Royal Caribbean International will begin to require agents to submit client email addresses in order to complete bookings, citing the need to reach guests in emergencies.

Royal has already been soliciting addresses voluntarily when agents contact its call centers, said Juan Silva, director of trade e-marketing and distribution. It will add a field in automated bookings for the information this month.

Agents will not be able to submit final payment on booked cruises until the email address is added to the booking, he said, though they will have the option of providing their own email addresses if they affirm that their clients don’t have an email account and supply cellphone contact information instead.

Silva said the email addresses will only be used if Royal needs to contact guests in last-minute situations in which the agent is not available to contact clients on Royal’s behalf.

“We’re not going to use this emergency information for anything besides emergencies,” he said. “That was the deal.”

Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales, trade support and service, said the need for contact data was made apparent in late January when a burst water pipe ruined dozens of cabins on the Serenade of the Seas as it awaited departure in New Orleans.

The incident occurred on a Saturday, and Royal was not able to contact some people until they arrived at the terminal for their Sunday departure, Freed said.

“We could have stopped those people from flying to New Orleans,” Freed said.

Freed acknowledged that some agents aren’t too thrilled about giving up personal contact information that could be used to bypass the agent in communications.

“We know there are agents that, for whatever reason, don’t trust the supplier,” she said.

Requiring agents to divulge client email addresses appears to be unusual. Officials at Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises all said they do not require it, although some seek email data voluntarily.

Silva said feedback about the change was generally positive at a Miami session to train agents on Royal’s new Espresso booking engine. “There was no concern about how this was going to be used,” he said.

Royal Caribbean’s Juan Silva training agents on the Espresso booking engine in Davie, Fla.
Royal Caribbean’s Juan Silva training agents on the Espresso booking engine in Davie, Fla. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

Some agents at an Espresso training session in Davie, Fla., were concerned but tried to see the upside of giving out client data. “If they’re truly only using it for emergencies, then you have to convince your client they’ll be happy that [Royal] has it,” said Ronni Rothstein, of Cruise Planners in Davie.

Another agent in the office, Alexandra Zamora, said her main issue was staying in the communications loop on anything that is sent to her client.

Page Barker, an agent at Online Vacation Center in Fort Lauderdale, said she was fine with the change. She said clients often give their email to suppliers anyway when booking shore excursions.

The change coincides with Royal’s March 29 introduction of Espresso, the replacement for Cruise Match that brings increased functionality to Royal’s automated booking.

About 100 agents attended the four-hour training session in Davie, which will be repeated in five other cities over the coming weeks. Agents were especially excited about the interactive deck plans in Espresso, which are much larger than in Cruise Match.

Barker also said she liked Espresso’s utility on mobile technology and tablets, which is better than other res systems, she said.

“The interface is beautiful,” added Kat Jastrjembskaia of Aurora Cruises & Travel in Port St. Lucie, Fla. She said she is waiting for a 2.0 version to roll out this summer that will allow for automated booking of suites.

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