Working for both the Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises brands, Chris Allen, vice president of deployment and itinerary planning, said that itineraries are designed to fit the target audience and guest demographics of each brand, supporting their (brand) pillars.
“We work very closely with the leadership groups of Royal Caribbean and Celebrity to ensure that the itineraries fit with their brand. It is a very collaborative approach,” he added.
“We also look at the revenue potential – tickets, onboard and shore excursions – and balance that against key costs. Fuel continues to be the largest expense. Ultimately we look at what the guest experience will be.
“If guests have a great time if they want to come back, and if they tell their friends, then we have been successful.”
“We are looking as far as 10 years out,” he continued. “Before we even order a ship, we have an idea where that ship will be deployed.”
The planning function ranges from minute details to the big picture. “Our team can go from the granular level, like should we depart St. Thomas at 5:00 or 5:30 pm and should we go to St. Maarten or St. Kitts. We go from that level of details, making $10,000 adjustments, to a billion dollar chessboard where we move Oasis-class ships around, and where we are going to place our future new buildings,” he explained. “We are looking at the broad, strategic decisions as well as the micro decisions.”
Among new developments, this spring, Royal Caribbean will be launching Alaska service with the Ovation of the Seas, which will be dividing her time seasonally between Alaska and Australia.
Later this spring, Royal Caribbean will be introducing the Perfect Day at Cococay, after a $200 million transformation of its private island destination in the Bahamas.
“We expect to have 14 ships calling and 2 million guests at CoCoCay for the 2020-2021 season,” Allen said. “We are leveraging Perfect Day throughout the Caribbean for our entire portfolio of itineraries, whether ships are sailing from Southeast Florida, Tampa, Port Canaveral, Galveston, Baltimore or Cape Liberty. All those ships will have the opportunity to call at Cococay.”
Royal Caribbean is also upping its game in the short cruise market, with the Mariner from Port Canaveral and the Navigator from Miami, as well as the Independence seasonally from Port Everglades.
For Celebrity in 2020, the new Apex will first sail a brief season out of Southampton before spending the summer in the Mediterranean on mostly seven-night cruises, alongside the Edge, which will have a core program of 10- and 11-night sailings.
“We are expanding the choices and variety of cruises for Celebrity,” Allen said. “Also in the Mediterranean will be the Infinity and the Constellation, and this means one more incremental ship for Celebrity in Europe in 2020.
“Because the Constellation and Infinity are smaller, a lot of their itineraries are concentrated around Venice given the capacity limits there preventing larger ships from calling.”
In Northern Europe, Celebrity will sail the Reflection and Silhouette for the summer.
This fall will see Royal Caribbean returning to the Eastern Mediterranean, calling in Kusadasi, Haifa and Ashdod, and both brands are slated to be back with more calls in 2020.
On the other side of the globe, the new Spectrum of the Seas is being based year-round in Shanghai, while the Quantum moves to Tianjin for the summer season and to Singapore for the winter. “Having these ships in China reinforces our position in the market and region as other brands have vacillated on their position,” Allen said.
“We have also experimented with expanding our itineraries out of China. When we first started up the average cruise length was a little more than four nights. Over time we have added seven- and eight-night cruises, reaching the east coast of Japan and also Vladivostok. By opening up more ports, we are broadening the appeal of our itineraries in the region both for first-timers and repeat cruisers.”
Celebrity is also building up its capacity in Australia for 2020-2021 with the Eclipse to be based out of Melbourne and the Solstice from Sydney.
“The itineraries speak to the different target markets for each brand,” Allen noted.
Norwegian Cruise latest offering
One of the virtues of “123Go!,” which was rolled out by Celebrity Cruises for Wave season six years ago, was its simplicity.
The promotion was as breezy as it sounded. Passengers could pick one of three free promotions when they booked a cruise. If they were going to Europe, they could pick two. That was it.
Whether it was the simplicity of the concept, or the value locked into the choices, or the idea of choice itself, the promotion struck a nerve. Agents cited it as the most successful offer of the Wave season in 2013, and Celebrity extended it until it became part of the line’s standard offering.
Six years later, the promotions of the sort started by “123Go!” are ubiquitous. Nearly every sizeable line has its version.
It started when Celebrity decided to evolve “123Go!” into its 2015 successor campaign “Go Big, Go Better, Go Best.” With this one there were four amenities, not three. And the number of amenities that could be chosen depended on the fare. And third and fourth passengers in the cabin could get a limited amount of internet minutes for free.
Today, there are a bewildering number of promotional packages for agents to keep track of, all with different terms, expiration dates, geographic applications, exceptions and combinability options.
“The promotions are very complex,” observed veteran agency executive Dwain Wall. “Agents find the consumers are very confused.”
Wall said some cruise lines have taken to spelling out the value of the various terms in their promotion as a result.
Norwegian Cruise Line, for example, has its “Take Six Free” offer, which dangles not three but six different amenities. More choice, more value, right? To be sure. But also more complexity.
In many of its ads, Norwegian puts price tags on the various options as a consumer service. An open bar is valued at $1,400. Free shore excursions: $200. A speciality dining package: $160 in savings; free Internet, $130.
The biggest and latest amenity to be added to the package is airfare, which Norwegian says is worth $600 to $1,900 in savings, depending. Depending on what? Well, you have to dig into the fine print to find out.
In many ways, an advisor’s job is better with these promotions. Free add-ons make closing easier, more amenities broaden the appeal, and preserving or even boosting the fare helps increase commissions. Not to mention that the complexity helps reinforce the concept of an advisor as an indispensable consultant: Who better to comb through the various deals and amenities, walk the client through the options and find them the best combination?
But it should not be lost that in the process the promotions are no longer as simple as “123Go!.”