Cruise & Ferry Review - Autumn/Winter 2021

8 KEYNOTE Leading the way Richard Fain tells Rebecca Gibson about the factors behind the success of Royal Caribbean Group’s momentous return to service in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic A t the end of March 2020 as people worldwide were plunged into strict lockdowns to halt the spread of the Covid-19 virus, Celebrity Cruises made history by becoming the first-ever cruise operator to take virtual delivery of a new ship. During the ceremony, executives from the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard officially handed command of Celebrity Apex to Celebrity Cruises and parent company Royal Caribbean Group via video conference. For many, the ceremony was memorable because it showcased another example of Royal Caribbean Group’s renowned innovative and pioneering spirit. For chairman and CEO Richard Fain, however, the ceremony is memorable for very different reasons. “As I do for every ship naming ceremony, I made sure that I was properly attired with a smart shirt, tie and jacket but because it was a Zoom call, I hadn’t considered what I was wearing from the waist down,” he says. “Consequently, when I stood up as they played the national anthem during the ceremony, attendees from all over the world got a good look at my shorts! It was very embarrassing and slightly took away the dignity of the occasion but that’s the reality of the world we live in now. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had such an incident on Zoom now!” Fain may have fallen foul of a virtual faux pas, but his leadership skills have been exemplary when it comes to successfully steering Royal Caribbean Group through the Covid-19 pandemic. At the time of publication, more than half of the 60 ships sailing for its three proprietary brands – Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean International and Silversea Cruises – and those it owns as part of a joint venture – TUI Cruises and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises – had successfully returned to service in various regions of the world. “We waited so long to resume our operations that it still feels surreal to finally see our ships back in service after so many months,” says Fain. “The joy and elation we felt when our first vessel resumed service was indescribable. We’ve now successfully resumed sailing on more than half of the fleet in an amazingly short period of time and we’ve safely carried more than 500,000 guests. By the end of the year, we expect to have sailed with over one million guests and we hope that 80 per cent of our ships will be operating seamlessly in all our core markets. We aim