I think we can all agree the last few months have been devastating, confusing, and simply emotionally draining. As we know, the tourism industry has been completely ravaged, and the cruise sector is not immune. The information we learn daily from all different sources is always speculation because we simply do not know where this information is coming from. Michael Bayley decided to put an end to the speculation and talk to travel advisors about what is going on at Royal Caribbean International. Who better to hear it from than the man in charge?
On May 13, 2020, Michael Bayley, (President and CEO) and Vicki Freed (Senior Vice President of Sales, Trade Support and Service) from Royal Caribbean International held a "Coffee Talk" webinar with travel advisors to answer the question we all have.
Of course, the first question addressed was, "When will Royal return to service?" Bayley discussed research shows people want to get back to traveling, which is leading Royal to a positive outlook on booking for 2021 and onward, which is the case for most major cruise lines as Carnival reported a 600% spike in bookings after offering cruises for $30 USD per person per day. Bayley noted that the return to ship operations will be phased much like everything else and that we are most likely to see the more popular ships to destinations such as Perfect Day at Coco Cay return first.
Back to Cruising, Coco Cay, and Onboard Life
From there, Bayley discussed what the return to cruising would look like, and much like everything else, it will take time, and ships will be phased back into service. Bayley said that Coco Cay will be the easiest destination to control guests and how the destination works. Other destinations will be visited by guests from all different cruise lines and of course, have locals throughout the destination. On Coco Cay, Royal Caribbean know all guests and crew that are on the island at any time and can control how many guests will be on the island at one time. Bayley discussed how Royal Caribbean has complete control over who comes and goes on the island and 100 % of the protocols. Bayley made some mention of onboard life but did not go into much detail as protocols are still being developed by teams working around the clock. He stated that it will be fantastic to keep on-brand with Royal Caribbean International. He is confident and hopes that when they are ready to release details about onboard protocols that passengers will be excited and comforted by the safety measures being taking. Bayley did not make mention of masks being required for guests or crew nor did he comment on the talks of a virtual muster drill. 2
Will the Windjammer Forevermore be a Non-Buffett Venue?
One of the most asked questions about the future of cruising is, "What will become of buffets onboard ships?" Bayley discussed the change that would come to the famous Windjammer cafe onboard Royal ships saying that when ships do return the Windjammer will be similar to a sit-down restaurant while in future protocols are developed to the long term solution. For those who are thinking " That is going to be crowded, especially during breakfast" well, lucky enough Royal Caribbean International ships offer full-service breakfast in a few places onboard. Coming from someone who has sat down for many full services breakfast onboard, the experience is much better, with warmer food, the same options, and, as always incredible personalized service! Bayley also had this to say about the Windjammer insinuating that the days of buffets onboard might be over. Bayley stated that in the time of distancing health and safety must be put first which might lead to the complete phase-out of buffets. Virgin Voyages has debuted a ship without a Buffett but instead a food court style venue, it is possible Royal Caribbean will go in a similar direction.
Future Royal Caribbean International Ships
One of the most anticipated new cruise ships of 2020 will indeed debut, but her scheduled debut might be delayed. Bayley did not confirm or deny if Odyssey is officially delayed or not. However, he did confirm that pre-COVID the ship was on schedule with no delays, but with reduced staffing, in the shipyard, a delay might be unavoidable. He made it clear to travel advisors that they should have a definite idea of any delays within the next few weeks.
Bayley did not make mention of Wonder of the Seas or the Icon class of ships however, Wonder of the Seas construction is continuing through the pandemic. As most avid Royal Caribbean cruisers know the Icon class still has very little details available to the public.
Returning to the Era of Small Ships...... Not Quite
A question was asked about a possible resurgence of small ship cruising for Royal. Bayley made it clear that small ships might not be first to return to service because social distancing measures are much easier to achieve on larger ships. It is very clear that larger ships fit many more people but unlike many other cruise lines Royal Caribbean's large ships have ample public spaces for all guests and with reduced passenger capacity space will be more than ample for all of us to spread out and enjoy everything Royal Caribbean has to offer.
Although the future is hard to predict and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is difficult, one thing that is certain, WE WILL BE BACK. Check out all the Cruise Industry COVID-19 updates on Cruise Ship Crayz's dedicated webpage.