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Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean employee arrested for burglarizing customers homes


Bethsaida Sandoval, a Royal Caribbean vacation planner in the Miami, Florida office, was arrested yesterday on 24 counts of burglary and one count of racketeering.  She allegedly broke into homes of customers that were on a Royal Caribbean cruise and along with her husband, would go around in her black SUV to these homes when they knew no one was home.

"She and her husband, John Lopez, later broke into nearly two dozen homes and took off with flat-screen televisions and other expensive items, the report said."

It goes without saying that this is a terrible crime and if she is found guilty in court, then I hope she receives the time in jail that she will deserve for not only breaking the law but betraying the trust of so many Royal Caribbean fans.

Weddings on a cruise a rising trend


Destination weddings, or weddings that take place somewhere other than home, have always been an intriguing option for couples looking to tie the knot but according to a recent report by, weddings on cruise ships have increased in popularity by 10% in the past few years because of affordability, the convenience of having your wedding and honeymoon in one place, and the exotic locations you can have your wedding held.

Valery Rene, manager of on-board revenue for Royal Caribbean says that they handle "about 1,000 weddings a year and can meet many other special requests.”  Certainly it's hard to argue with the price as the average cruise wedding ceremony and reception with Royal Caribbean costs about $10,000 for a 100-person event, excluding the cruise costs and airfare for sailing guests. Considering the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is now between $21,000 and $24,000, that is a real bargain.

For those looking to get hitched on their next cruise, the basic wedding package on Royal Caribbean starts at about $2,000 and includes three hours of planning with a consultant, priority check-in, non-denominational official, ceremony, recorded music, bridal bouquet, marriage certificate, photographer (but not photos; they’re purchased separately) and more.

We help the couple decide whether they would like a shipboard or shoreside wedding and then choose which destination and ship that works for them and their budget,” says Rene. “We often do weddings that cost more than $20,000 and a recent lavish wedding we did was well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. There were about 180 sailing guests.”

Given all that $10,000 gets you, it's hard to go wrong with that option and it's hard for your wedding guests to argue with "forcing" them to go on a cruise.

Royal Caribbean a great investment


For all you financial mavens out there, there's good some good news.  It turns out that while we all enjoy our cruises aboard Royal Caribbean, it's actually a good company to invest in (beyond the money you're already giving them for your next cruise!).  SmartTrend ranked Royal Caribbean (RCL) as the best investment in the top five companies in the Hotels, Resorts & Cruise Lines industry as measured by relative performance.

  • Royal Caribbean Cruises (NYSE:RCL) ranks first with a gain of 6.5%
  • Wyndham Worldwide (NYSE:WYN) ranks second with a gain of 5.31%
  • Home Inns & Hotels Management (NASDAQ:HMIN) ranks third with a gain of 4.95%.
  • Carnival (NYSE:CCL) follows with a gain of 4.67%
  • Gaylord Entertainment (NYSE:GET) rounds out the top five with a gain of 4.55%.
The news gets better as they also ranked Royal Caribbean in the top 5 stocks in the Hotels, Resorts & Cruise Lines industry as measured by the potential gains between the current stock price and the projected average analyst target
  • Great Wolf Resorts (NASDAQ:WOLF) has a potential upside of 121.2% based on a current price of $2.26 and an average consensus analyst price target of $5.
  • Red Lion Hotels (NYSE:RLH) has a potential upside of 40.4% based on a current price of $6.41 and an average consensus analyst price target of $9.
  • Gaylord Entertainment (NYSE:GET) has a potential upside of 35.7% based on a current price of $24.37 and an average consensus analyst price target of $33.06.
  • Royal Caribbean Cruises (NYSE:RCL) has a potential upside of 35.7% based on a current price of $28.52 and an average consensus analyst price target of $38.69.
  • Morgans Hotel (NASDAQ:MHGC) has a potential upside of 29.1% based on a current price of $7.02 and an average consensus analyst price target of $9.06.
If you were not already aware, being a Royal Caribbean stockholder does get you a discount on cruises so there's another good reason to buy stock in Royal Caribbean.  Of course, please don't rely on this blog for investment advice, we're just passing along the info (we also cheated our way through algebra)!

