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Cruising without rock walls? It almost happened

AnneMarie Mathews reports from Miami

At a lively CEO Roundtable event focused on innovation and the customer experience, sponsored by The Miami Herald today in Miami, Royal Caribbean International’s Chairman and CEO Richard Fain revealed that its idea for a rock climbing wall almost didn’t happen.

Fain recalled that when he was presented the idea by his team, at first, he didn’t like. “I thought it was a silly idea,” said Fain. “I asked the team to go back to the drawing board and come up with three more ideas.”

He went on to say that the team came back to him with five ideas, but insisted that the rock wall be one of the five for consideration. He ultimately decided that the rock wall was the best of the five. “We went ahead and built it and it was a home run that we ultimately rolled out to all of our fleet. It became a signature icon on our ships.” He joked that he now calls it one of his best ideas.

Fain’s point in telling the anecdote was that sometimes things don’t go as planned and that leaders must keep pushing for innovation, while cultivating an environment where team members feel they can make a compelling argument for what they believe in.

To foster that environment, Fain has built an elaborate 20,000 square-foot, two story Innovation Lab at Royal Caribbean’s headquarters at the Port of Miami. With glistening lights, many bells and whistles, along with lots of open space for collaboration, the Innovation Lab’s centerpiece is The CAVE, a virtual reality hub that includes the largest LED wall in the Southeast United States and a full-size virtual reality simulator that can accommodate 10 people at a time.

In talking about the inspiration for the Innovation Lab, Fain cited the need to bring people together in one place for collaboration. “Innovation is in the DNA of our company, and we feel that everyone needs to participate,” said Fain. “The best inspiration comes when people argue things out, so we created a place with no offices or phones and lots of toys that help them bring those ideas to life. It’s the opportunity for people to get together and talk it out, that always results in the best ideas.”

Fain pointed to the upcoming Magic Carpet on the new Celebrity Edge, as an innovation that has come from collaboration. “We wanted a better way to get guests ashore and have more of a connection with the sea.”

The 90-ton Magic Carpet is the size of a tennis court and will ride on vertical rails mounted on one side of the ship. It serves multiple purposes, functioning as a specialty restaurant at night, while moving guests to different decks and to tenders to go ashore during the day.

In looking ahead to the next 10-15 years, Fain noted that while technology is nice and must be there, at the end of the day, it’s the crew that provide the experience that really matters. “Technology can do a lot to make the crew’s jobs easier, but when I get letters from guests, they always cite the people as creating the personal experiences and making the lasting memories.”

CBM 2018/2019 Winter