Visit our travel agent friends at MEI Travel

Royal Caribbean talks higher demand than before Covid, higher capacity, and more

05 May 2022

Royal Caribbean Group held its earnings call with Wall Street investors and touched on a number of interesting things happening in the company that are beyond what you would find in the balance sheet.

Each quarter, the company holds a conference call to go over the quarter results and answer questions from analysts.

Most of the discussions are purely financial back-and-forth, but there are some interesting anecdotes worth noting for cruise fans.

After listening to the entire 2022 first quarter earnings call, here is the most interesting things to come out of the discussion.

Demand is higher than pre-pandemic

Symphony of the Seas sailing away

While Royal Caribbean Group lost another billion dollars this quarter, things are rapidly improving for the company's bottom line.

Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty said the last two months have seen very high demand for a cruise ship vacation, "Over the past sixty days, demand has materially surpassed, both pre-Omicron and 2019, levels. 

"The robust secular trend of experiences over things, that propelled our business in the past years, is now recovering towards pre-Covid levels. Consumers are now re-engaging with the world, and as a result, spending on travel in 2022 is set to out pace pre-pandemic levels with consumers planning to travel more frequently."

"Cruise consideration is the highest it has been in two years, and nearing pre-pandemic levels, with the most significant recovery among those new to cruising."

Guests are spending more thanks to better cruise planner enhancements

If you've noticed more Royal Caribbean emails about buying a drink package or shore excursion, it's no accident.

Royal Caribbean invested heavily in its e-commerce system to provide better sales pitches to guests, and the result is now materializing in passengers spending more money than ever before their cruise begins.

The company reported in the first quarter, total revenue per Passenger Cruise Day in the first quarter was up 4% versus record 2019 levels. This was such a strong driver that cash flow from ships in operation was positive in the first quarter. 

Cruise Planner on an iPad

Mr. Liberty believes more spending on pre-cruise purchases is the result of better software behind the scenes, "Our investment in a new pre-cruise planning system allows guests to better plan and book their onboard experiences. As a result, we continue to see increased penetration of pre-cruise purchases, which is leading to significantly higher total spend per guest."

Royal Caribbean Group Chief Financial Officer Naftali Holtz indicated strong consumer spending and "higher pre-cruise purchase penetration" is what's driving people to spend more on their cruise vacation.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley said the increased spending has been, "wonderful", and attributed it in large part to the investment in better software, "The investment that we made in the software for pre-cruise revenue, which continued through the pandemic. We've really leveraged that now, and we've seen a significant increase in penetration and uptick with up-tick sales."

Mr. Bayley illustrated how important the purchases of these items before the cruise is to Royal Caribbean's bottom line, "one pre-cruise dollar gives us another $0.50 onboard spend."

Mr. Holtz added spending isn't limited to one or two categories, "It's everything...from spa to retail, shore excursions, casino, food and beverage."

"It seems like the consumer is really willing to spend on great experiences...make sure that we capture that spend as much as we can as they enjoying our cruises."

Digging into what the guest wants

Mr. Bayley talked about the level of sophistication Royal Caribbean has to be able to cater the pre-cruise sales to the individual person, "We've over time developed the sophistication and the ability to, not only use the analytics and the information that we know about the customer, to offer them products and experiences and services that we think they're going to like."

"In some cases, we've got customers who prefer gaming and dining. In other cases, we've got families who prefer shore excursions. And we now have the ability to tailor our communications and our promotions to those customers based upon what we think their key preferences are."

Cruise ship capacity

Wonder of the Seas pool deck busy

A big focus of the call was about increasing capacity as Royal Caribbean moves into the summer.

It's no secret that the cruise line is not only bringing more ships back online, but also allowing more and more passengers onboard in an effort to return to pre-pandemic passenger loads.

Mr. Holtz said all remaining cruise ships across the brands will be back in operation by June, we expect load factors of approximately 75 to 80%. Our low factor expectations reflect the higher occupancy we are seeing the Caribbean and lower expectations for repositioning voyages and early season Europe sailings."

