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Royal Caribbean's Vicki Freed and Juan Silva Talk Trade Programs

November 2, 2015 By: Susan Young

"Come Seek" appeals to Millennials interested in razzle-dazzle onboard activities like the iFfly (as demonstrated by Vicki Freed) and adventure options ashore. // Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean

It’s been a big year for Royal Caribbean International. The line's new reservations system, Espresso, launched in the first quarter. Last month it introduced “Come Seek,” a new integrated branding and advertising campaign. This month, the new Anthem of the Seas, a Quantum-class ship, begins sailing from Bayonne, NJ.

Travel Agent chatted with Vicki Freed, senior vice president, sales, trade support and service, and Juan Silva, director, e-distribution strategy and development - sales, about what's new and what opportunities exist for agents in building revenue before year's end. Here’s a summary of their comments. 

What's the Secret for Lines to Entice More Millennials to Book? 

Even as the cruise industry has grown on the strength of new ships and new programs, the majority of the world’s population – especially Millennials – has never cruised. Our changing demographic clearly impacts branding.

The goal with our new "Come Seek" branding/advertising initiative is to create excitement that changes the perception of traditional cruising – so that consumers think everything they’ve heard about what a cruise really is simply isn't the case.  

While Come Seek focuses much more on the destination -- and the experiences ashore -- it's also important to look at such onboard features as entertainment. Yes, we have the traditional entertainment for guests who love that, but for Millennials we also have lounges with 270-degree screens.

You wouldn't find that on another line nor even at a land-based resort. We’ve taken our entertainment to a more disruptive, edgy level. But at the same time, we don't want to alienate our existing clients so we have other options there too. 

Royal Caribbean International has debuted new "Come Seek" branding/advertising. // Photo by Susan J. Young

How Can Agents Tap Into "Come Seek"?

In the days before the campaign launched last month, thousands of travel agencies participated in Webinars. We did three in one day, for example, as we want to assure our travel partners aren't learning about the campaign after their clients know about it.  

This is definitely designed as a “disruptive” campaign that breaks through the noise. That makes it a lot more relevant to today’s consumers.

Agent comments received from our travel partner advisory meeting in our advertising agency's Boston office were really positive. We showed them the campaign and they loved it.

It's a disruptive campaign. It's not meant to show beautiful food or your typical cruise experience because people will say, 'Well, I don't remember exactly what cruise line, but that's exactly the perception I get of cruising.'

In contrast, this is supposed to be breakthrough, disruptive and very similar to the "Get Out There" campaign but a lot more relevant to today's Millennial ... and today's consumers.

Really, our goal is to break through the clutter and get first timers. It's to change the perspective of what a cruise is all about. 

Watching "The Voice," the five-second commercial came in, and it was intrusive. And then after another commercial, another five second, and so on. And then eventually came the payoff -- the 30-second commercial ran. So people are saying like, "Wait, what was that?" It kind of interrupts. 

Agents might tap into the campaign's promotional clout by sending clients a video link to a 60-second "story" the line has about Come Seek, or the 30-second actual commercial.

We also have posters and banners (available to partners) in our elevators in our offices. They’re all different. For example, one says “you are not a tourist.” In addition, our sales managers have received an allotment and our goal is to get them into the hands of our travel partners as soon as we can. 

For more information on the Go Seek program announcement visit or read the initial announcement on the campaign at

How Can Agents Piggyback on the Upcoming Anthem of the Seas Buzz?  

We’re planning three two-night, non-revenue cruises. They're set for November 4-6, November 6-8 and November 8-10. Agents will fly into Bayonne from all around the country. Two days is a really good way to get a sampling of what Royal Caribbean is today, because some people may not have even been on Royal Caribbean since the Song of Norway and we've grown up as a brand.

At, travel agents can access all the assets for Anthem of the Seas promotion including ship images, virtual tours, videos, and more with

We have lots of resources on the website for agents not only for promotion but also ways they can begin learning more about the ship.

Anthem of the Seas will offer both Dynamic Dining and Classic Choice, to appeal to all types of guests. // Photo by Royal Caribbean

What's Changed From Quantum to Anthem?

We’ve changed the dining. Yes, we still have Dynamic Dining, which offers total flexibility, but we are also offering Classic Choice

That was probably the biggest feedback and the biggest change between Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas. We became too innovative. We’ve learned that not everybody is ready to take that big leap forward with Dynamic Dining. 

Approximately 20-30 percent like a traditional dining experience with the same table mates and same waiter every night. So we offer rotational dining in and out of the restaurants.

So one night they know they're in Silk with their table mates and same waiter, the next night they know they're in American Icon, and another night in the Grand

But let's forget that people who want more flexibility and the experience of getting to know new people, the Dynamic Dining option is still available.    

What’s the Potential for More Group Sales?

We continue to see strong demand for groups. We're easy to do business with. We have phenomenal group meeting spaces including conference room space. We continue to attract the meetings and incentive business because of our conference rooms and because of the Wi-Fi (the fast, high-speed Voom).

People who have business meetings love our ships now because with Voom, because you can stay connected. You can do presentations and use live Internet -- fast Internet. So we continue to circle the wagons with the group business.  

Another big group market for us is multigenerational family travel, and that's because of the wide variety of accommodations we offer. So when grandma and grandma who are used to traveling on Silversea decide they want to take their children and their grandchildren on a cruise, they can be in one of our Crown Loft Suites, they can be in the concierge area and maybe they're paying for everybody. But they don't need to pay for pay for everyone to be in a suite. 

We have such a wide variety of accommodations, both from the luxury to the premium that they're able to pick what works for them. This is our sweet spot or suite spot. It's that multi-gen family market.

