Guest Blog: More on Deployment

by 996

I’ve been threatening a guest entry on our ship deployment process and here it is courtesy of Diana Block, VP, Revenue Management & Deployment, and Chris Allen, Director, Deployment & Itinerary Planning. Diana and Chris also do this work for Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Cruises not to mention that Diana is responsible for the pricing of our cruises. So we’re talking a lot of responsibility. Some of you no doubt would like more specific information on the actual choices we make (e.g., why aren’t there year round cruises out of Galveston?). Unfortunately, for legal reasons we cannot comment on those specifics in public plus we argue so much about these things in private that we don’t want to air our dirty laundry. Deployment issues are BY FAR the most frequently recurring discussion topics at my monthly staff meetings.

Diana Block, VP, Revenue Management & Deployment

Diana Block, VP, Revenue Management & Deployment

Recently, Adam mentioned that readers of this blog have a keen interest in how we decide where to deploy our ships. As he said, this is a particularly difficult task as we have demand from across the US and around the world from consumers to both cruise from near their homes and to visit new and exciting places in the world. Our goal is to provide the best possible experience for our guests while delivering profitability to our shareholders. So, the big question is…how do we do this?

The process starts with a significant amount of research. It’s the feedback of our Crown & Anchor guests, potential guests and our trade partners that guide us on the types of vacations we should be offering. First, we conduct formal consumer research. Then, we actually go through the enormous task of reading every free form comment ever written on a guest comment card about itineraries or specific destinations. We augment this information with post cruise surveys on specific port experiences, and feedback from tour operators in hundreds of destinations, and from our travel agent partners.

Once we have a sense of where our guests want to vacation and for how long, we run pretty rigorous financial modeling on all of our options. Frankly, we want to put the ships where they are going to bring us the best financial return. This modeling needs to include all potential revenue streams and costs that are directly related to our destinations. These include fuel, port expenses, and a number of other items like the costs to fly our crew to and from various destinations and the cost of supplies and provisions around the world. We even have to understand tax implications in different parts of the world that will vary based on the ports of call we choose.

A part of this analysis includes an understanding of the guest demographics of any specific product. For example, the question is not just “Should we put a ship in Australia?”. The question is, “If we put a ship in Australia, who is our target market and what are the implications to the itinerary we provide.” For example, we have received feedback from a travel agent partner in the US that it would be desirable for us to overnight in Sydney on an Australia turnaround. We understand that this would be desirable for a guest who is traveling from the US, Europe, or South America. But, since our program in Australia attracts guests not only from around the world, but also from Australia, we may look at this differently. The overnight in Sydney is not as attractive to the guest who lives in Sydney or the neighboring area. We must always understand the composition of our guests in order to make the appropriate decisions.

Once we decide where in the world the ships will sail, we need to decide where they will be based So…what is important for a turnaround port? It is imperative that a “home port” or “turnaround port” have proper facilities for the guest boarding and debark process, and often our provisioning process. We also need to understand the size of the local market and the availability and cost of air lift into that market to ensure guests can get to the ship easily.

When creating an overall itinerary, there are a number of factors that come into play. These include the quality of the experience in the port, time/speed/distance between the ports, government regulations (including the Passenger Vessel Services Act in the US and cabotage laws in places like Brazil and Australia), environmental impacts, immigration laws, and port infrastructure. When considering a specific day or how many hours to spend in port, it is imperative that we stay long enough for guests to visit the key attractions but we must also consider things like local holidays and hours the shops and attractions operate.

We must then contact the ports to ensure we can get a “reservation” on a specific date and time. This is quite a puzzle in places like the Caribbean and the Mediterranean where we have multiple ships and need to ensure we don’t have too many in the same place on the same day. This is further complicated by the fact that other cruise lines are planning at the same time and we don’t have visibility to their plans. If we can’t get a “reservation” on the desired date, we must go back to the drawing board and find suitable alternatives which could be changing the port order (if possible) or finding a replacement destination.

So, if you are interested in becoming an itinerary planner, I suggest you go out and buy a Rubik’s cube. If you have the skill and the patience to complete the puzzle, this is the perfect job for you!! As always, we welcome your thoughts and comments.

  • Carrie

    A brilliant and informative post!!
    Thank you!

    Why is it that RCL is sending ships away from Miami to Ft. Lauderdale (Port Everglades)??

  • Alan Brill

    I assume that somewhere in the process, once you have some handle on where, how long and perhaps potential guest demographics for a potential port, you have to also evaluate which of the brands can best meet the need.

    Some ports, I suspect, would be more appropriate for a ship in the Celebrity or Azamara fleets. Others more appropriate for Royal Caribbean ships.

    Having the three brands must be both a benefit — the flexibility to program for larger or smaller ships at price points appropriate to various demographics and cruise lengths — and just another dimension of what is clearly a highly multi-dimensional problem.

    As a shareholder, I — and I bet you — wish there was a program you could run, put in all the factors,(revenue predictions, costs, demographics, competitor actions, etc.) and get a magical, perfect solution. But there isn’t and ultimately it is the expertise and experience that Diana, Chris and the team bring to the table that leads to the best decisions that can be made. Perfect? No. Not everyone can be satisfied all the time, but ultimately the best that’s humanly possible.

