Turkey is back on the itinerary for two Royal Caribbean sailings in late 2019, according to the line's Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales, trade services, and support.
Royal Caribbean International made the decision after talking to its safety and security program director and deciding that it was safe to return for the two sailings. Neither sailings are on sale yet.
According to Freed, the line started thinking about going back to Turkey after not visiting any of the country’s ports in 2017 and 2018, because of conversations they had with a travel agent, Joseph Cavarra of Education Travel Service.
“Last year we had a pastor from Kansas City with a group of 650 people and when they pulled Ephesus out it was a major, major issue,” Cavarra told Travel Market Report. “The itineraries we had weren’t really geared for the Christian groups we had.” Those groups include one led by American televangelist Joel Olsteen.
The sailings will be two 12-day itineraries leaving on Oct. 30 and Nov. 12 out of Rome. Both will be on Royal’s Jewel of the Seas and will feature stops in Ephesus and in Israel, cities that “are very, very big ports for us,” and the rest of the religious travel community, Cavarra said.
According to Cavarra, none of the clients he’s working with are worried about the safety issues that initially pulled lines out of the area. “Everyone is worried about Turkey, but we would not put our pilgrimage in harm’s way,” he said.
According to Freed, Royal is aiming at fully incorporating Turkey back into the fold in 2020.
Espresso update for agents
Last week, Royal announced a new feature to its travel agent reservation system, Espresso, which will allow agents to transfer individual clients booking into larger group reservations with its three brands.
According to Freed, that decision was made “100 percent with feedback from our travel agent advisory board. They have really helped shape the direction of our company.”
Royal also recently announced a travel agent commission on future cruise credits, something Freed said was decided in order to do right by its travel partners.
“That was a decision that I made and I talked to our revenue team and said it’s just the right thing to do,” she told Travel Market Report. “I thought it was the right thing to do, this is our core distribution … at the end of the day, it’s doing the right thing. I get the travel agent world and how hard their job is. If they have to work just as hard, why should they get penalized?”
Mariner of the Seas for Millennials
When Mariner of the Seas lands in Miami later this summer, it will do so as a completely new vessel, aimed at drawing younger crowds.
“This is going to be an entirely new experience in the short cruise market,” Freed said. “It will be catering to the new-to-cruise and the Millennials.”
According to research Royal has done, one of the things that Millennials want is “great pools and nightlife,” Freed said, so Mariner is getting a complete renovation of all pool decks to make them nighttime pool areas.
“The pool decks, which typically become dark at night, are now going to be party venues with music,” she said. “They want bands and nightlight that is going to be more hip. They want cool bars, so they’re not interested in traditional cruise ship entertainment. This new product is going to be exactly that.”
Other features that Mariner will debut with include a sports bar called Playmakers and a Mexican restaurant dubbed El Loco.