Royal Caribbean Anticipates Anthem in NYC

Anthem of the Seas

The cruise line announces changes to Anthem, which will begin sailing out of New Jersey’s Cape Liberty Cruise Port in November

Counting down the last months before the 4,180-passenger Anthem of the Seas begins sailing out of Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, N.J., on Nov. 4, Royal Caribbean International executives brought a preview of Anthem to the New York Times Center in New York City this July and offered news across the fleet.

With a performance from members of the cast of “We Will Rock you,” the shipboard production that was compared favorably to London’s West End production, the company stressed its exceptional entertainment. Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean, and Mark Tamis, senior vice president of hotel operations, recounted the innovations on Anthem and across the fleet.

Anthem comes to Bayonne from a season in Europe with high-tech entertainment, from the Northstar glass viewing capsule high above the ship to Ripcord by iFly skydiving to Two70, where live performance merges with technology.

The new Dynamic Dining Choice program allows guests to dine when and where they wish, with the ability to select from among 18 restaurant concepts, including five complimentary main dining rooms, along with specialty dining venues headed up by chefs such as Jamie Oliver, Michael Schwartz and Devin Alexander. Dynamic Dining Classic is designed for guests who prefer traditional set seatings.

Anthem also features the fast, affordable Internet setup Voom, which Bayley described as having more capacity than the entire cruise industry fleet put together. With costs set at approximately $22.50 per day for two devices, the service offers a dramatic a drop in price, as well as its boost in connectivity. It is currently available on Quantum of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas and will also launch with next year’s Ovation of the Seas (Quantum-class) and Harmony of the Seas (Oasis-class).

Harmony of the Seas under construction at STX shipyard in Saint-Nazare (Nantes, France)

Harmony, the largest cruise ship yet, will have a 5,479-passenger capacity and features such as a trio of waterslides — Cyclone, Monsoon and Typhoon — and The Abyss, a waterslide with a 10-story vertical drop. Harmony’s staterooms and suites will all be larger than those on Oasis, and they will include a four-bedroom presidential suite. Royal also has a fourth Oasis-class ship launching in 2018, and a fourth Quantum-class vessel in 2019.

The line will introduce more inside staterooms with virtual balconies (a video wall projecting a live feed of the ocean outside) across the fleet, according to Tamis. In addition, he said Royal plans to expand the number of studio staterooms for solo passengers and debut connected staterooms for families that can hold up to 10, two-level loft suites and a four-bedroom Penthouse suite. The company also is launching the Royal Suite Class, designed for the luxury market.

Royal has an aggressive plan for fleet revitalization, as well. Liberty of the Seas will homeport in Galveston next year with firsts including a new waterpark and waterslide. Majesty of the Seas’ spring refurbishment will bring a family Jacuzzi, a poolside movie screen, the line’s signature DreamWorks Experience entertainment, a new casino and more. Jewel of the Seas will undergo revitalization in 2016, and details will be forthcoming soon. New dining choices on Majesty will include Mexican fare at Sabor Taqueria, sushi and sashimi at Izumi Japanese and a new Chef’s Table experience.

In addition, the company has a major commitment to install new scrubbers that reduce emissions by 98 percent.

The land product has not been neglected, either: Royal has grouped its roughly 3,000 shore excursions into special interest categories that allow any travel agent to arrange a themed cruise for clients. These include Active Adventures, Family Connections, Royal Tour Challenge, Culture and Sights, Culinary Delights, Caring Discoveries and Royal Premium Tour Collection.

Concerns from agents that Royal would concentrate on its China market to the neglect of the Americas can be laid to rest with the recent announcements. With all the new builds and upgrades, there is a huge new world of product to sell.

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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.

The connecting-cabin conundrum

MSC connecting Balcony Cabin.

One frustration for travel agents is when clients want to book a cruise on short notice with the expectation that they’ll be able to stay in connecting cabins. It can sometimes be hard to find rooms that adjoin or are on the same deck, much less those that connect.

But cruise lines could do more to help the situation, some travel agents say. The issue came to light at a recent travel agent forum on Royal Caribbean International’s Freedom of the Seas.

Agents said that Royal often allows connecting rooms to be booked online as singles, negating the advantage of having the connecting door between the two cabins.

“Royal Caribbean is great for families, but it is a real struggle on some of your popular sailings to find connecting rooms that do not have one already booked,” said Elise Aust, of Custom Cruise & Travel, Omaha, Neb.

Aust suggested that Royal hold the cabins back from full inventory to ensure that people who actually need them get to use them. “The last thing I’d want if I was booking a single cabin is a door to another room if I didn’t need it,” she said. “I think you would get a lot more families.”

Royal President Michael Bayley agreed that the idea made a lot of sense. “We’ll take a look at it and speak to our revenue team and see what we can do.”

Aust’s other suggestion, by the way, was to put magnifying mirrors in the bathrooms, an idea that seemed to confound Bayley.

“Really? That sounds horrifying,” he said. But he added that Royal would take a look at it for its new ships.