This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2016 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed
Overseeing international sales, marketing and commercial operations for a leading global cruise line takes drive, focus and ambition – and it’s a challenge that Gavin Smith relishes. “At Royal Caribbean, we pride ourselves on challenging the norm,” he says. “Whether that’s introducing a 10-storey slide onboard the world’s largest cruise ship or expanding VOOM – the fastest internet at sea – across our entire fleet, we are always looking to raise the bar. This is how we continue to redefine cruise holidays while growing the overall cruise market not only in the UK and Ireland, but around the world.”
Smith is managing director of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and was recently appointed senior vice president of international. The role sees him taking responsibility for the Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises brands in markets including Singapore, Europe, EMEA IRs, Latin America, the Caribbean and Australasia at a time when the organisation is expanding its international fleet to reach new audiences. In addition to this year’s launches of Ovation of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas to serve key markets, new Oasis-class ships are planned for 2018 and 2021, and further Quantum-class vessels will be added in 2019 and 2020.
“The cruise industry in the UK is very healthy – there are approximately 1.7 million cruisers already – however there is still a huge proportion of holidaymakers who have not cruised before,” says Smith. “The launch of ships like Ovation of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas enables us to reach out to a new audience and attract a new generation of holidaymakers. With both of these launches, we were able to offer short taster cruises from Southampton, which provided those who are new to cruise with a great opportunity to experience their first cruise holiday.”
“Harmony of the Seas really is in a class of her own, combining the best features of our Oasis- and Quantum-class ships,” Smith adds. “She has achieved immediate success at opening up the prospect of a cruise holiday to an entirely new audience, competing directly with land-based stays. Asia remains a priority within our business and with the arrival of Ovation of the Seas in June, Royal Caribbean now has the largest and most modern fleet in the region. We’ve made some changes to the food, entertainment and retail offering onboard to tailor it to the local market, while still offering the experience and features that guests have come to expect on a Royal Caribbean cruise holiday.”
Onboard entertainment is key to the Royal Caribbean guest experience, and the operator continues to innovate with a combination of traditional and high-tech attractions. “Our main objective is to offer our guests an extraordinary holiday experience and the range of world-class entertainment available onboard plays a crucial role within this,” says Smith. “We’ve really pushed the envelope to offer some truly spectacular productions and entertainment. A key example is the recent debut of the award-winning Broadway musical Grease onboard Harmony of the Seas and Independence of the Seas. All our Quantum-class ships have Two70, a multi-level entertainment space with 270-degree panoramic sea views from the aft of the ship. The combination of the views and new age technology along with brilliant, highly trained live performers, means our team has been able to create stunningly visual, first-of-their-kind shows. We also offer more intimate shows including high-diving aerial performances in our Aquatheatre, comedy, magic acts and live music acts.”
Investment in the guest experience has resulted in Royal Caribbean’s newest luxury offering, Royal Suite Class, onboard most of its Oasis- and Quantum-class ships. Premium features include complimentary VOOM, complimentary speciality dining, an ultimate beverage package, inclusive gratuities, preferred seating at select onboard venues, luxury cabin amenities, and a Royal Genie – a British Butler Institute-trained butler who enables guests staying in a Loft Suite or higher category to enjoy a cruise experience that is unique to their tastes. “Our Royal Genies are a very popular service driven by demand from our guests for highly personalised service that can tailor a cruise experience to their specific needs,” explains Smith. “The Royal Genie is available to create one-of-a-kind experiences both onboard and in port, based on guests’ personal style and preferences, including customised shore excursions, handcrafted cocktails made in-suite and restaurant and show reservations.”
Onshore experiences are also evolving with a continued focus on customers’ views. “Cruise travellers are constantly looking for a way to experience a local and authentic stay when visiting a new destination,” says Smith. “This is certainly something that our guests are telling us, hence the introduction of our Multi-Day Adventures programme, which is designed to offer holidaymakers a selection of immersive experiences in the Caribbean and across Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. These adventures include fully guided tours of the destinations’ most iconic and inspiring places, dining, accommodations and transportation, with every detail taken care of so guests can simply enjoy the adventure.”
Looking ahead, Royal Caribbean is poised to build on its successes, and Smith reveals ambitious plans for the UK and European markets over the next two years. “The time is coming for Europe to move into a growth phase again and the UK will play a very dominant role in this,” he says. “Fly-cruise to Europe is big, and it’s only going to increase. We are continually increasing our UK market share while growing sales in the region, and launches like Harmony of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas solidify us as the cruise line of choice with consumers.
“To continue growing our brand, we’re focused on coordinating the efforts of each of our European divisions to grow across the entire region, with a strategy that will maximise our lift into key ports – mainly Southampton, Barcelona and Rome,” Smith adds. “This will ensure that we’re working together to strengthen our proposition in the UK and Europe and allow us to offer a wider range of holiday options to current guests and future customers.”