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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.

How Royal Caribbean transformed an Adventure Ocean game into a new mobile app

In:
30Jul2020
By: Matt Hochberg

It is not often you can take a cruise ship experience and make it widely available to anyone at home, but Royal Caribbean did just that with a new mobile game.

Royal Caribbean unveiled a new mobile game for kids to play at home that was originally created for children onboard cruise ships, and I was given an inside look at how it happened. 

The Treasure of Barnacle Briggs was released for families to enjoy, and the transition from onboard game to iPad game was a fairly quick turnaround.

Jared Finegold, who is a Senior Manager in the Emerging Products & Digital Innovation division of Royal Caribbean Group, said it took about three to four weeks from start to finish to port the game over.

Deciding to bring the game home

Royal Caribbean added The Treasure of Barnacle Briggs to large screens outside and inside Adventure Ocean on Oasis of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas, which are ships that have completely revamped their Adventure Ocean spaces.

Anyone can play these games, and they had become popular onboard the ships in the few months it was available prior to the cruise shutdown.

Lauren Berman is a Senior Manager of Product Development  for Royal Caribbean International, and indicated that through research, the 6-12 year old segment of kids is an important age group for the cruise line to enhance its offerings.

"In that segment of six to 12 year olds, video games are so important, but we wanted to layer in, how do we engage them in a unique way that's customized Royal."

"We knew we needed to push ourselves and engage kids in a unique way. And then kind of through this discovery, we landed on this high level pitch idea of this treasure hunt and rewarding them and having them investigate different areas and islands."

Following the shutdown of the cruise industry, Royal Caribbean began having conversations about how to connect with guests at home.

"I think that all of us here, miss being on the water, we miss the ship experience," Mr. Finegold recalled. "So in partnership with Firstborn, the agency we work with to develop these, you know, we said, what if we take a handful of games, specifically the touch ones and put it into an app?"

Creating the game

Of course, taking a game from a ship and making into a mobile game is no simple feat, but Royal Caribbean has been gearing up for this with some other work.

Mr. Finegold shared Royal Caribbean's approach to making a game, which is something they have been preparing for, following in the footsteps of other recent projects.  

"I think the game development part has been something we're starting to dabble in. So if you look back over the last few years, the first game we launched was Sasu's Mystical Quest onboard Spectrum [of the Seas]. Right after that was Expedition Two70."

Sasu's Mystical Quest on Spectrum of the Seas

"We're definitely not a gaming studio, but we have experience building games and we have experience understanding how guests want to interact with us."

Of course, the game in Adventure Ocean involves oversize touchscreens and body tracking technology, and two of the games require full body movement.

"So over the course of about three weeks, we skinned the games, put them into a phone, a ton of testing to make sure it works flawlessly and provide the same experience; a little bit different than being on a three by five device versus fifty five to seventy two inch screen. We wanted to deliver the Royal Caribbean experience at home."

iOS devices only...for now

The new mobile app is only available for iPhone or iPad at the moment, which means Android users are unable to play.  I asked the team about plans to provide an Android version too.

Mr. Finegold explained why they went with Apple Devices first, "At the moment it's just iOS. Most of our guests are on iPhone. Depending on the popularity and how this grows and what back to service looks like, it's definitely not off the table."

Ms. Berman added that the decision to port the game was rooted in the early part of the cruise shutdown and so many families being at home, and Royal Caribbean wanting to do something to deliver a bit of the cruise experience to families, "We have to bring something home to the kids to play with. All of their summer vacations are being canceled. So I think at our core, it it tugged on our heartstrings as well to really bring this and deliver this to kids everywhere.

What's next?

With the launch of the Treasure of Barnacle Briggs, the next logical question is what is next for Royal Caribbean, and what other ideas might we see come our way.

"Definitely something we hope to and look forward to in the future when things ramp up as a brand, and we're back to service," Ms. Berman explained. "I definitely think it's something that has been so successful or so passionate about. And this was just the beginning."

Mr. Finegold added that what we are seeing is the beginning of Royal Caribbean branded entertainment and characters coming to the fleet, "As we look at what it means to amplify our youth and family experiences, we're building a suite of intellectual property."

"I think the goal is to start to take these characters and make them such a big part of the family and experience on board that they're on every ship there... something kids want and expect to see on board."

You can download The Treasure of Barnacle Briggs for free from Apple's App Store.

  

Royal Caribbean working on new main dining room menu

In:
30Jul2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Expect to find new choices the next time you dine in the main dining room on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley announced in an email to repeat cruisers that the cruise line is working on an update to its main dining room menus.

While the cruise line is shut down due to the global health crisis, shore side teams are working on ensuring when the time is right to return to service, the guest experience can be improved.

Specifically, Mr. Bailey mentioned that Royal Caribbean's Food & Beverage team is working on a new main dining room menu.