He also added that capacity should reach "triple digits" by the end of the year. In short, expect pre-pandemic capacity by the time 2022 ends.

Mr. Bayley added full capacity should come faster on Royal Caribbean International, "we have ships now sailing at 100% and we've had ships sailing at 100% now for several weeks out of the Caribbean, into the Caribbean market and a short product.

"And as we head towards Memorial Day weekend, we're going to see significant percentage of our ship sailing at 100% and greater."

Interestingly, more people are booking suites rather than inside rooms, "From a cumulative standpoint, our load factors on sailings in the second half of the year are booked slightly below historical levels, with a greater mix of high yielding, suite inventory booked versus inside and outside state rooms."

Read moreIs a suite on Royal Caribbean worth it?

Capacity lower in Europe partially due to testing requirements

Mediterranean cruise in Rome

While demand for cruises in North America was exceptionally strong in the first quarter, demand for European cruises was lower, and perhaps the protocols could be at play.

When asked about what is impacting the lower numbers for European cruises, Mr. Liberty talked about the need to get a covid test to return to the United States as an issue.

He said they expect to have lower capacity in Europe due to maintaining price integrity, but also the covid test requirements to re-enter, "It is very much related to price integrity, but some of it's also, that relates to the testing requirement to come back into the U.S. for for Americans."

Harmony of the Seas in Barcelona

"The combination of those things weighs on the consumer in terms of their their travel expectations."

Mr. Bayley added, "many European countries now are stopping that requirement. So they're kind of freeing up the ability for the Europeans to travel around. And I think we're all hopeful that that's going to change fairly soon in returning to the United States."

Mr. Liberty said the Ukraine war has certainly weighed on reducing demand for European cruises, especially for Central and Northern European cruises.

Royal Caribbean breaks its own record for most cruise bookings in a day and week

08 Apr 2022

Royal Caribbean just had one heck of a week in terms of record demand, echoing a strong desire for people to go on a cruise ship.

In a statement, Royal Caribbean said two different internal booking records were eclipsed during the week of March 26 - April 1, 2022.

The company saw both the most bookings in a single day and the higher booking volume booking week that it has ever seen in the entire history of the company.

The record number of bookings came via the Royal Caribbean website, over the phone, and through travel agents.

Royal Caribbean isn't surprised by the news given how well-received cruising has been among the 1.5 million people that have cruised since January 2021 on its line.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley thinks not only do people want to cruise again, but they are eager to get out and vacation, "The enthusiasm and excitement for the successful return of cruising is undeniable."

"We could not have reached this incredible milestone without the unwavering support of our loyal guests, our valued travel advisors and partners, and the Royal Caribbean International team around the world."

"Everyone has made an incredible impact and contributed to this accomplishment in every single way."

Cruise ship in Grand Cayman

Royal Caribbean's strong rebound from two years of shutdown and a cautious restart stems largely from its effective health protocols that demonstrate how safe going on a cruise can be, especially when compared to land-based alternative leisure travel that require few, if any, protocols.

Today's announcement shows consumer demand remains quite strong for cruise ship travel.

Other cruise lines seeing big demand too

There's something in the water, as Royal Caribbean isn't the only cruise line that broke records recently.

Earlier this week, Carnival Cruise Line said it had the busiest booking week in its entire history between March 28 - April 3, 2022.

Oceania Cruises set a new single-day booking record for its 2024 Around the World in 180 Days voyage.

What is the state of the cruise industry? Trends and the cruise comeback

27 Jan 2022

The last two years were anything but easy for the cruise industry, but things look to improve in 2022.

Royal Caribbean wants to buy Covid-19 vaccines from Israel | Royal Caribbean Blog

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) put out its annual State of the Cruise Industry Outlook that highlights how the cruise industry is bouncing back from the pandemic, as well as progress in environmental stewardship and other initiatives.

Royal Caribbean is one of many cruise lines that are part of CLIA, which represents the cruise industry in many aspects of the public and government sectors.

