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Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast Episode - The big cruise news this week

05 May 2021

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We're taking a look at what else is happening in the cruise industry outside of Royal Caribbean on this week's episode.

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Royal Caribbean condemns "inexcusable acts" of violence at Capitol

07 Jan 2021

Less than a day after a mob of pro-Trump supporters violently stormed the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., Royal Caribbean sent an email to all of its employees to address the outrage the incident caused.

Photo by Leah Millis/Reuters

An email was sent to all Royal Caribbean employees on Thursday morning, which was shared with travel advisors.

It is not clear which Royal Caribbean executive wrote the email, but the message shares a combination of sadness, outrage, as well as hope for the future.

I had intended to make my first message of 2021 a message of hope and warm wishes. And I will still do that.


But for now, I am wracked with outrage, overcome with grief and worried for our country. The inexcusable acts of desecration on one of our most valued institutions should shock and appall all who love America and the democracy that we are so rightly proud of.


Worse, I am sad. Such anti-democratic, violent acts as we have witnessed today have crossed a long-respected line. The world has seen too many examples of mob rule, and the attack on the Capitol today will live in history as one of the more outrageous of such mob actions. There is no excuse for what happened, and I hope the thugs who perpetrated it are properly punished.


However, as saddened as I am, I am not discouraged. Indeed, I am hopeful. These pathetic hoodlums have gotten their moment of TV coverage. But our democracy was never in doubt.  Our institutions stood strong and performed their lawful functions. Congress has, in accordance with the constitution, certified the election. In fact, despite all the rhetoric and posturing, the actual certification process was boring — as it should be.


There will always be those who insist that things be their way regardless of consequences. I assume that almost half of those reading this letter preferred Trump and the rest preferred Biden.  Good for you. That is democracy and it is one of our most precious gifts. Many of you know that I love to argue . . . The challenge, the give and take all work to help us understand each other’s views and maybe change our minds.


The worst part of this vicious attack on the Capitol wasn’t the damage to the building or its contents. Rather, I think the worst part was the attempt to undermine faith and confidence in our institutions. And that this effort was encouraged by inexcusable rhetoric from some of our leaders. Fortunately, that effort failed. As President Bush said, “This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic — not our democratic republic.”


But let’s remember the important point — our society won. Our democracy prevailed. Our country will move on. This has been a terrible day for America. But it can only become more than a minor sideshow if we — the American people — allow it to. As Vice President Pence so rightly said from the podium after the interruption, “Violence never wins.  Freedom wins.” The Vice President went on to say, “This is still the people’s house.  Let’s get back to work.”


I, for one, will sleep well tonight. I take courage from the universal disapproval this outrage provoked. America is strong, and I am confident that we will not allow the despicable acts of a few to drive the rest of us to overreact.


I look forward to writing a true New Year’s greeting to you all in the near future. I promise it will be forward looking and discussing what can make us better, not more divided.

The email to all employees seems to have been originally planned as a new year welcome, but felt necessary to be sent given the significant actions that took place.

There are quotes former President George W. Bush, as well as Vice President Mike Pence in the letter, while touching on the important takeaway that the democratic institution of this country continues.

The so-called insurrection that took place on Wednesday at the Capitol claimed the lives of four people, and horrified many to see such an event take place in the capital of the United States.

The Metropolitan Police Department reports at least 14 officers were wounded during the demonstrations. Two officers were hospitalized, including one who sustained serious injuries after he was pulled into a crowd and assaulted, police said. 

So far there have been at least 70 arrests. 

Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said there will be an extension of the public emergency for the next 15 days.

Top 10 Royal Caribbean news stories of 2020

22 Dec 2020

This has been the craziest year for the cruise industry ever, and there were plenty of headlines that got plenty of attention.  So what were the biggest stories of the year?

This past year has been a "tale of two cities", with traditional cruise news in the very beginning, and then of course the rest of the year was a myriad of shutdown updates.

Looking back on the year, I handpicked the top stories that I thought generated the most buzz and interest among cruisers, and the general public. Let's dive in!

