Odyssey of the Seas construction photo update - May 18, 2020

In:
18May2020
By: Matt Hochberg

There is a brand new photo of the construction progress being made on Royal Caribbean's next cruise ship, Odyssey of the Seas.

The photo is from the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. Odyssey is under construction in Hall 6.

Periodically, new photos of the construction progress are released by the shipyard.

In the last couple weeks, Royal Caribbean warned Odyssey's scheduled debut later this year could be delayed due to the health crisis impacting the shipyard operations.

Royal Caribbean International President & CEO Michael Bayley provided an update last week on what to expect.

"We are working on that with the yard. Everything was on schedule. There have been delays because of obviously there has a lot going on around the world, and it impacted the shipyard at the same time. Our newbuild organization is deep in project discussion now with the yard itself. We don't have any definite dates yet. I would hope in the coming weeks we will have something firmed up."

"I think there may be some delays, but we're working through it as a team to try and figure that out."

Odyssey of the Seas will be the cruise line's second Quantum Ultra Class ship, and will sail from Port Everglades, Florida.

Royal Caribbean offering new Virtual of the Seas cruise beginning today

In:
17May2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's next virtual cruise experience begins today with the next "sailing" of Virtual of the Seas.

Kicking off on Facebook, this week's sailing will head to the pink sand beaches of Bermuda, and is hosted by Cruise Director Abe Hughes.

The concept of a virtual cruise is every day, Mr. Hughes posts on Facebook various activities, photos and even a Cruise Compass for helping to pass the time while many of us are stuck at home.

 

The activity started out as a fun excuse to talk Royal Caribbean, but has taken on a life of its own with so many cruise fans clamoring for some virtual fun wherever they can get it.

You can follow along each day on Abe Hughes' Facebook page.

Italy planning to reopen borders in June

In:
17May2020
By: Matt Hochberg

If you are looking for a good sign of things return back to normal, Italy announced it will start allowing some tourists back on June 3, 2020.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte presented a plan to open both its regional and international borders on June 3, with the government eliminating a 14-day quarantine for anyone arriving from abroad.

Italy was especially hard hit with the global health crisis, and represents an epicenter of European cruising. Italy has had the most deaths from the disease after the United States and Great Britain.

Bars and restaurants in Italy will reopen on Monday, and people will no longer have to justify travel within their own region and will be able to meet friends as well as family.

Gyms, swimming pools and sports centres will reopen on May 25, while theatres and cinemas can reopen from June 15.

Cruises in and around Italy

Prior to the outbreak, Royal Caribbean had quite a variety of sailings planned to, from, and around Italy.

Explorer of the Seas and Jewel of the Seas are/were scheduled to sail out of Rome (Civitavecchia).

Explorer of the Seas was to offer cruises to the Greek Isles, Western Mediterranean and even a Holy Land cruise. Jewel of the Seas was to offer a 12-night holy land cruise.

Rhapsody of the Seas was scheduled to sail out of Venice, and offer 6-, 7-, and 8-night cruises to Greece, Croatia and the Greek isles.

In addition, a number of other Royal Caribbean ships had stops scheduled in Italy.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: May 17, 2020

In:
17May2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Stay up-to-date with all the Royal Caribbean news from this week with our roundup of all this week's news.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley spoke on a variety of topics this week related to the cruise line's return to service.

Among the many questions, Mr. Bayley indicated he believes there may not be a Windjammer buffet in the beginning.

"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."

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 354th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, that features Brent's first Royal Caribbean cruise.

Brent had cruised with Celebrity Cruises for a while, but decided to give Royal Caribbean a try in order to take advantage of all the great family activities. He shares what coming to Royal Caribbean was like, and how the sister brands compare.

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.

Royal Caribbean Cancellations

Do you have questions about if Royal Caribbean will cancel more cruises and what happens if their cruise is included?

There is plenty of concern out there, and I have a breakdown of everything you need to know about what happens (and has happened) when Royal Caribbean cancels more cruises.

There is plenty of doubt about the future of cruising, and what to expect if your Royal Caribbean cruise is cancelled, but this guide will explain everything that happens should it happen to you.