CLIA believes this report highlights the responsible restart process cruise lines have undertaken, which rely heavily on the proven Covid-19 protocols that have been implemented onboard ships.

Here's a look at some of the major highlights from the report.

Restart process

More than 75% of ocean-going member capacity has returned to service.

CLIA projects 100% of that capacity will be back in service by August 2022.

In addition, 16 new cruise ships will debut in 2022, including five LNG-powered vessels and nine expedition ships. The class of 2022 will be 100% equipped with Advanced Wastewater Treatment Systems.

Royal Caribbean will have one of those new cruise ships when Wonder of the Seas makes her debut this spring.

Economic impact of cruisers


It's no secret cruise ship passengers bring extra income to the ports of call they visit, and CLIA demonstrated this fact with specific figures.

  • Every 24 cruisers creates one full-time equivalent job
  • Cruisers spend an average of $750 USD per passenger in port cities over the course of a typical seven-day cruise
  • 6 in 10 people who have taken a cruise say that they have returned to a destination that they first visited via cruise ship

Facts & Trends

12 must have Royal Caribbean tips & tricks for families | Royal Caribbean Blog

CLIA also included in their report some interesting facts about who goes on cruise ships.

Top Five Source Regions on Average from 2018-2020

  1. North America: 51%
  2. Western Europe: 21%
  3. Asia: 12%
  4. Australasia: 5%
  5. South America: 5%

Top Five Destinations by Average Passenger Volume from 2018-2020

  1. Caribbean, Bahamas & Bermuda: 44%
  2. Asia & China: 13%
  3. Central & Western Mediterranean: 8%
  4. Australasia: 5%
  5. Panama Canal & South America: 5%

Top 5 things to do on Royal Caribbean for adults | Royal Caribbean Blog

Cruise Tourist Age Averages from 2018-2020

  1. 60+: 33%
  2. 40-59: 32%
  3. 20-30: 20%
  4. 0-19: 14%

47.6 is the average age of cruise tourist

Percentage of Cruise Passengers Who Plan to Cruise Again

  1. Traditionalists: 73%
  2. Baby Boomers: 77%
  3. Gen-X: 82%
  4. Millennials: 85%
  5. Gen-Z: 79%

Carbon Neutral by 2050


The cruise industry is pursuing carbon neutrality by 2050, which is an initiative the Royal Caribbean Group committed to in October 2021.

Royal Caribbean Group calls it "Destination Net Zero", but the goal is the same for all CLIA members:

  • Delivery of a net zero emissions cruise ship
  • A path to net zero emissions by 2050

To that point, over the next five years, CLIA's ocean-going cruise line member fleet will include 26 LNG-powered cruise ships, 231 ships fitted with Advanced Wastewater Treatment Systems, 174 cruise ships with shoreside power connectivity, and 176 cruise ships equipped with Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems installed.

Read the full report

You can read the entire State Of The Cruise Industry Outlook 2022 here:

Why aren't cruise ships built in the United States?

07 Dec 2021

Did you know that modern cruise ships are not built at all in the United States?

Regardless if it is Royal Caribbean's newest mega ship, a super yacht for SilverSea, or anything inbetween, no cruise line builds their ships in the United States. Why is that?

When U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) proposed legislation to permanently allow foreign flagged cruise ships to sail to Alaska without having to stop in Canada, she included a condition that would eliminate the bill once there is a U.S.-built ship that carries more than 1,000 passengers, if U.S. shipbuilders ever aspired to build cruise ships.

That little caveat in the bill by Senator Murkowski highlights the fact that modern cruise ships simply aren't built in America.

Symphony of the Seas construction photo update | Royal Caribbean Blog

Cruise ships are primarily built in shipyards in Europe, such as Meyer Werft in Germany or Chantiers de l'Atlantique in France. All of Royal Caribbean's ships have been built in one shipyard or another in Europe over the years.

I asked Commander Don Goldstein, Retired United States Coast Guard, who has over 32 years of experience working with the cruise industry why ships are not built in the United States.

