Royal Caribbean’s Michael Bayley sees calmer seas ahead
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Michael Bayley in the Dominican Republic this week
The chief executive of the world’s largest cruise line company is hopeful for relatively smooth sailing into the future as the company rebounds from the debilitating impact of the pandemic.
Speaking at this week’s 28th annual Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) conference, Michael Bayley, President and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, reported demand was very strong with ships sailing at strong load factors in the Caribbean.
“Our short product ships are sailing at 110 percent and our longer cruises are now sailing at around 100 percent, so it’s good to see that it’s all come back,” he commented, admitting that it has taken some time. “As we look forward into 2023, we feel pretty optimistic about how it’s all looking.”
Bayley, who leads a global team of more than 50,000 employees who deliver memorable family vacations to millions of guests on over two dozen ships that sail to more than 240 destinations, admitted that profitability is still a challenge given the pandemic-related debt the company took on board.
“The good news is that the demand has come back and our bookings are strong and the revenues are coming in. We’re seeing very positive revenues from onboard spend, for example, and we’re working our way through all of this, and we feel quite optimistic about the future,” said Bayley.
Bayley, who is responsible for the cruise line’s entire operation, which includes private destinations in Labadee, Haiti, and Perfect Day at CocoCay in The Bahamas – the first in a series of private island destinations around the world known as Perfect Day Island Collection – described the Caribbean as the number one cruise destination globally.
“It’s all year round. It’s perfect. It’s very close to the American market. It’s got all of these incredible attributes and the people are friendly,” said Bayley.
He lauded the FCCA for helping cruise industry stakeholders and destinations come together to overcome the biggest challenge the industry has faced in this generation: “I think we’ve developed in many ways better relationships because we’ve spent a lot of time on Zoom and Webex over the past couple of years, and we’ve had to work through a lot of issues and problems and challenges collectively as a team.”
He also passionately articulated the importance of helping partner destinations during difficult times: “Not only within Royal Caribbean itself, we feel like we’re a family, but we feel like we’re a family in the Caribbean. We started in the Caribbean. Our name is Caribbean. We have a huge number of Caribbean employees who work with Royal Caribbean, and we’ve always felt that we’re part of the Caribbean community. So when one of our neighbors is going through a difficult time, the first thing we think about is how can we help? And I think time and time again, you’ll see that over the years and the decades, we’ve always tried to step in and help as much as we possibly can.”
Bayley, who oversees the corporation’s digital transformation of its business as well as its destination and port development, began his 40-year career in 1981 as an assistant purser on the cruise line’s m.s. Nordic Prince.