Another multigenerational marketing hook? We offer four-bedroom, four-bath suites (on Anthem of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas), so a family of up to 14 could actually all be living together in a big, big suite. 

In addition, with our new Royal Class Suite service including a Royal Genie. These genies aren't just Barbara Eden kind of genies, but rather very polished, attractive young men and women who have completed classwork at the British Butler Institute. So they are truly being trained to be butlers but with the flair of a royal genie -- "Your wish is our command."

Our guests who have paid a premium for the top suite want a butler. They want more all-inclusive. When you’re paying $1,000 a day per person for a suite, you expect that. And you know, they’re right.

With New Ships Launching, Any Plans to Return to West Coast Home Porting?

We always look at the West Coast. But we continue to look at the rates that the other cruise lines are getting, and we offer an experience that we can't afford to be selling at those low rates.

If when we see the rates start to bounce back, and we feel we can get paid for what we offer for our product, then we’ll be back there. But right now, unfortunately, it's a bath out there. They're selling four-day cruises at $199 per person and we’re not just talking Carnival.

We spend more on food, more on entertainment and more on our overall onboard experience [than other lines] and so we cannnot be the low-price leader out in any market.

Something most people don't realize? Every single person involved in Adventure Ocean, our supervised children’s program -- every counselor or staff member -- has a four year college degree. And the degree isn't in English literature – it’s a specialty like early childhood development, recreation or physical education. 

It shows a discipline and it shows that they accomplished something. And it's not that we think everybody has to have a college degree who works on our ships, but we feel that when you're involved with our children's program, we want very smart, educated people because parents are entrusting us with their most precious possessions, their children. 

In order for parents to have a really good vacation experience, they need to have the confidence that our counselors are going to take really good care of their kids. It costs us more to pay people to have those kinds of qualifications, so we cannot be in a market for $199. It doesn't work for our brand. 

You’ve Recently Rebranded Your Air Travel Program, Air2Sea? What's Beneficial?  

Air2Sea testing was run earlier this fall with balcony space on Allure of the Seas. // Photo of the ship's Central Park by Susan J. Young

Formerly called ChoiceAir, the Air2Sea program offers guests the lowest priced airfare on their choice of preferred airlines, plus the peace of mind of assured arrival to their ship. Clients receive round- the- clock support from Royal Caribbean’s air specialists and guests are guaranteed the lowest price.

What’s most beneficial for agents? It locks in a booking. That's the whole point behind it. When the consumer locks in that air, it's like a 98 percent chance they're going on that vacation because they now own the air.

That's good for the travel agent and good for the consumer because now they ARE going on that cruise. When the travel agent has spent all that time selling and helping that client make that buying decision, they certainly don't want the person to make a deposit and book, and then cancel three months later. 

Securing the air at the time they're securing the cruise is a good thing for everybody. It's a "stickier" booking.

In October, we actually ran an air promotion (ended October 18)  that was a test of the new air-sea program. We're able to subsidize the air. During this test we had $199 air from four cities -- San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas and Los Angeles  --- for balcony space and above on Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas.

If you tried your best, you couldn’t get air that inexpensive. We were subsidizing the air and we think air is a really important way to get people to commit.  

What's Happening on the Shore Side? 

For first timers, the reason they pick a cruise is the destination. Certainly agents who tap into the "Come Seek" campaign might increase their business. Another option is to focus heavily on the destination and experience ashore.

The line has split its shore options into seven themed buckets or categories that fit clients' specific interests. So if you're a family group, you don't have to look through thousands of shore excursions. You'll find family shore excursions like swimming with the dolphins -- things that really resonate with families. 

We also have a charitable bucket. If the client wants to give back, but doesn’t want to go for a full cruise on Fathom, but simply wants to spend one port day giving back, we have that. If clients want to do the zip lining and things that are more adventurous, we have the adventure in one bucket category. If the client wants sightseeing and want those types of experiences, they'll also find that bucket.  

It was almost consumer confusion in the way we used to present our shore excursions. You'd say, 'Oh, my goodness, there is so much to choose from, what am I going to do?' Now you just go to the actual grouping that fits you best. 

Peer reviews or peer recommendations have also become more standard on websites and those also help in showing first-hand feedback about the actual experience. This is a more streamlined way to showcase the experience and get first timers onboard.

Our new microsite -- -- also allows agents to buy the excursions on the client’s behalf. We also have a referral program where they can register a group and receive compensation when a group member books a shore excursion.  

How Can Agents Increase Revenue by Year’s End?

First, get in touch with your business strategic account manager (formerly called a bdm). We are here to help the travel agency community because at Royal Caribbean we clearly know our success is dependent upon the travel agent's success.

Let this person analyze what steps you should take to be wildly successful. We've paid more overrides this year than ever. 

Second, get as much education as you can. Things change. 

Juan Silva trains agents about Espresso earlier this year. // Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean

Third, tap into the emotional connection with your clients such as sending them a video link in an email or putting the video on your website or in a social media post. 

It’s all about the emotional of connection. A new 60-second video is available that focuses on the new Harmony of the Seas.

How Is Espresso Going?

It’s been very well received. Most agents are now using our new Espresso reservations system, which launched earlier in the year and is easy and simple to use.

That said, we’ve extended CruiseMatch (the former reservations system) through April 2016 to give agents plenty of time to learn the new system.

For a look at Espresso from Freed and Silva about new features coming in 2016, check here for a separate update.

What do you think of this $type?


About the Author

Susan Young
A veteran of 100-plus cruises, Susan J. Young, is senior contributing editor for cruises – covering ocean, river and niche cruises for Travel Agent and

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By Susan Young | November 2, 2015
We spoke recently with Vicki Freed and Juan Silva of Royal Caribbean about new programs, features and how agents can tap into promotional efforts and attract more first timers. Here's what's new at the cruise line.