Royal Caribbean employee arrested for burglarizing customers homes

In:
11Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

Bethsaida Sandoval, a Royal Caribbean vacation planner in the Miami, Florida office, was arrested yesterday on 24 counts of burglary and one count of racketeering.  She allegedly broke into homes of customers that were on a Royal Caribbean cruise and along with her husband, would go around in her black SUV to these homes when they knew no one was home.

"She and her husband, John Lopez, later broke into nearly two dozen homes and took off with flat-screen televisions and other expensive items, the report said."

It goes without saying that this is a terrible crime and if she is found guilty in court, then I hope she receives the time in jail that she will deserve for not only breaking the law but betraying the trust of so many Royal Caribbean fans.

Mariner, Radiance & Serenade of the Seas win Port of San Francisco Environmental Gold Award

In:
11Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

The Royal Caribbean Twitter account announced that Mariner of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas had won the prestigious Port of San Francisco Environmental Gold Award.  The annual award recognizes vessels for demonstrating “the strong environmental commitment of Princess Cruises in the areas of air emission reduction, waste water treatment, and recycling and disposal programs for solid waste.” This distinction is awarded by San Francisco’s Cruise Terminal Environmental Advisory Committee.

The CTEAC operates the program to recognize cruise lines that are committed to environmentally responsible operations, include the deployment of ships using reduced emission system technology or cleaner-burning fuel.

Royal Caribbean ships have long been proponents of environmental awareness and their ships have a number of "green technology" elements on board such as advanced wastewater purification systems, window tinting and operational conservation measures.

Weddings on a cruise a rising trend

In:
11Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

Destination weddings, or weddings that take place somewhere other than home, have always been an intriguing option for couples looking to tie the knot but according to a recent report by thestar.com, weddings on cruise ships have increased in popularity by 10% in the past few years because of affordability, the convenience of having your wedding and honeymoon in one place, and the exotic locations you can have your wedding held.

Valery Rene, manager of on-board revenue for Royal Caribbean says that they handle "about 1,000 weddings a year and can meet many other special requests.”  Certainly it's hard to argue with the price as the average cruise wedding ceremony and reception with Royal Caribbean costs about $10,000 for a 100-person event, excluding the cruise costs and airfare for sailing guests. Considering the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is now between $21,000 and $24,000, that is a real bargain.

For those looking to get hitched on their next cruise, the basic wedding package on Royal Caribbean starts at about $2,000 and includes three hours of planning with a consultant, priority check-in, non-denominational official, ceremony, recorded music, bridal bouquet, marriage certificate, photographer (but not photos; they’re purchased separately) and more.

We help the couple decide whether they would like a shipboard or shoreside wedding and then choose which destination and ship that works for them and their budget,” says Rene. “We often do weddings that cost more than $20,000 and a recent lavish wedding we did was well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. There were about 180 sailing guests.”

Given all that $10,000 gets you, it's hard to go wrong with that option and it's hard for your wedding guests to argue with "forcing" them to go on a cruise.

Royal Caribbean a great investment

In:
11Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

For all you financial mavens out there, there's good some good news.  It turns out that while we all enjoy our cruises aboard Royal Caribbean, it's actually a good company to invest in (beyond the money you're already giving them for your next cruise!).  SmartTrend ranked Royal Caribbean (RCL) as the best investment in the top five companies in the Hotels, Resorts & Cruise Lines industry as measured by relative performance.

  • Royal Caribbean Cruises (NYSE:RCL) ranks first with a gain of 6.5%
  • Wyndham Worldwide (NYSE:WYN) ranks second with a gain of 5.31%
  • Home Inns & Hotels Management (NASDAQ:HMIN) ranks third with a gain of 4.95%.
  • Carnival (NYSE:CCL) follows with a gain of 4.67%
  • Gaylord Entertainment (NYSE:GET) rounds out the top five with a gain of 4.55%.
The news gets better as they also ranked Royal Caribbean in the top 5 stocks in the Hotels, Resorts & Cruise Lines industry as measured by the potential gains between the current stock price and the projected average analyst target
  • Great Wolf Resorts (NASDAQ:WOLF) has a potential upside of 121.2% based on a current price of $2.26 and an average consensus analyst price target of $5.
  • Red Lion Hotels (NYSE:RLH) has a potential upside of 40.4% based on a current price of $6.41 and an average consensus analyst price target of $9.
  • Gaylord Entertainment (NYSE:GET) has a potential upside of 35.7% based on a current price of $24.37 and an average consensus analyst price target of $33.06.
  • Royal Caribbean Cruises (NYSE:RCL) has a potential upside of 35.7% based on a current price of $28.52 and an average consensus analyst price target of $38.69.
  • Morgans Hotel (NASDAQ:MHGC) has a potential upside of 29.1% based on a current price of $7.02 and an average consensus analyst price target of $9.06.
If you were not already aware, being a Royal Caribbean stockholder does get you a discount on cruises so there's another good reason to buy stock in Royal Caribbean.  Of course, please don't rely on this blog for investment advice, we're just passing along the info (we also cheated our way through algebra)!

Norovirus on Jewel of the Seas?

In:
10Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

A user on Cruises.co.uk is reporting that their cruise aboard Jewel of the Seas has had an outbreak of norovirus onboard.  Those passengers that are scheduled to sail on Jewel of the Seas on June 12, 2010 have been informed that they should arrive late because embarkation will start at 4:30pm instead as no passengers will be allowed on board before that time.  

