“We try to optimize the fleet for each brand – to deliver on the brand promise and on the sourcing mix of passengers,” said Chris Allen, vice president of deployment and itinerary planning at Royal Caribbean Cruises, where he and Marc Miller, director of deployment and itinerary planning, are responsible for the Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises brands.
“When we look at the formula, it is to maximize the profitability of each individual ship and the fleet in total – to find the best deployment for each class of ship – taking the revenue into account, what guests are willing to pay for each cruise, onboard revenue, tour revenue – and the key variable expenses associated with an itinerary, such as fuel,” Allen said.
“We try to take a holistic approach in our planning and look at everything – that is on the revenue side – another factor is guest satisfaction. Certainly, in the long term, if the guests are not satisfied with the places we go to, they will not come back. So the itinerary experience must fit the brand pillar and must be where guests want to go to.”
Other factors that play into the planning are the port infrastructure, port, government and environmental regulations, safety and security, according to Allen and Miller.
“The port infrastructure will only become more important in coming years. When you look at the orderbook – almost everything is big ships, and I think that trend will continue, and the ports will have a challenge trying to accommodate them. Today your average ship size is at least 4,000 guests,” said Miller.
“First is the question of whether a big ship can tie up, and then comes the question of whether the destination’s infrastructure can accommodate 4,000 people on tours at the standards we have now or possibly elevate those standards from what they are now.”
Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean is planning several years out. In the last two years it has accelerated Celebrity’s opening of new itineraries and rolled out 2018 last December. Royal Caribbean International is expected to announce its 2017-2018 season this month (March 2016).
At the same time, both Allen and Miller note that the world is shrinking. The planning is becoming more complex every year as the variables they face on a global level continue to increase and continue to change.
The fleets consist of 22 ships for Royal Caribbean (with three more being introduced this year) and 10 for Celebrity, calling at more than 500 destinations between the two brands, and Allen and Miller told Cruise Industry News in an exclusive interview that they continue to look for new destinations, working with partners around the world to see what new places they can go to.
“We are always looking at new ports and combination of ports. There are different ways of approaching ports we have called at before, such as staying overnight,” said Allen.