The biggest challenge cruise lines face in 1986 will be to overcome the problems created by the recent terrorist acts in the Mediterranean, according to Richard Revnes, president of Royal Cruise Line. As a result, "lines are going to have to develop new itineraries in areas that passengers will feel comfortable traveling in," Revnes said.

To overcome the immediate challenges, RCL has completely revamped its 1986 program, replacing all but three of its Mediterranean sailings with cruises in the Orient; Alaska; Canada/New England/Nova Scotia; Australia/New Zealand; and the Panama Canal.

This is the first time the line has offered cruises to these destinations, and the first time it is featuring seven-day sailings. It is also the first time the line is offering cruises from New York.

For RCL, these "firsts" represent the line's entrance into the Eastern markets, and a shift in marketing strategy.

"Geographically, we are shifting much of our marketing efforts to the east," Revnes said. "This is the first time that agents in New York and Canada will see our ships, and we have had to develop programs that will introduce them to Royal Cruise Line. We also are allocating a lot more space to our East Coast passengers."

By adding seven-day cruises to its regular nine- to 12-day schedules, RCL has opened up other new markets as well.

"People who didn't have the time or money for our longer cruises, will be able to sail with us now, and we will be devoting more time to them," Revnes said.

Industry Discounting Inevitable

Revnes reported that the spring and summer cruises are selling well, and that the Alaska sailings already are heavily booked. Royal is not offering any discounts, but Revnes said he believes that the general discounting trend "is inevitable, as long as there are more berths than bodies."

"People never even look at the published price," he said. "Even though our prices are lower than some of the other lines' reduced rates, many passengers won't see this because they are only interested in getting a discount."

Nevertheless, when RCL publishes a price, they "stick to it," Revnes said. However, he noted that the line does offers discounts to groups. RCL also refers potential clients to agencies where they can join a group to qualify for the reduced rate.