10. Majesty of the Seas and Empress of the Seas sold

Royal Caribbean just announced it sold two cruise ships last week, and it was a big enough deal to make the list of this year's top Royal Caribbean stories.

After months of speculation, Royal Caribbean announced it has sold its two oldest cruise ships, Majesty of the Seas and Empress of the Seas.

It appears the ships have been sold, but not scrapped.  Royal Caribbean says they now belong to an undisclosed party, based in Asia-Pacific, that will release details for future sailings at a later time.

9. Cruise lines vs. the CDC

Since the cruise industry voluntarily shut itself down in March, it has been at odds with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over how and when cruises would resume.

In the 9 months since the industry shutdown, the CDC has raised its anti-cruise rhetoric by warning the public against taking cruises.

Between special travel warnings and summaries in the various No Sail orders, the agency regularly told people not to go on a cruise anywhere in the world, "because the risk of COVID-19 on cruise ships is very high."

The CDC has warned the public against taking cruises since March due to the global health emergency, but has steadily increased its warnings from an alert, to a watch, to a warning and now simply a "Very High Level of COVID-19".

The CDC did rescind its cruise ship ban at the end of October, although there has been little to no progress in cruise lines moving towards sailings restarting.

8. Key West voted to ban most cruise ships

Unfortunately the residents of Key West voted to approve a referendum to prohibit large cruise ships from visiting their island.

Three different referendums to limit cruise ship traffic passed, which will ban large cruise ships completely, as well as limit small cruise ship traffic.

All three were approved by majorities of more than 60 percent, with the "giving priority to cruise lines that have the best environmental and health records" proposal passing at over 80%.

7. Introducing the electronic muster safety drill

Perhaps the best innovation to come out of this year was a new cruise ship safety drill that relies on technology.

Known as Muster 2.0, Royal Caribbean revealed its plans to implement a new way to conduct the mandatory guests safety drill, known as the muster drill. 

With Muster 2.0, the new tech will be used to help provide the information to guests via their mobile devices and interactive stateroom TVs.

Travelers will be able to review the information at their own time prior to setting sail, eliminating the need for the traditional large group assemblies. 

6. Cruise with Confidence

Another good change for consumers was the introduction of the Cruise with Confidence program, which allows for last-minute cancellations without penalties.

If a guest cancels under the policy, they will receive a full credit for their fare, usable on any future sailing of the guest's choice.

This includes refundable or non-refundable cruise fares.  You are able to take advantage of either booking type with no penalty or change fee for opting into the Cruise with Confidence program.

5. Coco Beach Club opens

The year 2020 started off well when the final piece of Perfect Day at CocoCay opened to the public.

The exclusive Coco Beach Club opened to guests at the end of January, which offers an oceanfront infinity pool, upgraded cuisine and the only floating cabanas in the Bahamas. 

Plus, there is a complimentary restaurant at Coco Beach Club featuring lobster, snapper, and steak— plus a buffet of soups, salads, and starters. 

Entry to the Coco Beach Club requires an additional cost. Guests can choose between a day pass to the Coco Beach Club, as well as the option to reserve a cabana or floating cabana.

4. Royal Amplifications postponed cruise ships until further notice

The financial impact of the cruise industry shutdown forced Royal Caribbean to postpone its scheduled ship refurbishments until further notice.

Royal Amplifications for four cruise ships are on hold, including Allure of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas.

Guests on affected sailings will be notified directly more details and options available.

3. Freedom of the Seas completes $116 million Royal Amplification

Perhaps the last hurrah of cruising before everything shutdown, Freedom of the Seas wrapped up a massive shipwide upgrade.

The ship underwent a bow to stern makeover, with new features being added including water slides, a new Caribbean pool deck look, the cruise line’s first Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen and new, dedicated spaces for kids and teens. 

Freedom of the Seas was able to offer one sailing before the rest of cruises for the year were cancelled.

2. Royal Caribbean asks for volunteers for test cruises

Royal Caribbean got an incredible amount of attention when it announced they would take sign-ups from the public to be a volunteer for a test cruise.

