• Cheers to 25 years: Celebrate with Us!
  • Write a Review
  • Boards
  • Log In
  • Find a Cruise
  • Deals
  • Excursions
  • More
You may also like
Dismiss
Just Back From The 80s Cruise: Talking Cruise With Musical Icon Sheila E.
Just Back From The 80s Cruise: Talking Cruise With Musical Icon Sheila E.
"Getting the Flywheel Moving:" Royal Caribbean Group President Richard Fain Talks U.S. Cruise Restart
Royal Caribbean's Richard Fain takes selfies with passengers aboard Celebrity Edge. (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

"Getting the Flywheel Moving:" Royal Caribbean Group President Richard Fain Talks U.S. Cruise Restart

"Getting the Flywheel Moving:" Royal Caribbean Group President Richard Fain Talks U.S. Cruise Restart
Royal Caribbean's Richard Fain takes selfies with passengers aboard Celebrity Edge. (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

July 06, 2021

Chris Gray Faust
Managing Editor
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • Twitter

(4:55 p.m. EDT) The Royal Caribbean Group hit the high seas with a splash this past week, with its first two ships sailing from U.S. homeports after being docked throughout the long COVID-19 pandemic.

Celebrity Edge made its debut in Fort Lauderdale on June 26, followed less than a week later by Freedom of the Seas from Miami (both Celebrity and Royal Caribbean are part of parent company Royal Caribbean Group, along with luxury brand Silversea).

Both sailings were attended by Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain, who appeared as happy to be onboard as the loyal first cruisers.

Onboard Celebrity Edge, he was everywhere those first few days, pouring drinks at sailaway, taking selfies with passengers and hamming it up with the bartenders at the Martini Bar.

During the cruise, he sat down with Cruise Critic for an interview. Here are excerpts from that discussion:

Adventure of the Seas COVID test

Cruise Critic: I was on Adventure of the Seas (when it made Royal's first Caribbean restart in The Bahamas), and there's a marked difference in the vibe on Adventure, which has a lot of social distancing signage, as well as Windjammer rules, versus what I'm experiencing here on Edge (where things seem more normal). Can you talk a little bit about why that is and why is it different on Royal vs. Celebrity? And then, I'm guessing that it will be even different on Silversea.

Featured Videos

Wonder of the Seas Construction Update: Sea Trials

Wonder of the Seas Construction Update: Sea Trials

Wonder of the Seas Completes Sea Trials

Wonder of the Seas Completes Sea Trials

Cruise Critic and JJ Cruise : Our Experience Onboard Celebrity Edge (June 2021)

Cruise Critic and JJ Cruise : Our Experience Onboard Celebrity Edge (June 2021)

Here's What It's Like Onboard the First Large Cruise Ship to Alaska in 21 Months

Here's What It's Like Onboard the First Large Cruise Ship to Alaska in 21 Months

Perfect Day at CocoCay: Here's How We Spent 2 DAYS at Royal Caribbean's Private Island

Perfect Day at CocoCay: Here's How We Spent 2 DAYS at Royal Caribbean's Private Island

Our Celebrity Silhouette Cruise Experience: March 2020 vs. July 2021

Our Celebrity Silhouette Cruise Experience: March 2020 vs. July 2021

Freedom of the Seas: What's It Like Onboard a Test Cruise? (Cruise Critic & Royal Caribbean Blog

Freedom of the Seas: What's It Like Onboard a Test Cruise? (Cruise Critic & Royal Caribbean Blog

Q&A with Celebrity Cruises' Captain Kate McCue (2021)

Q&A with Celebrity Cruises' Captain Kate McCue (2021)

Back on Celebrity Silhouette: Here's What It's Like On One Of Our Favorite Ships 15 Months Later

Back on Celebrity Silhouette: Here's What It's Like On One Of Our Favorite Ships 15 Months Later

Freedom Of The Seas Resumes Sailing With New Rules

Freedom Of The Seas Resumes Sailing With New Rules

Cruise Critic | EatSleepCruise: What's It Like Onboard Celebrity Edge?

Cruise Critic | EatSleepCruise: What's It Like Onboard Celebrity Edge?

