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Meetings & Events sailings will initially be fully vaccinated, meaning no children under 12 in the meantime. “We’re comfortable with that to err on the side of caution and safety, which we believe is necessary to prevent any setbacks moving forward,” said Sommer. “In terms of protocols from a port perspective, for us a critical piece is that, to the extent possible, we get the countries of the Caribbean to look at this under a similar lens,” he continued. “If we’re coming with 100% vaccinations – and in the case of other cruise lines, close to 100% vaccinations – we would love to see similar protocols in every country that we visit. “I think for us, the most complicated thing is that each island or each country might have a different set of protocols and that they might change over time if there’s a minor setback along the way…and the message we can give as an industry is one for consistency and longevity on how we face this with the mandate or understanding that we are going forward with the safest possible product on earth.” Arison agreed, pointing out the chain effect that one destination can have on others that are part of an itinerary. If one destination of a three-port itinerary changes protocols, the other two ports will be affected “because the itinerary doesn’t work out…so it’s very important to have that consistency across board.” “It’s important we try as best we can to create predictability for our guests,” told Rodriguez, continuing that relies on the consistency of protocols, along with a phased restart and destinations/stakeholders being patient during that phase. And that patience should be rewarded, since according to Rodriguez, “the pandemic has created a situation where there’s a lot of pent-up demand.” “The pent-up demand is real,” shared Del Rio. “When we arrive, these ships will be full, and I want to make sure that [destinations] will be prepared to handle full ships.” How can destinations increase their own load of those ships – and maximize the opportunities that this “disruption” presents? “If you’re interested, if you think you do have something to offer the cruise industry…that we’ve been missing, then I would tell you to visit us immediately,” said Del Rio. “Tell us; give us your proposal. 12 SECOND QUARTER 2021 | TRAVEL & CRUISE

“We’re reasonable people; were here to make money…and bring our guests to new and exciting places. Over 50% of the customers onboard any of our brands are repeaters and always looking for new things. Our eyes are wide open. This is the time to make your pitch because of the disruption.” Much of the panel also chimed in on the significance of experience and products within the destinations – and mutual work between the destinations, stakeholders and cruise lines to develop them. Montague pointed to the go local programs giving guests a sample of daily life, and Swartz and Duffy both addressed the opportunities for stakeholders to work with cruise lines to increase shore excursion products. Plus, Bayley reminded that Royal Caribbean invests heavily in developing new experiences ashore, which has continued even during the pandemic, along with noting the need to work on planning for the future through new infrastructure to handle the growing volume of guests. McAlpin mentioned a different type of “immersive experience” – something that Virgin sailors crave – they are offering: longer stays and overnights in destinations. Those could also be a trend for destinations to actualize in the ‘new normal’ – along with a host of ships now homeporting in the region. So how exactly can destinations establish this kind of homeporting? “Actively engage with the airlines about the capacity that they allocate to the market and the pricing because the pricing of air tickets is an invisible force to all of our businesses,” advised Swartz. According to Montague, while that airlift – along with hotel options – is important, it all circles back to the “overall experience in the destination.” He shared that Regent is scheduled for seven turns out of Barbados, “and they did an excellent job at pitching the experience.” Attendees then had opportunities for pitches of their own as they broke for a buffet lunch sponsored by PortMiami, along with a break giving the chance to talk privately with the participating cruise executives while observing safety protocols including a mask mandate and physical distancing. Besides taking advantage of the first chance in over a year to talk in person with attendees who can help move the cruise industry’s return full steam ahead in the Caribbean, Central and South

Profile for Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association

Travel & Cruise 2nd Quarter 2021  

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