As you may have guessed, the primary reason why cruise ships are not built in the United States comes down to cost. In short, it costs too much to build a cruise ship in the United States for a few reasons.

Oasis 3 Construction Photos | Royal Caribbean Blog

Commander Goldstein pointed to three primary reasons why it's just too expensive to build a ship domestically:

Labor costs

Shipyard where Odyssey of the Seas is being built to shutdown for six weeks | Royal Caribbean Blog

Just like so many other aspects of manufacturing, labor is cheaper overseas than it is in the United States. The automotive industry is a prime example of why companies choose to build their products outside of the United States.

Union labor in particular is not cheap, and labor costs on a vessel as massive as a cruise ship can add up costs quickly.

Cruise ship construction is a labor intensive industry, and when you factor in the cost of American labor and the tax structure, it becomes unreasonably expensive.

Unlike cars, cruise ships aren't built in places like Mexico. They are built in Europe, so how are those countries that have similar standards of living to the United States able to build ships more reasonably? Essentially, they are heavily mechanized and are considered strategic assets.

Material costs

Symphony of the Seas construction photo update | Royal Caribbean Blog

The cost of materials used in construction of the ship is going to cost more when it comes from the United States, especially U.S. built/manufactured materials.

As you may know, cruise ships are foreign-flagged. In order to be U.S. flagged, most of the material on a vessel must be from the United States.


Coast Guard wont fine you for not wearing a mask on a cruise ship, but you will get kicked off | Royal Caribbean Blog

Building anything in the United States means more regulations by a variety of government entities during the process.

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are just two of the agencies Commander Goldstein pointed to that would have oversight in the process, with others likely part of the process.

Following World War 2, the United States added strong protectionist legislation meant to preserve the maritime industry, but it actually had the opposite effect. Many shipyards domestically closed, and the few left are only focused on military work that rely on government paid contracts to ensure there is a profit.

Odyssey of the Seas December construction photo update | Royal Caribbean Blog

An op-ed in the Los Angeles Times argued that instead of protecting U.S. jobs, these protectionist laws actually ruined American cruises and cost American jobs.

Commander Goldstein said the only reason a company would build a cruise ship in the U.S. would be to flag it here for coastwise voyages, like NCL's Pride of America.

By going that route, it brings into play a lot of regulatory protocols, such as using U.S. materials and equipment, U.S. shipyards which are subject to U.S. labor laws, OSHA requirements, and USCG inspection. 

New photos of Royal Caribbean's fourth Oasis class ship construction | Royal Caribbean Blog

"Most other countries do not have a regulatory agency like the USCG," Commander Goldstein explained. "Instead, they let classification societies do the majority of the inspection/certification work.

"Some are very good and some are not so carful about adherence to the international requirements.  OSHA rules, designed to keep shipyard workers safe, are expensive."

"When I worked on U.S. vessels in foreign shipyards, the difference is safety protocols was very obvious."

Video: Royal Caribbean Lays Keel for Oasis III & Announces Oasis IV | Royal Caribbean Blog

To illustrate the point further, Commander Goldstein recalled inspecting a U.S. flagged tanker that was at the Hyundai Shipyard in South Korea in 1987. He was dispatched to oversee the significant work being done there that was required to be reviewed by the USCG.

"Before the work was done overseas, the company that owned the vessel put the work up for bids, both in the U.S. and overseas."  

"The Korean shipyard won the bid, even though when work on a U.S. flagged tanker is done overseas, when the vessel is brought back to the U.S. to work in the Jones Act trade, there is a 30% tariff applied to the cost of the overseas work."

"Even with that tariff, I was told that the cost of the work at Hyundai was half what the cheapest bid from a U.S. shipyard."

As you can see, the extra costs to build a cruise ship in the United States are substantially more than overseas, and it is why cruise lines choose to build their ships elsewhere.

Foreign-flagged cruise ships

The unconfirmed cruise ship rumors that get repeated a lot by cruise fans | Royal Caribbean Blog

Since the cruise ships are built outside the United States, they cannot be flagged as an American vessel.

