Royal Caribbean International recently announced its partnership with O3b, whose equatorial satellite network will mean passengers on the Oasis of the Seas next summer will be able to go online at speeds normally available only on land. Cruise editor Kate Rice talked with Adam Goldstein, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, about keeping customers connected as well as about social media and the promise it holds for cruise line marketing.
Q: Next year, your passengers should be able to go online at record-breaking speeds when they're on your ships. What does this mean for the onboard experience?
A: Over the last 10 years, we've moved away from the concept of a vacation as a chance to disconnect. It used to be that you could get on a cruise ship and get away from it all. Now, the idea of disconnecting is unfathomable. So having shipwide WiFi and providing better connection speeds is crucial to our ability to offer the kind of vacation our customers want from us.
Q: How will this fit in with your social media marketing?
A: Social media has become an overwhelming force in our society today. It is perfect for us. We are in an environment that overhwhelmingly satisfies guests. They want to share their experience with others who are not on the ship with them. They want to do that with video, pictures and postcards, things that take bandwidth that is hard for us to provide now.
Social media is not only a crucial part of our marketing, it's how people want to talk about us. And we want to foster that because it simply reinforces what an incredible vacation we offer. Anything that brings our experience to life is helpful to us.
Q: Why is it so important to bring the cruise experience to life?
A: As Dan Hanrahan [president and CEO of sister line Celebrity Cruises] says, we are not in a business where you can hand out samples on a street corner. It is a still a product people can't easily envision.
I was interviewed by a woman whose parents love to cruise, whose associates love to cruise. She has kids, she is the perfect cruise customer. But she still hasn't cruised because she thinks she'll get seasick. She simply has no comprehension of what a cruise is like, even though she is surrounded by people who love it.
Social media gives us an opportunity with people like her because of its visuals and the way it reinforces what an enjoyable experience cruising is.
Q: How does social media fit into your marketing strategy?
A: We now budget for Facebook, banner ads, paid search and other ways of getting into the online environment.
Although the television audience is fragmenting, if you want to get to a lot of people, the networks are still the best means of doing that. We have to figure out how to combine a broad-based television ad approach with more and more ways of participating in the online environment and social media, while still using direct mail and email.
Q: What kind of impact can social media have?
A: I was at lunch with Arianna Huffington, and we were talking about that. The Huffington Post now gets 40 million monthly unique visitors. Most of their traffic is from Twitter and Facebook. What we provide is so exciting and dynamic and so phenomenal that the people experiencing it are definitely going to want to talk about it. So if we can get our content to deliver that message and then have our customers reinforce it, that will be very powerful.
For cruise news, follow Kate Rice on Twitter @krtravelweekly.