The cruise line has a form set up for adults only (18 years or older) to enter basic information about themselves.

While Royal Caribbean is working with the CDC to determine how the test sailings will operate, they have decided to begin gathering information from those who have shown interest.

1. Royal Caribbean cancels all cruises beginning in March

Without a doubt, the biggest story of the year was when Royal Caribbean cancelled all of its cruises due to the global health crisis.

At first, it was just for 30 days, which was big enough news in and of itself.  However, the shutdown went on to extend longer than anyone would have thought in March.

As of the writing of this post, cruises will not be able to restart until March 2021 at the earliest.

Your thoughts

What did you think was the biggest Royal Caribbean news of 2020? Did we miss one? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Carnival Cruises announces plan to resume cruises

04 May 2020

Carnival Cruise Line announced today it plans to resume sailings in North America this summer, which could be a sign of what Royal Caribbean has in store as well.

Generally speaking, the "big three" cruise lines (Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian) tend to act in tandem when it comes to sweeping policies, and Carnival Cruise Line announced today its plan to phase in a resumption in our North American service this summer, beginning on August 1 with a total of eight ships from Miami, Port Canaveral and Galveston.  

While the resumption of cruises sounds like good news, Carnival did announce it will also have to extend its suspension of sailings in  in all other North American and Australian markets through August 31.

Here is the basics of Carnival's plan:

  • All North American Carnival cruises from June 27 to July 31 will be cancelled.
  • Beginning August 1, Carnival plans to resume cruises on the following ships:
    • Galveston:  Carnival Dream, Carnival Freedom and Carnival Vista
    • Miami:  Carnival Horizon, Carnival Magic and Carnival Sensation
    • Port Canaveral:  Carnival Breeze and Carnival Elation.
  • Other than the above referenced service from Galveston, Miami, and Port Canaveral, all other North American and Australian Carnival homeport cruises will be cancelled through August 31.
  • All Carnival Spirit Alaskan cruises from Seattle will be cancelled, as well as the Carnival Spirit Vancouver-Honolulu cruise on September 25 and the Honolulu-Brisbane transpacific cruise on October 6.
  • All Carnival Splendor cruises in Australia from June 19 to August 31 will be cancelled.

Royal Caribbean has made no announcement yet on what its plans are once cruises resume, however, this could be viewed as a positive sign that the cruise industry is preparing to resume service.

No, Royal Caribbean did not extend its cruise cancellations until September

01 Apr 2020

An article going around the internet today has spread a lot of misinformation about Royal Caribbean's current plans due to a misunderstanding about a recent policy change.

An article on Yahoo! Finance says Royal Caribbean has extended its halt of global cruise operations until September 1, 2020.

Unfortunately, this is inaccurate information.

Royal Caribbean has only cancelled nearly all of its sailings through May 11, 2020. Alaska, Canada and New England sailings are delayed until at least July 1, 2020.

The author likely is confusing Royal Caribbean's recent announcement to extend its Cruise with Confidence program through September 1.  This program allows guests to cancel their cruise up to 48 hours before there sailing and receive a 100% future cruise credit.

Royal Caribbean further clarified the article is indeed false as well.

Poll shows Americans will be slow to want to cruise again after coronavirus

31 Mar 2020

A new Harris Poll indicates that cruise lines and airlines will have the toughest road back after the coronavirus threat passes.

The poll was conducted between March 21-23, and looked at the feelings of Americans as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the many questions asked, one area of focus was how long until Americans return to normal activity once the virus flattens.

The poll found airlines and cruises "may be impacted the worst."

It found 22% of Americans say it will take a year or longer before they take a cruise and 1 in 10 say never again.

According to CLIA, about 30 million people went on a cruise in 2019, with 11.9 million coming from the United States. In 2018, the United States had a population of about 327.2 million people.

Top 10 Royal Caribbean stories of 2019

20 Dec 2019

With 2019 nearly over, this seemed liked the perfect opportunity to look back at the Royal Caribbean news stories that generated the most interest.  After all, 2019 was a super busy year for Royal Caribbean, with plenty of new offerings, ships, ports and more.

