Royal Caribbean boss moves to dispel UK cruise concerns

Independence of the Seas in Southampton photo by Dave Jones.

Royal Caribbean Cruises’ boss has moved to dispel concerns that the UK cruise industry faces a bleak future amid ongoing Brexit uncertainty.

Royal Caribbean International last week cancelled Independence of the Seas’ 2020 UK season and announced the ship would operate out of Florida instead to meet the demand for Perfect Day in CocoCay, the line’s new private island in the Bahamas.

The decision left some agents to question whether a soft UK market due to Brexit had prompted the decision – rather than a soaring interest in the $250 million private island which will be served by 11 Royal ships this year.

Speaking on Celebrity Edge’s maiden ex-UK sailing from Southampton on Monday, Richard Fain, Royal Caribbean Cruises’ chairman and chief executive, said: “We are here for the long term, we are not here for the current climate.

“There is no doubt that the UK market will do very well in the long-term and it continues to be our second largest market. We have been here when it has gone through cycles. The cruise industry is not fickle – it is solid and consistent.”

Fain admitted there was “a modicum of uncertainty” in the UK market as confusion continued over when Britain would leave the EU.

But he added that Royal Caribbean International had to move more capacity to North America due to “an extraordinary surge in interest” in Perfect Day, which launched just over a week ago.

“This is a wonderful problem to have,” he said, adding: “That we don’t have enough ships to satisfy the [customer] demand.”

Plans to expand the existing Perfect Day site were being looked at, said Fain. Only a third of the island is currently being used by Royal Caribbean to accommodate passengers.

Fain also added: “We look at the UK market as more than just ships sailing out of the UK. One of the reasons why the UK market has been so attractive to us is Brits are amazing travellers.”

Sailings in the eastern Mediterranean represented “a great opportunity” for Britons looking for fly-cruise options away from the UK, Fain said.

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Royal Caribbean cancels Independence 2020 ex-UK season

 


Independence of the Seas in Southampton by Dave Jones

Royal Caribbean has cancelled Independence of the Seas’ ex-UK season next summer.

The 4,560-passenger ship was due to operate cruises from Southampton to Europe, alongside Anthem of the Seas, from May 2020. It will now offer Caribbean sailings from Fort Lauderdale in Florida instead.

The line insisted the move was not a reflection of a softer UK market, but rather in response to “phenomenal demand” from North America.

The ship was understood to be “well-sold” but the line declined to reveal how many UK passengers – and the agents who booked them – are affected by the move.

Ben Bouldin, associate vice president and managing director, Royal Caribbean International UK & Ireland, said guests affected by the itinerary change will be offered full refunds, and a ‘Future Cruise Credit’ for use on alternative sailings – valued at 25% of the cruise fare paid on their cancelled sailing.

Guests booked on the transatlantic sailings will be offered an alternative sailing on Anthem of the Seas, which is also sailing ex-UK to Europe in summer 2020, along with onboard credit based on their stateroom category and sailing length.

Non-refundable airline charges will be reimbursed, and full refunds are given to those who wish to cancel.

Bouldin stressed: “This is not a reflection on the UK market but rather a response to the phenomenal demand we’re seeing in North America.  Ex-UK 2020 sales have been buoyant since our ‘on sale now’ campaign back in November 2018 and we are also seeing strong demand from UK guests for sailings outside of Europe, particularly in the Caribbean and Asia-Pacific regions.

“The UK continues to be an important market for Royal Caribbean.”

President and chief executive Michael Bayley had expressed nervousness around the UK market because of the Brexit situation, before confirming the deployment of Anthem to Southampton, which would more than double the line’s ex-UK capacity.

Last year, he said: “The big thing for us is the value of sterling. We are an American company. All of our revenues have to come back to us in dollars. When Brexit hit, that was a 15% cut. The UK is a big side of our business.”

But he later confirmed Anthem would indeed join Independence, saying: “We experience volatility in all the markets that we operate in. Our strategy has been a continuation, protect, optimise and carry on the journey; that is why we announced that Anthem is coming to the UK in 2020.

“By the time we have got through 2019, we will be in a far more stable environment. A lot of the choppiness will have stabilised. We are hoping but we don’t know. This kind of uncertainty is not good for business.”

This was before the Brexit deadline was delayed another six months to October 31, 2019.

Bouldin added: “The benefit of our global business model is that we are able to reposition ships to satisfy the demand of our guests.  In this case, demand is high in the Caribbean, especially for itineraries to Perfect Day at CocoCay in the Bahamas, and keeping Independence of the Seas in Florida allows us to meet the demand.”

Independence of the Seas, which came back into service after a multi-million-pound refit in May 2018, is the most popular of all Royal Caribbean ships among UK agents and their customers. A Royal Caribbean spokeswoman confirmed that agents with customers booked on Independence of the Seas for summer 2020 sailings will keep the commission they have earned.

She added that the line is hoping that many affected passengers will transfer to Anthem of the Seas, which it pointed out was a larger and newer vessel.

Royal Caribbean will be sending letters to all affected passengers this morning (Thurs) to let them know of the decision and to outline their alternative options. It will also be contacting trade partners.

Royal Caribbean International reveals the name of the second Quantum Ultra class ship

Royal Caribbean International reveals name of second Quantum Ultra class ship

Royal Caribbean International will name its second Quantum Ultra class ship Odyssey of the Seas when it launches next year.

The decision was announced as the first piece of steel was cut for the vessel at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, on Friday.

Odyssey of the Seas will sail from the United States after it launches in fall 2020. Additional details will be revealed later this year, the line said.

The first Quantum Ultra class ship, Spectrum of the Seas, is slated to launch in spring 2019.

Quantum Ultra class is only slightly larger than Quantum class.

Quantum of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, and Ovation of the Seas currently make up the Quantum class ships in the entire Royal Caribbean fleet.

Each ship is 168,666 gross tons compared to Quantum Ultra class vessels which are 168,800 gross tons.