Royal Caribbean's Back to Back CruisesDecember 8, 2011 By: Susan Young Travel Agent
|The Rising Tide Bar onboard Oasis of the Seas.|
The biggest complaint Royal Caribbean International gets when guests on the 225,000-ton Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas disembark is that “we didn’t have time to do it all,” says Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean’s senior vice president of sales. With DreamWorks character experiences, ziplining, alternative dining in a slew of restaurants, a carousel ride, creative aqua shows, a full-scale Broadway show, ice skating rink, rock climbing walls and even a bar that rises between decks, guests who board the Oasis-class ships often disembark having missed doing something they wanted to do.
What’s the solution? In small but growing numbers, some clients now buy back-to-back cruises on one of the Oasis-class ships or, alternatively, a cruise on Oasis of the Seas, departing on a Saturday from Port Everglades, FL, and a cruise on Allure of the Seas, departing on the following Sunday from the same port, with one night at a Fort Lauderdale area hotel sandwiched between.
Certainly, back-to-back cruises have always been purchased by veteran cruisers, often retirees who have the time and money to take a long vacation. But in a recent Cruise Planners promotion designed for back-to-back bookings on Oasis-class vessels, small multigenerational family groups were among the most interested, according to Vicky Garcia, senior vice president, sales and marketing, Cruise Planners.
While Garcia acknowledges that the marketplace isn’t huge for such voyages, she says it’s an absolute opportunity for agencies moving forward. Michael Consoli, a Cruise Planners agency owner in the Atlanta area, has firsthand experience with booking Oasis-Allure back-to-backs. He has booked several clients on back-to-back sailings; that include consecutive trips on the same Oasis-class ship and, alternatively a two-ship vacation on those huge vessels.
“I think it’s the allure of all the things these ships have to offer and the differences they offer as well,” says Consoli, who says the voyages are particularly appealing to Royal Caribbean fans. “They have two different Broadway shows, and they have a couple of different restaurants.” For example, Allure of the Seas is now presenting Chicago, based on the original Broadway production, along with Hairspray, another original, full show on Oasis of the Seas.
|The Allure of the Seas passengers explore the port of Falmouth, Jamaica.|
For alternative dining, Oasis of the Seas’ Boardwalk area has Seafood Shack, while Allure of the Seas’ same area is Rita’s Cantina. One ship’s Boardwalk has a donut shop, the other a “Dog House,” a complimentary venue offering hot dogs and bratwursts.
Even the upscale 150 Central Park West on both vessels has different cuisine based on its chef’s diverse approaches. Allure of the Seas’ Maureen “Molly” Brandt is a young chef de cuisine selected to bring a fresh, new approach; her multicourse tasting menus aren’t your typical cruise line cuisine. On Oasis of the Seas, Michael Schwartz, a James Beard award-winning chef, has just introduced new menus.
Consoli says the family he put on Oasis-Allure trip was a three-generational family with young kids. One of the big draws for his clients was the Adventure Ocean kids’ club, which he describes as “one of the strongest” afloat in terms of family appeal.
“People recognize that the ships are the destination, and for people who have already sailed all over the Caribbean, these ships give them something else to do besides getting off, going ashore and taking shore trips,” adds Consoli. It gives small family groups more relaxing time—without the hurry of doing every single activity the first week.
But if clients want to see more ports, that’s doable as well. Both vessels operate alternating eastern and western Caribbean seven-night itineraries. The western itinerary from Port Everglades, FL, has port calls at Labadee, Haiti; Falmouth, Jamaica; and Cozumel, Mexico. The ships’ alternating eastern Caribbean itinerary calls at Nassau, Bahamas; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, USVI; and Philipsburg, St. Maarten.
Those who sail on Oasis of the Seas first and then Allure of the Seas will need to spend one night on land in between. Among the activity options are Everglades airboat tours, museum hopping, beach fun or shopping at the huge Sawgrass Mills mall in Sunrise or within Fort Lauderdale’s Las Olas Boulevard area. Or, in case of families, they might just spend a day at the hotel’s pool, giving kids and adults time to recharge before getting back onboard a second Oasis-class ship.
“The seasoned cruiser is really looking for a longer experience and those ships really appeal to a seasoned cruiser,” says Consoli. So grandma and grandpa who travel with their kids and grandchildren will have plenty of together time, as well as time to relax. Yet, younger generations still have all the activities and ports that appeal. And there is not continual packing and unpacking, as there might be in a land package.
In researching this story, Travel Agent discovered a blog by a couple who said that they were among the 74 guests who booked back-to-back trips on an Oasis-class ship. Demonstrating the importance of this growing segment of cruise travel, Royal Caribbean has streamlined the process for back-to-back voyagers with special attention, activities and dining.
Guests on back-to-back Allure-Allure or Oasis-Oasis itineraries are typically booked into the same guest room for both cruises. So when the first one ends, they remain onboard until late on the morning of disembarkation.
They may have a hot breakfast in the dining room café, and if in a suite, they’ll be treated to an exclusive continental breakfast hosted by guest services or the concierge. Back-to-back cruisers also may leave their luggage and belongings in their stateroom, and then meet in a lounge at an appointed time with their documents.
The line will also handle main dining room seating requests in advance for consecutive cruisers—so they have first dibs on times over those guests boarding for the second departure. Royal Caribbean also provides a minimal amount of ship-wide public announcements to maintain a relaxing atmosphere; it limits those to departure lounges and in-stateroom TV programming.
Consoli says the line shepherds guests to U.S. Customs and Immigration, and the clearance takes only about 20 minutes. Once the travelers come back onboard, “Royal Caribbean does a special luncheon for back-to-back cruisers,” notes Consoli. It makes them feel special, he says. He was escorting a group on Allure of the Seas on one sailing, and back-to-back clients he had booked on the previous cruise corralled him when he boarded. “They couldn’t stop talking about that luncheon,” he quips.
Another Perk: Back-to-back cruise bookings not only double the cruise fun for clients, but also can double the commission for agents.