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Am I misunderstanding the planned goal behind the big renovations?

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A lot of discussion is happening right now around the Coco Cay updates that are planned, because they're big and splashy and (at least for some) controversial. I'd like to ask about the other part of the announcement, the Royal Amplified program.

I'm putting a lot of inference into this one line from Matt's blog post on this program and the updates to Coco Cay (italics mine):

Quote

The program will continue in 2019 on sister ship Navigator of the Seas, which also will be redesigned to specifically cater to those who seek a quick getaway.

This now makes two Voyager class vessels (Mariner being the first) that are being repurposed from longer itineraries in the Southern Caribbean and more esoteric voyages to Eastern or Western, to short 3- and 4-night outings. Nothing has been said about the plans for the Freedom class ships, so maybe there's a whole lot of nothing for me to be worrying about. But if once is a fluke, twice is a coincidence, and three times is a pattern -- let's just say that I'm getting worried that a pattern is about to emerge.

What I'm afraid I'm seeing is that these mid-size ships are being repurposed to be nothing but "gateway drugs" to 7-night Oasis sailings. This super refurbishment is being applied to all of the Freedom and Voyager class vessels, as well as the two oldest Oasis ships. If the mid-size ships become wholly repurposed to short voyages with the goal of getting people to book longer trips on bigger ships, where are the longer itineraries to more esoteric destinations going?

I do hope this is totally ungrounded fear. Maybe Freedom class will continue to serve the entire Caribbean and the Mediterranean on 8-12 night itineraries. Maybe just Navigator and Mariner are getting this "special" repurposing to short-trip vessels as a way to supplant Empress and Monarch, and the remaining Voyager class will continue in their past roles. And of course, the Vision class are nowhere in this schedule; but I've seen enough comments here about how tired and old looking those are that I'm wondering if they're going to be "put out to pasture", doing the cruises that the refurbished ships are now "too good for".

Anyone else feel this way? I kind of hope not, and that I'm just being a "ship hypochondriac".

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Too many maybe and what if stuff for me.   While we know that Mariner and Navigator will spend some time in the short cruise market we don't know for how long.  Royal is very good at watching and understanding sales trends.   If the desired effect doesn't happen they'll be moved again. It will be interesting to see if they can fill these ships cruise after cruise or if they'll just be filled by local FL top tier C&A scoring cheap fares which I doubt is the goal.   

The long term plans for the smallest and oldest ships has always been in question. Old ships aren't fuel efficient.  They lack space to add newer activities and venues many cruisers seek.  Regardless if they can continue to operate them making a profit they likely will.  If they begin losing money, they'll likely go.  Royal is a business not a museum for old ships.  

As far as Freedom class speculating about their future is fun but just that - speculation.   We could all throw out wild guesses and predictions most of which will be wrong.  They can go places OA class cannot.   Fleet upgrades and modernization has always been and will continue to be part of cruising.   A couple of years ago (2013ish) Carnival announced Fun Ship 2.0.   They are still rolling that out to the fleet through upgrades and modernizations.   Only time will tell what happens to Freedom class but they too will be reimagined just like voyager and radiance class.  

Like an airline, they need to right size the ship on each itinerary otherwise ships will sail too empty to maximize revenue.  The airlines stopped using 747 on domestic routes a long time ago.   An all-Oasis class fleet is highly unlikely.  

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It may be too early to wager a guess at this point.  Literally, all we know is these ships are getting upgrades.

If it puts your mind at ease, around 2011 or so, Royal started its Royal Revitalization program, which was aimed at bringing Oasis class innovations to other ships in the fleet.  That's when they started adding specialty restaurants to ships like Rhapsody, Splendour and Serenade... along with many others. Those upgrades did not necessarily facilitate a change in plans for the ship, as we can now see.

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I think they are testing the waters to see how bringing OS elements to the smaller ships will react. They will notice the difference quicker on cheaper shorter trips. In all honesty for us a quick 4 day cruise may be better so we can go for a long weekend and have a great getaway. I also know that when I was on Mariner it never felt crowded or too big (although I preferred freedom), my parents who went on Oasis said after Mariner it felt way too big and it wasn't as fun for them. That being said yes I do want to try both. I like the idea of a more modern ship doing the short routes. I have done an old ship (NCL Star) where it's lacking the fun and you have nothing extra to look forward to. Seeing how they are moving the Freedom around I don't think it's going anywhere different for a long while (we have at least until mid 2020). As Matt said, Royal will not jump the gun unless it really works but at the same time these other itineraries will still need ships and they only have so many OS class ships scheduled. I think Freedom up will be safe for now.

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My feeling is that they are following the Disney business model.

Disney World (love it or hate it) has made a conscious and ongoing effort to take every penny you spend on vacation and make sure it goes to Disney in some way shape or form.

You arrive at the airport, the free bus picks you and your luggage up and takes you to the hotel .... no need to rent a car or pay for parking.

