|Vacation.com’s John Lovell: Royal Caribbean excelled at communicating.|
The May 26 fire that damaged Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas and the subsequent cancellation of six scheduled departures generated much buzz among cruisers and agents. Amid the expected dissatifcation among some consumers was positive feedback on how the line handled the situation.
“We have had a few clients call to see if their sailings were affected,” said Mike King, owner of Travel Leaders, Fredericksburg, VA. “All those affected were rebooked and everyone has had nothing but praise for the way Royal Caribbean has handled the situation.”
King said his agency books Baltimore cruises often, given the geographic locale. He said the agency also books clients regularly on this particular ship and he has “no concerns about continuing to book the Grandeur of the Seas.”
Not surprisingly, some guests on the most recently cancelled cruises weren’t satisfied. At the line’s official @RoyalCaribPR Twitter account, one tweeter complained about getting a 25 percent versus 50 percent credit. Another wrote: “I feel like we were let down some here. Yeah full refund due to unable to cruise. Then 25% towards next cruise. Wow hurt me.” And another: “Just want to cry, so much for my first cruise and 25% you can keep it.”
What’s the impact been on bookings for agents? Michelle Fee, co-founder and CEO of Cruise Planners lauded Royal Caribbean’s proactiveness in getting out in front on the issue as very helpful.
In response to Travel Agent’s request, “I ran ‘sales’ for the last five days and was pleasantly surprised that we were up year over year, and our Royal Caribbean sales were double,” said Fee. She noted that Quantum of the Seas also opened bookings at the right time.
We asked John Lovell, president of Vacation.com if the industry is effectively “learning” from previous incidents? “Certainly Royal Caribbean and the crew aboard the Grandeur of the Seas demonstrated that they had a plan in place, followed procedures, and did everything possible to ensure the personal safety of all passengers onboard,” Lovell said.
Agents said President Adam Goldstein’s appearance onboard the Grandeur of the Seas in Freeport was a plus, as was the decision to put up photos of company officials inspecting the damage. Royal Caribbean also quickly arranged for air charters to Baltimore. For 25 guests who did not want to take flights, it arranged a high-speed ferry ride to Fort Lauderdale and Amtrak tickets back to Baltimore.
Perhaps the most stunning “plus” for the line was its effective use of Twitter, showing that the new social environment can help sway public opinion. Royal Caribbean got out in front of the situation—not only putting out regular updates, but even photos of the damage—adding a level of transparency to the situation.
“Where Royal Caribbean excelled was in communicating what the situation was and how it was being handled,” said Lovell.
Elaine Goad of Travel Leaders in Tyler, TX, says the line’s quick, calm handling of the situation “has resulted in customers and agents still holding Royal Caribbean in high regard.”
The Grandeur of the Seas is expected to go back into service on July 12.