If there’s a surefire way of measuring Royal Caribbean International’s commitment to the comeback of the cruise industry, one could simply look at the numbers.
Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, said that the cruise line has gone from spending 10% of its usual marketing budget in the first part of the year to “as we now move into this fourth quarter, we are now investing in our marketing at a rate that we’ve never invested before in the history of our company.”
Bolstered by the fact that RCI now has 18 ships up and operating globally, more than 500,000 passengers have embarked on cruises with the company since operations resumed. Although the figures are lower than the 5.5 to 6 million annual guests typically on board during a pre pandemic year, and lower than its goal of reaching one million guests by the end of year, Bayley is still optimistic.
“Obviously the numbers are much lower but relatively speaking it’s the highest in the industry,” he said during a special sailing for the naming ceremony of Odyssey of the Seas. “As an industry and as a company, we feel like we’ve really moved into a really positive place.”
Another notable figure is the fact that of all of the passengers who have set sail, Royal Caribbean’s positivity rate is 0.09%.
“The prevalence on a Royal Caribbean ship is remarkably lower than anywhere else I would say on the planet. It’s a remarkably pristine environment,” he said. “Everybody over the age of 12 is required to be fully vaccinated to sail on Royal Caribbean International ships globally and all of our crew members are 100% fully vaccinated. Typically our population on the ship at any time, even with the kids 12 and under unvaccinated, is around 95%. So it’s a very safe environment.”
One cool feature that reduces the amount of touch points on Odyssey of the Seas is that the elevator buttons are touch-less and are triggered by motion.
Reflecting on the journey to get to this point, Bayley described how the word “Odyssey” represents much more than just the name of the latest Quantum Ultra-class ship Odyssey of the Seas.
“Although building a ship is always a journey within itself, there was no predicting the past 20 months,” he said. “Whether it was changes to the construction timeline or the date we would set sail again, in many ways what it took to get Odyssey of the Seas here today is much like Royal Caribbean’s journey to get back to cruising. In this last year the word Odyssey has become more than the name of the ship. It represents the Odyssey we’ve experienced together as a cruise line and as an industry.”
As for what’s new on Odyssey of the Seas, Captain Sindre Borsheim said while there are some familiar spaces for those who are familiar with other Quantum sister ships, there are a lot of changes as well.
“The open pool space, we don’t have an indoor pool so it’s extended to allow for far more capacity under the sun. We have the open dining room which only Spectrum and Odyssey have,” he said. “We have moved the gym from the Spectrum back to the forward part of the ship again.”
A new dining option is Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar, which offers favourites like handcrafted pizzas and lasagna, and 50 wines by the glass and classic Italian cocktails with a twist, including a negroni and aperol spritz.
“We have a lot of different activities, we have the Zone Zero (a fully immersive 4D virtual reality experience at sea), Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, hangout areas for the adults who don’t necessarily want to take part in the sports activities, but be together with their children in the same area,” he said. “It is an amazing hangout area. We also have the tallest North Star (a glass observational pod) of all the Quantum Class Ships. Our North Star is actually going 1.2 degrees higher than the Spectrum.”
Although it was incredibly challenging dealing with health authorities in the beginning, Baley said the cruise line wound up having very productive and meaningful meetings with the likes of the CDC.
And although the instances are very low, he didn’t shy away from addressing what happens when passengers test positive for COVID-19.
“If we do have a COVID positive case onboard, the guest is immediately quarantined, we have a contact tracing process immediately identifying anyone within their circle of connection, they then are tested and quarantined,” he said. “And positive cases are often sent home that very same day by private jet. And so we’ve got a pretty remarkable process in place, we think.”