Spotted: New Royal Caribbean photo packages

In:
16May2020
By: Matt Hochberg

It looks like Royal Caribbean has refreshed its onboard photo packages you can purchase online.

A few RoyalCaribbeanBlog readers noticed a new set of photo packages that include a set amount of prints or digital copies.

Thanks to Thomas Bissland for providing this screenshots

In addition, the unlimited photo package seems to have disappeared from the offerings.

Photo packages allow guests to take home a select amount of photos taken onboard their Royal Caribbean ship. One photo package covers all guests in your stateroom.

Wall Street: How long Royal Caribbean can go without cruises?

In:
15May2020
By: Matt Hochberg

With there being no Royal Caribbean cruises sailing, it is no secret there is little to no revenue coming in and the company is losing money every month.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd stated that its average ongoing ship operating expenses and administrative expenses is approximately $250 million to $275 million per month during the suspension of operations.  

This range of monthly expenditures  includes ongoing ship operating expenses, administrative expenses, and debt service expense, hedging costs, expected necessary capital expenditures (net of committed financings in the case of newbuilds) and excludes cash refunds of customer deposits as well as cash inflows from new and existing bookings. 

So the natural question is how long can Royal Caribbean last without any meaningful revenue?

Bank of America analysts Andrew Didora and Geoffrey d’Halluin ran an analysis of the major cruise lines to determine an answer to that question.

Mr. Didora estimated that Royal Caribbean has roughly $3.45 billion in liquidity, but he estimates it is costing the cruise line around $330 million in cash per month to operate without revenue.

Thus, Mr. Didora thinks Royal Caribbean can operate through the first quarter of 2021 with no cruises sailing.

"For RCL to extend its liquidity into late 2021 to further de-risk its liquidity profile, we estimate it would need to raise an incremental $1.5-2.0B in capital"

While I am no Wall Street analyst by any means, it is worth noting Mr. Didora's cash burn per month differs from the value Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd announced last week.

In addition, Royal Caribbean indicated it may seek to further reduce its average monthly requirement, "under a prolonged non-revenue scenario."

In order to cut costs, the cruise giant  identified approximately $3.0 billion and $1.4 billion of capital expenditure reductions or deferrals in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

If it deems it necessary, Royal Caribbean has outlined it could opt for further reductions in capital expenditures, operating expenses and administrative costs and additional financing.

Look back: Passenger lists from Sovereign of the Seas

In:
15May2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Cruising has changed a lot over the years, and while some traditions remain a part of the experience (formal night), others have gone away.

It is interesting to look back at how cruising used to be, and what norms then seem odd now.  One of those "not a thing anymore" cruise experiences was a passenger list.

Similar to a phone book, Royal Caribbean would compile a list of guests and crew on a given sailing and distribute it across the ship. It would include the name of each guest, and their home town.

Passenger lists were a vestige of the early days of cruising. They were provided in order to make introductions among fellow guests easier, as well as serve as a souvenir from the voyage. They were given to all passengers aboard liners and cruise ships until the 1970s and 1980s.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader Bret Chafe shared a copy of one such passenger list from Royal Caribbean's Sovereign of the Seas sailing he sailed on back on September 23, 1989.

Take a look at who the ship's purser was on this sailing. Yes, the man that would eventually become Royal Caribbean International's President & CEO, Michael Bayley!

Not only was the passenger list an accumulation of names, titles and locations, it included some facts about the ship and the sailing.

The bulk of the publication was a listing of guests and their names, which by today's standards sounds a bit odd to share this information among guests.

So what happened to passenger lists? The evolution of cruises, along with an added desire for privacy among guests, saw the passenger list become obsolete. 

When passengers were given the choice of listing their names or not, many opted not to be included, and thus a list of only some passengers was not useful. In other cases, cruise lines removed it as an option in order to save time and money required in the purser’s department that might be better used elsewhere.

Would you want to see passenger lists still available on cruise ships? Or did these go away for a good reason? Did you ever sail on a ship that had one? Share your thoughts on this throwback to cruising's past in our comments!

