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News Analysis: Freedom of the SeasMarch 29, 2011 By: Susan Young
Royal Caribbean International’s Freedom of the Seas is back in service with some snazzy new features after a drydock at Grand Bahama Shipyard. The ship was revitalized and updated with new dining concepts, entertainment options, children’s programming and technology advancements previously introduced onboard the new Allure of the Seas or sister ship, Oasis of the Seas.
Under the umbrella of its Royal Advantage revitalization and enhancement program, Royal Caribbean is spending $70 million to update five of its ships in 2011. Liberty of the Seas received its Oasis-class updates earlier this year and now, so has Freedom of the Seas. Radiance of the Seas and Splendour of the Seas will receive the updates in May and October, respectively. Even Oasis of the Seas, which launched in 2009, has received a few enhancements that debuted on its newer sister, Allure of the Seas.
Agents have such a wide breath of products that they’re selling so if a line makes the ships in its fleet and the onboard product more consistent, it’s easier to sell, according to Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean’s senior vice president of sales.
“Sometimes an agent is talking to a guest and talking about the Oasis-class ships, and the price point is just a bit too much of a stretch and now Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas have many of the same features,” Freed said.
Or, she said, “Many clients may be intrigued with DreamWorks [a popular onboard entertainment experience introduced on Allure of the Seas], but they don’t want to go on a ship with 5,400 other people.”
So she said those clients might appreciate having the option of selecting a different, bit smaller ship recently revitalized with many of those same bells and whistles.
In its drydock, Freedom of the Seas received enhanced Wi-Fi, interactive televisions, electronic waivers for sports activities, and electronic mustering -- as well as ticketing needed for shows that will be offered later in the summer. A new Cupcake Cupboard replaced the Clean Shave shop. Also, guests may now shop in a new BRITTO Gallery, featuring merchandise designed by pop-art icon Romero Britto.
Other additions include a new Vintages wine lounge; a new Royal Babies and Tots Nursery; enhanced digital “wayfinding” screens for guests to find their way around the ship; and new 3-D technology for viewing movies.
On the entertainment and show side, Freedom of the Seas also now has the “DreamWorks Experience” with character breakfasts and a parade, and, starting next month, the “Imaginocean! Puppet Show.”
Lisa Bauer, Royal Caribbean’s senior vice president of hotel operations, also says the outdoor video screen onboard Liberty of the Seas has been so well received by guests that it’s being deployed aboard all five ships set to be revitalized.
Radiance of the Seas enters her lengthy drydock on May 20, according to Freed. That ship will emerge after June 10 with many features already mentioned above, along with the addition of many popular dining concepts on the line’s newer vessels -- including Samba Grill, Giovanni’s Table and Rita’s Cantina, to name a few.
The same venues will be added to Splendor of the Seas in fall.
Enhanced Guest Satisfaction
Beyond having a more consistent product for agents to sell, ship revitalizations can enhance guest satisfaction, Freed stresses. Both Radiance of the Seas and Splendor of the Seas, for example, will also get the Royal Baby and Tots Nursery.
Freed says that while the latter isn’t really a revenue generating tool for the line, it does enhance the guest experience. Professional working couples who waited to have children later in life and have the financial means to have nannies at home are a good example.
That couple may book a cruise vacation and desire to have family bonding time onboard, but they want the option of reliable nursery care so they can enjoy time as a couple, Freed notes.
The line truly looks to its guests to provide the best path for any revitalizations.
“Our comment cards, which are the best gauge or barometer, say ‘I loved the DreamWorks or I loved the Broadway musical,’” says Freed. As a result of the new entertainment choices and intimate dining or lounge options like Vintages, “we’re getting higher ratings as a result,” Freed stressed.
Higher guest satisfaction can mean more repeat business for both the line and the guest’s travel agent. So, how can agents learn more about which ships are getting which updates?
Freed says the line has online Webinars and a new brochure explaining the Royal Advantage enhancements.
“It’s going to be inserted in trade publications next month,” she says.
It’s not always easy to get agents onto some ships to view the drydock enhancements -- depending on where those ships are sailing, such as in Europe. But Freed says the line works to get agents onto ships when possible.
That's going to occur, for example, with such vessels as Freedom of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas during Cruise Lines International Association’s (CLIA) cruise3sixty conference in Fort Lauderdale, FL, next month; agents have booked ship inspection tours on multiple lines at both Port Everglades and the Port of Miami.
For all the details about the Royal Advantage updates, visit www.CruisingPower.com.