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Royal Caribbean reports "strong" Fourth Quarter 2011 results

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean reported today its fourth quarter and full year 2011 results along with an initial outlook for 2012.

Before the results were even mentioned, Royal Caribbean Chairman Richard Fain commented on the Costa Concordia tragedy, which has gripped the cruise industry in recent weeks, "All of us in the industry, who are so devoted to providing safe and exceptional vacations to millions of people around the world, are devastated and humbled when something like this happens."

Royal Caribbean's fourth quarter of 2011 ended on a strong note with solid bookings and cost control helping to compensate for the rise in fuel costs and foreign exchange impacts.

Royal Caribbean reported net income for 2011 of $607.4 million, versus $515.7 million in 2010.  For the fourth quarter, net income was at $36.6 million, which is up from $31.9 million in 2010.

Issues such as a rise in oil prices and a strengthening U.S. dollar offset profit, but Royal Caribbean was still able to end on a strong note.  Royal Caribbean's Chief Financial Officer Brian Rice commented on how the company was able to beat these issues, "For the year as a whole, adjusted for fuel price increases and geopolitical events, our earnings would have meaningfully exceeded the midpoint of our January 2011 guidance."

Looking forward to 2012, booking patterns at the end of 2011 were strong despite even the Costa Concordia disaster.  During the two weeks prior to the tragedy, Royal Caribbean reported bookings averaged 5% more than the same period last year and at higher prices.

The Concordia disaster is still impacting the cruise industry as a whole and Royal Caribbean says it's "very difficult to asses the impact of the incident on our revenues".

Royal Caribbean resumes marketing campaign in UK

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has restarted its "wave" marketing campaign for the busy peak season after the company decided to suspend marketing efforts in the wake of the Costa Concordia disaster.

Royal Caribbean decided to stop marketing out of respect to the victims of the Concordia, which sank off the coast of Italy on January 13.

Royal Caribbean feels now is the time to resume marketing campaigns once more and is offering thousands of free flights for summer cruises. The new campaign will focus on ads on television, radio and print.

Royal Caribbean's General Manager in the United Kingdom, Jo Rzymowska, spoke about the decision, "It’s up to us to work with our trade partners and get the message to the consumers that this was an awful, very rare but terrible accident and we as an industry are doing everything we can to make sure it never happens again."

“We needed to be sensitive about what happened and the immediate decision to stop all activity was not a difficult one. It was crystal clear to us in the light of the tragedy that was the right thing to do."

“From then on we have monitored things day by day by getting sentiment from the market, and a lot of that we did by talking to our trade partners. We feel that February 1 is the right time to go out with our own activity.”

The resumed campaign will last throughout February and offer 10,000 free flights for summer 2012 sailing across Royal Caribbean’s European program of cruise itineraries.

FBI investigating death aboard Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas

By: Matt Hochberg

A 47-year old woman died Monday night aboard Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas after she missed a step and fell down a flight of stairs and the FBI is now investigating the incident.

The Broward County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Veda Coleman Wright said their department's crime scene techs were sent to Port Everglades to investigate the death of woman on the ship. However, since she died in international waters, Coleman Wright said the investigation will actually be in the jurisdiction of federal authorities.

Despite the investigation, Coleman Wright confirmed that they do not suspect foul play.

Royal Caribbean expects to double its business in Middle East

By: Matt Hochberg

Helen Beck, Royal Caribbean's regional director for the Middle East, expects to more than double its business in the Middle East over the next three to five years.

"Over the next three to five years, we plan to more than double our business in the Middle East, and possibly even triple it."

Beck said that Royal Caribbean recorded a compounded annual growth rate of about 40% in guest volumes and revenue in the Middle East over the previous five years. Beck expects that momentum to continue despite some recent challenges to cruising, such as the political instability that has struck a number of countries.

Despite the "Arab spring" that disrupted the regimes of many Middle Eastern countries, Beck claims that business was relatively unaffected, "Royal Caribbean suffered no negative impact during the Arab Spring. On the contrary, we recorded a 30 per cent growth in the Middle East in 2011 over the previous year."

For Royal Caribbean, the United Arab Emirates represents for 25-30 percent of its business in the region.  In total, about 15,000 passengers constitute the Middle East cruise region for Royal Caribbean.

