In our 1990 Strategic Plan (known as the Royal Admiral Strategic Business Plan), we wrote briefly about a software product called CruiseMatch. We had agreed to buy it from a third party software firm that had hoped to pioneer electronic bookings of cruises by travel agents but hadn’t found any cruise line takers. So we bought their intended “industry switch” and decided to hook it up to our computer systems and offer it to travel agents to book our cruises rather than requiring them to call us on the phone. While we expected to be the first cruise company to distribute cruises electronically, we felt the advantage and CruiseMatch would be short-lived. So we said in the plan that we expected the software to last 12 to 18 months, meaning we did not expect it to see 1992.
Why am I writing this? Because next month, 20 years later (!), we are finally going to discontinue the original CruiseMatch known these days as CruiseMatch 2000. Over those 20 years we will have taken over 1,800,000 reservations that turned into bookings that sailed. Building on the success of the original system, we developed a windows version called CruiseMatch Plus as well as CruiseMatch Online over the internet.
Going forward we will utilize the new CruiseMatch, which reflects the sophistication of today’s point and click technologies, as well as the Global Distribution System (GDS) products (i.e., SABRE, Apollo/Worldspan, Amadeus) that have each developed multi-cruise line booking applications. Today over 50% of our bookings from travel agents come to us through these applications rather than over the phone.
I will ascribe the extraordinary longevity of CruiseMatch 2000 to two things. One, the technology proved to be much more robust and much more ahead of its time than we imagined in 1990. A big part of this was CruiseMatch 2000’s contribution to our global growth through our network of International Representatives (IRs) whose system usage has been over 98% for years. Two, generation after generation of incredibly dedicated marketing automation and IT personnel enabled us to make the most of the CruiseMatch opportunity. When I was discussing this history the other day with Juan Silva, our Director of eDistribution Strategy & Development who has been involved for the twenty years, he was able to tell me where just about everyone is living and working today. As they say at the Oscars, there are too many to name here. But I thank them all and am happy to say that they and “our little engine that could” ranks among the highlights of my 22 years at Royal Caribbean.