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Richard Fain leaves Royal Caribbean with legacy of innovation and growth

10 Nov 2021

Richard Fain announced he will step down as Royal Caribbean Group CEO in January 2022, leaving behind an incredible legacy over his 33 years at the helm.

With Mr. Fain moving away from the day-to-day operations of the company, it makes sense to look back on some of his many accomplishments.

Mr. Fain joined the company at a time when Royal Caribbean was still deeply rooted in the beginnings of modern cruising, and ushered in innovations and changes that fundamentally changed what the public thinks a cruise ship can be.

There is no way to perfectly encapsulate all of Mr. Fain's accomplishments in one post, but as Royal Caribbean and the industry wish Mr. Fain a fond farewell, we look back at some of his major achievements.

How Fain joined Royal Caribbean

In the 1980's, Royal Caribbean was a middleweight contender in the cruise industry, and it quickly reached a crossroads of what to do next.

Song of Norway had ushered in a new era of cruising, but by the end of 1983, the company was considering what expansion would make sense.  Economies of scale, already realized onboard Song of America, were clearly the wave of the future.

Like any sensible enterprise pondering its next step, Miami's management went shopping for advice, turning to the Cambridge-based consulting firm of Arthur D. Little.

The highly respected organization was asked to undertake a survey of the cruise industry with an eye to determining Royal Caribbean's position and potential within it.

At the time, Richard D. Fain was the vice-president of finance for one of the original investors in Royal Caribbean, Gotaas-Larsen.

In the 1970s, Fain had served as treasurer for both Gotaas-Larsen and its parent company, International Utilities, becoming increasingly involved in Royal Caribbean's financial operations.

Richard Fain chaired that committee, an appointment to which two of the founding families of the cruise objected (Skaugens and the Wilhelmsens) because his chairmanship would give Gotaas-Larsen double representation.

But Fain, in turn, promised to remain impartial. Fain discovered that by holding meetings in Miami, he was able to guarantee the attendance of key corporate personnel, who had a wealth of information to enrich Arthur D. Little's accumulating data.

As of 1984, the report pointed out, Royal Caribbean had an eleven percent market share, compared with NCL's fourteen percent and Carnival's fifteen percent. Although the conclusions were the result of a strategic thought process and were not motivated by the importance of being big, immediate expansion was recommended: additional newbuilding and/or a merger with another cruise line.

Sovereign of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

"Expansion" was the operative word, expansion not only of Royal Caribbean's next class of vessel but its size of operations as well. 

This report galvanized Royal Caribbean, and in 1984, the world's largest purpose-built cruise ship, Sovereign of the Seas, was conceived. And the committee that bad been assembled to assist with the Little report evolved into Royal Caribbean's Steering Committee, with Fain remaining in the chair.

Voyager of the Seas

Voyager of the Seas makes maiden call at Manila, Philippines | Royal Caribbean Blog

Mr. Fain began his career as the CEO of Royal Caribbean right around the time Sovereign of the Seas launched, and the cruise world was once again changed when Voyager of the Seas redefined what a mega ship is.

He realized that the image problem the cruise industry had among the public of being outdated, boring and, as an industry joke put it, full of "the newlywed and the nearly dead".

Mr. Fain believed to attract a new kind of customer, he needed a new kind of ship. To build it, he hired Harri Kulovaara in 1995, a Finnish naval architect who made a name for himself designing passenger ferries. 

Oasis 4 Keel Laying | Royal Caribbean Blog

Kulovaara was brought onboard to help run the company’s shipbuilding department.

Originally, Royal Caribbean was looking to commission a carbon copy of Sovereign of the Seas. "We’re not going to build that, Harri,” Fain told him. “We need something better."

That "better" idea ended up being Voyager of the Seas.

Voyager of the Seas launched in 1999, and introduced the first ice-skating rink at sea, the first rock climbing wall at sea, and indoor promenade. It was also 75% bigger than the previous-largest cruise ship, exceeding Panamax – the width of the Panama Canal, an industry-standard measurement.

Photo report: Voyager of the Seas in Auckland, New Zealand | Royal Caribbean Blog

"You wanted things that helped convey that this [cruising] was an unusual activity, that you could do what you wanted," Fain said. He said Voyager of the Seas was instrumental in continuing to shift the idea that cruising was for everyone.

Like Song of Norway and Sovereign before her, Voyager of the Seas would innovate ship design for decades and become the new standard going forward.



