Is Royal Caribbean Embracing International Cruise Styles?

May 22, 2008
Running rampant on the Cruise Critic message boards today are rumors related to Royal Caribbean's new "immersion" offensive. As reported by numerous members, the cruise line -- which has ships deployed virtually all over the globe -- is beginning to transform what has been a fairly standardized, American-influenced onboard experience to one that more closely reflects the regions ships visits.

Cruise Critic member Albert Ross says he received the following information from Royal Caribbean on the line's concept of "immersion": "On these particular sailings, there are a high percentage of guests who are sourced from outside of North America. They have been sold almost exclusively to guests from specific regions of the world, and many of the services and products onboard have been tailored to meet the needs of those guests. These include onboard programming, food and beverage, retail items onboard, and entertainment. Additionally, the primary language used onboard will, in some cases, be the local language."

In these cases, Albert Ross' info continues, the following cruises could be potentially be affected:

Legend of the Seas, which sails 3- to 14-night Asia itineraries, would reflect Asian culture.

Enchantment of the Seas, Vision of the Seas and Splendour of the Seas, which sail cruises to the Caribbean, Panama Canal and South America respectively, would focus on Latin American influences while in those regions.

Jewel of the Seas and Vision of the Seas are headed to Northern Europe, and Scandinavian food and entertainment could be on tap for those cruises.

The Southampton-based Independence of the Seas, with its focus on attracting Brits, would feature more than the in-cabin tea kettles that were the ship's original distinction.

This, of course, is all conjecture. Posts on the Royal Caribbean forum tell us that the cruise line is behind the changes. However, earlier today, Cruise Critic's U.K. correspondent asked folks at Royal Caribbean International U.K. about Independence of the Seas' embrace of the British Isles in particular. We were told by public relations representative Sarah Rathbone that it's not a cruise line-sponsored program. Instead, she said, the anglicization of Independence of the Seas' onboard experience is the result of American travel agents "billing the cruise as 'Brit Immersion' because of the nature of an ex-U.K. cruise [departing from a U.K. port] featuring Brits as a majority of the guests."

Cruise Critic was able to reach Lyan Sierra-Caro, a spokesperson from Royal Caribbean's U.S.-based public relations office, this evening. Contrary to the information we received from the U.K., Sierra-Caro tells us that the cruise line has indeed been implementing slight tweaks to onboard ambience based on where a ship is sailing.

We'll provide more concrete details tomorrow.

In the meantime, travelers are weighing in furiously about the pros and cons of immersion cruises, with the majority of posts so far leaning against changing the onboard ambience to fit itineraries. We thought this response from PaulandSueUK was pretty insightful (and frankly funny):

"I've been following this whole 'British Immersion' thing on another thread and here is my two penn'arth (that'll confuse the Yanks LOL). Personally I'm fine with the food options (well I would be I'm English). That doesn't worry me much at all. Where I am slightly put out is on the need for a 'British Immersion' cruise in the first place. British cruisers who want to cruise from Southampton and experience a British ship/ambience can already do so on P&O and Cunard as another poster pointed out.

"We choose RCCI precisely because it is not a British line. I love the idea of meeting and cruising with other nationalities, especially the Yanks. As a (very, very general) generalization, I find Europeans and Americans to be (broadly) more friendly than my fellow Brits (especially the English!!) and that is the main reason we choose it over other lines. The idea of sailing for 2 weeks with 95 percent fellow Brits doesn't exactly thrill me although before I get flamed by the south coast massive I'm still sure it would be a fantastic cruise (aren't they always).

"I cannot help thinking though that this will all turn out to be a storm in a tea cup as I don't see how RCCI can change their spots completely overnight. Hope not anyway."

--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief