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The big questions for Royal Caribbean's earnings call next week

In:
03Aug2020
By: Matt Hochberg

We are exactly one week away from Royal Caribbean's second quarter earnings report, and perhaps answers to many questions about the short and long term future of the cruise giant.

Earnings calls are when the executives will provide shareholders with a look at its financial situation and answer questions from analysts. With so much disruption to the entire cruise industry due to the cruise shutdown, there are plenty of ongoing concerns to address.

While we will not know exactly all topics to be covered, here are the top issues cruise fans are curious about (and Wall Street too).

How bad of a loss?

Royal Caribbean Group reported over $1 billion in losses in the first quarter of 2020, and that was just at the beginning of the cruise shutdown and global health crisis, so how bad will things be this time?

On the one hand, there have been no cruises in the second quarter at all, but on the other hand, it sounds like 2021 bookings are surprisingly high.

There is no doubt that the Royal Caribbean Group lost money in the second quarter, but was it less than analysts expected or worse?

The nature of their financial situation may be a good indication of the overall health of the company.

Any plans to sell ships?

Rival Carnival Corporation has announced it will sell over a dozen cruise ships by the end of the year, so the question is will Royal Caribbean do the same.

Carnival made announcements in its earnings call of selling ships, so the question is will Royal Caribbean do the same.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said two weeks ago there are no plans to sell ships, but it is a consideration. A swirl of rumors last week that Empress of the Seas was headed to the scrapyard turned out to be incorrect.

As we all know, these plans can change at any time, especially if the losses start adding up.

Will there be any new cost-cutting measures?

Something Royal Caribbean announced in its first quarter earnings call was a series of cost-cutting measures, and many are wondering if more are to come.

At the last earnings call, Royal Caribbean group was considering ways to further reduce the average monthly requirement under a further prolonged out-of-service scenario and during start-up of operations.

Whether that comes in the form of more layoffs, selling ships, taking out more loans, or something else remains to be seen.

Safety protocol update

The blue-ribbon panel dedicated to coming up with new policies and protocols to keep guests safe once cruising does resume is likely to be mentioned, if not talked about at length.

Since the day Royal Caribbean announced the Healthy Sail Panel, everyone has been curious what policies exactly will be put into place.

While Royal Caribbean has said the Healthy Sail Panel's first round of recommendations will not be made until the end of August, perhaps we will get insight into what they are considering or working on.

How well is the cruise line booked next year?

While 2020 has been an absolutely terrible year for Royal Caribbean (and all cruise lines), their booked position in 2021 has been a bright spot for the cruise line.

Essentially, a lot of people opted to defer their cruise vacations to next year instead of outright canceling plans, and the question is if this trend is holding up.

Wall Street has been skeptical of any cruise line's ability to lure customers back once cruises resume, so positive feedback on how 2021 (and beyond) is looking would put a lot of concerns at ease.

MSC Cruises releases new policies to keep guests safe from Coronavirus

In:
03Aug2020
By: Matt Hochberg

MSC Cruises announced its new policies on Monday that it will implement on its first Mediterranean sailings, which provides insight into perhaps what Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines may do as well.

MSC has formed its own health panel, known as the COVID Expert Group, which is made up of  highly qualified and internationally respected experts to inform and review our initiatives and ensure that the actions taken are appropriate, effective and informed by the best available science and health practices.

MSC designed its protocols that it claims goes beyond the actual regional and national guidelines and effectively set a new standard. Additionally, RINA, the independent maritime certification corporation, has verified that the protocol meets the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) Guidance, which incorporates additional health standards including those from the EU Healthy Gateways Joint Action.

These new protocols include universal COVID-19 testing for all guests and crew prior to embarkation, protected ashore visits at each destination only with an MSC Cruises excursion as an added level of protection for guests and the introduction of a COVID Protection Plan for further peace of mind for guests. 

New policies

The COVID Expert Group has come up with a series of new precautionary measures and response planning:

Health Screenings

Before a cruise begins, all guests will undergo a universal health screen that is encompassed in three steps:

  1. Temperature check
  2. Health questionnaire
  3. COVID-19 swab test

Any guest who tests positive, displays symptoms or a temperature will be denied boarding. Following guidelines from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, guests traveling from countries categorized as high risk will be required to take a molecular RT-PCR test, to be done within 72 hours prior to joining the ship.

