I’ve written before about my love for the Crown and Anchor loyalty events on Royal Caribbean cruises, where the company thanks the highest-level cruisers in its loyalty program. Usually, this entails a few complimentary drinks and an entertainment program of some sort, along with recognition of the cruisers onboard with the most cruise points.
So you can imagine my surprise (in fact, the surprise of nearly everyone in the Royal Theater on Harmony of the Seas) when our cruise director took to the stage and introduced the CEO of Royal Caribbean, Michael Bayley! As a self-confessed cruise nerd, I was more than a teeny bit excited as Mr. Bayley proceeded to announce that he’d be taking questions from the crowd.
In fact, he answered questions – some with great candor, and many with humor – for almost half an hour, during which I furiously took notes on my iPhone. (Note: Maybe all that practice typing for texting was good for something!) He took questions about a wide range of topics, and graciously accepted some suggestions that quite honestly my husband and I rolled our eyes at. A few highlights to me:
- The company is planning to put a great deal of money (I think it was $800M? But it might have been $500M) into revitalizing older ships in a program he called Royal Amplify. These are going to be very extensive refurbishments, not your usual glossing over. Mariner of the Seas and Independence of the Seas are up first, with Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas to follow in 2019 and 2020.
- Potential products like cruises from California and Brazil as well as around-the-world cruises were brought up as suggestions, but pretty quickly shot down. Apparently they’re just not profitable, and after all, we are talking about a corporation here, and they’re here to make money (not necessarily friends).
- One guest asked about the ships getting bigger (ironic/appropriate since we’re on the biggest ship in the fleet, at least for right now) and Mr. Bayley pretty much admitted that size isn’t a limitation in the newer ships being designed. He talked about how the company’s Song of America debuted in 1982 and was said to be “too big” – at 1650 capacity! Bottom line, I don’t see Royal backing down from building megaships any time soon, especially as I’d imagine the financials are more favorable on these larger ships.
Now, of course the CEO of the company doesn’t show up at the loyalty event for every cruise – he told us that he’d boarded our ship the day before to study some of the features of Harmony in anticipation for planning the new Icon class of ships that’s scheduled to debut in the 2020s. It was a true stroke of luck, as our event had originally been scheduled for Day 2 of the cruise, and postponed due to rain. But hey, sometimes you happen to be in the right place at the right time!