So what have I learned after one week of this blog? A few observations at this early juncture:
People are passionately attached to the Royal Caribbean International brand. They really want to be involved with it whether on a cruise or in between cruises. This passion is an incredible asset for our brand and company. It is an asset we can never take for granted. There are many ways to protect this asset but the most important way is to continue to Deliver the Wow onboard our fleet.
People are hungry for information and they want immediate satisfaction. This is obvious from the reaction to the blog and also from the reaction to the live chat that preceded the blog. This hunger is a challenge for the blog. I want us to be responsive without this blog morphing into a customer service center. The fastest way for us to respond to posted questions would not involve me – my colleagues would receive the questions, research and answer the questions and then post or otherwise communicate the answers. I’m not comfortable with that approach because I want to know what is coming in and what is going out. This takes more time but at this stage of the game I prefer to sacrifice some speed in return for more involvement in the process by me. We’ll adjust as we go.
The issues associated with a mega-event like H1N1 should probably be addressed in a dedicated forum. I am not comfortable with how some of the issues/questions are lost in the volume of responses/questions to the blog and chat. We’re thinking this through. The commentary we have received is illustrative of dilemma that goes far beyond this blog, namely, lots of people really disagree with each other and I mean point blank. On H1N1, we receive comments from people who cannot comprehend that we are not already returning to Mexico. They assert with complete conviction that H1N1 is no longer an issue, has not been identified in the areas of Mexico where the ships normally call and in general has been more a media-inspired “infodemic” than an actual public health threat. Other commentators continue to thank us profusely for having changed our itineraries and shielded them from harm. They still fear Mexico as the source of H1N1.
Our status on H1N1 is as follows. We are involved in ongoing dialogue with the CDC and other authorities to ensure we understand all aspects of H1N1. Our goal is to maximize the safety and enjoyment of our guests. The cruise industry continues to ask embarking guests to fill out a simple questionnaire that may indicate the need for screening by the ship’s medical staff. Two of our main industry associations, CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) and FCCA (Florida Caribbean Cruise Association) have written letters to the President of the United States and the Secretary of State pointing out the harm that is being done to the Mexican economy as well as noting that the WHO and various public officials have spoken out against the continued issuance of travel restrictions. Meanwhile, the CDC and other public health authorities around the world continue to recommend against non-essential travel to Mexico (in the case of CDC, through late July). So there is not a consensus amongst the authorities. We are very focused on addressing these and other complexities of H1N1.
There will always be a dialogue about our products and services. Hopefully, since our delivery is very strong these days, the dialogue will be largely positive. Nevertheless, anything that our loyal customers regard as a cutback or reduction is going to be a focus of attention. From time to time through my blog entries I will address some of the issues even if it is simply to reaffirm how we have decided to go forward on an issue. For example, in response to the significant communication we received on the change in eligibility for access to the Concierge Lounges on those ships that have such lounges, we modified our approach and delayed implementation until September 1st. Our plan is to implement the approach and then see how everything goes into 2010. For more on the changes to the Crown & Anchor loyalty program and the rationale that went into these decisions, please check out the letter that went out to all of our members back in April. We clearly need to maintain a robust offering that recognizes and rewards the loyalty of guests who have reached the various tiers of the Crown & Anchor Society and our intention is to do just that. We are not contemplating further Crown & Anchor changes in 2009. Our mission right now is to deliver the program as currently designed to the best of our abilities.
Thank you for your patience and feedback as we get this blog going.