“A cruise is an amazing experience when you are onboard and also a convenient way to see different destinations. There is massive room for growth in Ireland for everyone – it’s great that there is so much competition and so much investment in cruising,” Martin McKinnon, Sales Director UK & Ireland, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, said in an interview with ITTN’s News, Features & Social Media Editor, Neil Steedman.
What is new from Royal Caribbean International for the Irish market this year?
For 2020 we are hugely excited about a couple of big things. Firstly, our newly amplified Allure of the Seas, one of our Oasis-class ships, debuts in Barcelona for the summer season. She has a two-month dry dock and we are spending $165 million on her. Our Irish guests always like our bigger ship classes, particularly Oasis class, so Allure is going to create major excitement in the market here in Ireland, for consumers and the trade.
The second big thing that is going extremely well with our Irish guests is Perfect Day at CocoCay, our private island in the Bahamas. They really love going there and almost all of our 15 ships in the Caribbean now stop at Perfect Day, including the bigger ships such as Oasis in New York as well as Symphony and Harmony sailing out of Florida.
The way we are set up with Ireland is that 45% of our business goes to the Mediterranean and 40% to the Caribbean, with the remaining 15% spread around the world. Our focus on the trade here is to support them and to help inspire their shoppers to see the great holidays available in those places.
What promotions are coming up – for the public and trade?
We currently have our Wave campaign with a strong family-focused message, including multi-generational families, and our over-arching campaign is ‘buy one cruise, get one 60% off’ – and within that we also have children sail for €99. Overlaying that we have a series of flash sales for onboard spends – and all that is ongoing until the end of March.
For frontline travel agents there is also something really exciting at the moment with a fantastic opportunity to win one of 20 places on our Perfect Week trip-of-a-lifetime with three Royal Caribbean International experiences in one: a four-day sailing on Navigator of the Seas, stopping in Perfect Day at CocoCay, a VIP ship visit to Anthem of the Seas in New York, and city breaks in New York and Miami.
How do you see the overall ocean cruise market growing in Ireland – and RCI’s share of it?
CLIA figures show that cruising is growing steadily, from 10%-20% every year, and certainly our view is that there is massive headroom left. Depending on what figures you look at, there are 45,000 – 50,000 cruise guests out of Ireland, so when compared with other markets it is still relatively small, but particularly given the airlift out of Ireland – to the Mediterranean, to New York and to the Caribbean – the links are there.
It is hard to put a figure on it, but we see years and years of growth ahead and our share of that is a strong one. We are very proud to have been in this market for quite a long time so we have got really good, loyal guest lists and having just spent a few days on the road it’s great to see how passionate the trade here is about our brand. While we have loyal guests, a third of our bookings from Ireland are new to cruise and, particularly because we have islands and a wide variety of onboard activities, ours is a great product to attract people from a beach holiday or other land-based holiday.
As far as I am concerned, everyone can grow and it’s great that there is so much competition and so much investment in cruising.
We promote ourselves as a holiday company, we don’t talk about ourselves as a cruise line, because we provide a great holiday in a way that someone may not have experienced before. We try to convey the message that a cruise is an amazing experience when you are onboard and also a convenient way to see different destinations – and, particularly given our product and everything that we have on our ships, we are focusing on families, who love the product and tend to come back for more.