This year's top ten list is based on the Royal Caribbean stories we feel generated the most buzz and interest.  There are some stories that made the top ten list that surprised me and others I'm more surprises did not make the list.  Let's dive in!

Perfect Day at CocoCay opens

If there is one accolade for Royal Caribbean in 2019 that stands out above the rest, it has the be the mega-succesful opening of Perfect Day at CocoCay.

In May 2019, Royal Caribbean officially opened Perfect Day at CocoCay following a $250 million transformation of the cruise line's private island.

Guests visiting Perfect Day at CocoCay enjoyed a new water park, freshwater pool, refreshed beach areas, new dining choices and more.

Navigator of the Seas may have been the first ship to officially call on Perfect Day at CocoCay, but so many guests have visited the new destination in the months since then and the reviews have been excellent across the board.

Accidental $18 drink package

Many guests were shocked to see Royal Caribbean's unlimited alcohol drink package offered for just $18 per day. This was a price mistake that lasted for just a few hours, but during that time quite a few people were able to lock in the price.

Usually, the Deluxe Beverage Package runs somewhere between $40 - $52 per person, per day when purchased in advance.

At first, Royal Caribbean said the price mistake was an error and the purchases would be cancelled.  However, following a lot of guest feedback, the cruise line decided to honor the "computer glitch" for anyone that booked it.

Oasis of the Seas crane accident

While undergoing some routine work at a shipyard in Freeport, Bahamas, Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas struck by a construction crane.

Oasis of the Seas was in the Bahamas for a short period of work. No passengers were onboard the ship at the time of the accident.

The accident did cause a few sailings to be cancelled in the weeks that followed in order for the ship to be fully repaired.

Oasis of the Seas $165 amplification

Speaking of Oasis of the Seas, Royal Caribbean completed a massive $165 million refurbishment that added new amenities, activities and more.

Oasis of the Seas had a lot of changed to it, including the cruise line’s first barbecue restaurant, Portside BBQ; and guest favorites, from the tallest slide at sea–the Ultimate Abyss–to popular live music venue Music Hall, and a reimagined, Caribbean pool deck. 

Now that Oasis of the Seas is amplified, the ship is offering sailings from Miami, and will transition to the New York City area for summer 2020.

Royal Caribbean's Hurricane Dorian relief efforts

Following the devastation Hurricane Dorian inflicted upon The Bahamas, Royal Caribbean stepped up in the hours following the storm's departure to pledge $1 million in disaster relief.

The cruise line delivered much-needed supplies to the people of Freeport, Bahamas by ferrying in supplies as each of its cruise ships passed through the area.

Teams of volunteers onboard Royal Caribbean ships worked for hours to package up meals and bottled water to be delivered once the ship arrived in Freeport.

In the first few days, the cruise line delivered 20,000 daily meals to the Grand Bahama Island community.

Grandeur of the Seas will leave the fleet

Royal Caribbean announced it plans to transfer Grandeur of the Seas out of its fleet and will join sister brand, Pullmantur Cruises in spring 2021.

Grandeur of the Seas’ final sailing with Royal Caribbean will take place on March 26th, 2021. Thereafter, she will transition to Pullmantur.

Enchantment of the Seas, will return to Baltimore to replace Grandeur in spring of 2021.

Grandeur's final sailing for Royal Caribbean International will be March 26th, 2021.

Toddler death on Freedom of the Seas

One of the saddest news of the year was the death of a toddler from Freedom of the Seas in July 2019.

An 18-month-old girl died after falling on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas while docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Sunday. The toddler fell after she fell out of her grandfather's grasp at a window on deck 11 of the ship.

Tragic and disturbing, the story has transformed in recent months with the gradfather being charged in the accident, and tabloid-level coverage of the aftermath.

Royal Caribbean purchases resort in Grand Bahama

In March 2019, Royal Caribbean signed a letter of intent with the government of The Bahamas for the purchase of the Grand Lucayan resort and redevelopment of the Freeport Harbor.

