Royal Caribbean’s Brilliant Hurricane Irma Response
by Bruce Parkinson
Enchantment of the Seas
With the monstrous Hurricane Irma bearing down on Miami, Royal Caribbean had a lot of decisions to make. There were cruises to cancel, itineraries to adjust and hardware to protect.
But there was more. The Miami area doesn’t just represent a hugely important port for the line, it’s also home to the company’s headquarters and hundreds of staff.
After cancelling an Enchantment of the Seas sailing due to the approaching storm, Royal Caribbean had the brilliant idea of using the ship to carry local employees and their loved ones to calm waters and safety, with food, water and power aplenty.
"We knew many of our South Florida employees would need a safe place to ride out the storm," Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez told USA TODAY. "It was just the right thing to do."
The line also opened the ship to pax from its previous sailing who had nowhere to go.
So instead of waiting in fear for Irma’s impact, some 1,500 Royal Caribbean employees and their dependents headed out to sea, with free accommodations, food and entertainment.
We’re betting there was much fun to be had on the unplanned journey. While employees no doubt worried about the storm’s impact on their homes and possessions, the important thing was that they were safe, fed and watered. They were even able to bring their pets aboard.
“I'm on board Enchantment with our management team,” Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley told Seatrade Cruise News. “It's a big like Noah's Ark with dogs and cats. It's incredible. We're having a great experience.”
Even though it wasn’t planned that way, as an exercise in building employee loyalty the Enchantment escape cruise will be hard to top.
But that wasn’t the end of Royal Caribbean’s good works in Irma’s wake.
Early in the week Majesty of the Seas took off to St. Thomas with relief supplies for the island and nearby St. John, and to pick up people stranded there. Adventure of the Seas travelled from San Juan to badly hit St. Maarten to provide provisions and collect stranded travellers. Empress of the Seas stood ready in the Gulf of Mexico to provide assistance to Key West, Havana or Tampa, wherever it was needed most.
Cruise lines are frequently the subject of criticism for any number of reasons, from environmental impact to their role in over-tourism. Their commitment and contributions to the ports they visit is sometimes called into question.
On this occasion, Royal Caribbean -- and Carnival and Norwegian as we’ve reported on in the past week – truly stepped up to the plate and supported their staff, guests and the people of the ports they serve. Doing the right thing is a costly effort, but a wise one too, and kudos are richly deserved.
Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief
An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years.