Asked how the company is expected to fare in 2012, Beck said the year will be a tough one as Eurozone troubles are likely to have an impact on the cruise market. "However, we are not solely dependent on the European markets," she said. Beck said that while the North American market accounted for 80-85 per cent of Royal Caribbean's business until five years ago, in 2012 the cruise line expects its revenue to be equally divided between North America and the rest of the world.

More details emerge from Virgin Islands excursion accident

By: Matt Hochberg

More details were released today about the 13 Royal Caribbean passengers from Serenade of the Seas that were involved in an accident.

The safari taxi, part of Royal Caribbean's "Best of St. Thomas and Shopping" (a three-and-a-half hour shore excursion), darted from Skyline Drive on Friday morning, levelling mailboxes, striking a parked SUV, launching itself over the ridge and plunging 65 feet into thick bush.

St. Thomas Deputy Police Chief Dwayne DeGraff said one woman broke her hip while another passenger required stitches for a cut on their forehead.  Only the woman with the broken hip did not return to Serenade of the Seas to complete the rest of their cruise.

Officials say The west-bound taxi veered left at an uphill right turn and struck a bank of mailboxes and the side of an Acura SUV parked in a driveway.The taxi then climbed the ridge and careened downhill into bush beside a concrete driveway on the southern slope.

The driver of the taxi, whose name was not disclosed, had no other charges against him/her.  The driver was cited with a commission violation but is authorized to operate a taxi.

The accident remains under investigation by the V.I. police.

Royal Caribbean passengers injured in bus accident

By: Matt Hochberg

Officials from the U.S. Virgin Islands in St Thomas report that a tourist bus carrying at least 13 cruise ship passengers has collided with a parked vehicle.  The passengers, from Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas, collided with the parked car.

The accident occurred in an open-air "safari bus" on a steep road near the island's scenic Beacon Point.

St. Thomas Tourist Department spokeswoman Allegra Kean-Moorehead says one of the injured is a female passenger who had to be hospitalized with a hip fracture.  Twelve other passengers were released after being treated.

She also said that Serenade of the Seas is still expected to depart late Friday without the injured passenger.

New Singapore cruise terminal ready for Voyager of the Seas

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's Chairman Richard Fain has personally looked around the new International Cruise Terminal in Singapore and likes what he sees.

Fain has been told that the new terminal will be ready for the arrival of Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas when she arrives on May 26 for her debut in Asia.  Previously the Singapore Tourism Board had only indicated that the new terminal would be ready in the second quarter of 2012.

"Because the ship is coming in late May, I was assured the terminal would be ready for the voyage of the ship," Fain said. "It's also very efficient. That's important in the cruise industry. It's gratifying to see how well-thought through the logistics are: How passengers come in, how luggage is handled, the supplies to the ship. There are commodious areas to handle all the activities that need to be attended to. They are all well-thought out in a progressive way."

Voyager of the Seas' first cruise from Dubai to Singapore is already sold out, which has exceeded expecations according to Fain.

Royal Caribbean's Germany branch posts record sales numbers

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's German branch had a record year in 2011.  The number of passengers from Germany, Austria and Switzerland grew from the previous year by 34 percent to 80,500.

The turnover of all three Royal Caribbean brands (Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises) has increased by 40 percent according to Royal Caribbean's division head Tom Fecke during an annual budget presentation.

Besides capacity growth, the "Seefari" Mediterranean campaign and the "highly developed" Fly & Cruise supply contributed to the positive result. And also a broader basis in counter sales: 526 travel agents were added in the last year, according to Fecke

Explorer of the Seas delayed by one day due to medical emergency

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas will return to Bayonne, New Jersey one day late due to an onboard medical emergency.  Royal Caribbean expects Explorer of the Seas to return on Saturday, January 28 now after a passenger required medical attention.

Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez issued this statement, "The guest was initially treated in our medical facility, but required additional and urgent medical attention that could only be provided in a hospital," read the statement. Explorer, which is equipped with a helipad, has re-charted a course for San Juan, Puerto Rico, the closest port of call. A helicopter will meet the ship when it gets within 70 miles of San Juan. Estimated time is 5:35 p.m. local time."

"We will be assisting both the guests currently onboard and those boarding on Saturday, but do not have details at this time," said Martinez. "We wanted to put the notice on our website and on social media as soon as possible, to let affected guests know in advance." Additional information on the revised itinerary will be provided to passengers on Saturday at embarkation.

Passengers that were expecting to depart on Explorer of the Seas' next cruise on Friday are now asked to not arrive at port until 2pm on Saturday.