They have all kids of parks ... wait you want to leave and go shopping or to a restaurant ... fine lets build out Disney Springs to have all that so you don't leave.

 

To me Royal has been heading this way for a while.

When I first started cruising with Royal there was a debate about water slides on ships and at the time I recall it being strongly held that Royal would never do water slides because they looked tacky, were a Carnival "thing" etc. Clearly times have changed and now its all about cramming as much on board as possible. 

Now lets take over the islands and turn theme into theme parks as well.

 

To each their own ... times change ... if you don't like it you don't have to pay for it ... they are a for profit corporation ... all true and so I certainly don't condemn Royal for the changes, they are doing what Market Research tells them they should do for the profitability of the company.

But for me as a consumer, I feel like the focus has moved to "wham, bam, zoom, glitz" and charge as much as you can ... we don't care if you never come back because we have a line out the door waiting to take their turn. I used to be a Loyal to Royal ... but increasingly feel that is a one way street and although the other lines are going in much the same direction, more slowly.

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Amen to the above post and the below quote.....I feel pretty much exactly the same way...and I only started cruising in 2013 on Monarch of the seas. And I fell in love with cruising and Royal.

 

But walking on a Royal cruise now is VERY different than it was just 5 years ago......and not a good or enjoyable change in my experience or opinion.

On ‎3‎/‎18‎/‎2018 at 9:55 AM, jticarruthers said:

But for me as a consumer, I feel like the focus has moved to "wham, bam, zoom, glitz" and charge as much as you can ... we don't care if you never come back because we have a line out the door waiting to take their turn. I used to be a Loyal to Royal ... but increasingly feel that is a one way street and although the other lines are going in much the same direction, more slowly.

 

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18 minutes ago, monctonguy said:

Amen to the above post and the below quote.....I feel pretty much exactly the same way...and I only started cruising in 2013 on Monarch of the seas. And I fell in love with cruising and Royal.

 

But walking on a Royal cruise now is VERY different than it was just 5 years ago......and not a good or enjoyable change in my experience or opinion.

 

We've been cruising since 2003 when we started on the Majesty. You are very correct, many things have changed. Some things better, other have gone the other way. If we started cruising today I can't say for sure if it would be with RC. I'll use Labadee as an example. Can no longer go to 'this part' of the facility unless you have one of 'these cards', can't have a chair on this side of the rope anymore without paying $40, zip line if I recall correctly was $39. To someone who has only been going there a few years they won't notice, but this concept is definitely across the board.

Strawberry daiquiri on the top deck was $7.50 + 15% gratuity. Now, $12/$13 + 18% gratuity...with the creation of unlimited drink packages to make you feel like you're getting a deal on the $12/$13/drink. Quality and good service is being displaced by glam, glitz, candy stores, cup cakes and merry-go-rounds. Quality is still there in many respects and service is there, but it has waned.

I estimate we've spent over $130,000 on RC cruises...but we can't eat in the Coastal Kitchen unless we upgrade to a stateroom that is way too large for our needs. The class segregation (versus loyalty benefits) is not a positive evolution...in our mind. Business transformation, sure. But RC is definitely going in a different direction than we are.

Still RC fans without question and we are planning our next cruises...but we have picked up other brochures and that is something we haven't done before.

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1 hour ago, Gears said:

Still RC fans without question and we are planning our next cruises...but we have picked up other brochures and that is something we haven't done before.

This is where I got to a couple of years ago ... for a few years I would absolutely have described myself as Loyal to Royal ... when it was time to plan a vacation I only needed to use one website (although it rarely worked properly :15_yum: ).

Then I started finding myself drifting a bit and looking at other websites for the same style of vacation with different naming conventions (no more ... of the Seas exclusivity) .. now I actually have looked at websites that feature a whole different style of vacation even !!

Next week will be my first spring-break on land for several years and next year's spring-break looks like it will feature Hawaii instead of a ... of the Seas. I'm still having great vacations so no complaints as an individual but feels like something went wrong as a consumer.

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2 hours ago, monctonguy said:

But walking on a Royal cruise now is VERY different than it was just 5 years ago......

I 100% agree with that.  We've been cruising RCI since 2002 and it is drastically different.

1 hour ago, Gears said:

I estimate we've spent over $130,000 on RC cruises...but we can't eat in the Coastal Kitchen unless we upgrade to a stateroom that is way too large for our needs. The class segregation (versus loyalty benefits) is not a positive evolution...in our mind. Business transformation, sure. But RC is definitely going in a different direction than we are.

I think class segregation is happening across many lines, not just RC.

31 minutes ago, jticarruthers said:

Then I started finding myself drifting a bit and looking at other websites for the same style of vacation with different naming conventions (no more ... of the Seas exclusivity) .. now I actually have looked at websites that feature a whole different style of vacation even !!

Been there, done that too. The grass is greener on the other side?

