Collective Planning Puzzle

Ovation of the Seas will split her deployment between Australia and Alaska

This year will be a big year for Royal Caribbean Cruises with Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises introducing new ships. The new ships in turn are the primary drivers generating itinerary changes throughout the fleets, according to Chris Allen, vice president, deployment and itinerary planning, Royal Caribbean Cruises.

Celebrity will be introducing the new Celebrity Edge this fall, sailing seven-day cruises from Port Everglades for the winter season, and Royal Caribbean will introduce the Symphony of the Seas with a summer Mediterranean season.

Royal Caribbean and Celebrity have already announced a large percentage of their deployment over the next two years and by March or April are expecting to have most if not all of their itineraries open for sale through April 2020.

“One big story is the variety of Oasis-class homeports and ports of call,” Allen said. The Symphony enters service this spring and will sail seven-day cruises from Barcelona and Civitavecchia, before moving to Miami for year-round alternating seven-day Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises.

In 2019, when the Oasis goes to the Mediterranean for the summer, the Harmony will move from Port Everglades to Port Canaveral. In addition, the Allure; which is in Miami for the 2018-2019 winter, goes back to Port Everglades; and the Oasis goes to Miami in the fall.

Another headliner for 2019 will be the Ovation going to Alaska from Australia via Hawaii to Vancouver before homeporting in Seattle, where she is replacing the Explorer of the Seas.

“Sailing alongside the Radiance, hardware-wise I think we will have the most interesting ships in Alaska,” Allen noted. “It will also be the first time we have two Quantum-class ships in North America with the Anthem of the Seas on the East Coast.”

While the cruise fleet is growing, many ports are expanding too and new ports have come online, according to Allen, who said it was important to partner with destinations to develop them for the long term, making sure the brands have great destinations to call at.

“We develop itineraries for each brand reflecting their strategic vision; the itineraries must fit what the brands represent and must appeal to the sourcing markets,” he explained.

“We look at guest feedback, the attractiveness of destinations, trends, what is popular, what is not, marketability, and then balance that vs. the cost side, fuel and port costs.

“The beauty of our industry is that compared to hotels, we can move ships and maximize the appeal of the ships and their profitability.

“This formula works and has not changed at the macro level although the input is constantly changing, such as fuel costs and regulations.”

He said that itinerary planning is a big puzzle that the company is always trying to optimize. “We have a small team here that works very hard. The deployments we have are some of the most important decisions we make as a company, it impacts everything we do – it is imperative that we get things right.  We have some very smart and dedicated people on our team, but we rely on the collective knowledge and partnering across the company, with the brands, but also all the other areas and with all the destinations, tour operators, ports and governments around the world.  It really takes a collective effort to put the puzzle together.”

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Just one cruise ship scheduled to use new Panama Canal locks

Caribbean Princess

The new, wider locks on the Panama Canal will open June 26 with the first official transit of a cargo ship, but don’t expect much traffic through them from cruise ships.

Only one cruise ship has reserved space to move through the new locks, which are open to one cruise ship a day starting in June 2017, according to the Panama Canal Authority.

Princess Cruises’ Caribbean Princess is scheduled to make a series of thirteen 10-day cruises through the canal beginning Oct. 21, 2017.

At 118 feet wide, the 3,080-passenger Caribbean Princess can’t fit into the 110-foot locks that were opened in 1914. The new locks had been scheduled to open in time for the centennial but were delayed by disputes between Panama and the consortia of contractors that built them.

The new locks rely on tugs rather than electric locomotives to move ships through them. Doubts have been raised about the ability to fit the tugs in the locks along with the longest ships, but at 951 feet, the Caribbean Princess will have room to spare in the 1,400 foot locks.

For cargo ships, questions have also been raised about the record-low depths of water in Gatun Lake, which connects locks on the Atlantic and Pacific side of the canal. Depths hit 81.75 feet earlier this year. But large cruise ships typically need only about 30 feet to operate.

Most cruise ships transiting the Panama Canal will continue to use the old locks. Cruise lines have several ships operating in Alaska that would need the new locks to move to the Atlantic, such as Royal Caribbean International’s Explorer of the Seas and Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Solstice. But for now they are stationed year-round in the Pacific, moving to Australia, New Zealand and the Far East during the winter.

A spokesman for Carnival Cruise Line said Carnival doesn’t have any full transit Panama Canal cruises scheduled through April 2018.

Holland America Line recently launched the Koningsdam, the first HAL ship that will not fit through the old locks, but it is currently deployed in Europe during the summer and the Caribbean during the winter.

Royal Caribbean boss vows to cut out last-minute discounting

By Lucy Huxley

The chief executive of Royal Caribbean is stamping out last-minute discounts on his cruises in the US and says he would look to extend the new policy to other markets including the UK if it is a success.

The line currently reduces fares 30, 20 and 10 days from departure, a practice that Michael Bayley says “devalues the whole product”.

“From 2016, the price will never drop. There will be no discounts beyond 30 days from departure,” he said.

Bayley accepted the new stance could lead agents to sell other cruise lines which “continue to discount all the way to departure”, but said he would rather lose that business and improve his yields and margins.

“Last-minute discounting just devalues the product and nobody, neither us nor the travel agents, is making any money,” he told Travel Weekly during the two-day naming celebrations of Anthem of the Seas in Southampton.

“We are not doing anybody any favours by discounting. We work too hard developing these phenomenal products to then charge too little for them,” Bayley added.

“We believe we have the best vacation products in the entire industry, offering customer the best value anywhere, and we believe it’s time for our customers to pay a little more for them.”

Asked if he felt this would encourage the whole cruise sector to stop devaluing its product, Bayley replied: “This is not about cruising in general. This is purely a focus on Royal Caribbean and what we feel is right for our brand.”

Royal Caribbean launched Anthem of the Seas this week and also has Explorer of the Seas coming back from a multi-million dollar refit tomorrow (Thursday).

The line also has Harmony of the Seas launching in spring 2016 and a third Quantum-class ship, Ovation of Seas, coming into service in 2018.