Celebrity Millennium -- Video Tour & Ship Review (2021)

Celebrity Millennium -- Video Tour & Ship Review (2021)

Celebrity Apex -- Video Tour of The Magic Carpet

Celebrity Apex -- Video Tour of The Magic Carpet

Q&A: Cruisers and Crew Chat About The Joy of Cruising's Return

Q&A: Cruisers and Crew Chat About The Joy of Cruising's Return

Celebrity Apex -- Eden

Celebrity Apex -- Eden

Celebrity Apex -- The Retreat

Celebrity Apex -- The Retreat

Celebrity Apex -- Video Tour of the Infinite Veranda Cabin

Celebrity Apex -- Video Tour of the Infinite Veranda Cabin

Q&A with Celebrity Apex's Cruise Director

Q&A with Celebrity Apex's Cruise Director

Celebrity Apex -- Pools & Resort Deck

Celebrity Apex -- Pools & Resort Deck

Celebrity Apex -- Embarkation Process (2021)

Celebrity Apex -- Embarkation Process (2021)

Live From Adventure of the Seas: What's the Same, What's Different and What's Better?

Live From Adventure of the Seas: What's the Same, What's Different and What's Better?

Here's What We Packed For Our Royal Caribbean Cruise (June 2021)

Here's What We Packed For Our Royal Caribbean Cruise (June 2021)

Celebrity to Restart from U.S. Homeport, PLUS Royal Caribbean Given Green Light for Test Cruises!

Celebrity to Restart from U.S. Homeport, PLUS Royal Caribbean Given Green Light for Test Cruises!

Odyssey of the Seas -- From Steel Cutting to Delivery 2021

Odyssey of the Seas -- From Steel Cutting to Delivery 2021

Video Of Odyssey Of The Seas Conveyance March 2021

Video Of Odyssey Of The Seas Conveyance March 2021

Coin Ceremony For Celebrity Cruises' New Ship, Celebrity Beyond

Coin Ceremony For Celebrity Cruises' New Ship, Celebrity Beyond

Martini Bar Bartender Pours 15 Martinis at Once on Celebrity Cruises

Martini Bar Bartender Pours 15 Martinis at Once on Celebrity Cruises

Royal Caribbean Group Announces E-muster, Keyless Cabin Check-in And Other App Improvements

Royal Caribbean Group Announces E-muster, Keyless Cabin Check-in And Other App Improvements

Royal Caribbean Odyssey Of The Seas Steel Cutting At Meyer Werft

Royal Caribbean Odyssey Of The Seas Steel Cutting At Meyer Werft

Cruise Critic Tours Celebrity Edge

Cruise Critic Tours Celebrity Edge

Celebrity Edge First Look: 3 Revolutionary Dining Experiences

Celebrity Edge First Look: 3 Revolutionary Dining Experiences

Celebrity Edge Sneak Peek: Why You Should Be Excited About Celebrity Cruises' Newest Ship

Celebrity Edge Sneak Peek: Why You Should Be Excited About Celebrity Cruises' Newest Ship

Celebrity Edge Shipyard Hyperlapse Tour

Celebrity Edge Shipyard Hyperlapse Tour

Shipyard Tour: Royal Caribbean’s Symphony Of The Seas Gets Its Finishing Touches -- Video

Shipyard Tour: Royal Caribbean’s Symphony Of The Seas Gets Its Finishing Touches -- Video

What’s New On Celebrity Silhouette? - Video Tour

What’s New On Celebrity Silhouette? - Video Tour

Harmony Of The Seas Video Tour – Inside Look At One Of Royal Caribbean’s Most Popular Cruise Ships

Harmony Of The Seas Video Tour – Inside Look At One Of Royal Caribbean’s Most Popular Cruise Ships

Symphony Of The Seas Video Tour

Symphony Of The Seas Video Tour

Royal Caribbean’s Spectrum Of The Seas Celebrates Keel Laying

Royal Caribbean’s Spectrum Of The Seas Celebrates Keel Laying

Sea Beyond: An Innovative Cruise Experience By Royal Caribbean

Sea Beyond: An Innovative Cruise Experience By Royal Caribbean

Sneak Peak At Symphony Of The Seas

Sneak Peak At Symphony Of The Seas

What’s Your Size? Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class Vs. Majesty Of The Seas - Video

What’s Your Size? Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class Vs. Majesty Of The Seas - Video

