Helen Beck and Lakshmi Durai

Helen Beck and Lakshmi Durai

Travel Daily Middle East chats with the regional sales director at Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd and executive director – Middle East, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises & Azamara Club Cruises – ME

Travel Daily Middle East chats with the regional sales director at Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd and executive director – Middle East, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises & Azamara Club Cruises – ME

Helen Beck, regional sales director at Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd
Helen Beck, regional sales director at Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd

How has the year panned out so far for Royal Caribbean Cruises in the Middle East?

Last year has been a good year for us with a double digit percentage growth on guest numbers compared to the previous year.

Which have been the key strong performing market and emerging markets for RCCL within the region?

All markets have been performing well for us in 2013.  All GCC countries have always been our strong performing markets and we were performing reasonably well in Levant markets, this year, in spite of political situation in some parts.

Can you tell us any innovations that are planned for the Quantum of the Seas?  

The launch of Quantum of the Seas will again emphasise innovations that Royal Caribbean International brings to cruising. The Quantum class of ships will introduce more game-changing ‘firsts at sea’ such as ‘RipCord by iFly’ a skydiving experience; ‘North Star’ – an adventure that transports guests more than 100 metres in the air; transformative venues including ‘SeaPlex’, the largest indoor sports and entertainment complex at sea with bumper cars, roller skating and more along with Two70° – a multi-level room onboard Quantum class.

The space offers a 270-degree panoramic sea views through floor-to-ceiling glass walls spanning almost three decks at the stern of the ship.  Two70° seamlessly fuses entertainment and technology to create a transformative journey from day to night.  Every show at Two70° is multidimensional and immerses the audience through a combination of live performers, including aerialists, as well as video and digital scenery.

We are also introducing our largest and most advanced staterooms ever.  These new, larger staterooms enable innovation in design, storage and comfort including the industry’s first virtual balconies. Every stateroom on Quantum of the Seas will have a view. The first details of our entertainment offering have just been revealed and guests onboard  Quantum of the Seas will enjoy MAMMA MIA. This will be featured when she sails from the New York area in November 2014.

Lakshmi Durai, executive director – Middle East, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises & Azamara Club Cruises – ME
Lakshmi Durai, executive director – Middle East, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises & Azamara Club Cruises – ME

Royal Caribbean recently announced enhancements to its booking system, how would these enhancement benefit agents?  

We have recently gone live with our newly enhanced reservations tool which has been developed with the key objectives. This is basically streamlining cruise reservation process for both our guests and travel partners. The process will also instantly deliver and automatically apply promotions for which agents qualify.

We have reduced booking process to four simple steps and based on different qualifiers such as guest’s loyalty membership number or date of birth, the reservation system presents the best available rate to the agent.  This includes promotions relevant to that guest and which the travel partner can then use to finalise the sale.

What are the unique features once can look forward to in the revitalized ‘Vision of the Seas’ cruise ship?  

The recent revitalisation of Vision of the Seas is part of our ‘Royal Advantage’ programme. The retro-fitting features will be found on our Oasis class ships across the rest of our fleet.  Onboard Vision of the Seas, guests will now find a brand new outdoor movie screen on the pool deck and the Royal Babies & Tots nursery for our youngest guests aged from six to 36 months.  Our guests will be able to enjoy dining experiences in Izumi – our Asian / sushi restaurant, in Giovanni’s Table – a traditional Italian trattoria and Chops Grille, our signature steakhouse.

We’ve incorporated new technology with digital signage and wayfinders, flat screen televisions in all staterooms and pervasive Wifi.  One of the new entertainment features is the Centrum Experience – a new high-flying entertainment experience where aerialists glide through vertical space of the transformed five-storey Centrum.

The Adventure of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas will undergo refurbishments, could you provide more details?

As these refurbishments take place later next year, details are still being finalized. However, public areas on both ships will be refreshed throughout as is usual when going into drydock.

Could you elaborate on the virtual balconies which are to be featured in the refurbished ‘Navigator of the Seas’ in February 2014?  

The 81 staterooms offer innovative design concept that brings virtual balconies to interior staterooms offering expansive real-time views of the ocean and exciting destinations. Each stateroom with a Virtual Balcony will have a high-definition screen that spans nearly floor to ceiling, providing real-time views of the ocean and destinations. Also being added to Navigator of the Seas are our new Panoramic View Staterooms – 24 staterooms offering floor-to-ceiling wrap around panoramic windows from 76 inches high by 103 to 321 inches wide (depending on the category selected).

The new ship will have a NorthStar observation capsule
The new ship will feature the innovative NorthStar observation capsule

What are the key activities or developments to be undertaken for the Middle East region in 2014?

We have a combined fleet of 34 ships sailing from different destinations and calling in to more than 270 ports worldwide. Our strong presence in the market has increased awareness of cruising as one of the best holiday options to the Middle Eastern vacationer.

Our guests look for variety and hassle free holidays. In addition to our usual international brochure, we also launched recently our dual language (English / Arabic) brochure highlighting Summer 2014 itineraries that are interesting for Middle Eastern vacationers.

What are your expectations in terms of passenger numbers from this region for 2014?

With our world’s largest Oasis class ships sailing in the Caribbean, attractive itinerary options onboard Freedom and Voyager class ships in Europe, sailings in Asia, Alaska and many more attractive destinations and with our extensive Royal advantage program, we look forward for another successful year in 2014.

What key trends could you list down for the region in the coming year with regards to cruises?

The first trend is in the direction of new and innovative cruise ships. Our newest class of ships, the Quantum-class, debuts with an exciting lineup of offerings at sea. The new Quantum class will debut in fall 2014 with Quantum of the Seas, followed by her sister-ship Anthem of the Seas in spring 2015.  Quantum ships span 16 decks, encompass 167,800 gross registered tons, carry 4,180 guests at double occupancy and feature 2,090 staterooms

Our Oasis-class ships, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas are the largest and most revolutionary cruise ships worldwide and are proving to be very popular. In addition to the signature Oasis-class seven neighborhood design concept, the distinct personality of Oasis class ships takes center stage with debut of new entertainment performances and dining venues, additional retail options and innovative technology, to name a few. Royal Caribbean’s ‘Adventure Ocean’ children’s program features an new lineup of activities, games and adventures rooted in the popular DreamWorks Animation movies.

Our ‘Royal Advantage’ is an on-going revitalisation program where most innovative Oasis Class features are brought into our other class of ships. The Royal Advantage is our commitment for more than 40 years to deliver personalized service, worldwide destinations and the most innovative ships at sea.

A general trend is that guests want to have a hassle-free, bespoke vacation and entertainment choices in addition to the best value for money package deals.

Gary Marshall
Written by:
Gary Marshall
Posted On:
Posted In:
Interviews