When I saw people at the Cruise Shipping Miami show, they invariably asked about Oasis of the Seas first and possibly Haiti second. This is understandable but it does not give props to the endeavors that are coming to fruition throughout the year for the benefit of all of our guests. While many initiatives are not ready for public airing, I will mention a few that have recently become public.
Our website is a major reference source for travel agents, repeat guests and prospective guests. This phenomenon only grows and therefore we must be responsive to the hunger for better information. If we don’t do a great job of informing people about our brand through our website, they may very well take their next vacation with someone else. We have recently completed a facelift designed to reflect the look and feel of our Nation of Why Not global marketing platform. We have also simplified the steps of the booking process for those who are interested to book on the website. While the people coming to the site for information far outnumber those who book on the site, we are pleased to provide an improved experience for those who wish to book. A work in progress is our effort to bring oasisoftheseas.com and nationofwhynot.com directly under the umbrella of royalcaribbean.com.
After enduring episodes of three steps forward and two steps backwards, we have launched eDocs. We still provide guests the option to receive paper documents for a $35 fee, unlike some of our competitors who have eliminated the paper option altogether. But our focus will be to leverage the new eDocs technology to provide our guests with much richer pre-cruise communications. With eDocs, guests can order self adhesive luggage tags pre-printed & customized to their specific ship, sailing & stateroom location and we’ll mail them to guests free of charge. When you consider this initiative in the context of the website, SetSail (pre-cruise check-in) and the ability to purchase and/or reserve many elements of the cruise in advance of sailing, the quality of the pre-cruise interaction between us and our customers has elevated considerably. We believe there are yet more opportunities to advance the pre-cruise experience and plan to bring more enhancements to market.
Choice Air continues to grow in usage amongst travel agents and their guests but not at the rate I would have expected given the nature of the offering. For eons, our customers faced a distinct choice regarding their air travel to/from their cruise – book through us and find out later on about the routing and seat assignment, with more of an emphasis on securing a seat than offering the best price, or go to the market with no connection to the cruise booking. Choice Air gives travel agents and their guests the best of both worlds. One can compare and then choose from the best we have to offer and the best the market has to offer, and the choice is reflected in the cruise booking. We continue to add airlines to Choice Air that may be harder than others to access. For example, we recently added Virgin America that has attractive flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Ft. Lauderdale.
A final initiative is more on the global side of things. We have select programs that we refer to as interport. I don’t know why it is called this, but what it means is that on very select itineraries, we have two homeports where people can begin and end their cruise. The most significant example of this is on Enchantment of the Seas (next winter this will apply to Grandeur of the Seas instead) where our main homeport is in Colon, Panama but we also board a substantial percentage of our guests in Cartagena, Colombia. Our guests either cruise round trip Panama or round trip Colombia. Another example would be having an ancillary homeport in Korea for cruises primarily based out of Shanghai. We have made adjustments so our ability to implement such programs is much easier for our own people, travel agents and guests.
Parting note – I received a complaint letter about a cruise from the (adult) grandchild of an iconic American athlete. The stationery has a picture of this iconic athlete from the early 20th century in full athletic gear. An impressive attempt at intimidation. Well, there may not have been any intimidation intended but it crossed my mind.