Royal Caribbean's Freeport, Bahamas port project looking for next steps to proceed

In:
14May2020
By: Matt Hochberg

It appears Royal Caribbean's joint venture for port development is looking to discuss timelines with the Bahamian government on the development of a $300 million project in Freeport, Bahamas.

Holistica Destinations CEO Robert Shamosh told Tribune Business it has “secured the required liquidity” for the project.

There was no timeline for when construction or other milestones will occur, but Hollistica was already in talks with banks and other lenders to secure the necessary project financing, according to Mr. Shamosh.

“Holistica Destinations confirms that we remain committed to, and are moving forward with, the proposed development on Grand Bahama. BPI, Holistica’s subsidiary, recently announced it has secured the required liquidity to develop the Grand Bahama project and is currently working with several financial institutions to secure the financing,” the statement added.

“BPI will be meeting in the next couple of weeks with The Bahamas government to further discuss project details and timelines.” 

In early March 2020, Holistica announced the $300 million investment in Freeport, Grand Bahama that will redevelop the Freeport cruise ship terminal to bring a new world-class destination with a one-of-a-kind hotel, convention center, water adventure park and more.

Bahamian officials, however, seem less optimistic that the project will move forward anytime soon.

Dionisio D’Aguilar, minister of tourism and aviation, last month told Tribune Business he was “on his knees” hoping both projects pull through. He acknowledged that both Carnival and Royal Caribbean were likely to adopt a “wait and see” approach to those investments once the COVID-19 pandemic eases due to the major financial blow they have suffered.

And, disclosing that the Government “hasn’t heard anything yet” on either development, the minister said his “whole arms are crossed” in the hope both cruise lines will eventually proceed - albeit with some delay to construction and opening schedules - once the global health crisis has abated.

Bahamas Deputy Prime Minister K. Peter Turnquest expressed similar sentiments in a Zoom conference with Old Fort Bay Rotary members. “As we understand it, today those projects are still on although admittedly delayed, and we just hope they come through and we come to the bottom of this economic challenge relatively quickly,” he said.

Save up to $200 instantly with Royal Caribbean's Save on Adventure sale

In:
14May2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean launched its Save on Adventure sale today, which adds up to $200 bonus instant savings.

Save on Adventure Sale applies to new bookings made between May 14 – May 18, 2020.

Here are the promo details:

  •  Instant savings of up to $200 USD per stateroom on select sailings departing on or after June 14, 2020
    • 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 cruise fare for all guests in the stateroom
  • Kids Sail Free applies to new bookings made between May 6 – 31, 2020.
    • 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.
    • 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).
    • Taxes, fees, and port expenses are additional and apply to all guests.

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.  Save on Adventure 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 other Crown and Anchor discounts.  Offers 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. 

Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley talks about when cruises will restart and other hot topics

In:
13May2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean International President & CEO Michael Bayley spoke to travel agents on a webinar on Wednesday and commented on a number of commonly asked questions surrounding the current situation and the cruise line's recovery.

Mr. Bayley answered a series of questions that travel agents had submitted prior to the webinar about a variety of concerns related to the timing and plans to resume cruises.

The questions were all about the current situation Royal Caribbean is facing in the midst of no sailings and the global health crisis.

When will Royal Caribbean cruises resume?

Naturally, the question everyone wants to know is when will Royal Caribbean start cruising again.

Mr. Bayley indicated internal research is showing guests are more interested in traveling again, and bookings improving, particularly for 2021. He believes people are getting fatigued with the quarantine and everything else going on, and people want to plan their vacations once this all ends.

"You need to be timing your return to service so it fits with how consumers are thinking about taking a vacation. We have some protocols that we need to really get right, and of course we need to be working with the CDC on all of these things."

"There's going to be a point in time in the future, I think, when all of these things cross and it'll be the perfect moment to announce that we'll be returning to service. I really don't know when that will be."

Mr. Bayley made a comparison to what is happening in China to what may happen in the United States and Europe. May signifies a major travel opportunity in China, and Royal Caribbean sent their team in China to visit Shanghai Disneyland to get a sense of what recovery looks like in a major tourism center in a country so hard hit. They saw a major bounce back with demand for tickets there, along with travel all around China.

Which ships will restart sailing first?

Another question posed was in what way will Royal Caribbean bring back its ships into service.

