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Carnival Cruises announces plan to resume cruises


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


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


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


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


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


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


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."

Top 10 Royal Caribbean stories of 2017


With 2017 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 2017 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 brought underwater adventures to Snapchat

In a first-of-its-kind social media innovation, Royal Caribbean hosted underwater Snapchat experience thanks to its Snapchat Spectacles, known as SeaSeekers.

The mask was custom engineered by the cruise line for use with Snapchat Spectacles. It allows the wearer to snap while underwater and will give those above the surface a unique perspective into the intriguing underwater world of marine life.

Three dives took place in June that showed off this new innovation, in places like Cozumel and Belize.

Royal Caribbean celebrated the Great American solar eclipse

On August 21, 2017, millions witnessed a total solar ecliplse, and Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas provided the perfect viewing celebration.

Dubbed the, "Total Eclipse Cruise," Oasis of the Seas offered a 7-night Caribbean sailing, which cruised to the optimal spot at sea for guests to witness the total solar eclipse. 

In addition to viewing the eclipse, there were dance parties, lectures, and a special performance by Bonnie Tyler and DNCE onboard.

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria

A series of powerful hurricanes wreacked havoc on Royal Caribbean's cruise ship plans, in addition to inflicting horrific damage on certain islands in the storm's path.

The storms impacted a variety of sailings, with delays and even cancellations of some sailings.  In fact, Royal Caribbean opted to cancel a few sailings and then use the cruise ships to act as floating hotels and supply delivery mechanisms.  

The result was Royal Caribbean providing an incredible amount of relief and support to the peoples of Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and St. Maarten.  The relief efforts lasted a number of weeks, and brought much needed help in the early days of recovery.

Royal Caribbean announced expansion of CocoCay

In March 2017, Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley announced plans for the cruise line to make major enhancements to the cruise line's private destination in the Bahamas, CocoCay.

The expansion will include construction of a pier, additional guest features and amenities, and new opportunities for vendors and craftsmen to promote the culture of The Bahamas to visitors. The pier will be able to handle Oasis class cruise ships.

Bayley described the new additions coming to CocoCay as, "innovative" and "entertaining". He also indicated the construction will take a multi-phased approach, with some elements of the new construction ready in 2018, and construction complete sometime in 2019. In the meantime, Bayley said ships will continue to stop at CocoCay without any disruption.

Royal Caribbean announced new fleetwide technology roll out

Royal Caribbean was forward leaning when the company held a big reveal event in Brooklyn to announce an array of technological innovations that aim to make things simpler and easier for guests going on a cruise.

At the heart of the new technology overhaul is a new smartphone app that will be rolled out to every Royal Caribbean ship over the next two years. The app promises to eliminate check-in lines at ports, equip crew members to anticipate guests’ needs, and enable giant cruise ships to sail through the water on a fuel-saving curtain of air.

The new tech will spread across the fleet by the end of 2019.

Royal Caribbean requiring all adults in same stateroom to purchase unlimited alcohol package

Royal Caribbean decided to change the rules regarding its unlimited alcohol package, and begin requiring all adults in a stateroom to purchase a drink package if one adult in that room elects to purchase one.

The change begins in 2018, but the rule change came out in October 2017.  The change occured following an earlier announcement it was going to test the change first on select Harmony of the Seas sailings.

Royal Caribbean introduced non-refundable deposit program

Royal Caribbean announced in May 2017 a new non-refundable deposit program, which is an addition to the traditional refundable deposit model.

When making a cruise reservation at least 6-months prior to sailing, guests who opt to take advantage of nonrefundable deposit fares will automatically qualify to earn up to $100 per stateroom to spend at sea. Early booking credit is combinable with the existing promotional offer available at time of booking.

In an effort to deter continual or late ship/sail date adjustments, a change fee of $100 per guest will be imposed to all reservations booked under a nonrefundable deposit fare that opts to change either the ship and/or sail date originally selected.

Symphony of the Seas reveal

Throughout 2017, Royal Caribbean announced details surrounding its fourth Oasis class cruise ship, Symphony of the Seas. Symphony of the Seas will claim the title of the largest cruise ship in the world when she debuts in April 2018 for her inaugural season in Europe.