Turning the cruise industry on its head is something Richard Fain started getting good at, and history would repeat itself yet again with the most ambitious project yet for Royal Caribbean with Project Genesis.

Six years before Oasis of the Seas would be launched, Mr. Fain and the team at Royal Caribbean started out with the concept of wanting to do something new and different. 

We decided to start with a blank sheet of paper and said, "What do we want our guests to do? What activities do we want to offer them?” The name of this project was Project Genesis. The idea was to indicate that this was a fresh start in terms of design. We didn’t actually start out intending to build something quite so large."


"The whole thesis was to give people more choice. So instead of one large pool deck divided into two we wanted to have a series—one just for families, one just for adults, one just for sports … When we added up all the things we wanted to provide for people to do, it turned out the ship was much bigger than originally expected, as we were also able to provide much more in terms of activities and amenities. "

Royal Caribbean brought in architects and designers to help take all the ideas the company had and create a revolutionary cruise ship.

At 225,000 tons, the Oasis of the Seas weighs as much as four Titanics. 

Beyond her size, Oasis of the Seas introduced the crowd-control concept of "neighborhoods", with seven in total.  Oasis also was the first ship to have a split-back design that opened the back of the ship up (Boardwalk), as well as an open-air park featuring 12,000 plants in the middle (Central Park).

Then there's the first AquaTheater at sea, the first zip line at sea and much more.

In short, Oasis of the Seas continued Royal Caribbean's legacy of revolutionary cruise ship design.  Any new mass-market cruise ship built since has had to compare itself to the game-changing Oasis of the Seas.


Richard Fain | Royal Caribbean Blog

There is no way to talk about Mr. Fain's legacy without also acknowledging the tremendous work he did publicly and behind the scenes during the Covid-19 pandemic.

No company was properly prepared for the government mandated shutdown of the cruise industry, which was the only industry to voluntarily shut down on its own but then face stiff opposition to prevent it from returning.

From the onset of the shutdown, Mr. Fain began producing short videos posted online for travel agents that shared his outlook on the situation, as well as hope for the future.

Royal Caribbean new cruise ship health protocols include masks, social distancing, testing and more | Royal Caribbean Blog

While these videos may have been intended only for the trade, they became a beacon of hope in a shroud of unknowns. For many cruise fans, it provided helpful insight into what may come next, as well as much needed optimism.

Behind the scenes, Mr. Fain championed the creation of the Healthy Sail Panel, a group of renowned health experts who established safety and wellness protocols to restore confidence in cruising safety.

It was fitting he announced stepping away as CEO in a video update for travel agents, bringing his tenure to a close in the same way he provided updates for more than a year.

Richard Fain announces he is stepping down as Royal Caribbean Group CEO

09 Nov 2021

When 2022 begins, it will mark the end of an era for Royal Caribbean when the head of the company steps away.

Richard Fain, Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO, announced on Tuesday he is stepping down as the CEO of the Royal Caribbean Group effective January 3, 2022. 

Richard will remain Chairman of the Royal Caribbean Group Board and will stay involved in our new shipbuilding projects.

"I'm not disappearing from this industry we all love. I will remain as Chair and I will continue my involvement in our new building projects. But starting in January, I will no longer be involved in the day to day running of the business," Mr. Fain said in a video announcement.

Richard Fain | Royal Caribbean Blog

Taking over as CEO will be Royal Caribbean's current Chief Financial Officer, Jason Liberty.

Replacing Mr. Liberty will be Naftali Holtz, who is currently the senior vice president of finance for the Royal Caribbean Group, responsible for corporate, capital and revenue planning and analysis, deployment planning, risk management and treasury.

For 33 years, Mr. Fain has been the CEO, taking the company from the Sovereign Class era to today.

Sovereign of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Under Fain, Royal Caribbean introduced new ship classes that transformed the cruise industry, such as the Sovereign, Voyager, and Oasis classes.

Of course, Mr. Fain was also running sister brand Celebrity Cruises with the introduction of their Solstice and Edge classes.

Just as importantly, Mr. Fain was a stalwart figure over the last two years during the Covid-19 pandemic, keeping Royal Caribbean Group afloat during a massive shutdown that threatened the core business after over a year of no operations.

