Almost three years ago, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, equipped with a "very generous budget," launched a grand scale public relations campaign for its Sovereign of the Seas. The barrage of press releases, photos and phone calls to North American media reached a crescendo this month, with an arrival celebration on January 3, a preview cruise for press, and the ship's christening on January 15.

The promotion effort cost well over a million dollars, said Rich Steck, Public Relations Manager for RCCL, and consisted entirely of public relations campaigns as did the promo for the Song of America's arrival in 1982.

Last week, RCCL received 5,312 bookings on the Sovereign.

In order to publicize the Sovereign in its target regions, North America, Europe and Scandinavia, RCCL employed the services of four public relations firms: Diana Orban Associates in New York, Stuart Newman Associates in Miami, Biss Lancaster in London and Publicity A/S in Oslo.

These agencies arranged for press members in North America and abroad to visit the construction site at Chantiers de l'Atlantique in St. Nazaire, France. Over 25 North American journalists viewed the shipbuilding.

Media Blitz

Last October, RCCL and Diana Orban Associates conducted a media blitz in 30 U.S. cities. Television, radio, newspapers and magazines were given the opportunity to interview Captain Tor Stangeland; David Barter, the ship's hotel manager; and cruise director Ray Rouse. As a result, feature coverage appeared in Time magazine and newspapers in the territories they visited.

RCCL stepped up the level of promotion this month, when the Sovereign arrived in Miami. Stuart Newman Associates handled much of the arrival event.

The Miami Herald ran an advertorial insert announcing the arrival; various suppliers, including the shipyard, took out ads saying congratulations to the new ship. The arrival was also publicized on one of Miami's top popular radio stations, Wlve-FM a.k.a. "Love 94." Disk jockey Greg Budell gave away free cruises and Sovereign t-shirts.

An estimated 12,000 people attended the festivities at South Point Park and lined up along the stone jetties at the entrance to the port of Miami to witness the Sovereign's arrival on January 3. Highlights of the event included a Dixieland band concert and giveaways, including free cruises. Food and beverage concessioners donated proceeds to the University of Miami/Jacksonville Memorial Hospital Burn Center.

A 200-vessel flotilla, the "largest ever to accompany a ship's arrival in Miami" according to Steck consisted of District 8 Power Squadron boats and private yachts. Fireboats spouted red, white and blue water; and 3,000 balloons were released into the air to blanket the ship like an umbrella. The Goodyear blimp, unfortunately, arrived late.

Four helicopters and a photo boat with a tower carried photographers. Videotape and stills were fed by satellite and wire services to television networks and newspapers across the country. The Today show (NBC), Good Morning America (ABC), Cable News Network and the South Florida networks picked up the arrival.

One hundred seventy press members attended a preview cruise to nowhere on the Sovereign, January 9-11.

Big Bottle of Bubbly

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter will christen the ship with a three-foot-tall, 77-pound bottle of Taitinger champagne, according to Steck the largest champagne bottle ever, which is aptly named "Sovereign ." Glassmakers in Italy blew 10 of the megabottles, at a cost of $600-$700 each. Several of the bottles were used in christening practice; RCCL will keep one and the Carters will keep another. Steck said the bottles have been featured on the front pages of the Miami Herald and The New York Times.

The christening will be satellite-fed to the networks on Friday. The CBS Morning Show reportedly intends to air coverage.