Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: May 24, 2020

In:
24May2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Happy Sunday and happy unofficial start to summer, as the Memorial Day weekend here in the United States marks the start of the season for many.

Royal Caribbean cancelled all of its sailings through July 31, 2020, pushing back the date it may restart sailings.

The announcement came at the end of the company's earnings call with investors, with a new target date to resume on August 1, 2020.

The only exception to the suspension is China sailings, which will be suspended through the end of June.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 355th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, that features Brent's first Royal Caribbean cruise.

Vania shares how finding other cruise fans online helped fuel her love of going on a cruise, and shares how it compelled her to book an Anthem of the Seas sailing.

Please feel free to subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and head over to rate and review the podcast on iTunes if you can! We’d appreciate it.

What changes will Royal Caribbean make to keep guests healthy once cruises resume?

Many cruisers are wondering what the cruise experience will be like in first few months once cruises resume.

Without a doubt, Royal Caribbean will implement a wide variety of policy changes to the onboard experience, but it remains to be seen exactly what these changes will look like until a formal announcement is made.

Check out our list of changes we know about, and unconfirmed changes that are still considered rumors.

Royal Caribbean: "We're not sure when we're coming back"

In:
23May2020
By: Matt Hochberg

The most asked question about Royal Caribbean, and cruising in general, is when will cruises resume sailing, and Royal Caribbean is still sorting that out as well.

With Royal Caribbean's announcement last week it was canceling all cruises through the end of July, the company updated its website to indicate it will return to service on August 1.

However, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard Fain spoke on CNBC last week and was frank with his answer about when his company will start sailing again.

"Well, I think we have said that we're not sure when we're coming back. We won't come back until we're absolutely sure that we've done everything we can to work to protect the safety of our guests and crew."

"We said when we we won't be back before the end of July, but we we haven't gone to the next step of saying we're absolutely confident that we're starting on August one."

"We will work with the authorities. We will work with all the experts that we have asked to help us on this, to make sure that we are doing everything we can to protect our guests and crew."

What to expect

Without a doubt, you are likely wondering when cruising will start back up again and what date to believe.

For now, you should take Royal Caribbean's date of operations to resume on August 1 as the defacto answer, but prepare for more cancellations.

The answer of when cruises will resume may be better determined by looking out your window and seeing when life begins to return to some kind of normalcy. The sooner daily life starts back up, the less impediments the cruise lines will have to face in starting up again.

Universal Studios Orlando set to re-open on June 5

In:
22May2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Universal Studios Orlando announced it will officially re-open to the public on June 5, 2020.

 

The popular Orlando theme park is a partner of Royal Caribbean International, with many vacation packages and shore excursions offered by the cruise line.

Universal Orlando released a statement on Friday that Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal’s Volcano Bay will open to the public on June 5th.

The theme park reopening was approved by Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

With the announcement comes new protocols, as well as a reminder for all guests to adhere to CDC guidelines and the guidance of health officials.  Specifically,  guests and team members must wear face coverings and undergo temperature checks. Those with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or greater will not be able to enter.

Other protocols include:

  • Staggered parking in the parking garage.
  • Daily limit on park attendance, as well as limit on people on each attraction.
    • Virtual lines will be available for select attractions.
  • Social distancing will be enforced throughout the parks including within attraction queues and at restaurants. Increased cleaning and disinfection of food locations, ride vehicles, and other “touch points.”
  • Cashless payments and “no touch” policies where possible.

Allure of the Seas arrives in Spain to begin refurbishment

In:
22May2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas arrived to the Navantia shipyard in Cadiz, Spain on Friday to begin her delayed refurbishment.

Allure will be in dry dock in Cadiz for about a month to undergo a technical dry dock, where the propulsion and navigation will be worked on.

There is still no word on when Allure of the Seas will receive the other aspects of her planned amplification, including water slides, new dining venues and more.

Spanish media reports Allure of the Seas was scheduled to enter Cadiz last week, but Spain's Department of Foreign Health intervened and prohibited the ship from entering, due to too many crew members onboard. The ban was subsequently lifted when a reduction in the number of crew was confirmed. 

Allure is carrying 301 crew, who will not get off the cruise at any time, according to local security measures. In addition, about 60 Royal Caribbean technicians will travel by plane and will undergo testing upon arrival. They will remain in a hotel and then be transferred to the ship once the medical tests are completed.

The work that will be done during this round of work is estimated to cost about 16 million Euros, and will focus on ship maintenance.

