One of the striking features of cruising is its complexity. When hospitality intersects with maritime, the result is — a lot of variables!
Usually we master the variables in a way that reinforces the world class reputation Royal Caribbean is fortunate to enjoy. This blog just posted an entry about a spectacular passport retrieval that saved a cruise with minutes to spare. There are many stories directionally like that and we are proud of our people who so often deliver the WOW.
The complexity produces two consequences from time to time. First, we sometimes fail to read a guest situation correctly and the failure has implications. Second, we sometimes do get things right but there is nevertheless a perception that something is amiss. In recent days, we have experienced one of each. This blog provides an opportunity to comment on such matters.
The first situation occurred early in the Hurricane Irene saga. When the storm approached San Juan, the Port Authority ordered Serenade of the Seas to depart early. As a result, 150 people did not make it to the ship.
While we had no control over the order to depart earlier than scheduled (we did succeed in negotiating a few hours extra time to allow more guests to reach the ship – which saved hundreds of cruises), we initially adopted the normal position in our business. This norm says Royal Caribbean will make alternative arrangements for guests who have made their travel arrangements through us and have had their travel disrupted, but guests who have made independent travel arrangements retain full responsibility for making it to the ship.
The norm remains in place for most situations and so we continue to advise our customers to make their arrangements through us when they can (i.e., through Choice Air) and to purchase trip insurance before each cruise (either our CruiseCare product or through others).
Although our standard position for weather related disruptions is to encourage guests to work directly with their air carriers in reaching the ship, in the case of Serenade of the Seas in San Juan, we should have recognized immediately that the forced departure of the ship, albeit out of our control, created an out of the norm situation. Although more than half of the 150 guests who missed the ship in San Juan were able to join Serenade in Aruba, earlier recognition would have resulted in us providing the best and fastest alternative travel arrangements to reach the ship and also providing more support in San Juan and/or over the phone for hotel and other arrangements.
All guests who missed Serenade of the Seas in San Juan received compensation, equivalent to the number of days they missed of that voyage. Although we have heard from very few of the affected guests, I apologize on behalf of Royal Caribbean that our “situation awareness” was not at its customary high level. We have learned some valuable lessons for the future.
Before I leave Hurricane Irene, I will reiterate that in such situations we focus intensely on the safety of our guests and crew. Hurricane Irene was a remarkable storm in many respects. Along the way it was in the vicinity of 7 of our company’s ships and both of our private destinations. While we could have handled the situation discussed above in a better way, our people did succeed at keeping thousands of our guests and crew safe, comfortable and out of harm’s way.
The second situation has provoked much more correspondence to us but we stand by our decision to allow guests in our top suites and our highest loyalty tiers to have their family members under the age of 21 accompany them to the Concierge Lounge (CL) at any time. Previously guests under the age of 21 could not enter the CL between 5 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
Some factual context: although parents with children under the age of 21 who are CL eligible have been consistently requesting the right to have their family members with them in the CL before dinner, there are relatively few of these families. On average there are five guests under the age of 21 per cruise who are from CL-eligible suites. Some percentage of those would not want to be in the CL so the actual effect on the CL will be minimal. Nevertheless, the ships will not tolerate disruptive behavior in the CL. Since the policy change went into effect on August 26th, one time on each of two ships the Concierge has needed to address a family about the behavior of their child in the CL during the new hours. Our belief is the new policy is fair and will work. We promise to be very attentive to the ambiance in the CL that is obviously highly valued by so many of our guests.
Meanwhile, the Diamond Lounge (DL) will continue to be for adults only during the cocktail hour as there has been zero demand for family members under 21 to be allowed in the DL at that time.
One more comment on this topic for now: when customers write me about policies related to suite guests, they consistently assume that suite guests are first time cruisers or at least have not demonstrated their loyalty to Royal Caribbean. This assumption could not be further from the truth. A very significant percentage of our top suite guests are in the upper tiers of the Crown & Anchor Society and have demonstrated great loyalty to our brand.
We take the input of our guests very seriously, so thank you for the emails. I particularly appreciate that a number of loyal writers didn’t just voice criticism but made constructive suggestions.
I am sure I will have the occasion to comment on future situations and policies. But in the mean time, we are striving to deliver the WOW as often as possible.