With 2016 nearly complete, it's time to look back on the year and see which news stories generated the most interest. There's no doubt that 2016 was a busy year for Royal Caribbean and so it is interesting to see which stories rose to the top of people's interest.
This year's top ten list is based on the Royal Caribbean stories we feel generated the most buzz and interest. There's some stories that made the top ten list that surprised me and others I'm more surprises did not make the list. Let's dive in!
Anthem of the Seas ran into an unexpected storm
In February 2016, Anthem of the Seas was beginning a normal cruise from the New York area to somewhere much warmer when it ran into a winter storm off the coast of the Carolinas, which generated waves of over 30 feet and hurricane force winds. As you might imagine, that caused quite a bit of motion onboard the ship and even some minor damage.
At first, the plan was to continue with the sailing but the news of the encounter with the storm generated a ton of negative coverage in the media, and Royal Caribbean decided to cancel the remainder of the sailing and offer refunds to guests.
This event was as noteworthy for the storm it encountered, as much as the negative publicity the event generated. Luckily there very few injuries, and Anthem of the Seas was back in operation very quickly.
Harmony of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas arrived
Royal Caribbean took delivery of two new cruise ships this year, which made for a very busy spring.
Ovation of the Seas, the cruise line's third Quantum class ship, was delivered to Royal Caribbean in April 2016 and then promptly headed to Southampton, England, where she offered a few quick cruises. Following those getaway cruises, Ovation began a 52-night “Global Odyssey” cruise that culminated in the arrival to her homeport in Tianjin, China.
Just one month later, Harmony of the Seas was delivered to Royal Caribbean, and she spent the summer in Europe before heading to the United States in November 2016.
Political protests in Haiti prevent Royal Caribbean guests from going to Labadee
The year started off with a series of unexpected protests in Royal Caribbean's private destination of Labadee. Civil unrest related to the Haitian political situation caused some locals to protest in the waters of Labadee.
Royal Caribbean decided to skip the scheduled stops in Labadee because of the protests. Although the protest was peaceful in nature, Royal Caribbean felt it was clear that if the protest continued, there would be a significant impact on our guests’ ability to enjoy Labadee.
The protests continued for a few more days before subsiding, and cruise ships were able to resume visits shortly thereafter.
Three Oasis class ships met in one place
It was an undeniably fun sight to witness Royal Caribbean's three Oasis class cruise ships meeting each other for the first (and perhaps only) time.
The three ships rendezvoused off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida in a celebration of the arrival of Harmony of the Seas to her new homeport of Port Everglades. It was the kind of cruise eye candy that any Royal Caribbean fan relished seeing.
Royal Caribbean abandoned Dynamic Dining on Anthem of the Seas
Filed in the "I cannot believe it actually happened" category, Royal Caribbean dropped the bombshell news that it decided to abandon the Dynamic Dining concept on its ships.
Guest feedback proved to be too loud to ignore, and Royal Caribbean decided to offer on Anthem of the Seas My Time Dining program, with traditional and flexible options, as well as introduce new, upgraded dinner menus.
The decision to change how guests dine on Anthem of the Seas marks a tremendous reversal in fortunes for the Dynamic Dining program, which at one time was arguably heralded as the future of cruise ship dining. Nonetheless, the cancelation is a great example of how important guest feedback is to Royal Caribbean.
Royal Caribbean announced Icon class ships
Royal Caribbean made a big impact with the announcement it was ordering two new cruise ships that would be powered by liquefied natural gas and fuel cell technology.
These ships would represent the first two members of the new Icon class of ships. The Icon ships would likely accommodate approximately 5,000 passengers, but details are still being worked out.
The vessels will be delivered in the second quarters of 2022 and 2024. In the meantime, the company said, it will begin testing fuel cell technology on an existing Oasis-class ship in 2017, and will also run progressively larger fuel cell projects on new Quantum class vessels being built in the next several years.
Royal Caribbean began offering cruises to Cuba
Royal Caribbean had been hinting at offering cruises to Cuba for most of this year, but it finally received the go-ahead to offer sailings in December.
In fact, Royal Caribbean had a very quick turnaround from when it received permission from the Cuban and American governments to offer cruises to when sailings on Empress of the Seas went on sale. As expected, Empress of the Seas was the ship chosen to offer the company's first sailings to Cuba, which will take place in late spring of 2017.
Royal Caribbean will build a new cruise terminal in Miami
Royal Caribbean is making a comeback in Miami in a big way, with the announcement over the summer that it will build a brand new cruise terminal.
Terminal A will open in late 2018 and be able to handle Oasis-class ships (which has spawned a great deal of speculation as to which ship might call PortMiami home).
The new terminal features a cutting-edge design and has been nicknamed the ‘Crown of Miami’ because of its distinct shape. The design evokes the points of the symbolic headgear when viewed from the water; the ‘M’ of Miami when viewed from the east or western approaches; and a sense of waves rising or ships passing when viewed from the terminal side. At night, the terminal’s facade will be lit ensuring that the building makes a striking impression and providing a dynamic addition to the PortMiami landscape.
Changes to the unlimited alcohol packages
Royal Caribbean's drink packages have been quite popular since they were first introduced, but in 2016 we saw some big changes to the offerings that seemed to resonate with many guests.
Prior to 2016, drink packages rarely had discounts to them, but early in 2016 we began seeing a steady stream of discounts for the drink packages if they were purchased prior to a cruise. These new discounts helped "push" many guests over the proverbial fence of making that decision to invest in the package.
In addition, Royal Caribbean revamped its drink package options in September 2016, but simplifying the options available. Three unlimited alcohol packages became just one package and the non-alcoholic packages were also reconsidered. The idea behind the change in the drink package options was to make things simpler to understand for guests and crew.
Liberty of the Seas received a major refurbishment
Speaking of refurbishments, the revitalization of the year goes to Liberty of the Seas, which added a ton of new activities and experiences including water slides and an aqua park way before Harmony of the Seas had one.
Royal Caribbean regularly uses the Galveston cruise market as a "testing ground" for new ideas that make it to the fleet later on, and Liberty of the Seas was the beneficiary of these new ideas. Chief among them was the new Tidal Wave water slide, which took a bit longer than expected to get working correctly, but has since become quite popular with guests.
What did you think was the biggest Royal Caribbean news of 2016? Did we miss one? Share your thoughts in the comments below!