Royal Caribbean offering up to $300 instant savings, 30% off all guests and kids sail free

In:
22May2020
By: Matt Hochberg

If you book a Royal Caribbean cruise this weekend, you can take advantage of 30% off every guest, up to $300 instant savings and kids sail free bonus offer.

The Explore & Save Sale runs between May 21-26, 2020 and is valid on select sailings departing on or after August 1, 2020.

It includes:

  • 30% off cruise fare for all guests in the stateroom
  • Kids Sail Free provides 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 1, 2020 – December 17, 2020 and January 8, 2021 – May 17, 2021.
    • 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).
    • Taxes, fees, and port expenses are additional and apply to all guests.
  • Up to $300 USD per stateroom on select sailings
    • 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 $300 for Suites

30% Off Every Guest and Kids Sail Free 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. Explore and Save Sale is combinable with 30% Off Every Guest and Kids Sail Free 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. 

Australia extends ban on cruise ships until September 17

In:
22May2020
By: Matt Hochberg

The Australian Border Force announced it has extended its ban on cruise ships until September 17, 2020.

The Australian Border Force said in a statement: "On 15 May 2020, the Governor-General has extended the human biosecurity emergency period for an additional three months, from 17 June to 17 September 2020. This has enabled the Minister for Health to continue to exercise the emergency powers under the Commonwealth Biosecurity Act to prevent or control the spread of COVID-19."

"On 20 May 2020, the Minister for Health extended the determination to prohibit the arrival at an Australian port of any international cruise ship that has left a foreign port. The restrictions included direct arrivals and Round Trip Cruises."

The ban prohibits any cruise ship capable of carrying more than 100 passengers is prohibited from operating cruises in Australia, including direct arrivals and round trip cruises.

The ban was put into place on March 27, and was set to expire in June.

"The Australian Border Force has been in constant contact with the cruise industry which has been cooperative and understands the Government's overwhelming priority to ensure the health and safety of the broader Australian community," the ABF said in a statement.

Why it is taking so long for some people to get refunds from Royal Caribbean

In:
21May2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean announced on Wednesday it has cancelled another batch of cruises, and that means thousands more guests will be waiting for refunds and future cruise credits to be processed on top of the many more that are still waiting for refunds from their cancelled sailings.

It is no secret Royal Caribbean, and all cruise lines, are struggling to process refunds in a timely manner. Royal Caribbean has issued public apologies for the delays, but the lag in getting the money back to consumers is still a source of frustration for many.

So why are refunds taking so long to be processed and payed out?

The answer from the top

During a webinar with travel agents on Wednesday, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard Fain was asked about the delays in refunds and issuing future cruise credits, and could he address what the cruise line is doing about those delays.

Mr. Fain started off with saying the cruise line has two top priorities at the moment: repatriating crew members to their home countries and getting refunds out to guests.

Two issues were identified by Mr. Fain as causing friction in the processing of credits or refunds: many employees having to work from home and "a dramatic increase in the number of cancellations and refunds."

"So the volume simply exploded. And a very nice system that worked for a volume of X doesn't work per volume of 50 times X or whatever the number is, but we simply weren't prepared for it. And by the way, this requires more training than other things."

According to Mr. Fain, compounding the problem is how the credit card companies work to process these requests.

"We also found that the credit card companies weren't equipped to handle this as quickly as we thought. And so in some cases, we would send them a notice to put a credit on somebody's account. And it was taking up to 10 days to actually get posted through again. Once we understood it and we really dealt with it, that we were able to deal with."

In light of these issues, Royal Caribbean has worked to expedite the refund process, although that is still a work in progress.

"We have sped this up, so I think we're getting better at it, we're bringing it more under control. It's still not as as fast and as efficient as we would like it to be. But again, it is the combination of the volume that we simply weren't prepared for and have never experienced, combined with the inefficiency of so many of our people working from home."

With more cancelled cruises and longer delays in refunds, it creates an even bigger problem.

"When something like this happens, it it builds on itself. And so this same issue also reverberates into affecting our call centers. So we start to get more calls. People are on hold longer and it becomes a vicious circle."

What Royal Caribbean is doing to get refunds out faster

With the problem identified, Royal Caribbean is not content with maintaining the status quo.  Mr. Fain explained what the cruise line is doing to get refunds out faster and improve the process.

"What we're working to do is convert the vicious circle into a virtuous circle. We've added technical capabilities to hopefully speed up more of the processes. We've added a lot of people to the process. So the the numbers, and I and I get a daily report on the numbers of delays in refunds and FCC fees, are coming down."

"We're not to a point yet where I no longer need to get that daily report. And I look forward to that day. But where we're making progress towards it."