American shipyards are not equipped with the experience building modern cruise ships, nor do they have the capacity or supply chain to assemble cruise ships. 

Cruise ships these days are almost all foreign-flagged, with registrations in places like Panama, The Bahamas, Liberia or elsewhere.

To register a ship with any country - and fly their flag - a company has to pay them a fee to join their ship registry. Besides the issues outlined earlier in this article, the costs for a ship registry in the U.S. is much higher than other countries.

Royal Caribbean Group CEO doesn't see Virgin Voyages as competition

28 Sep 2021

Is the cruise industry's newest cruise line, Virgin Voyages, competition for Royal Caribbean? Maybe not.

Speaking at Seatrade Global 2021, Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain was asked how he viewed his newest competition in the cruise industry, and he said he thinks the new cruise line is actually a good thing.

Virgin Voyages is a joint venture between Bain Capital and Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, and their first ship has finally made her U.S. debut after many pandemic-related delays.

Scarlet Lady is the first ship for Virgin, and she offered sailings around Britain this summer, and is now in North America to begin sailings from here.

Mr. Fain was asked if he is worried about this new cruise line represents a new threat to Royal Caribbean's bottom line, but he thought it was actually the opposite.

"Actually, no," Mr. Fain responded quickly to the question. "I also think it's important to look at the industry and say that new players are actually are a big benefit to us because they attract attention."

Mr. Fain compared Virgin Voyage's entrance to the industry to when Disney started its cruise line in the 1990s.

Disney Cruise Line gets approval to start test cruises | Royal Caribbean Blog

"I do remember I was asked that question when Disney got into the cruise business. Oh, my goodness, isn't that going to be a terrible thing because Disney has come in and there's such a powerful brand name?"

In the case of Disney Cruise Line, the new line brought new customers to cruising.

"They added two percent to the supply in our industry, and they added 10 percent to the demand because it showed the important thing about our industry is getting the message across that we are an amazing vacation, just an amazing even on my competitor friends here."

"Having Virgin come in, I think all of that adds to the to the the impact of the cruise industry has."

"The important thing is they're adding more to the demand than they are to the supply. And so I think overall, I welcome them."

Mr. Fain said the real competition to Royal Caribbean isn't other cruise lines, but other forms of travel.

"We don't compete with each other as much as we compete with all the other activities that that compete for our dollar, whether it's a hotel or resort or a travel somewhere else."

5 times Royal Caribbean trolled other cruise lines

18 May 2021

Royal Caribbean is as competitive in the cruise industry as any line, and part of vying for market share is occasionally "throwing shade" from time to time.

Like all companies that compete for money, customers, and notoriety, cruise lines play a game every day of trying to outdo other lines in nearly all aspects of operations. From new ships, to attractions onboard, to partnerships, there is no shortage of innovative change among the lines.

Sometimes, this game of one upmanship can get a little spicy, with public jabs at other lines, or simple bragging.  For consumers, it is as intriguing as it is fun to watch it all go down.

Over the years, there have been a few memorable times Royal Caribbean has gone off script a little bit and done or said something about other lines that left us with a smirk on our faces.

Here are the top five memorable times Royal Caribbean did or said something about another cruise line that got attention.

America's Cruise Line

The impetus for this post came just a few weeks ago when Royal Caribbean trademarked the phrases, "America's Cruise Line" and "America's Favorite Cruise Line".

These new filings for a trademark may not really mean much on the surface other than a new marketing plan, until you understand the timing of these trademarks.

The week prior, Carnival Cruise Line CEO Christine Duffy said in a video, "I've always said Carnival Cruise Line is America's cruise line."

A few days later, Royal Caribbean trademarked the phrase.  Hard to imagine that is not a coincidence.

Who's #1?

Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings teamed up recently to form an independent panel of health experts that will guide cruise lines in restart plans with a bevy of new protocols.

