Psychology 101 teaches us that first and last impressions have a disproportionately large impact on memory formation. It’s not surprising, therefore, that the process of departing a cruise figures prominently in our guests’ recollection of their experience with Royal Caribbean International. Guests have been asking us for a long time to improve the debark experience. Lisa Bauer, our Senior VP, Hotel Operations is my guest today to tell you what have done in this regard. Congratulations to Lisa and her team as well as Craig Milan and his Guest Port Services team for moving us forward in this important area.
You may wonder why I’ve titled this particular blog “bark” and what it could possibly mean. The subject matter is actually about the enhancements we’ve made to the departure, or debark processes. So, when we formed the working team to review guest feedback, recommendations and current practices with a focus on materially changing the process, my staff thought that it would be fun to name the project “Bark” because I love pets and have 3 dogs, and that it would be one of my favorite projects if it was named “bark.”
The review of the “bark” processes highlighted that we had the opportunity to improve the guest experience.
Before I get into the disembarkation process I wanted to make one small comment regarding our embarkation process. One of the best ways our guests can ensure a speedy embark process is to complete the online ‘Set Sail’ check-in prior to arrival. This greatly expedites the process so that you can be well on your way to enjoying a wonderful cruise vacation.
With regard to our disembarkation procedures our customers told us what was most important to them was not to be “kicked out of their rooms at 6am;” that all the announcements created a hectic environment; and that we had the opportunity to improve the overall experience. We also had some challenges with the length of time the process takes. The majority of these items are directly in our control, so we listened to the feedback and made changes. However, to truly have an expedited departure, we are also highly dependent on the local customs and border patrol staffing and support, and this is an area that we don’t directly control. We continue to work with local officials to improve in this area as well.
Based on the suggestions and requests, on departure day, guests now have extended access to their staterooms, as well as continued in-stateroom TV entertainment. In addition, guests are receiving an “As You Depart” notice the day before departure, which communicates the location of departure lounges offering refreshments and light entertainment as well as information related to local immigration and customs and the anticipated timing of departure for various groups. We also saw the opportunity to ensure that families had a unique experience, so one of the departure lounges is now a dedicated Family Zone, which will include refreshments, toys and games geared toward younger cruisers. One of the key highlights of the new process is the minimal amount of ship-wide public announcements all morning to maintain a relaxing atmosphere, with nearly all departure updates limited to the departure lounges and through the in-stateroom TV programming. The overall feedback so far has been very favorable, and we continue to focus on how we can improve both the embark and debark process.