Royal Caribbean have just announced that their third Quantum Class ship, Ovation of the Seas will be spending the Summer Season 2019 cruising Alaska.
It has been announced today, that Ovation of the Seas is to be based in Seattle, Washington in 2019. Having a Quantum Class ship in Alaska will offer guests a unique and exciting experience. Alaska is undoubtedly one of the most sought after cruise destinations. It’s awe-inspiring beauty and magnificent wildlife continue to attract more than a million passengers each year. Now guests will be able to experience these sights whilst being elevated 300 feet above sea level, with 360 degree views of snow-capped mountain peaks and stunning shoreline. Ovation of the Seas will sail a variety of seven night itineraries taking in much loved ports including British Columbia, Victoria and Juneau.
The best news for us Brits is that Oasis of the Seas is coming to Europe. She will be sailing from Barcelona and her itineraries will include the beautiful port of Palma de Mallorca (one of my favourites). After finishing her summer season in Europe, Oasis of the seas will undergo a massive transformation from bow-to-stern, before she repositions to Miami for the winter season. She will be joined by her three sisters; Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas cruising Caribbean itineraries from Florida.
Back in Europe and four new ports have been added, Visby, Sweden; Zadar, Croatia; Portofino, Italy and Porto, Portugal. The cruise line have not yet confirmed the ships headed for the UK or Australia.
Anthem of the Seas remains in Cape Liberty. New York continues to be a popular destination to cruise from and Royal Caribbean will be bringing Adventure of the Seas to join her.
Open For Business
Royal Caribbean 2019 – 2020 on sale dates are as follows:
13 November – 7 Night Caribbean Cruises
20 November – Short Caribbean Cruises
4 December – Northeast, Canada and Bermuda Cruises
I remember the times that our management team would attend the TTG Awards and come back celebrating. They would get pizza delivered to the staff in the office to celebrate.
A Royal Departure
People thought I was crazy when I said I was going to leave the security of my job at the Royal Caribbean call centre in Weybridge to start my own business. I had been there for 2 years and was one of the top achievers. I never wanted to go into ‘sales’ and still it makes me shudder at the sound of the word, but my title as a Personal Cruise Specialist, kept me focusing on my passion rather than the sales targets.
Royal Caribbean Staff Christmas Party 2012 at Sandown, Esher
Sitting at my desk in the Royal Caribbean call centre, with a little help from our friends.
I loved my job, at least talking about cruising and helping people plan their next holiday was great. As I managed 5 cruises during my time there in addition to becoming part of a promotions team showing people around the Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruise ships when they were in Southampton and Harwich, I certainly had plenty to talk about.
My first cruise on Grandeur of the Seas had me hooked.
Being in a call centre environment was very tough for me. The restrictions that were placed on us with our call monitoring really frustrated me. I felt that given a free reign to do and say what I wanted and take as long as I like to do so, would really help improve the rapport between myself and the guest and I was convinced if I was allowed to do this, people would not want to book elsewhere ever again.
I was so excited about being the owner of a travel franchise. I got my business cards, headed paper, website and all the access to training and booking every cruise line imaginable. At first, when my phone would ring, I just froze. At Royal Caribbean we had a tick list of things we had to say, so although it wasn’t scripted, you had a guide to follow. I was scared of what people would ask me about as I only knew three brands.
At the helm of my own business, I introduced myself to the world at the Black Cherry Fair in Chertsey.
I used my newly found love and soon to be fiancé as a distraction for the first few months. He was helping financially and looking after him was a full time job with his forgetfulness, clumsiness and type one diabetes. We decided to start a family. Well, I had my 13 year old daughter but my partner didn’t have children and with me fast approaching 41, I felt we needed to make this a priority. It worked! 6 weeks into the pregnancy the cracks started to show in the relationship and it ended shortly after.
This left me in a position where I had no job, no income, no savings, a teenage daughter and I was pregnant at 40. I think it was inevitable that depression followed shortly after. The next 7 months were a blur and most days I just couldn’t face talking to anyone. I hate to think how many bookings I let go in that time, but I just spent days and days on the sofa watching tv and longing for the day my baby would be here. I was hoping that once the baby was born I would be in the right frame of mind to get stuck into the business. I can only thank from the bottom of my heart, those customers/friends who stuck with me during that time.
Set Sail Again
Joshua at one week old almost to the hour, we made our first booking together.
When Joshua was 1 week old we made our first booking. It was almost like my customers pushed me into working. They were having none of this “I’m tired” stuff, they wanted to book a cruise and that was that. They could have gone anywhere else, but they wanted to book with me. I didn’t understand why, but anyway I went with it and the bookings started coming in.
