lines approaches
Another way to figure out what Royal Caribbean might do to limit capacity is see what other cruise lines have done.
Genting Cruise Lines, which operates China-based Star Cruises and Dream Cruise Line, was among the first cruise lines to announce new health protocols, including limiting capacity.
Their approach was to limit the capacity in most venues to half of what it was previously.
Prior to shutting down its global fleet, Carnival Cruise Line announced in early April it would close inventory on select sailing dates. Essentially, not selling any more cabins on select sailings once they reach a certain point.
Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas will resume sailings earlier than originally scheduled in February 2021, and take over for Jewel of the Seas as well.
Liberty of the Seas was scheduled to undergo a Royal Amplification dry dock in early 2021, but Royal Caribbean has postponed the remaining Royal Amplifcations until further notice.
The new schedule is for Liberty of the Seas to arrive to Galveston and take over for Jewel of the Seas, beginning with the February 21, 2021 sailing.
Liberty of the Seas will sail seven night cruises to the Western Caribbean and the Bahamas from Galveston in February/March 2021.
Guests bookings on Jewel of the Seas will be automatically transferred to an equivalent stateroom on Liberty of the Seas.
Royal Caribbean has no indicated yet if Liberty of the Seas will get a "technical drydock" similar to Allure of the Seas and Explorer of the Seas, where just the propulsion and navigation systems are repaired, leaving out the add-ons and enhancements such as new venues or activities.
With the Royal Amplifications on hold, the cruise line never announced that specific upgrades were coming to Liberty of the Seas as part of her drydock.
Royal Caribbean added Jewel of the Seas sailings from Galveston in December - March 2021 in order to accommodate the time needed for Liberty of the Seas to undergo her Royal Amplification.
The original plan was for Liberty of the Seas was scheduled to be out of service from January through early March, and return to service in Galveston in mid-March.
UPDATE: Royal Caribbean has released the updated itineraries for both ships.
Jewel of the Seas 2020-2021 sailings
Liberty of the Seas 2020-2021 sailings
Royal Caribbean has announced due to COVID-19's impact on the cruise line and shipyard operations, it has cancelled all scheduled Odyssey of the Seas sailings between November 5, 2020 - April 17,
The cruise line made the announcement on Tuesday that the next new cruise ship on order is officially delayed due to a variety of factors that Royal Caribbean faces in the current economic climate.
In the wake of COVID-19, our initial global suspension and its subsequent extensions, we understand the uneasiness all of this has caused both for you as a travel advisor and, of course, your clients whose vacations have been regrettably disrupted. The health crisis has unfortunately also impacted shipyard operations, as well as our supply chain. As a result, the debut of our newest fleet member, Odyssey of the Seas, will be delayed, resulting in the unfortunate cancellation of all sailings between November 5, 2020 - April 17, 2021.
In addition to the cancelled sailings, Royal Caribbean also announced two other changes to Odyssey of the Seas.
First, the trapeze school will no longer be a feature of the SeaPlex.
Second, the age restrictions for the Sky Pad virtual trampoline experience will change: guests must be at least 7 years old to jump, and at least 13 years old to jump with a virtual reality headset.
Just like all cancelled Royal Caribbean sailings during the pandemic, guests have a few options if they were booked on any of the affected cruises.
Lift & Shift: Select next year’s sailing with the same itinerary type, sailing length, stateroom category, and within the same 4-week window of the original cruise date, and you can take your existing reservation and move it to next year. Option expires on July 17, 2020.
125% Future Cruise Credit: Guests are eligible for a 125% Future Cruise Credit (FCC) that is based on the total cruise fare paid at the guest-level to be redeemed on-or-before December 31, 2021 on sailings through April 2022. This option is automatic and will default as if neither of the other options are selected.
FCCs for cancelled Odyssey sailings can be expected via email no later than August 7, 2020.
Refund: If you prefer a cash refund, you can do so by requesting this option on-or-before December 31, 2020.
You can expect their refund to the original form of payment within 45-60 days from the cancellation date.
Switch ships: Royal Caribbean has added another option for Odyssey cancelled cruise. Move your Odyssey of the Seas reservation to another 7-night Caribbean sailing that departs within 1 week before or after your original sail date and you'll receive the following:
- Your original Odyssey cruise fare paid will be price protected at the original cruise fare rate or reduced to the current cruise fare rate (whichever is lower) of your new reservation. This excludes taxes, fees, gratuities, and other non-cruise fare items.
- If you had already paid in full and your cruise fare rate decreases, you will get a refund if there is any difference in pricing. You can expect to receive your refund to your original form of payment within 45 days of the price change. Kindly note, refund times may vary depending on your financial institution.
- Royal Caribbean will also waive any non-refundable deposit change fees associated with the move.
- Please know, if you weren't previously booked on a holiday sailing (Christmas, New Year's, and Easter), sailings during that timeframe are excluded from your options.
Onboard credit: One additional option is available for guests that want to convert their pre-cruise purchases, such as shore excursions, specialty dining, beverage package, and other add-ons, into onboard credit.
Guests choosing the FCC option can elect to convert their purchases into an onboard credit (OBC) valued at 125% of the amount paid via the Cruise Planner tool.
This can be opted-into by July 17, 2020 for Odyssey of the Seas sailings.
Warnings of a delay
The news that Odyssey of the Seas' debut would be delayed should not come as a shock, given the warning signs that have been around for months now.
In early May 2020, Royal Caribbean told its investors it believes COVID-19 has impacted shipyard operations and will result in delivery delays of ships previously planned for delivery in 2020 and 2021.
A few weeks later, Royal Caribbean International President & CEO Michael Bayley spoke briefly on the topic of Odyssey of the Seas, indicating there were delays at the shipyard, and that Royal Caribbean's newbuild team was working with Meyer Werft to craft a strategy.
"I think there may be some delays, but we're working through it as a team to try and figure that out."
This past weekend, Meyer Werft shipyard posted a video that spoke about delays related to both the virus impacting shipyard operations, as well as a construction fire onboard the caused a setback.
"And the fire at 713 Odyssey of the Seas is another stroke of fate in this overall very difficult situation. It results in high property damage and leads to further expensive delays."
The Meyer Werft shipyard has released a few photos that show off the progress being made on Odyssey of the Seas.
Within Hall 6 of the Meyer Werft shipyard, the shipyard's webcam was updated with a wide view of the ship in position.
In addition to the weekly webcam photo of Odyssey, the shipyard also added a couple of other photos to indicate Odyssey will soon be on the move.
In the next few days, Odyssey will move to a new position within the hall to the water side of the complex.
Meyer Werft set up palings today, and due to the exact positioning of the palings, the ship has a fixed stand after the move.
The updated photos of Odyssey come just days after a construction site fire caused some damage onboard the ship, that the shipyard's owners are concerned could cause delays in the construction plans.
While no change to scheduled sailings has occurred, Royal Caribbean did tell Wall Street in May that impacted shipyard operations will result in delivery delays of ships previously planned for delivery in 2020 and 2021.
UPDATE: Royal Caribbean has delayed Odyssey of the Seas' debut until at least April 2021.