The fight for families


There's been a slew of articles all over the interwebs all about the Royal Caribbean and Dreamworks alliance and it seems everyone has an opinion on it.  MSNBC posted an article about the fight for families cruise lines are now engaging in with Royal Caribbean and Dreamworks, Norwegian Cruise Line and Nickelodean and Disney all vying for families to choose their ships.  The premise is that these alliances are hoping the kids will influence their parents to choose a cruise line, an idea we first posted about last week.

Anyone who doesn't think that the Royal Caribbean deal is about competing with Disney has their head in the sand.  Is Royal Caribbean looking to go head-to-head with Disney in terms of characters? Maybe not.  But what Royal Caribbean is trying to do is not cede the entire family cruise with young children demographic to Disney.  An under reported benefit of the Dreamworks deal is that Royal Caribbean also gets the rights to show the Dreamworks film library on board its ships.  That's a big bonus for kids who will be able to watch Shrek or Kung Fu Panda ad nauseum in their staterooms.

I know there's a lot of backlash from cruisers who are concerned their next cruise will be filled with character based entertainment that will ruin their cruise.  If you consider what Disney does on their ships the crux of character integration on a cruise ship, on Disney ships, you really have to go out of your way to see a character, much less interact with one.  You can be in the pool, or on the sun deck or at dinner and never see one.  The character entertainment on Disney is very compartmentalized and I imagine Royal Caribbean will have a similar model as well. 

How much of an impact this alliance will have remains to be seen but this deal shouldn't be vilified or feared.  Rather, it looks to be (on paper) a good deal for both sides and hopefully something that will fatten Royal Caribbean's bottom line, which in turn helps us all.

Royal Caribbean ditches cruise documents for eDoc


It's become a tradition before your cruise to get that packet of cruise documents in the mail that you will need for embarkation onto the ship.  It's a traditional part of the cruise planning process that's about to change completely.  Back in March 2010, Royal Caribbean announced they were doing away with the paper based cruise documents in favor of an e-ticket, that they've called "eDoc".

Royal Caribbean Director of Sales and Marketing Services Angela Stephen describes the eDoc as a "customized mini-website, pre-cruise planner, get-excited-about-your-cruise, and brag-to-your-friends-and-family-what-an-incredible-vacation-you-are-about-to-take” type of document.   The eDoc is basically a better means of marketing all that Royal Caribbean offers (read: activities that cost extra) to the cruiser who may not have been aware of it.  Given that the majority of cruises never visit cruise planning sites like this or Cruise Critic, they are unaware of many aspects of cruising until they got on board the ship.  The eDoc seems to be an attempt to educate guests about what is available on the ship before they board the ship so that they can book ahead of time.

Click here to preview what a sample eDoc looks like

For those that miss the old paper documents, you can order them for $35 per person, although Stephen mentions only 5% prefer the printed version (more like only 5% are willing to shell out the money for it, as opposed to expressing an opinion on the matter).  

What do you think of the eDoc idea?  Do you like it? Do you prefer the old way?  Share your thoughts!