    Thanks for an interesting post.

  • tom young

    While my wife and I love to Cruise we both hate flying. The whole airport scene is nothing we treasure doing. Flying is like the price we pay for loving to Cruise. With that said if there could be a Cruise in the Summer out of Montreal that went to Boston, New York, Bermuda, and back with Maybe a stop in Maine this would compliment the fall cruise we take every other year from Boston. Just a thought. It obviously is much harder than it seems to line these things up.

  • thomas lamb

    We are Platinum members and have crused from Tampa, Bayonne and Norfolk. We hope that RCCL will keep crusing from Norfolk.

  • Yannick Haas


  • Brent barbour

    PLEASE, Consider bringing one of the Radiance Class Ships to Galveston. With their speed and range we could do many NEW PORTS FOR GALVESTON BASED SHIPS that the other ships(OURS AND THEIRS)cannot reach in a reasonable time period. My ENTIRE FAMILY are by far the best ambassadors for Royal Caribbean in Oklahoma and anywhere else we go. As we prepare to go on our 38th with you in two weeks I cannot keep from thinking how nice it would be to just drive to Galveston, NO weighing bags, making sure you don’t have over 3oz. etc…..If it were not for the flying we could talk a LOT of folks into going out of Galveston as well as getting many including ourselves that have gone from GLV before to go again,with some new ships and ports. Yes, we are stock holders as well as Diamond Plus members.

  • Edna Taylor

    Speaking of bringing RCCL ships to Galveston, I would just LOVE it if you could send a Freedom Class to Galveston. Our ONLY cruises have been on the Freedom of the Seas and we just couldn’t imagine being on a cruise without the Flowrider :)

  • Dylan S.

    I’ve seen pictures of multiple cruise ships together in a port, before! I see pictures of multiple ships at a port all the time! I have an intrest in planning itineraries, too! :) (on some days) As for needing patience, does a a puzzle with 600 pieces work?

  • Carole Hillier

    We are Diamond Plus members and like Tom Young hate to fly–but we do fly to cruise. We live in Atlanta and would love to see a cruise out of Mobile. I think that there are so many people in the Southeast that would also love to see a port closer to home–any RCCL ship any time of the year! Do you think that is a possibility in the near future?

  • Joe Stuessy

    We are Diamond Plus members and have a true loyalty to RCCL. We want to add our plea to those above for a year-round presence in Galveston. We will do almost anything to avoid air travel because of the hassle and the added cost. Regrettably, if we want to cruise from May to December (which we do once or twice each year), we have no choice but to send our cruise dollars to Carnival! (yuck!!).

    In our years of cruising, we have noted that a disproportionate number of cruisers (all over the world) are Texans. I find it hard to believe that RCCL can’t fill every sailing out of Galveston. If we are wrong, show us the numbers!

  • michael Chahbandour

    Thank you very much for the informative posting. My wife and I are RCI diamond members. We are taking our first Celebrity cruise to Bermuda on the Summit in June 2010. My question revolves around Bermuda cruises. In 2010 it looks like many more lines will be cruising from New York, Cape Liberty, Boston and Baltimore to Kings Wharf, Bermuda. I can only imagine how flooded with ships Kings Wharf will be next year. Has any consideration been given to Hamilton and St. George’s as alternatives to Kings Wharf. I know those ports are smaller and normally don’t accommodate larger ships, but has Bermuda indicated any changes that might make those ports available beyond 2010?

  • Lisa

    Bermuda 7 nights please!!! I would fly for that one( and I’m sure many others would too), the 5 night cruises are just to short to be worth flying to port.

  • Arvids

    We love to cruise RCCL and in December will be on our 18th cruise. It would be fantastic to see RCCL purchase a smaller ship and do the Great Lakes in the summer. There are many ports to choose from and a cruise from Detroit to Chicago and back or over to Toronto would be great. Of course you can not bring in a Voyager class or Freedom Class but if you have something somewhere in Inventory….It would be great as I would be able to cruise more often….

  • Beth kassler

    We love crusing RCCL and would like to add our votes to bringing a ship to Galveston year round, or even New Orleans. When we cruise other than Nov to April Carnival is only choice, if you dont want to fly. We loved Rapsody, and Splendor and now Voyager. I wonder why there isn’t a ship in one of these ports when Voyager is always full. We are from Arkansas and I tell every one I know to cruise RCCL. When you try and take family on a cruise you really cant afford to fly 16 people.

  • Elizabeth Gwin

    I would like to see a smaller ship back in Galveston year round. Many, many other passengers I have talked to both on the Voyager and other lines truly loved her. I do not believe that she was sailing empty.

  • Shoshana

    My husband and I are Diamond members who live in Los Angeles. We LOVED the three-day weekend getaways on the Monarch and were very sad when it left. Now the only weekend option is either treking down to San Diego for Radiance (which would mean missing work), or cruising on another line (that shall not be named). Considering the large volume of ships on the East Coast, please consider sending San Pedro back a ship for weekend cruising — at least during part of the year.