A lot of travel agents thought my success was down to bringing my Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises customers with me, but this was not the case. I think about three of my original customers found me through various ways online via social media and another had become a good friend of mine before I left, so naturally stuck with me. I have had a few customers come to me through the GoCruise website and a few web leads but the majority of my business, in fact 98% of my business is referrals. I have never placed an ad anywhere as it’s not been necessary.
Being A Cruise Expert
I love my job and being a cruise expert means I have to spend as much time getting to know the differences between the different cruise lines and which ones suit who. It’s not just as straightforward as which cruise line, that is just the first factor. You then have to think about destination, time of year and price. All of these things will have an impact as to the type of people that will be found onboard and if you don’t match the right person with the right cruise, it will be there worst nightmare.
Joshua at the age of 8 months on his second educational cruise. This one was Ruby Princess.
Cruises can cost a significant amount of money and in some cases people take one in a lifetime or at least every couple of years. People work so hard for their money and sometimes spend months if not years planning the cruise, so you don’t want them to feel disappointed in any way with their chosen cruise. I have and will continue to talk someone out of a cruise if I think they will not enjoy it. Sometimes a cheap price can really pull people into booking a cruise, but if you know your customer is very frail and cant stand the cold, you cannot let him go to the arctic in winter. No amount of profit is worth that. What is the point in going on a cruise that you cannot enjoy the destinations?
Happy, Blessed and Thankful
So nearly three years into the business, I am happy, I enjoy my job if you can call it that because I love it so much. Obviously to be an expert it is imperative that I get on as many cruise ships as possible so what is there not to love? Then you talk to guests about cruises, again an absolute pleasure.
Going full circle, from working with Royal Caribbean to being a guest travel agent onboard the brand new Quantum of the Seas.
To top it all off, I have been absolutely blessed with being nominated for not one, but two of the travel industry’s most prestigious awards Cruise Agent of the Year and Travel Agent of the Year – Independent. The TTG Travel Awards 2015 is organised by the industry’s leading trade magazine, Travel Trade Gazette and boasts a unique awards format, with the main ceremony at the Lyceum Theatre, West End followed by an after-party at The Savoy, London.
The TTG Travel Awards are regarded as the universal benchmark of quality within the travel industry; the rigorous judging process involves over 30,000 agent ratings combined with judging from elite industry experts, making the TTG Awards the most coveted industry accolade.
“The TTG Travel Awards really are the blue riband of the travel industry, celebrating those businesses who are truly on top of the world when it comes to travel and tourism. This year we are building on their success by once again announcing our winners centre stage at iconic West End theatre the Lyceum, home of The Lion King, before a spectacular after-party at The Savoy. I’d personally like to extend my congratulations to [for making it into our hotly-contested shortlist and I am looking forward to finding out the winners on the night!”
Daniel Pearce, Managing Director, TTG Media Ltd
When I heard about it I was stunned. It is an absolute honour to have been recognised in this way by the industry and I have already noticed a difference in the trust new customers have in me. If I am one of the lucky winners, I am sure it will have even more of a positive effect on my business.
The awards night is on 28 September at the Lyceum Theatre with an after party at the Savoy. I am not expecting to win as I was totally shocked that I was even nominated once, let alone twice, but I am looking forward to an incredible evening with the industries top names and to find out who the secret celebrity host will be on the night.
“congratulations from all of us at 107.8 Radio Jackie”
Lucy, Josh and I at Polo in the Park 2014 courtesy of Celebrity Cruises
Having knowledge of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class ships I couldn’t imagine how they could top that. The largest passenger cruise ships in the world had become cities at sea, so where could they go to top this?
When Royal Caribbean first announced innovations for Quantum of the Seas we heard about the North Star. A glass pod which takes people 300ft above sea level for the stunning ocean and port views. With the installation of iFly by Ripcord you would be able to experience skydiving while looking out at the ocean. Bumper cars, roller skating, circus school and basketball court were introduced into an indoor space call the SeaPlex. This was incredible and you could see that Royal Caribbean really had taken the next step in onboard activities for its guests.
The First Smart Ship
However, as the ship neared its completion Royal Caribbean announced that Quantum of the Seas would be the first ‘Smart Ship’ in the World. Not satisfied with being able to skydive or be lifted 300ft in the air, they wanted to ‘give the guest the first day of their vacation back‘ by being able to pre-book everything. They wanted to eliminate lines at check-in and guest services. How have they done this? By giving every crew member their very own tablet, taking away the desks and having staff standing around ready to assist the guest. Next-generation check-in or “no check-in, check-in” as Richard Fain refers to it, is designed to enable the guest to get from the sidewalk to ship in 10 minutes, and it works!