All crew members will be tested for COVID-19 prior to embarkation as well as regularly during their contract.

Enhanced sanitizing

Elevated sanitation and cleaning measures supported by the introduction of new cleaning methods, the use of hospital-grade disinfectant products and the sanitation of the air on board with UV-C light technology that kills 99.97% of microbes.

Social Distancing

Social distancing will be enabled through the reduction of the overall capacity of guests on board, allowing for more space for guests, approximately 10 m² (about 108 sq. ft) per person based on 70% overall capacity.

Venue capacity will be reduced, activities will be modified to allow for smaller groups and guests will be able to pre-book services and activities to manage guest numbers.

Onboard activities and entertainment have been redesigned to enable smaller group sizes and guests should book in advance. A rich program of activities will be available throughout the cruise including themed events, fun games, talent shows, fitness, dance and more.

Wide choice of live entertainment will continued to be offered around the ship. As the capacity of the theater will be reduced to ensure responsible social distancing, the entertainment schedule will be adapted so all our guests can still enjoy a great variety of award-winning shows.

Face Masks

MSC will ask guests to wear face masks when social distancing is not possible, such as in elevators.

Face masks will be provided daily to guests in their staterooms and will be available around the ship.

Kids

Children's activities and family live game shows will be available each day. 

New spaces on board will be reserved for children and teenagers as the youth areas will operate at a reduced capacity. Parents taking an excursion can still leave children with the youth staff by making a reservation one day in advance.

Lunch and dinner with the youth staff will still take place along with the most popular kids’ activities such as MSC Dance Crew, Cabin 12006 family game show & web series and the LEGO experience.

Dining

Restaurants, bars and lounges, will allow for social distancing and all meals and drinks will be served to guests at their table. The buffet restaurant will offer a new service concept and a new guest flow to ensure social distancing. Instead of self-service, the guests will select what they want and the food will be plated and handed to them to take back to their table to ensure the highest level of health and hygiene measures are followed. For a contactless experience, guests will be able to access restaurant and bar menus from their personal mobile device by scanning a QR code.

Medical facilities

Enhanced medical facilities and services with highly qualified staff trained, the necessary equipment to test, evaluate and treat suspected COVID-19 patients and the availability of free treatment at the onboard Medical Center for any guest with symptoms.

Dedicated isolation staterooms will be available to enable isolation of any suspected cases and close contacts.

Ongoing monitoring

Throughout the cruise, guests and crew will have their temperature checked daily either when they return from ashore or at dedicated stations around the ship to monitor the health status of every guest and crew member.

During this initial phase of operations, as a further enhanced measure of protection and to avoid risks to the health of guests and their fellow cruisers, guests will only go ashore as part of an organized MSC Cruises’ excursion.

Tour guides and drivers will also undergo health screening and will wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

Response plan

If a case is identified onboard, MSC will work in close cooperation with the national health authorities. The suspected case and close contacts will follow isolation measures and may be disembarked according to local and national regulations.

MSC Cruises has introduced a new MSC COVID-19 Protection Plan to provide guests with additional peace of mind for the summer cruises. This will cover the guest if they become infected prior to their departure if they are not able to travel, during the cruise for medical expenses and after the cruise if the guest falls sick. The MSC COVID-19 Protection Plan is currently available only to guests from Schengen countries. In addition to this, guests should also choose their usual travel and health insurance coverage.

Royal Caribbean ships head back to Bahamas after Isaias passes

In:
03Aug2020
By: Matt Hochberg

With Tropical Storm Isaias out of the way of Florida and the Bahamas, Royal Caribbean's fleet of ships that had gone west of Cuba are now headed back to their previous position in the Bahamas.

Cruise ship tracking website cruisemapper.com shows the half dozen ships making their way back through the Straits of Florida, and to the northern Bahamas near CocoCay.

The ships include Grandeur of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas.

Prior to the storm, Royal Caribbean had been staging some of its ships in the vicinity of CocoCay, which allows for the ships to make quick trips back to Miami for supplies.

Late last week, Royal Caribbean moved these same ships west to avoid the path of Hurricane Isaias, as it approached with its category 1 winds and rain.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami said the storm now has maximum sustained winds of 70 mph -- just 4 mph shy of officially being a hurricane -- and is located about 250 miles south-southwest of Myrtle Beach, S.C. Isaias is moving north at 13 mph.