In your dreams!" Royal Caribbean and NCL CEOs have funny exchange while talking new health protocols | Royal Caribbean Blog

Fain joined forces with Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings' CEO Frank del Rio to form the Healthy Sail Panel, a group of renowned health experts who established safety and wellness protocols to restore confidence in cruising safety.

Mr. Fain describes his decision to leave as an easy one, "We have been blessed with 33 years leading the best company in the world with some of the finest, most dedicated, most passionate people in the world.

"I couldn't be prouder of what that team has accomplished over these years, and I know without any doubt that I have had the very best job in the world."

Meet Jason Liberty

Royal Caribbean Group's new CEO is Jason Liberty, who joined the company in 2005.

Mr. Liberty served in several financial, strategic and operational roles before becoming CFO in 2013.

Liberty is also responsible for Silversea Cruises, the Group's joint ventures with TUI Cruises and Hapag Lloyd Cruises, as well as the Royal Caribbean Group's strategy, technology, supply chain, port operations and legal functions.

Mr. Fain believes Mr. Liberty is ready for this role, "Jason is exactly the right person at the right time to do so, and he is supported by an amazing team of innovative and imaginative leaders who will help drive that growth."

Royal Caribbean Group CEO: Time to focus on how we come out of the pandemic

22 Oct 2021

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain has a new video update where he says he is done talking about the Covid-19, and it's time to move on.

Which is the best Royal Caribbean cruise ship? | Royal Caribbean Blog

The new video update is aimed at travel agents, but provides important insight into what he and the cruise line are thinking about at the moment.

In a new video update, Mr. Fain shares why now is the time to look past the pandemic and focus on cruises in 2022.

In fact, Mr. Fain declared he is going to stop talking about the disease, which is in itself significant since he began issuing these video updates during the cruise industry shutdown due to Covid-19.

South Florida Mayors ask Governor to lift ban on cruise ships asking for vaccine proof | Royal Caribbean Blog

"The time has come to look forward," Mr. Fain firmly stated. "The time has come to focus on how we come out of the panic and out of the pandemic, rather than how we should live during it."

"We all need to think differently. Our future becomes clearer every day."

Mr. Fain's message comes as the Royal Caribbean Group has re-opened its headquarters in Miami. While the disease will remain a concern, he feels society has a much better grasp on it becoming controlled, especially with children on the brink of being able to get vaccinated.

"It will continue to produce variants that vex us, but now we understand the main drivers. We know how to control the disease as it moves from totally uncontrolled spread with a high level of fatalities to a more ubiquitous, ongoing disease that impacts a declining number of people."

"There are likely to be more variants, but they are not likely to upset our ongoing progress, and all of this progress still isn't going to eliminate COVID, but it should bring it down from being a terrifying pandemic."

Mr. Fain also shared a recent map of Covid cases by county in the United States, and contrasted the case loads to cruise ships, which he believes have an advantage over land based comparables.

"The vast bulk of the people are vaccinated. We can control our sanitation, including air filtration, etc., and we can establish strict protocols. As a result, we can make ships safer than shore based alternatives," Mr. Fain explained.

"Although the CDC doesn't do a comparison, I believe a fair reading of all the data taking into account all the factors would color this ship blue, which is the lowest category of risk. Certainly better than the bulk of counties in America, and that's why I'm going to stop talking about the disease."

Mr. Fain also talked about a surge in new bookings coming from online rather than travel agents. To that point, he believes now is the time for travel agents to double their efforts to work on selling cruises since the market is showing signs of people wanting to travel again.

Read moreTop things you didn't know travel agents can do for your cruise vacation

CDC hasn't provided technical instructions to cruises lines four months after lifting the No Sail Order | Royal Caribbean Blog

Mr. Fain pointed to demand returning in the form of more visitors to Royal Caribbean's website, along with more calls and bookings made directly with the cruise line.

"We need you, our travel partners, to reach our full potential. Of course, there still will be many who prefer to buy buy online, and the internet does make that very easy."

"Simply put, we need you and we need your personal touch. We need you and your knowledge, and the clients need you to help them understand the complexities."

Royal Caribbean Group CEO talks about getting back to full capacity

28 Sep 2021

When will cruise ships get back to one hundred percent capacity is a hot question, and it could be as early as the end of this year.

8 Secret spots on Royal Caribbean cruise ships | Royal Caribbean Blog

While speaking at the Seatrade Global 2021 conference earlier today, Royal Caribbean Group Chairman Richard Fain was asked his thoughts on getting back to full capacity as early as next year.

