Travel advisors have something new to talk about with clients who are interested in Royal Caribbean International, with the formal opening of the $250 million Perfect Day at CocoCay. The private Bahamian island, which now includes a 135-foot-tall waterslide tower, the largest pool in the Caribbean and a helium balloon that takes observers 400 feet in the air, is a key feature in Royal's plan to upgrade its three- and four-day cruises from Miami and Port Canaveral -- along with putting the Voyager-class ships Mariner and Navigator of the Seas on the routes. Cruise editor Tom Stieghorst spoke with Vicki Freed, Royal's senior vice president of sales, trade support and services, about the project.
Q: Short cruises have always been about attracting new cruisers. Will adding Perfect Day and bigger, better ships make a difference?
A: This is just going to layer on more new-to-cruise than we are already doing. Year over year we do [attract] more new-to-cruise on our brand. You'll see a lot more group business. There should be a lot more bachelorette parties, a lot more bachelor parties. You'll see a lot of family groups. Groups are really one of the best ways to attract new-to-cruise. People join in because they have a common interest in wanting to be together.
Q: Some agents wonder why they should sell short cruises, because the price points are lower than for longer voyages.
A: If they're in the game for more than the short term, if this is a career, of course they sell the short cruises, because when people come back, they're thrilled, they're happy. Every successful agency out there relies on repeat and referral. So when they introduce cruising to somebody, they come back, they repeat, they add people, they refer people -- all good news. So the agent may make a little bit less money, but they may never have gotten that customer to begin with.
You really have to look at it as the opportunity to expand your reach. If you're in it for the long term, you're going to make a lifetime of commissions on a lifetime of vacations for that consumer.
Q: Are the Mariner and Navigator more attractive from a commissions standpoint than their predecessors?
A: With the better hardware, you have more balcony staterooms, and you have more suites, so the myth that 'I can't earn a lot of commission [on a short cruise],' it kind of goes out the window. Because as you sell up the pyramid, as you sell the balconies and the suite class, you do earn a lot more commission. The other day I was looking at a Symphony of the Seas cruise; it was $4,000 for three nights in a suite.
Q: There are a lot of amenities that cost extra at Perfect Day, like waterpark admission, and agents don't get a commission. Some agents might say, "What's in it for me?"
A: Do travel partners earn commission on the different shore excursions at the Perfect Day at CocoCay? No, they don't. But they are earning a commission when they are selling a cruise on so many other components than if they just plopped somebody down in a hotel or a resort. They're not earning commission at a resort on the food, the entertainment, the activities; and because we have bundled all of that into the cruise price, they are earning commission on a bigger part of the vacation spend. We have a huge investment in Perfect Day at CocoCay. We've invested over $250 million. As much as we want to pay commission on every opportunity we can to travel partners, it's just not feasible on this particular product.
Q: The short-cruise market has drawn heavily from Florida. Do you expect with better ships and Perfect Day as enhancements, you will get more fly-cruise business?
A: Absolutely. The Mariner is moving up to Port Canaveral. It's going to be her permanent home. People might do a couple of days at the [theme] parks; they need to recover from the parks, so they come aboard our ship. You can combine it with a three- or four-day cruise to make it an entire experience. But the fly market is definitely a market that we're after and is attractive to us.