PortMiami re-opened around noon on August 2, and Mariner of the Seas is currently docked at Terminal A, as of Monday morning.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: August 2, 2020

In:
02Aug2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Can you believe August is already here? It is the middle of Summer and there is a lot of Royal Caribbean news to catch up from during this week.

Royal Caribbean announced this week it has hired Dr. Calvin Johnson to serve as the cruise line's first ever Chief Medical Officer.

This new role will tackle the needs of the global health and wellness policy, manage its public health and clinical practice, and determine the strategic plans and operations of its global healthcare organization.

In addition, Dr. Johnson will  collaborate with the Healthy Sail Panel to ensure the company establishes and implements its protocols and recommendations. 

Royal Caribbean News

New RCB Video: 10 Things Every Cruiser Needs Before You Go On A Cruise

Have you subscribed to the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel? We share some great videos there regularly, all about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise! This week, we are sharing our latest video — 10 Things Every Cruiser Needs Before You Go On A Cruise — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

Royal Caribbean CEO updates what the cruise line is doing during shutdown

Earlier this week, Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley emailed its customer loyalty program members to provide an update on what the cruise line is doing during the shutdown.

The lengthy email touch on a number of topics that have been frequently asked by guests during Royal Caribbean's global cruise shutdown, including repatriating crew members, where the ships are, and more.

Mr. Bailey also touched on the work being done to get cruises back operating again, which falls under the cruise line's Healthy Return to Service program.

Could this be the next new concept for a Royal Caribbean sports deck?

In:
01Aug2020
By: Matt Hochberg

A Chinese architectural firm posted renderings that look like a brand new concept for family fun on Royal Caribbean's activity and sports deck.

100architects posted a series of artist renderings from two different projects for a two-deck playground space on an unnamed Royal Caribbean ship.

None of these renderings, nor the project itself, have been announced by Royal Caribbean.  It is entirely possible these will not be used on any cruise ship, as project designs, budgets, and needs can change

Waves Splash

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The first project is noted as having been done for Royal Caribbean in September 2019, and is described as "a colorful playscape for the top deck of an international cruise boat".

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The architects were inspired by the ocean waves, and designed this colorful playscape for the top deck of a Royal Caribbean ship. The firm's website lists it as a design for the Icon Class of ships.

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It is an hyper stimulating playground for the top deck of ICON’s Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship. The design tries to be appealing not only for kids, but for yougsters, millenials and adults alike.

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There are 7 waves and each of them has a different and particular function to offer for different age groups.

Funky Tree Houses

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A second project on 100architects website lists as Funky Tree Houses.

The firm notes that this area is both a playground and an open public space, where kids and adults can find fun activities to explore.

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There is also a 9 hole mini golf course as part of the design.

As you can see from the renderings, the area has a very colorful playscape look that takes inspiration from surrealism.  The architects note that it intends to immerse guests, "in a surrealist world, where big flowers work as sun shading objects and tree houses including playful features to free kids’ imagination."

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Each house contains a different activity taking into account both, aspects of children’s development, as well as being fun and safe to use.

Royal Caribbean ships move west to avoid path of Hurricane Isaias

In:
01Aug2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Hurricane Isaias is approaching The Bahamas this weekend, and it has forced a few Royal Caribbean ships to move out of the region to avoid the path of the storm.

While there are no cruises sailing for guests, a number of Royal Caribbean ships have been anchored off CocoCay, including Grandeur of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean spread its fleet out around the world during the voluntary cruise shutdown, with some ships remaining in the Caribbean, and others in Europe and Asia.

According to cruisemapper.com, these ships have all headed west, through the Straits of Florida and to an area west of Cuba.

According to the National Hurricane Center’s 8 a.m. update, Hurricane Isaias remains on track to skirt up Florida’s east coast as it gains strength entering the Bahamas Saturday morning.

Moving cruise ships out of the path of a storm is normal operating procedure for cruise lines to ensure the crew onboard are safe, along with protecting the ship.

There are no cruises during this global health crisis, which prevented Royal Caribbean from having to alter sailings or cancel sailings all together.

When tropical storms develop, Royal Caribbean's Chief Meteorologist James Van Fleet works closely on the track of the storm and provides guidance to ships on the safest course of action.

 

Forecasters expect Isaias to move near the east coast of the Florida peninsula Saturday night through Sunday.