When I arrived a City Cruise Terminal, Southampton with my set sail pass and photo already uploaded (see previous blog), I sheepishly approached a staff member standing with a tablet and asked her where I needed to go. She zapped the barcode on my set sail pass and went through a series of steps on the screen, asked a couple of questions and then pointed me in the direction of security. No sea pass card, no health questionnaire to fill out, nothing. I thought that would be coming later, so carried on through security, again straight through, no queues and into the departure lounge.
As I entered there had been an announcement for people to board so I carried straight through to the ship. No time to check my bag, go to the bathroom, get a coffee, get bored and restless, just straight onto the ship. It felt very strange, I couldn’t figure out how they would let me on board, I didn’t have my sea pass card. I thought there had been a mistake! But sure enough, as I walked through the ship security they scanned the barcode on my set sail pass and let me on.
I stood in what appeared to be an atrium wondering what to do. Do I need to go somewhere now? Is that it? and how do I get into my room? I looked around thinking “this does not feel like a Royal Caribbean ship”. To be honest I didn’t feel like I was on a ship at all! It was light, sophisticated, arty and just downright cool. But with a quick glance around, I saw the familiar sight of Sorrento’s and new I was in the right place. It was just different. The Royal Promenade was no longer and instead, there is a Royal Esplanade.
New Ship Smell
I went to find my room in the hope that I would somehow be able to get into it. On arrival, I was pleased to find an envelope waiting for me with a sea pass card inside. I waved the card in front of the door lock and it opened. There before me was a brand spanking new balcony stateroom and my wow band awaiting me on the bed. I loved the design of the room. The flat-screen television, cool decor and the addition of two USB charger ports gave a modern feel.
New Look Buffet
I went to the Windjammer to get some lunch to find, again, no queues. If you have cruised on Celebrity Solstice-class ships you will be familiar with the Oceanview Cafe layout. This has been adopted on the Quantum class and eliminated queuing.
The lunch was delicious as expected on Royal Caribbean, so once I had finished I set off to explore the ship.
Wandering around it really was a case of wow, wow, wow. Seeing the iFly and the North Star in action was like stepping into the future. I took photos of everything and tried to take it all in.
After a good walk of the decks, it was time for a cocktail. I was greeted by a friendly bartender at the Sky Bar. This was the Royal Caribbean that I know and love. The crew are always happy to see you and make you feel special.
We opted to dine in The Grand. The 1920’s theme and white-glove service gave it a truly ‘Grand’ experience. The twelve complimentary dining restaurants, offer restaurants to suit all palettes.
After a lovely meal, it was time to check out the entertainment. The one of a kind Two70 is an iconic venue that fuses technology with entertainment. The incredibly talented singer and aerialist-cellist gave an enchanting production of Starwater.
For lovers of musicals and fun Mamma Mia is a must. The performance and production equalled that of Broadway and West End standard.
It seemed the the Music Hall was a favourite with most passengers. As the evening turned into the early hours, you could see this really was the ‘place to be’. I wonder if Royal Caribbean have anticipated exactly how popular it will be with guests.
Additions including Wonderland, Bionic Bar, Two70, Music Hall and other unique and quirky features, delivers the WOW factor.
After two nights onboard, I can honestly say Royal Caribbean has once again delivered the WOW. Congratulations to everyone involved as you have changed the face of holidays let alone cruising, for the future.
Step-by-Step Guide to Royal Caribbean’s Smart Check-In Facility
My favourite email is the one that says “It’s time to check-in for your cruise”, but this one is extra special. It’s the pre-inaugural event for Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas. It is known as the first-ever ‘Smart Ship’ for its unrivalled technology, a ‘Game-Changer’ in the field of cruising. So let’s see what it’s all about.
The online smart check-in process now includes the option to add your own security photo and check-in time which is great for me, as I want to get onboard as early as possible.
Having completed my on-line check-in, I can print my set sail pass and luggage tags. Now it’s time to plan the on board experience.
With two nights onboard, there is a lot to fit it, so I need to pick my must do’s. I start with the dining, which has been revamped from the traditional main dining room and renamed Dynamic Dining. Not sure how I feel about this and I have heard mixed views from other people, but I think it will be like that song you hear at first and don’t like, but then it grows on you and ends up being one of your favourites.
One of the things I look forward to most on a cruise is the Main Dining Room Formal Night experience, so I opt for one night in The Grande, where every night is formal night. Not wanting to overdress on the first night, I decided to try Silk, the pan Asian complimentary restaurant.
Having booked my dining I move onto the shows. The Quantum Class is all about entertainment, so it has to be top of the list to experience the production of Starwater in the most innovative theatre in the world, Two70. I know that THIS is going to be an experience I will be talking about for a very long time after.
With dining and entertainment reservations made, on-line check-in complete, set sail pass and luggage tags printed, all that is left to do is pack.
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