"In terms of numbers next year, I definitely think so," Mr. Fain responded.

"In our core markets, we expect to be essentially there by the end of this year."

Why you shouldn't avoid older and smaller cruise ships | Royal Caribbean Blog

Mr. Fain did not elaborate what "core markets" exactly means.  

Royal Caribbean International ships have been sailing at reduced capacity since they restarted operations, and there have been no public announcements as to how full any ship or sailing would be going forward.

Mr. Fain said he believes misinformation about the restart process has been an issue for customers, travel agents, and industry professionals.

Royal Caribbean's Odyssey of the Seas begins inaugural sailing | Royal Caribbean Blog

"I think a key issue here is there's so much misinformation out there on so many topics."

"It's been a difficult year for all of our partners here in the audience who have also had to deal with this and our travel advisory partners. But one of the things that's caused a lot of confusion is we've canceled cruises. Do you get your rebate? You take a future cruise credit. That's very confusing."

Mr. Fain echoed sentiments he shared last week in a video update that the upcoming booking season in early 2021 will be an important time to step up and show the public cruise ships are ready to sail.

What it's like to be a on cruise ship with no guests | Royal Caribbean Blog

"What we really want to do is make sure that when we start that key booking period, our ships are operating."

"They can see they're operating, they can see the protocols are working, they can see people are taking cruises, they're not going to worry about cancellations and this or that. So we really need to get back to a period of stability."

Last week, Mr. Fain said he wanted nearly all ships back in operation, "By the end of this year, we want virtually all of our ships to be operating and operating seamlessly in our core markets."

Royal Caribbean Group CEO looks to 2022 for when cruise bookings to really take off

23 Sep 2021

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain says his company is focusing now on 2022 and beyond, rather than the ongoing delta variant-induced problems of what is left in 2021.

In a new video update to travel advisors, Mr. Fain talked about how the delta variant, "caused such turmoil and hurt our bookings so much". As a result, Royal Caribbean is poised to move past it and look to the future for the real rebound.

Mr. Fain believes society has decided that there is a balance between "reasonable risk" and certain precautions.

"Society isn't willing to accept the terrible losses that would occur if we simply took zero precautions. But it's also abundantly clear that people are simply not willing to make the sacrifice to their quality of life that would be required to completely eliminate such risk."

Royal Caribbean announces restart plans for remaining cruise ships | Royal Caribbean Blog

With travel, and other aspects of life, re-emerging, Royal Caribbean Group is now focused on what's to come in 2022, and not what is left of 2021.

"Our focus is therefore on 2022, not the remaining months of 2021," Mr. Fain admitted. "Obviously, we don't like giving up on any period, but we are more determined to do well in 2022 and 2023, even if that means accepting short term hits this year."

Mr. Fain spent some time talking about how its company is approaching its protocols right now.

Best things to do on Royal Caribbean while there is limited capacity onboard | Royal Caribbean Blog

In terms of limited capacity on cruise ships, the reason for keeping it low is for several reasons.

"Firstly, we wanted to be extra cautious during our starting period. We also have felt the impact of air travel restrictions, especially between countries, because so much of our business relies on international travel."

"And we made a deliberate decision to get more ships operating sooner, even when that means each ship operates at a very low occupancy for a few months."

Top questions Royal Caribbean hasn't answered yet about its restart plans | Royal Caribbean Blog

Mr. Fain identified two overriding goals that Royal Caribbean Group has right now.

"Firstly, key to our success in 2022 will be wave period. And to have a good wave, we need to show that we go into wave with a solid and stable operation."

Wave season is an industry term for the time of year when cruise lines tend to offer their best promotion. It traditionally takes place between January and March and is not just an arbitrary time of year to offer cruise deals.

Many people typically book cruises in the early months of year as a result of wanting to plan their vacations for later, as well as being influenced by cold temperatures now that compel them to think of a tropical cruise vacation.

In order to take advantage of higher demand, all the cruise lines roll out new promotions and incentives to get their share of the new bookings.

"That means by December, we want stability. None of the confusion and endless changes that we have been experiencing, and that is so frustrating to you and your clients."

"By the end of this year, we want virtually all of our ships to be operating and operating seamlessly in our core markets."

Frequently asked questions about cruising on Freedom of the Seas from Florida | Royal Caribbean Blog

The second goal is to show how safe going on a cruise ship is right now.

