By Vicki Freed, SVP of Sales and Trade Support and Service, Royal Caribbean International
I asked some of the Royal Caribbean International senior leadership to write a guest blog about the state of the brand from their viewpoint. Vicki Freed’s title is SVP of Sales and Trade Support and Service, but internally she is known as an intense travel agent champion that grew up in the industry. Vicki shares her thoughts here.
When I was asked to share my perspective on the state of the brand, I wasn’t sure where to begin. Royal Caribbean International has grown so much and transformed in so many ways since I first started in this industry. And it’s constantly evolving. How do you describe something that’s always in a state of change? There are a few aspects, though, that have always been part of our vision—and have served to guide our current initiatives looking toward the future.
The first that comes to mind is our focus on the Caribbean. Our brand was born from the novel idea of bringing people the best of the cruise experience and the best of the Caribbean at once, and that hasn’t changed. If anything, that unwavering commitment to the Caribbean has helped us stand apart in a highly competitive region.
Another promising and exciting new dimension for our brand is the debut of the Quantum Class ships, Quantum of the Seas and her sister Anthem of the Seas. The amazing thing about Quantum is that not only is the ship itself a game changer, its debut also spotlights the innovative nature of our entire fleet. It’s creating a lot of buzz about Royal Caribbean as a whole and making more people aware that our brand continually strives to deliver the WOW with unique vacation experiences that push the limits. That kind of attention serves to power interest and awareness in the entire fleet, which is full of guest-favorite ships, from smaller, more intimate ships cruising Europe to the incredible Oasis Class in the Caribbean.
We have also embraced the importance of being “glocal”—a globally recognized brand with adaptive, local market focus. We are responding more quickly than ever to the needs of our local North American markets—good examples are the New York area and Galveston, Texas. In New York, travel agents have asked for new regional ships and we answered in threes, delivering Quantum of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, and Anthem of the Seas in 2015—a tri-state trifecta. In Galveston, in response to feedback from our travel agent partners, we have home ported Navigator of the Seas because it’s a very family-friendly ship with many of our latest innovations. It’s a central location in the U.S. market and it is perfect to support the demand for family getaways.
Also shaping our brand efforts is the new-to-cruise audience. Seventy five percent of Americans have never taken a cruise vacation, and of those, many lack awareness of what a cruise really entails. This is an immense opportunity. Travel professionals are especially important in growing our new-to-cruise business because they can tailor a first-time cruise for their client to ensure an even higher level of satisfaction and return business. It’s absolutely crucial that a first time cruiser sails the right cruise line, ship and itinerary. Travel agents are the curators that can look at the entire landscape of cruising, and all that Royal Caribbean specifically has to offer, and maximize the cruise experience for their client.
Since our beginning, we have endorsed the immeasurable value of a travel agent, and they in kind have continued to support our product. They believe in our ability to deliver that WOW experience for every guest, whether it’s a first-timer or a veteran cruiser, and they know they can rest assured recommending Royal Caribbean. Because of that, we are able to continue raising the bar with continuous innovations like the new Quantum Class, as well as future Oasis Class ships already on order. That kind of relationship is extremely valuable to us and we know we owe it all to their support.
A vacation is an investment of our guests’ time and money, and we don’t take that responsibility lightly. We continue to evolve always with their needs in mind, and with excellence as our standard. Always changing to adapt to the needs of our guests, but ensuring that all our undertakings are pursued with the same exceptional commitment to service, innovation, and quality. Where do you think the future of the cruise industry is heading? Feel free to share your questions and feedback in the comments. I look forward to reading them.