Royal Caribbean: ‘Good Demand’ on Caribbean Service Resumption

As the cruise industry returns to North America, Royal Caribbean International is preparing to relaunch service in the region after more than a year.

While cruises from the United States are still out question for the time being, the company will homeport ships in the Bahamas and Bermuda starting in June.

“We are not trying to circumvent the No Sail Order from the CDC. Over the past few months, we’ve been in very constant and regular conversations with them, and I really believe we are on a very positive path, primarily because of the vaccinations,” Royal Caribbean International’s President and CEO Michael Bayley said, speaking at a Caribbean Tourism Organization event held on April 28.

Later in the year, a third ship will start service from Barbados, offering week-long cruises to the Southern Caribbean and the ABC Islands.

According to Bayley, those initiatives are part of a major restart program that includes vessels sailing not only in North America, but also in Mediterranean and Asia.

“All of those ships have been doing very well. There has been good demand. We fell encouraged by the bookings that we are seeing,” Bayley revealed.

As pandemic situation gets better, the perception of the overall situation is also changing, he added.

“Since March 2020, we survey our consumers every month, asking them a series of questions about how they see the future, how they feel about COVID, their lives, vacations, travel and more. In the past few months, the survey results have turned incredibly positive. People do believe that the worst is behind us, that it is coming to an end. They are very excited to travel in the future. There is a lot of positive data coming from the consumer … We see that in our bookings. When we look at 2022, we see a lot of enthusiasm, particularly for the Caribbean. We feel very encouraged for the future,” Bayley continued. 

Long Term

While U.S. ports are expected to be reopened at some point, alternative homeports may still be in the cards.

“That will be determined by customer demand. For every single ship we have deployed around the world we have a formula that includes great people, good marketing, good distribution and good communication. We put the product in the market and customers buy it or they don’t,” he said using the new Barbados operation – which had its return for the 2022-2023 season recently confirmed – as an example.

“The product really exceeded our expectations. We saw fantastic demand out of the UK market. We thought we would get good demand out of the U.S. too, but the UK was just great. So, we learn with what we see after we introduce a product, looking at all of the data,” Bayley added.

Regarding the process of choosing the new homeports, airlift is a key factor, according to Bayley.

“It is not just planes landing in the destination, it is where they come from. You need to have that airlift from originating points in markets that are interested in your brand and product.”

Other elements include infrastructure, with a homeport needing a variety of hotels, restaurants and transportation, the supply chain and its capability to allow crew members to arrive from various countries.

Core Caribbean

With new homeports or not, the Caribbean is set to remain in the core of Royal Caribbean’s deployment and business.

“For 50 years, the Caribbean has been the absolute epicenter of our brand. It’s what people know our company for, and we have always had significant operations there. We don’t see that changing at all and once we get through this (the pandemic), we see the Caribbean coming back roaring,” Bayley said.

In the meantime, the company has also been working to support the communities most affected by the cruise operational pause.

In the Bahamas, for instance, Royal Caribbean is calling hot sauce manufacturers for a bid evaluation process, as part of a plan to use the product throughout its global fleet.  

“We have started to talk to many destinations about a more integrated and beneficial supply chain opportunity. I’m a very big supporter of this idea of integrating relationships so there’s more win-win to the community,” Bayley said.

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