"We're doing that today, not by theory, not by prediction, but by actual operations."

"Already, two thirds of our capacities operating, we have carried over half a million guests and only had one hundred and forty one cases amongst those five hundred thousand people."

Allure of the Seas Test Cruise Live Blog - Day 1 | Royal Caribbean Blog

Mr. Fain said there would be cases on ships, just like on land, but the difference is the effective management of cases to limit the spread, "because of our protocols, there haven't been any big outbreaks and the few cases we have seen have been managed quickly and effectively."

"By the end of November, we will have carried over a million guests and that's just one cruise company, albeit the best cruise company."

"There are very few places on Earth that can institute the protective protocols that the cruise industry can implement."

"Isolated cases? Yes. Big outbreaks, no."

Requiring the vaccine of employees

Royal Caribbean employees will begin returning to its Miami headquarters | Royal Caribbean Blog

Mr. Fain shared one other anecdote in this video as it relates to mandating the Covid-19 vaccine for its employees.

According to Fain, a little over 20% of their employees said they were not willing to get vaccinated.

However, over the last couple of months, Royal Caribbean worked with these employees to provide those who wanted it with expert advice and data.

As of last week when the deadline came for employees to get vaccinated, 96% agreed to do it.

Royal Caribbean Group CEO talks how cruise industry can overcome Delta variant threat

27 Aug 2021

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain talked about the threat the Delta variant poses to the cruise industry, but also what can be done to combat its effects.

Mr. Fain started off his latest video update with the admission that the Delta variant hit the cruise industry hard, and right at the time it looked like things were going to quickly move back to normal.

"It was only a few weeks ago that we all thought that the virus was getting under control and life was gradually returning to normal. Unfortunately, the Delta variant upset all our plans."

Mr. Fain said the Delta variant has hurt cruise bookings, but has not destroyed the forward progress the cruise industry is making to get back into operations.

Mr. Fain sees a parallel between what is happening right now with the Delta variant and an important World War 2 battle, the Battle of the Bulge.

He sees the Delta variant as a sudden fight back in an enemy we had considered defeated, similar to how the Battle of the Bulge was the last offensive by the German army in the war at a time the Allies thought victory was close at hand.

"Like world war two, we're fighting a powerful and determined enemy. It's a hard battle and fighting. It is costing us heavily in casualties and in money. But it's a battle we simply can't afford to lose."

"We have no choice but to do what it takes to defeat this insidious disease. I hope and I trust that America will once again stand up and be counted."

Mr. Fain also said just like in the war, by Americans working together can the virus be defeated.

"Not only the soldiers in the field, but the entire country was united in a common goal, defeating the enemy and ending the war."

In his eyes, Mr. Fain sees two important lessons that the Battle of the Bulge taught us, "First, and I think most importantly, America can do amazing things when we work together."

"The second important similarity to the Battle of the Bulge is the ultimate outcome is clear and it's inevitable."

The way Mr. Fain sees things, the Delta variant is "a big bump in the road", but he sees a clear path forward.

"Cases are up, but that will soon peak. Hospitalizations and fatalities are up by a much lesser degree, and then mostly amongst those who have made a voluntary choice to refuse the vaccine."

"We are definitely not where we hope to be. We have taken one step back after taking two steps forward. Fortunately, more forward steps are coming."

Mr. Fain also celebrated the fact the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer vaccine, and the fact he believes in a few months vaccines will be available for children as young as five years old.

"The end of this battle is in sight. But we can't let down our guard," he said right before making the bold statement, "Please wash your hands, and dammit, get vaccinated."

Royal Caribbean Group CEO: People are eager to cruise again

04 Aug 2021

Speaking to investors during the Royal Caribbean Group's second quarter earnings call, Chairman and CEO Richard Fain gave an overview of his company's restart plans.

While there was another quarter of losses exceeding a billion dollars, the outlook looks far more positive with ships returning to service.

Mr. Fain was optimistic that despite issues his company faces right now, the future looks very good.

It seems Mr. Fain believes the key has been a combination of healthy sail protocols, a compelling onboard experience for guests, and strong demand for cruises, especially in 2022.

Of course, there are going to be hesitations to travel again, and Mr. Fain thinks providing customers peace of mind is the key, "We believe that the best way to get them comfortable is to demonstrate just how well the process works."