This is an example of two cruise lines working together towards a common cause, but the CEO's could not help having a little fun at each other's expenses, with Royal Caribbean having the last word.

In a television interview in September 2020 with both Richard Fain and Frank Del Rio, the host attempted to compliment Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line as the industry leaders of cruising, by comparing the two cruise lines to the #1 and #2 soft drink manufacturers, Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

While being complimented as the top two cruise lines is a pleasant honor, it is well known how much more dominant Coke is over Pepsi, and Mr. Del Rio couldn't help but quickly say that NCL was the Coke of the two.

Mr. Fain, equally feeling his cruise line was worthy of the top honor, quickly retorted back "In your dreams, Frank! In your dreams."

Being the fastest

It should be clear that cruise lines love to compete in pretty much everything, including internet speeds.

When Princess Cruises rolled out their MedallionNet internet access, they claimed it was the best wifi at sea.

During a question and answer session, a cruise fan asked Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley if Royal Caribbean would improve their onboard internet speeds to match.

Mr. Bayley dismissed the claim, "It was the fastest internat at sea, it is the fastest internet at sea, and it's going to be the fastest internet at sea."

"People can claim things, but we have got the fastest internet at sea."

Towel animals welcome

Back in April 2019, Norwegian Cruise Line made headlines when they announced they would no longer automatically create towel animals for all of its passengers on some of its ships.

The rationale was to reduce laundry load on its ships, which would help the environment.

The conservation effort was nice, but many cruise fans quickly pushed back on the decision because of the long standing tradition of having a towel animal waiting in their cabin.

A few days later, Royal Caribbean's social media team posted, "All towel animals welcome at Royal."

Boaty McBoatface

A British government agency held a competition in 2016 to name a new polar research ship, and the internet responded with the most ridiculous name it could come up with: R.R.S. Boaty McBoatface.

The man who came up with the name is James Hand, a public relations professional and former BBC employee.

Royal Caribbean saw all of this and decided to jump in and call the internet's bluff, by inviting Mr. Hand to help Royal Caribbean develop the name for a future ship.

"The people of the United Kingdom know the name of a great ship when they see it," said Michael Bayley, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International. "Like the rest of the world, we fell in love with the name Boaty McBoatface when we heard it, and we knew immediately that Royal Caribbean could use James Hand’s talent to name our next ship."

Of course, this was all done on April 1st.

Bonus: trolling back

These are example of Royal Caribbean doing or saying something, but there was a great example of responding to a troll that I just could not leave out.

Celebrity Cruises (sister company to Royal Caribbean International) has a well-known female Captain, Kate McCue, who has no patience for trolls.

In late 2020, Captain McCue read a sexist comment attack towards her on TikTok, which said, "How can you be a captain? Your [sic] only a woman."

Captain McCue responded to the comment with her own snark, "Normally, when I’m scrolling through comments and I see something like this, I totally ignore it and move on with my life."

"But I think it’s about high time that I address this, because it’s 2020, and in this day and age, I’m shocked …that someone still doesn’t know the difference between you’re and your."

"So just a quick reference: You’re — as in ‘you are’ — like, ‘you are sexist.’ Your is something possessive, it belongs to you, like ‘your ignorance'. But don’t worry. I’m here for you. If you need any more clarification, you can find me here, in my captain’s chair."

5 cruise trends Royal Caribbean doesn't do (and 1 it jumped on)

10 May 2021

Every cruise line does things just a little bit different from the rest, but there are at least a few industry-wide trends that Royal Caribbean simply does not do across the board.

Part of making each cruise brand stand out is adopting certain policies, incorporating a vision, and providing passengers with something that appeals to their base.  Royal Caribbean is no different, and has made a name for itself by offering a cruise vacation with its own flavor of offerings.

Some new cruisers, as well as people new to Royal Caribbean, may be surprised by some of the things Royal Caribbean does not do, which are found on other cruise lines.  There are any number of reasons why Royal Caribbean has not followed other lines with these trends, but when comparing lines, some of these omissions may stand out.

