Royal Caribbean Takes Island Collection Global; $900M Fleet Upgrade

Royal Caribbean President and CEO Michael Bayley briefed New York City media on the line's new island collection, fleet updates and more.

Royal Caribbean International has announced a host of major updates intended to dovetail with its upcoming fleet expansion, including a $900 investment in its existing fleet and a “worldwide” collection of private islands, called the Perfect Day Island Collection. Royal Caribbean President and CEO Michael Bayley briefed Travel Agent and other media on what’s planned at an event in New York City.

New Global Private Island Collection

While Royal Caribbean has long had a pair of private islands in the CaribbeanCocoCay in the Bahamas and Labadee, Haiti – the cruise line is looking to expand its private island experiences worldwide with the Perfect Day Island Collection, including in the Asia-Pacific region.

“The destination is a critical element of the vacation experience,” Bayley said, noting that the new and revamped private islands will aim to bring together “the elements of ‘thrill’ and ‘chill.’”

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Both Labadee and CocoCay will be incorporated into the collection, with CocoCay receiving a $200 million investment to transform it into PerfectDay at CocoCay. The project will add a new Thrill Waterpark with 13 water slides, including Daredevil’s Peak, billed as the tallest water slide in North America, as well as the largest wave pool in the Caribbean and a kid-friendly obstacle course pool. The Oasis Lagoon will provide a more relaxing pool experience with a swim-up bar and in-pool loungers, and it will be the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean, Royal Caribbean said. An Up, Up and Away helium balloon experience will provide guests with a bird’s eye view of the area from 450 feet in the air, and two beaches – Chill Island and South Beach – will provide a space for relaxation and beach sports, respectively. There will also be an exclusive Coco Beach Club experience, which will have the first overwater cabanas in the Bahamas, as well as an infinity edge pool.

The CocoCay revamp is expected to roll out in phases starting this September with the completion of a new pier, with the majority of the new experiences open by spring 2019. The Coco Beach Club will be the last to open, in November 2019. Royal Caribbean ships departing from New York, Maryland and Florida will all call at CocoCay.

Bayley didn’t offer many details on where the private island collection would expand next, but new destinations in Asia, Australia and the Caribbean are expected to be announced at a later date. He also noted that islands in different destinations may offer slightly different takes on "the perfect day."

$900 Million Fleet Revamp

With a number of new ships on the horizon, Royal Caribbean is aiming to bring a number of the new experiences they offer to guests fleetwide with a $900 million fleet enhancement project called Royal Amplified that will revamp 10 of the cruise line’s ships in the space of four years.

“It’s about how do you give all of your guests fleetwide that same opportunity,” Mark Tamis, senior vice president, hotel operations at Royal Caribbean International, told media gathered at the event.

Tamis said that the project would start with Mariner of the Seas before moving to Independence of the Seas, as well as the Oasis-class Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas. After that, the line will expand the project to the entire Voyager class and Freedom class.

Tamis said that the updates are based on guest feedback regarding the latest features on the line’s new ships, joking that, if they combined all the comments they had received from guests, “We would have 100,000 novels worth of guest comments – and we read them all.”

Dining was a particular focus for guests, Tamis said, and as a result the line is launching a number of new dining concepts and expanding others that debuted on the line’s newer vessels. Mainstays 150 Central Park and The Chopped Grille are both in for a refresh, as well as a new bar called the Bamboo Room, which Tamis said was the product of an around-the-world tiki cocktail tasting expedition. The line will also be bringing the Music Hall from the Quantum class onto the revamped ships.

Pools will be a particular focus for the renovations, Tamis said, as will a number of other new “wow” experiences. These include Sky Pad, a virtual reality bungee trampoline experience, and “Battle for Planet Z,” a glow-in-the-dark laser tag experience that’s aimed at families.

Weekend Getaways

The renovated ships will be primarily deployed on shorter Caribbean routes, Tamis said, a move that’s aimed to appeal to time-strapped Millennial travelers. This summer Mariner of the Seas will undergo a $90 million refresh that will add Sky Pad, the laser tag, The Bamboo Room and a new Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade for sports fans, after which it will sail three- and four-night cruises from Miami.

In 2019, Navigator of the Seas will undergo a similar refresh before joining Mariner of the Seas on the short routes. Both ships will call on Perfect Day at CocoCay in 2019.

Latest on New Ships

At the event Bayley also shared a number of tidbits on Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, the Symphony of the Seas, as well as the latest on the line’s fleet expansion schedule. Symphony of the Seas, which is set to launch in Barcelona this April and spend the summer sailing the Mediterranean before heading to Miami in November, will have a number of new features, with a particular focus on families.

The ship will sail with a two-level “Ultimate Family Suite” with over-the-top features like a Lego wall and private movie theater. Bayley noted that this suite had recently sold for $85,000 for a Christmas holiday itinerary.

The Oasis-class ship will also have a revamped Boardwalk neighborhood with reimagined entertainment and a new Sugar Beach candy and ice cream shop. Other new dining experiences will include Hooked, a casual, New England-style seafood eatery, and El Loco Fresh, which will serve Tex Mex-style street food. Symphony of the Seas will also have all-new entertainment experiences, as well as laser tag, robot bartenders and the (extremely tall) Ultimate Abyss water slide.

Looking ahead, Royal Caribbean’s next ship after Symphony is the Quantum Ultra class Spectrum of the Seas. Billed as an evolution of the Quantum class, that ship will debut in 2019, focused on the China cruise market. A second Quantum Ultra ship is set to debut in 2020, with no word on a planned home market yet, followed by a fifth Oasis class ship in 2021.

In 2022 and 2024, Royal Caribbean will debut an entirely new class of ship, the Icon. Details on the new Icon class are still under wraps, although it will be powered by cleaner-burning liquefied natural gas (LNG) and fuel cells.

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