Changing Up the Categories
It seems that Royal Caribbean is taking a page out of the Sandals’ book. Sandals and Beaches resorts have always had so many confusing room categories that it boggles the mind. It’s enough to confuse consumers and travel agents alike. In Sandals training they like to say that it’s a good thing, because it pushes confused consumers to travel agents to help pick the right room.
Now Royal Caribbean is doing the same thing. Recently they have announced that starting with 2018 sailings departing in April and later, the room categories are changing. Some of the changes are in the descriptions. Where we had interior rooms and large interior rooms, the new descriptions are interior and “spacious” interior rooms. The Promenade view and interior with virtual balcony descriptions aren’t changing. In ocean views, we have the ocean view, spacious ocean view, and the “ultra” spacious ocean view. And one change that most travel agents caught onto quickly was that panoramic ocean view rooms have now been thrown into the suite category of rooms. The assumption here is that those rooms will now be priced more inline with suite pricing than ocean view room pricing.
Where the confusion starts to set in is with the numbering (or lettering) system. For example, today there is an “N” interior category. Under the new system, depending on the ship, there will be up to five (5) categories of rooms that fall under the “N” classification but they will be ocean view rooms, no interior rooms. There will be 1N, 2N, 3N, 4N, 6N or 8N. And not all ships have all of those categories. Freedom and Voyager class ships will have 1N, 2N, 3N and 8N. However the Quantum and Oasis class ships will have 1N, 2N and 6N.
Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of time to get up to speed. Royal Caribbean is beginning to release their 2018-2019 itineraries (in stages). So over the next few weeks as these new categories become available to book, we’ll need to be up to speed in order to help clients pick the right room category.
To mitigate the confusion Royal Caribbean is holding webinars, including a Q&A on the topic with Vicki Freed on Monday, March 13th. Business Development Managers (BDMs) are also lined up and ready to answer questions and help guide travel partners though the new maze of room categories.
Why all of this re-categorization? This is only an educated guess on my part, but I think a lot of it has to do with revenue. On ships that currently have four ocean view categories, and four to six balcony categories; starting in 2018 they may have eight ocean view categories and twelve balcony categories. Translation: instead of only have four price points for ocean view rooms, they’ll have six price points. And instead of four to six price points for balconies, they’ll jump to twelve price points. My guess is that this is a way of increasing revenue without raising fares on all staterooms across the board. The more desirable the room (i.e. based on location), the higher the cruise fare.
If you find Sandals to be confusing, then hang onto your hats. This will take some getting used to for most travel partners.
Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations, she focuses on travel for 18 to 23-year-olds. Susan can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (888) 221-1209.