Royal Caribbean Group schedules conference call for business update & second quarter

In:
31Jul2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. announced it has scheduled a conference call with investors to discuss its second quarter results and provide a business update.

The call is scheduled for 10am Eastern Daylight Time on Monday, August 10, 2020.

The call will be available on-line at the company's investor relations website, www.rclinvestor.com.

To listen to the call by phone, please dial (877) 663-9606 in the US and Canada.  International phone calls should be made to (706) 758-4628. 

How to not eat with strangers on a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
31Jul2020
By: Matt Hochberg

If there is one aspect of cruising that concerns some new cruisers, it is the idea they might have to sit with other guests for a meal during their cruise.

 

One of the carryover traditions of cruising is being seated in the main dining room with other cruise guests.  Seating is limited in this venue, and there are a number of large tables that can accommodate multiple families.

If you have a Royal Caribbean cruise booked and would prefer not to sit with others at a meal, here is what you need to know.

Main Dining Room

The most common setting where you might have to dine with strangers is the main dining room, and depending on the meal, there are different ways around it.

Regardless of if you prefer to dine alone, or just do not wish to sit with people you do not know, here is what to know.

Breakfast and Lunch

When the main dining room is open for breakfast or lunch, seating is on a first-come, first seated basis.

If you say nothing, there is an equal chance you may be seated by yourself or with others, although the smaller your party, the more likely you will be seated with others.

If you prefer to dine alone, when you enter the dining room and a waiter asks how many in your party, let them know you wish to sit by yourselves. It may take a few extra minutes to be seated, but the staff can arrange it.

Dinner

Being able to be seated alone for dinner depends on which option you have chosen for your dinner: Tradtional or My Time Dining.

If you have selected My Time Dining, sitting by yourselves is very similar to breakfast or lunch in the main dining room. If you have not made reservations in advance, you just need to go to My Time Dining reservations table in the dining room and ask to be seated alone.

Just like other meals, there may be an additional wait for a table to open up (especially during peak dining times).

If you are booked in traditional dining, you should contact Royal Caribbean prior to your cruise to make the request. Send an email to [email protected] about 2-3 weeks prior to your sailing with your request.  This strategy usually works for most people. 

When you get onboard the ship, be sure to confirm with the head waiter at the main dining room that you are indeed seated by yourselves.  The main dining room is open to walk in on embarkation day, and your SeaPass card will list your dining room table assignment.  In addition, there will be a head waiter on duty in the afternoon of the first cruise day to take requests and make adjustments.

You can change your mind

If you think you might want to try sitting with others at dinner, but are concerned after a day or two that you want to change your mind, it is quite possible to be re-accommodated.

If the other guests you are seated with are not a good match for you, there are usually opportunities to change your table.

Ask to speak to the head waiter in order to arrange a table change.

Windjammer

The popular buffet option on all Royal Caribbean ships has seating that is available to whomever grabs them first.

There are tables that come in all sizes, including some long tables and roundtables that can easily accommodate more than one family.

Royal Caribbean will not seat you in the Windjammer, so it is up to you to find a table for your family, but it is not uncommon for another group to ask to sit at one of the larger tables.

The easy way to avoid sitting with others is to pick a table that just accommodates you and your group.

Specialty restaurants

Most specialty restaurants will seat guests alone without having to be seated with other guests.

There are a couple of restaurants where this is not possible, and sitting with strangers is the norm.  These include Izumi Hibachi and Chef's Table.  

In both restaurants, seating is extremely limited so there is no way around it (unless you buy out the table). 

At Izumi Hibachi, you could request to be seated on the end of the table so that only one person needs to be next to another guest.

Royal Caribbean is offering up to 45% off pre-purchased cruise add-ons

In:
31Jul2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has begun a new sale on extras you can add-onto your cruise vacation, such as drink packages, shore excursions and more.

The Soak Up The Savings sale runs between July 30 - August 6, 2020 and is valid on sailings between October 1, 2020 - April 30, 2021.