Royal Caribbean's Oasis Of The Seas Photo Tour

Royal Caribbean's Oasis Of The Seas Photo Tour

Spectrum Of The Seas Steel Cutting At Meyer Werft

Spectrum Of The Seas Steel Cutting At Meyer Werft

Royal Caribbean's Enchantment Of The Seas Highlights

Royal Caribbean's Enchantment Of The Seas Highlights

Photo Tour of Celebrity Reflection

Photo Tour of Celebrity Reflection

Harvest Caye Cruise Port Video Tour

Harvest Caye Cruise Port Video Tour

Photo Tour of Royal Caribbean's Allure Of The Seas

Photo Tour of Royal Caribbean's Allure Of The Seas

What It Means To Be Loyal To Royal

What It Means To Be Loyal To Royal

7 Can’t-Miss Experiences on Allure Of The Seas

7 Can’t-Miss Experiences on Allure Of The Seas

Video Tour of Allure Of The Seas' Bars

Video Tour of Allure Of The Seas' Bars

Cruise Pier Runners In Cozumel -- Carnival Liberty

Cruise Pier Runners In Cozumel -- Carnival Liberty

Harmony Of The Seas Youth Place

Harmony Of The Seas Youth Place

Harmony Of The Seas Pool And Sports Zone

Harmony Of The Seas Pool And Sports Zone

Harmony Of The Seas Central Park On Royal Caribbean International

Harmony Of The Seas Central Park On Royal Caribbean International

Harmony Of The Seas Boardwalk

Harmony Of The Seas Boardwalk

Harmony Of The Seas Entertainment Place

Harmony Of The Seas Entertainment Place

Harmony Of The Seas Royal Promenade

Harmony Of The Seas Royal Promenade

Harmony Of The Seas Vitality Spa And Fitness Center

Harmony Of The Seas Vitality Spa And Fitness Center

Perfect Storm Water Slides On Harmony Of The Seas

Perfect Storm Water Slides On Harmony Of The Seas

Cruise Critic Tours Harmony Of The Seas

Cruise Critic Tours Harmony Of The Seas

Harmony Of The Seas Cabins - Video Tour - Cruise Critic

Harmony Of The Seas Cabins - Video Tour - Cruise Critic

Cruise Critic Tours Harmony Of The Seas

Cruise Critic Tours Harmony Of The Seas

Greased Lightnin': Royal Caribbean Brings Another Broadway Hit

Greased Lightnin': Royal Caribbean Brings Another Broadway Hit

Plunging Into Adventure On The Tallest Slide At Sea: Royal Caribbean Reveals 10-Story Ultimate Abyss

Plunging Into Adventure On The Tallest Slide At Sea: Royal Caribbean Reveals 10-Story Ultimate Abyss

Cruise Critic Flowrider On Royal Caribbean's Freedom Of The Seas

Cruise Critic Flowrider On Royal Caribbean's Freedom Of The Seas

Cruise Critic Tours Anthem of the Seas

Cruise Critic Tours Anthem of the Seas

Anthem Of The Seas Welcomes Gigi The Giraffe

Anthem Of The Seas Welcomes Gigi The Giraffe

Celebrity Silhouette's Conveyance (2011)

Celebrity Silhouette's Conveyance (2011)

Oasis Of The Seas Flowrider - Cruise Critic Goes Surfing

Oasis Of The Seas Flowrider - Cruise Critic Goes Surfing

Oasis Of The Seas Jazz On 4 Performance

Oasis Of The Seas Jazz On 4 Performance

Oasis Of The Seas Royal Promenade (2009)

Oasis Of The Seas Royal Promenade (2009)

Oasis Of The Seas Royal Promenade Parade (2009)

Oasis Of The Seas Royal Promenade Parade (2009)

Oasis Of The Seas Carousel In Action (2009)

Oasis Of The Seas Carousel In Action (2009)

Oasis Of The Seas Ship Tour -- Main Dining Room (2009)

Oasis Of The Seas Ship Tour -- Main Dining Room (2009)

Richard Fain: So, I think Silversea will be closer to this, but we're still learning. And there are different criteria depending on how many vaccinated and unvaccinated people you have. But we're still learning and it will evolve. Next week I suspect it would be different on this ship too, but we did get the ratings back from the cruise which you were on, and they were outstanding.