"We call that the flywheel effect. Once we get the vast majority of our fleet back online and thousands of people sailing safely, it will make even more people feel comfortable doing the same thing."

To make things safe onboard, Royal Caribbean Group identified three pillars of health and safety:

  1. Ensuring ship experiences are as safe, or safer, than the shoreside equivalents
  2. Meeting and exceeding our exacting pre-pandemic expectations
  3. Doing so in a financially prudent manner

In terms of the protocols, Mr. Fain is quite pleased with how things are going onboard, "The idea is to limit the spread of Covid-19 aboard our ships. We all know it's impossible to eliminate cases on board a ship totally, just as it's impossible to eliminate cases on land."

"But the steps that we are taking are designed to prevent the isolated cases from becoming an outbreak, and it seems to be working."

Further building on that confidence is when there are cases onboard, they are limited and isolated.

"We have had people test positive, but almost everyone around them is vaccinated, they've remained isolated cases. That's the goal where individual cases and no significant spread."

"Repeat this with a few hundred thousand or million cruisers, and that creates the trust that will drive our resurgence."

According to Fain, in the month of July (excluding Singapore sailings), an average of 92% of the people on board cruise ships were fully vaccinated and Mr. Fain believes this number is likely to rise going forward.

Strong demand

As they say, the proof is in the pudding, and Royal Caribbean Group has been surprised how many are eager to get back onboard.

"Our guests are eager to cruise again," Mr Fain said during the call. "We had hoped that there would be pent up demand for cruises, but even we were surprised by the level that we're seeing."

"It is clear people are to people are eager to travel, to take a vacation and we are ready to make their vacation dreams come true."

There is likely to be more losses still to come, but the company feels good about their chances as next year comes around.

"While the third and fourth quarter of this year will continue to be painful, it's looking generally in line with our return to service and occupancy ramp up expectations."

"We don't expect 2022 to be a normal year. However, we are seeing rapid and steady progress towards normalcy starting in the spring and summer of next year."

Delta variant

While the Delta variant has the attention of a lot of people, Mr. Fain believes it is a short-term concern, not a long-term problem.

"The Delta variant is problematic for everyone, but even this looks manageable by our extensive protocols," Mr. Fain said while addressing the concern.

"If we only obsess about the present, we will fail to prepare for the future. We must keep our eye firmly on that future that we can see is coming."

Royal Caribbean Group CEO: We should worry about Delta variant but we shouldn't panic

28 Jul 2021

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO talked about the cruise industry restart process, and specifically addressed the growing concern about the delta variant of Covid-19.

In his new video update, Mr. Fain emphasized the importance science has played in providing his company with the tools it needed to safely restart cruises in a manner that was better than any store or business on land.

"We wanted to be not only just as safe as the places, we wanted to be safer," Mr. Fain said while explaining the importance of setting ambitious goals. 

"We established a goal of being safer on board than a ship on Main Street."

"We've shown that an ambitious goal can be achieved based on hard work and an unemotional review of the facts and the science."

Delta variant

With all the progress Royal Caribbean Group has made, there still lies the top concern among many today, which is the spread of the delta variant.

"The delta virus is spreading worrisomely in the United States, and in other countries. We should worry about the delta variant and the other variants that will inevitably follow."

"We shouldn't, though, panic."

Mr. Fain believes science is advancing on how to address these concerns, and also saw an ethical concern among the many people in regions of the world that want to be vaccinated, but cannot yet, such as parts of the Caribbean, South America and Africa.

"There are hundreds of millions of people who have no access to vaccines. Ethically, that should trouble us all."

"But even practically, that also presents a risk to all of us, as the unvaccinated provide an incubator for variance and for spread."

Operating safely

Mr. Fain also talked about how their restart plans have been successful so far, with more ships restarting.

The restart process is not just about turning cruise ships back on, but proving the onboard protocols can work well.

"The protocols we've developed for cruise ships prove there is another way that people can be allowed to carry on their lives without causing outbreaks. Today, we have dozens of ships operating with hundreds of thousands of guests every month."

He also pointwd out how the few cases of Covid-19 onboard did not result in everything shutting down, but instead, treated the cases and allowed others to continue enjoying their vacation, "There are a few cases of it on ships, just as there are cases on land. But they're handled smoothly without disruption."

"That's the goal to be better than it is on land. And science has provided us a path that allows people to carry on their lives while dealing simply with the few number of cases."