Here are the top five cruise industry trends I have noticed Royal Caribbean does not do, as well as one that they recently changed their minds about.

Ship within a ship

One of the hottest trends in cruises is the "ship within a ship" concept, which takes the suite level offerings to a new height.

Traditionally, passengers in suites enjoyed their luxurious amenities in their cabin, as well as a few perks sprinkled around the ship, such as a suite lounge, reserved seating and more.

A number of main stream lines, including Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), MSC Cruises, and Celebrity Cruises, have all adopted a new take on the suite life by dedicating entire sections of the ship exclusively to their top tier suite guests.

The idea is to give suite guests not just perks, but exclusive areas for them, including their own pool decks, restaurants, and concierge services.  Think of it like a mega velvet roped off area.

While Royal Caribbean has done more to offer its suite guests upgraded amenities for suite guests in recent years (Royal Suite Class), their ships lack a true "ship within a ship" offering that you find on some competitors.

Spectrum of the Seas does offer the closest thing to a ship within a ship concept, but that ship is heavily focused on the Chinese cruise market and sister ship Odyssey of the Seas did not retain that feature.

Read moreWhat is Star Class?

All-inclusive options

While a lot of people may think of cruises as sort of all-inclusive, they really are not, and Royal Caribbean purposefully leaves a lot of extra costs and options from the base cruise fare.

To be fair, main stream mass market cruise lines generally shy away from all-inclusive fares, but a number of cruise lines are starting to move in that direction in an effort to make pricing simpler for the guest.

Celebrity Cruises recently changed their pricing model to now include things like gratuities, wi-fi, drink packages and more. Likewise, Holland America Line also shifted to include shore excursions, beverages, WiFi and more.

Traditionally, Royal Caribbean's promotions tend to favor giving guests a discount on the cruise fare, and then allowing guests to add-on things like a drink package or wifi if they want it.

Cruise lines like Holland America or Celebrity are considered to be a premium cruise line, whereas Royal Caribbean is a contemporary line.  This means pricing and what is included traditionally differs to begin with.

That being said, cruise fares for certain countries include more in their base fare than in North America.  In the UK, drink packages and gratuities are often included with the cruise fare (albeit at a higher price).

Read moreCould Royal Caribbean follow Celebrity Cruises move to all-inclusive pricing?

Onboard brewery

A new trend many cruise lines are adding to their new cruise ships is an onboard brewery.

NCL recently developed their own brewery in partnership with Miami-based Wynwood Brewing Company by developing District Brew House. 

Onboard the NCL Bliss and Escape, you will find 24 rotating beers on tap, in addition to a wide variety of bottled beer, and even exclusive brews for NCL.

Carnival offers the RedFrog Pub, and even has its own private-label draft beer: ThirstyFrog Red.

The Carnival Vista has an actual working brewery onboard, and the Carnival Horizon has a combination Guy's Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse & Brewhouse.

Royal Caribbean has not gone in that direction quite yet.  At one time, they partnered with Chef Michael Schwartz to offer Michael's Genuine Pub on its Quantum Class ships, but their beers were all bottled and was more bar than brewery.

Kids partnerships programming

Partnering with a well-known children brand is a cruise industry trend that Royal Caribbean used to do, but went away from.

Carnival has a partnership with Dr. Seuss® and offers kids programming onboard that includes a special onboard character parade, interactive story time, arts & crafts activities, character breakfast featuring their favorite Dr. Seuss friends and more. 

MSC Cruises partners with LEGO®, which include larger LEGO play areas, building contests, video games and more.

Royal Caribbean has a partnership with Dreamworks Entertainment for many years, but ended the brand partnership in 2019 in order to focus on offering its own take on what kids could do onboard.

Royal Caribbean said the decision was made as part of its regular process of reviewing and refreshing their onboard offerings.

Read moreCruising with kids on Royal Caribbean

Celebrity Chefs

Royal Caribbean at one time dipped their toe into the celebrity chef pool, but they have generally shied away from this hot trend in cruises.