CC: When you say it might be different next week, what are you thinking is going to change?

RF: I have absolutely no idea. It's just that things are moving so quickly that they're always going to be change. But by and large, we're moving in the direction of greater freedom on the ships, because the science has advanced so much, and people see them as inherently safer and easier to control than other things.

Freedom of the Seas departs Miami on July 2, 2021

CC: What capacity are you hoping to get to by the end of the year in terms of the ships?

RF: We're starting low. We have been very clear that we wanted to start the flywheel, but you don't start a flywheel at a high speed. You start it slow, and you keep building up.

Essentially, every one of these return to services, it's like the startup of a new ship, except that it's a little harder because people have been away for so long. We're starting up at low occupancies, as we have on this ship, and then we expect them to build up. I hope it's reasonably quick. It won't be too quick because it takes a while to retrain all the crew.

I really would have liked to have known in January where we would be sailing in July. And I think we could have had a lot better bookings, but there aren't that many people who book their July cruises in July.

CC: Is keeping the capacity low a way of keeping pricing at a stable level?

RF: I don't think that's the prime driver because there's so much pent up demand. I don't think it's the price that's the key driver today. I think the demand is relatively price inelastic. (Inelasticity refers to consumer habits remaining largely the same regardless of price).

We've talked about how well prices have stayed up for 2022 and 2023. And that's more what we're looking at: 2021 has been a terrible year and will end up being a terrible year. My focus is getting the flywheel moving and making '22 and '23 good years, better years.

Richard Fain on Celebrity Edge

CC: Freedom of the Seas is starting with different protocols for vaccinated vs. unvaccinated guests, and where they can go. Can you talk a little bit about how it was to draw up that list?

RF: You know the (CDC) rules are complicated, and we needed to accommodate all types of guests, but we think that the vast bulk of the people onboard are going to be vaccinated. Most of the unvaccinated are children, so it didn't take a lot of thought to say, "Let's make most of the casino only for vaccinated people." That gives greater freedom for them, and the unvaccinated could use a section of it, so they still have the capability.

CC: How is it going to be enforced onboard? How will the crew handle these delicate situations?

RF: We have special training for that because it is delicate. We need to treat it as delicate. I think one of the benefits we have is, unlike some other things I might go into whether that's an airplane, or a train, or a restaurant, everybody's in a good mood onboard. And don't underestimate the importance of the overall fact that everybody's having a good time.

Those who come, we're being very clear what the rules are ahead of time. I think where people have problems is where they're surprised. 'Oh, I thought this was all going to be like this, and now you're telling me it's like that'. So, we're going to great lengths to make sure we're informing everybody in advance, what the protocols are going to be.

CC: So you've had this milestone with Celebrity Edge, and Freedom of the Seas is another milestone for Royal Caribbean. Then you'll have the Alaska restart on Serenade of the Seas and Odyssey of the Seas debuting as a brand-new Royal Caribbean ship. It's a lot of milestones all at once.

RF: We got a lot of milestones going, and that's one of the reasons why we're doing it carefully. When you have that many challenges, you want to minimize your risk as much as possible because the one thing we can't afford to do is to disappoint people on the safety or quality of our product. We're really being careful out there.

Ships welcome Freedom of the Seas back into service on its first cruise (Photo: Colleen McDaniel)

CC: Is there anything you want to tell Cruise Critic readers?

RF: It's been so gratifying. I am just blown away with the loyalty of our crew members who have stood by us and waited patiently, suffered while they've done so, but they've been there for us and they're coming back eagerly and happily.

I'm also blown away by the loyalty of our guests. Some of them have booked and rebooked and re-rebooked and re-re-re-rebooked. It must be almost as frustrating for them as it has been for us. Our systems are designed for a few special cases a year, and to switch and suddenly have millions of special cases per year.

If there's one thing I regret, it's we had trouble keeping up with all that. As a result, I think we were not as responsive to our guests, and especially our loyal guests, as I would have wished. We're doing our best to correct that.

How was this article?

Featured News

1
Carnival Cruise Line Scraps Terminal-Based COVID-19 Testing Plans
5
Carnival Cruise Line Restarts Operations from Port of Baltimore
Want to cruise smarter?
Get expert advice, insider tips and more.
By proceeding, you agree to Cruise Critic’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.