"Our F&B team has been revamping the Main Dining Room menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as adding some unique experiences to our specialty dining venues."

There was no schedule or rollout date included in the announcement.

Linken D'Souza is Royal Caribbean's Global Vice President Culinary, Dining & Beverage, and he has been responsible for some of the big dining changes Royal Caribbean has rolled out over the last few years.

Since joining the company, Mr. D'Souza was responsible for the updated Sorrento's pizza recipe, revamped the culinary offerings at CocoCay, and introduced Portside BBQ specialty restaurant on Oasis of the Seas and Giovanni's Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar on Freedom of the Seas.

It looks like his next target is the venerable main dining room.

Based on older blog posts on this site, it appears the main dining room dinner menu was last updated in 2016. Royal Caribbean has a standardized main dining room menu across its fleet.

Specialty restaurant menus are also generally the same across the fleet, although sometimes new menus get rolled out with ship refurbishments, as is the case with Giovanni's Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar concept on Freedom of the Seas (and Allure of the Seas before the upgrade was put on hold).

Royal Caribbean's test kitchen is located at the cruise line’s Miami offices, and it is where they can come up with new ideas among the corporate team, test and just those ideas, and then roll them out to the fleet.

What do you want to see on Royal Caribbean's main dining room menu? Share your suggestions in the comments!

Royal Caribbean parent company officially renames itself Royal Caribbean Group

In:
30Jul2020
By: Matt Hochberg

The parent company of Royal Caribbean International has made it official and officially changed its name from Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. to Royal Caribbean Group.

The announcement was made on Thursday, and reflects a desire to update its corporate identity.

Royal Caribbean Group henceforth will be the name of the company that manages the cruise line brands of Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Silversea, Azamara, TUI Cruises and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

In addition to the name change, Royal Caribbean Group's logo has also been updated.  The company's iconic crown and anchor emblem has been sharpened and made more symmetrical, and now resides inside a circle at all times.

Old name and logo

 

New name and logo

"The name is simpler, fresher and more modern. It's also more descriptive—Royal Caribbean Group sounds like a parent company name, reflective of our growth and evolution since we last updated our identity more than 20 years ago," said Royal Caribbean Group chairman and CEO Richard Fain.

The company's New York Stock Exchange symbol will remain RCL.

Slow changeover

The move from Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. to Royal Caribbean Group has been slow and steady.

Over the last few months, the new name has started to appear in various press releases and social media posts.

In May 2020, Royal Caribbean used the "Royal Caribbean Group" moniker to announce its first quarter 2020 earnings call with investors.

Since then, the name has made its way into more press releases, video updates, and most recently the company's social media and website presence.

Earlier this month, Royal Caribbean Cruise Group spokesman Rob Zeiger confirmed the change, "We felt switching to Royal Caribbean Group is a more modern expression. Modifying and updating the crown and anchor and the company name seemed practical and useful to us."

Do you like the new name? Or do you prefer the old one? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Royal Caribbean has no announcement to make following NCL's new cruise cancellations

In:
29Jul2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Norwegian Cruise Line announced on Wednesday it was extending its global cruise suspension by canceling all of its cruises through the end of October, and that has prompted a lot of Royal Caribbean cruise fans to wonder if their line will do that same.

During a webinar with travel advisors, Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service, Vicki Freed, clarified there was no update at this time for Royal Caribbean.

"The announcement that Norwegian Cruise Line came out today extending their pause, or their suspension of sailings, through the end of October, and people are asking, what is Royal Caribbean doing?"

"And at this point, we are suspended through the end of September. We are following the CDC guidelines. The CDC has extended through September. If the CDC extends that and of course, we will as well. But right now through the end of September."

Ms. Freed is referring to the CDC's recently extended "No Sail" Order, which forced all cruise lines to cancel their U.S. sailings through September 30, 2020. As a result, two weeks ago Royal Caribbean extended its cruise suspension through the end of September.

Typically, when one of the big three cruise lines (Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian) has suspended sailings, the other two lines follow sooner or later.

In recent months, some cruise lines have cancelled cruises ahead of the CDC's guidance, while other times the lines mirror the CDC's action.

Royal Caribbean's current target date to resume operations is October 1, 2020.

Will they or wont they cancel?

While Ms. Freed's comments today provide confirmation no decision has been made yet to cancel more cruises, but the question remains if more will occur.

There is no indication on what to expect in terms of if more cancellations will occur, nor when Royal Caribbean will actually resume sailings.

At the heart of the concern for many is if the cruise they booked will actually sail, and there is no answer, just conjecture.

In short, there is not enough information available and too many variables to know what to expect.

When Royal Caribbean cancelled cruises through September 30, it was matching the CDC guidelines, whereas the cancellation period before that preemptively cancelled sailings through the end of mid-September, even though the CDC had not extended its No Sail order.

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