The cruise line has been fairly quiet with details on what it intends to do with the property. Royal Caribbean's CEO hinted the resort could become a multi-million dollar, multi-phased project on par with CocoCay in Freeport.

The development will take place over a 24-month period, with $65 million of the purchase price for the Grand Lucayan Resort.

Social apprentice search

Royal Caribbean went viral with their search in February 2019 for a social media apprentice, who would be paid to go on cruises and share the experience online.

The role was open to British and Irish citizens which garnered 37,000 applicants.  After a lengthy search, Harry McNulty was chosen to become the Shore Explorer.

The Shore Explorer's job is to discover fun and incredible experiences around the world that will ultimately influence the brand’s shore excursion offerings.

No more cruises to Cuba

Following the United States travel ban to Cuba in June 2019, Royal Caribbean had no choice but to cancel all scheduled visits to Cuba.

The two ships that were offering cruises to Cuba, Majesty of the Seas and Empress of the Seas, had their sailings cancelled and visits to Cuban ports replaced with other ports of call.

While Cuba cruises were never a major destination for the cruise line, many guests were disappointed with the news and inability to visit.

Your thoughts

What did you think was the biggest Royal Caribbean news of 2019? Did we miss one? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Top 10 Royal Caribbean stories of 2018

24 Dec 2018

With 2018 nearly complete, it's time to look back on the year and see which news stories generated the most interest.  There's no doubt that 2018 was a busy year for Royal Caribbean and so it is interesting to see which stories rose to the top of people's interest.

This year's top ten list is based on the Royal Caribbean stories we feel generated the most buzz and interest.  There are some stories that made the top ten list that surprised me and others I'm more surprises did not make the list.  Let's dive in!

Royal Caribbean changed their policy to allow guests to bring non-alcoholic beverages onboard

Royal Caribbean updated its beverage policy to begin allowing guests to bring small quantities of non-alcoholic beverages on their Royal Caribbean cruise.  Needless to say, this change made a lot of guests happy.

Effective as of September 1, 2018, non-alcoholic beverages brought onboard may not exceed 12 standard (17 oz) cans, bottles or cartons per stateroom. Distilled water or specialized beverages such as, milk for medical purposes, dietary or infant use, are permitted.

Royal Caribbean ended its partnership with Chef Michael Schwartz

2018 was the year we said goodbye to Michael's Genuine Pub locations and the menus at 150 Central Park that were provided as part of the partnership with Chef Michael Schwartz. Back in February, Royal Caribbean informed its travel partners that Royal Caribbean would remove Michael's Genuine Pub on its Quantum Class ships.

In its place, Royal Caribbean created a pub experience that offers a wide selection of beer and specialty cocktails, as well as small snacks.

Mariner of the Seas revitalization

Royal Caribbean spent $120 million this year to totally revamp Mariner of the Seas that amped the ship up with new thrills, restaurants, staterooms and entertainment.  The makeover really seemed to resonate with guests.

Royal Caribbean added water slides, a virtual reality trampoline, laser tag, Playmakers Sports Bar, Bamboo Room lounge, Jamie's Italian and a lot more.

Mariner of the Seas has the distinction of being a very popular choice with consumers that are looking for short cruises, and has been a boon for the cruise line in terms of being booked well and driving up revenue.

Symphony of the Seas launched

When Royal Caribbean launches a new cruise ship, it is certain to be big news and Symphony of the Seas did not disappoint. Symphony of the Seas is not only the largest cruise ship in the world, but also marks a significant moment for many Royal Caribbean fans because this brand new cruise ship offers so many enticing options.

After thirty-six months, Symphony of the Seas debuted in Europe and sailed a summer season in the Mediterranean before coming to the United States and her new homeport in Miami.

While Symphony may be the fourth Oasis Class ship, Royal Caribbean added a number of features and changes to make the ship stand out from her sisters. Symphony brings a bold lineup of energy-filled, heart-pumping experiences. The new ship offers glow-in-the-dark laser tag adventure, the tallest slide at sea, waterslides and FlowRider surf simulators. There is plenty of dining onboard too, with Hooked Seafood, Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade and El Loco Fresh for Mexican street-food fare. In addition, Symphony offers signature shows across three distinct stage venues.