In March 2017, Royal Caribbean formally announced Symphony of the Seas, along with some details surrounding the ship. This included some preliminary deployment details, along with the announcement it will be homeported in PortMiami.

In October, Royal Caribbean announced activities, restaurants and entertainment coming to Symphony of the Seas. New dining concepts and family activities, awe-inspiring theater, aerial, ice and aqua entertainment, and the most dynamic suite in family travel will join the lineup of Royal Caribbean exclusives on Symphony.

Spectrum of the Seas reveal

Speaking of cruise ship reveals, Royal Caribbean also shed some light onto another upcoming new ship, Spectrum of the Seas.

The first Quantum Ultra Class cruise ship will be based in the Asia-Pacific region and will join sister ships Quantum of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas. She had the first piece of steel cut in August and her keel laid in November.

Spectrum of the Seas is set to debut in 2019 and will be the first Quantum Ultra ship that will specifically be designed for guests in China and the Asia-Pacific region, and will feature cutting-edge and unprecedented experiences and amenities.

Royal Caribbean made its inaugural visit to Cuba

Royal Caribbean made history with the cruise line's inaugural visit to Cuba with Empress of the Seas in April 2017.

Empress has since followed up with a number of visits to Havana, Cuba, and Royal Caribbean unveiled new plans to expand Cuban sailings in the years to come.

Your thoughts

What did you think was the biggest Royal Caribbean news of 2017? Did we miss one? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Royal Caribbean talks changes to ship design, cultural shifts, millennials and more


During Royal Caribbean's third quarter 2017 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.

Cultural change to responding to major events

Royal Caribbean Chairman and CEO Richard Fain took a few minutes to talk about the response the company has noticed from the general public, when it comes to major events like a hurricane disrupting the flow and life of the islands visited, and the cruise itineraries planned.

"We've noticed a significant change in the way people in general seem to respond to unusual events, whether those events are weather, geo-political acts, or something else.

Years ago, a bad incident would have a bad and lasting impact.  Whenever something happened, our bookings would fall and they would stay down for an extended period. People seemed to curl up in a ball and obsess about whatever the issue was.  It could, and did impact bookings, for a really long time. Even after the event left the front page, people would persist in focusing on it.  Eventually, they would move on and bookings would recover, but that process seemed to take forever.

More recently, we have seen a much more sanguine response. Instead of the incident lingering for a long time, the recovery seems much quicker. People seemed to be more apt today to see such events as ordinary, with little impact. The events still aren't normal, but they are seen as less relevant to the broader audience.  In effect, the public appears to become inured to such one off events.  They are still interested in the event, and concerned about it, but people seem to continue living their lives with less change. They move on.

From a societal point of view, I have to say that it's discouraging that we've reached such a point. It's distressing that incidents are now so common, that society seems to have formed a thicker skin towards them. On the other hand, as a response to the actual events, it's probably more constructive if society doesn't allow such things to interfere with our normal day-to-day existence.

From a purely commercial point of view, this cultural shift is very helpful.  It's much better for us if the negative impact of such incidents are so much more fleeting than in the past. "

Design changes in ships over decades

Over the last couple of years, Royal Caribbean Chairman and CEO Richard Fain has been fond of noting a cultural shift among consumers, where they are tending to prefer buying experiences over buying things. In the past, consumers seemed to be focused on buying things like new televisions, appliances, or other items of the like. More recently, Mr. Fain believes the focus has shifted to people looking for experiences, especially ones that include the whole family.

This shift has made Royal Caribbean change as well, to meet the needs and habits of consumers.

"Over the years, as people's habits and tastes, we've shifted our product to take advantage of these new consumer buying practices. For example, in the 1970s and 1980s, there was a dramatic shift in the way ships were designed and built. Instead of ships being designed as a form of transportation, we shifted to ships that were designed specifically for cruising. Our aspirations at the time were for ships to be more yacht-like. Now, that change really brought cruising into the modern era.