Royal Caribbean Senior Vice President of Sales and Trade Support & Service Vicki Freed also added by apologizing for the issues, and re-assuring travel agents that they are working on it.

"We do recognize travel advisors that the whole time have been long, and we apologize, it's not level of service. We strive to have at Royal Caribbean. So we hear you. We are aware of it."

"But we promise you we're going to keep working really hard to reduce those long hold times. Now, with the new suspension announced today, it's not going to get easier."

"So standby, we're aware of it travel partners, and we will do better. We need to do better, because you deserve us to be doing the right thing for you."

Royal Caribbean's newer ships break-even quicker than older ships

In:
21May2020
By: Matt Hochberg

During Wednesday's call with Wall Street analysts, Royal Caribbean revealed some pretty intriguing statistics about the break even point for its ships.

One analyst asked how many ships Royal Caribbean needs to have sailing to reach a "break even" point in terms of costs.

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."

With the cruise line's recent cost-cutting measures, their return to service does not need the entire fleet operating at full levels to break even. In fact, load factors do not need to be exceptionally high either.

Essentially, Royal Caribbean is eyeing a slow return to service that gets them back to a break even point in a relatively short period of time.

Selling off older ships?

Another question was raised about older ships and if there is a prolonged suspension of cruises, would Royal Caribbean consider selling off or even scrapping its older ships.

Once again, Mr. Liberty answered the question:

"I do think that you will see ships that are retired at a much higher pace than what we have seen in the past with really because there hasn't been that much on the scraping side. I think the combination of what's happening with COVID and then the IMO regulations, you'll see interest in some of the older vessels for possible sale."

"And so you're going to see a permanent shift in the way of new buildings for some time, which is going to weigh on capacity growth numbers for the foreseeable future. Because these, especially the new building side, it's not a shift and catch up. It's what's likely to be a very permanent shift."

Royal Caribbean offering up to 45% off discounts on pre-cruise purchases

In:
21May2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is offering up to 45% off drink packages, shore excursions, specialty dining and more with its Seas the Deals sale.

The new offer applies to bookings made between  May 21 - May 28, 2020 on sailings from September 1, 2020 - March 31, 2021.

It includes:

BEVERAGE: Up to 45% off on all sailings

  • Classic Soda Beverage Package: 40% off onboard prices. (Excludes Charter Sailings + Spectrum of the Seas)
  • Classic Soda Beverage Package + VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device: (Excludes Charter Sailings + Spectrum of the Seas)
  • Dasani Water Cans: Discount varies by ship (only on Vision of the Seas)
  • Deluxe Beverage Package: Discount varies by ship. (Excludes Charter Sailings + Spectrum of the Seas)
  • Evian Water Packages - 12 & 24 bottles: Discount varies by ship. (Excludes Charter Sailings, Vision of the Seas + Spectrum of the Seas)
  • Refreshment Package: Discount varies by ship (Excludes Charter Sailings + Spectrum of the Seas)

SHORE EXCURSIONS: Up to 30% off

  • Shore Excursions: Discount varies by ship. (Excludes Charter Sailings + Spectrum of the Seas)

INTERNET: Up to 65% off

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

DINING: Up to 55% off

  • •Unlimited Dining Package on 3N – 9N sailings: Discount varies by ship. (Excludes Charter Sailings, Majesty of the Seas & Spectrum of the Seas)

ACTIVITIES: 20% off

  • All Access Ship Tour: 20% off onboard prices. (Sailings from 4/16/20 - 12/31/20, Excludes Charter Sailings, Ovation of the Seas & Spectrum of the Seas)

