Royal Caribbean recently launched its latest billion dollar cruise ship, Harmony of the Seas, in the US. The world’s biggest cruise ship joins sister ships Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas as three of the most technologically advanced vessels on the seven seas.
Royal Caribbean’s chief marketing officer, Jim Berra, told [a]listdaily that these new ships, as well as the launch of last year’s Anthem of the Seas (which includes an Xbox One gaming lounge above the bumper car attraction) have been designed to target millennials. “We’ve shifted dollars out of more traditional advertising into all forms of digital,” he said. “We’re showcasing what we have to offer to a maturing millennial market. In particular, millennials with kids is a big area of focus.”
Berra said Royal Caribbean, like the entire cruise industry, had seen a slight downward trend in attracting new-to-cruise guests on their first vacation at sea in recent years. But Royal Caribbean managed to reverse that trend this year. “We’re attracting that maturing millennial family that has been disproportionately represented,” Berra said.
The company has been using everything from ultra-high-speed internet, to virtual reality, to video games to land these new passengers. “We do have a competitive advantage with Wi-Fi connectivity with Voom and OC3,” Berra said, referring to the company’s satellite-based ultra-high-speed internet that costs $10 per day, per device. “We’re running social media happy hours with contests and programming on board that allows our guests to log on for free for a couple of hours and share their stories. We’ll do some prizing off various hashtags. We’re able to do that because we have the speed and bandwidth to allow every guest complimentary and instant access.”
Part of Royal Caribbean’s marketing effort is “full stream ahead” and Berra said the internet at sea is comparable to hotels on land, offering streaming for Netflix as well as web browsing and social media sharing with no latency. All of Royal Caribbean’s ships have Voom high-speed internet and the four newest ships have ultra-high-speed connectivity.
“Anything we develop has to work across any device the consumer brings,” Berra said, referring to the trend in which customers don’t take a vacation from their tablets and smartphones. But for those who don’t have a device with them, Royal Caribbean has created a series of tablet stations throughout its ships to look up all the activities, shore tours and entertainment.
The company is also using its investment in satellite internet to market its newest ships. The company has hand-picked 20 crew members across the fleet in various departments of the ship to serve as social ambassadors. Harmony of the Seas’ Captain Johnny is one of those social influencers.
“People are always fascinated with the captains of our ships,” Berra said. “He’s funny and relatable. It’s a great way to show people an inside look at what it’s like to live and work on board our vessels. And it’s been so popular we’re expanding the program in 2017.”
Royal Caribbean has also tapped into the growing influencer marketplace to attract new passengers as part of its marketing effort. Berra said the company worked with over 50 social media influencers this year, including Dan Moore (@danandmoore), Anika (@literallyanika), Tyson (@tysontravel), The Vons (@thevonfamily), Marisa (@missmarzipan) and Jack Morris (@doyoutravel) across Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube.
“Last year with Anthem of the Seas we did a live Periscope program with Dan Moore and High on Life as part of our ‘Come Seek Live’ program from on board the ship and port destinations,” Berra said. “This year we did a large set of influencer programs while Harmony was in Barcelona. We also did Snapchat as she sailed across the Atlantic. Rather than one large campaign running over a week, we’ve been pushing out this content over an extended period of time while Harmony was in Europe, crossing the Atlantic and in South Florida.”
Royal Caribbean has also “aggressively” used 360-degree video content created by Dan Moore on Harmony in Europe to market the ship. “We’ve seen millions of non-paid views so far across Facebook 360 and YouTube 360,” Berra said. “We’ve just scratched the surface of what we can do. The next step is to move more into virtual reality as that tech becomes more prevalent and the user base grows. It’s a great way to experience ships and activities and also ports of call. Until you cross the gangway you have lots of questions as a first-time cruiser. The killer app for getting people excited about cruising is video, and video will become more 360 moving forward.”
Video games have also become a way of life for the majority of passengers around the globe, including the older audience that Royal Caribbean still markets to as a “mass market brand.” “Video game areas like the Anthem’s Xbox gaming area and arcades are very important,” Berra said. “They won’t be number one in marketing but it needs to be part of our offering because it’s part of people’s daily ritual. We’ve done that with our newer ships, and it doesn’t require a massive footprint so we can expand it to other ships. And where things are heading with augmented and virtual reality will be very important.”
Berra also sees eSports potential at sea, and the company has a partnership with Microsoft and Xbox. “I do expect us to push harder into gaming,” Berra said. “We have a partnership with Madison Square Garden and they’re hosting eSports events. There are a couple of different ways to reach that market, and it’s untapped. We have the connectivity and the idea of having live internet-based gaming anywhere in the world is a cool area for us to explore.”