"It's pretty logical that when we restart our operations, when everything's good and when we've got everything figured out, that it will be the most popular products on the most popular itineraries with the best ships going to the best destinations."

"I would say the startup, depending upon the circumstances and timing, will be relatively gentle. It won't be a sudden, 'Wow, everything's operating.' I think we'll put our toe in the water and begin operations and make sure everything is perfect, and make sure the guests are having a wonderful time, and making sure we've got all of the protocols established."

"Probably the short product to Perfect Day will be among the first to start."

Private destinations role in recovery

Many travel advisors were curious what role private destinations, such as Perfect Day at CocoCay or Labadee, play in starting back up.

"The great thing about the destinations is we have a massive amount of control over who comes, who goes, all of the protocols. We can manage those destinations exceptionally well. I think the private destinations will be integral to the recovery."

What will onboard experience be like for guests when things resume?

Equally high on the list of concerns among guests and travel agents alike is what will it be like to be on a Royal Caribbean cruise, especially in the first few months cruises resume sailing.

"Of course it has to be fantastic, making sure that everybody is safe, both from a practical operational perspective, and also from a very optical perspective of making sure people understand that this is good, I don't need to worry about these concerns, I'm going to have a great vacation."

"I think when we're ready to announce all of the processes and protocols that we'll be introducing, I hope people will be excited and comforted by the way that we're approaching this."

In terms of the Windjammer buffet, Mr. Bayley did talk a little about what it may look like going forward.

"We've got teams working on every single element of the guest experience, and we obviously have a team working on the buffet. 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."

"I think the key focus on dining, for example, is making sure that our guests have plenty of choice. But now, that plenty of choice has to be put through the lens of distancing, and safety and health, etc. in a more acute way. I think there will be changes for sure, and I think the word 'buffet' will diminish and we'll replace it with a new concept."

Will the delivery of Odyssey of the Seas be delayed?

Last week it was disclosed that new ship deliveries will be delayed, and that lead to a question about if Odyssey of the Seas will be on time or not.

"We are working on that with the yard. Everything was on schedule. There have been delays because of obviously there has a lot going on around the world, and it impacted the shipyard at the same time. Our newbuild organization is deep in project discussion now with the yard itself. We don't have any definite dates yet. I would hope in the coming weeks we will have something firmed up."

"I think there may be some delays, but we're working through it as a team to try and figure that out."

What Royal Caribbean is doing to repatriate crew members

At one point, Mr. Bayley interrupted the question and answer session to bring up a point he wanted to raise concerning the work Royal Caribbean is doing to repatriate its crew members, as well as dispel inaccurate media reports on those efforts.

Mr. Bayley characterized getting crew members home as, "genuinely a massive challenge," due to being caught in the middle of different laws and restrictions related to quarantine rules.

"We've been getting those crew home over the past two months, and we've managed to get over 10,000 crew home and we've got about another 20,000 crew going home in the coming weeks."

Related to those efforts, Mr. Bayley commented on news reports that painted a different picture than what the cruise line was conducting.

"There were some media reports that quite honestly we're one-sided and really unfair," Mr Bayley stated.  "I can assure everybody that we are passionate about our crew. We love our crew. We are doing everything in our power to take care for them, and to make sure that they get home to their families. By the way, over a thousand crew decided they just simply wanted to stay on our ships because they didn't feel safe going home."

"We're doing everything we can to take care of our crew and get them home. The crew are pleased with what we're doing, they're thankful, they're understanding."

What will happen to the President's Cruise this year?

One travel agent wanted to know what the outlook was for this year's President's Cruise in Europe and if it will occur.

Mr. Bayley responded, "I'm feeling pretty bullish that I'm going to be on that President's cruise, and I'm really looking forward to it."

Will there be a shift back to smaller ships?

Another question brought up was if the current health crisis will lead Royal Caribbean to shift back to smaller ships instead of larger ones.

"Through the lens of COVID-19, it's really about density and space. I think people may assume because there's less people on a smaller ship, that makes it better, but that's really not correct. A larger ship has a lot more space."

What questions would you ask Michael Bayley? Share your top concerns in the comments!

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