MIAMI — Royal Caribbean Group CEO Richard Fain, in his latest video message to the cruise company’s travel advisor partners, delivers some straight talk – as is his style – on the cruise experience right now, forward bookings and more.
Gesturing to his backyard, Fain says in the video: “Greetings to all our travel advisor partners, and friends. As you can see, I’m still working from home. But I will soon be back in the office as one more indication that we are emerging from this horrible period.”
First Fain sums up the past few months: “What a roller coaster ride it’s been. Every day seems to bring dramatic news of one kind of another. Some positive, some negative, but it’s always dramatic,” said Fain with wry emphasis and the knowing tone of someone who, like the rest of us, has endured the past 18 months of pandemic times.
Fain goes on the recap 2021 so far: “We responded at the beginning of the year when the pandemic was at its height. Then we got excited when we started reopening in June, and bookings matched our euphoria. Then came the delta variant, which has caused such turmoil and hurt our bookings so much.
“I’m not an epidemiologist, but I do get to listen to a lot of experts. And my personal view is that while some things will get better, and some things will get worse, overall, the trajectory remains firmly on course,” he said.
Fain captures the mood of the travel industry, and people around the world, when he says: “Damn this delta variant.” It’s far more contagious than the unmutated virus, he notes. “And it’s caused a third wave just when we all thought that the disease is on his last legs.” Fortunately, he adds, the vaccines are working, even if just to lessen the impact of the delta variant.
Fain then talks bookings: “Our focus is therefore on 2022, not the remaining months of 2021. Obviously, we don’t like giving up on any period. But we are more determined to do well in ’22 and ’23. Even if that means accepting short-term hits this year.”
Royal Caribbean Group has two overriding goals right now, says Fain.
“Firstly, key to our success in 2022 will be Wave period. And to have a good Wave, we need to show that we go into Wave with a solid and stable operation. That means by December we want stability. None of the confusion and endless changes that we have been experiencing, and that are so frustrating to you and your clients.
“By the end of this year, we want virtually all of our ships to be operating and operating seamlessly in our core markets. Your clients need to know that we’re back. And they need to know that the turmoil of the last 18 months is behind us.
“The second goal was, we wanted to show, in a tangible way, how safe and healthy cruising is. We’re doing that today. Not by theory, not by prediction. But by actual operations. Already two-thirds of our capacity is operating. We’ve carried over half a million guests, and only had 141 cases amongst those 500,000 people. As we’ve always said, there will be cases aboard the ship, just as there are cases on shore. But because of our protocols, there haven’t been any big outbreaks. And the few cases we have seen have been managed quickly and effectively. By the end of November we will have carried over a million guests. And that’s just one cruise company… albeit, the best cruise company. Sorry, I couldn’t resist,” he said with a smile.
“Isolated cases, yes. Big outbreaks, no,” he added. “The signs are very encouraging. Bookings for 2022 demonstrate that there is pent-up demand. We’re about to return to our offices, which have remained empty for over a year and a half.”
After initial hesitancy from 20% of its employees, Royal Caribbean Group now has a 96% vaccination rate for its workforce, he adds.
“So, we are psyched. Already two-thirds of our capacity is operating. Our protocols are working and protecting our guests and crew. Our guests are thrilled to be back and their satisfaction rates are at historical highs. We will shortly be returning to our offices where, like our ships, just about everyone is vaccinated. And we’re stepping up our marketing to prepare for Wave period.
“In sum, we’re excited about the way forward and confident that the darkest days are behind us. As we set our sights on a strong Wave and a powerful 2022. Getting there is still going to take fortitude, but we all need to take the steps now to prepare.
And incorporating his signature sign-off for this series of pandemic-era videos, Fain adds: “Of course, I need to remind you that preparing for 2022 also means washing your hands and getting your vaccine!”