  • Joe Rutherford

    We are sailing on the inagural cruise of The Oasis, we would like to do the same for The Allure but it is an eastern Carribbean cruise. Why not make it a western Carribean?

    • Adam

      Hi Joe. We’re looking forward to having you onboard the Oasis. Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas will be alternating between the eastern and western Caribbean routes. Since Oasis will be featuring a Western Caribbean itinerary that week, Allure will visit the Eastern Caribbean.

  • Gladys

    I would love to see a ship from Pt Canaveral to New York City with a couple of nights in port and arrange some great tours. There are a couple of islands that we could stop at coming and going to satisfy the law that makes the cruise lines stop ‘out of country’ before coming back to US.
    Any one else think it’s a great idea for non-flyers??


    Great and very informative post! Sounds like one giant puzzle but for the most part I enjoy RCI’s deployment. Just one suggestion bring a Freedom class ship to Cape Liberty…I really think people would enjoy the change but we are very happy to have the Explorer year round at Cape Liberty!

  • Richard king of spain

    Im not the king of spain.. unlike the other braggers!
    I’m not sure what its means to YOU that your daimond plus or a share holder. To brag.maybe. oh well.. I would love to have galvaston’s cheap prices here in tampa.
    Also please look at just changing up the islands some,st.kitts st.lucia.. please.
    same trips for the last 10 years!
    “variety is the spice of life.”


    We just came back from our Eastern Mediterranean cruise onboard the Navigator of the Seas….our 27th cruise on RCCL (yes, Diamond plus members!). It was just incredible!!! Rome, Athens, Sicily, Turkey, Crete….amazing!!!
    Living in NJ, we enjoy cruising out of Cape Liberty and agree with a previous blogger(Justin) about bringing a Freedom class ship there. How about leaving the Explorer to do 7-nights to Bermuda and the Freedom class ship 9-night Caribbean? Having cruised on the Freedom of the Seas, you do need more than 7 nights on board this magnificent ships!!

  • julia lucero

    Hi,i like to job in Royal Caribbean,iam single,i dont have children,i want to job in Royal Caribbean.

  • Cheryl

    When can we look forward to RCCL bringing another ship into San Pedro ? Why is this port being left out of your planning ? Loved the option of 3,4 & 5 night cruises..What about bringing the Vision back to fill this void ?

  • Greg Allen

    Hi RCCL…New Jersey here My wife and I and are 2 pre-teen children have been on over 35 cruises, 15 with RCCL, 4 this year alone (Freedom x2, Explorer x2). I have a couple of questions. #1) I heard that the Freedom will begin to make Bayonne it’s home port in 2011, provided the channel is dredged to allow it to fit. Is that true? I hope so!! Also, I am very very disappointed that RCCL has significantly reduced the rewards for Diamond Members. Imagine a couple that takes one cruise a year for 10 years, and they finally reach Diamond status after a decade of cruising and they wind up with less perks then they had when they were Gold or Platinum status. I think RCCL should seriously look at treating their Diamond members better if it wants to keep them coming back. Will RCCL be rolling out new Diamonds rewards soon?

  • Allen

    We do not understand the decision to leave Independence in Southampton year round. We just completed a 24 day back to back aboard her with three transits through the Bay of Biscay. The first included the joy of over 40 foot waves and 100 MPH winds! The Captain was compelled for safety of the ship reasons to reduce speed significantly and to cancel one part call to ensure he was back in Southampton on time for the subsequent Trans Atlantic voyage. At the Diamond Event he told me that he had spent almost 24 straight hours on the bridge during that Bayof Biscay transit.We were informed that the immediately prior Canary Island sailing had in fact been worse, with some guests electing to leave the ship mid cruise and fly home rather than endure the continual poor weather. Based upon the schedules we were shown you plan to try to repeat this transit twice per 18 day trip. It is quite likely you will have similar weather and the same guest reactions.
    It appears this decision was made to try to address the desire of your UK customers to avoid flights at all costs. We heard this sentiment expressed by UJ guests on board on several occassions.
    Have you considered the effects on the ship of such routine abuse? What happens if you are compelled to retire the ship from service earlier than planned Due to this abusive service? It would not seem to be a prudent decision to sacrifice such an asset before the debt instruments used to finance it were retired and it was truly making a profit!
    Why not work out a flight plus cruise package deal with a responsible and reasonably priced airline like Virgin to service the route to Barcelona from a couple of sensible UK departure points with easy rail connections, like Southampton and Leeds? After our experiences Easy Jet and RyanAir are not acceptable options and the larger national flag carriers are simply too expensive.
    Bottom line it would seem you need to employ additional experts in the decision making process on ship depoyment.

  • BOb Gee

    I am on my first trip.

    So, far there have been more red flags than green flags. I hope everything will go well.

    The ship leaves within two weeks.

    Is anyone interested in a first time cruiser’s opinion when I get back? (Adam?)