RCCL presidents tackle over-tourism, luxury, female leadership

Editor in chief Arnie Weissmann, far left, and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. CEO Richard Fain, far right, moderated a panel of RCCL presidents, seated: Mark Conroy of Silversea, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo of Celebrity and Larry PImentel of Azamara.

Editor in chief Arnie Weissmann, far left, and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. CEO Richard Fain, far right, moderated a panel of RCCL presidents, seated: Mark Conroy of Silversea, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo of Celebrity and Larry PImentel of Azamara.

FORT LAUDERDALE — Cruise line presidents from Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. brands took on the subject of over-tourism, the evolution of luxury cruising and female leadership during a panel at CruiseWorld.

Regarding over-tourism, they said that in the general travel industry, cruise lines are a small part of the phenomenon — but a highly visible one.

“Our reality is, perception rules,” said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president of Celebrity Cruises. “There are these big white ships pulling in and it’s a lot of people at once.”

Larry Pimentel, president of Azamara, said that 25 years ago there were only 1.4 million outbound travellers from China; today there are 150 million. “India is also coming,” he said. “By no means is this only a cruise issue; it is an industry issue.”

And Mark Conroy, managing director of the Americas, for Silversea Cruises, said that overreacting to over-tourism could be overly damaging to some local residents in destinations such as Venice.

“Tourism is the largest employer in the world overall,” Conroy said. You can’t just shut it down. If you banned all tourism into Venice, there’d be a big unemployment problem there.”

Silversea redefining expedition cruising

Conroy said that 10 years ago when he was working for a rival company he thought that Silversea chairman Manfredi Lefebvre was crazy to bolt an expedition arm onto a luxury brand.

“I thought he’d lost his mind until I saw the per diems from the expedition business,” Conroy said.

Silversea, as a top-tier luxury brand, also brought a different concept to what was then more of a rustic product. At that time, Conroy recalled, “You had to sacrifice your lifestyle to go on an expedition.”

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But when Silversea renovated its two oldest ships, the Silver Cloud and Silver Wind, it decided to transform them into expedition vessels but with the space and amenities of a luxury ship.

Conroy said that one of the unintended consequences was that the larger ship had faster speeds than most expedition ships.

“We can cross the Drake Passage [to Antarctica] in 28 hours instead of two days,” Conroy said

In defining the “luxury” appeal of his Azamara brand, Pimentel said that value plays a bigger part than in traditional luxury brands. As a department store, Azamara would compare to Nordstrom, he said.

“We’re not Saks Fifth Avenue.” As a car, we would be more like a Lexus.”

A woman in charge

The panel followed the CEO Conversation between Royal Caribbean Chairman Ltd. chairman and CEO Richard Fain and editor in chief Arnie Weissmann, and Fain returned to the stage to co-moderate the panel of presidents.

Lutoff-Perlo, who was named the president of Celebrity five years ago, and Fain asked her what was is like to be one of the few women to run a cruise line. She said at first, she took it for granted.

“When I was appointed I didn’t think about my gender at all,” she said. “But then when I was appointed, to the rest of the world apparently it is a really big deal.

“The great part is the part I can do to pay it forward” to other females in the industry, she said. 

80s Cruise Aboard Royal Caribbean’s Explorer.

80s Cruise Aboard Royal Caribbean’s Explorer.

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Growing up as a teenager in the 80s was a lot of fun, so who wouldn’t jump at the chance to re-live it all over again on a cruise?

The clever people at Floating Festivals realised there was a big demand from all those who were missing the big hair, outrageous fashion and brilliant music of that iconic decade – and to help us celebrate it, they created a Throwback 80s cruise.

80s cruise: Royal Caribbean
On a Throwback cruise, you can dress up in full 80s style with your mates

When you’re rocking your favourite look from that era, pretty much anything goes. I went back to my mod days with a two-tone outfit on night one, while my friend channelled her Club Tropicana past in a loud Hawaiian shirt and suitably 80s garish make-up.

Too much? No, not nearly enough. As we stepped out into the atrium of Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas, we were surprised and delighted to see whole gangs of people dressed in matching 80s outfits that looked absolutely fantastic.

Our favourites included burly men doing their finest Freddie Mercury, complete with high heels and Hoovers, a gang of Richard Geres from An Officer and a Gentlemen, half a dozen Pac Men and a posse of mums and daughters dressed to the nines as Robert Palmer’s backing band (how they managed not to smile, just pouting when anyone walked by, is still a mystery to me).