Terminal A in PortMiami opened

A new cruise terminal might not sound like big news, but Royal Caribbean's newest cruise terminal in PortMiami is a major step forward for guests who get to sail here. In early November, Royal Caribbean officially opened Terminal A in PortMiami.

Terminal A is a brand new, state-of-the-art cruise terminal that was built to be the home of Symphony of the Seas and her sister, Allure of the Seas.  The building was designed by England-based global architecture firm Broadway Malyan. The 170,000-square-foot terminal is nicknamed the ‘Crown of Miami’ because of its distinct shape.

Perfect Day at CocoCay announced

In March, Royal Caribbean revealed its grand plans for a massive expansion to its private island in the Bahamas. CocoCay will be the first in the cruise line's most ambitious project yet, which they are dubbing the Perfect Day Island Collection.  This will be a series of unrivaled and exclusive private island destinations around the world.

Among the many additions, Royal Caribbean is adding a new water park, the Caribbean's largest freshwater pool, zip line, helium balloon, specially designed beaches and more.

Royal Amplified program announced

As if announcing Perfect Day at CocoCay was not enough, Royal Caribbean also announced it would invest $900 million to reimagining its fleet through a new modernization effort called Royal Amplified.

Royal Amplified will cover 10 ships over four years, and Royal Caribbean promises the program will touch every facet of the guest experience, and introduce a wide range of innovative features and bold, new experiences, including specialized pool spaces, experiential dining and nightlife concepts, and first-of-its-kind attractions.

Royal Amplified will include the Oasis, Freedom and Voyager class ships.

Sorrento's Pizza got better

News about the state of pizza might not sound like big news, but to Royal Caribbean fans it was a welcome change.  Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley announced earlier this year an effort to substantially improve the cruise line's pizza.

A new approach to their pizza has seen a six point increase in guest satisfaction, thanks to the cruise line's better crust, cheese, sauce and toppings.

This is great news, especially when you are grabbing a slice in the late hours of the evening.

Independence of the Seas completed a shipwide refurbishment

While Mariner of the Seas received a lot of attention this year for her upgrades, Independence of the Seas also received a substantial upgrade too.

Royal Caribbean completed the multimillion-dollar upgrades on Independence of the Seas, which resulted in the addition of a number of new features onboard, including new aqua park, new lounges, escape room, laser tag, new staterooms, Izumi specialty restaurant and more.

Royal Caribbean hosted the largest movie premiere at sea

A new Netflix movie was filmed and initially screened aboard Harmony of the Seas.  To celebrate the launch of the new film, Royal Caribbean hosted the largest movie premiere at sea by screening the dramedy across its Oasis Class ships.

"Like Father" was filmed on board Harmony of the Seas and stars Kristen Bell, Kelsey Grammer and Seth Rogen.

Your thoughts

What did you think was the biggest Royal Caribbean news of 2018? Did we miss one? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Royal Caribbean talks social media, Symphony of the Seas, Cuba, guest spending and more

26 Apr 2018

During Royal Caribbean's first quarter 2018 financial call with investors, the company shared some interesting anecdotes, facts, and insight into the ever changing cruising environment.  While most of the information discussed in these earnings calls deal primarily with financial indicators, cruise guests can glean some insight into how Royal Caribbean runs its business.

Social media driving demand

Off the bat, Royal Caribbean's top brass was quick to point out that social media is crushing it in terms of raising the brand's awareness to consumers, assuaging myths about cruising and most importantly, driving demand.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL) Chairman and CEO Richard Fain spoke about the impact of social media, "I attribute some of the recent healthy growth and demand to our success in the social media environment. Our social media teams really are doing an amazing job."

RCL Chief Financial Officer Jason Liberty also talked about how social media has helped Royal Caribbean this quarter, "Levers, like social media and so forth, are really helping break through stereotypes on cruise and we have seen a real change in our new to cruise volumes.  That is also suggesting that a lot of these past detractors are becoming fans of cruise."