Royal Caribbean joins other cruise lines in adding toys to older ships

These days it seems all the focus is on the newest generation of mega cruise ships, such as Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, that Royal Caribbean and other lines are rolling out of the shipyards.  A recent article by the Orlando Sentinel shows that when older ships go in for rehabs, they are getting more than their carpets and upholstery cleaned and updated, cruise lines are investing more money in the big ticket item amenities to keep them as viable competitors to their own bigger and more glamorous ships.
One ship that is used as an example is Voyager of the Seas, a ship that was launched more than 10 years ago in 1999 and was the first ship in Royal Caribbean's fleet to feature a rock wall.  The rock wall was so popular that it was subsequently installed on all the other ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet.
Carl-Gustaf Rotkirch, chairman and CEO of Grand Bahama Shipyard, which has done much of the refurbishing of these older ships notes that these updates are integral in keeping older ships relevant,, "Quite a few novelty features have been included on the new ships, like champagne bars, Johnny Rocket, surf machines . . . and the old ships suddenly start to look very old because they don't have those features."
It's funny how the cruise line can have a perfectly great ship but the newer ships debut and you can feel like in a way that by going on the older ones, it's the cruise line equivalent of driving a green '72 Dodge around town.  These older ships are still wonderful vessels to vacation on, but they can be a little blurred behind the glitz of what's newer and prettier.  This is how the auto industry keeps consumers wanting to buy new cars when their older cars are still perfectly viable.  Cruise lines are adding fun things like giant movie screens and other upgrades to to keep the older ships still relevant and intriguing to consumers.

Why Shrek isn't as important as George Washington


Earlier today, Royal Caribbean and Dreamworks announced their "strategic alliance" together to bring select characters from the Dreamworks film library to Royal Caribbean ships.  The obvious conclusion many have made from the deal is that the move is to counter Disney's character driven ships along with Norwegian Cruise Lines' addition of Nickelodean characters to their ship.  The idea seems great and obviously a push to convince families to sail on Royal Caribbean, but I think there's more here than just the characters and Shrek and his pals are merely the icing on a cake that has been baking for a while.

To the average observer, it seems like the Dreamworks deal with Royal Caribbean is a grand plan to add characters to the ships and get families to book with Royal Caribbean instead of other ships.  That makes sense....if all the cruise line prices were the same.  Considering that the Norwegian deal with Nickelodean was signed less than a year ago and in the press conference Royal Caribbean mentioned the deal with Dreamworks had been in discussion for longer than that, the move looks more like an attempt to counter Disney.  After all, Disney is the leader among children branding and what kid doesn't want to be on a ship with Mickey, Minnie, Donald and friends?

There's just one little problem for parents who want to take their kids on a Disney ship. Price! Disney cruises are almost always more expensive than a typical Royal Caribbean cruise of equal length.  Disney justifies the higher price by calling it "the Disney difference", where their premium branding commands a higher price tag.  If you're planning the next family cruise, it's hard to convince the kids that a cruise on Royal Caribbean is a better deal when the kids just care that the Disney ship has lots of characters and other fun related activities.  

With the Dreamworks deal, it gives Royal Caribbean some collateral to work with in the ever competitive task of marketing to kids.  Now, they can flaunt characters from Shrek, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda, films that have resonated with this generation of youth, and so when parents have to plan their next cruise, it's a far easier sell to kids with these contemporary characters and the price difference between Disney and Royal Caribbean should be big enough for most to look to Royal Caribbean.

The alliance has a lot of hype going with it as Royal Caribbean is proud of the deal, but I really see the deal as being that final piece in the puzzle that they needed to get families to choose Royal Caribbean over other lines that have traditionally done well to attract the family demographic.  If now you have the kids begging their parents to go on the ship that Shrek is on, I think it's a far easier sell for families to book it, especially given the price difference.  Disney's prices were decent when times were great, before the great recession.  Today, it's a different financial landscape and if you can save a few hundred dollars, it's well worth it and now, families don't have to sacrifice the things that kids love too.

Why we go Royal


It's always interesting to look back to the reasons why you become loyal to one brand over another.  Sometimes it's inherited, such as a car brand or cereal your parents bought when you were growing up so you simply followed the family tradition.  When it comes to which cruise line we choose, being fans of Royal Caribbean makes the choice a little more interesting to figure out why we "go Royal" when we choose our cruise vacation.