 

This whole thread as turned quite interesting...I personally feel that while RC is drastically different than it was 10-15 years ago, it is not changing any differently that anything else in the cruise industry.  They just seem to be heading the same direction as everyone else.  Although I don't care for the some of the changes, I still personally feel that the product RC provides is good value overall, and cruising as a whole, is still a good value vacation.  We've tried other lines and have still come back to RC as our go to.  Even with the Seaside (which there's been some discussion around the last few months here), it definitely is cheaper, but is the product itself actually better?  Is RC more expensive and are there more add on costs?  Sure there is, but isn't that the case with daily life in general?  

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1 hour ago, jticarruthers said:

Next week will be my first spring-break on land for several years and next year's spring-break looks like it will feature Hawaii instead of a ... of the Seas. I'm still having great vacations so no complaints as an individual but feels like something went wrong as a consumer.

The cruise industry has evolved just like the travel industry overall has.  Don't get me started on how airline amenities have changed.  

Relative to the competition within the same market or price range it's all relative.  From hotels, to resorts and cruise ships. 

Having said that nothing wrong with changing things up once in a while.  Keeps things fresh.

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My first cruise was in 1992, on my honeymoon.  Brand new, biggest ship at the time, Majesty of the Seas.  Comparing cruising then to cruising now....not even something I can do.  Other than someone making my bed & leaving a towel animal and waking up in a different place than I went to sleep - the rest is so different.  From the food to the entertainment to the class separation to the loyalty levels & perks & cruise points to...I could go on and on.  We fell in love with cruising all those years ago, have patiently accepted the changes that happened as I've accepted changes that happen everywhere (20 somethings still don't believe me when I tell them I had to go to bridal shows on the weekends and read newspapers to plan my wedding as there was no internet LOL).  The older I get the more I realize that you gotta go with the flow.  Tvs were black & white when I was born, and now I can watch tv on my phone.  If I don't like the change, I don't spend my money there and look elsewhere.  That's the freedom of choice I have.

That being said, don't even get me started on what they did to my university...grrrrrr

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I think it's a good play to have revitalized Voyager class ships doing the 3/4 day cruises. Most of the ships that currently sail these short itineraries are older vessels with few amenities outside of Disney Cruise Line who has always put their newest ships on their shortest itineraries first. My guess is that they see the most growth coming from the 3/4 night cruise market, it gives passengers the opportunity to add on pre/post-cruise stays (e.g., Royal teams with Universal), and many first time cruisers try short cruises as a way to try out cruising. Perhaps they're starting to realize that new cruisers aren't getting the true "cruise experience" from sailing on older vessels that currently do these short cruises.

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2 minutes ago, DocLC said:

Disney Cruise Line who has always put their newest ships on their shortest itineraries first

Good point.  A retrofitted Voyager class will stack up better against the Disney Dream, particularly if it would sail out of Canaveral.  The cost for anything Disney (land or sea) just keeps going up and up, having an apples-to-apples 3/4 night ship option would be a good move for Royal.  Do 3-4 days at the parks and try another cruise line at a third of the cost.   

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35 minutes ago, DocLC said:

Perhaps they're starting to realize that new cruisers aren't getting the true "cruise experience" from sailing on older vessels that currently do these short cruises.

I hope so.  It pains me when new cruisers and/or those new to RC want to go on Enchantment or Majesty first.  There's nothing wrong with them, per se, but they aren't glowing examples of the best RC offers.  

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17 minutes ago, Matt said:

I hope so.  It pains me when new cruisers and/or those new to RC want to go on Enchantment or Majesty first.  There's nothing wrong with them, per se, but they aren't glowing examples of the best RC offers.  

Yeah, you really need a ship that can offer similar experiences, particularly if you're going against other cruise lines.  I can imagine the look that would have been on my daughter's face (or mine as a kid) as we pull into Nassau on a small ship and park next to a ship with a water slide or other fun looking things not on our ship.   

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On 3/26/2018 at 11:15 AM, mbk999 said:

Yeah, you really need a ship that can offer similar experiences, particularly if you're going against other cruise lines.  I can imagine the look that would have been on my daughter's face (or mine as a kid) as we pull into Nassau on a small ship and park next to a ship with a water slide or other fun looking things not on our ship.   

That exactly was our first cruise experience. We took the kids on majesty, but in each port they pointed at the carnival and disney ships and asked why can’t we be on that one? Luckily we gave crusiing another try with a freedom class ship, but I agree majesty and others are not a good advertisement for the “trying out cruising” market. 

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9 minutes ago, enjoylife5 said:

they pointed at the  disney ships and asked why can’t we be on that one?

Because we'd like to send you to college some day.

 

9 minutes ago, enjoylife5 said:

but I agree majesty and others are not a good advertisement for the “trying out cruising” market.

As has been said on the podcast, the smaller ships and/or weekend cruises are more appropriate for veteran cruisers looking for a quick getaway or to scratch the cruise itch.  I really enjoyed our past Enchantment cruise, but for us, that was a relax by the pool and watch the sea go by getaway cruise.  

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