GIFTS & GEAR: Up to 20% off

  • Chocolate Covered Strawberries: 20% off onboard prices. (Excludes Charter Sailings, Ovation of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Spectrum of the Seas + Voyager of the Seas)
  • Happy Anniversary Decorations with Champagne: 20% off onboard prices. (Excludes Charter Sailings, Ovation of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Spectrum of the Seas + Voyager of the Seas)
  • Happy Birthday Decorations Bright Style: 20% off onboard prices. (Excludes Charter Sailings, Ovation of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Spectrum of the Seas + Voyager of the Seas)
  • Happy Birthday Decorations with Vanilla Cake & Strawberries: 20% off onboard prices. (Excludes Charter Sailings, Ovation of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Spectrum of the Seas + Voyager of the Seas)
  • Inky Beach Set: 20% off onboard prices. (Excludes Charter Sailings, Ovation of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Spectrum of the Seas + Voyager of the Seas)
  • Inky Beach Towel (TicTacToe): 20% off onboard prices. (Excludes Charter Sailings, Ovation of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Spectrum of the Seas + Voyager of the Seas)
  • Inky Travel Set: 20% off onboard prices. (Excludes Charter Sailings, Ovation of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Spectrum of the Seas + Voyager of the Seas)
  • Red Wine and Cheese: 20% off onboard prices. (Excludes Charter Sailings, Ovation of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Spectrum of the Seas + Voyager of the Seas)
  • Royal Caribbean Beach Towel: 20% off onboard prices. (Excludes Charter Sailings, Ovation of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Spectrum of the Seas + Voyager of the Seas)
  • Strawberries with Champagne: 20% off onboard prices. (Excludes Charter Sailings, Ovation of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Spectrum of the Seas + Voyager of the Seas)
  • White Wine and Cheese: 20% off onboard prices. (Excludes Charter Sailings, Ovation of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Spectrum of the Seas + Voyager of the Seas) 

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.

Demand for cruises by repeat cruisers surprises Royal Caribbean

In:
20May2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean held a call with investors this morning to discuss its first quarter 2020 results, and touched upon a variety of topics related to the current business climate, as well as what the future may look like.

During the hour-long call, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. executives answered questions related to return to service, refunds, future demand and more.

Surprisingly high demand by cruise fans

Despite all the upheaval in the cruise and travel industries, Royal Caribbean reports its brand loyalty members are showing surprising dedication to the cruise line.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chief Financial Officer Jason Liberty touched on the subject, "Our loyalty guests have really just been absolutely incredible in their support, and you can really see their love of cruising as they begin to want to focus further out."

Royal Caribbean International President & CEO Michael Bayley also spoke about the loyalty of cruise fans, "I think we've really seen surprising demand from our loyalty members, and remember we've got close to 20 million loyalty members. Their response to various promotions that we've put into the market, just to understand what the demand looks like is been surprisingly positive. So, as we move into Q4 and into '21, we've been honestly surprised in terms of the demand that we've seen coming in, particularly from loyalty guests."

Outlook on cruising resuming

Of course, the question everyone wanted to know is about Royal Caribbean starting cruises again. While Royal Caribbean provided no firm dates on when they plan to cruise again, executives did touch upon its approach to resuming sailings.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard Fain started off the call touching on the matter, "While it's very difficult to have any certainty around the timing or shape of a recovery we do intend to make sure that we are prepared for it and for the changes it will entail. To this end, we are focused on all aspects of our safe return just to serve as strategy with special emphasis on safety security and health. We know that the public expects that we will elevate our health and safety protocols to a new level. We are prepared to make sure that we meet and exceed those expectations."

"We have been and are working on ways to up our game in this field to ensure that we use our ingenuity, our passion, and our innovation, raise the bar to new heights. We are calling our aspirational program the healthy return to service program. The program will have four main focuses: upgraded screening prior to boarding, enhanced processes and procedures onboard, special focus on addressing the destinations we visit, and procedures for dealing with any reports of exceptions."

"It is tempting to start talking now about all the individual components of how things will change. However, we still defining all those enhancements, and we're still taking guidance from our expert advisors. And this process will continue in keeping with our mantra of continuous improvement."

"The one thing that won't change is our determination that we will not start operations until we are fully ready to do so with all the hygiene and other health protocols solidly in place."

Not all ships will start up at once

Continuing comments made over the last few weeks, Mr. Fain reiterated that when Royal Caribbean starts sailing again, the entire fleet will not resume at once.

"We don't expect that... someday somebody blows a horn, and all the ships start operating right away. We think that it will be a gradual start, a little bit like society is opening up gradually."

"So we would imagine that we would start with fewer ships, and more likely to be more drive markets in the beginning, and then it would then evolve and grow from there."

Millennials vs. Baby Boomers

An intriguing stat shared during the call was Mr. Liberty's breakdown of who is taking refunds versus future cruise credits based on age.

Younger cruisers, specifically millennials, typically opt for a cash refund, whereas families and baby boomers are more likely to take a future cruise credit.

Big ships vs small ships

One of the questions asked was if bigger or smaller ships made more sense to start cruising first, and Mr. Liberty talked about how bigger ships are better situated to handle the demands, both financially and socially.

"Load factors can be lower because they have great economies of scale, they're extremely fuel efficient, and the cabin cabin category makes it very rich. Really more broadly within the fleet, public space per berth is very good. But certainly the newer ships have more public space per passenger. And would be heavily in consideration for the return to service, as well as other ships that we've modernized and having more venues on to."

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