80s Cruise: Royal Caribbean, Explorer of the Seas
Party at sea on an 80s cruise

The whole scene felt like a friendly fancy dress party, with everyone stopping off to admire each others’ outfits. The atmosphere was electric with hairspray, cheap jewellery and enough make-up to put Boots out of business. And that was just the men.

But a retro fashion show at sea was only the beginning. We were all there to see the bands from our youth, and Friday night kicked off in style with UB40. Yes, we might be in our 50s and 60s, but we haven’t forgotten our 80s dance moves, we still remember

all the words, and soon the crowd was yelling along to Red, Red Wine. Happy days indeed.

The night was still young, and Club Tropicana beckoned. Decade revivalists Coyote’s 80s Mixtape were on stage blasting out some classic tunes from Toto, Tina Turner and Prince, swiftly followed by a great DJ set from mullet legend Pat Sharpe (sadly, without his signature haircut these days).

80s cruise: Royal Caribbean
Your outfit can’t be too bright for neon night

Everyone went a bit bananas, singing at the top of their voices, necking Pina Coladas and bottles of Corona and remembering the sheer joy of their 80s youth.

The following morning there were more than a few sore heads on board, but having left the dance floor at a relatively sensible 1am, my friend and I decided to step off the ship and look around Le Havre.

There’s always one port call on the Throwback cruise – last year it was Bruges – and although the destination isn’t really the point, this was my first visit to Le Havre, and I was impressed.

I loved the amazing Brutalist concrete cathedral (not to mention some melt-in-the-mouth croissants and excellent coffee), though quite what the well-dressed locals thought of the sudden influx of Brits in pink legwarmers is anyone’s guess.

80s cruise: Royal Caribbean
These ladies had the 80s look down to a T

Back on board, there was real excitement in the air as everyone headed off to get ready for the neon night and a chance to see the legendary Sister Sledge live. The crowd glowed brightly in the dark and the band played a killer set with disco favourites including We Are Family and Lost In Music getting everyone to their feet.

Running these cruises over the weekend is a great idea, as everyone really goes back in time, remembering what it was like to live (and dress up for) the weekend.

80s cruise: Tony Hadley
Tony Hadley struts his stuff on stage

By Sunday night, everyone on board couldn’t wait to see Tony Hadley play live. During the day we’d been kept entertained by the brilliant Bootleg Blondie (complete with real Blondie drummer Clem Burke) and 80s comedian Bobby Davro hosting a crazy round of bingo. But make no mistake, Tony was a big attraction here.

And boy, did he play a great set. Opening with Spandau Ballet’s first single, To Cut A Long Story Short, he had the crowd in raptures with spine-tingling renditions of Through the BarricadesTrue and Gold. His voice is still amazing and he’s a great raconteur, too, even stopping to congratulate one couple who had got engaged on the ship.

Channelling our 80s New Romantic selves, my friend and I were up and dancing from the very first song – as were the Oompa Loompas behind us.

80s cruise: Bootleg Blondie
Bootleg Blondie wowed the crowds on board

As you’d expect from a Royal Caribbean ship, our cabin aboard Explorer of the Seas was great and the food was plentiful and tasty, but this cruise is more about the sheer joy of getting dressed up with your mates, having fun and celebrating one of history’s best decades for fashion and music.

Beg, borrow or steal a ticket for next year’s Throwback, and I’ll see you on the dancefloor…

Royal Caribbean and Azamara ‘considering’ moving UK teams to the US

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Royal Caribbean Cruises is “considering” moving some of Royal Caribbean International and Azamara’s UK non-sales departments to the US.

The company is proposing splitting some staff into separate teams for those two brands so they can “laser focus” on their passengers and destinations.

The proposed shake-up focuses predominantly on markets where Royal Caribbean, Azamara and Celebrity Cruises operate collectively on a “tri-branded basis”.

Royal said this will have “no impact” on sales teams in the UK and Ireland, which are already “single-branded”.

A Royal Caribbean Cruises spokesperson said: “Under the proposal, we are considering relocating some non-sales UK departments from Royal Caribbean International and Azamara to Miami.”

More: Anthem of the Seas to return to Southampton in 2021

 Royal Caribbean names new Oasis-class vessel

Celebrity Cruises’ non-sales staff in the UK and Ireland are not affected by the proposal.

“The relationships we hold with our trade partners in the UK and Ireland are critical for our present and future success and the proposed changes will bring consumer insights benefits to the market going forward,” the spokesperson added.