Cruise ship interview - Allure of the Seas - Royal Caribbean - Lisa Bauer, Senior Vice President
A CONVERSATION WITH LISA BAUER.
SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT
ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL
Richard H. Wagner
As Senior Vice President for Hotel Operations, Lisa Bauer is part of
Royal Caribbean International's senior management team. She is in
charge of most of the things that make up a guest's cruise experience - -
entertainment, dining, shopping and accommodations - - across the RCI
fleet. I had the opportunity to speak with her during Allure of the Seas'
Allure and her sister ship, Oasis of the Seas, are the world's largest
ships. While RCI is proud of this fact, it was not the objective in
building these ships. "We all sat down and said here are the
possibilities; here is what we would like to do to create this basically
unparalleled experience. As we started saying 'this is what we would
like to do with dining; this is what we would like to do with
entertainment,' the ship kept getting larger and larger. The intent was
never to make the ships the size they are but when we started getting
excited about the possibilities - - the Aqua Theater and the carousel - -
the ships ended up the size they did because of all of the guest
experiences that we wanted to put onboard. "
"It was really about how do we create experiences that never have
existed before. We thought: 'what will we do that is different?' You
look at the Aqua Theater, it has never been done on a ship; adding a
carousel; adding a zip line on a ship.... The fact that there are now 26
different dining options.... It was about the variety and the choice
versus the size."
The aim was to raise people's level of expectation as to what a cruise
experience could be. "That was certainly what we hoped to do. It was
a transformative jump really. We have elevated [the cruise experience]
to where we don't think it can really be rivaled at least any time soon by
us or any one else."
Even though Oasis of the Seas met with critical and public acclaim
when it when into service in late 2009, RCI did not stop the creative
process. "One of the things that we really wanted to do was to give
each ship its own personality just as between Freedom of the Seas and
Liberty of the Seas. So we really worked hard on what elements could
we add onto Allure that would distinguish her."
As a result, Allure premiered in December 2010 with new features.
This included adding new dining venues including a Brazilian
steakhouse, a Mexican restaurant and a hot dog stand on the ship's
Boardwalk. With regard to entertainment, Allure was given a different
set of shows including a version of Chicago: The Musical instead of the
version of Hairspray that is featured on Oasis. Allure also debuted
RCI's new relationships with such well-known brands as Starbucks,
Guess and Dreamworks Animation.
RCI guests also were a source of improvements. "We read every
single comment card that comes in, all the suggestions, all the requests
and things like that. So on Oasis we got some feedback on the location
of the electrical outlets and as a result of that we moved them up on this
ship. We added some extra shelves. So a lot of your feedback went
into the changes."
Together Oasis and Allure require over 12,000 guests per week to sail
at full capacity. However, the international awareness the ships have
achieved is of benefit here. "On any given week, somewhere between
65 and 70 percent of the guests are from North America, the rest are
globally sourced. So we are not having to fill them just from the local
markets and that makes a big difference."
Furthermore, the ships are helping to expand the cruise market. "What
surprises me is how many first time cruisers we have. I am hoping that
by what we have done with these ships, we are introducing people to
cruising for whom it was never in their consideration set. Then they go
home and tell friends and family."
Public interest in the ships .not only means that it is easier to attract
passengers but that RCI can charge more for a cruise on Allure or Oasis
than could be charged for a cruise on another ship following the same
itinerary. "The product that we have created has such demand that that
drives the pricing. This is what the guests are saying they are willing to
pay for it."
"Because these ships do command a premium, we make sure value for
the price paid is there. For example, we do not charge for the zip line;
we do not charge for any of the Dreamworks experience - - the 3D
movies, the character meals. We added another free food outlet on the
Boardwalk. We are working very, very hard to ensure that we include
as much as possible in the experience to begin with."
There are some parts of the experience, however, for which there is an
extra charge such as the specialty restaurants, the spa and the
Starbucks. The reason there is an extra charge for these things has to
do with the notion that the cost of these features should be borne by the
people who use them rather than by everyone on the ship. "If we had to
include everything that was onboard, the ticket price would go up and
everybody would be paying for what some people want to do. One of
the things that we hold very true to is if you want a cheeseburger, you
can go to the Windjammer and get one for free; you want a specialty
one, you can go to Johnny Rockets. If you want a soft serve ice cream
cone, you can get them free at the pool deck; if you want to buy one,
the option is there. Like the steak in the dining room, we offer a very
nice steak but if you want to go to Chops, you can. For guests who
want to spend more there are those options but it is people's choice to
do that. You can get an experience that is comparable that is included
in the ticket price. We try to stay very, very true to that."