Specialty restaurants are very popular with passengers, and some lines have sought celebrities to make their offering stand out.

Carnival's new Mardi Gras will have Shaq's Big Chicken restaurant to capitalize on American's love affair with the fast-food chicken sandwich. Emeril Lagasse will also have a restaurant on the Mardi Gras.

Carnival also has a partnership with Guy Fieri, which serves up Guy's Burger Joint.  MSC Cruises partnered with Roy Yamaguchi to bring Asian Market Kitchen to MSC Seaside.

Royal Caribbean still has a partnership with Jamie Oliver to offer Jamie's Italian on its ships, but the newest ships in the fleet and most recent refurbishments have focused on revamping its in-house Italian specialty restaurant Giovanni's Table.

Other celebrity chef partnerships on Quantum and Anthem of the Seas have since ended.

The trend they changed their minds about: Waterslides

Strangely, Royal Caribbean did not have giant water slides on its ships for many years, while Carnival, Norwegian and just about every cruise line included waterslides on their ships.

We may never know why Royal Caribbean resisted adding waterslides onboard, but it was a noticeable omission among families. Sure, the Radiance Class had one kiddy slide, but compared to the other ships, it was a lacking feature.

A few years ago, Royal Caribbean decided to change that and begin adding waterslides to its existing ships, and incorporating them into the designs of new ships.

Today, Royal Caribbean offers a few different water slides on its cruise ships, and most of its larger ships have at least a couple slides to enjoy.

Read moreWhich Royal Caribbean ships have water slides?

Spark looks to transform the cruise ship guest experience with Moneyball approach to the cruise industry

14 Nov 2017

Spark Cooperative launched a new toolset that has one simple goal: revolutionize the way cruise lines plan the onboard guest experience.

Spark's SET software suite is designed to let a cruise line utilize models and visualizations of the guest experience to cater to guest segments. Once experience plans are made, brands can run game-changing analytics to reveal a number of insights, such as where they can reduce associated resource costs, and how best to deliver experiences for all types of climates and scenarios.

"Traditionally, in the 80s, 90s, and even early 2000s, there was really kind one type of cruiser, and it was really easy to kind of plan the six o'clock, eight o'clock dinner, and the six o'clock, eight o'clock show. These early cruisers were really satisfied with the way that cruise lines planned ahead for them," said Joshua Belz, Principal, Spark Cooperative. "Then NCL introduced Freestyle cruising, which was revolutionary at the time, and has really spread through the industry. . .What SET is going to do for cruise brands, and resort and hospitality brands that compete on experience, is think through the day of all of their different segments simultaneously."

"It has gotten to a point now where everyone expects so much from these brands that rely on experience, that you really need to segment your populations," said Ronnie Farzad, Principal, Spark Cooperative. "What SET does for these brands is actually allow them to spend a significant amount of time up front planning for those processes and planning for those people who are going to show up at the pier, but it basically takes all the guess work on the adjustments they have to make on a cruise by cruise basis during rain-or-shine scenarios, or when itineraries change.  They experience design up front, and it creates all the tools for their teams to be able to actually execute that on the go."

SET offers flexible plans to span the marketplace: from international enterprises with multiple brands and properties to single-property portfolios. The software comes with responsive and reliable support, and because it’s web-based, it can be accessed from anywhere at any time.

What this software aims to do is attempt to disrupt process that has been done traditionally by historical experience, and instead infuse data and analytics into the modeling and simulation tool to give cruise lines an operational plan.

Belz talked about the impetus for SET is as much a market demand today as it will be going forward, "Just looking at the roadmap of the industry, so many ships coming online in the next 10 years, so many more guest experiences, way more complex and exciting demographics coming onboard.  The industry is going to be hungry for a way to address these new cruises."

Farzad explained, “For hospitality companies, carrying forward experiences delivered to the previous properties worked for a period of time. In the experience economy, brands are asking how can we differentiate further? And that’s exactly what we want to do. We want to make it a data-driven and design-driven process.”

Subscribe to Cruise Industry