RCI’s Innovations Keep Coming With Royal Suite Class

by Vanessa Lee

Lisa Connell

Onboard Quantum of the Seas

Coastal kitchen

I met with Lisa Connell, Director of Sales for Canada for Royal Caribbean recently – catching up on what’s new with this exciting and constantly innovating cruise brand. Lisa and I go back a long way having worked together at Paramount Holidays in the 80’s… (I seem to go back a long way with a lot of people in fact – the joys of being in the industry for more than 36 years now)!

And of course there’s a lot happening with Royal these days; ships arriving, ships being re-energized, Royal Suite Class coming on line in May and entertainment news with Dreamworks.

Royal is a true global cruise line sourcing guests from around the world but still reliant on the North American market to deliver the majority of guests. We in Canada have to keep up our end of the bargain and support Lisa and her sales team – now dubbed Strategic Account Managers. New hires Shane Buksh and Colin Price in the West join Susan Carvalho (hi my love), Stephanie McDonald, Eric St. Pierre and Mary Ogaki in National Accounts to get the word out across Canada about all the news at Royal.

I am sailing on Anthem of the Seas in early November and will enjoy comparing this ship to her older sister – Quantum of the Seas. I waxed lyrically about Quantum last year as I truly felt she was one of the most beautiful and amazing big ships I had ever sailed. I continue to applaud all that Royal does, as frankly they are highly deserving of praise. They forever mix things up, surprise us and pull off those surprises and innovations superbly. They are top in class in this space for sure (although I do think Norwegian is becoming a very close 2 nd).

As mentioned, I really like the new Royal Suite Class program; launching in May 2016 on Oasis and Allure of the Seas as well as Anthem and Quantum of the Seas and then Harmony and Ovation when they arrive. It is another “ship within a ship” moment that will assure high end and discriminating travellers a great onboard experience when choosing a Suite for their vacation.

There are 3 categories in order - Star, Sky and Sea - and each is allocated to certain accommodations. It is also ideal for families and multi-generational travel especially in those gorgeous Loft Suites.

I love the Royal Genie concept for Star Class which is Royal’s moniker for a Butler trained by the British Butler Institute. Guests will receive loads of pampering, special touches, private sun-deck moments, VIP reservations for shows and access to the California-chic Coastal Kitchen (which is lovely) for dining. They will also have access to Barefoot Beach on Labadee, Royal Caribbean’s private island call in Haiti. This will be a big hit – no doubt – and inclusions are variable by Star, Sky and Sea so check them out and then please sign me up!

Back to my conversation with Lisa, where she told me that 2015 has been a “good” year and has been “stronger” than 2014 (always nice to hear) and  European cruises have been particularly noteworthy. However, the even better news is that 2016 looks very strong and is gearing up nicely for the Canadian sales team.

The other areas that are a focus for Canada are:

  1. Groups – true affinity groups as well as Reunion Groups (family, alumni, gal pals etc)
  2. Weddings and honeymoon travel to stir up softer sailings to the Caribbean in the summer months. As we know Destination Weddings are hugely popular and there is no reason a wedding and honeymoon at sea can’t be top of mind too. There is so much to do at sea for family and friends of the happy couple – all the specialty dining options as well as the shows… and more. Something to consider rather than spending a week on a beach.

We chatted more about Groups in general and Lisa’s great quote: “A race for the space,” resonated with me. The groups programme has been somewhat revamped and now agents can hold space until 120 days before sailing and only, in some instances, with a $25 pp deposit up front. Check out their site for more detail than I can go into here. Just know that Royal wants more group biz from you and will help you to get it. They are also looking at CYOS – Create Your Own Sale – ask your sales person about that and a special request from Lisa, “Please use Choice Air and sell air and cruise together more often” – it helps retain the booking and firms up the client.

Royal Caribbean is a pioneering brand, one that never rests on its laurels and is driven to do something in a new way and make changes constantly to improve, enhance and ensure that guests, new to cruise or long time cruisers, are satisfied and that their expectations are not just met but exceeded. 

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