Above all else, I fell like Royal Caribbean offers a balance in nearly every aspect of the business.  Are there cruise lines that are cheaper? Yes.  Are there cruise lines that offer more? Yes.  But why do we end up with Royal Caribbean?  I think it goes to balance.  The cost of what we pay for what we go is the best balance in terms of value for the dollar.  Royal Caribbean cruises tend to be competitively priced but at the same time, the product we get doesn't make me feel like I've taken the cheap road.  Given the price I pay and what I get for it, I feel like there's that perfect balance of value.  I feel like the product (the ships, service, etc) are of great quality while the price is something I'm comfortable paying.  Even the brand new Oasis of the Seas, which carries with it a higher price tag for novelty, isn't really that bad a price when you consider the product you get.  

Beyond just what you pay, Royal Caribbean offers that balance of activities, both on board the ship and at its ports.  I can definitely tell that with the last few classes of ships to debut (Voyager, Independence and Oasis), there's been a focus on building ships that just aren't floating hotels.  They continuously are adding more entertainment, such as shows, physical activities, and more.  With the recent announcement of the Dreamworks deal, it's further proof that Royal Caribbean is not resting on its laurels but rather, trying to innovate in a highly competitive industry and as a consumer, I can definitely see that the fine folks behind the scenes are actively working on improving things.

When you finish any vacation, there's definitely a difference between thinking "that was a good vacation" and "that was a good vacation. I can't wait to go back again!" and I definitely think those of us who call ourselves Royal Caribbean fans fall into the latter category.  We have great times on board the ships and even in the middle of a vacation we're on, we're already thinking about how we can book our next vacation back on a Royal Caribbean ship.  The only way that sort of thought pattern occurs is when that balance of product is just right and clearly Royal Caribbean  has left a lot of cruisers thinking the very same thing, "let's go again!". 

Shrek and other Dreamworks characters coming to Royal Caribbean ships


Royal Caribbean announced today a strategic alliance with Dreamworks Animation studios to provide the Dreamworks characters such as Shrek, onboard select Royal Caribbean ships.   Characters from Dreamworks Animation's most popular feature films will be featured, including the films – "Shrek," "Madagascar," "Kung Fu Panda" and "How to Train Your Dragon".

The new characters will first appear on the soon-to-be-launched Allure of the Seas, which debuts in December 2010.  Following Allure, Oasis of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas will receive characters on board their ships as well.

The move comes as an answer to the Disney Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line that feature their own assortment of characters for guests to meet with during their vacation.  As the number two cruise line in the world, Royal Caribbean felt a need to add their own assortment of characters for their guests to meet.

Throughout the year, characters including Shrek, Fiona and Puss In Boots from Shrek; Alex, Marty and the Penguins of Madagascar; Po of Kung Fu Panda and Hiccup of How to Train Your Dragon will appear on board the ships at select times.  Activities that the characters will participate in include parades, special events, special character meals andphoto meet-n-greets.  Characters also will appear in an AquaTheater show on Allure of the Seas, and in an ice skating show on the ship.

There will be no additional cost to guests to experience any of these character activities.


The move by Royal Caribbean to bring characters on their ships is interesting, although not completely unexpected.  Disney introduced the idea of having characters on their ships and once Norwegian brought the Nickelodean characters, it only made sense for Royal Caribbean to make a move to counter that.  Obviously this announcement will resonate most with families although the Shrek characters especially seem to resonate beyond kids.

Dreamworks characters rumored to be coming to Royal Caribbean


According to a tweet by Stitchkingdom, the characters from DreamWorks Animation will be appearing as characters to meet aboard Royal Caribbean ships.  This could be the announcement promised at 11am eastern today by Royal Caribbean.  In a few hours, we will know more!

Update: USA Today is confirming the rumor.  Characters will first arrive on Allure of the Seas and then spread to Oasis of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas.  The characters will include Shrek, Fiona and Puss In Boots from Shrek; Alex, Marty and the Penguins of Madagascar; Po of Kung Fu Panda and Hiccup of How to Train Your Dragon. The characters will appear as part of exclusive special events, parades, character breakfasts and photo opportunities. Characters also will appear in an AquaTheater show on Allure of the Seas, and in an ice skating show on the ship.