Royal Caribbean will take delivery of Oasis of the Seas in Finland on October 28th. After arriving in Ft. Lauderdale on November 12, the ship will see a flurry of activity as it hosts some 19,000 agents and selected travel trade partners before its first revenue sailing December 1st.
As the delivery date draws near, Oasis’ pricing continues to rise – and cruisers continue to pay the price. “We continue to be very pleased with what we are seeing to date, particularly how far into 2010 we are seeing healthy bookings for the ship,” RCI President Adam Goldstein recently told financial analysts.
When Royal opened the books and released the rates for Oasis a year ago, the buzz was that the rates were too high, and that was before the stock market plunge. Now Oasis is an anomaly: a high-priced big ship in the Caribbean.
When the books opened last August for the February 20, 2010 departure, insides were priced at $999, outsides $1,209, balconies (D8) $1,329, Junior Suites $2,179, and Crown Lofts $4,229. Fast forward to this month, insides had climbed by $250 to $1,249, outsides by $100 to $1,309, balconies by $70 to $1,399, Junior Suites a whopping $1,000 to $3,179 and Crown Lofts up $900 to $5,129. The hike in balcony and above rates is particularly important as 72% of Oasis’ staterooms have balconies versus 49% for Voyager-class.
Cruise Week continues to hear from agents that sales are strong for repeat cruisers sold on the Royal Caribbean brand, but not so strong for first-timers. However, evidence suggests there are plenty of agents finding ways to attract business for this high-priced Caribbean ship.
Galen Mathews, director of sales, Midwest, for Royal Caribbean, points to two strategies successfully used by agencies with different selling models. A Cruise Holidays location is utilizing direct mail, web marketing, radio, and billboard to advertise the inaugural four-night sailing on December 1st, basing its ad campaign on Royal’s 'Why Not' marketing program. “The idea is to get cruisers onboard for a short cruise and be one of the very first to see all the great new features of Oasis,” says Mathews.
Another of Mathews agency clients is a home-based operation whose owner Kim Gibbons will escort a group filling 67 staterooms on a February, 2010 sailing. Gibbons says price has not been a factor.
'Because it is going to be such a unique vessel, people don’t care as much about the price; most are past passengers with Royal Caribbean. They’re dying to go. Rates have gone up tremendously since I originally booked. Even back then, the rates were considered high compared to what cruises were going for. But all the extra venues Oasis is offering onboard — zipline, water shows, etc. — makes a difference. If you’re going to an amusement park on land, you’re going to pay for that. When you compare apples to apples, yes, you might pay only $599 to go on another seven-night ship, but does it have a water show?”