Symphony receiving tons of good press for a sister ship

There is no question that Royal Caribbean is proud of the launch of its newest ship, but the executives were down right impressed by how well Symphony of the Seas is selling, especially considering she is the fourth sister ship in the class.

Mr. Fain spoke about the public's reaction to Symphony of the Seas, "The public reaction to Symphony of the Seas was surprising even to us. Even though she is the fourth in the amazing Oasis Class series of ships, she has so many new amenities and attractions, that our guests and the media were simply blow away. Rarely has a sister ship received such press, and rarely has it been so deserving of it."

Mr. Liberty expanded on the results Symphony of the Seas has brought to the cruise line, "Prices for Symphony have not only exceeded our lofty expectations, they have also been even better than we saw from Harmony last year."

Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley shared an anecdote about Symphony of the Seas' early success, "The week after we introduced Symphony of the Seas, our bookings beat track by 50%. That is the week after we introduced the ship, so it's really performing well."

Consumers want shorter, more frequent vacations

A trend that Royal Caribbean has picked up on is the desire for short Caribbean getaway cruises.  As a result, Royal Caribbean has invested heavily in Mariner of the Seas and the improvements coming to CocoCay.

"We're seeing more and more people opting for shorter, but more frequent vacations. We are responding to that call by modernizing Mariner of the Seas, which is one of our Voyager Class ships, and we're raising our game in the short cruise market with this upgraded vessel, " Mr. Fain explained, "At the same time we also announced a major upgrade to our private destination in the Bahamas at CocoCay that we are calling, appropriately I might add, Perfect Day. Perfect Day in that destination will be another great addition to our Caribbean offering.  It is really thrilling to see the work take shape, and I'm certain that this destination will get tongues wagging just as much as our new hardware has done."

Michael Bayley also spoke about what Royal Caribbean is doing to meet customer demand, "We're very excited about Mariner as a product coming into the shorts market, and that's very much focused on new to cruise, and Millennial, and that really is the on ramp for that market.  That ship is literally like having an Oasis Class ship in the short product market, because its capacity is just over 3200-3400 every three or four days."

Guest spend & onboard revenue is up a lot

If you want to find the "secret sauce" to what is making the biggest difference in Royal Caribbean's quarterly growth, onboard revenue is a big factor.  This means the things guests spend on their cruise above and beyond the cruise fare.

Mr Liberty spoke about the growth the cruise line is seeing in this area, "The main driver of the positive earnings in yield was the continued strength in onboard revenue, which was up 6.3% for the quarter. This result is notable considering that it follows an 8.9% improvement from the first quarter of 2017."

"Guest spend from onboard activities has continued to shift towards areas that involve experiences over buying things, and this quarter was no different. Beverage packages, specialty restaurants and internet were the main revenue streams driving the quarterly beat."

Mr. Bailey also spoke about the onboard revenue growth that Royal Caribbean is seeing, "We've been really pleased with our pre-cruise sales, and we've seen a significant uplift year over year that's been increasing for the past couple of years and it's been a big driver of onboard spend.  We kind of figure, for every dollar that we earn pre-cruise, we'll see somewhere between a 30 and a 50% uptick in the onboard spend."

"And then of course over the years, we've invested quite heavily in new venues, new attractions onboard of our ships and many of those are revenue generating.  We're beginning to see a lot of those now yielding superior revenue because of the kind of services they provide."

Cuba update

Another area that we received an update on was Cuba and cruises there.  A recent leadership change alongside strong demand for cruises to Cuba generated an update on where the cruise line stands with regard to this newly offered destination.

Royal Caribbean Chief Operating Officer Adam Goldstein spoke about Cuba, "We've been commenting over time about the fact that the Cuban market has been a good market for us to enter. The customer satisfaction about Havana has been very, very high. But the reality is that there is still just one functioning pier that ships can go to on either side of the pier in Havana.  There is going to have to be some type of considerable infrastructure improvement that takes place over the next several years, that will probably take time."

"I think what we've been seeing lately is that the Cuban Government has gotten a little bit more efficient in maximizing the use of the pier on both sides, and our company has definitely been a beneficiary of that. We've been able to increase the number of sailings on a year over year basis, even though their capacity hasn't increased."

"For what it is, it's been terrific, but in the overall sense of our portfolio, it is still fairly small. And we haven't seen any change whatsoever in their attitude towards us or their dealings with us, as it relates to their change in government to this point."

A look at the state of digital marketing

Michael Bayley provided a look at how Royal Caribbean is leveraging digital marketing (as opposed to traditional marketing) to better reach customers.

"We think that there's better targeting, and it's a more efficient channel. And certainly, with our social media presence, we believe that we've maneuvered ourselves into a really strong position in our space. In fact, we just recently conducted an independent survey of where we are positioned in terms of the social media universe, and we came out of it exceptionally well, in terms of how people view Royal Caribbean through that lens and how they are engaging with Royal Caribbean."

"We are also seeing that with the response from onboard internet, and how people are using the accelerated internet to utilize social media to actually promote our brands, which has been really quite effective."

Royal Caribbean talks fleet changes, marketing shifts, Caribbean recovery and more

24 Jan 2018

Royal Caribbean held a conference call with investors to review the fourth quarter 2017 results, and within the discussion, we picked out some interesting anecdotes that cruise fans would enjoy.

Fleet wide refurbishment

Of particular interest to cruisers, Royal Caribbean Chairman and CEO Richard Fain alluded to a "transformational fleet upgrading program" which will kick off this year.

Royal Caribbean International ships will be part of what the company is calling Royal Amplified.  This program aims to extend the appeal of the brand with new cruisers and returning cruisers.  

Mr. Fain summed up Royal Amplified as, "We're redefining the experiences that drive, choice, guest satisfaction, and ultimately revenue."

If you are wondering what exactly Royal Amplified entails, there does not appear to be much information on that yet. Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley alluded to Royal Amplified in November 2017, when he mentioned the program as part of a way the cruise line is rethinking some of its onboard venues.

Caribbean recovery after the hurricanes

Photo by TheTwangster

Following the hurricanes of 2017, Royal Caribbean saw soft bookings in the six weeks that followed these storms.

Royal Caribbean Chief Financial Officer Jason Liberty noted that trends normalized in November, and have been in-line with the cruise line's expectations since then.

"First quarter Caribbean sailings were in a very strong booked position before the storms, recovered relatively quickly afterwards, and are currently booked ahead."

Project Excalibur potential

Royal Caribbean's next-gen technology initiative, codenamed Project Excalibur, has Richard Fain very excited for the prospects of the future.

"I really think it is going to transform. I think it is going to be fantastic.  I think it will take a little while for it roll out and for the public to see just how exciting it is."

No change in reducing last minute discounts

When questioned about the possibility of Royal Caribbean revisiting its Price Integrity Policy that curbs last-minute cruise discounts, Richard Fain was quite firm in his answer.

"Absolutely not."

"The Price Integrity Program was a part of [the Double Double Program], and we think the benefit keeps growing over time.  The Price Integrity Program has been a big success for us.  We have been fairly religious about executing against it, and we continue to expect to do that."

Michael Bayley added another point, "We introduced several months ago a non-refundable deposit pricing program for the Royal brand, and that has proven to be very successful for us. So we have a significant percentage of our '18 bookings are in this non-refundable category, which means that we will see significantly less churn in our bookings as we move through the calendar year for '18 and into '19."

Emphasis on digital over traditional marketing

Michael Bayley also talked about the emphasis the cruise line has placed in digital marketing over traditional marketing, primarily for cost savings and for better tracking ability.

"What we are seeing is an improvement in the efficiency of that marketing investment over time, because of digital - because it is a lot easier to track and understand the results that you are generating through digital versus traditional.  Yes, we are investing more in our marketing, and yes we are investing more as we look into the future, but, we're also seeing an improvement in the efficiency of that investment."

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