Royal Caribbean Group CEO celebrates cruise ships sailing again

14 Jul 2021

Cruise ships are sailing again from North America and Europe, and it has the top executive at the Royal Caribbean Group quite happy.

Richard Fain, Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO, shared a new video update with travel agents on Wednesday, celebrating that twenty one ships in his company are now back in the water and offering cruises.

Mr. Fain returned recently from sailing on Celebrity Edge and Freedom of the Seas, and sees a positive outlook for the industry, despite some challenges.

Thus far, the 21 ships sailing break down as follows:

  • 5 from Royal Caribbean International
  • 6 from Celebrity Cruises
  • 2 from SilverSea
  • 5 from TUI Cruises
  • 3 from Hapag-Lloyd

Getting so many ships back into service was no simple task, and Mr. Fain talked about how they got things moving, "I've been asked why our restart is happening so fast, how we are getting so many of our ships sailing so quickly.

"The answer is simple. We believed in our people, and we believed in the science. We prepared, we started preparing early because we knew what was happening and because we wanted to get the flywheel of demand going early."

"I've never seen the level of enthusiasm, of excitement and of gratitude that I've experienced on these cruises," Mr. Fain said after being able to sail again.

Mr. Fain saw equal enthusiasm from guests and from crew members. He said crew members saw the return of cruising as a "literal lifeline" after months of no work.  Guests celebrated the return of cruising as a way to escape all the isolation and letdowns of the past months.

The cruise industry is far from clear of any concerns or dangers to their businesses, but Mr. Fain said there will always be challenges to overcome, "There are always immediate issues. Covid-19 is not going away, but it is slowly getting under better control."

"The vast majority of people onboard our ships are vaccinated. And this percentage will only climb. In addition, the testing regimens and the available therapies mean that cruising can properly aspire to be not only as safe as other vacations, but more so."

According to Mr. Fain, that is not to say that they are disregarding thing such as the delta variant, "We shouldn't ignore the present challenges. We should be concerned about the recent increase in cases and the impact of the variants."

"We need to manage today carefully. But if we only obsess about the present, we will fail to prepare for the future and we must keep our eye firmly on that future that we can all see is coming."

Royal Caribbean Group CEO: "majority of our fleet to be back operating" before end of 2021

29 Jun 2021

With a handful of Royal Caribbean Group ships sailing again, how soon will more ships be able to return to the water?

Celebrity Edge just began sailing from the United States this past weekend, and Freedom of the Seas is slated to begin cruises from Florida as well, so how soon can cruisers expect more ships to return.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain told Bloomberg he expects a "majority of our fleet" to be operating by the end of the year.

"We really feel that it's important to get the flywheel going," Mr. Fain explained. "Our objective is to bring our ships back fairly quickly."

"I would expect the majority of our fleet to be back operating before the end of the year."

The majority of ships very likely includes other brands within the Royal Caribbean Group brand, which includes Celebrity Cruises and SilverSea.

Thus far, Royal Caribbean International has announced restart plans for 13 of its ships to sail from the United States, Europe, and England.

Quantum of the Seas has been sailing from Singapore since December 2020.

Mr. Fain added that getting enough crew members to return has not been a problem, although he did say outbreaks in certain countries added restrictions on the traditional recruitment process.  

"We do have problems because some of the countries that we recruit from, such as India, have had outbreaks, have put in place certain restrictions, but even having to overcome those kinds of problems, our crew is so anxious to get back."

According to Fain, 22,000 crew members have been fully vaccinated already.

Which Royal Caribbean ships will restart first?

Royal Caribbean has a gradual restart plan in place to bring back ships into operation.

The summer months of June, July,  August & September will see the first cruise ships returning, and more could be announced later.

Things kick off with Freedom of the Seas from Miami on July 2.

Royal Caribbean plans to resume Caribbean cruises out of Port Everglades on July 31 with Odyssey of the Seas.

Symphony of the Seas will resume departures out of Miami on August 14.

Two ships will sail from Port Canaveral this summer. Allure of the Seas will resume departures out of the port on August 8 followed by Mariner of the Seas on August 15.

Outside of Florida, Royal Caribbean will restart sailings from Galveston on Independence of the Seas on August 15.

Alaska cruises will also restart this summer with Serenade of the Seas from Seattle on July 19. Ovation of the Seas will also sail to Alaska from Seattle, beginning on August 13.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean Summer 2021 Cruise Planning Guide

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