The Pre-existing fleet.
While the level of experience being provided on Oasis and Allure is
placing pressure on other cruise lines to enhance their offerings, it also
places pressure on RCI to upgrade its pre-existing fleet. "Because
[Oasis and Allure] are doing so well, it is giving us additional funding
to go back and take a lot of the great attributes that we have put on
these ships and start to roll them back across the fleet. Freedom and
Liberty for example, are getting so many of the great elements of this
ship - - the nursery, the Cupcake Cupboard, the digital signage, the
WiFi, the outdoor movie screens, the Dreamworks experience. Liberty
is getting Saturday Night Fever as a production show. Freedom is
getting the Britto Gallery. Obviously, I cannot create Central Park on
those ships but we can take things that the guests have really liked and
try and make them brand icons rather than just Oasis/Allure icons."
These upgrades will not be limited to RCI's mega-cruise ships of the
Freedom and Voyager classes but will include the line's medium size
and smaller ships. "We are trying to add as many of the elements as we
can. So, for example, Radiance of the Seas, when she goes into
drydock and Splendor of the Seas, when she goes into drydock, are
getting a number of the key things that create a more consistent brand
In addition, RCI is depending upon its people to help ensure brand
consistency. "If you are a crew member in the dining room, we have the
same expectations of you if you are on Vision of the Seas or on Oasis.
It is the same standards of personalized service no matter what position
you have. What makes our brand consistent is our people and that is
what I hear from our guests. It is the consistent Gold Anchor service."
RCI will also be making some improvements to its pre-existing fleet
that are not on Oasis or Allure. "We have been very intrigued with
what NCL has done with the studios [on Norwegian Epic]. So as we
start to go about revitalizing the ships in the fleet, we are looking for
opportunities to add some single rooms. It won't be in large quantities
but when we do go and look at the ships it is something we are
Oasis and Allure will also affect the deployment of the pre-existing
fleet. Take Liberty of the Seas as an example. For the last few years,
that ship has been sailing out of Miami primarily on itineraries that are
similar to the ones now being done by Oasis and Allure. Rather than
have her compete with the new ships, RCI will "send her to Europe for
the summer. That is fantastic because then we introduce that great
product to Europe and even more people will experience it."
When she returns from Europe, RCI will use her for short cruises out
of Florida "which hopefully will get a lot of incentive groups. [Also]
people who are not willing to commit to a week to try cruising might try
a four day on an amazing ship like Liberty. It grows the category, it
grows the cruise market."
What about the rumors that Liberty may be coming to New York to do
the itineraries now being done by Explorer of the Seas? "We have not
made any changes beyond the Spring of 2012. We are still chatting.
Right now the focus is on putting her into Europe and coming back and
doing a 5-5-4 schedule."
Throughout the last decade, RCI has been in an almost constant
state of building and launching new ships. However, no new ships are
now on order. "We are always looking at what the next thing will be
but right now we are concentrating all of our time and our capital
dollars in taking some of the best things that we have introduced on
Oasis and Allure and rolling them back through the fleet. So in 2011,
the big thing that we will be doing is the renovations on Freedom,
Liberty, Radiance and Splendor. That will keep us busy through next
year for sure. We are always looking at what is going on out there but
as of right now the focus is on trying to bring some of the new things
back to the other ships."
And as for Oasis and Allure, will they spend all their time in the
Caribbean? "When we took delivery of Voyager of the Seas back in
1999, we said that we could not imagine that Voyager would ever leave
South Florida. In 2011, four of the five Voyager class ships will be in
Europe as will two of the three Freedom class ships. So for the very,
very foreseeable future, Oasis and Allure will remain in the Caribbean.
But beyond the foreseeable future, never say never because the ships
go where there is demand for them. "
Allure of the Seas
Freedom of the Seas
Liberty of the Seas
Radiance of the Seas