But in the '80s and '90s, there was another change in people's expectations.  The public's vacation desires changed, and we needed to shift with them. We shifted our design focus from trying to be yacht-like, to be more like hotels.  We started to design ships with more spacious public areas, better outfitting, and more amenities onboard.  We wanted the ships to feel more open, to have more things to do and to have a more luxurious feel of a modern hotel.  Our design metaphor changed from trying to seem like a yacht, to feeling more like a full service hotel.  Again, that fit in nicely with trends in consumer interests, and it resulted in better sales.

Now, over the last decade or so, travel habits have further changed and our ship designs have shifted yet again. Consumers now want a more active vacation, a more things to do and to experience. In response, we changed our design metaphor, from trying to be like hotels to be more like cities. Today, our ships have more features of cities, with a cornucopia of activities, amenity, and design.  We don't simply check the box with bars and restaurants and discos, we talk about designing parks, and gardens, and neighborhoods and quiet spaces. We model our medical facilities on urgent care facilities. Our specialty restaurants compare to anything you will find on land.  We have every stripe of nightlife, you can sail with us for seven nights and never experiencing the same things twice.

And again, adjusting our products to suit the changing wishes of the consumer has paid off in a very nice way. Our guests really enjoy the broader choice and amenities that the new ships offer.  And again, accommodating these wishes has resulted in improved demand for our product. "

Winning the perception war

One of the "battles" that Royal Caribbean (and the cruising industry) has faced over the years have been old stereotypes about what a cruise experience is all about.  It has been a stumbling point for the cruise industry, but Mr. Fain believes things are changing now and consumers are far more educated than ever.

"Many consumers thought of cruising through the lens of outdated stereotypes. We in the industry often complained about the inaccuracies of such misconceptions and our marketing was geared to correct the image. This sense of not being properly understood pervaded our industry, and profoundly influenced all of our communications.

But then, a strange thing happened. The evolution of consumer's changing tastes, and of our changing product, converged. The prevalence of these old, erroneous perceptions has waned. In effect, we have won the perception war.  We have crossed a tipping point, and moving beyond it.

Yes, there are still many people out there who suffer from these old misperceptions, but their numbers are dwindling everyday. Today, while this issue remains an issue at the margin, cruising has now firmly established itself as a relevant and a desirable vacation option for consumers generally."

Rethinking retail spaces

With the shift in consumers looking for experiences instead of products, and the news that particularly higher guest spending on shore excursions and internet packages, an investor asked if Royal Caribbean was going to rethink its allocation of retail space onboard their cruise ships.

Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley spoke to this question, "When we talk about the two programs, Celebrity Revolution and Royal Amplified, really a lot of thinking going into that is really thinking  through how our guest spend is changing. You will start to see that when we bring these ships out of the moderinzation programs that we have really reallocated space to generate better revenues in areas that we see guests now naturally gravitating towards."

Millennial cruising is on the rebound

When asked about new to cruise guests, and millennial demand, Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley talked about the reversal in fortunes the cruise line has seen over the last few years, "In fact, if you go back before that three year period, we were actually in a situation where year over year we saw a decline in new to cruise and millennial.  Over the past three years, we've seen a very good increase year over year.  That's very much part of our marketing and communication focus on new to cruise and millennial, and we are seeing good progress."

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd Chief Financial Officer, Jason Liberty, provided a bit more feedback on what those numbers look like, "Over the past several years, we are carrying about 30-33% more millennials than we did several years ago."

Royal Caribbean hints at big reveal next week


Royal Caribbean has posted a new teaser hinting at an announcement coming next week.

Royal Caribbean alerted travel agents to the news that will be announced next Tuesday, with simply the tag line of, "Mark your calendars and tune in on November 7, 2017! The Thrills are about to get even bigger."

A couple of observations that may or may not have any relationship to the announcement:

  • The teaser image does not have a cruise ship in it, just land (although there is a beached boat on the left side).
  • The image file is named 17059107_Deployment_Tease_1024x640.jpg.
  • The word "thrills" is prominently mentioned.

What do you think this announcement will be about? Share your ideas in the comments!