RCI’s VOOM: Is High Speed Internet A Legitimate Selling Point?

Cruise Week

Since the early 2000s, the largest cruise lines have been playing a game of “who can put the 
craziest thing on a ship” - a string of ice skating rinks, bowling alleys, light shows, surfing simulators and increasingly outlandish water slides. These are all meant to entice pax to get onboard, and their fundamental appeal is that they are things you can’t do at home.

Enter Royal Caribbean’s VOOM, which is bucking the trend by offering pax the ability to do exactly what they can already do in their own homes: surf the internet at high speed. The allure is subtle, but Royal firmly believes that in today’s hyper-connected age, fast internet speeds are a necessity rather than a perk.
    
“For most people, if you’re on vacation, there’s no longer any such thing as unplugging and checking back a week later to see how things have gone,” says Mark Tamis, S.V.P. Hotel Operations. “Things have become blurred. If I were on a vacation where I was disconnected, that would be less of a vacation.”
    

Tamis points out that there is an important demographic that demands internet access as well, although not necessarily to stay on top of work. “My kids are 16 and 13, and I could not take them on a vacation where we didn’t have access. It would be miserable for all of us. That’s just the way they grew up.”
    
These 2 user case scenarios represent Royal’s fundamental pitch on VOOM: The days of being able to take a vacation without worrying that you’re missing anything are long over, as are the days of “sea camp whatever” being all it takes to keep kids happy.
    
On its website Royal is touting the fact that VOOM enables vacation “sharing”: an in-progress Instagram is front and centre and Royal invites cruisers to “Surf. Stream. Share.” Tamis says that the ability to share a vacation with friends on social media is surprisingly critical to the vacation experience for modern cruisers.
    
“There’s this sense that people like to post what we call a ‘humble brag,’” he says, “letting people know where they are. Like swimming with stingrays, for example. Or #HumboldtGlacier, wherever they’re having a good time.”
       

VOOM is currently available on Quantum and Oasis-class ships, and Royal says the entire fleet will be online within a couple of years.
     
Part of the reason Royal is hyping VOOM more heavily than other new features is its perceived sustainability as a selling point. “We partner with a company called O3B and have a network of 6 satellites,” says Tamis. “Our relationship with O3B is exclusive.”
    
The emphasis is on exclusive. In other words, operating your own network of satellites is not as trivial as, say, building a bigger water slide, and Royal believes that its head start will allow it to maintain a wide lead over its competitors, who - it should be noted - do offer their own Internet connection options.
    
“It’s about making sure we continue to stay ahead of the curve. Innovation has always been part of our DNA. It just so happens that innovation now is generally about technology,” Tamis says.

The question still remains: is VOOM actually a legitimate selling point?
    
In a word, yes. It might not be enough to convince a brand loyalist to jump ship, but having fast Internet helps overcome a typical objection of those who are new-to-cruise: that being on a cruise ship can seem isolating. “Attracting people who are new-to-cruise is a big part of what we’re trying to do,” 
confirms Tamis.
    
And what about those who relish the idea of being able get away from it all? Will they be obligated to use VOOM for fear of missing out on Internet-demanding features like the Royal iQ app?
    
“There’s nothing on the ship where you have to be online to experience something or to have a better experience,” Tamis assures.
    
But more and more customers are choosing to connect, with Tamis indicating that the “majority” of them buy Internet for the whole voyage.
    
Mourn the bygone days of lounging by the pool without a care in the world if you must, but in the meantime VOOM - and the concept of connected ships in general - is a powerful selling point for millennials and other customers.





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