In addition, the ship is going through "enhanced sanitizing" on Saturday and that if any passengers have had gastrointestinal symptoms within the last three days, they should consider rescheduling their cruise.

Royal Caribbean, as well as other cruise lines, take the threat of norovirus very seriously.  Norovirus, or norwalk gastroenteritis, is transmitted by the fecal-oral route via contaminated water and foods.

Oasis of the Seas to cease Nassau stops?

In:
10Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

There's a report out that Oasis of the Seas, pride of the Royal Caribbean fleet, is planning on ending port stops in Nassau, Bahamas.  On the other side, Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, minister of tourism in the Bahamas, denied these claims that were first reported by Tribune Business and other media.  The news is particularly alarming to Bahemians who recently voted to spend $44 million of taxpayer monies on the Nassau harbour dredging.

There hasn't been any comment by Royal Caribbean officially on the matter.  Crime in Nassau has been in the news and could be a reason why Oasis could be changing her itinerary, if it is in fact true.

Art auction fight goes to court

In:
10Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

It's always been a heated debated among cruise veterans about the role of art auctions on cruise ships.  The Detroit Free Press reports that recently, one person felt that she was "swindled" by a Park West art auction aboard Royal Caribbean cruise ships in 2005 and 2007.  She claimed to have purchased 21 pieces of art, including limited-edition prints by Dalí and Rembrandt, for $48,000.  She subsequently went to art dealers and other art experts who told her that her art was worthless and sued Park West. 

"The suit, one of several nationwide, accuses Park West and its founder, Albert Scaglione, of selling fake, forged and overpriced artwork and using phony appraisals and certificates of authenticity.

Scaglione denied the allegations and said the negative publicity is killing his business. "These charges are ridiculous," he said. "We have never done anything wrong.""

In addition to that one lady, a few others are mentioned in the article with their own stories of purchasing art on their cruises only to find that they were valued at less than what they were lead to believe.  Seems things have not been good for Park West either, 

"Two cruise lines have ended their contracts with Park West since last year, decisions Scaglione attributed to economics rather than the legal controversy. The cruise lines wouldn't comment."

I'm no legal or art expert, so I'll leave it to the courts to decide.  The best advice I've ever received about the art auctions on board any cruise ship was from Jamie from CrownCast and it's okay to buy a piece if you think it looks nice and want it in your house, but don't buy art on cruise ships as a means of investment.

 

Video of the Day: Culinary Operations aboard Monarch of the Sea

In:
10Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

Warning, this video may make you hungry! ;)

The fight for families

In:
10Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

There's been a slew of articles all over the interwebs all about the Royal Caribbean and Dreamworks alliance and it seems everyone has an opinion on it.  MSNBC posted an article about the fight for families cruise lines are now engaging in with Royal Caribbean and Dreamworks, Norwegian Cruise Line and Nickelodean and Disney all vying for families to choose their ships.  The premise is that these alliances are hoping the kids will influence their parents to choose a cruise line, an idea we first posted about last week.

Anyone who doesn't think that the Royal Caribbean deal is about competing with Disney has their head in the sand.  Is Royal Caribbean looking to go head-to-head with Disney in terms of characters? Maybe not.  But what Royal Caribbean is trying to do is not cede the entire family cruise with young children demographic to Disney.  An under reported benefit of the Dreamworks deal is that Royal Caribbean also gets the rights to show the Dreamworks film library on board its ships.  That's a big bonus for kids who will be able to watch Shrek or Kung Fu Panda ad nauseum in their staterooms.

I know there's a lot of backlash from cruisers who are concerned their next cruise will be filled with character based entertainment that will ruin their cruise.  If you consider what Disney does on their ships the crux of character integration on a cruise ship, on Disney ships, you really have to go out of your way to see a character, much less interact with one.  You can be in the pool, or on the sun deck or at dinner and never see one.  The character entertainment on Disney is very compartmentalized and I imagine Royal Caribbean will have a similar model as well. 

How much of an impact this alliance will have remains to be seen but this deal shouldn't be vilified or feared.  Rather, it looks to be (on paper) a good deal for both sides and hopefully something that will fatten Royal Caribbean's bottom line, which in turn helps us all.

Royal Caribbean ditches cruise documents for eDoc

In:
09Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

It's become a tradition before your cruise to get that packet of cruise documents in the mail that you will need for embarkation onto the ship.  It's a traditional part of the cruise planning process that's about to change completely.  Back in March 2010, Royal Caribbean announced they were doing away with the paper based cruise documents in favor of an e-ticket, that they've called "eDoc".

Royal Caribbean Director of Sales and Marketing Services Angela Stephen describes the eDoc as a "customized mini-website, pre-cruise planner, get-excited-about-your-cruise, and brag-to-your-friends-and-family-what-an-incredible-vacation-you-are-about-to-take” type of document.   The eDoc is basically a better means of marketing all that Royal Caribbean offers (read: activities that cost extra) to the cruiser who may not have been aware of it.  Given that the majority of cruises never visit cruise planning sites like this or Cruise Critic, they are unaware of many aspects of cruising until they got on board the ship.  The eDoc seems to be an attempt to educate guests about what is available on the ship before they board the ship so that they can book ahead of time.

Click here to preview what a sample eDoc looks like

For those that miss the old paper documents, you can order them for $35 per person, although Stephen mentions only 5% prefer the printed version (more like only 5% are willing to shell out the money for it, as opposed to expressing an opinion on the matter).  

What do you think of the eDoc idea?  Do you like it? Do you prefer the old way?  Share your thoughts!

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