CruiseWorld Coverage

CEO conversations: RCCL's Fain on designing ships for the future

Travel Weekly editor in chief Arnie Weissmann and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. chairman and CEO Richard Fain.
Travel Weekly editor in chief Arnie Weissmann and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. chairman and CEO Richard Fain. Photo Credit: Creative Focus

FORT LAUDERDALE -- To illustrate the high cost of changing cruise ships in the shipyard after they've already been designed, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. chairman and CEO Richard Fain told an audience at CruiseWorld that one yard owner has his own private yacht.

Its name is Change Orders, Fain said.

The anecdote underscores the high stakes involved in designing ships not just for the next year's use but for decades to come.

"When we build these ships we're building them for 30-plus-year lives," Fain said.

He said RCCL's Innovation Lab, with its highly sophisticated projection simulators, helps the design teams envision and perfect technology for the future and to imagine what guests will need far ahead of time.

"We don't use 2019 technology to design our ships," he said. "We're using 2025 technology. We put a lot of effort into staying ahead of the curve."

Fain spoke on the second day of CruiseWorld, during a CEO Conversation session moderated by Travel Weekly editor in chief Arnie Weissmann.

On another topic, Fain said Silversea Cruises was distinguished from other luxury cruise providers by its personality. "I think what we're really looking for is to surprise and delight our guests," he said.

Last year, RCCL acquired a two-thirds interest in Silversea from the Lefebvre family of Monaco and launched a product upgrade program for the line, called Invictus. One pillar of the program is to raise the food offering onboard even higher than it already is. "It's always the [small] touches, particularly at the luxury level," Fain said.

Asked about the influence on his thinking by RCCL board member Tom Pritzker, whose family developed the Hyatt hotel chain, Fain said he's learned a lot from all of his board members, including Pritzker.

"They have made a huge move into China as have we. And we learn from each other," Fain said.

Fain also updated the group on RCCL's sustainability goals and said the hardest one to meet has been a pledge to buy seafood from sustainable sources. Two other 2020 goals -- sustainable destinations and carbon emissions reductions -- have already been met, but the fish sourcing remains behind pace.

"That one is actually proving to be more difficult," Fain said. "This [is] one we're going to have to fight hard for every last inch.

"To me that means we've set aggressive enough goals," he added.

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