It’s been a year of new beginnings for everyone, and the hospitality sector in particular is booming with innovation. Royal Caribbean recently introduced a new beverage program offering a range of options for all guests, including various cocktails, wines by the glass and beers across a multitude of venues.
A core initiative of this new program was updating Royal Caribbean’s beverage menu. It was revamped to be more in line with the brand, with bright colors and on-trend, hand-crafted drinks that better aligned with guests’ favorite flavor profiles.
“During the pause in cruise operation, the team took the opportunity to overhaul the beverage menu to be a true reflection of the Royal Caribbean International brand — celebratory, adventurous, memorable, thoughtful and for everyone,” explains Ed Eiswirth, director of beverage operations for Royal Caribbean.
“The result is a bright and vibrant colorful menu that presents on-trend, hand-crafted drinks that align with consumer-favorite flavor profiles. The collection of 27 cocktails is available across the fleet of 26 ships sailing in Asia Pacific, Europe, the Caribbean and North America.”
Eiswirth noted that this change was influenced by trends that arose during Covid. “The pandemic caused supply chain issues for operators, while initiating a trend of ‘revenge travel’ amongst consumers.”
The new Royal Caribbean fleet beverage menu offers 27 distinct cocktails, down from 50 in 2019. The team purposely curated the selection to reduce the number of SKUs, make products onboard work harder in the menu and deliver consistent, memorable cocktails with fresh ingredients delivered by more than 2,600 bartenders across the 26 ships, Eiswirth says. With fewer recipes to remember, bartenders achieved better recipe consistency, which led to increased ratings for the beverage offerings overall.
“Realistically in the cruise industry, there is a captive market that is also passionate and vocal,” says Eiswirth. “The reimagined fleet beverage menu increased guest engagement with cocktails in the form of trials on board and increased chatter around specific cocktails on multiple Royal Caribbean fan pages.”
The menu focuses on four spreads that each, in turn highlight different ‘drink moods’ that customers can choose from. The initial spread, ‘Taste of the Caribbean,’ celebrates destinations guests have been visiting with Royal Caribbean for 50 plus years, says Eiswirth. Three additional spreads — ‘Crisp and Refreshing,’ ‘Bold and Spirited’ and ‘Zero-Proof Cocktails’ (shown atop) — introduce tropical flavors to familiar classic cocktails.
For example, Cozumel Sunset adds mango to a Tequila Sunrise, Caribbean Mule adds coconut to a traditional Mule. “The unexpected twist to familiar favorites instills a sense of adventure in the beverages guests choose, both alcoholic and zero-proof drinks,” he says.
Core customers and Explorers
The cruise line also increased the amount of experiential guest activities by expanding the traffic-driving tasting events. For instance, the Women of Wine tasting event is “an intense wine sampling event showcasing seven amazing women winemakers.” Guests are able to sample wines with a fully produced video, tasting mat and booklet.
The company has added more stops to its private Bahamas island destination with the “Perfect Day at CocoCay.” Menu activations on CocoCay drive purchases at Beach Club, Coco Beach Club and Captain Jack’s venues. Royal Caribbean partnered up with local Bahamian brands, like Switcha beverage and Sands beer. They also partnered with Florida brewery, Funky Buddha, to promote Chilla Thrilla, the CocoCay exclusive island beer.
These additions, initiatives, and programs have all been quite successful. But how does Royal Caribbean measure that success? “After every cruise, guests receive a survey to rate their experiences,” says Eiswirth. “Implementation of the new fleet beverage menu lifted ratings nearly 10% for all beverage/bar operation metrics. From pre- to post-program, guest experience improved as seen in the results.”
What’s more, the quality of drinks rating jumped from 85 points to 93.5 points. To achieve this, Royal Caribbean made several venue-specific upgrades.
At the Wonderland restaurant, four new cocktails were created with a nod to Alice in Wonderland in mind – Cheshire Cat Cosmo, Down the Rabbit Hole, Smoke Rings and White Rabbit-rita. The Boleros concept went through a complete redesign inspired by Old Havana in Cuba, focused on increasing the rum cocktails and offerings.
Izumi now features sushi and sake pairings, plus an Izumi Signature Cocktail with sake, cranberry juice, lime cordial and fresh blueberries. At the seafood venue Hooked, a signature cocktail, the Saint Peter’s Spritzer, accompanies the full spirits, wine and beer lists, as well as Oyster Shooters featuring Tito’s Handmade vodka and Bombay Sapphire gin.
Enhanced employee training boosted Royal Caribbean’s overall bar and lounge experience rating from 87.4 points to 95.2 points. The speed-of-service rating increased from 85.1 points to 94 points and friendliness of the bar staff rating went from 89 points to 96 points.