Here is what is included during the sale:

BEVERAGE: Up to 45% off on all sailings

• Classic Soda Beverage Package: 40% off onboard prices. (Excludes Charter Sailings + SC)
• Classic Soda Beverage Package + VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device: (Excludes Charter Sailings + SC)
• Dasani Water Cans: 40% off onboard prices. (Excludes Charter Sailings + SC)
• Deluxe Beverage Package: Discount varies by ship. (Excludes Charter Sailings + SC)
• Deluxe Beverage Package + VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device: Discount varies by ship. (Excludes Charter Sailings, + SC)
• Refreshment Package: (Excludes Charter Sailings + SC)

SHORE EXCURSIONS: Up to 40% off

• Shore Excursions: Discount varies by ship. (Excludes Charter Sailings + SC)

INTERNET: Up to 65% off

• The Key: Discount varies by ship. (Excludes Charter Sailings, MJ & SC)
• VOOM Surf + Stream Voyage Package 1, 2, 3, 4 Device(s): Discount varies by ship. (Excludes Charter Sailings + SC)
• VOOM Surf Voyage Package 1, 2, 3, 4 Device(s): Discount varies by ship. (Excludes Charter Sailings + SC)

DINING: Up to 55% off

• Unlimited Dining Package on 3N – 9N sailings: Discount varies by ship. (Excludes Charter Sailings, MJ, VI & SC)

ACTIVITIES: 20% off

• All Access Ship Tour: 20% off onboard prices. (Sailings from 10/1/20 - 12/31/20, Excludes Charter Sailings, OY, QN, SC & VY)

 GIFTS & GEAR: Up to 20% off

• Happy Anniversary Decorations with Champagne: 20% off onboard prices. (Excludes Charter Sailings, OY, QN, SC + VY)
• Happy Anniversary Decorations: 20% off onboard prices. 20% off onboard prices. (Excludes. Charter Sailings, OY, QN, SC + VY)
• Chocolate Covered Strawberries: 20% off onboard prices. 20% off onboard prices. (Excludes Charter Sailings, OY, QN, SC + VY)
• Happy Birthday Decorations Bright Style: 20% off onboard prices. (Excludes Charter Sailings, OY, QN, SC + VY)
• Happy Birthday Decorations with Chocolate Cake & Strawberries: 20% off onboard prices.(Excludes Charter Sailings, OY, QN, SC + VY)
• Inky Beach Set: 20% off onboard prices. (Excludes Charter Sailings, OY, QN, SC + VY)
• Inky Travel Set: 20% off onboard prices. ( (Excludes Charter Sailings, OY, QN, SC + VY)
• Red Wine and Cheese:20% off onboard prices.(Excludes Charter Sailings, OY, QN, SC + VY )
• Royal Caribbean Beach Towel: 20% off onboard prices. (Excludes Charter Sailings, OY, QN, SC + VY)
• Strawberries with Champagne: 20% off onboard prices. (Excludes Charter Sailings, OY, QN, SC + VY )
• White Wine and Cheese: 20% off onboard prices. (Excludes Charter Sailings, OY, QN, SC + VY )

PHOTO PACKAGES: Up to 45% off

• Photo Packages: From 5 - 100 print and/or digital options: discount varies by ship. 

To check if your sailing has this new offer available, log into the Cruise Planner on Royal Caribbean's web site look for any available offers. Keep in mind that not all sailings may see the sale applicable, nor are all offers significantly cheaper than previously posted.

If you spot a better discount on something you already pre-purchased, you should be able to cancel the purchase and then re-purchase the same item under this promotion.

No, Royal Caribbean is not selling Empress of the Seas

In:
31Jul2020
By: Matt Hochberg

The online rumor mill was swirling this week with speculation that Empress of the Seas might be the next cruise ship to be sold to the scrap yard, but Royal Caribbean says the reports are not true.

After hearing from many RoyalCaribbeanBlog readers that noticed Empress of the Seas was headed to Malta, the traditional last stop before a cruise ship goes to the scrap yard in Turkey, I reached out to Royal Caribbean to get an answer.

A Royal Caribbean spokesperson responded simply, "Empress is not headed to the scrap yard, she’s still a part of the Royal Caribbean fleet."

Where the rumors came from

The source of the rumors are websites that show marine navigational data, indicating Empress was leaving the waters around the UK, and headed to Malta.

Malta is where Monarch and Sovereign stopped to unload valuables before arriving to the scrap yard in Turkey earlier this month.

On top of that, Empress of the Seas is the oldest ship in the fleet and lost her primary purpose when cruises to Cuba became illegal again.

Add to that the fact Carnival Corporation has announced plans to sell 15 cruise ships by the end of the year, and it seemed like a possibility Empress was next.

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