By Joseph Grimley, director of trade sales, Scenic and Emerald Cruises
Thinking back to this time last year, I doubt any of us expected the year to pan out how it has done; however as we look ahead we are starting to see some positive changes. Over the past couple of months, we have launched a new season for Scenic Eclipse, our ultra-luxury ocean yacht, and our 2022 European river cruises went on sale earlier than ever; all of which have been met with ever-increasing interest.
I am confident about the coming months; bookings are steadily picking up with plenty of pent-up demand. We are finding more and more customers are ready to book and are wanting to do so in luxury and style, with recent bookings including the very best suites available. Having not travelled in 2020, it appears that customers are willing to spend more to make up for it.
Scenic Eclipse had a very successful first season, sailing through destinations including the Arctic, Antarctica and Central and South America, and we are already seeing indications that this success will continue this year. Our repeat booking rate is looking very healthy. Scenic Eclipse’s new 2022/23 programme, which went on sale last month, sets the benchmark again, from exciting new itineraries taking guests across the Antarctic Circle to our first-ever itineraries to Japan and the Russian Arctic. Plus, the chance to be one of the privileged few to cross the legendary Northeast and Northwest Passages.
Small ship ultra-luxury expedition cruising seems to be experiencing a boom, with several cruise lines venturing into this market and launching new ships; including Scenic, who will be adding a sister ship to the Scenic Eclipse fleet in 2023. Luxury expedition cruising allows guests to visit the most remote parts of the world, offering the highest levels of safety and security to travellers who wish to avoid the hustle and bustle of popular tourist destinations, while not compromising on exceptional comfort and refinement.
Booking trends indicate that travellers are once again starting to plan for late 2021, 2022 and beyond, with ‘small ship cruising’ being particularly attractive due to lower passenger numbers and more spacious surroundings. This time next year, Emerald Azzurra, the first custom-built ocean super yacht launched by Emerald Cruises, will set out on her inaugural sailing on the Red Sea. Once complete, the 100-capacity Emerald Azzurra will offer guests a luxury small ship cruising experience.
It has certainly been a challenging 12 months, but with confidence growing and some exceptional offers in the market, now is the time to engage with customers and look forward to the bookings coming in.
By Ben Bouldin, vice president EMEA, Royal Caribbean International
At Royal Caribbean we’re on a path of continuous innovation. We’ve been on this path since day one and, over the subsequent 51 years, we’ve pioneered countless ‘firsts’, which have seen the cruise industry evolve into the experience our guests know and love today. It’s 2020, however – the year the cruise industry largely stood still – that will be marked as one of the most transformative years to date.
The time and effort our industry has dedicated over the past year to ensure a safe return is going to see our resilient industry come back stronger and safer than ever before. Last year our fiercely competitive industry really came together, vowing never to compete when it comes to health and safety. Royal Caribbean Group formed the Health Sail Panel in partnership with Norwegian Cruise Lines Ltd, which saw world leading epidemiological experts develop a comprehensive set of open source recommendations for both the cruise industry and beyond, as we navigate the new world in which we operate. The work of the Panel will benefit the industry for many years to come.
Undoubtedly, when the industry returns, technology will be at the helm. Already at the forefront of our operations, technology will see developments to both new and existing initiatives such as the Royal App and Muster 2.0 really come into their own, not only in regard to safety, but in improving the overall guest experience and eradicating any friction points that result from crowds, queues and paper. It’s thanks to technological developments that the cruise holiday will continue to become more and more seamless over the years to come.
The suffering resulting from the global pandemic continues. However, I’m optimistic for the cruise industry in 2021. While there won’t be a sudden ‘light switch’ effect with the industry kicking back into action, I expect it to gradually return to its previous strength as the months unfold. Thanks to the vaccine, increased knowledge and in-depth work with international governments, we’re on the right path and I’m hopeful that by 2022 this will be largely behind us.
The industry has a whole fleet of new hardware lined up and I’m sure we’ll see each new ship rightfully celebrated in turn when the time is right. I’m looking forward to launching Quantum-Ultra class ship, Odyssey of the Seas, in Europe next year. Technology is at the helm of our safe return, but it’s also central to everything we do; Odyssey will be a prime example of this. An exquisite ship, it will be the most technologically advanced in our fleet, with innovation central to every element of the guest experience – from the activity spaces to the entertainment venues, guests can really expect to be wowed.
One thing that’s certain is that, after a year stuck at home, everyone is desperate for a holiday. It’s likely 2021 will see guests feeling more confident travelling closer to home, rather than further afield; we have some really exciting ships and itineraries in Europe in 2021, which are going to suit our European guests perfectly. Many will also want to be reunited with and spend quality time with friends and family, once it’s safe to do so, and with a cruise to suit everyone, our industry lends itself perfectly to reunions and making up for lost time. Following a year of cancellations and foregone opportunities, a cruise can provide the ultimate holiday bucket list. Whether it’s ticking off new destinations or sharing new experiences as a family, on a cruise holiday you can really have it all.
I write this in a time of ambiguity. If last year has taught me anything, it’s that there are some things that are simply beyond our control. One thing of which I’m certain, however, is that in 2021 our Travel Partners will be more important to the cruise industry than ever before. Our guests will undoubtedly look to travel agents to guide them with their holiday choices and we will rely on their support in educating our guests on our safety measures. At Royal Caribbean International, we see the travel trade as an extension of our team. We will continue to support our travel partners and ensure they are at the forefront of everything we do.