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Royal Caribbean International is making a major play for millennials and new cruisers with ship upgrades, new and reimagined private destinations, and deployment changes that will bring large updated vessels to short sailings.
While some of the news had been revealed previously — pieces of information were out about a ship revitalization program, for example — the cruise line revealed more details Wednesday night about its plans to create and upgrade private destinations around the world and overhaul 10 ships.
“Our belief is that you have to have a product and a brand that is exciting, innovative, and delivers quality across this multi-generational market,” said Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley. “And to do that, you’ve got to perpetually reinvent, innovate, and create new and exciting experiences that people enjoy.”
Perfect Day Collection
One all-new announcement: the Perfect Day Island Collection, which will ultimately include several private island destinations in the Caribbean, Asia, and Australia. The company has been working on the concept for three years already.
For now, Royal Caribbean has only revealed the first location, on its private CocoCay island in the Bahamas. The stop now includes beach lounging, nature walks, water sports, and cabanas.
But by mid-2019, after a $200 million overhaul, Perfect Day at CocoCay should be almost unrecognizable. It will include a pier, freshwater lagoon, wave pool, 13 waterslides, zip line, play area for small kids, upscale overwater cabanas, restaurants, and helium balloon that can carry up to 40 people 450 feet in the air.
“Perfect Day is taking the entire experience and really putting it on steroids,” Bayley said.
The cruise line decided what to do on the island after analyzing data, holding focus groups and doing other consumer research. Bayley said the results showed that guests wanted to have an option to chill out as well as find thrilling experiences.
“It couldn’t be one, it couldn’t be the other,” he said. “It had to be a combination of thrill and chill.”
Other Perfect Day destinations could be totally different; the company is still determining what its other locations will include. But Bayley said the goal over the next several years is to roll out the portfolio into multiple areas beyond CocoCay and Labadee, the operator’s private destination in Haiti.
“We have already secured other locations and are currently negotiating” for additional destinations, he said. “The plan over time is to have a global portfolio.”
As part of the Royal Amplified upgrade, the 24-ship line is spending $900 million to upgrade 10 vessels in four years. Royal Caribbean International is part of Royal Caribbean Cruises, which also owns Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises — and which reported profit of $1.63 billion in 2017.
The Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas megaships — two of the largest ships in the world with room for 5,400 passengers at double occupancy — will be among those getting renovations. The others will be Freedom and Voyager class ships.
Cruise lines frequently update their older fleet to bring in fresh features that have proven popular on newer vessels. In this case, the hits include new pools, waterslides, water parks, a virtual reality trampoline activity, and new restaurants and bars. Some ships will also add more staterooms.
Bayley said the idea is to modernize the ships to have the same look and feel as the new Harmony of the Seas, a sister to Oasis and Allure.
A New-to-Cruise Strategy
The announcements cover different parts of Royal Caribbean’s business — shore, onboard experiences, and deployment — but all add up to an overarching strategy to chase the new-to-cruise market in an aggressive new way.
Bayley said short breaks represent a little more than 20 percent of the cruise market in the United States, and short cruises carry about 35-40 percent of new cruisers — including many millennials.
“We think we’re onto a huge game changer,” Bayley said. “We think we’re going to really own that market.”
Most of the industry, he said, puts older and smaller ships into short sailings. Those provide a good gateway experience for first-timers who want to try a cruise without making a weeklong commitment.
“But it doesn’t deliver a flagship experience,” Bayley said. “If you want to get those customers to go on the on-ramp to the interstate, you’d better be delivering flagship product.”
The line will send Mariner of the Seas, which carries 3,114 passengers at double occupancy, and the 3,686-passenger Navigator of the Seas on short weekend trips to the Caribbean. Both ships will be updated as part of the Royal Amplified program.
Bayley said he believes that sending updated larger-than-typical ships to the new Perfect Day CocoCay on quick getaways will drive up demand, which will allow the company to charge higher prices and, in turn, invest more in the product.
“Bada bing, we think we’re going to run out of space,” Bayley said.