Every major cruise line seems to want to outdo its rivals by adding some new major feature to its next ship.
Carnival Cruise Line (CCL) added an actual roller coaster to Mardi Gras and the upcoming Celebration, while MSC plans a virtual roller coaster for its next flagship.
It’s a race to have that one feature that attracts customers and tips them into booking on one cruise line over another.
And while Royal Caribbean has arguably led the way in this ever-escalating battle to offer the coolest features, with its Flow Rider surf machines, ice skating rinks, and Aqua Theaters, that may not actually be what consumers are looking for.
Sure, passengers want all sorts of awesome experiences built into their cruises, but one ride on a virtual sky dive or a turn in a virtual-reality simulator may not be as valuable as changes made to the core cruise experience.
That’s something Royal Caribbean has taken to heart with its two latest moves, and passengers are likely to be very happy.
Royal Caribbean Begins Its Internet Upgrade
After much speculation and a not-subtle test on Freedom of the Seas, Royal Caribbean in late August confirmed that it planned to add Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink satellite internet to its entire fleet.
The company had not offered any detail on a timeline, but work appears to have begun, according to a report from Matt Hochberg at Royal Caribbean Blog.
“Over the last couple of weeks, teams across different Royal Caribbean cruise ships have been deployed to install Starlink. It looks as though Independence of the Seas may be the first ship to get the proverbial switch turned on,” he reported on the blog, which is not affiliated with the cruise line.
Readers of the Royal Caribbean Blog also said that they had seen crews installing Starlink on Allure, Liberty, and Enchantment of the Seas.
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When contacted by TheStreet, Royal Caribbean declined to provide a timetable for the rollout. The cruise line has also declined to say whether it planned any pricing changes for its internet package. Chief Executive Jason Liberty did say, in an Aug. 30 news release, what customers could expect when the new service rolls out.
“This technology will provide game-changing internet connectivity onboard our ships, enhancing the cruise experience for guests and crew alike. It will improve and enable more high-bandwidth activities like video streaming as well as activities like video calls,” he said.
Starbucks Coffee Comes to More Cafe Promenades
Royal Caribbean has long offered Starbucks (SBUX) kiosks on many of its ships. These are essentially separate businesses where you pay for anything you order. You can’t use your drink package at the SBUX kiosks..
The cruise line’s ships also offer coffee at Cafe Promenade, the snack shop/cafe found on most of its ships. At those locations, basic coffee is free while fancier, espresso-based drinks can be had for a fee or with a drink package,.
Those locations did not offer Starbucks coffee, but Royal Caribbean began changing that when it launched Wonder of the Seas earlier this year.
Cafe Promenade on Wonder of the Seas offered Starbucks coffee with specialty drinks using it being included in drink packages. Royal Caribbean later confirmed to TheStreet that it planned to roll out Starbucks coffee to Cafe Promenade (and other onboard coffee stations) across the entire fleet, but did not offer a timeline for the change.
Now, it appears that the change has been made on a number of the cruise line’s ships, according to multiple posts on a Facebook group devoted to the Royal Caribbean Deluxe Beverage Package.
Members reported seeing Starbucks at Cafe Promenade (or similar venues) on Harmony, Symphony, Freedom, Oasis, Liberty, and Ovation.
The Starbucks menu on those ships includes a limited selection of drinks (the same ones offered before the coffee provider was changed) while any ships that have a dedicated Starbucks kiosk offer the chain’s full menu (more or less).
Cafe Promenade, however, also offers alcohol, enabling passengers to order drinks they could not get at the Starbucks kiosks.